|Dale Coyne with his first place (Conway) and 3rd place driver (Wilson)|
An interview with:
1st Mike Conway
Team Owner: Dale Coyne
2nd Ryan Hunter-Reay
3rd Justin Wilson
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and begin with today's post-race press conference. We're joined by our second-place finisher, Ryan Hunter-Reay. It's the best finish for Ryan in his previous starts here. This is also Ryan's third podium finish of the season. Most importantly today's podium puts you second in the points.
Talk about today's race.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It was a tough one. The track was constantly changing all day because it was so green to start with. It had barely any rubber down because of the on-and-off rain. As we got going, it was almost like a motorcross track. The grip was changing. It would change the balance of the car, which was fun in a way to try to stay on top of it.
We lost the race in the middle stint when we used alternate tires. I'm not sure why, what's happening, but we're just beating up our rear tires more than some of the others.
I know other guys out there really struggled on the alternates. Man, when Conway went primary, primary, alternate. So black, black, red. We went black, red, black, and we lost the race in the middle stint.
I was catching him two seconds a lap at the end. It wasn't enough. He built up a big-enough lead. He said he was even taking care of his reds at the end.
The Firestone reds are designed to do that. This is the biggest discrepancy we've ever seen between the two. It's tough, I'll tell you.
What a weekend for Conway to show up (laughter). It's good to have the best out there, though. You know Mike can really get it done when he's got the car, and he showed that today. Congratulations to him and the Dale Coyne team.
Really wanted to win it for Chevy today, though. Bummed about that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Ryan, it seemed like most teams were caught off guard by the reds and how quickly they degraded. Did you go into the race having a feeling for how long they would last?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: We had a feeling from qualifying they were going to drop off pretty quick. We had no idea what they were going to do after six laps. You have no idea if they're going to drop off and plateau or fall off a cliff.
The reds, if you have a little bit of an imbalance, they're magnifying the imbalance. If you're really beating up the rears, if you have an aggressively rotating car, mid corner, then you're going to beat the rears up pretty quickly.
I think that's where we came up short. We were as quick as Mike on the primaries, though. Just the difference between us in the middle stint was enough for him to win the race.
Q. On the final stint, it looked like about the first half of your final stint in terms of lap time, there might have been a bit of an imbalance.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It took a little bit for me to get into a rhythm with them. I had to deal with I think Jakes was behind me at the time. I was trying to get around Vautier. I was dealing with a lot, some that were off sequence a little bit from me. I think that sidetracked things a little bit. Once I got a clear track, we were off and sailing. Too little, too late.
Pleased with second and pleased with second in points. But to come up short when it was looking so promising, especially for Chevy, they put so much into this, hopefully tomorrow we'll go out and get 'em.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing.
Justin, talk about today's race.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was pretty hectic. The initial start was interesting. I'm not sure quite what happened. There was a bit of a stack-up at turn three. I got squared up, came out on the inside. I was on the inside of A.J. I was all the way up against the grass on the right. I saw him swerve, bounce. I turned hard right, locked them up, I thought I was going to hit the wall on the outside. Fortunately the car gripped when it landed.
I hope he's okay. I know it's pretty rough. But as far as my race goes, from then on, just trying to pick people off, attack, get by. It all worked out to plan. Had a lot of fun out there. The last few laps were pretty intense with Scott breathing down my neck. He was pushing hard. I didn't think I was going to hold him off, but fortunately had just enough.
Great to get Dale's one or two cars on the podium, that's pretty neat. It's also great for Mike. I'm really pleased for him to come back. He didn't think he was driving five days ago, and here he is winning the race. I think it's been a great day.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. After what you learned in today's race, what can we expect of how you're going to put that to use in tomorrow's race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You get an understanding of where the pace needs to be, what you need to do with the tires. Other than that, we have a race to race tomorrow. I'm not going to say too much with this guy in the room.
JUSTIN WILSON: Good chance we could even screw it up more tomorrow.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Just give us time, we'll definitely screw it up (laughter).
JUSTIN WILSON: There's things we'll want to change to our car setup and see if there's anything we learned from the strategy. I'm not sure there was a right thing to do. We'll just go and study that. I'm sure the engineers have a better picture than we have on how things played out, where we were quick and where we were slow.
Q. Ryan, when you lost the lead, 44, was that a matter of tires?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, he was breathing down my neck. As the tires were going off, he was all over me. I thought I was turning some decent times at the time and he was still under my gearbox at every corner.
When he went down inside, I could have made it tough for him there. I'm definitely big-picture racing at that point because it's early in the race, we'll still have time to go after him. We're on the reds, he's on the blacks, he's going to have to get on the reds at the end, at which time we'd have another shot at him. But that never came.
It's unfortunate but it was a good, clean pass by Mike. He had a good run. Man, once he got by me, he was gone. There really wasn't much to think about. The whole time I was thinking I would be on the primaries at the end while he was on the red and that would be the time to come back.
Q. Justin, can you talk a bit more about how big a result this is for a little team and how it was achieved.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I don't know how to answer that. It's just fantastic for Dale. He put so much into this race team. Like I said, he called Mike up on Tuesday and asked him to come and drive.
I think it's just a really cool story how he didn't think he was going to be doing anything this weekend and here he is winning the race. To get two cars on the podium is just so satisfying for everyone on the team. There's been a lot of hard work. Everyone has a lot to prove, that we were capable of winning at the front, trying to be more consistent, just working on every area.
We got a lot of good people on the team who put so many hours into this, their hearts and souls. It's down to them, everything they do, that gives us good cars.
Q. What about your drive? You must be pretty satisfied.
JUSTIN WILSON: I kind of sat here thinking, How did we get here? I remember passing some guys when they were on the reds early on. We were able to pass them, open up a nice gap. I think we were just ahead far enough when we put our reds on that they weren't able to come back.
I'm really pleased. Just want to go back and study it and try to understand it a little bit more from what everyone else was doing around me and see what I can learn.
Q. Since the doubleheaders were announced, there's been concerns from the drivers with two races in two days. Is that going to be a big drain? Do you think today's race will impact your physical performance tomorrow?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I mean, we all train a lot for this. These cars are really physical on street courses. Anyone that hasn't been in one, you can't describe it. No power steering, hardly any suspension movement, and you're on city streets powering around with 650 horsepower. It's very physical.
The biggest beating you get, right now, later on, I'll still have a headache just from the constant pounding. All your joints in the morning hurt from street courses. We could do a double at Indianapolis and be fresh as a rose the next morning. Here it's a different deal.
Then we have Toronto, which is one of the more physical street courses as well.
JUSTIN WILSON: Houston is no cakewalk.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: That's what I hear. I never raced there.
It's tough. Something we're trying. We'll see what it does.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it's going to be tough. Like Ryan says, it's not so much your muscles. You can work on that, try to recover overnight. It's the joints, bumps and bruises. I have them on my elbows, lacking a little skin on the hands.
The car is fighting you. It's not the weight as you're steering through the corner, it's the bumps that literally rips the steering wheel through your hands. I remember looking down, the steering wheel is moving, I can't grip the wheel any harder. That starts to drain you and wear you out.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I experienced that, too. The gloves were sliding on the wheel. You're gripping as hard as you can. Just kind of how this car is. This car does have a lot of kickback. It's been known for that. Pretty heavy steering when the track gets rubbered in.
Q. Justin, how similar in setup are you to Mike? Is there stuff that you can take today?
JUSTIN WILSON: The cars were very, very similar. I think made a couple small changes, just driver preference stuff. Otherwise we came here with identical cars. I like a slightly different feel, so I went a slightly different way.
It's within a hundred pounds on the springs, and everything else is identical.
Q. You've had a race on this track now. Did it pass the test?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It was much better passing, for sure. Big difference, yeah.
Q. The whole track, though.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It was a pretty action-packed race. I can't really comment. I made two passes today in the new section, so I was pretty happy with it.
JUSTIN WILSON: I think the track did fantastic. Considering what happened last year, it's still a rough track, it's physical, but it's a street circuit. It's got the same characteristics and same feel as the old one.
I like the extra straight, what does that for the track and the flow. I think it's great.
Q. Ryan, it seemed like Mike Conway really took off, you stayed with him, but the rest of the field didn't. If you had been leading the race, Mike wasn't here, what kind of pace would you have run?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I kept saying that, If Mike wasn't here (laughter). Ruin the party, bro.
Yeah, it would have been similar. I think everything would have been similar. You're still pedaling as hard as you can because you know these guys are coming hard from behind. You have to save fuel when you can and go like hell when you can. We were doing a bit of both today.
I think it would have been very similar.
Q. A couple years ago Sebastien Bourdais ran road and street courses only. With the split championships they have in this series, talk about if a guy like Mike Conway was able to put together a package where he ran street and road courses, he could be a legitimate threat for the Mario Andretti Award.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I wish Mike was here for all the road and street circuits. He shows every time he's in a car he deserves it. We were teammates in '11.
Yeah, absolutely, that would be great to see. The hard part is putting a program together that's not a full program.
JUSTIN WILSON: I definitely think it's doable. It comes down to, yes, sponsorship, but also talent. Mike's got the talent to do that. He can pull it off.
THE MODERATOR: Justin and Ryan, thank you for your time today. Congratulations on the podium.
JUSTIN WILSON: Now that Mike is here, we're leaving (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome up today's race winner Mike Conway and Dale Coyne of Dale Coyne Racing.
Mike, a big day for you. Second start of the season, you walk away with the victory. Talk about today's amazing race.
MIKE CONWAY: Amazing feeling. Obviously all last minute came together. Thanks to Dale for making it happen.
As soon as I got in the car, seemed to feel comfortable with what we had. With the more laps, just felt pretty good. We were fast. Great to be on the front row for today and obviously the pole tomorrow, even better.
Today, the car was really hooked up. The more the car gripped up, the quicker I could go. All happening, flowing as you wish for. Yeah, amazing. Great job by all the crew today. Yeah, I don't know, hasn't sunk in quite yet, but after the weekend I think it will.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, talk about all the accomplishments of the team.
DALE COYNE: I wish I could say it was an average day, but it was above average. I can't say enough about Mike coming in. We've seen it before, Penske has injured drivers, they bring somebody in for one weekend. Nobody sticks it up on the pole, class of the race, wins it.
I'm pleased with the engineering staff, shows the quality of the cars we put out there, the team, the pit stops, just went perfect today.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go to questions.
Q. Mike, did you know how good your car was on blacks and reds? The sequence you ran seemed to be the magic one. Did you know that going into the race or did you luck into that?
MIKE CONWAY: That's what we planned to do at the start. Looking at the beginning of the race, E.J. was doing a similar thing. I don't know too much about the guys behind me.
It was one of them things we found the reds, they were good for a few laps, but they could drop off quite quickly. With the track being quite green, that was probably going to happen. You could see when Ryan was out there on the second stint, his reds started to go off, I was able to pull away.
I was kind of nursing the tires a little bit towards the end. Once I knew they kind of lost their best, I was being very careful with the rear tires, just conserve. I needed to have some tire left. That's why the gap kind of shrunk, I was looking after the tires, making sure I had something at the end. Towards the end I had a good cushion so I decided to push more. Two, three laps to go at that point.
You kind of know maybe you have it in the bag. When I saw Ryan, Oh, no, there's going to be a safety car. But I left enough in the tires.
It was a great call from John Dick. That was his plan before we went into the race. It was great. Great pit stops. The only kind of screw up was when I came out, I was going down into turn three, really slow on the left, but there was a yellow flag in turn three. I couldn't overtake him. Then Helio went flying by me. I'm like, C'mon, it's yellow.
Yeah, that was the only thing we had today. Apart from that, you don't get many weekends where it kind of just flows together.
Q. Talk about what you were doing last Sunday during the Indy 500 and when you got the call to get this opportunity.
MIKE CONWAY: Well, yeah, Mark had a call from Dale, spoke about possibly doing this weekend. Yeah, I watched the first 10 laps of Indy. Looked good. I went away. I was in the garden helping my dad out with his vegetable garden. One of those kind of lazy Sundays.
I watched the last 60 laps. It was really exciting. Great to see all my friends out there. My father is quite the farmer. Horticulture. It's in England.
Then Monday, Tuesday, really got the heads up then, Tuesday lunchtime. It was all good to go. So amazing, yeah.
Q. Dale, you're a master at putting deals together. Why not put a road and street course deal together with a sponsor and have him as your driver?
DALE COYNE: I heard that question before. That is a possibility. We did that with Sebastien a couple years ago. It is something we'd look at and think about. You try to do the best in each category. Obviously, this guy has one of those locked up. We'll see what we can do going forward.
Q. Mike, when you think of that day in Fontana, some people wondered whether we'd see you in an IndyCar race. Here you are a race winner.
MIKE CONWAY: It came to a point really, Fontana, I wanted to call it a day on that stuff. I knew it would be hard to make something possible for this year. But managed to pick up a couple of races with Bobby Rahal, the Long Beach event. That was going really good as well until we had the electrical fault.
I was thinking maybe I'd pick up a few races here and there, but I wasn't really sure. That's why I committed to do the WC championship. I was focused on that. But I love IndyCar. I'd love to stay here definitely.
I knew it would be difficult. But, yeah, no, great to have the opportunity to get back in. Made the most of it I think. Yeah, hopefully we can do some more.
Q. Mike, can you discuss the start. What was the anticipation there?
MIKE CONWAY: I really wanted to go ahead of E.J. If I could keep him between me and Ryan, you know, I'd be able to get a good cushion there and try and pull away.
Yeah, just kind of turned it right on the first one. It was harder to do as the race went on. Me being on the outside, I kept getting caught on the marbles, couldn't get traction. You start pretty early as soon as you come out of that corner. Yeah, it's tricky.
Yeah, did make it harder at the end when there were more marbles out there. That's what happens. But, yeah, they were fun. All the restarts were good. Got to do it again tomorrow.
Q. Can you do it again tomorrow from pole?
MIKE CONWAY: I think so. We definitely got the pace to pull away. I think we definitely got the car, definitely got the crew to do it. We're starting in the best possible position.
Regardless of what weather does, the car will be good. Just a case of focusing on what we have to do.
70 laps is a long race, anything can happen. Just have to keep fighting and keep it out front.
THE MODERATOR: $50,000 bonus if a driver sweeps both races.
MIKE CONWAY: Sweet.
DALE COYNE: You could buy a new suit.
MIKE CONWAY: Get my name stitched on it (laughter).
Q. Dale, your first two wins came after a long time of trying, second one was a surprise at Texas. How were your emotions through the day after winning pole, seeing how this race developed?
DALE COYNE: A little mixed in the very beginning. I wasn't sure how it was all going to play out. I knew what we had here. You still have to get through the pit stops properly, the yellows. Somebody came in at 18, that guy could lead if things go right. You're never sure till the very end.
When he had the big gap, went to the red tires, that was a pretty good situation because we knew the reds weren't the tire of choice for many people. We had the gap. 19-second gap like he had, get a yellow, now it's a whole new war.
So it was up and down really. Watching Justin come through the field, be able to get up to third, I knew obviously our cars were pretty good, but the race, there's a million things that can happen, mechanical failure, could have rained with two laps to go. A lot of things could have changed the mix today. Wasn't until the end until you realized what you accomplished.
Q. Explain why road and street courses suit you so well and why you're uncomfortable on ovals? Is there any turning back? Are you done with ovals for good?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, no, no interest to get back on ovals. My backbone has always been in Europe, normal tracks, some street course stuff. I've always been pretty good on the street courses in junior categories. Coming over here, I loved all the street courses they have.
Yeah, no, I don't know. Just seem to gel with the way the circuits are. I don't know. You got to be quite aggressive, I think, really get the most out of the car. I think the driver can get more out of it maybe, not rely too heavily on setups. But the car was great from the outset this weekend. Big thank you to all the engineering staff and Justin for developing a great car.
Q. Dale, I think today was another day of David slaying Goliath. Today you dominated. What is the secret?
MIKE CONWAY: British drivers (laughter).
DALE COYNE: I'll take that (laughter).
No, I just think it's common sense, years of knowledge on everybody's part. Our two engineers and myself, we've been doing this a long time. You know not to out-trick yourself. You remember things from the past that worked, think outside the box. We had a pretty aggressive engineering plan over the winter. You put all those things together and I think it's paid off well.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and wrap things up. Congratulations, and best of luck tomorrow.