1 – Alexander Rossi (Andretti NAPA Honda)
2 – Will Power (Penske Verizon Chevy)
3 – Ed Jones (Ganassi NTT Data Honda
THE MODERATOR: Joined now by the winner of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Alexander Rossi, driving the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda for Andretti Autosport. This is Andretti Autosport's third win here on the Streets of Long Beach. Alexander is the fifth driver to win the race from pole but the first to do so since 2007. He has finished on podium in every race in the 2018 season thus far.
You mentioned several times that being from California, this race feels like a second home race to you with a lot of guests and friends and family out here. How rewarding is this win for you personally?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Very. It's pretty hard to put into words honestly what it means. This one, even though it's not my true home race, it really feels like one, and the crowds here and just the whole atmosphere is so welcoming and inviting that it's no surprise that this race has been on the calendar for so long. It's a pleasure to be able to come here and race, first of all, and to be able to win here is pretty special.
This one I'll definitely remember for a very long time for a lot of different reasons, and I'm very glad that there were so many people here, as you mentioned, that were able to witness it.
THE MODERATOR: Didn't make it completely, several restarts that you had to fight off the rest of the field, but it seemed almost easy, your restarts were very strong all weekend. Where did you guys find that speed and ability?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Well, I mean, Turn 11 is kind of the most important corner on the track any ways because it leads on to the longest straight, so we put quite a bit of focus on that throughout the weekend even for a qualifying lap to be able to get a good drive out of there, and the Honda engines have pretty amazing drivability, and that allowed me to do what we were doing today. Yeah, I mean, it's an important aspect of the race for sure, but then you obviously have to not only get a good drive out of the last corner, but you have to be clear on cold tires and all those things, and in order to do that, you have to have a car that allows you to, and obviously I did all weekend.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Q. Those last nine or ten laps, were they all qualifying laps, or did you still have something in reserve?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: We had a bit in reserve, no doubt about it. I was happy with the gap with second. I knew where and how much Push-to-Pass Will was using. He definitely started those nine laps with more than we did, and I let him burn it out a bit. But yeah, we had enough pace in reserve if we absolutely had to use it.
Q. You didn't turn a wheel wrong all weekend, and to have a weekend like that, is that as close to perfection as you can ever hope to have?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I suppose so. You know, you always look back on things, on what could have been better, but yeah, I think that the car was — we nailed the setup really every session, which is very hard to do in this championship with the changing conditions and the different rubber that gets laid down.
My engineer Jeremy Milless and the entire engineering department led by Eric Bretzman was really on top of their game this weekend. I think we had two cars to win for sure, and I feel very sad about stuff that happened to Ryan kind of from yesterday afternoon, but Zach and Marco showed the strength of the cars in race condition, as well, today, and it would have been pretty cool for Zach to be able to get his first podium. He was really close.
Q. There's been a lot of talk from us about what's it like to have friends and family here and support and a lot of talk from the drivers that have such people out, oh, it's great. Can you talk about specifically how that manifests? Is it something you think about during the race? Is it just having them visit when you're not racing in the paddock? How does that type of support actually change the way that you drive?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I don't think it changes anything. I just think it's nice for them to be able to be a part of it, and especially my family because I was racing in Europe for so long, they didn't — a lot of them it's not feasible to fly overseas to go watch me drive a race car. But when it's only a five-hour, six-hour drive or an hour flight, it's a lot more realistic. So I'm just glad that they've been able to see what I've committed so much of my life to, and my parents, as well. But I don't think it even crosses your mind, honestly, when you get in the race car.
Q. You've driven in Formula 1, you drove the car from last year, and now this new universal kit, can you talk about how enjoyable it is to drive this car over the other two types you've driven?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I think that's a little unfair of a question. You know, they each have their strong characteristics, no doubt. But I think that this car, you can really play with the limits of it, which is nice for us. It allows us to kind of over-extend a little bit and still be able to reel it back in without a huge consequence, which is nice. It's a lot of fun.
You know, the easiest way I can describe this year's car, I think, is from a physicality level, the actual pure strength you have to have is down because there's not as much downforce so the wheel isn't as heavy, but you're holding your breath for pretty much the whole lap because it's trying to get away from you, so the cardio demand is higher.
It's hairy out there for sure, but I think you ask anyone, and especially if we look at Phoenix last weekend, we all had a smile on our face, no doubt about it. That's just a huge hats off to Jay and the competition department of IndyCar. It's not an easy task to come up with a solution that kind of hits all of the targets, and I think that they came as close to perfection as possible with this car. I'm very proud to be able to drive it, and I'm very also happy that Andretti Autosport has had a good start to the season with it.
Q. Apart from your dominance this weekend, the other thing most talked about is the pass by Sebastien Bourdais lap 60, 61, I think, when he passed like three cars, have you seen —
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I haven't seen that, no.
Q. So you won at Indy and Watkins Glen and Long Beach —
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Those are three good ones, huh? Is that your question?
Q. That was pretty much the question, yeah. What does it mean to you?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I realized that when I was told on the podium that that was the case, and that's pretty spectacular. I certainly hope I haven't peaked too early with those three. But yeah, no doubt about it, I mean, if you're going to hit the wish list, those are the three. And yeah, I don't really have anything more to say than it's kind of hard to believe and hard to understand, and it's something that will definitely take a lot of time to appreciate, but we don't have that much time to appreciate it because this series just likes to keep us going, so we're on track here in another four or five days, and you're only as good as your last time on track, so we'll have to go re-prove ourselves again on Friday.
Q. I know so much of success has to do with the team and the car and all that, but as a driver, have you done anything to raise your game that can explain all these great results you're having? Is your confidence higher? Are you in better shape, anything like that?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: No. Sorry. Everything is the exact same as it's been.
Q. The global CEO of Honda was here this weekend. I believe he was out on the podium —
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah.
Q. Was he happy, and did he say anything to you?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: He was happy, man. I mean, that's huge for us, to be able to have him come over to this race and to have a Honda car on pole and two of the three cars on the podium be Honda cars, that's fantastic for all of us that are obviously supported by the manufacturer and HPD. Everyone at Honda works so hard to get the best of the best opportunity to go out and win races, and it's been a pleasure to be a part of their team and their success starting in 2016. It's a true privilege to be able to drive for them, and I'm glad we were able to put on an awesome show for him today.
Q. Will kind of talked about the fact that he thinks that the competition in IndyCar this year is at a higher level; do you feel that way, as well?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: For sure. I mean, I think last year it was definitely at a very high level. I know this is the most competitive championship I've ever participated in. When you add in the guys who are the — the Scott Dixons and the Will Powers of the world and guys that just — all they know is winning, and then you combine it with obviously drivers who are massively talented like Rob and Jordan King and these rookies who are making an impression, Zach Veach, who drove from P17 to fourth today, which is huge. I think you have talent across the entire board. I would absolutely agree with Will on that, and it's great. I think it creates a very good show for the fans, and it makes all of us — it demands perfection, and it demands us to be on top of our game, and you can never rest on your laurels, you've got to keep pushing.
Q. Just minutes ago, former IndyCar champion Will Power said that you have proven this year that you are the man to beat this year. How does that make you feel, and what's your reaction to that?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: That's cool. But we'll see next weekend, right? I mean, like I said before, you're only as good as your last time on track. Until we hopefully are in the fight for a championship at Sonoma and we can come away with that, then everyone else is the person to beat, as well.
Q. You were hooked up this weekend, and your teammates were very, very strong, as well. Is there something that Andretti Autosport has found that no one else has figured out yet, or what do you attribute that phenomenal success to?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I don't want to say that per se, because I mean, Penske and Scott were running — Scott without the penalty would have been challenging us, as well. It's a very competitive championship.
You know, we've had a good three races, and we've been able to get the car in the window pretty consistently. But that's not a guarantee for every weekend. There's a lot of very, very strong teams and strong drivers in this championship that have the capability to beat us, and I just think that the effort that's put in back in Indianapolis at the workshop and the continual desire to be better is something that makes a difference. We're a very motivated team right now. It hasn't been the easiest kind of three, four years for Andretti Autosport, and there was a time when they were the champion. So they definitely — as a group, we all want to get back to that point, and we're trying very hard to make that happen.
Q. I saw an interview with you coming into IndyCar where you said that Long Beach was one of the courses that you really liked. What is it about the layout of the race as well as the atmosphere of the weekend that makes this special?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Well, first of all, I mean, I think it's one of the most highest attended races outside of the 500. It's in Southern California, so that's cool. The weather is amazing. It's just a huge energy and buzz about the entire facility, and the event does such a good job of hosting us. There's different championships racing.
And beyond that, the actual flow of the circuit is awesome. You have a lot of street tracks where it's a lot of kind of slow, awkward corners at times, and you can't really get into a rhythm, whereas here you can almost treat it like a road course. I mean, obviously you have the walls and the bumps and the lack of grip sometimes, but the flow that you can get in as a driver is very much similar to a classic road course, which is a lot of fun.
Q. Did the full course yellows have any major effect on your strategies today, or was it smooth sailing?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I think it affected how much we could have won by, but no, it didn't change anything. I mean, we were fortunate that the yellows didn't come out at a bad time, and they had come out once we had already stopped or whatever. The only thing that it did was took away my gap that I had. But at the end of the day, that doesn't really matter; as long as you're still able to stay in the right position, it all kind of becomes irrelevant at that point.
Q. Last year Andretti Autosport came here, all ran strong, all four retired with mechanical or electrical gremlins, and this year you all had incredible pace again, three of you ended up in the top 10, you won. That's got to be a little bit of extra sense of satisfaction to kind of get one back after last year.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Hugely. This was one that was circled on the calendar for us for a while, and last year was heartbreaking. I mean, if I wasn't — didn't have the opportunity to win, Ryan had the opportunity to win. And to have all four drop out with mechanical issues, that's the way of the sport sometimes, and I'm glad that the balance of luck, if you will, kind of came back to us a little bit this year.
Yeah, I mean, there's a huge sense of satisfaction that we were able to still have the strength that we had last year, especially when we look back three years or two and a half years to 2016, when street courses were kind of the bane of our existence. To make that kind of strides forward that we've made in the past two years is pretty special, and very cool to be a part of on the inside, and as a driver to go from pretty much coming here and it being an undrivable situation to coming here and Friday through Sunday you have an awesome race car under you is a very special feeling.
THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and get started with our Verizon IndyCar Series post-race press conference. Pleased to be joined by our second- and third-place finisher, Will Power and Ed Jones respectively. Will Power is driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet for Team Penske, finished second in today's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Podium No. 63 for Will Power in his career. Will, we noticed towards the end of the race, you did have a lot of Push-to-Pass left. Did you think you might have a shot to overtake and get the win?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I did. I mean, I needed to get close enough to him to make him use his, but I just stayed at that one-second gap, just kind of couldn't make time on him enough to use it up. But yeah, it's like qualifying every lap for both of us there at the end. At the end of the day, I mean, Rossi was just too fast all day. Just really good. Yeah, that's pretty much all we had.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Ed Jones, driving the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Started 13th, finished third, his second career podium in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The last one came at the 2017 Indianapolis 500, but his first podium with Chip Ganassi Racing team. Ed, obviously a great result for you today. I know Phoenix didn't end exactly the way you wanted it to. Does this feel like a bit of a redemption for that?
ED JONES: Yeah, definitely. It's been an up-and-down start to the season for me with Chip Ganassi Racing. It's a big move for me after my rookie season. We struggled this weekend early on, especially on Friday. We made some good jumps for Saturday, but we still qualified 13th, which wasn't good enough.
But you know, the guys played a great strategy and did great pit stops, and a little bit lucky with the yellows, as well, to be able to end up third.
Yeah, it was great after the disappointment at Phoenix where we were on easy for second place, so that was disappointing, but it's good to be on the podium, and hopefully this will give us some momentum for the upcoming races.
Q. How much did the weather play an impact in the car with the clouds coming in that weren't there at any other point this weekend?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, track temp just helps this car because it gets its downforce from the floor, so any time the track temp goes down, you get more grip and less degradation, so yeah, that certainly helped a bit of that. There wasn't that much degradation as we thought. If it had been a hot, sunny day, I think it would have been a little bit hotter, but yeah, it's kind of hard to tell because we were all running full tanks and everything.
ED JONES: Yeah, I agree with Will. Degradation wasn't really much of a factor for us. I think getting up to speed was a bit more difficult because of the cooler conditions, and for us anyway, the balance usually when it was hotter was quite different to the cooler conditions, and I think that helped us in our position quite a bit.
Q. Will, we talked about the tires; how much did fuel consumption figure into the pit stop strategy along with not so many yellows, I guess?
WILL POWER: Yeah, we got that yellow at the beginning of the race, which kind of really helped get to that number we needed to. I mean, we were saving fuel pretty much the whole first stint. But kind of after that, it was reasonably easy where the yellows fell to get that number on two stops. So yeah, we caught that last yellow perfect, or the yellow that came before the last stop, well, just after my last stop. It kind of caught Dixon out. But yeah, that's the problem with pits closed, you can just totally ruin someone's day who's done a good job.
Q. Guys, Long Beach has traditionally been sort of a springboard. Even though it's a road and street course, it's sort of been a springboard going into Indianapolis. Do you feel like that this year?
WILL POWER: Yeah, well, looking at the crowd, it's pretty impressive. A lot of people here. If you look at the series and everything as a whole, it's at a great level as far as teams and drivers go, and it's on the upward slope.
But yeah, it's just a cool, historic race, and you would say it's second to Indianapolis as far as wanting to win.
ED JONES: No, I agree with Will. I think the turnout this year was incredible. You know, always the atmosphere is good here, but even from — I had already done two years here before, but from the past I think it's even better, and the amount of people and the interest in IndyCar now has grown, and it looks pretty good for the month of May.
Q. Will, you've been in the series a long time now. Is this the most talented field that you've ever had to race against?
WILL POWER: Yes, I would say right now is the most competitive, talented group of drivers that the series has seen. When you look at how Rossi has come on and the rookies that are here this year, guys like Wickens and so on, it just gets harder. It gets harder and harder, and the common body kit I think was a really, really good idea. Yeah, great, great, honestly. To win and be on pole these days, you've just got to get it so right.
Q. The new car, the new downforce, the new aero package, is this an easier car to drive, or is it more driver, and you like being able to do the driving?
WILL POWER: It's definitely more driver input. You're just sliding — you slide around a lot more.
Physically, you know, not quite as physically as hard, but you're just on the wheel so much more. I mean, you're brushing the wall all the time because it's just sliding a lot more. Way, way better. Enjoy this car the most. I can't tell you — I think since Champ Car, honestly. That's kind of what it reminds me of. Yeah, we've been talking about taking downforce out, and they've done it. I think when you think about the short oval when we raced at Phoenix, you're actually braking there, and we haven't braked in an oval for about — probably since CART days. Yeah, it's exactly the right direction. You can follow closer, and it's more about the driver.
Q. Ed, you raced here in Indy Lights, had some success. How much did that car relate more to this year? I know last year the car didn't really relate to what you'd had in Indy Lights. How about this year? Is it a little bit closer?
ED JONES: Yeah, for sure. I think the style of driving now is much closer to what the Indy Lights car is. The package with the Indy Lights car and the Cooper tires, now the new IndyCar and the Firestone is actually pretty similar, the style. Obviously the speed is different.
But I think it's a lot closer to that, and I think it's very good for Mazda Road to Indy and for drivers coming up for preparation. For me it was quite a big jump last year going into what the package was, whereas now I think coming into this car, it's a lot smoother transition, I guess, just because it's a lot more similar in the way you have a lot less grip, you're sliding a lot more. And the thing is, what Will actually said, I think in preseason testing — I caught on to it, too, on Friday, with this car you can't really build the setup around to exactly what really like. There's kind of one way you have to drive it. It has to be pretty loose, and that's the only way to be quick, to be quick with this car and have it moving around. That's pretty similar, as well, to what the Lights car was like.
Q. Will, you've had weekends in your career where you didn't turn a wheel wrong all weekend. Alex had that weekend this weekend. What's it like when a driver is just able to have a perfect weekend?
WILL POWER: Yeah, that's a great feeling when you have one of those weekends. If I remember last year, I had one of these weekends going at Barber, quickest in every session, pole, leading all but the last 15 laps, and we got a flat tire. But yeah, that's pretty — it's great when you just dominate the weekend, don't get caught out by a yellow. Yeah, when you look at what Rossi did this weekend, man, really, really, really strong. I think he's going to be tough to beat in the championship. He's definitely what I'd call a stand-out of the field right now in every respect. I mean, even when we saw him at Phoenix on the oval, as well. Yeah, you'll have to beat him, I think.