|Race winner Takuma Sato pours milk over his head|
Takuma Sato (Winner – Andretti Autosport Honda)
Paul Harcus (Race Strategist for Andretti Autosport)
Michael Andretti (Team owner Andretti Autosport)
Fernando Alonso (McLaren Andretti Autosport driver)
Helio Castroneves (2nd Team Penske Chevy)
Ed Jones (3rd Dale Coyne Racing Honda)
Winning Team Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: Paul Harcus, strategist, is alongside two gentlemen joining him after a great day. Takuma Sato, who wins the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, and Michael Andretti, who goes back-to-back, three out of four, at Indianapolis, which certainly makes for a great day, in what was a nail-biter of a race.
We watched all week, a couple of weeks, and it was clear you were very strong, Takuma. Not only that, but we learned five years ago, and in qualifying, that you're not afraid when it comes to an opportunity to win the race. You are going to give it every inch you've got. This year you got it done. Tell us about your emotions.
TAKUMA SATO: First of all, I'd like to say big thank you to the Michael Andretti and whole team, Andretti Autosport. Without their support, obviously I cannot be here today. The entire month with my teammates working extremely seamlessly well through the practice day, fantastic qualify, very strong start. At one stage I lost momentum, goes down to like P10 place. I just get down in my job, believe in the car, in the (indiscernible) pit stops.
Like you said, when I comes, I have to give 100% commitment. I knew I could do it. But just, you know, waiting the moment. The last few laps, they were the moment.
I know Helio is always come on charge. But he's just such a gentleman with such a fair player. I believe him. We go side-by-side turn one. It was job done.
The last two laps, the car worked beautifully. I just cannot thank enough everyone who supported.
THE MODERATOR: I watched the restarts. I've seen three- or four-wide. Going into one, I have one eye closed, I can hardly stand to watch the thing. Tell us about the strategy of getting this guy to the milk.
PAUL HARCUS: I think the biggest thing there is we had good cars which were prepared. We have such a great team chemistry, all the cars were good. We were all fast, which you could see right through the start there.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]We were trying to stay there. Middle point the race there, we had a pit issue, dropped us back. Takuma did a good job of keeping his head, just sort of working one-by-one. When he went into one, I just sort of close my eyes half the time. I'm afraid. I keep thinking, Are we going to make it? Great driving. I think he did a great job today of keeping his head about him and racing up the front.
THE MODERATOR: The guy who writes the check was agreeing about going into one. At some point, the prize we're talking about is the Indianapolis 500. Your druthers, you want a guy that's willing to go out there and go for it and grab that brass ring.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Hell yeah. We had the right guy doing it, for sure. He drove a superb race. I watched him very closely. There's many times where he was in a difficult situation, and he would get out of the situation. He showed a lot of patience. But then when he had to go, he went.
|Sato with team owner Michael Andretti|
There was one move where he passed two cars on the outside in one, which was a very important move, because that gave him the track position of the top two guys in front of him. That was one of the moves of the race, in my opinion. When I saw that, I'm like, Whoa, I think we're going to win this thing. He didn't let us down. He drove very, very well.
I'm just so proud of everyone on this team. The difficult part of having multiple cars is not everybody is going to be happy. There's some other cars that were very, very strong today that we had that ran into bad luck. I feel really bad for them. But that's why we have six bullets in the gun.
He came through for us. Taku did an awesome job. I'm so happy for him. Really happy for Honda. They worked really hard to get us here. I know how big this news is going to be tomorrow when they wake up in Japan. It's going to be huge. I'm really happy for them, that we were able to give them a win with our Japanese driver here.
TAKUMA SATO: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Michael, you're beginning to catch up with Roger Penske now. I know that was a big goal of yours. Back in October or November when you signed him, I remember saying, Now he has a team that can properly give him the right tools. You always said it's easier to take a fast guy and slow him down than take a slow guy and make him go faster. What have you seen with the development of Takuma?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He's brought a lot to our team. He's got a lot of experience, very technical. On top of it, he's a great guy. He's a great part of the team. He's done everything I thought he was going to do.
I knew he was going to be fast here. He definitely didn't let us down. He didn't let us down in qualifying, and he definitely didn't let us down in the race. I'm very proud of that. So happy to have him on our team.
Q. Takuma, when we used to go to Motegi, you were treated like a rockstar by the fans. How will this be received in your home country?
TAKUMA SATO: This will be mega big. I cannot imagine how it's going to be. Obviously, Motegi time, in Japan, it was a very good race, I thought. The fans very appreciate. For me is a personally home race, is always something special.
But nowadays, a lot of Japanese, the fans following IndyCar Series, particularly for the Indy 500. I know they flying over from Japan today. Many, many people came. So I'm very really proud of what we achieved, and team gave a super good opportunity. We showed finally a great result today, so I'm very, very pleased about it.
Q. Takuma, Helio was in here. He said when you made that final pass, you had a Honda, he had a Chevy, Chevy struggled all week, he said he didn't think he had enough horsepower. When you did make that pass, knowing you had a Honda, did you think he wasn't going to be able to challenge?
TAKUMA SATO: Honda as a package, they did a great job. Already showing some great performance from last year, but this year kept on going.
I know Penske is particularly strong in traffic. They were coming out of the gearbox. Once I get tow, once I leading, I'm sure they could pass as well, which was the case today.
Like Michael said, 10 laps to go I overtook them from outside. That really gave me a good position. I know Helio is coming, coming, coming. I speed up. He tried to attempt.
But I just got to believe myself, believe what the car capable is. Indeed, you know, come off beautifully. So I'm very appreciate for that.
Q. Takuma, a follow-up on the Japan thing. Like a lot of people, we've been to the races in Japan. We've seen your sponsor commitments. How soon do you have to get back over there? I assume they want you there quickly.
TAKUMA SATO: I mean, talking about sponsor, I mean, today, Ruoff Home Mortgage, Panasonic, Honda, Firestone, everyone was a great support.
I always think it's Japan suffering obviously since 2011, big earthquake. I know all over the world, many people suffering from that kind of stuff. But still 250,000 living in temporary house, certainly this one is give some energy. With the Japan program still getting stronger, any sponsorship is welcome to helping childrens and the family over there.
I keep on doing what we doing. The racing is the one part that I just passionately wanted to do it. All the sponsors supporting on that program. I cannot thank enough to them, too.
Q. When do you think you'll go back?
TAKUMA SATO: I don't know (laughter). I mean, at the Long Beach 2013, I went back to Japan and did a press conference. There was close to 300 media on the Honda first floor. The fans really, it was crazy good, in a positive way. So this one is even bigger. This is, like, the best win in my life in this moment.
I just cannot still believe it.
Q. Did you make any adjustments to the car all day? Didn't seem you were in much of a panic mode at all.
PAUL HARCUS: The car was good all day. Garrett did a great job there. We were confident on Carb Day, with the car, we adjusted there. Taku wasn't happy with the car, we went back on it. Today was very minor. One click a wing, a little bit on tire pressures. Really the car was underneath him all day, it was very good.
Q. Getting back to numbers, as an active owner now you've surpassed Chip Ganassi. I was wondering how much you pay attention, plans for the future. Ziggy, how many championships have you got here?
PAUL HARCUS: Michael has given me a few of them, so we're good (laughter).
I was with Al Jr. when he won. I think this is number three or four for me. I've been blessed to have good teams, good drivers that make my job easy.
Today was special just because this is one for the little guys.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I was going to say, I feel tall up here today. A pretty good feeling (laughter).
Q. Being second in the big three, now you're in the big two.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That's awesome. You know, somebody said that to me when we were down in Victory Lane. I'm like, Whoa, that's a big deal. Obviously I couldn't ever win it as a driver. I think I said this a few years ago, Maybe I was meant to win it a ton of times as an owner. Maybe when I'm 80 years old, hopefully I'll have more wins than Roger. That's our goal.
Q. Takuma, 2004 you scored your Formula One podium here. Now you have the biggest win of your career. Talk about what that place means to you.
TAKUMA SATO: Yeah, it's a fantastic place for me. Got on the podium first time in Formula One 2004. Back on podium again. This was the highest podium.
Well, I don't know. It must be something in it here that I do love. Indy Grand Prix always enjoying here. Unfortunately we didn't have a super competitive race on two weeks ago, but I knew Indy 500 is something team prepare for for long time. Looking at the history and, like, we talk about with Michael, but just winning all the time here. Not all the time, but just so competitive all the time.
It's just fantastic feeling. I love this place, not just because the winning, but the fans so appreciate. I respect them. They give me a great speed and great confidence. Going to turn one, it's always great to see, so colorful, so full of people. This is the place, mega place. It's just fantastic feeling.
Q. Takuma, a week or so ago, the entire Andretti team was brought in here. Everybody wanted to talk to the new driver from Spain. You sat down there and were virtually ignored. How has the world changed in one week or so?
TAKUMA SATO: Talking to me?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yes (laughter).
TAKUMA SATO: Sorry, sorry.
Fernando did obviously an incredible job. I mean, he was leading the race in his first attempt at the 500. I was watching, probably five, six, or ten places back. My teammates was leading, doing a group run almost. It was fantastic.
I mean, Fernando, tremendous commitment to come here, skipping Monaco Grand Prix. Show his smile all the time. He looks really he loved, enjoyed it. He just drove so professionally. He's obviously one of the best guy.
But Indy 500 is a race, you never know until very last lap. I was so pleasure to work with him. He's my old friend from Formula One. It's so great to work together. And Michael put everything together, six drivers, I think we were happy team.
Q. Takuma, as I recall, you didn't learn to drive until your late teens, early 20s. Now that you have this biggest win, how much longer do you think you'll be driving?
TAKUMA SATO: Well, right. So I didn't have opportunity when I was kid. I always loved, you know, the cars and motor racing. But I start racing when I was 20. So I know it's very late. But I just kept never give up. I always challenge it. That's why maybe I failed so many times, too. But, you know, made a mistake, learn it, then try to get faster or better than all the drivers.
Then it comes along, got scholarship from Suzuka and Honda. That virtually launch me into professional racing driver. Did a couple years in the British Formula 3, and won the championship in Formula One, and now here. Now I have a proper equipment, a great environment. Michael prepared a super team. So I'm so proud to drive one of Michael's driver. Today we showed the strength.
Age is something for the athlete. Age 40 is something you have to consider how you going to perform well. I think we proved Helio still up there, me up there, T.K. up there. We train really hard to maintain. Always just heart and the mental, the mental strength. You can keep on going. Someday it will have to retire, but I will have a more competitive race I want to now.
|Sato was ecstatic|
Q. Takuma, having come so close here in 2012, do you feel more redeemed or satisfied? Michael, do you feel it being a little bittersweet seeing you had two other good bullets in the gun that could have contended for the win.
TAKUMA SATO: Yeah, it's such a privilege to win here. So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had a drama in the past, it doesn't really matter. You winning today. It's just superb. Just coming onto the top, nothing else.
But, yes, I do feel after 2012 I really need to correct something I left over. Today I was so happy that I made it and won in a good move. I have to thank to the Michael for that.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, that's what I said earlier. When you have so many cars, not everybody's going to be happy. I got to tell you, I wasn't very happy there when we started losing all those bullets. We had really strong cars, but they just seemed like everyone started to have problems, including Takuma when he fell down, you know, because of the pit stop. I went, What the heck?
It was so weird because it was almost like that last year. We had two dominant cars, they both take each other out. At that point our best car was 20th. It was sort of a very similar thing. I'm like, What is going on here?
But I also knew because of that experience not to give up, you know, that we still had some really strong cars. Then you just started watching Takuma start picking 'em off. I was like, Whoa, we might have a shot here because he had a really car strong all day.
Yeah, I feel really bad for Ryan, I feel really bad for Fernando. Fernando drove a really good race for his first time here. I feel really bad for Alex, as well, because he had a bad pit stop. He was a strong car, as well. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened. I think Marco lost that winglet. It seemed like all the other cars just had a lot of bad luck, including Jack, who got caught up in that debris.
Like I said before, that's why we had six bullets in the gun, right? Luckily one came through.
Q. Takuma, when you heard your spotter told you that Castroneves was behind you, how nervous did you get?
TAKUMA SATO: Always nervous wherever he is. I know Helio know how to win here, too. But, you know, I was happy that it was only constant race on him, not five packs. We already have a good cushion between others.
Helio is the guy, he can go for really hard, with respect. I can trust him, as well. On track or off, we got on really well. Having battle with him is always good. Given the circumstance, we had such a strong package, like Michael said.
When it was new tire situation, so after the pit stop, everybody got fresh tire, the car not necessarily the fastest, I would say, because everybody could go flat out in traffic. That time I was really struggle.
But after 20 laps, our degradation must be one of the best. Garrett, my engineer, worked so specifically working for the consistent car, which I agree with. Yeah, so we didn't have a super, super fast down the straight, but I think we had such a consistent car. Give me confidence. Give me when you need it, you can really commit it. That's how we win today.
Q. Michael, specifically the engine trouble. We know Honda has had reliability problems. When those two went down, how much concern was there for you for the guys you still had left that their engines would hold out?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You're obviously concerned. But we sort of knew you're going with the odds. When you do have six cars, you're probably — if there is a problem, we're going to have a few of them go down. That's what happened.
But, you know, I don't blame Honda at all. I think, if anything, I blame all of us pushing Honda so hard. They had come to us and said, We can give you a little less reliable engine, but it will have more power.
We all, of course, said, Let's go for the power.
When we did that, obviously you know there's going to be some sad faces. That's what happened.
Q. For those of us who covered the 1991 Indy 500, our jaws dropped when you went to the outside of Rick Mears in turn one, then he came back with the same move. We'd never seen that before. Today's race seems like we were seeing that on practically every lap. How do you describe the nature of today's race, just how vastly different it is from when you drove here?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was really crazy because when I was here, they had the apron. The track was much wider. It was a bit easier. Here they were doing it, I mean, they were running four-wide into turn three. It was nuts. They were basically pulling it off. It was just amazing.
Then when he went into turn one, three abreast, I'm like, Oh, no. It was like, Whoa, what an awesome move.
That's what you have to do because everybody is so close, the competition is so close. You got to take risks. It's a risk/reward situation.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Because I think, you know, it's not just about this race, I think it's about all year. I don't like that there's certain tracks where one kit has an advantage over another. I just don't think that's good for our sport. I think everybody should be on equal ground. I think it will be much better for the fans that you have the Hondas and the Chevys on equal ground going at it at each racetrack. It's not that way right now. That's why I'm for it.
Q. Last year you mentioned the story began in 1987, your parents got the ticket, you went to Suzuka, saw the race. Would you put into words this transition and this whole journey, what does it mean to become one of the greatest Japanese drivers, and what was the biggest sacrifice.
TAKUMA SATO: I feel so lucky because I think everybody support me. I know when I was 10, a friend of my dad, the father, took me to Suzuka back in 1987, when I was 10. Very first time I went to the track. First time to see any racing car. That was Formula One. It was a gorgeous day for me. It just got me.
Since then, I was just crazy about motor racing. I just loved the car. Since then, as I said, I didn't have environment, anyone to give me a chance until 19 and 20 years old. When I ask my parents, Give me a chance, because the school had age restriction, you had to be under 20 years old. When I saw it, I was 19. Following year, the first chance to go there, if I'm not good enough, by all means, fair enough, I quit. But I just cannot stand without challenge it. I couldn't quit.
I was in university doing bicycle racing quite seriously. I was ready to quit everything. I just wanted focus the racing. Eventually the Suzuka Racing got me the scholarship. That's how we started. So I have to appreciate everyone involved supporting today. Is only because their support. It's not me. I was really lucky.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for coming in.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you, everybody.
TAKUMA SATO: Thank you.
Fernando Alonso Zak Brown Press Conference
|In the end Honda again let Alonso down|
THE MODERATOR: Fernando, on behalf of, I think, fans, media, officials, we want to thank you for being incredibly open and accommodating. You've gone out of your way to be available, which has meant a lot to people here.
Obviously you had a great day, but some disappointment in the end. Tell us about it.
FERNANDO ALONSO: Thank you, first of all.
Yeah, obviously disappointed not to finish the race because obviously every race you compete, you want to be at the checkered flag. Today was not possible. Anyway, was a great experience, the last two weeks. I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car. I didn't know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar.
It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500, you know. One lap you put on the lead there, it was already a nice feeling. I was passing, watching the tower, saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking at that moment if Zak or someone from the team was taking a picture, because I want that picture at home.
Thanks to IndyCar, amazing experience. Thanks to Indianapolis. Thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I'm not American, but I felt really proud to race here.
Yeah, congratulations to Sato San, to Andretti. We have been sharing the last two weeks all the meetings in the morning, the meetings in the afternoon. Takuma was a lot of help, coming from F1. The last two laps I was on my knees really pushing Sato. Extremely happy for the final result.
THE MODERATOR: For the folks here, tell us who joins us on the podium, their role on the team.
FERNANDO ALONSO: My physiotherapist, Zak (laughter). I think McLaren as a company, the success in IndyCar in the past, the success in Formula One, and now the road cars, the level they reach, we need to feel very proud as racing fans, as drivers, as journalists, to have McLaren here. I think it's a very good news for the sport. This is only thanks to Zak.
THE MODERATOR: Those of us here were aware of the role you played in making this happen. I would think it met your expectations and far more?
ZAK BROWN: If we put aside the last 20 laps, which is a massive disappointment, if we reflect back on the past month, it was outstanding. Fernando didn't put a wheel wrong. Showed what a world class world champion he is today.
Andretti, congratulations to Michael for winning. He did an outstanding job, as did everyone at McLaren. Just very disappointed for Fernando and everyone at McLaren to see him driving down the front straight with smoke coming out of the back of the car. Just stunned, but this is racing. It's 500 miles.
I think we'll look back on the month and feel very happy with what we achieved.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take a few questions.
Q. Most of the race you looked comfortable. The one place where you seemed to struggle compared to an experienced driver is when Helio went forward at the restart, you had to battle a bit. Did that feel like a difficult phase of the race or was it just circumstances? Otherwise, were you very comfortable with the way everything was playing out?
FERNANDO ALONSO: I mean, obviously there were some better moments than others on the race, but I felt competitive all through the race.
I think Helio and some of the guys, they've been very lucky with the yellow flag. I think with a trouble-free race, Ryan, Rossi, myself, we would be half a lap in front of everyone. That is the nature of this race. You need to be lucky in some moments.
Even with some unlucky moments of the yellow flags, we were in the group, in the mix.
So, no, I mean, it felt okay. Obviously when you are eighth, the seventh, you know the last 20 laps were intense, but I was taking care a bit of the front tires in the first couple laps of that stint because I knew the race would be decided in the last six or seven laps.
I think I had a little bit on the pocket before the engine blew up.
Q. Zak, when you discussed this project with Fernando coming to Indianapolis, what was your realistic expectations? Looking back to the history of the car, the real McLaren car, when there's ever the possibility, is McLaren maybe considered to build again a real IndyCar and come again with a real car, its own car?
ZAK BROWN: When Fernando and I first spoke about the Indianapolis 500, I wasn't sure what Fernando's response would be because I think not many racecar drivers in this world are brave enough to do what Fernando just did. Not just from a physical standpoint, but the whole world was watching Fernando race today. He put himself out there and exposed himself, delivered the goods, which isn't a surprise to anyone that has watched Fernando race.
So I was pleased, very pleased, that competing at the Indy 500 was his dream, it's been part of McLaren's history, and a dream to win Indy 500s in the future.
As far as building chassis, we historically have not been a manufacturer of multiple chassis. Obviously the current rules are for a single spec. I believe the new rules will be introduced in three, four, five years' time. We'll take a view then. But it's not something we have historically done in the past.
Q. Fernando, you said you tested yourself, proved to yourself. I know you can't make a superstition for the future, but is this a positive experience that leaves you hungry for more to come back again someday?
FERNANDO ALONSO: Definitely yes. Obviously if I come back here, at least I know how it is everything. It will not be the first time I do restarts, pit stops, all these kind of things. So will be an easier, let's say, adaptation. Let's see what happen in the following years. Yeah, I need to keep pursuing this challenge because winning the Indy 500 is not completed. It holds a new challenge if I can find a car that slow me down somehow.
Q. Fernando, we all watched a pretty dull Grand Prix this morning, a difficult race for McLaren. I'm assuming you're happy to be here today, not there. How do you pick yourself up and go back to Formula One now?
FERNANDO ALONSO: I'm never happy when McLaren is not finishing the race. I mean, is true that before coming here some of the questions were how you can trade Monaco race for Indy 500. This is the best opportunity for the team, this is the best opportunity to score points. I won two times there, I won two world championships. To drive around Monaco for a sixth place, seventh place, even a fifth place…
To be here is not possible to compare that thing. I think for motorsport in general, people that watched the race this morning in Monaco, the people that watch the race this afternoon here, I think they could not sit down for three hours this afternoon.
I didn't miss Monaco in terms of result, you know. So for the future, Canada, obviously we will try to keep improving. I think the car seems to be performing better and better. In Barcelona we were seventh in qualifying. In Monaco both cars were Q3. I think the second half of the season will be much more competitive and we will enjoy much more.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for coming in, gentlemen.
FERNANDO ALONSO: Last thing. Thank you for all media. I didn't won, but I will drink a little bit of milk (laughter). You follow me for two weeks every single minute, but I really enjoy. Thanks for the welcoming. See you in Austin.
2nd and 3rd place finishers Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We saw your interview, Helio. As best you can, you've taken it in good spirits.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, congrats to Takuma Sato, great job winning the Indianapolis 500. He came close once with Dario, now he finally made it.
What can I say? My race was pretty adventurous. We have a lot of things. We started from the back. I knew I had a good balance. Then we went to the front about lap 50, then were in the top 10. Unfortunately with the accident with Dixon and 77, broke a winglet and broke the front wing because it went off the track. I don't know how to be honest. It was a good save, I have to say that. This place bring the best out of me. It was pretty good.
Then we had to go back to the 23rd position again. Then I had a good start. They call green. I went. But they said I jumped the start. Very disappointed on that one. I would like to see some reviews. Hopefully they can convince me that I did jump the start.
We made the drive through, went back again. Got off sync, about to be a lap down and then finally we got a break with the yellow. Got in sync, be able to make some moves again, pass a lot of people. The car was really strong, even with the winglet broken, the car was really strong. Unfortunately, you know, there was that issue.
When I was seeing each Honda going away, I'm like, Here we go. That's what I said. But they gave the good engine to Alonso, but they gave the meaning engine to Takuma Sato. That was a good one.
I try everything I could with three laps to go, two laps to go. I went outside. Unfortunately my tires were overshot a little bit. I would have end up in the wall. I thought was good timing because I would try to make a move again. Man, he just took off and that's it. That was my last chance.
Really disappointed for the fans, for obviously my team. They gave me a great car. I did everything I could, trust me, everything I could. Unfortunately, second place is the best for us today.
THE MODERATOR: Ed, you keep studying the chart. Something in there that might have gotten you forward a little bit more?
ED JONES: I was just having a look, watching the TV as well, saying, Why didn't I get up there? I should be up there, so…
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You are up there, man. Are you kidding? Third place.
ED JONES: But, you know, it was a great race for us. Great car I've had the whole month really. We were running through traffic. But the race was so up and down for us. Solid start. We were running in the top 10, 11, for most of the first half.
Then when Dixon had his crash, thankfully those guys are okay, but I ran over some debris. It damaged the floor and also the rear wing. We had to change the rear wing. That sent me to the back of the field. We had to claw our way back up again.
Then we got some luck back. The last yellow, we actually pitted right before it, so it put us near the front. But then I had some bad luck again. I actually damaged my front wing, had a big hole in it. My legs got pretty cold, to be honest. I had wind blowing into them like crazy. Also created a lot of drag.
That meant I was really good in the corners catching up to other cars, but it was difficult in the straights. I couldn't pull up to them. We lacked that straight line speed for, I'd say, the last 40 laps. It was really hard for me to defend or even attack, which was really frustrating because I think we had the car to win today.
Great job to Sato and Helio. But, yeah, so frustrating. I don't know how many opportunities you get to be in that battle.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have to say he did a very good job. When we ran side-by-side, he was very smart. I have to say that you drove not like a rookie, to be honest, so congrats. You did a good job.
ED JONES: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Helio, what did you see of the flying car? Pretty much you drove right under it.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Flying? I saw they were flying. I duck, I close my eyes. When I open, I was in the grass. Hold on, you know.
No, I saw the 77 on the gray. I knew he would bounce back, that for sure, because it happened long time ago, I don't know, 2011, I think, almost caught me. I knew that would be a thing. When I saw Dixon, I say, Okay, he might be in trouble.
So I was already moving to the left. But the car, when they connect, they came in the pace so fast towards me in the air, wow, I really throw the car into the inside. All of a sudden I just saw the grass. I mean, I was in the grass. Actually, there was a hump. I don't know what happened, the car just jumped. I'm kind of like, Hold on, you know.
I thought, Okay, look around. Everything is fine. When we stopped because of the red flag, we noticed that there was the winglet broken and the front wing was broken, too.
Q. (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I did not. Like I said, I don't know how it broke the winglet. Some parts touch my car. It was really close. I saw really the car in the air.
Q. Helio, last five or ten laps, how much did that feel like 2014? And why or why not?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Man, it was different. It was different. 2014 we had something more. I'm just look, he did a 221.5 his last lap. By myself I was doing 220 .0. They were a mile and a half faster than us.
2014, probably a half mile an hour, maybe 0.7. You could see for me was really, really strong. Especially when you pass, they back off, lift off. When they come back, they come back really strong.
Actually when I went past, I think three laps to go, on the outside, I knew I would make it. As soon as I start turning, the car start pushing. I'm like, Oh, this is going to be a problem.
Then I thought it would create momentum for us, but unfortunately not even that. I wasn't even able to get that. So really a shame, really disappointed for that.
Q. (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, it's tough to accept. After so many things happen, that's at least give you the perspective that I did my best. I really push it. The guys did a phenomenal job. We drove our heart, no question.
The good news, sounds like we're leading the championship. Hey, there is always a positive note. I think that it is very positive.
Yes, finishing second again sucks. So close to get the fourth. I really am trying. I will not give up this dream. I know it's going to happen.
Q. Ed, compare 2016's Freedom 100 to today. How have you taken to this speedway, especially with the battle you had there with Helio?
ED JONES: Yeah, I've loved ovals since I started racing them. Last year I think we finished on podium in all three of them, Indy Lights.
Coming here, the big part of it is having a good car underneath you. I was fortunate to have that. Like you said, I've had good battles around here in the Lights car, where you can run side-by-side for a lot of it. When I was running next to Helio, it was a bit of déjÃ vu. It was good.
It's so frustrating, again. I've had five podiums or five top 3s on ovals now and I haven't won one. It's really frustrating not to get one. I'm working my hardest to get it the next time.
Q. Helio, talk a little bit about the first pass you made. I think you got him in three there late in the race. You came back around, were going after him again. I think that was in one. Talk about the difference, maybe why you didn't wait for three again.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Man, I made so many passes, now I'm kind of like confusing (laughter).
I passed Takuma Sato outside turn three for the lead? No, was 8, Chilton. I think was Chilton.
The thing is, with Chilton, I was pretty distant. The Andretti guys, they were really strong. If I did made a pass, probably because Chilton was in front, was actually helping me to get a little bit of a draft. That's why I made the pass.
But I could not. Turn two was really good, back straight was really good. Unfortunately, I was not able to do it. Trust me, I was really trying.
Q. Ed, you made it look pretty easy fighting with these veterans out there. Did it feel as easy as it looked? Also, how does it feel to have the respect of your peers, especially a driver like Helio?
ED JONES: Yeah, throughout the race, to be honest, the first half, the starts and the restarts, I was struggling quite a bit. But throughout the race, I learnt a lot through them. The last three or four, I was making up positions every restart. So it was a big learning process for me.
Again, I haven't actually done that much running in traffic. I was learning how close you could get, using my tools a lot, more than I have done in the past. Although it looked common or normal for me, I was learning so much every time I was driving, making passes.
Throughout the race, I actually mixed up quite a bit with Helio. He was the one car where I couldn't really defend from him. I realized he was really quick, especially in traffic. It's nice to have that acknowledgment from him. Hopefully we'll be racing for the win next year.
Q. Helio, you just watched a replay of going under Dixon. What is your reaction now that you've seen yourself?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Pretty impressive, I have to say. I was like, Wow.
See, he was passing me even before the finish line. There was not even a chance. Anyway, yeah, I'm not sure if his front nose touched the winglet. I was pretty lucky to avoid that. I'm glad he's okay, because it was a pretty nasty accident.
Q. You had the famous quote on Thursday, If the Honda's go full blast, they will not last. Are you sitting there with fingers crossed?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: They had 20 engines. I'm like, Man, I hope none of them last. Unfortunately one, mean one, end up winning. Yep, I knew it, at least one would make it. I have to say Takuma Sato prevail.
Q. Helio, on the last run you had going in, kind of a late run on the outside, it didn't stick. Was there any regret on your part at that point that maybe you didn't wait for a better opportunity? Was that pretty much the only chance there was?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, very good observation. I had the feeling the car would run off. He was behind. Still three laps to go, or that was the third lap. I remember Roger said something.
First, I don't think I would make it. Second, I think I would put myself in a very bad position to fight for the last two laps. So I have to thinking, you know, knowledge, try again on the second one.
Unfortunately, I mean, I couldn't do it. The car just start pushing a little bit. It just didn't suck in. I was very surprised, to be honest, because I thought at least was going to be very similar to what happened to 2014. But didn't even do that. That was a shame.
Q. Helio, 2003, you came up short; 2014, you came up short. If you looking back, if you can compare these three losses, which was —
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The first one, 2003. I knew that A.J. Foyt Jr. would back off that much in turn two, I would go for it. That basically made me lose the race. Obviously, I was about three, four seconds ahead, or two seconds ahead of Gil. It was so bad that I have to slow down to third gear so that we don't crash. Obviously, Gil came with the momentum and passed me. That would be the biggest one.
Now, '14 and today, I did everything in my power, in the Chevy power that we had, to make it happen. Unfortunately, it came short again.
Q. You said earlier you drove over debris. I was impressed on lap 175, you passed Helio. The yellow flags we had in the race, did it interrupt your rhythm or did it help you?
ED JONES: Early on, the yellow flags, the restarts interrupted me quite a bit, and I lost quite a lot of ground. I wasn't used to how aggressive the guys went on that first restart lap. I was adjusting to it. By the end, I was getting quite good at it.
That was a point where at the end of the race, the main place I could pass people was just at the restarts where I got double draft, worked it out there.
When I passed Chilton I think a few laps from the end, I only got next to him right into one, so I was fortunate that he backed off, otherwise it would have been much more difficult.
But, yeah, no, the speed got slower. I think it was like lap 160 is when I hit the back of Zach Veach on the back of turn four.
|Jones had a massive hole in the front of his car from contact late in the race. To have such a huge gaping hole in his car and he as a rookie still finishes third.|
Q. Ed, last October you were talking about how important it was to have a full season IndyCar ride, not just the Indy 500 that comes with the Indy Lights championship. How much better prepared were you for this race by having that full-season deal with Dale?
ED JONES: It makes a massive difference, in my opinion. I've learnt so much in the few races I've done so far. Having Seb as my teammate has been a huge help for me. Without having an experienced guy there, it makes it tougher for rookies to get up to speed, the setups and stuff like that. Everywhere we go, he knows exactly what we need. He has experience of it. I'm still kind of guessing a bit.
And having the full season, just being with the team, I've been with them now for quite a few months, so the relationship is really good. If you're running the full season, they're always going to put, in my opinion, more effort into the 500 car, as well, rather than just doing a one-off race.
Yeah, just getting into this weekend, there's nothing new I had to learn, compared to rookies or guys who just do the one-off race, where you're still learning the environment, rusty on a few things. I'm up to speed and gives me the confidence to attack as hard as I want.
Q. Helio, all the trips we used to make over to Motegi, you would see what a huge following Takuma Sato had in Japan.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah.
Q. The guy was known as a crasher a lot of times in this series. When he signed with Andretti, did you say, That might be the final ingredient he needs to start winning a lot of races?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Listen, Takuma Sato is a veteran, a great driver. He has a lot of misses. But when he get it, he get it, and not only in qualifying and racing. But today was his day. I didn't pick up anything different about signing with the Honda team.
But he did a great job. Just proved that age is just a number, because he's probably around 40, correct? There we go, see. I'm telling you guys. You guys think, Hey, you old, you old. We get better when we get old.
I'm glad he's over the hump, showing we still can win races and be competitive.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, gentlemen.