|Race winner Josef Newgarden|
1 – Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
2 – Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport
3 – Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
THE MODERATOR: We're joined with our race winner, Josef Newgarden.
Josef, congratulations. Your first superspeedway win out of 13 wins in the NTT IndyCar Series. How does it feel to get that one checked off the list?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It feels great. I'm going to be honest with you, we've had good cars here, we've just not been able to make it happen. My voice is going away. I've been sick. Actually don't feel very good. I did not feel good tonight. The car was so good, I just tried staying in it.
This win was down to the team right here. They keep putting me out front, putting the pressure on me. I guess it's a good thing. It's good when they put you out front, put it on you. They did a great job tonight.
I knew once we pitted and got back to where — basically got back to where we were before the pit stop on the green flag sequence, I knew once we got back there, we had such a fuel advantage on everybody, if we could get to the lead, I could crank out super quick laps and jump everybody. That's what we did.
It was a great plan. We had to make hay after that pit stop. We had to get back up behind the lead pack. Once we did that, I thought, ‘Man, we're just in position.’ Guys did a great job.
Feels awesome to win here. I knew we'd get it done here at some point. We've had fast cars. It never has materialized. Tonight it happened.
THE MODERATOR: We've been hearing from a number of drivers throughout the weekend talking about what they think their chances are in the championship. We know a lot of drivers are thinking about it even though we're just past the halfway point of the season. Is it something you're thinking about, especially as you continue to finish ahead of the drivers that you're mostly competing with right now?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We're in a good spot, there's no secret about that. But it's early. It's still early. You're halfway now. You could have a stellar first half of the season and a terrible second half or vice versa.
I think you got to stay consistent throughout. You got to stay on top of your game. I think we got the best group for it. I have all the faith in everybody at Team Penske. I think we have a great crew. Wouldn't trade anybody any day of the week. Best of the best.
I feel confident. We just got to keep doing what we're doing. It's a little early to predict where everything will finish up. If we keep doing as we did in the first half of the season, we're going to be looking to challenge for a championship.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Josef.
Q. (Alexander) Rossi was trying to make a pass on you, what was going through your head, lap after lap he was coming after you?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: He was really good in traffic. We were kind of vice versa. We were really good out front. I knew that. If we can just get the car out front, we can run just as quick as anybody, make quicker. Once we got out front, we were pumping out super quick laps.
Rossi, I looked early in the race, he was very good in traffic. His car looked stellar behind others. I knew he was going to be difficult to beat. He had a great car. He drove me clean. He drove me hard.
I think we just had enough. I think we had enough power there from Chevy. Our car was handling well enough out front we could get the job done, pretty much stay on the throttle as much as we needed to just to stay ahead of him.
Yeah, it was tough. He was very fast tonight. Good night for points, good night to get a win, but he was stellar.
Q. On the penultimate restart when Dixon was trying to go around you, how close were you to actually conceding that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, I was not going to give up the bottom lane. It's tough because on the restart you're almost a sitting duck. You're going so slow there, and the draft works so well at night, especially when it cools off, you're so draggy. Being in first is such a disadvantage.
If he had cleared me, it would have been game over. Didn't quite clear me. I had probably just a tire on him. It was enough to hold my lane. If I didn't have that, yeah, I think it would have been game over for me. I tried everything I could just to keep the bottom lane there.
Q. That pit stop, the execution was perfect because it got you out ahead of everybody else that had already pitted. I think everybody that was in that cycle said, Where did he come from? How huge was that pit stop?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I'm telling you, if you look at those five or so laps I pumped out, I guarantee you that's the quickest in lap. If not, I can't go quicker on an in lap. I knew it. Man, we're going to have a good set of laps here to pump out and just jump everybody. That's what we did.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]We were running fast, good in lap, good execution from the boys in the pit, put us out front. I knew once we were out front, we could hold it off.
It was well executed, well planned. Tim did a great job. The boys did a great job. It was up to them to put me in position, and they did. We brought it home.
Q. I was talking to Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, they addressed a little bit of that late restart. They got bunched up, ended up making contact a little bit. Take me through managing that late restart. Graham kind of felt like you were past that start zone.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It leader's discretion to go when he wants. I thought I was in a fine enough position to start where I did. I don't know what to tell him. I went when I needed to go. It's your discretion. That's the rule.
I haven't seen it. I don't know what happened to those guys in the back. I went when I wanted to go. I think I went out of four, which you're supposed to go out of the last corner, so…
Q. First superspeedway win for you, I believe, is that correct?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Sounds right.
Q. What does that mean to you to get that knocked off your bucket list?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's nice. I mean, we've had seconds. We've had thirds. We've been on the podium. We just never got the win. I know we've had great cars. The team has done a great job of putting us in position to win those races. It's just not worked out to this point.
The seconds and thirds were nice, but you want to finally win one. I was just, yeah, really pleased we could get that done. Maybe we can get some more now after this. It's down to the team, the car. Like I said out there, they won this race tonight, I think. If they keep doing that, maybe we'll win some other superspeedways.
Q. You've had a great first half of the season, from the start you've been leading the points. Now you're going to probably one of your best tracks, Road America. You have to feel like there's more to be gained yet this month.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I hope so. I mean, I think we've got good cars. I always feel we can win anywhere we go. I always feel confident of that. But things change.
Road America… There's tracks where you're historically good, you go there and have an off year. Things change, tires change, the car changes. We've just got to stay alert and aware of where we're good and where we're not.
What I mean by that is, it's never guaranteed where you're going to be good for the second half of the season. I think you just got to be open-minded that there might be some tracks we weren't good at in the past, maybe we're good at this year, just capitalize when you can. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when you have a good car.
Tonight was about taking advantage of a great team. They called a great race, they executed. If you can take advantage of a night like tonight, it's a big win.
Q. Tell us about the victory chalice.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Gerry is the champion right now, OK? Gerry Cowan has the chalice. It was bestowed to him this evening. It was filled up. I don't know what he filled that chalice with when he brought to it Victory Lane. I didn't want to go near it.
It's a mythical cup. I don't know if anybody knows about this. I don't know where it came from. We're still trying to understand the history of it. It's a mythical chalice. It gives people powers whoever holds it.
Tim had it in Detroit, made an amazing call. We won the race. I'm just saying, whoever has that thing, watch out, they're going to have a good weekend.
Q. How did Gerry get it?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Gerry got it from just being an incredible human being. Doing a great job. Going above and beyond for everyone. Jerry take great care of me. He always preps my helmet. Always cares about how I'm feeling about the race. He's a deserving champion.
Two weeks from now in Road America he's going to have to pass it on to the next recipient.
THE MODERATOR: This is a Team Penske tradition now. When did it start?
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Alexander Rossi.
Alex, some really close finishes for you in the past couple of superspeedways. I know you wish you would have ended up one spot higher. Thrilling battle with Josef (Newgarden) at the end of the race. Take us through the fight towards the finish.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I think we had a good car, could obviously get a good run on him off of (Turns) 3 and 4. Lane two was really never there for me. We could get halfway around the outside, would have to bail out.
Could have maybe took a bit more of risk. Yeah, it was pretty low percentage. I didn't think a lot of guys were making it happen. Ultimately then it became about trying to beat him for the line. But we took out a lot of the tire life going in lane two there, so we just didn't have the rear tires there at the end to stay close to him.
That sucks. I mean, I didn't see him up front all day. All of a sudden he appears in P1, so… Obviously they're doing a good job. He had a fast car once he got in front.
Ultimately I think Scott(Dixon), myself and Colton (Herta) in terms of fuel mileage and where we were going were looking pretty good there till the end.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Alex.
Q. You put on a great show towards the end, also a show towards the middle. What were the fights with Colton like? Quasi teammates, same sponsor. A little concerning at times?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Why would it be concerning? It's just another car. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) led most of the race. I think Ryan obviously had a great car, as did I. It was pretty cool for the sponsor, for GESS / Capstone to be able to have two cars at the front. That's what they want and expect. I'm glad we were able to do that for them.
Q. If you could have gotten around (Josef), do you think you could have held him off? Lap after lap you were making the challenge.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Oh, yeah, for sure. Because it's all track position here unfortunately. It's a superspeedway. But the current package that we have, I mean, we saw it at Indy, we see it here, it's really hard to stay in touch, being the car behind, to be able to carry the throttle that you need to.
Just the dirty air has a really big impact on the car. It's really hard to get a good run on a car. It's not hard to pass cars that are struggling, cars that are off sequence with different tire life, whatever.
When you have a Penske Chevrolet driven by someone as good as Josef, there's only so much you can do, right? Yeah, it sucks. I mean, we're always there, but we're always playing the bridesmaid as of late.
Q. Do you think the fact that Josef had 11 laps newer tires made the difference in that he was able to hug the inside line, forcing you to go outside?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I think where that difference came in was kind of the last four laps. I kind of fell off with him. So, yeah, I think that was really ultimately the biggest issue for me, was I couldn't keep the challenge on him.
But I don't know that the end result would have been any different. I would have kept trying to go high in (Turns) 1 and 2. I mean, I tried it like six times and it never worked, so I doubt it would have worked if I tried another three or four times.
The fact of the separation, we weren't able to kind of challenge him to the stripe was a difference in tire life. Probably didn't affect the end result.
THE MODERATOR: Alex, congratulations.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome in Graham Rahal, who finished third in the Fleet Cost & Care Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Graham, I would say we didn't hear your name too much throughout the race, but it just seems like a very solid and consistent day. You took advantage of that. How much do those days mean to you when they come along?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Here that's a good day. Four top sixes in a row for us at this track. I think if you can have a good, quiet day, it's a good thing here. You don't want to be part of making noise unless it's winning.
We're pleased with our result today. I think our guys did an amazing job in the pits. The strategy was great. We set out to do a three-stopper from the get-go. The fuel mileage was phenomenal, the car balance was very good.
All things considered, we weren't quite good enough I think to go to the front tonight. We did have some issues with rear grip as the run went on and stuff.
I think our guys did a great job just putting us in a good position. The stops were really solid. Yeah, just good, quiet night.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Graham.
Q. It's been a quiet day. This is your first podium since the beginning of last season. How crucial is it to get one for your race team?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, it should be my second, but we'll just leave that there.
It feels great. I think at this point we feel like all year we've worked hard, we've been close, but we just haven't been able to knock the door down. Obviously I'm referring to Long Beach. That one still irks me. You have to move on at some point.
Our guys have done a great job this year. I think we rebounded well. Old (Allen) McDonald, my engineer, has done a heck of a job bringing life back into this organization. You can see it, he and (Sato engineer) Eddie (Jones), work so well. With Takuma (Sato), you're seeing that as well. It's unfortunate what happened on the 30 car this evening. I hope everybody's OK there. Obviously I haven't been back over to the pits yet.
Yeah, I mean, our guys worked hard. This is a great way to go into an off weekend. Would rather have it be a win, but all things considered, we're going into an off weekend on a high note.
Truthfully, I think we're eighth in points now. We've been there every race this year. It just hasn't come together for us. It's just nice to finally have a good, clean one.
Q. So the speed is there in the cars you feel like? Technically you have it together, you have to get the strategy right or some results to come your way?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, it's a combination of a lot of things. Racing smart. Lady Luck is always a factor in racing, we all know that. Good strategy.
Our guys have done an amazing job in the pits lately. They've really turned up the heat. Tonight in that first pit stop sequence with (the) in lap, out lap, we gained five seconds over the leader. Pretty good. Pretty good.
I really do think it's not the in and out laps, I think a lot of it is the guys in the pits have stepped up their game. I'm proud of them for that. Particularly towards the end of this string that hasn't been so easy.
Do we have speed in the cars? Yeah, we have speed in the cars. Do we need a little more? We do, particularly on the street courses. We're not quite there yet. I think the Andretti cars are very good. Obviously Penske, Ganassi.
We're going to keep our heads down, keep working through this. We've closed the gap a long way. Your pal sitting right behind you said we wouldn't be competitive this year. I'm not going to let that go. I'm going to keep saying that all year.
We definitely closed the gap. We're headed down the right path. So I'm proud of everybody, for sure.
Q. Talking with Simon, he felt like maybe he got bumped on that late restart.
GRAHAM RAHAL: He did.
Q. Take me through your perspective.
GRAHAM RAHAL: There's no doubt. The brake checking from the leader was obscene. We were well past the start zone, yet the brake checking persisted. We'd go, then bam, everybody is on the brakes.
No doubt, I did touch him. Luckily it was nose straight to the right rear, which didn't cut his tire or anything, I don't think.
There's nothing you can do. I mean, that needs to be addressed, in my opinion, by the stewards. We've had issues with this before. It was clear. Accelerate, brake, accelerate, brake. It's ridiculous. It's dangerous on these things.
Q. Was that the only time tonight you felt like that was happening, stacking up on restarts?
GRAHAM RAHAL: For sure. For sure. If I'm not mistaken, it was the only time he was leading, too. Hunter-Reay's restart was great. Good, consistent flow. Good speed. It was just nice and clean.
The last one I thought was ridiculous.
Q. Other than Takuma's incident in pit lane, which took him out of contention, this team has been on a pretty good upswing the last month or so since Barber. What is it like to be able to know either of you or your teammate have a chance for poles and victories in any race?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Like I just said, I think we're not there yet. Obviously you have to have that mentality. We got to keep our heads down, push hard, keep working hard. But we're definitely a player every weekend. That's a great feeling.
To go to a track, to come here, to fly down here on Wednesday night knowing I've got a chance, that's a great feeling. There's been years where we didn't have that. I'm definitely appreciative of the times that we're living right now.
While everything hasn't gone totally smoothly, I'm definitely happy with the progression of the team, of my team. Takuma Sato has done a great job. Hopefully we can just keep building from here.
Everybody has done a great job. Everybody. Hopefully we'll build upon this, go off to Road America, run that cool livery. I'm going to try to grow a moustache. We'll see. Wish me luck. I've already had a three-week, four-week head start. You guys probably can't tell. My chances are slim, but we'll see.
It does look cool, though. We'll see.
THE MODERATOR: Takuma is going to grow one. That will be fun.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't think he can (laughter).
Q. Any surprises tonight other than the brake checking restart? Relatively clean race.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I was very surprised that first run. I mean, at the start is when the track is at its toughest. I was very surprised almost 150 laps or thereabouts without a yellow. I was surprised.
It was a physical race tonight. I don't know who has been through here before me, but that was a freakin' physical race. The first 150 was a long 150. I thought everybody raced pretty clean. I knew at the end it was going to pick up. Always does. I was going to sit back and watch.
To be honest, I wasn't quite good enough to win. I was getting pretty loose on the long runs. I had to kind of baby my tires in the early phase of the stint.
But I knew it was going to pick up. I thought the racing in general was pretty clean. I thought that the tire was a massive improvement over last year. I thought the aero package was a massive improvement. I also think the track is going to get better.
I called Jimmie Johnson before we came down here. Jimmie said, Man, we can't run two lanes around there either. As of their last race here, they couldn't.
I think tonight we saw a glimpse. They used VHT, all these other sprays. I passed Pagenaud along the outside. A little bit of grip there. First time I saw there's a little light at the end of the tunnel there. Over time, more races come down, more rubber gets laid down, I think that's going to continue to improve, as well.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, congratulations. Thanks for your time.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Thanks, guys.