|Will Power (right), driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, is congratulated by teammate Helio Castroneves|
|Michael L. Levitt/LAT and General Motors|
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined by Scott Dixon who will be starting third in tomorrow's race.
Scott, we were talking earlier about how you were the only driver to finish every lap here at Sonoma since 2005. What do you think causes that consistency?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I don't know. Staying out of trouble, I guess. A lot of those we didn't finish very well. We were on the lead lap still, we must have been.
But it's a tricky place. Obviously, as we talked earlier, with some of the areas, passing zones like seven and 11 and nine, can have a lot of congestion.
Yeah, I don't know. Obviously the cars are very reliable. You have to thank the suppliers to get you through it. In the early days you had a lot of mechanicals. It's a tribute to that.
But, yeah. I hope you don't jinx me.
THE MODERATOR: What were the conditions like this qualifying session and what can we expect tomorrow?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, changing a lot. Typically in the last few years, we've always had the Indy Lights cars running before us, so the track has been pretty comparable. Today, most of the tracks we go to now, the different series have different compounds with different tires that seems to take the track a little while to change.
That was definitely a positive read for Q1. The track was very slippery. I think we were maybe a second slower than Q2 at that point. It was very slippery in the first one. Made a lot of mistakes in turn nine and seven. Worked on that. Q2 was smoother.
Q3, conservative on the first set of tires. Tried to push out of it. The bloody 12 car in front of me was running off every turn and putting dirt down. We just didn't really get a good lap together on the last one, but congrats to Will on the pole.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Why should we expect anybody is going to beat Will before?
SCOTT DIXON: We've seen it before. Why not? It takes a lot to win the race. Penske have been very strong here. This is kind of like our Mid-Ohio. It's just a track that the cars perform well and have for a majority of the history.
There's lots of things that can go wrong, bad pit stops, strategy can be off. This time of year, especially with only two races to go, you're going to have some people trying some pretty wild things. Whether that's overtaking, but also strategy.
Q. The change from last year of running on the track on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, has that affected how you set the car up?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's mostly the weather conditions. It probably locks you into a setup a little more consistently. If you have an overnight change, you can change everything but the kitchen sink.
With days like today, how it's all mashed into one, it's hard to make big sweeps and big changes, to commit to it as well.
I think for us, the thing we chase the most here is the weather. It starts out so cold in the morning, gets really hot around 2:00, 3:00. This is the latest we've ever run. You're chasing it, the track is improving. The car runs better in these conditions.
It makes it hard to get lunch, a nap. I prefer a three day. I don't know why we went to two.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let Scott go.
SCOTT DIXON: On that note, thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Ryan Briscoe who will be starting fifth in tomorrow's race.
Ryan, you have a teammate also in the Fast Six. What has Chip Ganassi Racing been able to do to get a great strong qualifying result?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, no, thanks. Pretty happy with that. I mean, it's so hard with the tire dropoff, knowing what you're going to get when you go out on reds, you know it's really only one lap to get it done. So you're putting a lot of trust in your equipment, the preparation, that the car is going to be there.
I think Firestone does a great job with the consistency and balance between the compounds. It's just, you know, you're going from used blacks sometimes, 81-second lap times, new reds, it's that much quicker. New black to new red it's about a second. Big speed difference.
We tested here a couple times this year. For me it's been interesting. Ganassi was on the pole last year. Obviously they've had good cars here in the past. Tires change. Conditions change. We've been able to go through a lot of different setups during the course of testing here.
My car was actually quite different to the other three on the team. Just a direction that I've taken. I've been pretty happy with it. Just not quite enough for the pole today.
Excited to be starting at the front. It's a big race for us. We have a lot of important people here this week, so it's important to be starting up front again.
Q. You've been Power's teammate. What's different about him at this racetrack?
RYAN BRISCOE: I don't know. I mean, I think he just feels like this track owes him ever since he had the big crash. He's good around here, for sure.
Again, I think this place, being really good, it's all about having the trust in the car that's under you. He's had over all these years an amazing partnership with Dave, his engineer. I think they do a good job together. It's an amazing partnership. It's never just one individual that makes it happen. It's always a team effort.
Will, he's great. You can always bet on him being fast. I think his average finish is something stupid like one point nothing (laughter). You know coming here he's going to be the one to go after.
Q. Speaking of betting, Ryan, if you had to have a bet on the championship over the next two rounds, how do you see it playing out?
RYAN BRISCOE: I mean, you got to look at the lead that Will has and hope that it's fourth time lucky, right? I think it's going to come down to Fontana, double points, 500-mile race, 100 plus degrees. The seams can catch the best of us out with the best of cars.
Here, with two races to go, this race is kind of like maintenance, then the final race, 100 plus points on the line, that's what's going to determine the championship.
I think if Will comes out of here on top, it's going to be hard to stop him.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, good luck in the race tomorrow.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with James Hinchcliffe. James will start fourth tomorrow.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Record-setting day.
THE MODERATOR: James, tell us generally about your qualifying run.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It was a record-setting improvement from my practice run (laughter).
We've had an awful day up until this point in the 27 car. We battled really bad brake problems all first practice. Took a big swing at fixing it for P2. Didn't help. I spun five times today. I spun twice on the same lap. I don't think I've ever done that in my life. We had some serious issues. We tried to make a change in between P1 and 2. We didn't know what we had coming into qualifying. We relied on our teammates a lot coming in. Huge thanks to Ryan, Marco and Carlos.
I think we had a little bit more in Q3. I made a bit of a mistake in turn seven. I've been backwards three times in seven, so taking it easy was probably a smart move.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Helio Castroneves, starting sixth in tomorrow's race.
Helio, tell us about your qualifying run and having a strong day for Team Penske.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We're having a great day. It's a shame on the last lap in the Q3, we were having a good one, position to be in the front row. Unfortunately sounded like the wind shifted a little bit and wasn't able to stop that well. Especially when you don't have the new tires, so the combination, unfortunately a mistake. Especially when I knew I was so close, I tried to push a little bit harder so I would be able to do something.
The Hitachi car is looking strong. I'm happy with the setup. It's a shame. Sixth position is not a fair result. We know what we need to do for tomorrow and that's what we're going to do.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Why sixth? Did you lose the lap for cutting the corner?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know. I'm assuming that's what happened.
THE MODERATOR: Yes.
Q. James, you decided to go out when nobody else did. Seemed to pay off for you to have the clean track.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I mean, luckily in the Fast Six, only six guys on track, it's a little bit easier to get that gap. A few of the guys had opted to do two runs. We didn't want to put those laps on an extra set of tires, so we kind of sat and went in the middle.
Clear track is obviously important. But it's usually pretty easy to get a good gap. If you run into one of five other guys, you're probably doing something wrong.
Q. Spinning five times today, was that on your mind in the fast lap?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yes. In all honesty, the same wind that caught Helio out caught me out in a different way. I under-shot turn seven. I wasn't expecting it.
Like I said, I've been backwards in seven a bunch of times today. Second run on tires, I thought I should maybe be a little bit cautious.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Josef Newgarden, starting second.
Josef, another front-row start for you. Tell us about how that adds to your confidence.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, we've been there a couple times this year. I've been figuring it out. It's interesting here, this was our worst track in 2012. It honestly was. We were horrible. I think we were two seconds off in 2012. To be pretty close this year and be starting up front is a big deal. It's a difficult track to understand as a driver with a team. You're trying to tell an engineering group for what you need around this place. The direction you feed to them is so critical.
A couple times during the test here we made a wrong change and I lost a second of pace on some of them. That's how critical our setup is at least. Understanding that is really important. I think I've just gotten better at that with the team.
It's so cool to see our progress. Coming from 2012 nearly starting last, now we're 2014 and we're nearly starting first. A cool deal for me. I'm excited for tomorrow. Hopefully we can translate that into something.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Will Power, winning here in 2010, 2011, 2013. Will, seems like not only do you have a target on your back because of the championship, but starting on the pole. How do you handle that pressure?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's definitely less pressure starting up front, just for the fact that you're not in amongst the action.
You know, I feel it's a very track-position race. It has been in the past, unless something strange happens with strategy. Just putting ourselves in the best possible position to win the race. That's definitely the goal tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Will, have you gotten a chance to watch any of the feeder series races this weekend?
WILL POWER: No. I heard at Star Mazda, whatever. You think about what you can control, and the rest takes care of itself. I'm just focusing on my job.
Q. Will, you had already laid down the fastest lap on the first set of reds. Came back in and put on a new set of reds to probably go even faster. Didn't do it. What was your mindset in doing all that? Did you think there was more speed?
WILL POWER: Yeah, with the better tires I did. I didn't think that first run would get the pole. Actually felt like a really good lap the first time, probably because you're relaxed. You know you have another shot at it.
We could have sat on it, but I thought maybe I could go quicker with better tires.
Yeah, it was the same deal at Barber for us. Similar deal. Used a worse set, that actually got us the pole.
Q. Helio, we know you enjoy coming to Australia. If you happen to beat Will in this year's championship, how would you feel about not being allowed back in the country?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That would be interesting. I think the people like me. Do they like me or not?
Q. Some of us.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: There we go (laughter). They think I'm a wanker, right?
Australia is always great. You can ask any driver in the paddock, any team, they would love to go back.
Certainly a great battle. I want to try not making the people in Australia happy, but I want to make Roger happy. That's our goal at the moment.
Q. Will, on Wednesday we had a lunch with Juan Montoya. He was talking about sharing information.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm sorry to hear that (laughter).
Q. One of the comments that Juan made, We go to Sonoma, what is your braking reference point? He looks at a scrap of dirt and said, That. What allows you to do that?
WILL POWER: It's that bit of dirt (laughter).
I mean, to me the track condition changes here all the time, so you don't know what you're going to get. I felt kind of confident with my car going into the Fast Six.
Helio is very strong, picking up stuff from him. At the end of the day I think if he didn't make mistakes on his lap, he would have been close and tough to beat.
But I was a bit relaxed going out and doing two runs in the Fast Six. I was able to do a lap that you don't overdrive basically because at this track, it kind of makes you overdrive it. It's easy to make mistakes.
It's a fun track. It's very technical. It's hard to get a good lap. Just got a very good setup, good team behind me.
Q. Will, win the pole, another point. Every point is valuable. Talk about getting that extra point. Helio, you weigh in from your side about him getting another point.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I've missed out by a couple points before, so every point you get. If you can start on pole, lead a lap, it's another point.
It all adds up. But there's still a lot of points on the table, a lot of racing to come. Yeah, just got to focus on the job at hand, get the most out of every situation.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it's another point unfortunately (smiling). We just got to not worry about one point, try to minimize the damage obviously. But at this point it's not much to lose. Hopefully we're going to have a great race. I feel the Hitachi car is fast. We're going to try to do everything we can.
I don't know, the strategy, even if we have to take some chances in the strategy, we should do because we got not much to be conservative about at this moment.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck in tomorrow's race.