IndyCar Mid-Ohio Friday Press Conference

Will Power
Will Power
Lucille Dust/AR1.com

Drivers
Will Power
Scott Dixon
RC Enerson

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our fastest driver of the day, Will Power. You've been fast here. You've had a few poles. Not quite captured a win yet. What's your prognosis heading into the weekend?

WILL POWER: Yeah, it's interesting, this place. It's funny, tracks that click with you, it's me and Sonoma and Dix and this track. Usually he's clicks well around here.

But yeah, I think we've had a couple poles here. We finished second a couple times. It's just about nailing it. Obviously yellows play a big part. If it goes yellow and you're stuck out, you go to the back, which is one of the worst things about this series, and it has to change. I say it every week. But it won me a race in Toronto, and it probably won me a race in Detroit, and I still say it's wrong.

But hopefully it's dry for qualifying. I think that'll make it — I wouldn't say more interesting. There's a way to make it really interesting, but for us we've got a good car on the dry, so we're open to that. So this way we'll be ready.

THE MODERATOR: With the rain lashing through the track, it really kind of presents a green track, a fresh track to work on tomorrow. How do you think that'll affect qualifying?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]WILL POWER: Yeah, this is probably the one track that evolves more than any other track. There's no other track that has a lap time evolution of like five to six seconds. I mean, that's what this track does. So that will make it very interesting. It will be very green when we go out to qualify. I guess we get to practice, so that might rubber it up a little. But it seems to somewhat reset every session anyway, but I'm sure rain is going to make that worse.

THE MODERATOR: I believe with the practice time, even though it's not official, you were a good bit under the track record that stands here at Mid-Ohio. Does that tell you anything what you can expect from tomorrow, especially from your other competitors and from yourself?

WILL POWER: Um, yeah. Obviously the cars are just getting faster and faster. It's not like the track is getting faster. It's just amazing how much speed we have in like Turn 11 and Turn 1 now. It's close to flat — it's not flat, but it's at that horrible limit where it's not flat. You know, you hold your breath kind of lifting. It probably looks spectacular from the outside. But yeah, it's definitely going to be a lap record broken. I don't even know what it is. What is it? It's Dixon's? Yeah, from last year. Yeah, yeah, that'll be broken for sure if it's dry.

THE MODERATOR: Switching gears a little bit, also on Sunday following the race, your episode of Celebrity Family Feud will be on ABC at 8:00 eastern. Tell us about your experience.

WILL POWER: Yeah, I just wonder how much they edited out. I think it was a great experience. It was a lot of fun, and the competition was really good to look at.

Q. I think you were alluding to the fact that IndyCar's policy is that when there's a caution they close the pits and get everybody to gather up, line up behind the pace car, and there have been times, I don't remember how many years ago, but it seems to me in the last five or six years there might have been a period where they left the pits open.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah.

Q. Can you talk about the reasons maybe you know why they want to do it or don't want to do it? I know it really affects someone's race results.
WILL POWER: The reason to close the pits is for safety, which I 100 percent agree. You can't have people speeding past an accident. But now with the technology we have, and we're sponsored by a company that's big on promoting technology, Verizon, that is, and it's a wireless system, you can have not a virtual safety car like they do overseas where everyone maintains a gap, but you would go to a limit, whatever that may be, 60 miles an hour, the pits would open, you would have your chance to pit, and after that they would turn the safety car out, everyone packs up, and you still get a restart.

As it is right now, if half the fields pit — if half the field has pitted and it goes yellow, it pretty much squinches the whole field. It happened last year twice in this race, which must be so confusing for the viewers. There's a bunch of guys battling for the win. Suddenly they're back from 15th to 12th. There's a new bunch, and then it goes yellow again, and then it switches back to another bunch.

To me there's an easy fix, and there's no reason why they shouldn't do it. Obviously this year you can't change it, but for sure in the future it's got to be something they look at. It's absolutely a lottery when it comes down to that, whether you catch a lucky yellow or not.

Q. Going back to the good ol' days of CART, some drivers or most of the drivers complained about the traffic situation. What about traffic now with these new IndyCars or IndyCars in general? Is this an unknown factor in the race?
WILL POWER: Turbulent air or — yeah, when you're trying to do a lap, yeah, I mean, it's tough. It's really, really tough. There's a lot of good guys. Everyone backs up, and you don't want to be — you don't want to really be too — it's hard to know the gap, but I don't hardly want to see another car in front of me. You want to be way down the road, because otherwise you're getting affected or you're losing grip because you're so relying on all this downforce. So traffic is a problem because people have to back up so much because they lose so much grip, and it is frustrating. It can be so frustrating at tracks like this and Barber and pretty much everywhere, honestly. Road America is about the only place big enough to spread everyone out.

Q. You talked about that little horrible zone when you're in Turn 1 when you're almost flat but not flat. Explain that to folks; in other words, do I take a shot here and keep flat. Talk about what you're talking about there from a mental gymnastics situation.
WILL POWER: Yeah, you see guys that try it. You see on the data, your teammates trying to go flat. On reds maybe — I don't know, I've said it every year, I've said, we're going to be flat in qualifying. It's never happened. So I don't think it will be. It will be close, but I don't think you'll be flat through there. It would be amazing if you are.

Q. It's literally in the middle of the corner —
WILL POWER: Yeah, it is really. It can be entry or — flat is a big chunk of speed. You think you're lifting a little bit, but when you try to go flat, you understand, yeah, that's going to be a big gain if I pulled that off.

It is, you've got to understand when there's so much downforce, it's very difficult to feel that limit. The actual tire shudders there's so much grip. Like in Turn 1 when it starts to let go, it shudders. The whole car shudders. It doesn't just slide, it actually shudders the tire, which is kind of an interesting feeling.

Q. Will, there's a number of your countrymen that race in the USF2000 Series. On a weekend like this where you know you've got your main focus, or just in general, how much time do you get to see them or do you interact with them much considering how much countrymen have been invaluable to your career?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I've watched it with interest, actually, because Jordan Lloyd is from Toowoomba, which is my hometown. I've actually seen him when I'm in Toowoomba. It's very cool to see him doing well, and you've got Luke Gabin, he's from Perth, and Anthony Martin, he's doing a great job leading the championship. He's really, really come on strong. Yeah, I saw him win another race today, which is awesome. But yeah, they're doing really well. Really well, really happy to see that, and I hope one of them wins the championship this year and gets to go on to the next series. Yeah, it's good to see some Aussies coming through.

Q. As far as experimenting with ride heights and wing settings, have you been able to get much of that done, or will you still be going through that kind of thing in practice tomorrow?
WILL POWER: Yeah, getting pretty close. It's amazing, you come back, you've been around this place so many times, and basically it's the same car, and it still ends up being a completely different setup every year. You know, yeah, I think we've found a pretty good spot for us. Like we're right in the window of mechanical and aero and just right where I need to be for qualifying tomorrow.

Q. It seems at this track Ganassi has won six out of the last seven races here. I don't know if Dixon has won like five times. How are you going to beat him? Is he the real guy that you worry about the most here?
WILL POWER: Yeah, Dixon is definitely quick around this track. There's a bunch of guys. All my teammates are really quick this weekend. Hopefully — I would love to win this place. We've been so close. Dixon is definitely the yardstick, and Ganassi in general. They're very strong around here.

Who won last year? Oh, Graham won last year, yeah. It was yellow. But he was a deserving winner. He fought towards the end. It was good to see, actually, hometown boy.

Q. Speaking of Dixon, he mentioned you were the guy at this point of the season to worry about in the points standings. Is that something you're thinking about right now with only five races left?
WILL POWER: Well, you're definitely looking at the situation and the points because it's very obvious to us what we have to do, and that's finish ahead of Pagenaud in particular because he's got such a chunk of points ahead of us. You know, it's a no-brainer for us. Maybe for him it's a little different. He's got that cushion, so do you take a risk, do you not. But for us we just have to. We have to keep going. Not that you take any stupid risks, but we understand that week in, week out, you've got your aim, you've got your goal.

Q. Will, you talk about you've got to catch Pagenaud, and the way you speak of it is very different than what we hear from a European style Formula 1 team where they don't talk so much about trying to run down their teammate in the point standings. It's more of a constructor-type deal. Is it really that different, and how does it work within Team Penske as far as you guys want to beat him? How does that really work and work in a big team at the same time?
WILL POWER: It actually works well, because we work well together. We all debrief together. I've been in this situation before with Helio and Briscoe.

You know, in one way you know exactly what he has. You can see his data. You can see his setups, and same for him, which is a good thing. It's your teammate, so obviously you can't be so aggressive with him in certain situations, like at Toronto I was very standoffish through the first corner. I didn't want to — you've got to be very clean. Roger likes us to race hard and push each other, and that's why — Roger is a racer at heart, and he loves beating the other guys, too. He enjoys being on the stand for Helio. He loves when he gets one over Cindric. It's great, friendly competition like that, and that's what I think breeds such an competitive atmosphere and competitive results at Penske. He wants us to push each other. He doesn't want us taking each other out. He definitely wants to see the most out of each driver.

Q. With Pagenaud at the top, you second and Helio third, has Montoya said which one of you three he is going to help for the championship yet?
WILL POWER: Which one he's going to help? Yeah, I think he's just focused on getting results. He's real quick this weekend, and obviously he's had a bit of bad luck in the last few races. I think he can get back up there by the end of the season. I don't think he's focused on which one to help. He's just wanting to get a fair result. He's run into some bad luck with cautions and getting pushed into the wall and so on.

Q. Can you say something about the engine situation? Do you think there may be an update for the rest of the season from Chevrolet?
WILL POWER: Not that I'm aware of. I don't think so. I'm still on the engine from the Indy 500. Obviously they've got to go 2,500 miles, so there's not many times you can update during the year. I think it's four engines for the year, so we'll be getting to our fourth hopefully for the Pocono race if we get enough miles. But yeah, I don't think so. In the off-season they'll probably focus on that stuff. I think they made good gains in the off-season, and they just kind of rub on it during the year and then try to make another jump in the off-season.

THE MODERATOR: Will, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

RC Enerson

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Scott, we'll start with you. Five wins here at Mid-Ohio. That is incredible. It's a track that you come back to every year with a lot of success. What are your thoughts heading into the race weekend, especially after what you were able to gather from practice today?

SCOTT DIXON: I think it's always a place that the team likes coming. I think it's 11 or 12 victories for the team here, so it's always been definitely a place that we've run well at throughout the generations.

But yeah, today rolled off the truck pretty well and the car was decent. We didn't really get our new tire on in the first session. We kind of got the first or second time lap, and then on the last lap our instruments came in Turn 4, and then this afternoon we still hadn't done any tire runs.

I think the car is always competitive, and hopefully we'll see what tomorrow brings. Obviously the weather conditions are going to be tricky, I think, throughout, and will definitely dice the field up a bit. But yeah, always happy to be here at Mid-Ohio and it's always a fun track. Hopefully it dries out before tonight.

THE MODERATOR: RC, how was your first day in a Verizon IndyCar?

RC ENERSON: It was incredible. It's completely different than anything I've driven, and coming from — every time I come here, I always tend to do all right, and it's one of my favorite tracks. It's got this thing about it that it fits the driving style really well, and I'm just excited to be here, and this is probably — it's probably the best track to make my debut at.

RC Enerson
RC Enerson

Q. RC, how different was the feeling you had today being an official day of you've had two practice sessions, only a limited amount of time on the tires as opposed to test day when you're going through programs and learning the car?
RC ENERSON: Yeah, I'd say the tire difference, it's a big difference from the Coopers in Indy Lights. The Coopers fall off a lot towards the end of the races, and these ones tend to — after the first couple laps where you get your fast time they tend to not fall off very much and you can keep your speeds up, and it's amazing. It's a completely different experience, and it's challenging.

Q. Dix, when I talked to Simon yesterday and asked him about the points chase, you were the first person he mentioned. He thought you were coming for him more than anybody. Your reaction to that and your thoughts about tightening this thing up coming down the stretch?
SCOTT DIXON: He should probably be a little more worried about his teammate. He's on a pretty good roll there.

We tried to turn it around. I think we had a superb car at Road America, aside from the mechanical problem, and then obviously Toronto. I think we could have been on a similar run right now. It's kind of frustrating, but the positive thing is that the Target team has had a strong car throughout a lot of the courses that we've been to of recent and pretty much the whole year outside of Indianapolis.

I just hope we can get a turning point here soon to make it interesting. Right now I think there's two or three that have a good shot, but if it comes down to Sonoma, he's had a pretty smooth year, Simon. He hasn't had any big — I think Road America was maybe the only sort of upset that he's had, and well, Toronto he got bit pretty bad there, too. We'll have to see how it cycles out.

But yeah, obviously we want to come on strong. We've got five races to go and a lot of points on the table, and it's still possible, it's just whether we have enough time left.

Q. RC, what's the situation after Mid-Ohio? Are you doing more races?
RC ENERSON: Yeah, well, Mid-Ohio is obviously our debut, and then we're really looking to try and do Watkins Glen and Sonoma. It's not confirmed, but we're doing our best to try and get that done. Hopefully do the tests, as well.

Q. Scott, you've won here five times, more than anybody else. When you come to Mid-Ohio, is it a thought of feeling good, or is it a thought of knowing what kind of a grueling weekend it is, especially race day? Is it knowing you've got a lot of work ahead of you?
SCOTT DIXON: I think there's always tracks that you — I like untoward tracks. That's what I love about the Verizon IndyCar Series is there's so many different disciplines. It's not just one thing you have to be good at. There's places that when you see it coming up on the schedule, you feel a little more at home or a little more confident about, but I'd like to think with this team we've got a great opportunity at 99 percent of the tracks we go to.

Mid-Ohio, as I said, has been a bit of a standout for the team with the amount of victories that they have had here, and even with Dario, with Charlie and myself and then going back to Zanardi and that era, too.

I don't know, I find it fun. It's very physical. It's a track that you can in some ways get quite angry with and it rewards you, whereas some of the street courses there's more of a finesse with it. Especially now with the high downforce that we have, qualifying we're going to be almost flat through Turn 1. At the test we were almost flat in Turn 1, so that's pretty substantial, and obviously the lap times are falling very quickly and setting new records at a very old race circuit.

Yeah, I don't know, I love coming here, and I know the team does. I know pretty much the whole field does, so it's one of those.

Q. Graham said he was going 147 through Turn 1.
SCOTT DIXON: I think we were doing about 148.

Q. Scott, when you were RC's age, I believe you had already won a race at Nazareth. What do you think when you see a kid like that 19 years old come into the series because you know firsthand if you play it right you can win a race.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, certainly. I think it's great to see young talent coming through. It's part of the sport. It's part of what we need to see. We've had a good influx of recent, and it's pretty cool in the fact that we have a series that, okay, so there's some bigger teams and some more teams that have done better jobs, but in layman's terms, you pretty much have the similar equipment. So it's nice that you can come, and if you're good you can get close.

The only hard part with rookies now is the testing program. At least this year was a little more open. It was good that RC had the opportunity to test here last week, but still, you're competing against guys that have been coming here for years and they've had a ton of test days. It's so close right now that you're looking for hundredths and tenths of a second to make the difference.

You know, I think in the future we could probably lose a lot of in-season testing for the regulars, but the rookies, they should probably step that up.

Q. And when you won, did it happen so soon for you that you didn't really know what you had done?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, I think our circumstance, too, was a little different. It was definitely a pretty big fuel race the way it turned out. It was on an oval. But yeah, I think for us, it came at a very good time for my career, and obviously vaulted me the next season to Ganassi, through the help of Toyota. It was definitely a different scenario.

Yeah, it's —

Q. RC, were you even aware that at one time Scott was the youngest winner in IndyCar history?
RC ENERSON: Yeah, I mean, I can believe that. I grew up watching a lot of these guys race. My first Indy 500 was when I was three years old, and seeing these guys go around, and now I'm 19 years old and there's a lot of the same guys still there. It's kind of like I get to race with my idols, really.

SCOTT DIXON: We must have had a good generation, I think.

Q. There were years in different series, et cetera, where the newcomers, you couldn't always tell how talented they were. The talent level of newcomers coming in, especially through the Road to Indy, seems to be much higher. Can you talk about that a little bit?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think a lot of the times it's not just straight-out lap time. It's confidence of knowing how to race, being in formula cars for a long time. A lot of us all start at a very young age, but it's kind of grooming that you get up until the point of IndyCar. I think the Road to Indy right now, they've done a very good job in having the different classes, and I myself have driven the Lights car I think two years ago when it first came out, and it's a difficult car to drive.

I think it teaches you a lot of different things. Right now the IndyCar has so much downforce, I think at some point now you're getting to almost 6,500 now, 7,000 pounds of downforce. It's more of a momentum car, which is quite odd for an IndyCar.

But yeah, it's great to see what they've done and how they've been able to push these young drivers through, and they are doing a hell of a job, which is great to see, and it's great for the future of the sport.

Q. How is the overall talent level of the series right now?
SCOTT DIXON: It's tough, man. I think I was at an event last night, and Dario and Bobby Rahal were talking about how close it is these days. If you look at Bobby Rahal's era, he could have finished second or third at the Michigan 500 and he was three laps down.

You know, the competition is so tight right now, and you're fighting over such small margins. You know, you can't be good in just one area. You've got to just — and you're constantly learning. I think that's the biggest thing for me is that every day there's something new. You're constantly learning something, no matter what teammate it is, whether it's the rookie Chilton on our team or TK who's been around for a long time, there's always something different that you could probably do a little bit better.

So I think you're fighting over those finer points, whereas even when I started, your star would apply at a different track if it was a street course and you'd have run quite well and you'd really have to work on a road course, but it's across the board everywhere now that you're fighting over such small things.

Q. Talking about the confidence that a young guy has to have, obviously one of the big hurdles for all of them come qualifying is learning the ropes, because I assume RC hasn't had the chance to try the reds in testing. Does the fact that the track is going to go green again, will that make it easier or harder for him to exploit those last bits of grip that the reds produce?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think — I don't know, it's funny at Mid-Ohio, too, it seems like every session it's a green track. It kind of starts off very slow, and then each lap it gains and gains and gains and gains. There as you see, you see the rookies especially struggle with the red tires because the window is quite small, as well. You're maybe talking two, three laps or even in the past we've had one lap, and the amount of speed that you can pick up in that half a lap to a lap is pretty big.

I know in the future they're talking about having red tires for the first practice or even the second practice, so somewhat similar to Formula 1 so you can actually experience that through the weekend, and you have more people running on track, and plus trying to see the degradation throughout the race, which I think would be better for Firestone. So hopefully that's something that — even if the rookies got the red tires for a session, I don't know, it's definitely hard right now, and I think that's why you see Helio and TK's generation hanging on.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Q. RC, are you confident that you'll be able to exploit that extra grip?
RC ENERSON: Yeah, I mean, it's a completely new situation for me. I'm coming into a race that's 90 laps long with pit stops and fuel saving and all these things that are new to me, where I'm used to green-to-checker race going all out as hard as you can. So I think it's a little bit more of an overall driver thing.

And then the reds, we don't get to see them. I've never driven on them, so the first time I'm going to get to see them is qualifying. So that's what I think is the biggest thing for the rookies, I guess, is they don't get to see those until it's when it counts, so it's hard to extract all that not knowing going into it, and I think that's what comes with the experienced drivers where they're able to know how much grip they're actually going to gain to be able to push it to the max right off the bat.

Q. RC, you said earlier that IndyCars are totally different than what you've driven before, and you just mentioned pit stops and all these things are totally new. Is there anything that you learned in Indy Lights that you can take advantage of moving to IndyCars?
RC ENERSON: Yeah, as I went up through the ladder, the cars get a lot more physical. It's a bigger car. It's going to be heavier, more downforce, and this is kind of on a whole 'nother level, and it's — I'd say this car suits my driving style better than the Indy Lights car. This car is more of a momentum, and it kind of likes to be planted and never likes to be sliding around, where the Lights car really likes to slide around and fine dangle. It's tough to drive because it's so inconsistent, whereas this car it's meant to drive for 90 laps and take pit stops, and it's more of a proper car I feel like.

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