GP of Indianapolis Saturday Press Conference

From left, Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud and Castroneves

An interview with:
1st Simon Pagenaud
2nd Ryan Hunter-Reay
3rd Helio Castroneves

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the winner of the inaugural Indy Grand Prix, Simon Pagenaud. Simon, talk about the race today.

SIMON PAGENAUD: It feels really good. I want to say thank you to my team. I think alone I wouldn't have done this today. They were able to give me a really, really good package this weekend. As you could see, we were fast in every session. I knew going into the race that we really had a shot starting fourth.

Obviously there were a lot of things going on during the race, about halfway. It was important to save a lot of fuel. I got to say a big thank you and hats off to Honda for an engine that can be that fast and save that much fuel.

It was a bit stressful in the end, I've got to tell you. The last 15 laps they were telling me to achieve an unseen fuel number, and I didn't think I could hold on. I didn't know exactly what the other strategies were, so I didn't know who was going to be my competition. I knew Hunter-Reay was on the same fuel-saving mode. But I was very worried about Helio. When we came out of the pits, we were a little bit slower than him, so it worked out really good for us.

I'm really proud tonight. Two things. Mario Andretti gave me this trophy. Mario, obviously I always look up to. This trophy is my biggest trophy now. I'm very proud to be the second Frenchman to win in Indianapolis in history and the first to win the Indy Grand Prix.

It's incredible to be near the pagoda. I can't even think what it could be with the Indy 500.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. A question concerning the track layout. I was able to have a lap in the morning with the pace car. The infield road course is similar to Magny-Cours

SIMON PAGENAUD: It's actually true. It's very similar to some areas in Magny-Cours.

Q. (No microphone.)

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes, there is. But it's a beautiful track. Very smooth. Very flowing. You can carry a lot of speed in the corners. There's some very light braking also.

The track changes a lot. The tarmac has a particularity of changing. You have to drive your laps after laps. I enjoy that. The IndyCars behave really well over here. I have to say hats off to IMS for making a beautiful racetrack and a lot of fun for us to drive on.

Q. We've seen you start off really hot. But what do you and your team have to do to be a real consistent team, a championship contender?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I think we are a championship contender. We were third last year. We were in the championship hunt until the last race.

It's fair to say that we are where we want to be, fighting for wins. Being consistent in the championship is what gives you championship wins.

What the team does really well is the people working in the team are very dedicated and very smart. I think the group on the 77 car is very strong. We're extracting 100% of what we have.

We obviously don't have the high resources of Ganassi and Andretti and Penske, but we're a very good group of people that have really open communication. I think it helps a lot in racing.

We're just doing everything we can to check off the bad stuff every weekend. This weekend was pretty much a flawless weekend, a perfect weekend for us.

Q. At what point did the pit strategy develop? Was it something you went into the race with or did it happen in the nature of the race?

SIMON PAGENAUD: It happened in the nature of the race. It definitely did. It actually worried me when I saw Hunter-Reay staying out when I pitted in the middle of the race. Actually kind of a cloud in my head, to be honest. I have to review the whole race to understand what happened. I was a little worried when I was back in the pack. But we were able to do some good restarts, as usual. That got us back to where we needed to be.

The big one was we had to pass Helio. We did that on the last restart. Passed Helio and Justin, and that made a big difference. We were able to stay with the guys that were going to pit next, so we knew we were the next leader in line, but I had to save a lot of fuel in the end.

Actually, the car was really fast and we were able to do it.

Q. What would your friend Jean Girard say today?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't know. You should ask him (laughter).

Q. We need more personalities in IndyCar. Does a win like today push your star power up a little bit and help promote the series more? You seem to have a good time and have fun no matter what it is, whether it is adopting dogs or imitating movie people, taking your girlfriend for a test drive.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I used to stress a lot about my racing career. It's difficult to make it as a race driver. I've been stressing up until last year about my job, security. I'm turning 30, so I've got another 12 years hopefully in IndyCar, 10 or 12 years.

I think I've shown speed. I've shown consistency. Now I have decided this year to relax and just let my driving do the rest. So I enjoy it.

Q. Over in France you have Le Mans and so forth. You don't win in America until you hear Indianapolis. You have the 500 coming up. What will this mean back home with Indianapolis attached to it?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it's going to be big. I'm very happy actually. Unfortunately we're not showing the races in France live, which is a real shame. We have Sebastien Bourdais. He was a Formula One driver before. He's in the series. Really fast. We have myself. I wish French TV was stepping up a little bit to follow IndyCar.

The more this happens, the better it is for IndyCar to get to France and for France to get interested. Trust me, people are interested. It's just a matter of showing it. It's definitely going to help a lot. I think you'll see a lot of French journalists coming to the Indy 500 after what happened today.

That's how it works over there. You have to perform, then they come.

Q. You're the one end of the spectrum of showing everything that was good with today's race. There's a lot of drivers that met the brutal end of the day's race. Practice begins tomorrow. Some may not have cars. We don't know what Hinchcliffe's medical situation will be like.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I didn't know about James' situation. Is he okay?

Q. (No microphone.)

SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I hope he gets well soon.

Yeah, it's going to take a while to get the cars ready. The teams, that's what they do. The mechanics are very passionate about their job. It's the Indy 500. It's a big race, a big event. IndyCar is doing a great job with Verizon to promote the series.

On my side, I know we're going to shake the car down tomorrow in a different livery that you'll see tomorrow. We'll really start testing on Monday.

I think the car is obviously a road course car and an oval car for most teams. We're going to switch the engine, put the engine in the oval car tonight and off we go.

Q. (No microphone.)

SIMON PAGENAUD: I saw he had a bad start, but I was focused on the 98, trying to get around him. I was focused on trying to get first in turn one. Unfortunately I didn't have a good start this time. Hunter-Reay got us. Then I was battling with Power and Hawksworth. Three-wide in turn one got me really busy.

Q. A couple days ago you said your earliest memory of Indianapolis was Jacques Villeneuve winning in '95.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I'm sorry, it's not that old, is it (laughter)?

Q. If you could talk to yourself as an 11-year-old, what would you tell him about today?

SIMON PAGENAUD: What do you mean?

Q. How would you describe this day to an 11-year-old Simon?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I remember the day Jacques winning with Forsythe and his helmet with the strange color. I remember that. I remember him going to F1.

I got interested in F1 when I was a kid. That's why I followed racing that early.

But it feels like a dream come true for me. It's amazing to be racing guys like Montoya. I used to look up and never thought I could be as fast as him because I never thought I could be a racecar driver.

Jacques Villeneuve, for me he's the '97 world Formula One champion. I met him yesterday. It was kind of a funny feeling. As a race fan, it was a funny feeling. As a racer, I'm going to race against him and I'm excited about that.

There's one side of me that it's a special moment. You get to meet the people that you look up to when you're a kid. That's very special. That's kind of a fragile feeling. Then you get to race against them and then you see blood, so that's different (laughter).

Q. On the start it was clear that Ryan Hunter-Reay got by Hawksworth, but then there was a big accident. After that was all cleaned up, they went back to green, both you and Hawksworth passed Ryan Hunter-Reay. Were you aware if he was having any kind of problem that maybe he slowed down a little bit? Did you have contact? Where did you pass him?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I saw Ryan, he was leading. Here it's such a long straight that the leader is going to have a tough time on the restart. Hawksworth had a really good restart. So did I. He went down the inside into turn one and got Ryan. Ryan tried to cross him. What I did is I tried to cross Ryan basically.

I don't think Ryan knew I was there. Opened the door in turn two. I went in there, which was a small gap. On the exit, you know, I went on the power really early. I got squirrelly. We touched with Ryan. It was a very optimistic move from me. Ryan was on the curb there. But we hit. It was side pod to side pod, so no damage to any cars.

It's racing. It's what the new rules are about apparently. I'm just taking it to the book.

Q. Obviously you drive for Sam Schmidt. What do you think of him? His job is harder than the other owners being paralyzed. What does it mean?

SIMON PAGENAUD: He's a great team owner and a great friend, becoming a great friend. We've gone through a lot in three years. It feels like it's been short, but in the meantime it feels like a lifetime.

I have to tell him thank you because he was the only one to believe I could be where I'm at today. He had this vision about me driving the car. My relationship with Honda, that was really good, could really help the team. He saw the development skills that I had, development driver skills that I had, technical feedback. He was interested in that for his team.

Now you have to ask him if he thought we would be here today. For that trust, I respect him. I'm very happy to be part of his team. Being able to bring that team to this level, obviously I didn't do it alone, it takes Rob Edwards, the team manager, my engineer, Ben Bretzman, he is fantastic, Nick Snyder, Mr. Number, and then Hobbs. All that works really well with the 77 car team, with Allen McDonald and with Anderson, they're really good, and my crew. Everybody is so motivated. It's incredible, this team. They go to the gym. When they come back from the gym, some of them tell me, We did this, that, which is incredible. They always ask me about my training, what I do. There's this kind of competition going between everybody in the team, with the driver, between each other.

I see them checking their pit stop video practice videos every day in the truck. They check it. Everybody is gathered together, which is very impressive. You don't get to see that often in the company or in the race team. There's always some kind of tension against people in the race team. But this team is very friendly, very open. Everybody is just willing to do their best because they believe we have a good car and they have a good car. I believe the same. I believe I have a really good crew, probably the best today.

Q. What kind of confidence does your win today give you going forward?

SIMON PAGENAUD: It gives me a lot of confidence obviously. But it's also a great championship run for me today. We've placed really well in the first three races, and then we won the fourth one. It's very important before going to the Indy 500. It's a good dynamic for the team, for myself, my confidence level. God knows how confident you have to be around here on an oval.

I guess it's a good thing. Obviously I need time to understand what just happened and realize that I'm the man of the hour and thank my team by buying them a drink. But then tomorrow we get back to work.

That's racing. Tomorrow is a whole different day. Even though I won today, tomorrow I could be at the back of the field. That's my motto. That's what gets me to work every day. I don't want to be at the back of the field. We're going to work and try to do the same at the Indy 500.

Q. The standing starts, we've seen so many of them not go so well. Is there anything we can do with the car mechanically, with the clutch, that would help it go smoother?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it's practice, to be honest. More practice will help the team to get better ready with the clutch, for sure. That's certainly something we're going to work on after today.

I thought I had it nailed, and it didn't work the way I thought. I thought I had all my targets met, and it didn't work out.

I think it's work, it's preparation. It's obviously something new. When there's something new, there's always a lot of disparity. I think that's the reason.

Thank you very much.

THE MODERATOR: Helio Castroneves, your birthday. Looked for a moment you were headed towards Victory Lane. In your mind did you know you were going to have to come in for a stop?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have to say Roger did a great job. The Verizon No. 3 car was actually getting better. Not having the warm-up, it was very difficult because we didn't know if the setup we did was going to be good or not.

It was good. I feel we could improve it. Good job from John and the rest of the Verizon boys. And off course, Roger, man, the guy knows a great strategy, I tell you. I didn't know to be honest what's the position. He was just telling me, Push, push, push. I kind of understood the message.

I was so focused because it was so difficult. The light was changing. The track was getting better so you could push a little bit harder on the braking points but at the same time not make any silly mistakes.

I tell you, after Barber and Long Beach, after not having so much good momentum, I want to win as bad as anybody, but it's a great momentum for the month and the start of the Indy 500. I can't wait to go back in the car tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Ryan Hunter-Reay could have won that race but was carrying extra baggage in that car. Looking for his spotter now. We were watching on the monitor. Great run. I thought you were going to catch Simon there at one point. What was your feeling?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Like Simon, Honda gave us a great amount of power with the mileage that we needed to do what we did today. Hats off to Honda. Great job again.

We were saving the same amount of fuel lap after lap, then they gave me the green light to go. I was catching him a bit. When you're saving fuel so much, it's tough when you go back to 110% to hit all your marks. We were catching him. Didn't make it to pit lane for the podium celebration on time.

It was a strange race today. The rhythm was off at times. Guys were on three stoppers, two stoppers, different tire strategies. It was a busy day, that's for sure.

Great job to Simon. Just hoping that James is okay. Haven't heard any details on anything. Just know he's been sent to the hospital.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.

Q. What was your view of the start and how close were you to potentially hitting anything?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Hitting anything, all the debris? The start was a bit nuts, yeah. For some reason I told myself before the race, Expect something strange to happen on the front row. I was ready for it when it happened. Narrowly missed them. Still had a good start to boot. Pretty happy with how that went.

We set the strategy early on in the race with how things was going to go. I think Jack Hawksworth was burning a little bit more fuel.

I went to the inside, threaded the needle between them. I was just hoping a car wasn't already coming in that spot, and there wasn't.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I had a great start from 10th. I didn't see the guys inside. I went to the middle, then outside, went for it. I did not know that Saavedra had an issue or if anybody else had an issue. The only two guys in front of me, which was Juan Pablo and Tony, I saw they kind of like bubbled a little bit. Other than that, I didn't see the rest of it.

Q. Helio, when you came in, you were a breath of fresh air, climbing fences… Is Simon a breath of fresh air these days?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Absolutely. Simon has been on the radar already for quite some time. Last year or the year before he finished close on the championship. Now he's winning again.

Certainly Simon has been showing an amazing potential here. He already won races. Great effort for them, especially being local here in Indianapolis.

But I think, to be honest, not only Simon, but a bunch of drivers. It's been so competitive. It's amazing how close it is out there. You guys don't realize to finish here on the podium, it's so difficult. That's why it's great to be here.

Q. Ryan, when you were told about Hinch's trip to the hospital, what was said?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I was actually next to him on track when all of a sudden debris went everywhere. He slowed up. I thought he maybe did a front wing. When I went by him, I saw out of the corner of my eye that the wing was fine. I thought that was strange.

Didn't hear anything about it till I got up to the podium and they said he was transferred to the hospital. That's all I know.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Who got involved with him?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Something that happened in front of him. He was hit, I don't know, in the hand or in the head. At first I heard head, and now I heard hand as we were coming down.

Q. Back to the first start with all the chaos, do you think the Dallaras are too sensitive for a standing start?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Is it too sensitive for the standing start? I'm in favor of doing it one way or the other. Either we do it or we don't. Let's not try to do two things.

The fans seem to like it. It really poses a problem when we get to the really tight street circuits. To try to do a standing start, avoid a stalled car on a street circuit is almost impossible. This is a nice wide straightaway here, we had the room to avoid it, and look what happened. It's not like Formula One where we have these massive tracks to do standing starts on.

Helio, what do you think?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I agree. I'm very surprised for what happened today on the start. This is one of the widest places that we actually go. To have that kind of scenario…

Yes, it is sensitive. We don't do that many because we switch back and forth. But, I mean, that's why we're different. The IndyCar Series is different because we go street course, road course, short ovals, superspeedway.

Q. (No microphone.)

HELIO CASTRONEVES: During the practice they allow us to do that, yes. You have to remember, everything is improving. If we got to have them, maybe a warm-up.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think the reason you see more stalls, there's no aids at all. You're putting 700 horsepower down to the ground through one swipe of the clutch. There's no launch this, set the clutch to automatic bite point. It's like a drag race off of a pit stop light.

Q. (No microphone.)


HELIO CASTRONEVES: I used the wrong finger (laughter). Now I'm on probation.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You're on probation again.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: End of the month, please (laughter).

Q. Changing the subject a little bit, how pumped now are you for the 500? How quickly do you turn your focus to win the next one?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Already have.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Exactly. Got to take the moments. Right now it's a great moment. I'm sure my boys are already thinking about what to change. Like I said, it takes about 12 to 15 hours to convert the road course to oval. You know what I mean.

Tomorrow is going to be a new day. I'm wearing different colors, a different suit, just like the month of May.

But it's great momentum. At the least your mind is not thinking, I could have done that, this. At least now you're focused on the 500.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Anytime you're in this place, we stay here, this is our home. Anytime you wake up here, that's the only thing you're thinking about, is the 500. Even the weekend of the road course, you're always thinking about that.

I'm ready to go. Hopefully we'll have a good month. Got close last year. I can only hope that we get close this year.

Q. Today's race probably had a brutal impact on Indy 500 practice. There's going to be guys without cars tomorrow. We don't know whether Hinch is going to be able to be cleared to drive. There's a lot that happened today putting people behind tomorrow and maybe into Monday or Tuesday.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Depends on how they are on parts. Depends which team it is, if they have an oval car waiting to go.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think coming over, a lot of teams are prepared for Plan B or C. You know what I mean? Those teams are all professional. It's tough, yes, but that's the name of the game.

Q. Do you have a separate car for the 500? Are you going to try to convert these cars over?


RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Separate car for sure.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I heard today this Verizon is going to be a spare car. But you got to confirm with the team. I heard that.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Separate car.

Q. We saw an accident on a rolling restart today, typical to St. Petersburg, where the drivers seemed to bunch up. The leaders slowed up for the start. The guys from behind came plowing in. Do you think there should be a change in the procedure?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: We trying to figure it out, man. Right now it's very difficult. Actually, again, this is the better place to keep most of the people behind. I think everybody trying to work together.

Right now, yes, there is some areas that maybe needs to be fixed. In the end of the day we're still working on it. Everybody is working together and hopefully we find a solution.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, it's difficult. But it does have to do with the drivers in the back trying to get a run on the guy in front. If everybody got under the guy's gearbox in front of them, there wouldn't be an issue, I don't think.

Since we did karting, we had restarts one way, maybe until a couple years ago, when we started doing restart zones and stuff like that.

The leader should be able to pick where he restarts. Other than that he's a sitting duck.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Why don't you tell them that in the meetings?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I told them that plenty of times. It's like beating a dead horse.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.



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