|Winner Ryan Hunter-Reay|
1st – Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda)
2nd – Will Power (Chevy)
3rd – Ed Jones (Honda)
THE MODERATOR: Joined now by our race winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. It is Ryan's — not everyone here might know, Ryan decided to take a little swim after his celebration in the very lovely fountain here on Belle Isle.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I bet there haven't been many people in there.
THE MODERATOR: Maybe not many sober people.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: That's true. Yeah, good point.
THE MODERATOR: But probably nobody as happy as you. We'll go with that.
It is Ryan's last win since 2015, and Ryan, I know that you mentioned that yesterday when you came in. Happy with your finish yesterday, but certainly a little downtrodden that it couldn't be one place better. How rewarding is it to finish on top here after a little bit of a drought?
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, so rewarding. I told you yesterday how bad I want it. But there have been a lot of circumstances that have kept this team out of Victory Lane. If you look at the past Indy 500s, the '17 and '16 ones, I think we could have won both of those. Lead the most laps in one of them, didn't get to finish the race. It's been heartbreaking stuff. Catching James Hinchcliffe at Long Beach in the last five laps or whatever it was, the electrical system shuts down. And leading in 2016 at Pocono and the same electrical problem shuts the car down. So there's been a lot of frustrating things like that that have kept us from potentially being in Victory Lane.
But today the car was awesome. I mean, it was — we were at times lapping, I think, a second and a half faster than anybody on the track, and that car definitely ended the race where it should be, and that's in Victory Lane. So really proud of the 28 DHL Honda team. These guys have worked really hard, but they gave me a great race car, the engineering side. I'm just really proud of what they've done. My engineer Ray Gosselin, he wanted this race as bad as me. We've won a lot of races together. We've been working together since 2011 and we've won a lot together, so this recent dry spell has really had us both a little eager.
Today was great.
THE MODERATOR: It seemed like the story of the race weekend for you was being the hunter, trying to catch up to Scott Dixon yesterday on the final restart, and also coming out of the pits to catch your teammate Alexander Rossi it seemed. As the more time went on on your fresh tires, you kind of chipped away, and then all of a sudden it was a second and a half over a second on lap to lap. What was going through your head as you were trying to chase him down?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, my engineer, Ray, was telling me on the radio the whole time, we have to qualify the whole time, we have to be the fastest car on the racetrack. So that's what we did today.
Some of those stints in the middle, I'm on the opposite side of the racetrack but I'm going faster than the leaders at that point, but we're catching them, we're catching them. This is really going to work if you keep doing the 75 lap times or the minute-15 lap times. Just kept my head down, and then after the last stop, there was nobody in front of me, and they said, Alex is the leader. And Ray got on the radio and said, you're going to catch him by the end of the stint, just keep your head down. So I just went for it, just kept doing low 75s, and little did I know there was a car on the straightaway and then there was a car halfway down, and then it was — and then we just closed the gap until I was right up his gearbox with 11 or 12 to go, and I think we were strong enough there to potentially expose a weakness.
Q. Ryan, you did nine laps quicker than anybody else in the race; how taxing is that mentally?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It is really taxing, especially with how — doing a double here. The hardest part about this place is obviously the bumps, right, and the kick-back in the steering wheel. When you put on a new set of tires, those Firestones are so grippy that they'll literally rip the wheel out of your hand as you're going through the constant beating of the bumps. I had a few times where the wheel almost ripped out of my hand, white knuckling the wheel, but once I found a rhythm with the car, I'd say maybe two or three laps into a stint to the end, it was so consistent. The car was so consistent, I could place it consistently, and that was the key for me. I wasn't having to really worry about the rear on entry, which I did a little bit yesterday, so we were even faster than we were yesterday. It was just an awesome car.
I thought about halfway through, I said, this car is a winning car. It would be a shame if it doesn't win today, and I drove that way.
Q. Kate mentioned how you were a hunter during the race. When Alexander ran off, did you feel like, yes, success, or darnit, that's not how I wanted to win again?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I don't know what happened with him. All I know is that I had a better run. I was much stronger than he was out of Turn 2, so I just kept getting that big run, get on the overtake button, close up to him, pressure him under the brake zone, little bit of brake loss. Next time, same thing, little bit more brake loss. Next time, same thing, little bit more brake loss, and then — I mean, that's how you race cars.
Q. Ryan, you've had an awful lot of close calls. Have they been top of mind this whole time for you and will they start to disappear?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The Indy ones never go away. When you know you have a car that can win it and you don't get to shoot it out at the end for the win, those never go away because you never know how many times you're going to have a good car that can win at Indy. You know? Like this year, I think we had a strong car, but we definitely didn't have one to win. Those years are valuable, and the ones that kind of disappear in smoke, so to speak, it hurts, and you always remember them. Yeah, hopefully we can get some more Indy 500 wins, too. That's the goal.
Q. Ryan, usually during a long dry spell, you think, oh — you probably knew you were going to win again, but it had — how many times did it eat at you saying, oh, am I going to win? When am I going to win? How many times did that go through your head?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It did. It went through my head a lot. But I know I have the team behind me to do it. I know I can do it with the right car. I know I have the talent to win the races, and just have to think positive. I've got the best job on earth, so I come and show up in the morning and there's a yellow car there with my name on the side of it, and I go to work as an IndyCar car driver, and I absolutely knew we could get back in Victory Lane, it's just a matter of putting it all together. At times with the aero kit, the manufacturer aero kit, we might have struggled a little bit. Our team did, and we just weren't firing on all cylinders for some reason, but now again with a universal aero kit, we're right back on a level playing field again, just like we left off in '12, '13 and '14.
Q. And then just talk about the domination that Honda had this weekend and Andretti Autosport.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Honda has done a great job, absolutely. I don't know if it was down to drivability, bottom-end torque, what it was, but Honda definitely had it covered here at Detroit, so hats off to them. They gave me everything I needed, I can tell you that. Hopefully we can go ahead and continue that throughout the rest of the season.
Q. Ryan, you've had a lot of wins that have kind of kick-started seasons, whether it was Indy in '14 or the run in '12 that led to the championship. Do you think this is one that could do the same for your '18 season?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I hope so. We've had a pretty good year. We finished second twice, fifth here and there, and we've been in the top 5 a lot, so we've been strong, and like I say, I think maybe with the universal aero kit, we have a better shot at contending for the championship like we did when it was a spec aero kit back in '12, '13, '14. Absolutely, I'm on that page, and I hope this is the first to a string of wins. You never know when it comes, you know, and 2012, what, we won Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto back-to-back. Going into the Milwaukee race I didn't expect for that to happen, but you've got to be ready for it, and that's where we are. Hopefully we can keep that rolling.
Q. Was your first goal to pressure Alex into making a mistake or just to flat-out pass him?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: My first goal was to have pace to catch him. I mean, he wasn't even on the same straightaway that I was when I first started that stint. I didn't even know there was anybody up there. Just kept my head down, and then all of a sudden there was a car off in the distance, down the end of the straightaway, and just kept my head down, and I could see I was closing him, so once I had that rabbit in front of me, I even went quicker, and I knew that if I can get to him with 15, 10 laps to go, I have a chance at it. I got to him I think with 11 laps to go, on his gearbox, and from there, I just started to see where am I catching him, what corners is he weaker, and I found that Turn 1 and 2 was the place that I was catching him quite a bit, so I just kept putting pressure on.
I thought that the gap and the interval that I closed on him, that at some point that weakness would be exposed, so I was going to take my chances when it came to — for me to see where it was, and I found out that was out of Turn 2. So it hadn't got to the point where I was going to lunge on him but it was getting there because I kept getting that little bit of front lock from him. So that kind of started to open the door. Then it opened.
Q. The fact that he's a teammate, at what time does another driver go from being the teammate to being the guy that I've got to pass?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's a teammate. You can't take a teammate out. You've got to be very careful how you race him. Alex has done a great job, no doubt a future series champion. My job is to make sure it's not this year. He's definitely done an amazing job, and he's been great to work with. We work really well together. Yeah, I'm just happy we got the win today, and hopefully we can challenge him for a championship this year. Hopefully it comes down to the wire, 28 DHL team on top at the end.
Q. Now that you reach the winner's circle, it must give you a little bit of extra spring in your step. You're about 20 points behind, but does that give you a new outlook that you can go ahead and catch the leaders and maybe walk away with the 2018 crown?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I just have to keep chipping away at it. I'm sure I'm more than 20 points behind, but I have to just keep chipping away, chipping away. If you keep finishing in the top 3, top 5, top 3, top 5, wins, that's how you challenge for a championship, so that's what we're focused on doing.
It's so easy to make a mistake like that. Today the braking, I almost did that same thing twice. I don't know what happened with him, so I'll have to go back and figure it out.
Q. Were you provoked to jump in or did you just think of it on your own?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yesterday when I had an interview for second, when I was second with the local news, they said, so if you win this thing tomorrow, are you going to jump in? I'm like, yes, I'll jump in, I want to win that bad. Of course first thing I got out of the car were those two guys that I said, yes, I'd jump in the frigging fountain. I got right in no problem.
Q. We've all seen you win several times, obviously. Was this as good a drive as you've ever put together just from a relentless standpoint, et cetera? Where does this one sort of rank?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Definitely pace-wise I think so. Yeah, I think it was — to be that much faster than the rest of the field, yeah. It's got to be one of my top races. I mean, I'll always put 2014 Indy 500 as my top one because going back every lap with Helio like that, it's a different type of race. This one was based on pure speed, not making any mistakes and going fast and jumping in the fountain.
Q. The delay before the race started with the pace car crash, kind of a weird situation there. What did you see on that, and how much did it affect you as a driver?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It didn't affect me at all. Race hadn't started yet, so we just rolled out, no issue at all there. I think that's a testament to the Corvette ZR1. I know that thing is 750 horsepower. I've driven one before, and you do not want to jump on the gas in that thing, and for sure it's a fast car. So no, it's something that can happen and the race hadn't started. No big deal.
Q. This morning you go out and qualify, I know it's in the wet, you have a couple spins, kind of a difficult qualifying session, and then you come back in the race and pretty much do hot laps through the whole race. Is it hard after a morning like that to kind of wire yourself to go back out there and deliver that kind of performance?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I knew I had a good race car in the dry. I had a really hard time in the wet. I usually like the wet, usually go pretty fast in the rain. But just had a hard time with it, couldn't make the car turn, couldn't make it brake, couldn't really make it accelerate very well. I knew I just had to wait until the afternoon until the race came with a dry track, and I knew what I had yesterday. Had to take advantage of that, and knowing that ahead of time, how quick our car was in race trim, I kind of was pretty eager to get the race started.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our Verizon IndyCar Series post-race press conference. Joined now by our second- and third-place finishers, Will Power and Ed Jones. Will Power, finishing second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, started third in today's race, and it is his fifth podium finish here on the Streets of Belle Isle. Will, you said yesterday that you felt like you worked really hard for a seventh-place finish. How do you feel about your performance today and ultimately the podium result?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I feel like this was about as good as we could get, give how fast Hunter-Reay was. There was just no way anyone was going to beat him. We just seemed to struggle a little bit on full tanks and cold tires, but very happy with the result. You know, I feel like with what we had, that's the most that we could have got out of that race, so very happy.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Ed Jones, who finished third, also Ed's third career podium in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda for the team today. His new best finish here at Belle Isle, and finished sixth yesterday. Ed, it was not an uneventful race for you because you had that moment where you went three wide towards the beginning of the race, but how were you able to stay up front and end up on the podium today?
ED JONES: Yeah, for sure, it was a pretty entertaining race for me. I tried to pass Will at the start. I got by him, and then he got me back, and on the cold tires here, it's been very tricky. The cars handle pretty odd, so I made a mistake and I lost the car then and I lost a few more positions. But I came back through the field. I thought what really made our race was our pace on the red tires as the stint went on. Today with the rain, I think the grip level dropped quite a bit initially, and a lot more people struggled on the reds early on with degradation, whereas I feel like that was one of our stronger points. And then we were able to maintain that.
We had the pace where we were. Unfortunately we didn't have enough to get by Will again, but it was a great job by the team the whole weekend. Scott winning the race yesterday and then me on the podium today, we're just aiming to bring the team forward and have some one-twos eventually.
Q. Will, Chevrolet kind of struggled this weekend. You finish second in Penske's backyard. What a race you had. Talk about just coming back from not a good finish yesterday to a great finish today.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think it was all about qualifying. I guess in a way it was good that it was wet because it helped us to get further up the grid. Had very good pace on the blacks at the end of stints or halfway through, so that kind of put us in a good position. Yeah, and like I said, I just think that's as much as we could get out of what we had today.
Q. And Ed, third place today, sixth place yesterday, two top 10s coming out of this weekend. This place can be tough on drivers; kind of overall takeaways from that?
ED JONES: You know, after the last two races, things haven't gone well for us, so it was really important to get the momentum back and have two solid results this weekend. We worked really hard on it, as well, and there was a lot of pressure to do that, but the team gave me the car to do it, and I was able to deliver.
Q. First time in a straight-up fight you've been able to finish ahead of a legend, your teammate Scott Dixon. What's it like to be able to beat him in a race where you didn't have an issue?
ED JONES: Yeah, it was a big confidence boost for me. I've beat him in a few other races but it wasn't a straight-on fight, it was different strategies and things like that. To be able to race him and pass him on track to move forward, yeah, it's a big thing for me. I've been trying to learn a lot from Scott, and we're open to helping each other out. At the end of the day, we both want to drive the team forward and get to winning races.
Q. Will, it's been the week that was for you; when you think that a week ago right now you were still celebrating the biggest victory of your career, just what's it like to have this week over?
WILL POWER: Actually I'm looking forward to going home. I haven't been home in a month, so just to have like three mornings where I can sleep in a bit will be pretty cool, and be home, spend some time with my little boy and my wife. Yeah, it's been the most hectic time of the year, and yeah, we look forward to the week off after Texas. I think that'll be very welcome by everyone in the paddock.
Q. How weird was the start with the pace car incident?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, I just think no one wanted to run over the debris. I think Rossi was the only one that went through it, and Wickens got stalled, and we only had one set of new reds. I felt really bad for whoever was in the pace car. It's very easy to do as you go over that crest, and the traction control must have been turned off. So yeah, I felt — wasn't really his fault. It's just such a bad corner. Like it's very easy to do.
ED JONES: Yeah, I thought the same thing. Once I think the three of us kind of created a road block, no one else could get through. With the debris it made things easier to decide what to do. I just didn't want to get a puncture or anything like that, and there was a lot of cars behind, if they didn't do it, it could have compromised our race.
Q. Will, at this point of the season — the year you won the championship, 2014, you had the same number of wins, so how poised are you and focused towards a championship are you?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, after the 500, it's just 100 percent focus on a championship. Well, it is all year, honestly. Pretty rough start to the year, a lot of little mistakes by me, but overall in a very good position. Qualified out of the top three once all year. Yeah, we just focus forward, very determined. I felt like I had so many close seconds in my career, so I really want to get another championship.
Q. Back to the pace car incident, what goes through your mind when you're just sitting there in the middle of the track stopped for so long? Is it tough to keep your mental focus on what you're doing?
WILL POWER: No, my first thought was just switch my engine off, once the team said switch your engine off and just wait. Took a while, and then I'm thinking with the whole field stopped, that's a lot of starters, like that would take a long time. I don't know how long that whole process took, but yeah, that would have been a first to see that whole field stuck in one spot just on the pit lane exit. You know, that's racing, right? I've seen plenty of pace car crashes. Like I've seen plenty of people coming off in the wet and crash, and not abnormal.
Q. Will, what were your thoughts after the way Alex had kind of dominated the race? What were your thoughts when he came around that corner and you saw that he was in the runoff area?
WILL POWER: Yeah, what I noticed was he was very quick at the beginning of a stint and then he backed up. I think I knocked nine seconds out of him in one stint, the second stint, and obviously Hunter-Reay was putting the pressure on big time. He just went a little long. I mean, yeah, it's pretty tough when that happens when you've kind of dominated all day, and flats out a tire. But yeah, that's racing.
Q. I've heard stories about racing back home on sand helps you in slippery conditions. How much did that help with the conditions this weekend?
ED JONES: Yeah, it's quite odd. Growing up in Dubai and karting there from the beginning, when I got to wet weather people thought I was going to struggle a lot more, but we'd go to the kart track, sometimes the track would be seven seconds off, so close to like rain, how slow it was, and just the car control you learnt from that was quite a big thing for me. My first ever race that I did in the wet, I was on it straight away, so that's always been helpful for me. Obviously you can't compare exactly to the rain, but a lot of it applies in car control is always the biggest thing.
Q. This is also ABC's last broadcast for IndyCar for a while, and just get your thoughts on that, either of you?
WILL POWER: Yeah, you know, they've been a great partner. Obviously is it 60 years they were doing the Indy 500?
Q. 54 years.
WILL POWER: 54 years, which is amazing. But everything comes to an end at some point, so looking forward to next year with the TV package that IndyCar has signed. So yeah. But yeah, been great with ABC, great group of guys. They all did a fantastic job, and yeah, obviously sad to see some of those guys go.
ED JONES: Yeah, same. Same as Will.
Q. We go from the superspeedway of Indianapolis to the street course and then back to a superspeedway at Texas. Your thoughts on that, the diversity of that schedule and adjusting from race to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's just amazing how good you've got to be at so many different disciplines because no oval is the same, either. So yeah, Texas is going to be a totally different animal this year with the downforce level. Who knows how it'll play out. But yeah, you've got to just be good changing and adapting very quickly, and that's what IndyCar is all about. To be a champion, you've got to master every single discipline, which there's many.
ED JONES: I agree with Will. That's what's great about IndyCar racing is adapting to all those different types of circuits weekend to weekend. It's a big challenge, and yeah, you've got to be able to do that quickly and be on top of your game straight away. I think Texas is going to be extremely tough with the new downforce levels, and also looking at the heat there, it's like 104 degrees, so yeah, we'll see when we get there.