1st – Colton Herta
2nd – Simon Pagenaud
3rd – Will Power
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Colton Herta, the driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. How did you do it? Everyone wants to know how you survived all of that today.
COLTON HERTA: Pure talent. (Laughing). It was really just the call for wets to slicks. Again, the call for slicks to wets that made the difference.
I think we gained 15 spots on that transition. We pitted on lap three. Everybody pitted on lap four or five. We gained 15 spots in that transition to go from 15th to first.
Yeah, it was really cool. Really cool to be a part of today. The team did a tremendous job. They gave me such an incredible car.
The most interesting thing is you never have a car that works in the wet and the dry. It’s just not possible, but it happened today. It was very interesting. Felt comfortable in all conditions. Yeah, it was fun to do it.
THE MODERATOR: Is that the moment early on I know captured a lot of the attention? That full drift moment that you had. Talk us through that a little bit.
COLTON HERTA: I was on the rack stops, and I was shoving so hard to get more wheel, but I couldn’t. It was a lot of — I need to see the video of what happened, but what I think happened is it was drying, but maybe I went out a little bit wider on the entry of the corner than I had been and got that left rear on a damp patch or something. That’s what it felt like because I turned in and it just lost everything immediately.
Yeah, I would have been upset if I spun there, but I would have been even more upset because I didn’t know that was for the lead of the race. I thought maybe I was, like, 10th or 11th. Maybe gained a few spots from that, so I had no clue where I was on track. Yeah, I guess that was one of the only mistakes we made today.
Q. Colton, what was the discussion like at the end to go to the tires because I know they TV interviewed your dad, and at first he thought, I don’t know if we made the right decision. What was the discussion like? It was your decision.
COLTON HERTA: Yeah. What we were talking about is I said with the track conditions right now it’s probably wets, but if you think it’s going to get dryer or wetter, that will change my decision.
We thought it was going to dry out a little bit, so we went on slicks. Immediately when I got out there, I knew it was going to be tough, but I said if you guys think it’s going to be dry, then we’ll stay out here.
I think they saw something pop up on the radar that it was going to stay wet. We made the wrong choice, but luckily, everyone followed our direction and did the wrong thing also, so we didn’t actually lose that much.
Q. The big race is coming up in two weeks, but still, to add the Herta name to an INDYCAR winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that’s got to be pretty cool to both you and your dad.
COLTON HERTA: For sure. It’s very awesome. Yeah, he has won here as a team owner, so now he has won here as a strategist. It was awesome. It was really cool to — obviously, I got to win here in Indy Lights, and that was awesome, but it’s very different than winning in INDYCAR here, and I’m sure it’s very different feeling to what winning the 500 would be. We’ll keep trying. It’s great momentum for us going into the big race in a few weeks.
Q. On one of the restarts you had to draft past Jimmie Johnson, I think it was, to get up to Pato who, fortunately for you, was on slicks at that point. How much could you see, and how determined were you to know both of them before the end of that straight?
COLTON HERTA: When I got by Jimmie, I could see fine because I was pretty far outside of the last turn, so they were kind of on the inside struggling. I looped around the outside.
Then following Pato, I couldn’t see anything. I could see the red flash, the rain light, but that was it. I kind of knew when to pull out from that.
Yeah, the heavens opened as soon as I pulled out of the tow. It’s great because every time I look back at a restart or a start or something, it was just torrential downpour.
Maybe I shouldn’t tell you guys this, but I saw Simon poking out on one of the restarts on the TVs. I was watching the TVs because I couldn’t see anything out of the mirrors. Every time he would poke out, I would go down a little bit more so he couldn’t see anything going into one, but yeah.
Q. That was pretty smart.
COLTON HERTA: I was giggling a little bit in my helmet looking. Every other TV he would poke out a little bit more, so I would go a little bit more. Funny. What’s that?
Q. (Off microphone).
COLTON HERTA: I can’t see the ones on the outside, but the ones in the media center. I think there’s, like, four or three of them.
Q. I wanted to ask did you at one point Pato spun. He went past Rosenqvist, his teammate, and then he looked like he was going to try to go down the inside of you. Did he touch you when he spun at all on your right rear?
COLTON HERTA: Who spun? Was it Felix?
Q. No, Pato.
COLTON HERTA: I think he did touch me. It didn’t do anything to me, but I think he did get in a little deep, and I think his left front just got my right rear, but I saw him coming in, so I left some space just in case. I think he maybe overcooked it a little bit and needed more.
Q. That was going to be my other question. There’s been a lot of talk about the visibility through the Aeroscreen. How much can you see through the mirrors through the Aeroscreen?
COLTON HERTA: The mirrors are fine. Yeah, I think we would have been in the same situation without the Aeroscreen there at the end, though, because it was really, really wet.
The only down side I think there was was not having a tear-off when it dried up because you get all the mud and dried, I don’t know, raindrops on there, but once I had a tear-off, it was fine. I think a lot of people were worried about the fogging because it can still be quite muggy when it’s raining here, but it wasn’t a problem for me. I was happy with it.
Q. Colton, I was going to ask you something else, but I’ll ask one thing first. Playing off what you just talked about the TV screens. Football players do that a lot in stadiums. They look up and see who is chasing them.
COLTON HERTA: That’s where I got the idea from.
Q. Seriously, is this the first time you’ve done that or have you been doing it?
COLTON HERTA: I do it all the time. I think everybody does. If there’s a screen on the back straight or the front straight that you can see. Obviously, I’m not looking in the middle of the corners or anywhere that it could catch me out, but yeah, there’s a long straight. You don’t have anything to do on it but look around.
Q. Look around, defend, right?
COLTON HERTA: Yeah.
Q. Can you put people in the cockpit for me? How grueling was this from a nerve standpoint to drive a car like that today and at the front obviously helps, but just how frayed do you feel right now after that?
COLTON HERTA: I’m okay. You are kind of on edge, but you can’t drive like that, you know, be afraid or anything because you don’t get the most out of the car.
I was never nervous about going off or hitting anything. I was focused completely in this race, and maybe the most I’ve ever been because it’s so difficult in those changing conditions to not only feel everything, but you have to see everything before you go over it, which is what I think almost caught me out with that big slide at the beginning of the race.
So, yeah, there’s no lapse of focus, which for, I don’t know, how long was our race — it was a timed race. Two hours?
THE MODERATOR: Two hours.
COLTON HERTA: For two hours it can be quite physical, but on the opposite end of what we’re used to.
Q. The first stop of the race, I think it was lap nine, ten, around that area, what was the process in deciding now is the perfect time to stop for the red tires there?
COLTON HERTA: I had an under-steer that was building. I knew from hearing from previous drivers at how much the reds will run in the wet. I didn’t really get to — I didn’t run here in the wet when they were in 2019. I was already out of the race. I ran in 2019 at Detroit in that wet race, but it was dry by lap two.
I felt that feeling of kind of what they were describing when the fronts go off and you get more under-steer and what kind of decides what happens with the dig level. Once I felt that, I thought it was maybe a bit early, but I thought it was the right decision to say, hey, I think we should come in.
Thankfully it ended up being that way, and yeah, great stop to get me back out there and then try to stay on the track and reap the benefits.
Q. How beneficial is this result for you going into practice week and then for qualifying?
COLTON HERTA: It’s nice for momentum-wise. Obviously, mechanically it has nothing to do with what we’re going to be doing, but for the team and for me to be in a high note going into truly the month of May it feels great. So, yeah, hopefully we can kind of reap some of the benefits of that, turn that into some speed and everyone is going to be working that much harder to be back where we were today in two week’s time.
Q. After a rough start to the season, does this win give you a sense of relief, or was it just rewarding to win under such tricky conditions?
COLTON HERTA: No, I knew we could do it. Did I think we were going to win today in a straight-up normal dry race? Probably not. I don’t think that we quite had the speed to win.
The car was really good in morning warm-ups, so it gave me confidence going into the race. Then, obviously, all hell broke loose, and everything started happening. Yeah, we kind of adapted really well.
Nathan put some things on the car that maybe would have worked in the dry. Nathan is my engineer, by the way. Put some things on the car that would have been fine in the dry, but also would have helped us in the wet, so we kind of had maybe a little bit of a hybrid setup, but not with the intention of being fast in the wet, and it ended up being super fast in the wet so it was a lot of fun.
Q. One of your first races in the Road to Indy was actually at this track in 2014 in USF2000. It was raining. It was wet at the start of the race but then dried up. Any flashbacks of that in the car?
COLTON HERTA: I didn’t even remember that until you just brought it up. No.
Q. You finished fifth, by the way.
COLTON HERTA: Yeah, I remember the qualifying was also in the wet, which I think we qualified on pole, but then I was too late, so I got disqualified.
No, I did not think about that. I was watching video of the 2019 race to see what everyone was doing there line-wise and stuff to get some hints.
THE MODERATOR: I asked Conor, where do you begin with a day like this? But where do you begin? It was a crazy day for everyone. Simon, we’ll begin with you coming in second today. Crazy day.
SIMON PAGENAUD: You tell me. Oh my God, that was nuts. The weather, we should have a button just to spray some water on the track I think because the racing was phenomenal.
Strategy was also the name of the game today. Choosing the right time at the right time. Waiting for the rain. Not sure it was coming. It was coming. Then just amazing. Amazing succession of events.
Just really proud of my team. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to show results, but the potential has been there the whole time, so I’m really proud that today we were able to show all the hard work that has been done in the background by Mike Shank and everybody at Meyer Shank Racing.
I’m just very proud of my guys, my whole team. The pit stops were great. We keep pushing. We’re going to keep pushing. Yeah, just super awesome.
I just wish I could repeat the story. I was hoping I could catch back up to Will with that win, but I just couldn’t see. I don’t know about you, Will, but I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t drive. I was just surviving at the end.
I’m very thankful that INDYCAR let us race. That is something to me in these conditions it shows a different set of skills, and it’s treacherous, but that’s our job to go out there and give the best we can. And I’m thankful that they let us race in these conditions. Yeah, to me it was awesome racing today.
THE MODERATOR: You’re referencing the win you had over Scott Dixon a couple of years ago in the wet, which was a dramatic win here at IMS on the road course.
Take me back to the last restart, which I think was on lap 71. Colton was out there. Did you have anything at that point for 26?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I couldn’t see. I didn’t even know where he was, quite frankly. I picked a few points on the fence to know where I had to brake, but it was very difficult to see without the wiper.
I mean, if we had a wiper, it would probably help, but that was the first real race with the Aeroscreen, so you got to give credit to INDYCAR. The safety is amazing, but in these conditions you would need a wiper like they do in the sports cars.
It’s very similar to a wind screen you have on a sports car. There’s a (inaudible) wiper. It’s possible, and it would probably help in these conditions.
THE MODERATOR: For Will. Yeah, go ahead.
WILL POWER: At the end there, man, you could not see a thing. There was a spray in front of me. I don’t know how it was behind the one car, but just the two car, I couldn’t imagine being back in tenth, man.
You don’t know if someone is braking early or you are kind of looking to the fence to get a reference, you kind of lift early. You don’t want to lift too early because no one can see from behind.
Yeah, pretty crazy day. One to stay on your toes and know when to pick the right tire and definitely not overdo it. Yeah, real happy with third with a day like that. Just survival.
THE MODERATOR: Good points today. It’s not about points, but it kind of is at the end of the day.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it is, and those sort of days you’re thinking points when you see Palou out and you see Newgarden out and a couple of the main contenders that you are going to be fighting. You start thinking a little bit that way, yeah.
SIMON PAGENAUD: What happened to you? What did you do this winter? Who is this guy? I don’t recognize you.
WILL POWER: I’m not having issues with the spark plugs and brakes, and what else went wrong? The car is not starting. They were pretty good results right there. (Laughing).
THE MODERATOR: We’ll see what happens when you leave the team.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Could be. Maybe my presence was bad for you, I guess. (Laughing).
WILL POWER: Just changed my whole mentality.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I’m sorry. I wasted all these years for you.
WILL POWER: It’s good because I’m kind of the lone guy. I’m the older guy, and you have the two young blokes, good mates. I’m just getting the work done. Actually, it’s been a good thing from me. I put my head down and do the work.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Great job, man.
WILL POWER: Not screwing around with Josef in the office. It’s working out good.
THE MODERATOR: I’m glad you guys are friends. (Laughing).
Q. Elaborate a little bit on the Aeroscreen. Conor said the thing that surprised him was the water seemed to kind of pool right in the middle of the vision, and he said he thought that at speed it would have blown away, but it didn’t. What were some of the surprises you saw in the first rain test of the Aeroscreen?
WILL POWER: Actually, I didn’t have much problem with the rain. The worst part for me was when it was half wet. We’re on drys, and you have kind of that gritty just dirt on top of water. That was when I struggled to see a little bit, but in the full wet, I mean, the biggest problem for me was the spray from the cars.
There’s really nothing can you do about that with open-wheel cars. It’s just going to be a lot of spray. Honestly, it was on the edge of whether we should have been running right at the end there. It was starting to get a bit of aquaplane.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Oh, come on. He is getting old.
WILL POWER: Did you have any moments going around?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I had moments.
WILL POWER: 12, man, going around that one. It was wide open. Just like suddenly —
SIMON PAGENAUD: That’s why you lift. That’s why you have a foot.
WILL POWER: I was lifting, and it still was doing a bit of that. I was like, oof, probably should go red here.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I had visibility issues for sure. Wiper would have helped. Obviously I’m not an engineer. I don’t know what we should do.
It’s certainly, like you said, the first real test for the Aeroscreen. It’s only been positive. I’m not being negative at all. I’m being quite positive about it and what we could do forward to make it even better.
As we saw in Texas, it saved I think it was Callum. Was it Callum that had the issue with the wishbone? The wind screen saved him. That’s good, and we want to go forward from here. So we’ll find solutions and improve it and make sure that when we have rain races, hopefully we have more, then we don’t have these issues.
Q. Simon, could you touch on what this does for the Meyer Shank Racing Team? You touched on it a minute ago, but y’all haven’t really come out of the gate strong until now, but what does it do for the team headed into the big race?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s all about process, and I believe in that. I’m not someone that jumps in and manage to get you to the front in the first race. It’s not who I am, and I think Mike Shank and Jim Meyer knew that. It’s a process we have through.
I had frustration up until now because we had so much performance, and it never really showed. Finally we are getting some results, which is very nice. A nice reward with all the hard work we’ve been putting in. It’s been a lot of work to today.
Obviously, we have the big one coming up soon, and as you know, Helio and myself are really excited about that one. Obviously, it’s a big goal for Helio. A big goal for myself as well. We just have to keep pushing. Certainly a nice reward to take.
It’s funny. Sometimes second feels like a win. I would have loved to have won today, but I’m taking this home. Everybody was so excited. It’s nice to feel such support from your race team and feel like, yeah, tonight we’re probably going to celebrate like it was a win.
Q. For both of you guys real quick, did you get less wet in the cockpit because of the Aeroscreen, or do you feel as wet as you have ever been in a rain race?
WILL POWER: You have less for sure. At the end when it was really raining, you started to get some dribbles in, but not terrible. I really got nothing on my visor. A lot less wet, yeah.
Q. For both. We’re coming off the Barber race where I think it was the record or one near record podium age. Now we have two veterans on the podium here. Was the rain part of that, or is it just the track, your prowess here? What was the key to you guys on the podium?
WILL POWER: I would say experience definitely counts in these races to not get caught out or put yourself in a bad situation, so yeah, it’s no surprise to me to see Simon up there. It’s cool to have both of us on the podium together again at this track.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Definitely experience pays off, but you see Colton out there still getting the job done. It’s funny to be fighting with Will for most of the race. Always enjoyable. We’ve been together on this podium quite a bit, so it’s quite fun.
I think it’s just personally a track that smiles to me for some reason. I find myself always in a good spot in the race. Today was tricky. It was more like a sports car race, and I used everything I learned in sports car races.
Q. For Will. You mentioned points, and you thought it was a good points racing day. Have you always thought points behind the wheel, or is that something you shifted over the years more long-term than short-term?
WILL POWER: Yeah, honestly it’s not that good to think about points, but sometimes you have to be smart about it if you’re — you know Palou is going to be the guy and, obviously, Newgarden as well. It’s just one of those days where if you can finish in the top six, you’re going to get a good chunk of points on those guys.
If I had the car to win and the chance to win without big risk, I would definitely have gone for it. If it had been a constant condition, it would have been a different story, but it was just too easy to get caught out by a patch of water. It’s just a day to be smart and finish.
Q. A couple of things. I’m looking at a screen right now. There’s a dozen safety vehicles down in turn one trying to clear standing water so they can run the Lights race. Was it starting to puddle up out there, or was it okay for most of the race?
WILL POWER: It actually wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t terrible at the end. Only going around when you go around out of 10 to 12. That was the only place where you were actually starting to get aquaplane.
Q. Then I guess my other question: How difficult was it, especially when you saw guys out there on slicks and you knew that you weren’t sure they were going to go. McLaughlin, O’Ward, these guys are out there on slicks. You’re trying to go green again. They kept spinning under yellow. Were you shocked that they were even trying it?
WILL POWER: Palou, no. He can hold to a car.
SIMON PAGENAUD: That was impressive.
WILL POWER: Very impressive. At the end of the day, it blew my mind that Palou kept hanging out. I thought maybe they red-flagged this, and he gets that second position. That was smart. He was going to hang on as long as he could because if it goes green again and he survives turn one, two, and there’s a crash, he is in the same position. Yeah, he is someone that can hang on to a car like no one else.
Q. That one restart where we did have the slicks on, that was impressive that he didn’t just —
SIMON PAGENAUD: I can’t believe he made the corner. That was impressive.
WILL POWER: I didn’t see how he went through, but was he pretty good speed?
SIMON PAGENAUD: What impressed me the most is in the restart he was in the lead in 13, 14 there. He went through like nothing.
WILL POWER: Coming on the straightaway.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Crazy, man. I was happy to be on rain tires. (Laughing).
WILL POWER: Yeah, yeah, big time.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I didn’t want to be him.
Q. Was this stressful or fun? How would you rate it?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Both. I think it goes together. I think it’s even more rewarding when it’s stressful and when you make yourself come out of a tricky situation. So definitely one of my most — like right now I feel like that is one of my most rewarding finishes just because of how tricky it was to make all these decisions and discuss with the team the entire race.
Definitely the driver had to be a big part of the strategy today and the calls, and then you have to have your team behind you to support that. That was really cool for all these reasons.
Q. The pit stop on I think it was around lap 56 everyone in the commentary booth and up here we were all wondering, are you going to switch to reds or wets? Everyone went for slicks. How close was it in terms of your — presumably it’s the driver’s call at that stage rather than the team’s, right?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It wasn’t raining, right?
WILL POWER: No.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It was only a few dribbles, and just before that the track looked wet, but we still had a lot of grip on the reds.
WILL POWER: Yeah.
SIMON PAGENAUD: The beginning of the race looked dry, but it was so slow on the rain tires, so then you are measuring that. Had it been raining more, we would have gone rain, but it wasn’t raining at the time. It was exactly the same scenario as 2019. Certainly had we gone rain, that would have changed the game, but at the time I think there was nothing that could tell you to go rain.
WILL POWER: The rain tire they almost need an intermediate. It’s too soft for — a bit more than damp conditions just destroys the tire. They finally felt good at the end there.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Great in the rain.
WILL POWER: When it was really, really wet. We need something in between.
Q. Did you have very bad pit stop for the first time this year, Will, at one point when and you Rossi went in and you emerged behind way down the group? You got in in fifth and came out in kind of, like, tenth out of the group.
WILL POWER: No, I don’t think so. No. I don’t think we had — oh, yeah, we did have — something happened on one of the stops. I do remember, yeah. Maybe we did have something. Yeah, I have to review. I don’t know.
SIMON PAGENAUD: That’s more like the Will I know. That was just the Will I know there.
WILL POWER: What do you mean? Oh, yeah.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Oh, yeah.
WILL POWER: We did actually have one. Yeah. (Laughing).
Q. Simon, I don’t think enough focus is put on the fact that you got up to second from 20th. How did you do it? What were the key points to get you all the way up from that deep of starting position?
SIMON PAGENAUD: We had a good start. We jumped all the way to 13th right away. Then pit stop sequence, 11th. Then after that 9th. Then 7th. Then it started raining. Then 5th. Then McLaughlin and Palou had problems, so third. So on and so forth. We made a lot of passes on track for sure and had some very good exchange in the pit stops. That made a difference.
Q. The first couple of years of this course had kind of had a reputation of being tough to pass, but I think today and also your rain victory a couple of years ago, you don’t have a problem passing here. What is it about this course that you are able to find passing areas?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I’m not the only one, but certainly having that long straightaway — obviously, the previous corner is tricky. It’s not easy flats, full throttle, so some people slide. Then you get a run. It’s about out-braking the opponents over there.
Also, that curve that they put in turn five makes it harder, and if you are on cold tires, the person behind you can have a run, and that also created an opportunity for passing into turn seven.
And then tire wear. I think Firestone is bringing a tire that wears a little more than usual. Not what we’re used to. It’s putting a bit of a mix in the racing right now. You see some cars degrading more than others. Drivers being more aggressive than others too. Sometimes when you are patient, it pays off.
Q. My apologies if this was asked earlier. Back at the open test everyone was talking about the sealer this or sealer that. Was there any issue with the sealer on the track with rain at all, or was everything okay?
WILL POWER: It was fine. No differences in grip in the wet.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I’m okay. I thought it was different. Yeah.
WILL POWER: It felt fine to me.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Okay.
WILL POWER: You mean on the front straight there? It seemed like it was —
SIMON PAGENAUD: I thought it was mostly slippery. It’s a different car, so who knows?
WILL POWER: Yeah.
Q. I’ve got a question for Simon in French, if you don’t mind. (Speaking French).
SIMON PAGENAUD: (Speaking French).
Q. (Speaking French).
WILL POWER: (Speaking French).