- 1st – Marcus Ericsson, Ganassi Honda
- Chip Ganassi – Winning Team Owner
- Mike Hull – Winning Team Boss
- Mike O’Gara – Ericsson Race Engineer
- 2nd – Pato O’Ward, Arrows McLaren Chevy
- 3rd – Tony Kanaan, Ganassi Honda
THE MODERATOR: You’ve had a busy time after the checkered flag. Probably seems like a day ago. Congratulations. Driver of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Marcus Ericsson, winner of the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
You’ve had some time to perhaps reflect on this or the restart after the red flag or your day in general. Give us your thoughts about winning this great race.
MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, it’s still tough to sort of take in. Obviously it’s the biggest race in the world, something we all work so much towards, we all dream of winning this race.
Yeah, we’ve had a really good month. We’ve been really strong as a team, the whole Chip Ganassi Racing organization has been really good. I knew we had a chance to win today. Obviously there were some stuff happening along the way, but I knew I had a shot.
Yeah, I’m just very thankful for Chip Ganassi Racing, for Honda, Huski Chocolate. It was a true team effort and I’m very, very proud to be the champion.
THE MODERATOR: You win obviously your fourth start in the Indy 500. You become the second Swede to win the 500. Kenny Brack of course the first back in 1999. We have a surprise for you. Kenny is joining us on the Zoom right now.
Kenny, can you hear us?
KENNY BRACK: Hello.
THE MODERATOR: There he is.
KENNY BRACK: You finally put your talents to good use today. Congratulations. It was a good drive, Marcus. I was really pleased for you. I know you worked a long time for this. Was a great race, great drive today. Very well deserved.
MARCUS ERICSSON: Thank you, Kenny. I appreciate that. It means a lot hearing that.
Kenny was the one that helped me from go-karts to single-seaters. He’s done very, very much for my career. He’s one of the persons that I wouldn’t be here without him and his help throughout my career. So I’m very thankful for those words, Kenny.
THE MODERATOR: Kenny, do you feel like you’re part of this in some form or fashion?
KENNY BRACK: No, I think Marcus has done a great job. I helped him in the beginning. I think I did a little bit to help him along the way with tips and driving and so forth.
But you’ve obviously honed your skills in a big way since then, so it’s good to see that it pays off, you know, all the hard work you must have done. It’s great to see.
So a big congratulations. I don’t think you realize yet what this means for your career, but you will find out in time.
MARCUS ERICSSON: Thank you, Kenny. I think one of the things I learned from Kenny, the biggest thing, is that you have to work hard to get somewhere. Kenny worked hard. He made me work very hard. I learned that. Like he said, hard work pays off. There’s a lot of hard work behind this win today.
THE MODERATOR: Kenny, appreciate you doing this. Great to hear you and see you earlier today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
KENNY BRACK: Always great to be there. Congratulations again. Have a little bit of a party tonight, huh?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I will.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. It was Al Unser, Jr. after something happened in the 1989 race, he got beat by Emerson Fittipaldi. He said when it comes down to it in the final laps, the only thing that matters in a driver’s mind is winning the Indy 500. What was on your mind? Was that part of it, too, that was driving you those last two laps, the weaving, whatever you want to call it, the evasive maneuvers to keep Pato at bay?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I think we did a really good last pit sequence. The car was fast. Got some free laps around that. Came out third and caught Felix and Pato and passed them, pulled a gap. I was hoping that was the race-winning move. Had that three-second gap. We had it covered. The only thing that could stop us was a caution, and of course that caution came.
It’s not supposed to be easy to win the 500. Those 10 minutes sitting there in the pit lane during that red flag was some of the hardest 10 minutes of my life probably, thinking what to do, thinking that I’m leading the biggest race in the world, and I’m that close to win it.
I knew Pato was going to have a run on me because up front we’ve seen all month it’s really hard to defend when you’re up front. I was actually sitting during dinner here at the Speedway on infield last night talking with Dario about this type of scenario, if I’m leading when it’s towards the end of the race the last couple laps, what to do, how to break the tow of the car behind, how to place the car. We had that very conversation last night. That was in my mind when I was sitting there during that red flag.
I just tried to go out and execute that plan I had made in my head. Pato had a really good run on me. I wanted to put him on the outside because I knew it was going to be hard to go around my outside. I was not going to lift. There was no way I was going to lift. I just kept my foot down and that was the race-winning move.
He made me work for it, for sure.
Q. On the last lap when there’s another caution, is it a thousand-pound weight lifted off your head? What is it like knowing you’ve won it?
MARCUS ERICSSON: To be honest, when that caution came out, I don’t know, I thought it was going to be another restart. I was like, I can’t believe it, another one.
Then they’re like, We’re coming to the checkered flag under caution.
First I was angry, then I just realized that won me the race. Yeah, it’s explosion of emotions from that point.
Q. You got a tuxedo for tomorrow?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I do not, but I’ll get one (laughter). I have one in Sweden. I don’t know if we can fly it in.
Q. You called this the biggest race in the world. I imagine it’s the biggest win of your career.
MARCUS ERICSSON: By a million miles (smiling).
Q. You come from Formula 1, you reinvent yourself here. What is that like?
MARCUS ERICSSON: It’s been tough. I did five years in Formula 1, almost a hundred Grand Prixs, running for small teams, towards the back most of it. You don’t get a lot of credit running in the back in Formula 1. People think you are not very good.
I came over here, and people probably didn’t think much of that. I had to work my way here as well, learning American racing. Moved here, put my whole life into trying to become an INDYCAR and mainly Indianapolis 500 champion.
It’s been tough. It’s been not easy. But I’ve been working extremely hard. It feels good to show that hard works pay off. Yeah, winning the Indy 500, it’s not bad for a pay driver, so it’s good.
Q. How long do you want to be a pay driver?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I don’t know, you tell me. But not bad for a pay driver.
Q. You podiumed at Texas, Jimmie finished sixth. You left Texas feeling pretty good. Where did the shift come that you settled in and you were comfortable at ovals and said you think you can win the Indy 500?
MARCUS ERICSSON: When I came to INDYCAR and American racing, one of the big reasons was the ovals because I always thought the ovals was something that would suit me. I always enjoyed the tracks in Europe that had a lot of high-speed content.
When I was going towards the end of that Formula 1 career, my goal was to get to INDYCAR. I came here, had a very open mind about ovals, wanted to learn everything I could about it, and enjoyed it from the first moment.
I learned very quickly that, on the ovals, experience is very important and the small details in the way you drive, the way you set up the car, the way you have to adjust your car in a race, that was things that I didn’t really understand at the beginning, so it took me some time to sort of understand that and learn.
Great teammates. First Hinch and Schmidt Peterson, and then having Dixie, T.K. and Jimmie and Alex, I had the best teachers there to learn from.
After last season where we had a really strong season, it was a breakthrough year for me, won my first two races here in INDYCAR, it was very clear that the ovals were our weak point. We didn’t really have any good results on the ovals next year.
Me and Brad, my engineer, we put in a lot of work in the off-season to really analyze that, focus on the oval stuff. I studied a lot of on-board videos from races, watched a lot of Indy 500s, watched a lot of Scott Dixon on-boards to try to learn those small details.
I think that Texas podium was a sign of that work that we put in in the off-season was actually paying off. It gave me a lot of confidence going into the month of May. I felt from day one here in Indianapolis, I’ve been super fast. I’ve been mostly top 10, but top five every single session. I knew I had a car to win this race.
Obviously this race is crazy. You can have a car to win, but that doesn’t mean you are going to win it. I knew us and Ganassi, we he had really good cars on race day. It’s just about trying to execute.
It was a lot of hard work to get to this point, for sure.
Q. That’s when you said you weren’t going to lift. Pato said you were going to put him in the wall. Were you going to put him in the wall?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I was not going to put him in the wall, but he had to work hard to get around me there. I knew I could hold my line. I was going to go flat. He was going to have to go two-wide through one to get there. He obviously didn’t do it, so…
But, yeah, that was my plan, to put him on the outside. I knew if I went on the inside into one, I could keep my foot down. I was hoping I could keep my foot down. That was my plan. It worked.
THE MODERATOR: What is your favorite charity? What is the money going to?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I haven’t picked. I don’t think I have.
THE MODERATOR: You can pick right now if you want to.
MARCUS ERICSSON: I did some charity work around the Tim Bergling Foundation in the winter and Avicii, as he’s known, for preventing suicide and mental illness in mainly young people. That’s something that I’m trying to put focus on.
Yeah, I don’t know if that’s going to be the one.
THE MODERATOR: I believe this is Mental Health Awareness Month, so could work pretty well.
Q. You haven’t always had strong results in F1. Now you just won the biggest race. Do you feel more validated as a driver, or does it change how you feel about your racing career so far now?
MARCUS ERICSSON: They say it’s life changing, winning this race. I’m looking forwarded to that.
Coming to INDYCAR, that was one of the goals of mine, show my skills, because I felt like in F1 I didn’t really get the chance to do that.
So I came here, first couple years were pretty tough. Took some time to get used to this type of racing. The competition here is, you know, world class.
But I’ve been with a great team in Chip Ganassi Racing now the last couple years. That’s helped me develop as a driver. I felt, like I said, last year was a big breakthrough for me. I feel like I’ve been even better this year.
I did a mistake in Long Beach that cost me a podium or more, which was still a bit painful to think about. But I feel like I’ve been stepping it up on another level, being one of the fastest cars everywhere we’ve been now. I feel like I’m on that level to challenge up front, even though people might not always notice that.
Q. About the regulations in F1, if you would go back, do you change your mind?
MARCUS ERICSSON: No, I love it here. Everyone ask me about that. I love it here. I moved here. I’ve been living here in Indianapolis now for the last few years. I want to stay as long as possible.
Q. At St. Petersburg you mentioned ovals, needing to work on them. Finishing third at Texas, what did you take from there that made you go over the top at Indianapolis?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I think mainly confidence. I felt pretty good on ovals from the get-go here, but I think, as anything in life, it’s a lot to do with confidence.
Ganassi as a team, they put good cars pretty much everywhere we go. Driving on an oval, especially on a superspeedway, is about trusting your car, having the confidence to go fast, right?
That was the main thing from Texas, to get that result, to show for myself that I was challenging for that win, me, Josef and Scott fighting it out there at the end.
It gave me a lot of confidence going into this month. I think that was the main thing to help me today.
Q. Do you feel like you were overlooked at all this month?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I don’t know. I think when you have Dixie and T.K. and J.J. and Palou the defending champion, I think it’s easy that the focus will be on them for sure.
Maybe after today it will change a bit. I think, like I said, I felt strong all month. I was up there on every session, we were fast. I think we showed today that we could also pull it off.
Q. How were you able to process everything with Dario last night?
MARCUS ERICSSON: We were talking about it. I talked about obviously Alex and Helio last year, what he said to Alex after that race. We were talking. Dario was saying, You need to think ahead, not think about what’s happening right here, think ahead one lap, one straight ahead, where you’re going to position the car, where you want to be, what you want to do.
We had a good chat about it. He was funny, he was like, If you’re in a scenario that you’re leading, there’s only a couple laps to go, you need to do and this, put the car there.
I was like, Okay, yeah. I was playing that in my head. And that’s exactly how it worked out today. He’s been a grate asset all my year during Ganassi. I’m happy for that.
Q. How happy were you to see 300,000 people cheering you as the drank the milk?
MARCUS ERICSSON: It was incredible. I think all month there’s been so much fans here. Last weekend, qualifying weekend, Carb Day, it’s been a packed house all the time.
For us drivers, that means so much. It’s been strange. 2020 was so strange. Last year was a bit better. To see everyone back this year, it’s been incredible. To win in front of all these fans and people, it was just, yeah, incredible.
Q. Correct me if I’m wrong, I believe there’s a media tour in New York coming up.
THE MODERATOR: I don’t know that he knows that.
MARCUS ERICSSON: It’s going to be a busy couple of days.
Q. Are you looking forward to go to New York, saying the same things over?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I can do whatever this week. I’m fine. I’m happy (smiling).
Q. The move that you used that Dario was describing to hold off Pato there on the restart, I feel like that got popularized when Simon used it to hold off Rossi. Was that something that stuck with you when you saw him do it? Dario was probably not the first time you had seen or heard about it.
MARCUS ERICSSON: No, for sure. I mean, Simon did it, a master class of defending in 2019. I definitely watched that race multiple times this month, the end of that race, to sort of see exactly what he did. That was in my mind when I was sitting there on the red flag.
Obviously that’s very similar to what we talked about, me and Dario, what Simon did. That was the way to do it. I just tried to do something very similar.
Like I said, I had a plan to obviously try and break his tow on the straights, then make sure towards the end of the straight I was going to keep it low so he had to go around the outside of me because I knew my car was good enough to stay flat.
That was another thing Dario said, Don’t lift, stay flat. That’s what I did.
Q. You were talking about the pressure you felt in pit lane when it was red. You were the beneficiary of that type of a situation in Detroit. Are you in those 10 minutes worrying about anything like that happening? Or can you take us through the thoughts you were having?
MARCUS ERICSSON: First I was just angry because I thought I had the race won. I couldn’t believe that there — I knew there was a big risk for a caution, but I couldn’t believe it was one of the Ganassi cars. I was like, Guys, don’t we communicate and say we have a car winning the 500 here, have a big gap? No risks, right? I’m not trying to put the blame on Jimmie here, but it was tough to take that in and I was a bit frustrated.
Then Mike and Brad came on the radio. It’s like, We still have this. We still have the car, we still have the driver to win this, so focus.
I sort of put aside the frustration and tried to go into my myself. I even said to myself, Hey, this is the biggest race in the world, it’s not going to be easy to win it, you have to work for it.
Yeah, after the first couple of minutes being a bit frustrated, I tried to focus, tried to calm myself down and make a plan exactly where I wanted to accelerate on the restart, exactly where I wanted to position the car for the last two laps.
It was definitely tough sitting there waiting, knowing that you have the biggest win of your life just in front of you, but still a lot of fast cars trying to steal it from you. It was definitely tough.
I’m very happy that I managed to pull it off.
Q. I asked you whether having run this race a couple times, if you had a sense of what winning the 500 was going to mean and how special it was. I think you said you didn’t think you were going to know that would be like until you’ve gone through it. Over the last couple hours, have you reached that point of realization?
MARCUS ERICSSON: No. I think it’s going to take me awhile. Still looking at my ring here, sort of trying to figure out if it’s real or not (smiling).
No, it is the biggest race in the world. Like I said, since I came here I’ve learned and understand how much it means to everyone with the traditions here, with the people here, with everything. I’ve learned to appreciate how much this place means to the whole racing community.
I know how much people in our team, Honda, how much they put into this race to try and win this race. To be able to do that, it’s extremely special.
It was a true team effort as well. That last pit sequence, the pit stops, the strategy, you need everyone there to be perfect to be able to win.
Q. Can you talk after the last stop there kind of how you came to be in the position that you were in before the red flag.
MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, the second to last stint, I was following that front group. I think I was running sixth maybe. I was just on fuel save all the time because I knew I had a really fast car. I knew Brad and Mike on the strategy side, they know what to do in these situations. We’ve done it before many times. I was just trying to save as much fuel as possible so we could go longer than people around me. I knew if I could get a couple laps free air, we’ll be able to jump some people.
I saved fuel. Then when I saw some people started to peel off, I went full power, started to go as fast as I possibly could. Did a good in-lap and good stop. The guys did a good job on pit lane. I came out behind the two McLaren cars.
I saw straightaway that Felix had a bit of a gap to Pato. Being third in line, it’s quite hard to pass. I knew I had to catch Pato straightaway and get to him before he catches Felix. That’s why as soon as I came out, I really, really pushed to try to catch Pato and pass him before he catch Felix. I managed to do that.
Again, same thing there, I saw traffic coming up ahead. I tried to catch Felix before the traffic and pass him to be able to use that traffic and get a gap.
It was all, again, like Dario talked to me last night, thinking ahead, not thinking about right now, thinking ahead a couple steps. I think that’s what got me to a good position there, got me to a lead, got me through the traffic.
Then when we broke the tow to the McLaren car, we managed to pull away, have that three-second gap. Then it was all about counting down the laps. The car was super good. It was easy to stay flat, but I was staying flat. I was counting down the laps thinking about please no yellow.
Q. You mentioned donating some money to a mental health charity. Has that been something you’ve had to work on myself, your mental health in your journey from Formula 1 not working out, coming here?
MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, in some ways for sure. I think especially in F1, it was quite tough not being able to show what you can do. It’s hard to not sort of take that in when you get a lot of criticism for your performances, whatever. It’s been tough.
Confidence is a big thing. It took a few years for me to build up the confidence that I had prior to F1. I felt like I lost some of that, especially the last couple years in F1. That was hard for me to sort of get that back.
I feel like last year I got that back and I got back to sort of myself in a way. Like I said earlier, I think this year I’ve been even better than last year.
It is a lot about the mental side.
Q. Is there anything you can pinpoint from your time in Formula 1 that helped you today?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I think mental toughness. My years in F1, like I said, was not the way I wanted. I didn’t score that many points. Was most of the time towards the back of the field. So it teach me mental toughness and hard work.
I try and be the one that works the hardest. I don’t want anyone to work harder than me. That’s something I learned in F1, something I’ve been doing here in INDYCAR as well.
Q. How beneficial was it for you to have Jimmie in your corner giving his experience at the Speedway in his NASCAR days?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I think I definitely couldn’t do this without my teammates: Jimmie, T.K., Scott, Alex. We’ve all been team effort all month. Any one of us could have won this race today. We had the cars to do it.
Jimmie has been a tremendous addition to our team all year. But, yeah, this month especially. I’m very, very thankful for all of them.
Q. Has it even sunk in yet what you’ve just done?
MARCUS ERICSSON: No, for sure not (smiling).
I think it’s going to take awhile. I’m still trying to figure out the fact that I won the Indy 500.
Q. I believe at Detroit when you won, you had an interesting stat, your first victory, the year you finished second was your first podium in how long?
MARCUS ERICSSON: It was my first win in, like, eight years I think, last year when I won in Detroit. Good I didn’t have to wait another eight years for the next one (smiling).
Q. You go airborne at Nashville, then win the race. Now you’ve won the biggest race in the world. How do you even begin to describe how all that’s happened?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I think I come back to hard work and believing in yourself. I had people believing in me, great team behind me, Chip Ganassi Racing. My engineer, Brad, has been a great supporter of mine from day one. He’s believed in me from day one. I think that’s been the case.
When I joined Ganassi, I don’t think many people thought much about it. Just another car to make up the numbers almost. But from day one Brad and the rest of the 8 car crew were really believing in me. Also Chip and Mike and everyone, they gave me the opportunity.
The great thing coming to Ganassi, we added a car to the team that had two really strong cars in the 9 and the 10, but I felt right away they pushed very hard for me as well and gave me the opportunity to show my skills. That’s helped me come to where I am today and helped me be an Indianapolis 500 champion.
Q. Can you explain your feelings right now that you are now in a position to share with another iconic Swedish drivers, for example, Ronnie Peterson or Mattias Ekström?
MARCUS ERICSSON: It’s like they say, it’s a life-changing moment. I’m extremely happy right now, struggling to sort of put words into how I feel.
But it feels good, I know that (smiling).
Q. What would you say to the young Marcus who nearly 15 years ago was driving in junior formulas, BMW in Germany, Japanese Formula 3?
MARCUS ERICSSON: Dream big and work hard.
Q. You’ve dreamt of doing this your whole life. Does the reality compare to the dream?
MARCUS ERICSSON: That’s a good question. I don’t know. Since I won the race a couple hours ago, it’s been incredible to do the victory lap, see all the fans. Yeah, it’s something you dream of for so long. To actually do it, you have to pinch yourself for sure.
Yeah, it’s an incredible feeling.
Q. What was it feeling like pouring that milk over your head?
MARCUS ERICSSON: It was good. Again, it was something you’ve seen other people do over the years. Sort of a picture that sticks in your head that you sort of use as motivation, those days when it’s tough, you’re working hard, sacrificing a lot to be here.
So, yeah, that moment was very special for sure.
Q. Are you smelling bad yet?
MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, it does smell a bit for sure. I’ll take it, though (laughter).
Q. What would you like to say to the Swedish fans back at home watching this?
MARCUS ERICSSON: I would say that I’m very, very thankful because I know from all my F1 years, I had a great following, I was the first Swede in F1 for 23 years. I got a lot of great support, people sending me supportive messages from back home. That’s helped me on the tough days mainly.
Coming here to INDYCAR, it was the same thing. A lot of people following my journey here, supporting me. Even though it’s far away from Sweden, I feel that support. Even today, you know, there was quite a few Swedish people here around the Speedway. That’s very special.
All that support is, you know, very important to me. I’m extremely thankful for that. I hope they enjoyed that moment today.
Q. When will you be coming to Sweden and celebrating this?
MARCUS ERICSSON: It’s a good question. I’m planning to go home for mid-summer. That could be a good mid-summer party, right?
Q. Which people in the background do you want to share this with, the people that helped you during the years?
MARCUS ERICSSON: For me it was very special today because I had my family here, my mom and dad, my brother. One brother is at home. My girlfriend, Iris, was here. My trainer, Alex. My manager, Eje. And my backer, Finn, who has been believing in me since day one, since I was 15 years old.
Also the people that has believed in me in other times when people hasn’t. Other people dropped away, and not thought I had it, let’s say, and they always thought I did. For them to be here today, it makes me very emotional because to share this moment with them means a lot.
Q. (Question about the red flag.)
MARCUS ERICSSON: I mean, first of all we need to get some Huski Chocolate over here for sure. Especially now. I’ll get on that straightaway (laughter).
Yeah, it is tough. Racing is tough because it’s a lot about the mental side, keeping your emotion in check. Like I said, when I saw that yellow come out, I got very upset because I thought I had it won pretty much, even though you’re never going to relax until you take the checkered.
But then you have to stay focused. It’s not over until you reach the finish line. That was the thing that I sort of tried to use all the years of experience that I have in racing.
It’s for a moment like this that I work towards. That was I think very important to get that win. Of course, after the checkered flag, it’s just an explosion of emotions and happiness.
Q. We saw you have very good relationship with the team, Alex, Scott. How is your teammates?
MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, it’s a team effort. It’s been one of the cool things being part of Chip Ganassi Racing, is the atmosphere we have within the drivers. I think I’ve never — I know I’ve never experienced that before, that you have a team with drivers that are extremely talented and good but also work together as a team.
If you cannot win, you want your teammate to win. I think there’s very few teams that have that sort of environment. I think that’s why we’ve been so strong the last year and this year. It’s because it is a team effort and we help each other and we push for each other. It’s all into that.
They all came up to me after the race, congratulate me. Yeah, I’m very proud to be part of that lineup of drivers.
Q. You’ve spoken on how important Kenny was to your career. You got to hear from him. Seeing as how he was at Indy today, did he talk to you before the race or during the week at all? Did he offer any words of advice or encouragement?
MARCUS ERICSSON: No, I didn’t see Kenny this week unfortunately. Yeah, it was cool to hear his voice, cool to hear him congratulate me here after.
Q. Were there times where you thought you were out of contention, then to see you were back in contention for the win? Basically what was that 500-mile emotional roller coaster like?
MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, I had a good plan before the race how I wanted to do the race. Starting from fifth, it was about running in the top five for the first 150 laps pretty much was sort of my plan.
Everything was going according to plan. I was running up front there, just protecting my race car, taking care of the fuel numbers and tires. Everything was going according to plan until we had that issue in the pit lane where I had to stop for Jimmie actually coming in and we lost from P3 to P8. When that happened, I thought that this is going to be hard to recover from, I think it’s going to be hard to be able to win the race now. That definitely was a tough moment for our race.
But I still knew we had a really good race car, so it’s just to get back to work and refocus. Managed to pick off a couple of guys every restart and get myself up again to P6. From then on it was game on again.
Yeah, obviously towards the end there the car was super, super good, super fast. Like I mentioned earlier, I had to do some critical moves there on the McLaren cars to get myself in the lead. Definitely not easy, but made it in the end.
Q. We saw Mike O’Gara and heard him putting all his faith in you in the moment of the red flag. I started to think about all the pressure that you went into. I wanted to ask, how did you manage alongside your team to manage that pressure in this type of moments? The other answer is, how much time do you think it’s going to take you to be completely conscious that you are now an Indy 500 race winner?
MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, I think all the time since I came to Ganassi, Mike has been on my radio. He’s doing a very good job at sort of supporting me and helping me in different situations. Yeah, like I said, I was a bit frustrated there, but he helped me keep calm and keep focused.
Also Brad, my engineer, came on the radio a bit there as well. That was very helpful. Like I said, it helped me refocus and make sure that I delivered that win. That was very, very good.
Yeah, it’s probably going to take me a few days at least, probably more than that, to sort of realize what happened today. But, yeah, let’s see.
THE MODERATOR: We will cut you loose. We know you have some other things on your list for the rest of the evening. But congratulations. Win number one at the Indy 500. Awesome to see you there in Victory Lane. Marcus Ericsson, the winner of the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Chip Ganassi Racing. We are joined by Mike Hull, managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing. We’ll start with Mike while we wait for the other two.
A lot to the digest with the team with five shots to win. First of all, how delighted are you to pick up another Indy 500? This is the fifth win for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 500.
MIKE HULL: I feel good to be the opening act before Chip gets here (smiling).
I don’t know how other people look at this race or how they rationalize what you do. In my opinion, from the first time I walked in this place and started working on a race car, I never thought that anything but winning the race was what mattered.
You can rationalize double points, all the other things that go on. You can say we had a great run today, a great car. In reality what Marcus did today was fantastic. The team effort, all five drivers contributed very directly to the achievement that Marcus had today.
So proud of him and the team, the 160 people that work at Chip Ganassi Racing, you only see a few here at the Speedway, but it’s an extraordinary effort. Really, really happy that his face is going to be on the trophy and we’ve won five times.
THE MODERATOR: Chip Ganassi joins us, as well, after win number five in the Indianapolis 500.
Congratulations, Chip. Mike O’Gara, the strategist for Marcus Ericsson as well.
Chip, number five for you. What do you reflect on on this day so far?
CHIP GANASSI: I just reflect on the past few weeks and the past few months of having these four or five guys around, working as one team. Everybody cheering their teammates on all the time. When someone on the team does something good, the other guys couldn’t be happier, you know what I mean? That’s what’s so nice for me to have to deal with.
You saw today we had different times of the race different cars in the lead. We came here at the beginning of the month wanting to win the race. That’s, in fact, what we did. Nobody’s happier than all the other drivers for the team winning, Marcus of course.
I’m sure Mike told you, he’s taken it upon himself to understand the resource in the team and understand how to use that. You just saw his career start to take off at the beginning of the last season once he understood what we were all about.
This is the culmination of that effort.
THE MODERATOR: Mike. Congratulations, from the pit stand, what did you think of this?
MIKE O’GARA: Just to echo what Chip and Mike said, this is the definition of teamwork, is what the past two weeks have been here. We work together to get the cars ready. We work together in qualifying. We work together in the race.
What matters is that one of Chip’s cars won. We did that. For whatever reason the 8 car group, I guess they don’t like to win the easy way. Our win in Nashville last year was a challenge, our win in Detroit was after a red flag. Today we have a pretty sizable lead. The racing gods decided to make it a little more challenging.
Marcus focused forward and got it done today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Chip, this is a tremendous gift for the 40 years. To be able to tie it together like that, how special is this?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, no question. I’m sure everybody remembers in 1982 when I got here, someone asked me if I ever wanted to be a car owner. I said, I couldn’t imagine why anybody would want to own one of those things (smiling). I had a change of heart about that. Couldn’t be happier. I seem to be a little better at this than I was driving.
Q. What was it about Marcus, when he was with Arrow, he had a good second-place finish at Detroit, but he was with a team maybe not the caliber of your team. What did you see in him that made you think you wanted him on your team?
CHIP GANASSI: What I look at is no baggage, no baggage, likes to go fast. Just need to get him a good car basically. Once he put his mind to that, he started to see the wins started to come, the consistency, the points started to come.
This type of experience where you’re out there testing a lot, practicing a lot, really suits his style. I think Mike O’Gara said to me earlier that after the last pit stop, he didn’t lift once, just held his foot to the floor. Steered, didn’t have to make any changes to the car all day. They just put tires on it. Tires and fuel.
You always hear that about the cars that win the Indianapolis 500. It’s a clean day. They don’t touch the car. Sure enough, they win.
Q. For either of the Mikes, the last restart, he pretty much gave a clinic on how you can keep the lead on a restart at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. How brilliant was his restart to be able to break the draft?
MIKE O’GARA: Yeah, I mean, he did a great job. I’d like to say he wasn’t looking in his mirrors, but he was doing everything he could there. The spotters were helping him. T.K. was giving pressure from behind.
He just got it done. Marcus understands race craft. This is his third year with us. He gets it. When we’re on the radio, I don’t have to explain why we’re staying out or why we’re pitting or saving fuel or pushing. He gets it.
I think between him and Brad Goldberg, his engineer, myself, we just click. He understands what to do at different stages of the race. Obviously got shuffled back a little bit today. He just stayed with it. We had amazing pit stops, got him to the front. The rest was all him.
Q. For the two Mikes, we know the 9 and the 10 cars. We don’t necessarily as the world know the 8 car. Can you talk about what the 8 car means.
MIKE HULL: What happens at Chip Ganassi Racing is resource. Resource is all the people that work together. Chip said it best a minute ago. If you look at all the drivers we have, and have had over the years, they all have two or three things in common: no baggage is one thing, but the desire to win, be a teammate and be unselfish. That’s Marcus Ericsson.
Looking at his background, it’s similar to Alex Palou’s. They’re a little different age-wise. Formula 3, Formula 3 championship, went to Japan, came back and did Formula 1. He had big car experience and he won races. That’s what we look for.
It’s really difficult to teach somebody to win. There’s a lot of race drivers that say if this, if that. This guy doesn’t say ‘if’. He said, Let’s work together and make it happen.
Now with the resource we have, he’s very comfortable inside that resource. That’s really the big difference. That’s what we’ve seen.
I’ll hand it over to Mike because he’s with him more than I am, frankly.
MIKE O’GARA: It’s kind of a new-ish group, the 8 car group is. It was kind of formed when our Ford program went away. It’s changed a bit in the last couple years.
Brad has been one constant there. I’ve known Brad since he was in college 19, 20 years old. It was cool to see him grow as an engineer. He’s one of the strongest guys we got upstairs in the engineering room.
He and Marcus spend a lot of time together at the shop, away from the shop, at the simulator. They’re always talking, always thinking. I think Brad has helped teach Marcus race craft, and they’ve taught each other.
The 8 car group is sort of the new group, the new car to the group, but with all the resource, like Mike said, the teamwork, obviously we’re right up there with the other two.
Q. Chip, for the 8 car to now get its first Indy 500 win, in addition to the 9 and 10 in the past, what does that mean for you?
CHIP GANASSI: If I could just add to the beginning of your first question, too.
I think you say Marcus doesn’t quite get the attention. That’s not true at all. He gets all the attention, the same attention everybody else gets. What you don’t see is his sponsor is not in the U.S. here a lot, so he doesn’t have that push from his sponsors in terms of public relations and so forth. You don’t see that push behind him that the other drivers get, whether it’s NTT, PNC, Carvana, American Legion. These are all companies that are either here in Indianapolis or in the U.S. Huski Chocolate is not. You don’t get that sponsor push.
Like I say, it’s one team. Everybody gets everything in our team, and they all know it. So it means a lot. It means a lot. The team came in here. We set out goals every year: win the Indianapolis 500, win the championship. We did the first one, now we got to do the second one.
THE MODERATOR: There’s a couple women involved in the team. Nicole Rotondo is the Honda engineer. Angela Ashmore is part of the team. It’s a team effort. For those two ladies to be a part of an Indy 500-winning team, how important and how cool is that?
MIKE O’GARA: It’s massive. We have two females on the 8 car. We don’t discriminate. We look for talent, and it doesn’t matter. Danielle Shepherd was on Alex’s 10 car last year. She’s lead engineer on one of our sports cars. That team won Sebring with her running the show there.
We look for talent. Doesn’t matter where we can find it.
Q. Chip, how special is it for you, given obviously that the No. 8 team is quite new, they’re used to the sports car program, have gotten into the swing of things with INDYCAR, got up to speed really quickly over the last two years?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, that’s easy to say they were the sports car team that came over. But before they were the sports car team, they were the INDYCAR team. They did sports cars for a while and came back to INDYCAR. A lot of INDYCAR talent on that team that was in sports cars.
Q. How does this rank for you in terms of your wins?
CHIP GANASSI: Good question. I haven’t really given it that much thought. It’s currently my favorite one as of right now, I can tell you that (laughter).
Q. On the strategy, Mike, could you run us after the last stop, how that played out.
MIKE O’GARA: I mean, he was running good laps there, especially when the other traffic ahead of him peeled off and pitted before we did. We were able to turn up the fuel. The car was good enough that he could go quick when there weren’t a lot of guys in front of him.
We did a few extra laps. But when you’re in the lead or at the front there, other people have already made their last stops, you’re leaving yourself really exposed there.
Most every yellow today came around a pit stop sequence. We knew we were at risk staying out, but we were doing good laps. We were watching the cars that had already pitted. As long as we were doing laps as fast or faster than them, it was okay to stay out knowing we were risking a yellow coming out.
We did a couple laps that were quicker than what O’Ward and Felix did, so we decided to pit then. He pushed and pushed. Like I told Chip, once he clicked the pit speed limiter off, he held the throttle down and never left it. Nothing was going to keep him from winning today.
Q. To bring Tony back again as the one-off, what is his experience and how does he add to the team that’s so valuable?
CHIP GANASSI: In his retirement we’ve made him the vice president of entertainment (smiling). And he can drive, too, yeah. He can still win this race. You saw today with his performance. Led a little bit.
Kanaan is a veteran. He’s a wily veteran. He knows his way around this place, no question. So we’re not throwing him out yet.
Q. Is there still a future for him in this race?
CHIP GANASSI: I said we’re not throwing him out yet (smiling).
Q. Chip, is there any additional satisfaction knowing one of your biggest rivals for the last many decades has been doing this owns the track and you stopped him from winning again here?
CHIP GANASSI: If it wasn’t for Roger Penske, I probably wouldn’t even be racing, okay? You have to remember, take away what he’s done in the last few years here at Indianapolis, but you have to realize INDYCAR racing I think exists today because of a lot that Roger did over the years, bringing corporate America into it, making it a real business for people like myself.
I said the other night at the Hall of Fame dinner, I don’t own any racetracks, I don’t own any car dealerships, I don’t rent any trucks, I’m not flying around all over the world selling cars. I’m a kid from Pittsburgh that wants to race cars and wins. I’m able to do that because of guys like Roger.
Q. Considering the roller coaster the second half of the day was, what were your thoughts when they threw the red flag, and do you like it?
CHIP GANASSI: I’m sure it was harder on Marcus than it was me.
Q. When you have a thrill of victory and an agony of defeat kind of day, how does that one team, one goal philosophy help the guys that didn’t have a good day?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, like I said, they’re all happy the team won the race. That’s what’s most important. They all put their personal — sure, they all want to win the race. I hope they all want to win. But when the team wins, they know that’s good for them.
Q. Chip, I want to get inside your head because you have a guy that dominated the race in Scott Dixon, then he has that penalty. You’re gutted. Then you have guys that are first and third. Another one of your cars is what brings out the red flag. Take me in your head and your range of emotions for the last 20, 30 laps.
CHIP GANASSI: You have to be realistic when you have multiple cars. You can have a good day and a bad day in the same day. Sure, you just have to be realistic.
The good news is that the good outweighs the bad.
Q. Was there ever a time when you doubted something?
CHIP GANASSI: I don’t doubt anything until the checkered flag falls, okay? Anything can happen.
Q. You left out Alex Palou’s deal. For you guys, Mike Hull especially, Chip, a football team, you’re looking for the quarterback that can take it to the end zone in the last two minutes and win you a game. What does Marcus Ericsson get out of this? Obviously he’s won before, but what did he prove to you today?
MIKE HULL: Yeah, I don’t know if he proved anything that he hasn’t already proven to us. Maybe he validated how good he is as a race driver.
Let’s face it, this is a globally significant event. If you’re lucky enough to travel around the world and go to motorsports events, you realize that.
He won a globally significant motor race under a lot of pressure. If that doesn’t demonstrate to the world how special this guy is, there’s nothing we can do about it.
I don’t know if that answers your question, but maybe it kind of sets direction for drivers. If you look at the Borg Warner Trophy, now they have the extension on the bottom of it, if you look at that thing up close and personal, how many faces on that trophy shouldn’t be there? One, two, maybe, from when this event began.
It’s a good thing that his face is on that trophy because he’s that kind of race driver.
Q. Chip, your thoughts on Scott’s incident at the end of the race, the rough go he’s had the last few years?
CHIP GANASSI: I mean, he came down pit lane and was speeding. He’s as disappointed as anybody, I can tell you.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll cut you loose for a night of celebration. Congratulations, Chip, Mike Hull and Michael O’Gara as well. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We start with the driver of the No. 1 the American Legion Honda, Tony Kanaan in his 21st start, coming home third, best finish since your win back in 2013.
TONY KANAAN: Wow. I didn’t know that.
THE MODERATOR: Describe the day, maybe what you had at the end, what you didn’t have at the end, what you had to do to finish third.
TONY KANAAN: It was a cat and mouse day. We kept pretending we were not fast enough all day. When it was time to go, we actually went.
I don’t know. I said that two days ago that I think that race, it was going to be played between my teammates. I don’t know. If you’re going to go and say, If Dixon didn’t have the hiccup in the pits, this and that, I’m not going to sit here and say I was going to win the race. I had a car to do it for sure.
When it was four laps to go, and we’re all there, if it wasn’t for that red flag, I think it was more Pato and I playing for second place than Ericsson. As a team, that’s probably what I was going to have to do to make the team win. As long as we started fighting, Ericsson was going to go away.
It went red. Well, I think I can restart this thing. I have a lot less to lose than those guys. They did a superb job. Pato was really smart with Felix, and they almost got me. From then on I knew, two laps to go, unless they had a hiccup like Dario and Takuma, it was not going to be for us.
Great month. One-off race for me. I can’t thank enough the team, the Legion. It was a great month not just because they sponsoring a car but for the great cause, Be the One cause, trying to save veterans’ lives, trying to get the mental health word out there.
I’m proud. Sitting in the car when the red flag was there, hearing the crowd cheering for me, this place never stop amazing me. It’s a great feeling.
I left it all out there.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with the driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP, Pato O’Ward, coming home a career-best second in the Indianapolis 500.
Pato, I can tell you’re still thinking about the last couple laps. What did you make of the day, coming home second?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, first, of really proud of the team. They gave me a really, really good car. I was so happy with the handling. We did everything perfectly. We did the fuel perfect. No mistakes were done. We positioned ourselves perfectly to have a shot at it.
When we got done with that last pit stop, Felix undercut us, then when I pitted and started catching up to him, then Marcus out of nowhere just came out with insane speed. Got by me like I was standing still. Got up to Felix I think within two laps, passed him like he was standing still, left him. I got to Felix finally. I passed him. I had nothing for him. I said, I need a yellow to try and have a shot.
Tony was also really quick coming behind me. I know he was catching me faster than what I was catching Marcus. When the restart happened, I said, I have one shot, I have to go flat, and still wasn’t enough.
Sadly, they have the faster car. We need to do a better job. We need to come back next year and give it hell again. I’m proud of the job we did today. It’s my best result in the 500. It’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow after such a long race, doing everything correctly.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. Tony, does this give you the hunger to continue racing? Do you think you’ll come back next year?
TONY KANAAN: It’s not up to me (smiling).
I said it, I wanted to do it one more. Right now it’s wide open. I have one year to try to figure that out. But, yeah, I mean, even if I say next year will be the next one, you’re going to ask me that question. I might call it quits, but I still might want to come back.
Q. What has it been like working with Jimmie Johnson?
TONY KANAAN: It’s been two years now. We became really close friends. Probably one of the most kind human beings I’ve ever met in my life.
We found sponsorship together. We shared a car. I get a phone call in December last year saying, Hey, I think I want to run a full season. I said, I didn’t expect anything less than you and I think you deserve it.
I said, Hey, can I do with the 500 with you?
Chip, the Legion, Jimmie, myself, we made it work. It’s been an awesome experience. I enjoyed it a lot.
Q. Pato, how big of a reward is this for you given the season you’ve had so far this year but also going into Detroit next week?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, I love Detroit. I think we’ve had a great month. Very, very, very good result for us to get our championship in good position again.
Yeah, Detroit, I love going there. I’m excited to go. Yeah, for the rest of the championship…
Q. Tony, every caution we had today was a solo crash by an inexperienced driver at the Indy 500. How tough were the conditions out there for you? Does your experience help you manage that?
TONY KANAAN: I don’t want to sound cocky, but I don’t think we had a problem up there. I mean, like you see Pato was running actually less downforce than us at one point in the race. He couldn’t pass Dixon, but you dialed your car in and you looked pretty good.
I honestly didn’t have a single moment out there. But obviously our cars are pretty good. It’s very rare to have a race that our heart rate didn’t even go up, up until the last two laps.
Yeah, this is Indy. Obviously the high temperatures today, we didn’t run all week like that, so it was a surprise. But, you know, if you did your homework, you should be okay.
Q. You had pointed to part of the reason you extended your last lap campaign was so you could run here to a full crowd.
TONY KANAAN: I’m going to make another excuse now (laughter).
No, I was very emotional on the cool-down lap, talking to the team. I know my days are numbered. I have a plan, like I said. I think next year will be probably, if I can make it happen, will be really the last one.
As of right now, this was the last one.
Q. Pato, the last two laps were pretty exciting. Ericsson was defending really close down to the pit wall and everything like that. Do you think it was a little too much weaving on the frontstretch?
PATO O’WARD: I’ll leave that to the race directors.
Q. If you had another lap or two, do you think you would have gotten another run on him?
PATO O’WARD: Too fast in the straight. Maybe if I would have timed it a little bit better. I really don’t think I could have done it much better. I did enough to what we had been doing all race.
But, yeah, at the end I was surprised with how much more pace they had in a straight line with quite a bit more downforce. I was just trying to time it as good as possible.
Obviously the weaving helped him. Staying on the inside helped him. I got alongside him, but we all know how that ends up in the last lap. No way he would have backed off.
Q. What did you think about the decision to red flag it and try to give the fans a finish?
PATO O’WARD: I think that’s okay. Obviously I wanted it because there was no way I was going to get caught. Tony was probably going to catch me before I would catch Marcus and get by me pretty easily, just like he did.
I was happy with it (smiling).
TONY KANAAN: If you think about taking the selfishness out of it, fans want to see a green-flag race. I’m sitting here, I want it under the yellow, but over the years we changed this rule and I think it was perfect.
Q. Pato, obviously you spoke about it being a little bit bitter this week for you at the end. Can you talk about how difficult the car was to drive in the conditions? How much on the edge were you?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, especially this last stint, the car was hairy out of a few moments. That was the only way for me to have a shot. That was the only way for me to have a shot because I knew they were going to pull out something from their back pocket. I knew it.
I think we were one of three cars that was really trim. Yeah, like whenever we practiced and we put the wicker on with everybody else, I said, no, this is turtle slow. We need to trim out and we risk it. I will make sure I don’t put the car in the wall.
But it was hairy. At the end it was tough. The red flag really helped me cool down the rear tire.
TONY KANAAN: You were loose at the end.
PATO O’WARD: I was loose. That was the only way. Without that I would not even have had a chance.
Felix wasn’t as trim as I was and you saw how much more he needed. I kind of had the step up, but then we both didn’t have that bigger step that we needed.
These guys had the better car. They did the better job. They had the better package. We need to work. That’s just the only thing we can kind of look at. Come back next year and give it a run again.
Q. You alluded to maybe you were missing something.
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, want to guess (smiling)?
TONY KANAAN: (Laughter).
Q. Is that something you can fix?
PATO O’WARD: I sure as hell will do everything in my power to find more. We need to do a better job and just be better.
It’s frustrating because I think they’ve done a great job, the team has done a great job, but not enough, not enough. So, yeah, work to do for next year (smiling).
Q. Tony, you just said this might be your last race here, but you’re fighting like a heavyweight. What is left in you?
TONY KANAAN: I still race quite a bit. I’m doing 23 races this year, more than actually I did when I was in INDYCAR. I don’t feel like I’m retiring. I mean, I know I can still drive. Of course, we have this thing that people like to talk about, age and age and age.
But I think I’m in pretty good shape. I’ll keep doing it as long as the opportunity presents. Obviously to come back here, especially in the last two years with the team that I’m at, if it’s not there, I’m going to evaluate my chances. I don’t want to just be here to participate. I’ve done that plenty of times.
So if I have one more shot, and that is for real, one more shot, we’ll give it a go.
Q. With two laps to go, restart, the Indy 500 victory is right there in front of you, all you got to do is pass this guy. What is it like in the cockpit, in your head, to have that kind of shot and come up short?
PATO O’WARD: You clinch. You clinch a lot every corner (smiling), yeah (smiling).
Q. That’s it?
PATO O’WARD: You go flat and you hope to God the car doesn’t snap.
Q. How about you, Tony?
TONY KANAAN: I had the best seat in the house. I’m like, C’mon, Pato, go, go, go.
PATO O’WARD: You liar (laughter).
TONY KANAAN: If you guys crash, I would win (laughter). Go, go. May be my teammate, but I didn’t take him out (laughter).
He’s smart enough not to do it. I was like, Oh, I guess we’re finishing third.
Q. Pato, I think everybody knew coming in the Ganassi cars were the strongest. Were they even a little bit better than you were expecting?
PATO O’WARD: No, I don’t think they were better, especially in traffic. I think my car was the best and I was the most comfortable with it. Yeah, like, in a train of three or four cars, five, six, no one stood a chance against me.
Out front, not so much.
Q. It sounded like you’re satisfied with the way your team executed. Everybody talks about this race is so much about not what you do on race day but the prep. Did the team take a step today in how you performed but still need to take another step?
PATO O’WARD: They did a phenomenal job. They gave me such a good car. The way that we worked all month, just getting comfortable with it, knowing that there’s that little part of you has to be a little bit uncomfortable for the thing to do good in traffic, which is what you need. Most of the race usually is in traffic.
But, yeah, I was so happy with it. I was super, super happy with it, better than what I was last year. Yeah, I’m so proud with what the team gave me. I’m sure Felix is, as well.
Q. T.K., you sounded really confident when Townsend talked to you at the end of the race. When you look back at the last two laps, anything you would do different?
TONY KANAAN: No, not really. I think the key was when Pato saw Felix coming alongside on the other end and he actually moved and left me, like, basically facing the wind. I’m like, Whoa, I still want to finish in the top three here. I knew it was over.
I moved to the outside, gave Felix the space, and I kept it flat. Obviously I know Felix well enough, I knew he was not going to play dirty.
Coming off the short chute, Pato had to take the line to go to turn two. That gave me enough draft to actually pull, because Felix was right beside me. I knew it was over.
Q. You said it’s not up to you, but if it was up to you, at age 47, they talk about how much experience matters at this track, are you as good as you’ve ever been?
TONY KANAAN: What do you think? Did it look okay today (smiling)?
Q. I’m asking you.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, man, I think it’s such a — I cannot even say because I’m going to curse. It’s so lame that people think we’re old at 47, we can’t drive anymore. It’s crap. So, yeah, I’m ready. Ready to do it again.
THE MODERATOR: That was very polite.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah. You know me well enough (laughter).
Q. Tony, right before the red flag came, you were really gaining speed pretty fast. When you saw the red flag, what went through your mind? Were you frustrated or happy?
TONY KANAAN: No, because I truly believed that the only shot I had was to play with Pato. My teammate has the same car as I do. It was four laps to go. Let’s face it, it was not going to happen like that.
If I had actually fought with Pato for a lap and a half, Marcus was going to open up a big enough gap that I wouldn’t catch him.
I’m not going to say I was happy, sad. It was another opportunity. Also is an opportunity to win, but also there is an opportunity to lose everything. You’re kind of divided, like I’m going to go for it, but also you want to finish in the top three, you were there all day, blah, blah, blah.
You know what, there’s a chance to win. I’m going to do my best. If not, I’m going to try to protect where I’m at.
Q. After two hours of this race non-stop, then you have the stop, what do you think about to stay in the moment?
TONY KANAAN: I just sat there and actually kept hearing the crowd cheering for me the entire time. I was like, Oh, man, this is going to be so embarrassing if I don’t do it.
We’re all sitting there, and you’re still focused. It’s not over, so you’re still like, I still got to do this. It was two laps to go so you had to keep your focus up.
Q. You said the cool-down lap was a little emotional.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I mean, of course I told them, Guys, I tried, I’m sorry, I did my best, thank you very much for everything. A little bit of a flashback thinking maybe that was the last time I turned some laps around this place, as well.
It was a mix of everything.
Q. Pato, you finished sixth in 2020, then fourth last year, second this year. What has been the last couple years, how has that pushed forward? What have you done to keep moving forward?
PATO O’WARD: Every year not really doing much different. Just knowing a little bit more of how this race usually unfolds and how much to give in certain parts of the race.
It’s such a such a long race. We positioned ourselves to really open our strategy windows. Yeah, I think you got to do the race, right, to just keep gaining experience like this guy. He’s got I think 17 more than me or something.
TONY KANAAN: How many do you have, three?
PATO O’WARD: Three.
TONY KANAAN: 18.
PATO O’WARD: Okay, 18.
I think every time you do laps around this place you learn. It’s the race where you learn as you go. You don’t go out and go balls to the wall. If you do, you’re going to put it in the wall. It’s a race of a lot of patience, but it’s a race where you have to be really smart and you have to be thinking a lot of different things.
Yeah, it’s definitely a race that’s different to any other. We keep getting better and better, so I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
Q. Tony, you’ve seen this race end lots of different ways. What makes this different than 2020?
TONY KANAAN: It was a very calculated race. I mean, it wasn’t like okay you can argue there was not a lot of passes. It was, like, really different. The dynamic of the race was, like, everybody was playing chess. Pato knew he was really good in traffic so he didn’t want to be alone because he was waiting for the right opportunity. I even came up on the radio and said, Our car is too slow. I knew people were listening. I didn’t want people to think I was that good.
It was very different, very different.
Q. What’s the difference in race control that makes them throw a red today?
TONY KANAAN: The race control? I believe we’re here for the fans. We hear the fans. Yeah, a lot of people are going to have different opinions about it, as you well know. Our fights on Twitter with people (smiling).
They came here to see a race, green-flag and checkered-flag race. That was the right call. If I was Marcus, did I like that? No. If it had not gone red, if they had gone red flag in my year, would I have won that race? I don’t know. That’s all the things that we’ve learned trying to put a good show for the fans.
That is the only reason race control called that I think. It’s because that’s what people wanted to do. I’m in fully support. It’s not because I was third or anything. If I was in the stands, I want to see a race finish under the green.
Q. Pato, finished second. You’ve had a really nice turnaround the last month or so. Sitting there looking pretty unhappy. Does it suck to be second?
PATO O’WARD: Does it suck to be second? Well, I definitely know we didn’t suck. I think it’s a great result for all of us, a great result for our championship.
Yeah, it’s a tough pill to swallow whenever the team does everything correctly in such a hard month to achieve something like this. We’ve been working for this not just all month but the whole off-season. They gave me a car that was fantastic. Felix had the same. I’m not sure where Juan Pablo was. I don’t know where he was at in terms of happiness.
They gave us all really, really good cars. It’s also up to us to see how much can we be comfortable with in order to make it go as fast as possible.
My car, the 5 group, was the riskiest of them all because I wanted to win this freaking race. We trimmed out like anybody else in the grid, at least like any other top 10 car. It’s just frustrating when not even that is enough.
Q. Juan finished 11th. Only one other Chevy was in there between the Arrow McLaren SP. What does that feel like for the team to come out here and really carry the Chevy banner?
PATO O’WARD: We’ve got work to do. We need to get on with working right now. This is when it starts. We need to come back next year with something that’s better because it’s not good enough.
Q. Pato, on the restart, that was the only restart of the day where the leader wasn’t able to get past. Marcus took some aggressive moves to try to break the draft. Is that about the only way that works? Usually the guy in second has a pretty good head of steam into turn one.
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, I had a really, really good run on him. He was a lot more — the weaving was a lot more aggressive than what it usually is. Last year, I was in Tony’s spot looking at Palou and Helio. They were a lot more gentle with it.
Marcus, I don’t want to say something that maybe I don’t remember correctly, but I think he went right into where the pit lane is. He went through the pit commitment line, which — I don’t know. That’s their job, that’s not my job. I was just trying to follow and trying to get a tow.
It was definitely a lot more aggressive than what I thought, yeah.
Q. I think the last time a driver did it like that was Hunter-Reay in ’14, to try to keep Helio.
TONY KANAAN: Bruce, it’s the last lap of the Indy 500, let it go. Anybody would have done the same.
Q. T.K., Scott had a pretty flawless race. I know you’re out there to win the race. What’s the closest that you’ve had to having a dominant car and having it go away over a pit speed violation?
TONY KANAAN: I don’t recall that I had that. I had plenty of other issues with a dominant car.
I feel extremely bad for him. He’s a dear friend of mine. I know how bad he’s feeling. That’s the kind of thing that will haunt you quite a bit for a little bit. You’re going to wake up in the morning.
It’s one thing when something out of your control happens, but when we as drivers make a mistake, it’s pretty hard.
But knowing who he is, I hate to say it, it’s only going to make him better (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to both of you.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.
PATO O’WARD: Thanks, man.