2nd Helio Castroneves – Chevy
3rd Marco Andretti – Honda
THE MODERATOR: Marco Andretti joins us. He is starting third in tomorrow's race. Marco, you've won pole here before. It seems like this is a strong qualifying track for you, at least, best finish 7th. What does it mean to you to have a good qualifying position tomorrow and also to represent Honda in the topâ€'3?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, it means a lot to be up there, you know, Pagenaud, the first two, that was really good laps, but we maximized everything. I'm proud of my guys, but I'm happier with the race car, so that's the main thing. If I was third and wasn't happy with the race car I wouldn't be very happy.
So it's 500 miles, it's a long time around there.
THE MODERATOR: There are new challenges this weekend, especially with the time of the race being moved. How has that affected you this weekend so far?
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, it's going to be more difficult for everybody, the track temp in particular, for everybody, being up. Honestly, I think we take quite well to it, a little more challenge, hopefully tighten things up if we maximize everything so that's the goal.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Helio Castroneves, who will be starting second in tomorrow's race, started from pole three times here at Auto Club Speedway, with a best finish of 5th. Helio, you have seen success here in qualifying. What do you think makes this track so challenging?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, there are so many things, actually. You know, I was happy with the AAA Chevy car, the performance was consistent. To do two laps exactly the same just shows that the car is good and also it's very consistent. Now the challenge is the temperature.
There is obviously â€'â€' it's slippery when it gets very hot and becoming very challenging when you â€'â€' even when you have like several lanes to go, the car sometimes just wants to go one way, and that's the biggest one, trying to find new lines without having any huge moments.
Q. One question for both of you. With the heat extremely hot today, maybe tomorrow is the same. Do you have a plan how to you handle to go the race distance?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, you know, you have to put it out of your mind and deal with what you're dealt, and you know that probably everybody is going to struggle at some points in the race, get through the first 300 miles and be in a good position. It's a really long race, so it's just survival for the first, really, twoâ€'thirds of the race. You know, our car so far I'm not going to lie, it's been handling great in attempts, so I'm â€'â€' in race, I'm even happier than I am in qualifying, so I hope we can prove that tomorrow.
Q. Marco, you mentioned you had a moment during your qualifying, also you're running on a symmetrical setâ€'up. Can you talk about those two things?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I'm not going to talk about the second one at all, but the first one â€'â€' yeah, just a little bit of a moment in one and two, and I knew that it was coming because I didn't chase the bar, I just knew that â€'â€' I wanted the car to turn, basically, because Ryan said he was understeering, so, you know, I just told him I'm only going to lift for understeer, so, just really put the car in the nose and made sure it turned and made sure we can come off on the bottom down here, like these guys.
Q. For anyone of you, number one, I haven't heard mention of the seam so far in the track; is that any trouble this year? And second how are the aero kits performing at this track for both the Honda and the Chevrolet? Can you comment? You're both running Chevrolet.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, he's running Honda.
Q. One Honda, one Chevrolet. Comment on that.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I didn't have a chance â€'â€' I didn't want to go to the seam because I know they are tough here, especially when they're hot. But I think it's been this way for many, many years already. Certainly the bump that they used to have in the back straight, I think, a few years ago after they grind it was becoming better.
But as every year comes by, obviously there is some challenge, not only â€'â€' I think the track keeps the same, but the aero package, they change last year, was one thing, everybody was same and now having two different package with the manufacturers, it creates a big challenge, competition as well.
In this heat that we gonna face tomorrow or face today, you gonna see maybe some cars going forward and maybe some cars going backwards. And like every other race when sometimes you don't have a good handling on the car, but at this point we feel that the AAA machine seems to be consistent, and I'm really looking forward for tomorrow.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, first question, the seams, I mean, it's the same as always, same for everybody, I think it's the character of this place; when you first think of Fontana, you think of the seams, and I think it's just one of the challenges that this place presents, and I enjoy it. It's fun. I say that, it will probably catch up to me tomorrow, but, no, it's very challenging, as he said, and the aero kit, not much has changed since Texas. I think our team in particular, the 27 guys have done an awesome job, sort of continuing to learn off of Texas, and we somehow managed to finish in the topâ€'5 there, but the car here is twice as good as it was in Texas, so proud of all my guys.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions? Any other questions for Marco or Helio? Gentleman, appreciate it. We will be joined shortly by Simon Pagenaud.
We're joined now by our Verizon IndyCar Series pole winner for the MAVTV 500, Simon Pagenaud. This is Simon's second career pole, also his first pole of the season and his best start at Auto Club Speedway. His previous best was 12th. Simon, obviously a great qualifying for you, leading your team as well in qualifying. What does that mean to you? It's been a competitive season not only amongst the series but among your teammates as well.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it's awesome to get the opportunity to run up front on ovals, and quite frankly, Team Penske and Chevy are giving me the opportunity to do so. The car is great. It's been good. We've been running well in traffic. Didn't really have time to try a qualifying run, but I'm glad it paid off. I'm really glad it paid off, because we have had such a strong performance in terms of performance. We have been strong all season, and my guys haven't been rewarded yet, so it's good for them to get a red hat, they're going to be proud to wear it tonight, and get back to work tomorrow morning.
THE MODERATOR: This is one of three, 500 mile races scheduled this season. How important is qualifying for such a long race?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It is be important if you want track position to get out of trouble early on, but you can also come from the back, like Montoya did at the 500 at Indy this year, so for me I think it's an important situation, just to be clear of traffic and understand your car and set it up for the end. I'm pretty happy with that. It's going to be a long, long race. There is a lot that's going to happen and traffic already breakâ€'away from traffic, so you might drop back to fifth, some back, it's going to be a long day tomorrow.
Q. Simon, talking to Kyle Moyer, who calls your race strategy, he's categorized your season as a lot of the other teammates had something to celebrate, you had yet to have a Pâ€'1 in either qualifying or a race. You accomplished one today. How satisfying is that? And, of course, it's not the big goal.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SIMON PAGENAUD: It's not. Qualifying, like I just said, qualifying means one thing; it's a reward for performance, but we've got a 500â€'mile race tomorrow, and first, like in Indy, we were really strong and I think the guys paced some of it, you know, so I hope I can give them a better pace for it tomorrow, but, you know, you got to remember, maybe my expectation was too high coming into this season, but this is our first season as a team together. It's a new crew, and we are building up.
But the nice thing is we're building up in a very good way, and it's really starting to gel now because we got some good rest last week, and we will see what happens now. We are just going to take things stepâ€'byâ€'step and just enjoy what we're doing.
Q. Simon, tomorrow for the race, the extreme heat, will it be a critical factor for the engine?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Good question. I think the biggest issue for the engine is, you know, debris and the sand from the air, basically, on the racetrack, and with so many cars and the draft that we create, the sand comes up into the air and goes into the air box. That's the biggest issue for the engines.
I don't think the ambient temperature will be an issue for the engine, really; it's more the balance of the car, how to set it up for the entire race. It's going to be tricky, for sure.
Q. Simon, looks like with the heat and the track conditions with the seams and so on, aerodynamic setâ€'up will be extremely critical. Can you talk about your philosophy or team's philosophy as far as going higher down force, to work with traffic, or low down force to get out in front and stay there?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I'm not going to say too much, though, because I don't want everybody to read it. I mean, obviously when you come to an oval, like just, preparation for the Indy 500 or here at Fontana, you always look at how much speed do you have on your tires. How easy would it be to break away from the pack, and then if you break away from the pack, can you stay in the lead? When would you meet traffic once you lap people, and then all these things helps you to decide how much down force do you need.
The thing is, when you are leading the pack, it's easy to run less down force, you don't have as much degradation, but once you get in traffic, all of the sudden it's like you have less down force because the air is disturbed. Then you need more, but you can't add wing as you go, so it's a tricky balance, and the car, the way it is right now, the setâ€'up that we all have, with the body kits, is quite draggy, so it's more rewarding to have more down force on the car and just draft people. So you might see that tomorrow. I think it will be very difficult to break way.
Q. What did you experience during practice as far as tire degradation and how long do you think they will last, before they drop off significantly?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it's very dependent where you are in the pack. If you're first, second, third, or if you're tenth and 15th. If you're 15th, you're going to have quite a bit of a dropâ€'off. If you're second, third, then you can manage it better, which is my goal, like we did at Indy, stay in the topâ€'5 the whole race and then attack at the end. You want to ride along and stay out of trouble for 400 miles and then attack the last 100.
So I think this is the strategy, personally, but yeah, I mean, depending on your position in the pack that's when you have the most degradation, and quite frankly, the biggest thing we don't know is the new aero kits. We don't know what Honda is doing or what or Chevy is doing, so it's difficult to have a good sense for the competition and what they're doing on their side, how much down force they're carrying, versus drag, so it's going to be an interesting day for you guys, for us, watching what everybody is doing and how they're doing it.
Q. How slippery does it get out there?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It gets slippery, depends on the lane you are running. A lot of times you see people running in the high lane because it's not so hard on the tires, because you don't steer as much, but when you drop down, that's when it gets slippery, and as the day goes on there will be marbles from the tires going in the other lanes, so that might be a tricky situation as well that we might encounter.
Q. Simon, you talked about the draft. Can you explain, like, if you're the pole sitter, you might be out in front, but are you going to be pretty much a sitting duck for those behind you? Is it different in that situation in Indianapolis versus Texas and here? Can you talk about the how the draft, being the guy in front, how vulnerable you are to the guys behind at those different tracks?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Really good question, actually. That's it is tricky part; that's what you want to decide on. It's going to be almost impossible to break away. You have to be realistic on that. So it's more about ride along and being in the right position save fuel if you want to save fuel, but tomorrow is going to be about being smart and positioning yourself in the right spot when you need. You won't see â€'â€' I don't think you can see people breaking away, like we did in Indy.
In Texas it was completely different as well. It was obviously â€'â€' I didn't run enough down force in that race; that was the key, but it worked at the beginning, didn't work in the end.
Q. I believe this is the fifth final question for you. (Laughter.) Your other teammates have had a chance to celebrate something this year and for you how big of a "downer" has that been for you? You came here looking for success.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I understand that, Bruce, but in the meantime I'm here for the long run, I'm not here for the year and two years, I'm not just here for two races. I know, you know, it takes a long time to build a team of the level of Dixon's, for example, or the level of Castroneves or Power, they have been with their guys for such a long time. So it's just like, Power said, it's always like starting a new job in a new company, even though you had the same job in a different company, it might be very different, and communication is key in racing. So we have been building up on all those details, and I think it's going well, so I have that to be happy about. I don't know many Penske drivers that actually won right away, so it's just the way it is.
THE MODERATOR: Simon, congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.
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