Honda Indy 200 Sunday Press Conference

From left, Power, Pagenaud and Munoz
From left, Power, Pagenaud and Munoz

1 – Simon Pagenaud – Chevy
2 – Will Power – Chevy
3 – Carlos Munoz – Honda

Simon Pagenaud

THE MODERATOR: Let's welcome the winner of today's Honda Indy 200 Mid-Ohio. His eighth career win, fourth of the season. It's your IndyCar race win 185 in the history of Team Penske, most by any team, and extend your championship lead to 58 points over your teammate, Will Power. Pretty an exciting day. Tell us about it.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I thought it was an incredible race, actually. The first part of the race went really well, and you know, came out, I thought it was going to be like Toronto again. But fortunately we had to the pace to bounce back after the yellow came out. And on the Red — On the Black tires, we saved a bunch of fuel and tried to stay in contact with the guys that were going to pit next.

Will got us on the pit sequence, which was a bit of a surprise because we had quite a gap on him, but he managed two more laps.

And then my only chance, really — I mean, actually before the next yellow came out, he was struggling, yeah, and I was about to get a shot to trying to pass him, and the yellow came out. So then I knew that my only chance was really going to be on the restart.

So I got the tires ready, my car, the PPG car on the Firestone Red was just incredible. I knew that was going to be my chance. And I tried to set him up in four; didn't work out. Tried for five, and six, didn't work out. And again, he made a little mistake on nine.

So then it was my chance for 11, which is a very tricky corner to pass, but we managed to make it side-by-side. And then I crossed him in 12, and that was it for the pass.

It was an interesting lap, too. I was out of breath at the end of the lap. But it was great racing. Will raced me hard and fair as usual, and I thought it was really good for the fans. Thanks to Penske for letting us race like this.

The biggest thing here I found, I was really impressed with the crowd today. The infield was packed. And on the crew down lap, it was incredible to see the enthusiasm of the fans.

And I think obviously Verizon is a big support of us, and they are doing the right things for the sport. So I'm just super proud to see what's happening with IndyCar and to see it on the rise, is pretty cool.

THE MODERATOR: You said you injured your back Friday in practice. Was it an issue at all during the race today?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I tell you, it's incredible. The doctors, they did an incredible job. They were by my side the whole weekend. I didn't get to be debrief much with my engineer this weekend. He pretty much did everything on their own and my goal was to get as good as I could for the race.

Luckily, the Mid-Ohio doctors and IndyCar doctors managed to — found me exactly what I needed to get for the race and during the race, I didn't have much pain. It was much lower compared to before. So it didn't bother me at all. Only on turn nine, it was every lap, it was a little difficult to brake and turn. But it didn't really bother me, so that was great.

Pain is coming back now but it doesn't matter because we won the race. (Laughter).

THE MODERATOR: We are three-quarters of the way through the season. How do you approach these final four races?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think what we did today was exactly what we needed to accomplish. This was a road course where we knew we could be competitive. We knew Dixon could be really strong here. He had a bad day, so we need to capitalize on that, and then it was clear it was going to be Will and I in this race.

I was calculating in my head, if I finish second to Will, I lose ten points, and that's only 38. You don't know what's going to happen in the next four races. So I thought this is my time to go because I didn't have much to lose. It was my time to be aggressive. The car was just fantastic to drive on the attack more and I took a chance and it worked out. So that was the right approach, and when it works out, it's great; it's just one of these days.

I think the approach, it stays the same. Unfortunately and fortunately for the fans and the sport, IndyCar Racing, is you never know what you're going to get, right. You never know who is going to win. You can start last and win the race; that's the beauty of this sport. It's also at times frustrating for guys running up front. But that's what makes it so interesting. You just have to accept it. So when you have a chance to win, you have to get it.

Q. In one way, that pass that you were talking about with Will Power, it pretty much out-powered him in many respects.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It was a game on Will's name — (Laughter).

Q. I mean, after that happened, Will was — I'm going to back off. What was your thinking in doing it that way? Some guys may have been overly safe if it was their teammate.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I thought, you know, we're battling for a race win. We're battling for a championship. It was hard racing for sure. It was close racing but it was clean, to the limits. I think at the end of the day, we didn't crash. We did what we were supposed to do as top drivers. I thought it was a great battle, and it was fantastic for the fans, I think what happened.

I just saw a chance and I went for it, really. Didn't think much more of it.

Q. And secondly, do you have an appointment back in the city to work tomorrow or on Tuesday for some more work on the back?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, that's going to be the key — I was going to go on vacation, but time on the plane is not a good thing. Sitting down is not a good thing I'll be lying down for the next week and try to get better. We have four more races and of course the championship, and that's my main priority, so I might have vacation at home.

Q. Do you have a guy you work with at home.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes, actually my guy is here on every race. It's unfortunately it comes from my dad. He's having the same issues. Unfortunately that's how I was born. I've had this issue since I was a little kid, and it can happen. One time it happened when I was cleaning my car at home. It's just one of these things you've got to deal with it.

Q. I wanted to ask you yesterday and I didn't get the chance, but one of the things you've been able to achieve this year is bonus points. You've been getting a lot of bonus points in pole, a lot of laps led, a lot of most laps led. Do you think about that at all; the fact that you've been able to extend your points lead by the way of all these extra bonus points you've got?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't really think about fastest lap of the race, because you never know, someone have an issue, and they may go for one point by doing the one fastest lap and you can't fight that. When one guy goes on a light fuel load with new tires, he's going to do a faster lap, there's nothing you can do about that.

Pole position is just an advantage you are going to get at the start. Like here, it was a huge advantage. So just work as hard as I can. I just think we have a really good understanding of what we need now for the Red tires, for the Red Firestone tires with Ben, my engineer. And I think that's why we've been able to be so strong in qualifying lately. But certainly six points we got in qualifying, so that's tremendous for sure, and at the end of the year, it's important.

THE MODERATOR: Just to clarify, I'm sure you know that there is no bonus point for fastest-race lap. I think you meant fastest lap in qualifying, bonus point for leading the lap, for winning the pole and two points for leading the most laps.

Q. You mentioned earlier this week that you thought this was your best year as a racer. What's different? What's working so much for you?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I drive for the best team. That helps a lot when you have the best car. I've got a lot of knowledge with Ben, my engineer, throughout the years. We've worked together since 2010. So there's a lot of knowledge there, what we need to do. He knows exactly what I need. And actually, he knows, because my attitude sometimes, what I need, more so than what I say.

So these kind of things is priceless. I also think I'm more and more comfortable in the IndyCars because I've been around since 2012. So each year, you master the tracks. You try to work details here and there. It's very much a detail-oriented series where it would make it very difficult for someone to step in, coming from any other series and win. It take time to perfect. Everything about IndyCar is specific. So the Red tires are very specific. We don't get to test with it. So every time you go to the Fast Six, that's an advantage you learn for next year and you've got to keep it in your data bank.

So I think all these notes that we take and all the work we do at the shop, and certainly driving for Team Penske makes a big difference.

Q. You described the pass a while ago, and in the middle of that, are you thinking — are you thinking about the jeopardy at all as you make that pass?
SIMON PAGENAUD: No, I didn't think about anything else than passing.

You know, you've got to — that actually answers your question on all sorts. With the success that I've had this year, I'm gaining confidence and I'm believing more in myself, and it's showing by being a little bit more aggressive at times. I'm not someone that crashes a lot, so I'm starting to believe that is really the case. And the more you believe in it, the more you can do things like that and it works out.

Q. Tim Cedric told me, this should be the time when you're coming on. Do you feel like a more mature racer than you were even two years ago —
SIMON PAGENAUD: Absolutely. It's the whole package. I have the best car underneath me so I can really work my own details and keep improving, every time I'm on the racetrack, I feel like I'm improving from the previous race.

This was my best race this year. And although I thought Indy GP was a great race, there were a lot of other good races this year, but that's the thing, you want to win the championship, you have to step up your game every race; you have no choice.

Q. Will talked about the physicality of today — and he jokingly or seriously said he would like to see power steering added to the car. But you then talked about the way we do it over here in IndyCar makes it harder for newcomers. Where do you kind of fall on that? Do you like differences? Is that to your advantage or would you like to see power steering added to make it easier to drive these cars?
SIMON PAGENAUD: That's a great question. It's a tough answer, because yeah, you could look at what you like and what you don't like and give you an answer.

From what I know, the open-wheel, we have the most downforce of any open wheels in the world. So we certainly have the heaviest steering wheel of any race cars.

I don't mind it, really. I spend a lot of time in the gym, I feel I'm the fittest I've ever been. So yes, I feel like it's an advantage right now because I can go flat-out like this. Now if we had power steering, I wouldn't have to spend as much time in the gym. That's what I'm thinking about.

But you know, it depends. It's a very tough call on that one. I think on some tracks like Indy, the Speedway, it's fine, because we don't have as much downforce. But when you have max downforce like a track like here, like it's going to be at Watkins Glen, it's doing to be hard for sure. I don't dislike it. I don't mind any other way. That's not an exciting answer, but I'm sorry, it's the way it is.

Q. Do you have a better feeling for where you are in the points race now? Can you afford to have more confidence than you had three days ago?
SIMON PAGENAUD: My confidence hasn't changed. We've been super strong all year. We've had bad lucks. We had a mechanical issue at Road America where we were fighting for the win again; one at Indy where I believe we would have fought for the win, as well. That was a double-point race. There was a lot the points that went away from us. At Toronto we got caught up by the yellow fighting for another race win.

So there were a lot of instances where it didn't go our way, and I think when it goes our way, we need to maximize it and that's what we're doing. So I do feel good about it leaving here, because to me, that was a stamp on the championship.

Will Power
Will Power
Lucille Dust/AR1

Will Power and Carlos Munoz

THE MODERATOR: From the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, we welcome our second-place finisher today, Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Take us through your day, please.

WILL POWER: Yeah, it really didn't start until that first restart. You know, the key was to get a couple saves for fuel, enough to go longer than Pagenaud jumping, which he did; pumped out some really quick laps.

Then the set of Reds we put on were ones we really liked in qualify, kind of struggled at the end of that stint. But then went yellow obviously and we had that restart and I just blew — I should have done a much better job on that restart. I kick myself for not being on top of it more. It's a situation of trying to defend and getting in marbles and eventually getting passed.

THE MODERATOR: Still a Top-10 finish, lose a few points to Simon in the championship. You're still right there.

WILL POWER: Yeah, it's right there. Still quite a gap. But you know, it would have been nice to go ten points the other way.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]So yeah, it's still — yeah, it's obviously four races. He's consistent. It's going to be tough from here out but absolutely possible.

THE MODERATOR: Driver of the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda, Carlos Munoz. Carlos, your second podium finish of the season, following your second place at the Indy 500. Your best finish at Mid-Ohio previous was fourth. Talk us through your day.

CARLOS MUNOZ: You know, really happy. Finally I did a run, came out our way, the pit strategy with my crew — pitted this lap, which — inaudible. I don't remember but what happened. And we put on that lap and came out of the pit on the yellow. So that gave a lot of track position.

The good thing is after we get the track position, I was quite a good pace. Very happy for the team, all Andretti, it's been quite tough for us after the Indy 500, but happy to be back on the podium again. Look forward for Pocono, love that place.

Q. Will, on that restart lap of lap 66 when you guys had to battle, the smart money would have been for Pagenaud would have gone through the valley and let you have it — maybe not let you have it, but he might have played it safe. Were you surprised at how aggressive he was, given he's got a 47-point lead coming into this race?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was more how — like I got pickup on the tires and kind of went wide and got more pickup. I was quite slow. So you know, I just made a dog's breath of the bloody restart, which allowed him to get into the position to have a shot. And if you have a shot, of course you can't pass it; you've got to go for it, and he did.

Yeah, so I really put myself in a bad position, and I should have done a better job of just getting a jump on the restart. I didn't realize Carlos was going to go straight out of the corner and not in the actual restart zone. I should have been onto that.

Q. A little bit of a follow-up on that. Were you surprised, though, because that was the first part of the race, a little bit more contact and it might not have ended up so well.
WILL POWER: Yeah, actually in the last turn, had I not backed off, we would have crashed. He was quite aggressive the way he threw it in there. At that moment, I thought of it being just — I didn't want to say — Roger would have been pretty mad if we had taken each other out of first and second potentially. At that point I decided to lift because he was not going to.

Q. If it hadn't been your teammate, would it have been different for you?
WILL POWER: I think so. Yes, I think so, it would have probably been different. I don't know if we both would have got to the corner. Maybe he would have given me more room, but yeah.

Carlos Munoz
Carlos Munoz
Lucille Dust/

Q. That whole thing —
CARLOS MUNOZ: I was struggling all over the place with the marbles and everything. I almost got 10 out of 13, they were good, close to the gap I was — I was afraid I might crash, because you never deserve that to anyone, but it was quite a fight (ph) for sure. I think he didn't have that much marbles than we did, and just struggle a lot after the restart. So you know, he did a great job and the tires on the restart, they are in yellow condition, he did a very good job.

Q. I know it's been a tough season for you guys on road courses in terms of pace. I know you've been qualifying laps — do you feel you've found anything this weekend or was it more strategy that got you up front?
CARLOS MUNOZ: Strategy today, we have to be honest, the strategy of the whole track, Mid-Ohio, everything, track position, you get in front, you stay up front, and you can go quicker because you have more clean air. I think our pace was much better than we showed on the track in qualifying, that's for sure.

Ryan is pretty good. He's always been really good. The way he drives the car, it's hard for me to drive it on the other teammate. So we went another direction this weekend. I think we had a much better car than the qualifying car.

So you know, Ryan was really quick. I think he had that problem with fuel they told me, something like that. But you know, it's always a tough track for us.

Qualifying lap — has been quite tough for everyone — inaudible. We are getting there, we are making some changes and the team is working so hard. We don't like to see us always out — for sure the team likes Pocono.

Q. A lot of times when a driver does pit strategy to get up to the front like Aleshin did, he may not stay there until the next pit stop, but this time, once he got there, he did a pretty good job of maintaining it. Were you wondering, what's gotten into Aleshin? He was so far ahead —
WILL POWER: I didn't see him, yeah. I didn't even know. Yeah, the last stint —

CARLOS MUNOZ: He crashed in the pits, he was in front of me — like he went in front. Just like held up the whole group and he went away — inaudible.

Q. (Off mic).
CARLOS MUNOZ: After the restart, overtook him — had like five laps, just dragging the whole group. It was really slow. That is where he pushed really hard, after Josef came to the pits, I closed the gap a little bit, but he was pretty strong. He looked pretty good out there. We did a pit stop and I saw him crash. I think it was Newgarden that crashed. So you know sometimes — I think that wins the race.

Q. Do you see where he's got a lot better?
CARLOS MUNOZ: For sure, this year he has done a really good job in pits and everything (ph). They have really competitive cars, so for sure he's doing a really good job. He's aggressive and he's very quick for sure.

Q. I asked you before we got started but you look tired. How physical was it out there?
WILL POWER: It's tough, because the steering gets heavier and heavier as the rubber goes down, and you know, if we had power steering — that's why Formula One has it. They have less downforce than we do and have power steering and smoother tracks. We have heavier cars with more downforce, and we don't have power steering, so it is like — it is unbelievable at the moment. I couldn't imagine if they continued aero development into next year, I don't think we could possibly steer this thing.

CARLOS MUNOZ: It was last thing we did to save fueling, so when you don't save fuel, you don't push as hard. Before that, it was like — it's hard for the drivers to drink the water when you are pushing the whole time. We always drink when we do the yellow — it's really physical, the steering while, like Will said, was really, really heavy.

Q. I didn't see the incident, but Dixon and Helio getting together, I'm sure you heard about it — (Laughter)?
WILL POWER: Carlos, tell us all about it.

CARLOS MUNOZ: I think Dixon was really quick the whole day, especially out of one. Out of the pits, I saw him, he went to the inside and then they touched a little. I don't know what he did. I saw him like get touched and he went straight out. After that, Helio had to steer (ph) — the rear, that's why he came in. But more or less, I saw the crash.

Q. Could you tell how far enough —
CARLOS MUNOZ: I think he hit the back — as the driver point, if you hit from the middle to the back, it's the front of the car overtake. If you hit from the middle to the front, it's the car that it didn't overtake's fault. I'm not sure, you have to ask them.

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