Gateway IndyCar post-race press conference

From left, Rossi, Power and Dixon
From left, Rossi, Power and Dixon

1 – Will Power, Penske Chevy
2 – Alexander Rossi, Andretti Honda
3 – Scott Dixon, Ganassi Honda

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with our Verizon IndyCar Series post-race press conference. Joined now by the winner of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 here at Gateway Motorsports Park, Will Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet for Team Penske. Will's third consecutive podium in the past three races, also his third win of the season. This is his 35th career win, which ties Bobby Unser for seventh on the all-time wins list. Will, last year you started from pole in this race, and unfortunately ended your race a bit early with an early crash that pretty much ended your championship battle. This one might get you back into the championship hunt, moving 68 points behind Scott Dixon. Take us through your race and ultimately how your thoughts are heading out of this race and into the final two races of the season.

WILL POWER: Yeah, pretty determined to at least get past Turn 1. That would be a start. But you know, the car was not that good last night. We had to work — have a really good think about it and spent a little time speaking with my engineer, and we came up with a really good setup, or what we thought would be a good setup, and it ended up being one.

It was just a lot of fun out there. I was so happy to win my first race with Roger. I was just wondering when that was going to come because I didn't get to work with him in Indy and obviously won two races there. That was my first win with Roger, and when he told me I could go wide open and not save fuel, that was a great call and a lot of fun, to chop through the field, passed — I've never passed so many cars in a shorter period of time. Yeah, I have to thank IndyCar for a great package, as well. As you could see, last year it was very difficult to pass, and they came up with a package this year where you could definitely pass and run close.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]THE MODERATOR: How aware were you of the strategy that Alexander Rossi was taking and if you were going to be able to get around him heading towards the end of the race.

WILL POWER: Well, all I knew was Roger said go wide open and the other guys dropped back and tried to save fuel. So I figured that there would be a bunch of guys trying to do it, and I saw the number you had to get for us, and I was like, you have to go so slow to get that number, and I thought that we could probably make that time up if we just ran wide open, and that was the case. Yeah, it was the first time in my career where I'd gone that way instead of saving fuel because obviously I'm very good at saving fuel, but so many times I wish we could just go wide open. When you've got Roger on the radio, he's always pushing just to push, to go, if you've got a fast car, and that's what we did.

THE MODERATOR: We're heading into two permanent road courses to finish out the season. You have a win at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier this year. How are you feeling about your chances heading into those last two races?

WILL POWER: It's going to be very tight. It's really hard to close a gap at this point of the season because as you can see, the same guys are finishing in the top 5 every week, and they're all the guys you're racing. I need those guys to have a bad day and for me to win a race. We have been so quick everywhere all year, we've just had — amongst the guys I'm racing, between them they've had one DNF. I've had five DNFs, basically five. I've had a lot to make up, and we're on the way there. Still a big chunk of points, honestly, when you're only gaining maybe 10 or 12 a race.

Q. When you went to the inside of Rossi, I don't know if you're aware, but he went on to have the mother and father of all saves to keep it off the wall; were you confident you wouldn't get caught up in whatever incident he went on to have?
WILL POWER: No, not if you're on the inside. I tried on the outside of Dixon and that didn't work, so I figured you'd have to go on the inside. That's why I tried to do the fake and get alongside the wall and then get the inside.

Q. And you did basically the same over on Scott, as well?
WILL POWER: Yeah, yeah. After I went up in the marbles, I thought, man, I lost so many spots. I was so mad. I was trying to get back in the game and win a race, so there was a lot of determination there, and obviously a very good car. I felt like we had a better car than Dixon from the beginning and Rossi. Just following them, I'm like, they were saving good fuel and I'd run very close to him, and I could see they were struggling a little bit, so I knew if we got either clean air or got by them, we'd be in pretty good shape.

Q. How much detail can you go into about what you changed on the car?
WILL POWER: We changed a lot, actually. We changed springs front and rear, we changed toes, we changed aero, everything, cambers, all of it. We had to make the car better, and we did.

Q. You just mentioned you were in the marbles or close to the marbles. Was this a scary moment?
WILL POWER: Yeah, because at Phoenix we did the same thing. You just go up to the wall so quick. I had that same feeling, like no front, and I was like heading up there, and yeah, didn't get to the wall. Yeah, we kept it low from there on.

Q. From yesterday to today the other dramatic change was the weather. Was there any change in the track conditions that you could feel?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it wasn't really. Like there was so much grip. It was amazing the speed you would carry in 3 and 4. The cars are really hooked up. Yeah, it's a good — definitely a better package than last year as far as following. I think these guys have nailed it at a lot of places, obviously fine tuning at other places, but yeah, the car was fun to drive.

Q. It used to be — well, before I get to that, your final pit stop you got that splash and you came out and Rossi was just ahead of you, and he was having to save fuel and you could give it full throttle. How important was that?
WILL POWER: To get the fuel?

Q. You got the fuel, to be that close to him where you could come out so that you could just blow by him.
WILL POWER: Yeah, he would have had to have a significant gap to beat us because once I had a two-second gap, I just backed way off. But we had so much speed in hand, yeah. It was kind of fun, like I've never passed so many cars. You just keep knocking people off one after another. I had no clue who was leading or what it was when I went out of the pits until Roger said, you're the leader now. I was like, ooh, that was good strategy.

Q. It used to be you could win everywhere but the ovals, and this year you won the two biggest oval races on the schedule. Talk about that.
WILL POWER: Yeah, ovals are where it's at for me in the last two years, last two or three years. I've won more oval races than road courses and street courses. Got to pick my game back up on road and street courses now. Seems like ovals — I love ovals. It's my favorite part of IndyCar racing. It's what separates IndyCar racing from everything else, and just enjoy the whole process of putting a good oval car together and driving and where to run and air, and it's just so much fun. Yeah, favorite, favorite part of racing in IndyCar.

Q. I keep on hearing you say you've never passed so many cars, and yet I walked up and down pit road after the race and Sato and some other drivers said they couldn't pass at all. What was the difference?
WILL POWER: Yeah, well, I guess that's what's good about a package where they've taken some of the downforce off, although it didn't feel like that, is that some people will struggle, so that's how you get the variance between the cars. When you have so much downforce, everyone does the same speed. It just masks all handling deficiencies. You have to take some grip away so people are not so — only a couple of people nail the setup and there's some in between and there's some that really struggle, and then you get racing, and you get a bit of tire deg and you get mistakes, and that's what IndyCar has tried to achieve with this car, and they have it. A lot of the short ovals for sure this year have been like that, and obviously road courses, as well. You never see passing at Mid-Ohio, and there was a lot of passing.

Q. You said it was the first time in your career that — not saving fuel, but actually pushing paid off; does that factor into the future, these situations, or is it just situational?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's been more like — the last couple years I've been like, man, I'm not going to save fuel anymore. I'd have like 10 more race wins to my name if I'd just taken off back in the day instead of saving fuel and getting caught by a yellow or something. Yeah, that's the most fun way to go racing is when you can just go hard, you don't have to think about lifting and being in a lean fuel slot. Yeah, we'll see, maybe we'll do that the next two races, see how it works out.

Q. With your position in the championship, are you going to take more risks than usual as you come into these next two races, especially with double points in Sonoma?
WILL POWER: I think we have to strategy-wise, but it will all depend on where the guys we're racing — teams like Rossi and Dixon are the main guys, and Josef. He's in our team. But if they're at the front, yes, I mean, we have to take risks. We have to make things happen. Kind of like tonight, we just said, let's go, let's run hard. We've got to beat these guys. We can't finish behind anymore. So I'm going to be aggressive with them racing-wise. If there's a half gap there, I'm going to go for it. You have to. They know it; they've got a lead. I've got nothing to lose. That goes for strategy, as well.

Q. As far as the difference between Chevrolet and Honda, would you say — there were a lot of people pointing out that I think the top six or seven cars in practice last night were all Honda. Was that just a byproduct of, in fact, Penske struggling a little bit, nothing to do with engines?
WILL POWER: It was nothing to do with engines, pure handling. That's the great thing about this package is you have to get your car right, you can't just rely on downforce to mask issues. There really doesn't — it's hard to see any difference between the engines when it's like that.

Q. You talked about the championship early on; can it be done? Can you catch these guys in the last two races?
WILL POWER: Yes, we can absolutely do it. It's mathematically possible. When I turned up to Indy, it was a single points race and a double points race. I was about this amount of points behind, and I came out two points ahead with two wins. So yes, absolutely.

THE MODERATOR: Joined now by our second-place finisher, Alexander Rossi, driving the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda for Andretti Autosport. This is Alex's third consecutive podium. Alex, obviously as cars are going by you as you're on this different strategy, I imagine it could be a little bit frustrating. How do you keep your focus in a situation like that?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Just a great car and great team and great group of people talking me through it because you're absolutely right; it's a mental game. It's a mental game because you're trying to obviously hit a fuel number to go X amount of laps, and it was a very, very big fuel number, and unlike the 500 in 2016, I didn't have a teammate to tote me around, so I had to figure out how to do it myself, which was a big challenge.

But huge hats off to Rob Edwards and the whole 27 NAPA Andretti team for coming up with it and keeping the faith that I could manage it. It was just enough at the end. Obviously you want to win the race, but the goal really is to beat Scott, and we were able to do that, despite it only be a couple-point swing. It's something, right? So we'll take that and we'll refocus and recenter ahead of Portland.

THE MODERATOR: (No microphone.)

ALEXANDER ROSSI: They still mean a lot just because of the view of Sonoma being double points. It's that much bigger of a swing. So the goal right now is just to hopefully get within 20 points going into Sonoma, and then it can really be about who beats the other person type of thing. That's where our focus is, and we have found some road course performance definitely in the second half of this year, so got two road courses coming up. Portland is a very unknown challenge for us all, so it'll be interesting to get on track there, and I have complete faith that Andretti Autosport as a whole will build great race cars and we'll be able to be competitive.

Q. Alex, I think you tested here before. With all this fuel saving stuff going on, is it possible in principle to simulate the test in fuel saving mode for the race?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: You never believe that you're going to need to fuel save as much as we did, so you can definitely practice it and find ways to achieve better mileage, but what we were looking for at the end was pretty astronomical, so I don't think you ever really think that that's going to be the scenario until you're forced into it, and then you've just got to think on your feet and experiment and try and make it happen, so yeah, but I think it's not a complete understanding. You only have a partial understanding.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Q. The second question, your teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay started experiencing problems. Were you a little bit scared when you were informed that maybe similar things could happen to you?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I have no idea what happened to it. They didn't talk to me about it until I saw him slow down. It was difficult not to have a teammate around, but yeah, with him having a great race, he could have definitely been on the podium, as well, so it's unfortunate that that happened.

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Scott Dixon, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Finished second in last year's race here at Gateway Motorsports Park. Scott, obviously the race developed with the idea of different strategies, but how did the race develop after starting from pole and ultimately only losing three points to Alex in the championship?

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was a bit of an interesting night. I think early on we were probably burning too much fuel, which I didn't think that was going to be the case, but when we pitted fairly early compared to some of our competitors, obviously that didn't make any difference for me at that reset with 70 or whatever to go. I don't even know how many it was to go. A lot. And then it was kind of split strategy to save the fuel or to go. And then for us actually, and I'll take the blame for it, we kind of sat in no man's land doing halfway of each trying to make a decision of where we were going. Ultimately we lost a ton of time to the 12, and then by the time we did get after it, it made that strategy maybe not so perfect.

The Andretti guys and Rossi did a fantastic job making that no-stop situation work, and obviously a big congrats to Will. Great speed at the end of the race. He was pretty good in traffic and was able to go on to the victory there.

Q. Alex, did you have complete trust that the strategy was going to work, or at any point during that stint were you kind of sitting there starting to do a slow simmer about, man, I'm getting sold down the river here, I'm all the way down to ninth, it's going to be hard to get back up to finish ahead of Scott, especially if the yellow came out?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: No, I mean, it was difficult to achieve what we were trying to achieve, but the 27 NAPA guys have definitely done this before. It wasn't our first rodeo, and I had confidence in the guys on the pit stand who were giving me good numbers and (indiscernible) patient with it, and yeah, at the end of the day, you're relieved that it works out because it's always on your mind what would happen if it didn't, but we're going to have to be pretty aggressive, so I wasn't going to be upset. I'd rather honestly finish second going down swinging and trying to win the championship than finish second and just trying to cut that.

Q. Alex, speaking of being aggressive, there was a run there you hung on the outside probably a little longer than you may have wanted to, and several of us all, oh, crap, there went the championship, but you saved it. What went through your mind when you wiggled over there?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: A lot of bad words. It was one of those ones where I had pretty much given up, and it just came back really probably by the grace of God because I was on the brakes and ready to hit the wall, so it just kind of corrected itself, and that was a pretty big blessing I got there.

Q. Were you informed of that incident, hey, don't go up there?
SCOTT DIXON: Not really, no. We were having our own problems. I didn't hear anything. I think they mentioned some cars losing some spots trying to high line, but they didn't specifically say who it was.

Q. Scott, I think around lap 149, 150, Will Power overtook you. Was it coming as a surprise, or you saw him coming?
SCOTT DIXON: No, they were pretty hard for me for trying to get the fuel number. At that point I think we were going to be a lap or two short, so I figured it was best to try and get the mileage where we could. He was definitely fast, but they were able to — they had stretched the window beforehand. We started to fall into that spiral where we hadn't been getting the mileage that we needed to. Yeah, it was just a bit of a sitting duck, you know. I don't think anywhere at the point through that middle part of the race anybody was going hard, it was just coasting and trying to maintain your spot without screwing yourself.

Q. Alex, you guys got Portland coming up and the series hasn't been there since 2007, so what's it like coming into an unknown challenge with such a big race?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: It's really no different than any other race. We're fortunate that we get a day of testing there. I think by the time we get to qualifying on Saturday, we'll have a pretty good idea of what we need and how to extract the performance out of the car and the track. But really excited to go there. I went out there before the 500 during the month of May, and the whole northwest region is super excited to have IndyCar come back, and it's always great to add new tracks to the calendar, so it's an exciting opportunity for us, and hopefully it's a friendly track for us.

Q. In the first stint when you were leading, Scott, and then Will was second and Alex was third, you got tucked up behind I believe it was Ed Carpenter for a long, long time. Do you think there should have been better cooperation from the back markers?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, we basically were just trying to maintain the gap and get fuel mileage. When we started to talk about it was probably a little late at that point, but yeah, it was just strictly to try and get fuel mileage. I think everybody did a pretty good job tonight. You could get a big run if you needed to. I think that middle part and the first part, everybody was just kind of cruising along there. It probably didn't look too great, but it was pretty hectic there at the end.

Q. With the championship aside and also fuel strategies, this is a new track relatively for Indy, so what I'd like to know from you guys is the racing strategy when you're in that car, not when we're talking to you. What's the biggest challenge of this track to you, and do you see a difference from last year to this year?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: There's definitely a difference from the two years. The aero kits (indiscernible) is very unique for a short oval because you have almost like a road course corner for Turn 1 and 2 and then a more traditional mile-and-a-half, mile oval in Turn 3 and 4. So you've got to have like two completely different driving styles, which you sometimes get on the bigger ovals. It's pretty unique to have it like that, and the track and the promoters did an amazing job and the facility and how they repaved the lane for us and just all the kind of improvements. It was a joy to drive here and in front of a great fan base, as well.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's awesome. I'd hate to be paying for the fireworks that were here. That went for a good solid maybe 30 minutes. But yeah, it's a fantastic track. I was lucky enough to race here in the early 2000s. I think as Alex said, just the promoters and just the energy, even going downtown, they had a couple events throughout the week, and just the vibe and the interest and the knowledge of the sport, it's really cool to be a part of that, and obviously the crowd that we had tonight. It's awesome to come to places like that.

Q. (No microphone.)
SCOTT DIXON: The competition does, but yeah, no, it's cool. You don't want to come here and drive in front of three people and a dog. You want to race around with a lot of people in the stands. It's cool to see, as I said, just the atmosphere is great and the people.

Q. The further along we get in this championship, have you all found each other maybe racing each other a little differently, maybe giving each other less space on track, and do you anticipate that moving closer to Sonoma?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: We didn't really see each other tonight to be honest with you. That was more probably Will and Josef. No, I think we've always raced each other pretty hard. That's just the nature of how we are. Yeah, I don't see that really changing obviously come Sonoma. There's a lot on the line there, so who knows what will be the case. But again, I'm the one who hasn't won any championships and he's problem four, so I should probably take a page out of his book and see what he's done in the past.

SCOTT DIXON: No, you know, I enjoy racing Alex. I enjoy racing everybody in the field. So yeah, you know, it's always tough when it comes down to the wire. But I think you have that situation throughout the season. Everybody at this level, you do everything you can to try and get one race win. It's no different week in, week out. Obviously as Alex said, coming down to Sonoma, there's a little bit more on the line, but strictly you've got to treat it as any other race. But yeah, I enjoy racing everybody.

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