IndyCar St. Petersburg GP Friday Press Conferences

Will Power (Chevy) and Scott Dixon (Honda)
Will Power (Chevy) and Scott Dixon (Honda)

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with today's Verizon IndyCar Series post practice press conference. We are joined now by the fastest Verizon IndyCar Series driver of the day, Scott Dixon. Scott is driving the No. 9 GE LED Lighting Honda. His best start here in St. Petersburg is second. Also finished second three times here at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete.

What is it going to take to stop being the bridesmaid and be the winner here at St. Pete?

SCOTT DIXON: That's been the goal since 2005.

I think it started generally well. This weekend, the car, we've done some good homework in the off-season for ourselves, how the competition racks up. I think tomorrow will be interesting once the other competitors turn it up. We'll have to see where it goes.

Generally comfortable, in a different rhythm from what I've had here previously with the car, just with some fundamental changes we made in the winter.

It's Friday. It doesn't pay anything, doesn't mean anything. Hopefully what we learnt today, we can continue on and help improve the car come tomorrow, and more importantly for the race on Sunday.

THE MODERATOR: A few adjustments to the track overnight as well. Did you notice those on track today, the difference that it made throughout the practice session?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, definitely a big difference in turn three. It's typically a flat corner. I don't think they tried to achieve what happened, to be honest. I think, to be honest, I don't think it would really have affected us. I think it's more for the cars with very light downforce, the GT cars.

In hindsight, if we would have run, I don't think it would have been an issue for us. You have to compromise, do the best you can with the track. I think with the hours they spent last night changing the course, doing what they could with everybody here from St. Pete, the promoters, they did a fantastic job in a short period of time.

It definitely made that corner very tricky. It's something that I think can easily maybe catch you out, yeah, at any moment.

THE MODERATOR: This is the seventh consecutive year that the Verizon IndyCar Series has opened on the streets of St. Petersburg. What does the city bring to a season opener?

SCOTT DIXON: To me, this is the perfect place. Living in Indianapolis, you have a lot of cold weather. This year hasn't been so bad. But typically it's a nice change of pace to come down here. We spent a lot of time in St. Pete previously.

As far as an event goes, the city, as we all know, really embraces this race. For the past and present, they really love this race, which I think is important.

You have to have the willingness of the locals here, they surely do. I think with the combination of where it is, where it's located, I think it's probably one of the best street courses we go to as far as the spectators and being able to pass and put on a good race.

All in all, I think it's well-received. You couldn't think of a much better place to kick off the season.

THE MODERATOR: Joined also by Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. A six-time pole winner here on the streets of St. Pete. Also a two-time race winner.

Will, how great is it for you to be back on track after a long off-season, but also to recover and be second fastest in the afternoon practice, after a small incident in the morning practice?

WILL POWER: Yeah, it was about the same lap I did it last year. I couldn't believe it. Got in the wall again. Yeah, it's a good session. Definitely made some progress on the car.

Great to be here. Great to start the season off. A pretty long off-season not driving anything.

Yeah, the grid looks pretty nicely mixed up there with Honda and Chevy, which is great for competition. Makes for a really good, competitive year.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Did either of you experience any issues with brakes getting hot? Also, how does the pavement feel? Michael Andretti said his drivers were saying the new pavement is very fast, then back onto the old pavement, the car gets squirrelly.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's tough. The first session was really difficult. The car was on top of the road. It didn't feel like there was that much grip. Definitely nice and smooth. Yeah, really nicely done street course. Kind of setting the standard of how street courses should be.

Yeah, but no braking issues. Everything is pretty good there right now.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think, apart from what happened with three, I think they've done a fantastic job. I know next year they're actually planning on to finish resurfacing the whole track.

I think it's going to be better for racing, too. It seems like it's very smooth across both sides of the track, into four and into one, which is a bit challenging sometimes.

Q. Will, can you touch on what Scott said? What about the race come Sunday?
WILL POWER: It's hard to say. I mean, like Scott said, definitely have a lot of lanes to pass on, it's so smooth, especially into one and into ten there.

Yeah, we'll have to see. I think with this body kit, definitely made the racing tougher. It will be close. But what I see is these tires do degrade very quickly. I think it will be a good race.

Q. With the change in the rules, you have the option to run the alternate tires in practice.
SCOTT DIXON: My problem was on blacks. I didn't get a clear lap on my reds. Had traffic every lap coming out of the pits.

We left it too late. But, yeah, I spoke earlier, I think especially for newcomers maybe to the Verizon IndyCar Series, or rookies in general, I think it's a nice session to feel how those tires come in, the difference you can get from them.

I know Max, my teammate last year, was complaining about that a lot. It is a big difference. I think for the veterans, I don't think it's as much of an issue. It is nice. Maybe if the session were a little longer we could see how the falloff is. That's what I've noticed the most, is how short sessions are now. If you have a yellow out there or an incident, it's pretty much gone. I think we did three runs, maybe four runs. We'll have to see how that goes.

It is nice to have that option, for sure.

Q. In terms of the new brakes, you haven't actually run a full stint, but I'm just wondering if you have to go through any kind of effort, and how you feel in terms of what the race is going to be like?
WILL POWER: The brakes for me have been fine. It's not a really high-pressure track. I think it's when you go to places like Elkhart Lake, Indy road course, these places where you have massive brake pressure, and you notice the difference.

Here, you're not hitting the pressures you'd hit at other places. It's going to be interesting. With the new brakes, we haven't done a race with them. So far it's been fine.

Q. (Question about red tires now being used in practice)
WILL POWER: I would have voted against it, but, yeah, you get a bit of a read. We've adjusted our car for it. We know how they feel. I guess it's good for people who are not veterans.

Q. Earlier today Jay Frye and INDYCAR announced that all the manufacturers, Firestone, Honda, Chevrolet, Dallara, have all agreed to contract extensions. How big of news is that for the series, that now we know for the next several years moving forward it's going to be this group of people, and a possibility of an additional engine company coming in down the road?
WILL POWER: I think you could see the momentum with the continuity of drivers, teams, manufacturers, tire manufacturers, all that. It shows strength in the series. It really does. There was a time when there was a different set of drivers every year. Now it's the same group every year, same teams.

It's heading in a great direction, it really is.

SCOTT DIXON: Definitely a positive. Kudos to everybody I think in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and Jay, too. I know he's been working hard on these deals.

I think it shows that the manufacturers obviously know it's the right place to be. As we've all spoken about, if we could have the addition of another one or two, that would be ideal. Hopefully down the road with how the future looks, how they're paving the way for that to happen, I think it's all going in the right direction.

Yeah, I think it's exciting.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for the support of our INDYCAR Nation Fan Club for coming in today, and we'll see you tomorrow.


From left, Lisa Boggs, Mark Kent, Jay Frye, Art St. Cyr, Stefano De Ponti
From left, Lisa Boggs, Mark Kent, Jay Frye, Art St. Cyr, Stefano De Ponti

Manufacturers Press Conference
Jay Frye
Mark Kent
Art St. Cyr
Stefano DePonti
Lisa Boggs

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. Thank you for joining. This is my debut on this end of the microphone.

Today we have a great collection of competitors, manufacturers. Of course, Jay Frye, the IndyCar president of competition and operations. The first person seated here is Lisa Boggs, director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. On the far end, Stefano De Ponti, CEO and GM of U.S. operations for Dallara. We have closest to me, Mark Kent, director of motorsports competition for Chevrolet and Cadillac. Last but not least, Art St. Cyr, the president of Honda Performance Development.

This being the first official weekend of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series, we have some great news to share with the group. I'll turn it over to Jay, and he can distribute the news today.

JAY FRYE: Good afternoon. We're very proud to announce all four of our manufacturing partners have committed to the sport's future and signed multi-year extensions. this is the foundation of our five-year plan we talked about. It is, in our opinion, unprecedented.

We as a group, along with our paddock, have come up with a five-year plan. Part of that plan was the freezing of the aero kits and in the next three years having a universal kit. We can't thank our partners enough.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jay. We have a couple other points we want to make. We're coming off a year when six of the events reported record attendance, including the Indianapolis 500, in its hundredth running. Ticket renewal is very strong there. Of course, the TV broadcast numbers continue to improve, 55 percent over that period.

I wanted to have each of the manufacture reps speak to their company. We'll start with Lisa.

Talk about the importance of a multi-year commitment by Firestone to this endeavor.

LISA BOGGS: Absolutely. First, thank you all for coming down. I know it's a busy day. We really appreciate it as sponsors for us, and as manufacturers, that you're out here and supporting this event.

For Firestone, it is tremendous for us as a brand whose DNA is rooted in racing, particularly in IndyCar, to be able to look long-term with a wide lens and make plans along activation as well as engineering, and to really importantly be able to partner with everyone sitting at this table in IndyCar on what does the next five years, six years look like, to be part of that process.

That benefits us greatly. We can make plans and continue to leverage the sport. It is really a tremendous part of marketing, as I said, the activation, to engage consumers, to talk to them about our passenger tires, to really tell our story in a unique way.

This lens allows us to sit back and say, What do we want to do from here? Look at it, build on it year over year over year. That's great as a manufacturing company and a marketing company.

THE MODERATOR: I would point in today's announcement, we are not discussing or at least revealing manufacture terms. If they individually would like to speak to that on their own, they can certainly do that.

Let's go down to the end to Stefano. Last month your program was announced, a multi-year program. Speak to how much excitement there is both at the Indianapolis headquarters but also back in Italy.

STEFANO DE PONTI: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. I want to start, first of all, to thank Mark Miles, Jay Frye, all the people at IndyCar that allow Dallara the contract and partnership extension.

Secondly, is a great honor for me personally, for Dallara, too, to be seated with the great names, representatives from Honda, GM and Firestone.

Dallara basically is a small company that moved to the United States 20 years ago, thanks to IndyCar. Thanks to IndyCar basically we expanded our business, not only in the racing world, but IndyCar gave us the chance to establish an engineering company in Speedway, Indiana, and develop even more business.

The importance to have this partnership and extension with IndyCar is basically an unlimited value for us. IndyCar is a legacy for Dallara, and it is in Dallara's DNA basically since 1997, when we started.

Together we accomplished a lot of tasks, a lot of goals. We obviously are fully committed. We are fully committed and it is our duty to do our best, to work with IndyCar, and with our partners, to promote the series, to enhance the races, and to make sure that our fans, which they are generating interest all over the world, not only U.S., but also in Europe, in particular in Italy. We have more followers of IndyCar for the spectacular races that we are putting together.

In conclusion, for us, is a great achievement. I really personally am grateful for what we were able to achieve with IndyCar for the extension. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: I'm not sure, but I think free coffee at Lino's is on the docket.


THE MODERATOR: Art, let's move to you. I mentioned to you a little bit ago about how we would have this announcement. Obviously, there were people who expected it. This has been, again, part of your DNA. Why the commitment, multi-year, from Honda?

ART ST. CYR: First of all, I want to thank IndyCar and everybody else up here to join in the celebration, I guess we could say, of talking about where open-wheel racing is going in North America.

We talked about the same DNA — racing is in our DNA. We can actually say the same thing as Honda. If you think back to the founder, Soichiro Honda himself, he started a car company mainly so he could race. It's very important to Honda to race everywhere.

HPD was started in 1993 mainly to support open-wheel racing in North America. We have been in open-wheel racing in its various forms for 24 years consistently. We do that because we believe in the purity of what open-wheel racing represents in North America.

Our parent company, American Honda, believes in what open-wheel racing represents for our brand. We're very honored to be working with this great group of people to continue this far into the future.

This is something that you can almost expect from us because we're always in this. To have the stability we have right now is something we've never enjoyed before. I want to thank everyone for that. We're proud to be here.

THE MODERATOR: Mark, I've been in this for 30 years. I don't remember a time, at least when it was spoken, when there were so many multi-year deals in place.

Mark, let's speak to General Motors and Chevrolet, just how important this is to have the stability that everyone is looking for in this sport.

MARK KENT: We'd also like to thank Mark, Jay, everybody for this opportunity. We've talked a lot about DNA. Nobody's DNA goes deeper than Chevrolet's. There's actually a bust of our founder, Louis Chevrolet, in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Over a hundred years ago, Louis, along with his brother, used the speedway as their proving ground. Racing has always been a part of Chevrolet's DNA. We're excited about the opportunity to continue participating in this sport, competing head-to-head with Honda, using Firestone tires, Dallara as a chassis. It's a great combination. Couldn't be sitting with a better group of people.

A lot of people do ask why we compete in IndyCar. There's a lot of reasons. On track it gives us the ability to continue to develop technologies that we use in a lot of our production cars. Talk about small displacement, turbo charging, direct injection, all great stuff we do in our production car. This arena gives us an opportunity to build better street cars from what we learn on the racetrack.

It always gives us a great opportunity at the racetrack to display a lot of our products and get our products in front of current and prospective customers to let them see what great cars Chevrolet truly makes and hopefully get them to put Chevrolet on their shopping list.

Finally, just the opportunity to run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a great value for us to compete in the sport.

Like everybody else, we're very proud, very glad to be here, welcome the opportunity.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mark. Thanks, everybody.

We'll open it up to a few questions here. In the coming weeks, before we get to Long Beach, we'll have the Full Steam Ahead Program, with regard to what the 2018 car looks like, some more pieces to the puzzle as we move forward.


Q. (No microphone.)
ART ST. CYR: The framework for this extension started several years ago. It wasn't much of a step to extend this one. It didn't really require any effort. We knew what we wanted to do. There were some issues on our corporate side that slowed us down from doing it originally. But now was the time to announce this.

Like I said, there really weren't a lot of changes for us.

JAY FRYE: It was very seamless. I think everybody up here has been part of this five-year plan we keep talking about, which is a collaboration of this entire group, as well as everybody in the paddock.

It was important we have a path, a destination of where we're going. As mentioned earlier, the plan in 19 will change things for '21, '22, '23. We're always looking that far out. Want to make sure everybody has bought into what we're doing next.

In '17, there were a bucketful of things that happened. In '18, the aero kit, the universal car and there will be other things that happen. Every year we'll repopulate the bucket. Every year we'll look out beyond the first change in '21. We're really excited about that. It's really a nice template we can use.

Q. Jay, you talked about the five-year plan. You've also talked a lot about trying to bring another manufacturer into the series. Do the manufacturer contract, like Chevy and Honda, do they lock into a five-year deal with all their teams, lock out another manufacturer, or do you have something in place that prevents them from doing that?
JAY FRYE: We're not necessarily privy to what they do with the teams. It's important to all of us to bring in another manufacturer. A lot of this five-year plan based on that being one of the goals and one of the elements. There's a natural progression in '19, a natural progression in '21, possibility in '20 for a new OEM to come in. We collectively are all working on that.

I don't perceive a hurdle being thrown up, an attempt at a hurdle, because they're partners and actively are trying to help us.

Q. You look like you're dying to tell us the length of the deal.
JAY FRYE: Multi-year.

Q. Could you at least tell us if they sync up, '22, they'll all be up together again?
THE MODERATOR: I'm not sure any of them are prepared to do that. I'll give you a chance, if anybody jumps in.

JAY FRYE: In terms of the extension. It's important to get the entire group up on the direction we're going and say they are extending because of it and support it.

THE MODERATOR: I think they're all individual deals, multi-year. How about that?

Q. Stefano, this is your 20th anniversary since you came into IndyCar in '97. Could you have foreseen you'll still be here and have a long-term extension?
STEFANO DE PONTI: Thanks for the question.

Of course, you said it right. Dallara came here in 1997. That has marked the Dallara presence in North American motorsports. It was an important step.

Obviously the plant, facility, engineering center we built in Indianapolis was, for the most part of it, obviously to support our program here as a partner with IndyCar.

I personally wish, yes, that the extension will go beyond the set extension we have so far. We would like to be very, very clear, to be trustful and a supported partner of IndyCar as a manufacturer.

Obviously, as an engineering company, we like competition, of course. We welcome everything that IndyCar decides to do with us for the future.

At the end of the day, we want to be, and we are committed, to work with IndyCar for the benefit of the series. That would benefit all of us.

Q. Can we just get it on the record from both Chevy and Honda, that you would both welcome a manufacturer within IndyCar.
MARK KENT: Chevrolet's answer is yes. As Jay pointed out, as we've worked this multi-year plan, a lot of it has been around trying to get other manufacturers to join the series.

It's great competing against Honda. It would be also great to compete against others marketplace competitors.

ART ST. CYR: The same thing. Even when we were the sole supplier for six years in open-wheel racing, we actively were looking to get more people to compete. We want to compete with the other OEMs on the racetrack, as well.

We actively have offered support for new manufacturers to come in, give them a little bit of an understanding of what it takes to compete in this level of competition.

So, yes, officially.

JAY FRYE: One thing with the plan with the manufacturers is also new teams. That's part of this process. There's a couple things happening right now, but I think it can get bigger and better, more opportunities for others. That's part of that plan.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for joining. This not only is our campaign of next, they are the past and the now. They'll be part of the future, as well. Thanks to Lisa, Mark, Art and Stefano. Thank you very much.

Video: Part 1

Video: Part 2

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