|Bourdais (L) and Dixon (R)|
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with today's Verizon IndyCar Series post race press conference.
We're pleased to be joined by Sebastien Bourdais. This is Sebastien's second podium finish of the season. He won Toronto race one earlier this month. This is his fifth top five and seventh top ten finish of the season, also his best finish at Mid-Ohio.
Sebastien, I know you were going through the race and the challenges you faced on restarts and throughout the race. Tell us how you drove up to second for this race.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We drove from first to second (laughter).
You know, obviously you can never be disappointed with a podium. To be honest, we really didn't have anything for Dixie, so nothing to be frustrated about.
But in the meantime you look at the scenario of the race and that safety car period couldn't fall on a worst moment because I don't think Dixie's strategy was ever going to work without that.
It is what it is. The fastest car won the race. That's pretty much all that matters in the end. They got it.
On our end, we're obviously still learning. The car was actually really good on blacks and I was very happy with my stint on black tires. I think it was very competitive. We pulled away from the guys who had the same tires at the time. It was good.
But the problem is we just didn't have the pace on reds. That's pretty much it. Really it's the story of the race. Had way too much understeer.
But still very proud of the guys. They did a great job, solid pit stops, we had a solid race, didn't make any mistakes. We got a podium. At the end of the day, strong points, another podium, keep it moving.
Obviously we still have a couple races to go until the end of the season. Hopefully we can score a couple more of these. That would be fine.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Sebastien.
Q. What was it like to look up and see Dixon there?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: To be honest with you, I wasn't focusing so much on Dixie. I was hoping he wasn't going to make the fuel mileage. When I saw how late he made it on the last pit stop, it was pretty clear he was not only making the mileage but also faster than us. There was no hope there.
As far as I was concerned, I had to pass around the outside after a pit sequence. That's when confidence obviously comes into play. I had to believe in the car. The car was good. Like I said, it was just a little short of being capable of winning the race.
That's fine. We're still learning. This is the first time we used that setup on reds, and it was just not quite good enough. We'll keep looking at it and hopefully get something better for next year.
Q. Sebastien, you mentioned you didn't have anything for Scott Dixon. Did you have anything for Josef Newgarden?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it was closely matched with a lot of the guys out there. I think James was a bit faster, as well. We had to save a bit more fuel. We stopped one lap earlier than he did on the last stop.
It looks like we're in the mix but just missing a little bit.
Josef obviously pulled away. I pulled away when I was on blacks, he was on reds. When he was on reds on the restart, I knew I was dead because after the restart the track is completely green and on reds you can survive, but on blacks you're slipping and sliding for five laps until the track starts to rubber up again. That was pretty much the end of it.
The gap kind of stabilized a little bit, but the damage was done. That was that pretty much.
It's a real shame for him what happened at the pit stop. He had a solid day. He deserved much better than that. I feel bad for him.
As far as we're concerned, we had a solid race, strong showing today, and we got one of the best possible results we could have expected with the pace we had.
Q. Was it zero surprise to see Dixon up there?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Obviously, when the yellow came, being at the front with the closed pits, you know you're going to get screwed. It's inevitable. It's a shame that we've had to go that route because of procedures. It's the safest thing to do, but obviously it ruins the races of guys at the front more often than not.
Today, like I said, fortunately it's the quickest car that won the race. But sometimes it's not the case and it makes a mess of the race. To me it's not right.
Today there was nothing to say. He tried something, and obviously they had a bad break yesterday in qualifying, and they recovered just about as good as it gets really.
You got to have things going your way. It did. But in the end, still had to make it stick. He was pulling away from me with a lot harder fuel mileage to make. Hats off, that's it.
Q. Sebastien, after the victory you had at Toronto and the weekend you had here, do you feel like you're back to swinging away with the big boys again?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think, quite honestly, we've been running up front a lot, really being top five contenders week in, week out since the beginning of the season, better or worse, but around there.
To be honest with you, I was kind of surprised with that earlier on and really happy. I'm still very happy because we are clearly making progress. We're building the group. We're building a database. Obviously we're fighting guys that have been together for sometimes three years with that same car. They know exactly what they unload when they get to the track. We have no idea.
We restarted pretty much from, you know, scratch after the not-so-great year we had last year. We're just doing our own thing, and it's working out. It seems like it's paying dividends that we're finally learning more and more about the car.
We're trying to play catch-up, but it seems to be working pretty good so far.
Q. What is the financial commitment or the overall commitment of your team to your program and your car, especially given next year with aero kits coming in? Do you feel you can maintain that competitive edge against the big boy teams next year?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We are doing an awesome job of finding sponsors. Everybody is onboard. We have a pretty straightforward affair over there. There's been a line that's been drawn and we're just holding the thing. I don't think there's anything holding up. We have a solid two-year deal. Hopefully we can add a second car to that program.
Do you want to join in (laughter)?
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, we cannot call ourselves Penskes, Ganassis or even Andrettis. But we're definitely on the right path. They want to expand and grow the program. I think they have the right structure with the financial side of things being completely disconnected from the operational side of things. Both sides are really well managed.
Next year obviously the aero kits are coming into play. It's just bodywork. There's nothing crazy expense-wise as far as the teams are concerned. We're just going to keep on doing our thing and hope that we can carry whatever we learned this year to next year and make it even better.
SCOTT DIXON ENTERS PRESS CONFERENCE ROOM
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We've been talking shit about you, man, sorry.
Q. Sebastien, did you know he ran out like 150 yards after the start/finish line?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Did you or did you just park it?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I parked it, yeah. They said it might have been a long walk had it run out.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, they're better than that. They know their fuel error and everything. They're not going to run the thing dry before the finish line. They might run it after the finish line, but it's all controlled, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let Sebastien go. Thank you very much.
We'll introduce our race winner, Scott Dixon.
Scott, obviously a very strong track for you. How gratifying is it to be able to get Target's first win here?
SCOTT DIXON: Relief is the biggest thing. It's a lot later in the season than we're used to as a team. Sometimes you can understand if one of us hasn't won at this point, but all four of us.
The way the weekend started, even the test, the car was extremely fast and looked good until I made the mistake in qualifying. I thought to try to come from last on the grid here to even a top 10 was going to be extremely tough to do.
We tried different strategies early on in the race. I think we'd done two pit stops in the first 20 or 30 laps, which is kind of unheard of. I think had we continued on that rate, we would have run out of tires.
I think Justin Wilson was the one that ended up making us switch. He wasn't running the pace, between him and the 7 car. So I just said to the guys, We got to do something different here or we're going to run around mid pack. We switched, were laying down some quick laps, jumped some people, then got that caution.
We had to make massive fuel mileage after that to what you typically have to do. So that was the challenge, was to maintain the pace obviously in front of people that have just pit and put on new tires. We had to try and really extend the stint.
It was good that Bourdais had the restart on blacks and held up the pack a little bit. The reds were good. We already got through our black tires. That helped the situation.
But the fuel mileage, Chevy did a fantastic job. They've been working really hard on it all year. It's great to see the numbers that they were getting today.
But I think, you know, at the end with 10 laps to go, Mike said, We're good on fuel, you don't have to save. Luckily enough there was something in the back of my head that said keep saving, maintain pace, we don't need to get too greedy here. The fuel light came on two laps earlier than we thought. Had I continued on not saving fuel, we would have been a lap short.
It definitely worked out. Just so happy for the team and everybody on it. It's been a tough year. It's nice to have a bit luck go our way. Everybody on the team made of most of it.
Q. When did the light come on?
SCOTT DIXON: Typically on a road course, it depends on everybody's collectors, how it works, but for us it's about a lap to go. About a lap and a half to go, it came on. I don't know if anybody was listening to the radios, but there was a lot of radio chatter on the last lap and a half.
Went to yellow mixture and just coasted for most of the last lap. It was pretty tight. I think we would have maybe got back to the pits on the cool-down lap. Knowing my luck and how the year had been going, it would have run out in turn six and I would have had a long way to walk back.
Q. What part was prerace strategy and what part did you go by the seat of your pants?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, prerace strategy, I think for us, for most of the field, seemed like it was a basic three-stop race. Last year was the last time we saw everybody trying to do a two stopper. Charlie and a few others, Pagenaud, made it through. We were actually going for a four stopper right off the bat, see if we could pass cars, start on the blacks, then stop around lap 15.
With that caution at the start, some different things, we decided to pit on that caution. We ended up pitting on lap 10 or 12, which put us in a crazy situation, but we were just getting held up. We couldn't make any progression.
Unfortunately we had a bit of a fumble on that pit stop, that got us stuck behind Justin Wilson. He just wasn't running the pace. I don't know which lap it was, but maybe 10 laps later or 15 laps later we decided to stop again, get into some clear track. That was really the turning point, probably around lap 30, that we had to really go for it and switch it up.
Q. How do you massively save fuel and then end up nine seconds ahead of Bourdais?
SCOTT DIXON: Good car I think accounts for a lot of it. The technique I use to save fuel is actually really good for Mid-Ohio. Especially from turn four all the way through to turn nine, you're just getting on the throttle. I didn't use the brakes pretty much from four all the way through to nine. You're just trying to coast. Actually even through 11, the same. You just touch the brakes in 12 to slow the car down enough to get it turned.
It's mostly technique. You need a good car to pull off the big fuel mileage numbers you're trying to get. Luckily enough, we knew we had a good car, but that was definitely the case for getting the big numbers we had to achieve.
Q. On the start with the incident with Tony Kanaan, was your car involved in that?
SCOTT DIXON: I was a little worried because we picked up quite a big vibration after that accident there. I think it was maybe just hitting the brakes, then going straight into a caution period. Sometimes with these brakes, they get a big vibration if they heat up, then cool off quickly. I ran over some big pieces of debris, thought it was stuck in the underwing. Came in and stopped, and the team checked just to make sure we didn't have anything stuck there.
Q. When the fuel lamp came on, personally what came through your mind? Were you under panic? Is there any program in the engine which you can maybe activate to save fuel at any given track?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, you always have your yellow mixture which you run under caution which turns part of the engine off. It's aggressive fuel saving. You can run at speed, but it's very slow. So we did go to that point.
The first thing that came into my mind when the light came on was thank God I continued to save fuel. As I said before, there was something in the back of my head with 10 to go, when the team is like, You're good on fuel, you don't have to save, that I just continued to save.
I think at that point, then with the radio chatter, the tone of voices that were coming over, you knew it was an extreme situation, which is not great to deal with at that point.
But going through the race and having gone to the collector and into the fuel light so much, you kind of have a gist of if you're going to be okay. The stop before that the light had come on slightly earlier and we had made it at full fuel for a full lap, so I knew we had a little bit of a margin.
Q. Throughout the season when we've talked you said, This year is just racing. How frustrated were you beginning to get and how relieved are you when you finally cross that line?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, I think once we got through the final few pit stops, the final pit stop, we got a really good shot here. I checked with the team that there were no crazy off strategies that we had to hunt somebody down. Had a seven-second gap, yet we had 25 laps to go. I knew at that point we were in the right situation.
Then you start thinking, We're probably going to run out of fuel, something is going to break. You have all those things running through your mind with how the season has been going.
Toronto race two, wherever I put the car, I put the car in the wrong spot, got freight-trained by everybody. Qualifying here was another case of that.
I don't know. It makes it feel that much better. It's very rewarding. My wife, I was talking to her on the phone coming up here, she's like, I haven't seen you that happy for a long time.
It was a good feeling and mostly for the team and the crew. Everybody gets down. It's nice to put a smile on Chip's face, too.
Q. Why didn't she come over?
SCOTT DIXON: Emma is in England. Poppy goes to school in a couple weeks, big school. She can't miss school randomly like she has been. Emma is getting the family trip out of the way before she needs to be home.
Q. What is it about this place? From New Zealand, here you are in the middle of Ohio. You're the King of Mid-Ohio. What is it about this track that seems to suit you?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's partly that it suits me, but it also suits the team. I think if you look at it, we've had five wins. I've had five wins here. The team has had 10, six in a row. Definitely nothing to sneeze at.
It's a place I love. It's got a great flow to it. I love old-school American tracks, Watkins Glen, Road America, even Laguna Seca. They're physically demanding, lots of elevation, very technical.
I don't know. It's a combination of things. You can get super aggressive with this place, too. It's a place that you get a lap, it's just very rewarding. You get a flow going, it keeps ticking off. It's a good feeling.
Q. In terms of the caution, were you surprised that it flew when Hunter-Reay was off course? When you got out in front of Newgarden, did you think he was going to hunt you down, were you worried about him at that particular moment?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, it's hard to know because we had been in such a different part of the race to understand how those other competitors, Newgarden and Bourdais, were going to be, because I hadn't been around them for the race. I knew our car was fast. I knew on the restart that Bourdais was on blacks. I knew it was going to be very difficult for him to maintain the pace for the first couple laps with the reds.
Josef came in a pretty big charge, but we were saving a lot of fuel at that point. We were able to turn it up and still get the number we needed to achieve, keep him at bay there.
As long as you have a car that's very good through one and very good through two, it's almost impossible to pass anybody here. Once you get through those two segments of track, you can save so much fuel through the back section. That's where you need to achieve it.
Then going back to Hunter-Reay, I saw he was off on the left. Pretty compromising place to be, and fairly dangerous. Kind of surprised he didn't actually break anything on the car at that part of the track.
Q. You've won here a bunch of times. Is this one a little extra special because you've done something that no one has ever done before, starting last and winning?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's a good feeling. Winning's a good feeling. I think having the year that we've had, you understand why the feeling is so good.
I think you never want to get complacent in this series. It's extremely competitive. Everybody in the Verizon IndyCar Series does a fantastic job. That's why it's so tough to win.
For me to get back on the top spot, you know, it means a lot. Coming from that scenario, it's kind of like going back to Pocono last year, not really understanding that we had a chance going into the race. I knew we had a good car. But at a road course like this, a very tight one, to be able to pass 21 other cars, unless you have strategy go in your favor, it's pretty much impossible.
So, yeah, it's kind of like when you win Indy for the first time, it's a small bit of that with relief and knowing that we didn't go a year without winning a race, that we can definitely try and close out this championship as strong as possible.
Q. After qualifying yesterday when you know you have to start from the last position, what was your personal expectation? I think you never expected to win?
SCOTT DIXON: You still set your sights on winning, that's for sure. You know it's going to take a lot. But I think especially with pits closed, yellows and cautions, it's not that much of a fantasy anymore. I think even if you look at a lot of the street courses this year, the people that ended up winning them, you would have thought no way in hell they would have won it.
It definitely brings a different dynamic. Last year's championship was all pits open cautions which made the race fairly straightforward. If you weren't at the front of the field, you were going to really struggle.
Mid-Ohio, these road courses, you don't expect cautions. That's the tough part. We knew that we needed one, and we probably needed one in the right place to make a big jump that we needed.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, thank you.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you very much.