|Ryan Hunter-Reay with his wife Beccy, son and team owner Michael Andretti|
An interview with:
1st: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Team Owner: Michael Andretti
2nd: Helio Castroneves
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, for a guy who really was in a position to win, you were as gracious as a guy could be to see another guy win. In the back of your mind you had to think, Was that my shot?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. This is what I've dreamed of since I was a little kid. The championship is right next to this win. This one is probably on top of that.
It's amazing. It hasn't yet sunk in. Last year was very close. To lose to T.K., I watched the replays on ESPN Classic, to see how close he's come so many times. Things just happen. That's this race.
This guy next to me is one of the quickest drivers to ever set foot in this place, things just didn't fall right for him on race day.
I was given a chance with the car at the end and we pulled it off. I couldn't have done it with a greater group of people, that's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, a tremendous day for the team.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was amazing when I looked up at the pylon at the end, to see all our cars up there in the top six. Just an amazing team effort. I'm so proud of the team. I'm proud of Ryan and the DHL guys.
The other one that deserves a lot of props, when you think where they were last year, how they came back strong with Honda, they gave us a great engine all month. They really turned it around. We're really proud and happy to be a part of the Honda family now.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. What kept you going before Michael hired you? Michael, you had a one-off deal, did you ever imagine you'd be in Victory Lane at the Indy 500?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's crazy. It's so long ago now. When we looked at Ryan, one of the reasons we wanted to have him in our family was the series, you have to be a diverse driver, be able to race on all different types of racetracks, including here at Indianapolis. Ryan was good on all those tracks. That was one of the reasons why we went after him.
We knew he would fit in here. He's been everything we had ever hoped for. It's just been a great relationship. I think we're very close. We just have a great relationship. We're so happy to have him as part of our family. Hopefully he'll be part of our family till he retires.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: That would be excellent.
I remember going back to 2010, having a shot at Andretti Autosports. It was a one-off deal. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I was bouncing from team to team to team. I had to make it happen in a short amount of time, pressure-packed circumstances.
We won our second race together at Long Beach. It's just a fantastic, fantastic story.
You can't do it alone. You absolutely need a team behind you. You also need people that believe in you when the days don't go right. That's this guy over here. I have him to thank for making my IndyCar career a possibility this way.
Q. In the winner's circle you said, Proud American boy, and the crowd roared. Can you talk about that part of it, the American boy win. Also the drought the last 20 years has been largely due to the drain of Jeff Gordons, Tony Stewarts off towards NASCAR. Talk about your own focus, your own path into this.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I mean, I'm just so proud of this race, for more than one reason. I grew up as a fan of this sport first and foremost. My dad took me as a kid to some IndyCar races. I was just fascinated, especially with this race.
This is the biggest one, this is the granddaddy of them all. This is where drivers were made and history is made.
To even have a shot at it, to just come down pit lane, you know, giving these guys five that I looked up to throughout my career. When I was a kid, I looked up to the Andrettis, I looked up to Foyt, Unser, Mears, it was always trying to get there. That was the top right there.
Just to have a shot at it like this is unbelievable.
Being an American boy, I think when you look at maybe the NASCAR side of it, it's all Americans. This is an international sport, open-wheel. We do battle on every different type of discipline, short ovals, street courses, the only series in the world like that. The Verizon IndyCar Series is a true drivers championship. That's what I love most about it.
Winning this one here is definitely a game changer.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Also I want to add, going up against the best in the world, not just the United States, is a big deal. That's why to me it does feel more precious when an American wins it, because he won in an international field. That's when you feel really proud.
Q. (No microphone.)
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I've had the opportunity to do some testing with Hendrick. I got the call up to drive for the ethanol car, Bobby Rahal's team, and I switched to IndyCar full-time at that point.
No, it was always IndyCar for me. I grew up a diehard fan of the sport. Came up in karting emulating these guys right when Michael was at his prime. It was a one-way, one-track road. There was no other avenue. This is the top, IndyCar, the Indy 500. Having a shot, being in this race alone is a privilege, but in the end leading.
Q. Michael, you said last night that you had the winner standing right there, but you didn't know which one. I hear car owners say that all the time. Why did you feel so strong and certain? Based on the results today, all of your cars were right there.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We unloaded really good, just like we did last year. The big question was, How was Honda going to stack up against Chevrolet? When we unloaded and saw that Honda came here with a great engine, I felt like there's no reason why we can't repeat on what we did last year, we just have to move up on the podium one more spot, which Ryan did.
I really felt confident because I felt like we had really good racecars and a team that was really ready and prepared to do battle. I think it shows. If Hinch doesn't do his thing, we might have had five right up in the top six.
I had a great feeling because we have a great team, we were well-prepared.
Q. Ryan, on the radio you said, I can't catch a break. Maybe you were going to be the leader again and lose it like last year. You've had a career that's gone like that, bad breaks at the wrong time. Did you think it would never happen for you?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. Especially when you look at Michael's career, too. Exactly like that. He ran so strong for so many races, just never fell his way.
The reason why I thought that is because you don't want to be the leader on a yellow. Please go green. Let's go green the rest of this thing. I was looking forward to that. We had a great racecar.
It went yellow, and then red. We were sitting in pit lane, had time to think about everything. Here I am the leader again. Did my best not to do what we did last year, which is lead at the wrong time.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I told him it was a good omen because last time we sat under a red flag we won the championship. Keep that in mind.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: That's true.
Q. Michael, you were talking about the importance of American drivers. We all understand your connection to that. This is the first time an American has won since '06. In both instances your son Marco was a factor.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: As a dad, you want him to be up here. I can't lie. It would have been so special. But it's special having Ryan here. When it's your kid, it's a different thing.
As an owner, I can't be happier with what we had. Marco gave it a heck of a shot. Unfortunately his car just wasn't quick enough there in the end. He drove a really good race, as it seems he always does here. He's one of the best drivers I've ever seen around this place.
Q. You couldn't have had that battle unless it had been with a clean driver. How important was that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Very good point. The fact that I was racing Helio and Marco, I knew there was going to be no funny business. We were going to race each other hard, take our line, stick to it. There wasn't going to be an unexpected move at the wrong time or something sketchy.
Marco and I went close there going into turn three. We respect each other a lot on the track.
It was good, close racing. I knew last night before I went to bed I was going to have to battle one of my teammates to get this thing, to get through them. For sure we probably had the strongest cars out there.
It was close racing, but all fair.
Q. At any time did you think maybe you took the lead a little too soon?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Sure, absolutely. Especially when Helio got by me, I thought that might have been it. As you can see, we started running well out of two and four. It was going to be the long way around. When Helio came by, I thought that was it. I came back down and cut a little grass for IMS, but we made it happen.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think that was the move that won the race. I think that caught Helio completely off guard and threw off his plan for the rest of the race. I think that was the move that did it.
Q. Michael, Fontana, Ryan is leading the championship, what will be your position?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm sorry, I didn't understand.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I see what you're saying. Are there team orders or whatever?
We don't know. That's a long way down the road. Hopefully whichever one of our cars is going for a championship, we won't even have to think about that.
I don't really like taking wins away from anybody. But, you know, we'll have to wait and see. That's not even worth talking about right now.
Q. When you make the move down the back straight, you almost cut the grass, are you aware of what you're doing? Talk about what a daring move it was.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You definitely know what you're doing – at least you hope you do. I was going with instinct mostly. A large part of that, there's an aspect of just going for it because it's the Indy 500. Second doesn't really count, you know.
In my head, I was going for it. I was going to make it try and happen. Maybe I was going to get pushed off in three and go into the wall. I was going to be in the gray, do anything I could to win this race. Luckily that was enough to make it happen and we held off some really strong cars behind us.
Q. Ryan, qualifying didn't really work out the way you wanted. You made tremendous progress. What did you have to do in terms of the setup? Any compromise?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: We have had a great car in traffic all month. You come out one day, you're happy, the next day the wind shifts, your car goes in the basket. I didn't want to talk about it too much, but I had a great car all month, especially on the last practice, Carb Day. Happy with the car.
We made a couple changes before the race because we were starting so far back in the pack. We had a really good start, settled in, from there picked them off one by one. Made the right adjustments throughout the race.
To win this race, you have to do everything perfect. The guys did perfect changes on it. Every time it was just what I needed. That's what it takes to win the Indy 500. Here we are. Couldn't be more proud.
Q. Ryan, I'm sure you dreamed of this moment all your life. You're an hour or so into this. I'm curious what you expected this moment to be like and how does reality match that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You know, on the bricks there when we were kissing the bricks, that's when it sank in and I got the feeling like tears were starting to come. I'm coming down off the adrenaline of a close-fought race at the end.
But you work so long for it. Just like winning the championship, you work so hard all season long to get there. When it happens, it takes a little bit to set in because you've worked so hard for it.
Here we are. I can't even believe it. I'm sure tonight when I'm sitting by myself, that's when it's really going to hit me.
Kissing the bricks, seeing that trophy, drinking the milk, helps make it a reality. Sitting up here with Michael talking to all of you is fantastic.
Q. If it's not a secret, may we know the last exchange of words before the finish? Probably Michael gave you some instruction.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Michael just said, Go win it. You got the best car, you're the best driver out there, go win it. The engineer said the same thing. We got the tools to do it, let's go make it happen.
Sitting at the red flag, I said, You have the best chance to win this thing right now and if you don't, you came up short. I was pretty hard on myself and knew we had to pull it out.
Luckily, like I said, it was good, clean racing.
Q. In Helio's press conference he said he thought he might be able to make a move off turn four. Talk about the last turn.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, we made the pass with two to go, which dropped Helio back a bit. We really fought into the corner, which made him lose a bit of momentum. But on the last lap I was worried that he would be able to come out and draft up and pass me, just like Hornish did to Marco in 2006. That was playing on my mind.
I had to be aggressive, come off of turn four low so that Helio couldn't draft up as well. I think that was the difference. Had I come off high, he'd have been right in my slipstream, probably would have gone by.
As expected, this race was ridiculously close and competitive. Just glad I picked the right time to go.
Q. Michael, as the race was coming down to the end, they played the communication between you and Ryan. You said, Let's go, we've got to win this race. Your son has a shot at it. Is it hard to push your driver when your son has a good chance?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's a weird thing. I'm secretly watching him saying, C'mon, get up there. If you can pass him, do it. I knew at that point in the race, though, because there were a few times when Marco tried to get up there, but I saw his car didn't have the speed. I think he was running too much downforce there. That was the difference with Ryan's car to his. I think they were both really good, but I think his was a little more trimmed, we had a little more speed.
I knew at that point if we were going to win it, it would most likely be with Ryan.
Q. You won now as an owner three times. You came as close as anybody to winning it. Is the win as an owner as good if you would have held the Borg-Warner?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I always get asked that question. Probably if I would have won it as a driver, it would definitely be a different feeling. You always feel that, Geez, I wish I could have won. I don't dwell on those things because I've been the luckiest guy in the world, had a great career. I feel like I'm so lucky to be able to stay in the sport I love in another capacity.
I have no regrets. It was just a great feeling to have Ryan win because there you're sharing it because it's a total team effort, it's your team, your guys. Then when you look up, like I said, when I looked up at the pylon, see all our cars up there in the top six, that was great.
Even Kurt to be up there in the top six, he drove a great race. Couldn't have been a better day.
Q. Ryan, what will you tell your son when he's old enough to understand about what you accomplished today?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I'll certainly explain the road to get there, how much hard work and sacrifice it took to get there. He was there with us. He was there during Father's Day for the win in Milwaukee. He was here for the 500. Just having those memories captured, watching the video with him, I can't wait to do that. All the pictures that we have will certainly go on the walls of our home forever.
There's a lot of lessons in racing. It's a lot like business, life in general. I'll certainly share that with him.
I don't know if I want him to be a racing driver.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Don't do it. Trust me, don't do it. Don't let it happen (laughter).
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Maybe we'll get him a set of golf clubs for Christmas (laughter).
Q. Michael, have you talked to Marco?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just told him good job. I could tell he was really upset. I don't blame him. I know the feeling.
Q. I imagine he's very disappointed. How do you temper that? You're very excited, but…
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's a weird feeling because I really was disappointed for him. I know you only get that many shots. He had a car that was close, just not close enough. Yet I'm so happy and proud of the rest of the team. So it's a weird feeling.
As a dad, disappointment. As a team owner, couldn't be happier. You have to try to balance those things.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He gets a little ticked off when I'm too happy, for sure (laughter).
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I couldn't imagine with my little guy out there. Just being a dad, I could see it for sure.
Q. Michael, am I correct in sensing some frustration in James not joining the rest of your team?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm not frustrated. He was going for it. I think he probably was a little over, I don't know —
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Not enough patience.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: There you go.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Rookie move. James is a great friend of mine (laughter).
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Hey, he was going for it. It's the Indy 500. Had he pulled that move off, he's in a position to win the race. I think he felt if he didn't pull it off, he probably wasn't going to be because those two cars were going to be difficult and fast.
Watching it, he's going to be like, Geez, I shouldn't have done that.
It would have been nice to have him up there, for sure. We had four cars up there. Would have loved to have seen him up there, but I can't complain.
Q. Ryan, you've won your championship. You've won the Indy 500. You hear drivers say all the time they want to win the 500 first. Why is that? When your career is over, do you think you will place this higher than your championship?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: When it comes to a pure driving perspective, I think one has to go with the other. When you've won an IndyCar championship, you know you've done your best, better than some of the best in the world at every different discipline.
There's something from a driver's perspective that is so rewarding about that that you can't put a finger on. You can't explain it unless you're a driver going in every weekend and fighting all these guys. The competition in the IndyCar Series is ridiculous. It's probably the toughest it's ever been, the closest it's ever been.
It's different, for sure. This is the history of auto racing. This is the biggest event in the world, the biggest single-day sporting event in the world. It's the one that everybody wants to aim for and shoot for.
They're very different. In some ways the Indy 500 absolutely will be held on the pedestal. I'll wear the ring with pride, for sure. Can't wait for that. It's unbelievable now that you mention we've won both of those.
A lot to do in IndyCar, a lot to do in the career. They're so totally different. But this one's probably the tops, absolutely.
Q. Ryan, was it a conscious decision to get past Helio before the white flag? How different was the pack draft this year compared to last year?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think the pack draft was very similar, the drafting, slipstream, tow going on. It was tough to get a draft up on somebody and make a pass.
So it was very tight racing the whole race. Mentally draining for sure. You had to use every inch of racetrack. I felt like a few times I got too close to errors, too close to mistakes, but that's where you had to run it in order to move forward.
At the end with Helio, no, I knew how hard it was to pass, right? It wasn't as easy as last year where you go right around. It was much more difficult. I knew if I had a shot at him I had to take it and make it difficult for him from there.
Q. Talk us through the 10 minutes of the red flag. As a car owner, talk about the red flag versus a green-white-checkered?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was a tough one. I was thinking, Here we go. It's the first time it's happened in 98 years. Now because it's the first time it happened in 98 years, it's going to work out wrong for us. I was a little disappointed at that point.
I understand why they did it. It is all about the fans still. In the end it really worked out well.
I'm glad they threw the red when there were six or seven laps to go instead of one or two laps to go, because then it would have been like last year and we would have been in the wrong position. There was enough time for racing still.
But, yeah, it was a frustrating time for us at that point as a competitor. Having said that, I understood why it was done.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It was tough to deal with the red flag. Just sitting there in the car thinking that we have a great shot at it, just have to keep your head about you. I wanted to win so badly at that point. Got all the support in the world from DHL, everybody is here. It was going to be awesome. How much they believe in me as well. It's not just the team. What they've done for me in my career is massive, as well.
Really wanted to win for them. I think the DHL Honda looked great out front, that yellow car out front. Have to keep it there somehow.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Looks a lot better than that other yellow car.
Q. Ryan, you talk about feeling like you had the best shot during the red. It seemed like the last 50 laps you appeared to have a car that was so strong, you with it, that all the tech rules that have been built into this series to make a great show for the fans, regardless of who was passing whom, where you're going to be at the end of the race, all those things, you appeared to have a car that was so strong that it could sort of give you half a straightaway and overcome all of this technology that's built into a great car. Did you feel you had a car that you didn't have to worry like Marco did?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think we had a great car, for sure. It was one that could win the race, and it did.
We had a big lead at one point when we were dealing with traffic and pit stops. Those two combined, we had like a four-second lead at one point. They ate it up. Drafted right up to us.
No, it wasn't going to be anything pulling away. I knew if I got in a fight with somebody, I had the upper hand, for sure. Giving that driver the confidence going into that fight in the last few laps, that's awesome.
The car was doing everything I needed it to. Put it right where I needed to win the race. Glad we did because I'd be so down about losing with that car today.
Q. How surprised were both of you at the pace of the race the first 150 laps? Were you fearful that you ran green flag so much that there may be a lot of yellows at the end?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That's what we were talking about. This has the possibility of going all the way to the end. We also knew once a yellow does come out, it's going to breed more yellows. That's exactly what happened.
When it came that late in the race, there was no more sitting back and waiting, everybody had to go. The first part of the race everybody was sitting back. Nobody wanted to lead. They wanted to get to the end. There was no aggressiveness in the field.
You could see as it was building close to the end you felt something might happen. Actually there was a point we felt, if you didn't get the drive-through penalty, he was probably going to win the race because he had done it enough that he was going to have to do one less pit stop than us. We didn't want to tell you that.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you (laughter).
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: When that happened, we were like, Okay, now we know we're racing three cars there in the end.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The pace was amazing just going green that long. I was thrilled with the pace of our car, just picking through them. The leaders kept getting closer and closer. I just wanted to go green. It was fun. You get into a racing rhythm.
The in-and-out laps, pit lane, that's the fun part about it, too, trying to maximize that. I loved it going green that long. I was hoping we were going to have the fastest Indy 500 in history. I think the red put the kibosh on that.
Q. How close do you think you got to the line of bravery versus stupid at the end?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I was just going for it. You're brave to be out there fighting it anyway. It's definitely pretty nuts when you really consider what all goes into it.
No, I mean, you know how you can race guys, certain people. I had some great drivers around me, so I knew it was going to be good, clean racing. I knew it was going to be hard. I know we made the right move at the right time.
I don't think it went to bravery or any of that.
Q. Michael, with Kurt Busch's sixth-place finish today, I'd like to know your reaction of the job he did. Did you get a chance to talk to Kurt before he left?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I just saw him real quick, said proud to have him this month.
Hats off to him. He did a really good job. He came in here with the right mindset. He came in with a lot of experience, but still coming in with the mindset of a rookie, like I said. Went to school and was a great student.
You could tell the way he ran the first part of the race he fell back, but you could tell he was learning. When he started feeling confident, he started picking them off.
He told me in the end he thought he had a car capable of doing better, but a rookie driver. I said, You have nothing to be ashamed of. You did a great month the whole month. It was a pleasure having him on our team. I think everybody on the team really liked having him on. Maybe we'll do it again sometime.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We saw the shot of you in the car after the event. I was reflecting that I saw you in the hotel in Texas after you'd been nipped for the championship a few years ago. This one looked like one that really stung a great deal. Tell us about it.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: First of all, I want to thank Shell-Pennzoil for a great way to start and launch a new product. I appreciate that. I want to thank again Roger and Team Penske with all the sponsors.
Great race. Second place, it's interesting when second place kind of sucks. But certainly taking the positive out of this, it was a great race. I think you guys had a good time.
Second thing, congrats to Andretti Autosports. Ryan Hunter-Reay, great race. He did everything he could. I did everything I could obviously to try to stop. Definitely unbelievable.
The reason that I was down there, I didn't know you were watching, to be honest, I was just trying to collect my thoughts and make sure I say the right things (laughter).
I'm glad I did that because, as I said, it's frustrating to be so close to something that only a few guys did.
But I do not take for granted. I'm extremely happy with the result. The car worked really well during the race. The team did a great job during the pit stops. It was the first time having Roger on the radio. It was kind of awesome.
We dodged, avoided a few issues out there, incidents, were able to put ourselves in a great position to win. Unfortunately, as I said, it wasn't our day. It was great to see an American driver winning.
THE MODERATOR: You made a great move on the inside. Ryan in some ways returned the favors. Did you show him a move you wish you wouldn't have shown him?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Now that you say it, I wouldn't have done it, because the results didn't show up.
Several battles I had out there. I guess I show my cards. I was able to keep them behind. Ryan, maybe we didn't have that kind of a battle, and maybe in the end we show it.
But no matter what, coming on the front straight he was able to have a very good run. I was trying to do everything I could, like I said, guys. The car, the way it's designed, is very difficult to keep the guy behind.
I thought it was a very good race. We did exactly what we needed to do to make it happen.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio Castroneves.
Q. You said it was frustrating. To come that close, are you replaying moves that you could have made? What's going through your brain?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: To be honest, this is the first time I kind of think through in terms of making the pass. I didn't think they going to go for the outside obviously. That's why I was really hugging the inside lane. But, like I said, didn't have much of a choice.
Like I said, it was a great race. I tried man, trust me. I really tried. We tried to find answers, like I said. You can't question destiny. Today I did everything, my team did everything we possibly could have done to win this race. So close to win four.
But this is not going to knock us down. The opposite, it's going to make us move on to the championship. This is a great day for championship points.
Q. You said it was great to see an American win. Is that diplomacy speaking or do you think there's a benefit to having an American win here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, why would I just say something I haven't mean it?
It's great because for several years the series was a foreigner up front. It's great to see American drivers succeed. Third was Andretti. You see the top two are American drivers. IndyCar Series is showing it's the right way to go, as well. I say that in a positive way, and I mean it.
Q. Ryan Hunter-Reay got you on the backstretch. Seemed like his car went into the grass. What went through your mind?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tried to not leave any room, but he was able to find some room there. Once you put the nose inside, nothing you can do in terms of blocking, trust me.
I use every inch. I think both of us used every inch of the track to make sure that both of us — I mean, at the end of the day there is stupid and then there's bravery. I think we're right there on the edge, both of us, really trying.
I'm glad we both come out in a good way. I'm sad it did not come out the way I wanted.
Q. The decision by IndyCar to red flag the race to ensure a green flag finish, did that catch you by surprise?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It did. I believe the amount of debris that was out there, it would probably be a green and white and checkered flag. I believe it was the right decision, to be honest. It break the rhythm, but it give everybody a good, clean race. I think that was definitely the right choice to do.
Q. (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That spot, yes (laughter). I'm back there, no.
Q. In all your races in the past, have you ever had a race that came down to five or six laps of one guy passing the other back and forth like that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, man, I did. I won't say I didn't. I did have some races like that. Pikes Peak with Gil de Ferran. I think I had the same thing in Milwaukee. I did have some races, but nothing for the Indy 500, such an important race.
I think, like I said, it hurts a little bit more than the others because it's such a big race and you want to win as bad as anybody.
In the end of the day, like I said, I'm very happy with the performance of the team.
Q. Ryan Hunter-Reay said at the end of the race you were using lines you hadn't used all month. Can you embellish that a little bit? You said you left him a little room when you thought you didn't.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I thought I didn't leave any room, but he found it. You said it. We trying to do stuff that normally over 220 miles an hour you don't do it. It was a great testament that the car was able to hold on in those type of circumstances.
When you have two experienced drivers battling that, it was a great show. I thought it was awesome. I had a great time. Like I said, I did everything I could to stop Hunter-Reay.
Great job. Some of the lines out there we never used, and now we know.
Q. Both your teammates at one point were penalized for pit speed violations. Were you alerted there might be a concern for you on that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, they did tell me that. Like I said, this race is about making less mistakes. That's what we did. Even though you lose a little bit of the time, I was always trying to make sure that I don't cut that close.
They were able to go back in the top 10 and show that all three cars are looking really strong.
Q. Rick Mears got into a duel with Gordon Johncock in the day, but lost.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Rick was very happy for me on the radio, and that is worth a lot. Everyone was excited for a great result. They saw it. We were fighting really hard as a group, as a team, the entire race. We were driving smart, trying to make sure we put ourselves in that position.
It's amazing, when Rick comes and says something like that, it makes you feel really good.
Now we move on for the next one.
Q. You were so young when you won the first two times.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: What you talking about, man (laughter)?
Q. Younger than you are today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Okay.
Q. The third win was emotional and special for a different set of reasons. When you come as close as you did today, do you feel maybe you appreciate those wins a little bit more, the fact you were able to win three times?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I always appreciate those wins. I never took it for granted. Like I said, they happened at the right time, at the right moment.
Rick already had those kind of battles as well. He could have won five, but he won four.
Right now, at this point, I feel that the team, myself, the entire group is eager to make it happen and win another as soon as possible. That's just a testament to the series the way it is, because the cars are so close, giving an opportunity for everyone.
At this point it just give me more fuel, literally Shell fuel, to come back here and make it happen.
Q. It seemed like you were having to react a lot to Marco's advances on you. Did that play in the back of your mind and prevent you from making a move on Ryan?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the thing is, Marco was doing an extremely good job, especially in the lead. Sometimes I was trying to send a message like, Take it easy. But he didn't want to do it. I'm like, Okay, man, if you're not going to do it, not going to play with you anymore – but in a good way, obviously.
You push the button of someone until the guy is desperate. I thought he was going that way. But in the end of the race, he knew my line was similar to his. Hunter-Reay was able to run a different lane. That's why we were able to back and forth, back and forth.
That was the only time actually Hunter-Reay and myself were battling for a lead because before I was trying to save a little bit of fuel because I know that saving fuel was more important than anything else.
Q. Was there ever a point on the last lap where you thought you might have him?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah. I said, I'm going to get him on turn four and this is going to be great. But suddenly my car wasn't pulling enough. Especially because I noticed the wind, I was going against it. I'm like, Go, go, go. As soon as I passed the pit entrance, I'm like, This is going to be close. It was close (laughter).
Q. Does it make the race any more difficult when it starts with so many green flag laps, 115 laps? Does it make it any more difficult?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I mean, especially when we just finished the pits I think. Yeah, I think we just had the pits.
No, actually, I'm sorry. It was perfect because we have only a few gallons on the car, so we were able to pit and come back again. It didn't affect us.
The one that actually affect a little bit was 170 to go which we still had kind of like half tank in the car. That was the one that I was kind of upset, start creating some type of mess, because that's when people get anxious and really trying as hard as they can.
For us it was good.
Q. During the break before the last eight laps, what were you thinking about sitting in the car? Was it a hard time? Did it disrupt what you had planned?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's a very good question. I was thinking, What am I going to do? Where I'm going to pass? How am I going to push?
Again, it wasn't pulling. That was my biggest advantage comparing to them. I did everything I could to have a good start. Marco came on the outside. Instead of looking at the guy in the front, I'm trying to deal with Marco, and he was very aggressive.
As soon as I was able to take care of him, now the next target was Hunter-Reay. I'm like, Okay, man, I'm coming.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you very much for coming in.