|From left, Wilson (2nd), Power (1st) and Franchitti (3rd)|
1st – Will Power
2nd – Justin Wilson
3rd – Dario Franchitti
Winning Team Owner: Roger Penske
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with Dario Franchitti, who finished third today. This is Franchitti's sixth podium finish at Sonoma and fourth of the season.
Dario, talk us through your race today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The first little bit was OK, we were leading (laughter).
The Target car was very strong up front. The strategies went off a bit, we got shuffled back. It was getting pretty interesting on some of those restarts.
I made a mistake. I was trying to pass, I don't even remember who the hell it was, but I got on the dirt on six, Scott got a run on me. Had it been anybody else, I would have defended a lot harder. But I let Scott go there.
We were just trying to hang on to the leaders there, trying to get as close as we could. We had that one restart where I went up to turn two there, got upside of Will, that's when he drove me off the track. That's when Scott had his drive-through, as well. It wasn't a high point for the officials, I would say, in that section of the race.
But, yeah, that was it really. Then the subsequent restart, you know, trying to pass Justin and Will, but trying to hold off the guys behind, too. Fine edge there. As many people that were going off the track, it was pretty slippery the last five laps. But that was it.
Third place, got to be happy with that. But I'm still a bit grumpy for not only our missed opportunity today, but also for Scott.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Justin Wilson. This is Justin's best finish at Sonoma. It's his third podium finish of the season.
Walk us through your race today.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it started out pretty rough. On I think the first restart, people kept turning up on the inside pretty late. I kept having to turn back out so I didn't get hit. Eventually one of them turned up going into turn seven, spun me around. Just tried to recover.
We decided to come in and get on the alternate Firestone tires. We knew we had three sets and it was time to attack. We pushed hard.
I was a little confused when we did a restart, what was it, lap 30, the team said, We have three laps and we're pitting. How does this work out? We just had a full-course yellow.
It soon became clear what was happening: the fuel mileage and trying to make the windows till the end of the race.
Once I realized everyone else had to pit just as many times as we did, we seemed to have reasonable pace, could challenge these guys. It was a little bit of a lottery being at the right place at the right time, trying to finish it off and finish on the podium.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Do either of you have a sense of why this race was more of a dust-up than it is traditionally?
JUSTIN WILSON: The dust (laughter).
There was one stage, I think I was ahead of Scott, and I got on the radio, because I'm leading the race, after the pack has gone through the previous pack, they've gone off the track, put dirt everywhere. Clouds of dust. Every corner is like ice. I feel like I'm Scott's personal dust cleaner.
There were so many people running off, trying to make moves. It's just the way it goes.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think it's very difficult to pass here. The teams, the drivers, the cars, the manufacturers, it's all so close, it's so difficult to gain that advantage to pass.
Sometimes if you think it's going to come off, you close your eyes. You could see some of that happening today. As drivers right now, we don't know what the rules are. We don't know what is acceptable, what isn't. You see penalties, you see non-penalties for the same thing.
As close as it is, we need to have a clear definition of what is and isn't acceptable. We need to have a clear definition and it needs to be consistently policed.
Q. Did you hear anything about what happened to Scott?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I saw it. If people start doing that kind of stuff in pit lane, it gets very dangerous, the professional (indiscernible) almost, just kind of sauntering back.
We've always had a rule, no matter what team we've been racing with or against in a championship, any guy in pit lane, there's always that professional courtesy. That clearly wasn't the case today. That's disappointing.
Q. Justin, you're one of the few guys to go out on the blacks to start the race, not on reds. Did that strategy get affected by the cautions? There were only two of you in the top 10 that started out on blacks.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, we basically looked at what happened at Mid-Ohio and did the opposite. We got beat pretty good at Mid-Ohio with that strategy. We thought, Well, it's going to be the same this time. We're going to take our hit on the black prime tires early and then the out-lap is going to be better on the option tire, we should run better and faster. That was always our plan. Then it was just a case of when do we want to put the new reds on, really play it all out.
Really pleased with how the team executed. At one stage I was scratching my head saying, This doesn't turn out well. When you pit three laps after a caution, it usually doesn't work. But it did. The team did a great job.
Q. Was the tire degradation what you expected or did you not have enough green-flag laps on a single stint for you to find out?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I thought it was better than expected, both the reds and the blacks. I mean, it was clear the blacks had pace, an advantage. The reds, the pace was there. But the fall-off was a little better than expected.
On new reds, the grip level is amazing, through two, three, three A, four, five. That's a really fun series of corners on the new reds.
JUSTIN WILSON: On all blacks coming out of seven, it's the opposite. You are going downhill, you can't touch the throttle pedal. Feel like the Flintstones.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Feel like John Force: can't put the power down.
Q. Is the reason the race was so exciting also because you were no longer having to drive to a fuel number or was there one you had to drive to? Must have been getting scrapped every time there was a yellow.
JUSTIN WILSON: I was driving to a fuel number until after that second-to-last yellow. We were saving fuel to make it work. First pit stop, we had to pit so early. We were saving fuel the whole time except 18 laps to go.
I think it's a combination of the low grip, people going off more than others. I think there's enough frustration built up over the course of the season.
You could actually get close enough, people would get checked up, people would get close enough to crash. Last year it all kind of spread evenly, and nobody could get close enough to do
anything stupid, whereas this year we had a good chance.
Q. (Question regarding Victory Lane celebrations.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: What the hell is it up to me to repair it for? I was the victim in that one. These things happen. It's happened before, both ways, whether it was me doing it, Will doing it. We'll figure it out eventually.
You know, I'm pretty pissed off right now. Yeah, Will was pushing hard. It wasn't some crazy, really mad thing. But, you know, I was driven off the track and nothing was done about it. So I'm more mad at race control for not doing anything as usual than I am at Will really.
Q. A lot was made of the winds during qualifying, especially how they sort of changed throughout the day. Was that a factor at all today?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I think so. It seemed to change halfway through the race. We picked a headwind up through three. Rather than being tiptoes, floating all the way over the top, not getting to the power until you were almost at turn four, now you're back on the throttle. I think it happened in one of those caution periods.
You had to be on your game, work out which way the wind is blowing. All of a sudden you can't stop in some corners where you were braking earlier in the race. Just part of it.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Probably changes more than any track, certainly any road course that we drive on. A massive difference. I felt the same thing as Justin.
The first thing I did was look over at the flags, Yeah, that makes sense. It completely changes the balance of the car in most of the corners. The corners you can be really aggressive with before, you can't, and vice versa. It's something you have to keep your eye on all the time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
JUSTIN WILSON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by race winner Will Power and team owner Roger Penske. This is Will's third win in Sonoma. He won in 2010 and 2011. It's his 19th career IndyCar win. He's the 10th different winner this season.
Will, congratulations. Walk us through your day.
WILL POWER: Thank you. It was a lot more yellows I think than anyone anticipated, so you really had to survive a lot of restarts. A bit of a different strategy there between a bunch of cars to survive that.
Kept putting ourselves in good position. Really happy for all the Verizon guys, my crew, all the people that worked so hard to put us in this position.
THE MODERATOR: Roger, your team has had a lot of success here. Talk about the race today and why you've been so successful here.
ROGER PENSKE: I think when we come here, we look forward to it. Racing in northern California is pretty special. Many years I raced here at Laguna Seca and here obviously.
This is a key part of the season for us, for Helio, and obviously Will was looking for that first win. With his skill here, he got that bad accident where he got hurt, coming back here and doubling down as he has the last three years is pretty important.
There's a lot of strategy. Restarts looked like a NASCAR race, guys moving, pushing and shoving. At the end of the day, I don't like to see the call that had to take place. Everyone saw it. It's unfortunate. That's the way racing is. So we'll move on.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Will, just how huge of a relief is this for you to finally get a win?
WILL POWER: It is. I'm actually very happy for my guys. I think we all expected to be a little bit more competitive. Not that we haven't been, we've just had some bad things happen to us.
Very happy. I've learned a lot this year. I've been in the back of the pack. I've learned a lot about restarts. When you have a tough year, you really start searching, looking. You pick up things. Really feels like next year I'll come back more a complete driver.
Q. Will, yesterday after practice and then during qualifying, the wind became an issue. We watched that flag go different directions. Was the same thing happening in the race?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it actually changed from the beginning to the end. The wind went a full 180. You got to read it. You drive the track a lot differently depending on the wind direction. That was the case again in the race today.
Q. Will, what is it about Sonoma that brings out the best in you?
WILL POWER: It's actually a pretty tough track. To me it's a real driver's track. It's about understanding where to overdrive and where to underdrive. You can easily blow corners here.
I think the team, we do have a very good setup here. As you saw this weekend, it looked like Andretti and Ganassi had pretty much caught us and passed us. But in the race I feel we had a better car. So, very happy.
Q. Will, Dario is clearly less than happy about the restart. Can you take us through how you saw that.
WILL POWER: I mean, we barely touched. I'm surprised. That's just racing. I'm surprised at his displeasure. Dixon did exactly the same thing to me when roles were reversed on the first restart. Dario seems to have a short memory because in Detroit at the first corner, he hit me a lot harder and I lost a bunch of positions.
It's just racing. He'll cool down. Double-file restarts, what do you do? We're side-by-side. Cars are going to touch. It's not like I KO'd him into the wall.
Q. Roger, you mentioned it's a shame to see a call like that made. Safety is the number one key on pit lane. If you can talk about the profound impact that that call may have on the points championship. Now Helio's closest pursuer looks like he was going to gain points.
ROGER PENSKE: I think the difference, we were 33, now we're 39, so it's 6 points. Not anything catastrophic.
That's racing. To me, I didn't call it. I wasn't involved in it. Obviously when you have a pit crew member going up in the air… If you look at it, our pit crew actually lifted the tire up, went behind the car.
To me, I think judgment there was made by whoever makes that call. We certainly didn't. You know, those are the way things go.
Q. Roger, what do you think about the tire compounds this weekend? It seemed to help the competition. The reds were uniquely different than we're used to seeing.
ROGER PENSKE: There's no question that the softer compound, at this track today, the temperature, they were probably 1 second to 1.2 seconds faster and held on. The blacks were running in the 82s. Will was actually quick there on blacks for quite a while.
That's the difference. I think that makes strategy. We have to run one set of reds or one set of blacks in the race. We used some of those to qualify. They're not all brand-new. You could go all blacks and one set of new reds.
I think it's added a little bit of ingenuity for the crews and the drivers. Taking care of your tires was key today because the car would get a lot of oversteer if you didn't take care of your rears, whether it was on reds or blacks.
Q. Roger, quick question about Helio's race. I know he's working on a points championship and the lead. But he seemed to be faster in practice and qualifying. Was today disappointing for him?
ROGER PENSKE: Not at all. You saw on the restarts, he was taking care of himself. We got jumped by Marco (Andretti) twice where we were behind the car ahead of us, and Marco was three-wide going through the corner here before we got to the acceleration cone.
I told him, We cannot afford to knock the wheels off. Certainly once Dixon had his problem, our goal was to finish. He finished ahead of (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, (James) Hinchcliffe, some pretty good cars. I don't think we have to take a backseat on his run today.
When you're running for the championship, get six points today, I think that's a big win for us.
Q. Will, by the points you're mathematically still alive, but by the positions there's an awful lot of guys ahead of you. How much do you miss being right in the middle of a championship fight?
WILL POWER: Yeah, in one way it's more relaxing because you can be more aggressive. Like Roger was saying, Helio had to kind of look after himself. But of course I would love to be in the battle right now. We just have had one of those years where things don't flow. But it's slowly coming on here.
Yeah, you know, obviously next year's mindset. This year is to make sure Helio wins the championship. We're going to help him any way possible for the next three races.
Q. You said you learned a lot about yourself this year. Can you detail that a little bit more.
WILL POWER: I just think you start really looking close at your weaknesses. My oval performance wasn't very good. This year I definitely had to get points on ovals because we weren't winning races on road courses. Also the mental aspect. I really believe it makes you stronger, having a year like this. You'll come back next year a serious contender.
Q. Roger, not to belabor the point, but you said your crewmen lifted the tire up trying to avoid contact. Is it clear, the dividing line between the two pit areas, and was your guy where he was supposed to be?
ROGER PENSKE: I think you should look at the tape. Our man who changed the tire picked the tire up, was running behind the car. It wasn't that he stuck the tire out. He didn't leave the tire on the ground where it could have been in the way.
I think they're way overplaying this thing as far as I'm concerned. Someone got hit, went up in the air. Obviously the 9 car was too close to our crew, had an accident there. The outcome is obvious.
So I feel bad for Scott. On the other hand, you know, it could have been the other way. We've been in situations where it was called the other way. Running over the hose, we've had to do a drive-through.
These are things that are pretty clear in the rule book. You go to 184.108.40.206 (contact with personnel; under the pit procedures heading) in the rule book, if a team member gets hit in the pits, there's a drive-through.
WILL POWER: Kanaan had a penalty last year in Toronto by touching a tire. He didn't hit a crew or anything. You know, it is clear-cut.
Q. Roger, how are the crewmen?
ROGER PENSKE: As far as we know, the boys are OK. He landed on his elbow. The other guy went up because the hose got around his leg and flipped him up. I'm sure they'll be sore tomorrow, but so far, so good.
Q. You have a competitor directly accusing you of unsportsmanlike conduct. Would you like to respond to that directly?
ROGER PENSKE: Who is that?
Q. Dario said a quote to that in the press conference earlier.
ROGER PENSKE: At what time during the race and what was the issue?
Q. Dario said in the post-race press conference that he thought the usual decorum that is exercised for those competing in the title fight was not displayed in the incident in the way the pit crew member walked around the car.
ROGER PENSKE: What was he talking about, the incident with our crew member?
Q. The one that drew the penalty.
ROGER PENSKE: I'd love to have Dario here. As far as I'm concerned, he's off base. Our guys were doing a job, changing the tires, picked the tires up, got hit by a car from behind.
You start to get personalities into this, what we're doing running for a championship, it's ridiculous.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thank you.