IndyCar Iowa Post-Race Press Conference

Car owner Michael Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay

An interview with
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport)
Josef Newgarden (CFH Racing)
Sage Karam (Chip Ganassi Racing Teams)
Michael Andretti (owner, Andretti Autosport)

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with our Verizon IndyCar Series post-race press conference. We're pleased to be joined by Josef Newgarden, our second-place finisher in tonight's race.

This is Josef's fifth career podium finish, also his third in 2015. Josef, I know it's not the way you wanted it to end, but another strong finish for you at Iowa Speedway, which was the site of your first career podium finish last year. How did things come around full circle?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: First oval. It was a great night, really. All in all, it was really a great night. I feared at the end if we were in a shootout, we were behind, we weren't leading, it was going to be really difficult, and it was.

I think I probably needed another 20 laps or so, some lapped traffic, I think I could have done something with Ryan (Hunter-Reay), but it was really tough. It was pedal to the metal there. Couldn't do anything with him.

But we had a great race car. It was handling like a dream. I didn't have to do anything to it. We tuned on it all night. Easy to get through traffic, easy to drive, not super physical because it worked really well.

So you can't complain. I was so thankful to be in that car, that the team lets me get in and drive that thing. We’ve got a great group of owners, engineers, mechanics. It's a solid effort. I'm really proud with the podium finish.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Josef.

Newgarden

Q. Maybe I'm wrong, but at the end I had the impression you could not close the gap to Hunter-Reay, but in the beginning you were fast. What was the reason for that?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I'm not sure. I was flat out at the end. I couldn't even close on him. I couldn't do anything. So I tried as much as I could to shorten up my line, try to make some gains on him.

He wasn't really coming back to me. That's why I was hoping we would get some traffic. I was fast in front of him. For the most part, I had to work really hard to keep him behind me. He was faster than me. I was still flat out in front of him at that point.

It was tough. He seemed like he had some speed. I think the handling in our race car was the best tonight. Did an amazing job. All our partners worked really hard. Chevy gave us everything we needed for tonight. We just came up short. I think we still had a winning race car, but we just didn't get it done. I think the Firestones were awesome, too. They just hung in like a dream. I was flat for a whole stint, so it was really great.

THE MODERATOR: Joined also now by Sage Karam. Sage, I know you've been chipping away throughout the season trying to get onto the podium. How does it feel to finally get that first podium finish?

Rookie Sage Karam drove a heck of a race and upset Ed Carpenter by outmuscling him

SAGE KARAM: It feels really good. This is a track that's always been really good to me. I had a lot of confidence coming in here. We had a lot of momentum. The team, we're really starting to gel with each other.

But the goal of this weekend wasn't really to get on the podium or anything, it was to help (teammate Scott) Dixon out as much as we could, try to get him in the points lead. I was running in fourth or fifth, right behind him for most of the race. I was content with just sitting there, trying to be a cushion for him. Then once he blew up or had a mechanical failure, I was going for the win there.

I think we had a really, really fast car, too. It seemed like I had the fastest car on the track. The only negative thing about the race I would say was the lapped traffic respect. They're racing the leaders a little too hard, I think. But that's racing.

We got stuck in the middle there on the restart, fell from third to sixth, made it back up to third. Running down the leaders, just ran out of laps.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Josef and Sage.

Q. Josef, another second-place finish in Iowa. Is this one more satisfying than last year?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: That's a tough question. Yes and no. I think this is probably more of a true second place than last year. I won't sugarcoat last year. We definitely got lucky with the tires. We executed well, but we got lucky. We weren't a second-place car last year.

Tonight, we were a winning car, I think, so to finish second was bittersweet. For sure, I think it was very deserved for the team. They put a top-class race car out there. I was very satisfied with that. I think the team can be, too. It's kind of a toss-up. It's more satisfying, but it's dissatisfying with the car we had not to win.

Q. Sage, talk about your drive to get to third place at the end of the race there.

SAGE KARAM: I knew we had a good car. When we were sitting there under yellow, my team was relaying information to me. My lap times were quicker than anyone else in front of me. I thought I really had a good chance of winning the race.

I just thought the two lapped cars on the restart were going to pull over and let the leaders battle it out there with 30 laps to go, but they didn't. I got stuck, let the leaders get too far away, fell back to fifth or sixth. The car was so good, we were able to run (Carlos) Muñoz down, Graham (Rahal). I don't know who I passed. We were able to run them down, make up the positions, get on the podium.

Q. Sage, before Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon retired, it looked like all three cars had the same speed. How identical was your setup?

SAGE KARAM: Between all four cars, I think the only difference was maybe our right rear spring by like 50 pounds. I mean, the cars were so, so identical. I was looking at the sheets, actually, before the race. I think Tony or Scott started out with a little bit more front aero than me. I was debating doing it, but glad I didn't. The car was pretty loose to begin with.

The cars were really, really identical. The cars were really good. I think our team was the strongest here today. It's just unfortunate that my teammates had bad luck.

Q. Sage, when I was talking to you on pit lane, you were talking about how bumpy it was in the turns, in the inside lane. With the car moving around the way it did at the end of the race, is it almost impossible to keep in the lane there?

SAGE KARAM: With new tires, you can keep it down a little bit better. But it definitely gets harder.

When you go to pass people late in the race, they pin you down to the apron, keep you pinned down, you drift up, racing for position. They get mad you came up on them. They pinned you down. They know it's going to happen. It's just racing.

The track is a lot different than when I was here in 2013. I don't remember those bumps in (Turns) 3 and 4. I think the bumps made this place really physical for me, the Gs. I think with like 50 laps to go, I radioed in and told my team I needed a massage after this because my arms were about to fall off. I can't feel my left hand right now, it's completely numb. I think that's just from the bumps shaking the wheel.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you very much. We'll continue with our Verizon IndyCar Series post-race media availability. We're pleased to be joined by our winning team owner, Michael Andretti.

Michael, what is it about the team that has everyone so dialed in at Iowa Speedway? I feel like we ask you this question every year.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I know. I wish I had an answer for you. I don't know. I know we enjoy coming here. Our drivers love the track. Our engineers seem to have a good feel what the track needs from a setup standpoint. It's been good luck. Things seem to go our way here.

It's a great, great track for us to come to. We love coming here. Hopefully, we come back here many, many more times.

THE MODERATOR: Our winner tonight, Ryan Hunter-Reay, has three of those seven wins. What are you telling Ryan throughout the weekend? Seems like he might not need that much advice.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm not telling him anything except for, “Go fast."
It's been a total team effort. We tested here. Marco (Andretti) came up with a really good setup. Then from there, they just dialed it in in practice. We qualified so-so, but I know they were real happy with their cars for the race.

We just didn't know what was going to actually happen until we got out there. It just seemed like as the race went on, Ryan in particular just got stronger and stronger as it got cooler and cooler. His car got better and better. They put themselves in a good position with the pit stops when they pitted. Came out in front. He was able to keep that track position.

THE MODERATOR: Some very close racing, especially at the end. Were you as a team owner nervous at all or did you feel like Ryan had a strong shot?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I thought he had a good shot because he was running really fast times. If something didn't go wrong, I felt like he had it. Then again, you never count your chickens until you know you can beat them across the finish line coasting. That's what we did.

I felt really good watching him that he was in a good position. I was watching the other cars. I was a little disappointed that Carlos (Munoz) fell back a few spots. I thought for a bit we were going to have two guys on the podium. I was watching Marco, hoping he was able to get forward. He went from 11th to seventh in the end, so…

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Michael.

Q. Michael, after the qualifying, did you make any significant changes to Ryan's car?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I don't think so. They were coming up with the setup on Friday, that is where they came up with the race setup. I think they made a few changes from there. It had nothing to do with qualifying.

Qualifying is basically a different setup than the race setup. They were making their decisions already last night on that.

Q. Ryan, I think shortly after the race, you said in an interview your car was loose in the beginning. Can you give another explanation? Is it understeer?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Oversteer. Loose is the rear end is trying to come around on you. Understeer is the front won't turn enough.

That just happened, I guess, because the hotter track temps, air temps, less downforce (early in the race). As the night goes on, it grips up a bit more, our setup came to us.

THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by our race winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan, a very strong track for you. Take us through this race and how you found your way to the front.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I love Iowa Speedway. Certainly this team does. Andretti Autosport is seven of nine at this track and that is pretty phenomenal.

Knew we had a good car. Rolled off third. Great in practice, pretty strong qualifying. Then we went out in the race. It was pretty tough in the beginning. I wasn't quite sure we had the car to win in the beginning. Once the sun went down, guys did an excellent job in the pit lane. We made the right changes to the front wing on the stops. The car just came to life. I knew when it was me and Josef (Newgarden) going at it at the end, we had a shot. Ultimately, we pulled it off. It was because of everything we did. It was in pit lane, it was on the track. The car balanced, the whole deal. The team did an excellent job. This is a huge win for us, absolutely massive.

THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.

Q. Ryan, earlier in the week I asked you if this place was an oasis for you. You said you didn't know at the time. Do you know now?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, like I said, when we rolled off the truck, we were third (in practice). We had another strong practice after that. Things felt right in the world again for a moment there. I was sure not to get too far ahead of myself and not trying to get too confident about it because it's been a tough season. Certainly it's been tough in the races for us not having the grip level we need.

Tonight was a different deal. As the sun went down, kept my foot in it, kept my head down, kept positive about it because it didn't feel very good at the start, but was hoping it would come to us and it did. That's how we won this race the past two times, being really strong at the end of the race.

Q. Michael, you mentioned earlier you hope the series keeps coming back here. Where does this track exist on the tour? How important is it for the Verizon IndyCar Series?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it's really important because we don't want to lose ovals. I think that's part of the tradition of Indy car racing. This is a very important track. I think it's very important to keep it on the schedule. I hope they're going to be able to do it.

Q. Ryan, yesterday you said all seemed right with the world for a second. After tonight, does all seem right in the world for the next two weeks?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's still been a tough season, but that makes this win sweet. It really does. The last 20 laps felt like an hour and a half just knowing how important this was to me, to the team, to our partners, DHL, Auto Nation, Honda. This is a big win.

We went out and earned this one. We took it away from them, that's a big deal. So this was, as I said, a massive win for the team. Feels great to be back in Victory Lane. Certainly I'm not happy with the way the season's gone at all. More than anything at all, I just feel relief, like a big exhale is how I can describe it.

Q. Ryan, given how this season has gone for you, how much more satisfying is this win than your win here last year?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Doesn't even compare. The win last year was pretty cool because Michael made a great call. I was pretty skeptical at the time. We blitzed the field at the end of the race. That was a lot of fun.

But this is a big deal, to come in and to be on the slump we've been on, to come in from ninth, work at it, earn the race win, really earn it in the fashion that we did, it's a statement win. It's big for us. It's big for everybody involved in this team.

Q. Michael, you were involved in that last American 1-2-3 finish (2006 Indy 500). 1-2-3-4 to Americans tonight. How important is that?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it's always great when Americans do well. It's very important to note that it's an international series and there's international drivers. So when the Americans do good and they beat the rest of the world, it's always great. To do it here in the Heartland, to do a 1-2-3-4, it's pretty cool.

Q. Ryan, it was the first race in Iowa with the new aero package. Do you feel any big difference?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think we spent a longer time on the throttle through the tire stint. But it was tough in traffic, when you dump all that downforce off, when you get into dirty air, it really gets loose.

When you have the clean air, it tends to be more downforce, a heavier steering wheel, more grip. Once somebody crosses your path or you get into dirty air, get into the wake of someone else, it really gets loose. You could see guys were doing that. You set them up that way for passes.

It's tough. It adds a different element to it. Certainly more grip, but adds some difficulty in there, too.

Q. I feel compelled to ask this question since you had three wins here. Do you have room for another trophy?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. My little boy, Ryden, loves it because you can switch the light on on top. I'm going to put this one in his room. I wish he was here. He's old enough now to actually get what a win is.

Every time I go to the airport he says, “Dada, win." This is pretty cool. I'm going to watch this one with him when I go home tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations.

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