IndyCar Road America Sunday Press Conference

From left, Kanaan, Power and Rahal
From left, Kanaan, Power and Rahal

1st – Will Power, Penske Chevy
2nd – Tony Kanaan, Ganassi Chevy
3rd – Graham Rahal, RLL Honda

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome third-place finisher Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Gehl / D-A Lubricant Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing. He's raced here now twice in IndyCar. Tell us about your day.

GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, it was a decent day for us. We had a good start, good first stint to get us up a little bit further, get by Pagenaud. Maybe we got the tire strategy a little wrong. We started on new reds, probably should have started used and kept the news for second or probably the third or fourth stint. But all in all, a solid day, good finish, good points. We needed that. I think we had a really good car, particularly on the new reds our car was really nice, and at the end there it was also pretty good.

We tried our best. We were underneath Kanaan there, but unfortunately it looks like their cars have a little more top speed than us, so we just kind of got left behind. But that happens. We're just going to have to keep our heads down, keep working hard, and try to bounce back and get a good result in Iowa, as well.

For us and our year, I think this is pretty big because we've been fast everywhere, it's just we've had a lot of stuff go against us. To get a podium felt nice.

THE MODERATOR: Seemed like there was a lot of intense competitive racing out there, especially in the closing laps.

GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, that's what people don't see I think from watching on TV. It's hard to see but like Pagenaud and I for like 20-some laps, I felt like he was right behind me and I was giving it every ounce I possibly had. There was sections of the track I was better than him and sections that he clearly had me. I think Canada Corner I was weak all weekend and that proved to be true again. But again, we just battled hard, and I had a good day.

I think the tire strategy hurt us there. I think that's how Pagenaud really got back around us is we just made the wrong tire call and it definitely hurt, but it is what it is, and we still came out of here in third.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]THE MODERATOR: I know you've touched on some of this throughout the weekend with your family's history here, but how great was it to race around this track and see the great atmosphere.

GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, it was awesome. I talked to George and he said it broke an attendance regard for this racetrack. If you think about that and all the events that have been here, that's spectacular. It was a lot of fun for me to be here. I got a lot of my family here, so overall pretty special day.

Q. If you could describe even further that attempt to pass TK going into Turn 1 —
GRAHAM RAHAL: I mean, I was under him. He just had more top speed. I don't know what to tell you. It happened to me three times today against — obviously I was around all our competitors, no other Hondas, and they've got some power, that's for sure. They've got some top speed. It is what it is. We've just got to keep our heads down, we've got what we've got, and if you look to my sector times yesterday in qualifying, I was three tenths off and every single tenth was on the straightaways. We knew this going into today. Eddie and I talked before the race on the downforce level and just determined we had to do what we had to do to take care of our tires and try to be most consistent, and we were. But I mean, at the end, we pushed as hard as we could. It's just I got next to him, and when I pulled out, he left me in my dust.

Q. And then early in the race back here on the second straightaway when you were heading into Turn 5, you made a really nice move there to take a position. If you could describe —
GRAHAM RAHAL: That was on Pagenaud, right? I think it was Pagenaud. Yeah, he didn't use Push-to-Pass there and I did. It was kind of a case, he probably knew I had a good run and earlier in the race, you've got to be smart about when you're using it and when you're not and so I used it and got around him. He was struggling on reds and I knew that I could see he was on used reds, see the rear of his car was struggling from Lap 1 on, and early in the race I was getting insane fuel numbers. In fact I could have gone two laps longer than I ended up going because I was getting such good fuel numbers, but I knew I had to start putting pressure on him, and I did, and you know, it worked out we got by him.

But I'm not disappointed in anything today. We had a great day. Obviously I would have liked to get by TK. We would have been second. I don't know that we had enough to beat Power frankly, but that's all right.

Q. Graham, going on the pace lap here, you see campers, tents, canopies lining the entire racetrack. What was going through your mind there during some of the pace laps? And getting a podium, rough start to the weekend, only getting eight or nine laps in that first practice on Friday, just to bounce back for the weekend —
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I mean, I guess I'll answer that one first. It was a tough start, but our team is very resilient group and they're a great group. I think they're the best mechanics and I think they're the best organization out here, period. The resources we have certainly aren't what others have, but we do a phenomenal job with what we have, so I'm very proud of them, and they continue to impress me each and every day and I think impress everybody.

But yeah, I mean, when you see the crowd, I mean, for a driver we all love going to a lot of racetracks. There's a lot of great racetracks, but like even Fontana race last year, it was a thrilling race, but it lost kind of the buzz because there was only 10,000, 5,000 people or whatever it was there. When you see a crowd like this, it's electrifying, I think, for all of us, and we love it. We love it.

I couldn't thank them enough. I think that's the thing is we at IndyCar, all of us drivers, we're appreciative of them and what they do and what they bring to us because it makes it so much more fun.

THE MODERATOR: We'll welcome our runner-up in today's race, Tony Kanaan, driver of the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy. Tony, great rating out there.

TONY KANAAN: It was. Great battles all day. Between me and Graham and then at the end, we kind of swapped tire strategies a little bit, and me and Graham were on the reds, but I think you had to use reds, so it was a little bit of disadvantage for him on the last few laps.

We were on the right strategy. I thought we had a car to fight for the win, but in the last lap when they told me we had three Push-to-Passes and I had to use two to hold Graham up, I'm like, I'm toast.

I still used it like when we opened the last lap I used it coming up the hill, and actually kept the gap, I'm like, oh, awesome, and as soon as we turned out of Turn 3 Will just disappeared and out of the carousel, as well. It was kind of depressing to be honest.

But he led a lot of — the entire race, and with us battling, we were a little bit out of sequence. I was pitting a lap earlier, so having trying to like beat Graham out of the pits, he's trying to beat me, getting in the Push-to-Pass on his in laps, so we kind of gave Will a pretty big break, I think, by doing that between ourselves, but that's racing.

Q. So he owes you two dinner?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think he can afford to buy dinner for sure.

Q. Talk about what it was like to race here with this great crowd today, being back on this great track and as competitive as the racing was today.
TONY KANAAN: I think we always stress that, but Graham has been coming here forever, since he was like pooping his diapers, I guess.

GRAHAM RAHAL: Definitely.

TONY KANAAN: And then we kind of knew how this place was, and when you try to describe that to some of the young guys, I don't think it makes justice. It's like telling somebody how great Indianapolis is. If you don't go there, you're never going to experience, and this place didn't let us down. I showed up here on Thursday and this place was packed. I took the scooter around the camping grounds, and it's amazing. This is the type of places we want to race. If you ask any driver about this road course, it's one of their favorites by far, and the fans, too. It's a great combination, and hopefully by putting a show like this, we can come back here for many years.

Q. IndyCar seems to draw better crowds at the road races than it does on the ovals. We're an hour and 15 minutes from Milwaukee, and there's no race there this year. Michael couldn't make a go of it. What is either missing at an oval like Milwaukee or what makes Road America so much better? You're drawing from the same group of fans here.
TONY KANAAN: It's a tough call, but I think one thing in my opinion, it's people can come here and camp all weekend long. They can see all the racetrack. They don't have to — you don't have to go in the grandstand to watch the race if you don't want to. You can see it in your camper on the top of your camper and watch. So this becomes a family weekend. You can bring all your kids. Obviously the timing, also, I think they said that they couldn't agree on a date because you're trying to time when the kids are off school so people can bring the kids and camp and stuff.

To me it's not about an oval or a road course. I think if you can make an oval with this type of environment, we're still going to have the same crowd showing up. I remember when you used to go to like Kansas or Kentucky, people were camping there, too, so I think that was the biggest — it is the biggest difference in my opinion.

GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I agree. For me, I lived it firsthand. For me to come here as a kid and spend time with Dad and just be here for the whole weekend, it's the same thing that makes Mid-Ohio awesome. It's the atmosphere. It's coming for an event. It's coming for a weekend with the kids or a weekend with the family as a whole, whether it's extended family or what. That's what makes it so unique.

And there's just so much action. If you watch, there's just always something on track, and that's great for the fans. They get their money's worth.

I wish — I hope we can just continue to go to more places like this. I think this is proving that we don't need to be trying to overthink the destinations we need to race at. They're right in front of us, and we've just got to go do it.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Q. Graham, I know how much you love Mid-Ohio, but as beautiful as this course is and as massive as it is, is this almost like Mid-Ohio on steroids?
GRAHAM RAHAL: It's like a mix of Barber and Mid-Ohio a little bit because you get a lot more elevation but it's pretty quick, and Mid-Ohio — I mean, both of those are fun events and Mid-Ohio is obviously home, so maybe I'm a little biased, but I've got to say, this has always been my favorite racetrack. It's my dad's favorite racetrack. It's probably TK's favorite racetrack. It's everybody's. For us this place is just awesome.

It was a great race today. It was hard battles. I drove as hard as I could to try to keep up with him and keep Pagenaud behind me and everything. I know it's hard to see that on TV, but it was a lot of fun battling out there.

Q. Can you talk about the weekend being an event, it's not just you guys, it's all this development series for IndyCar? Did that seem to help in terms of the attraction for the event?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I mean, the more you can have, the better, I would say from a fan perspective. For us it's kind of tough when you get that many different types of rubber down and stuff it makes the track difficult to put your thumb on it. I'm not going to lie, I like coming and watching sports cars and stuff like that. For me at the end of the day when we're done, if you can get engineering done quick enough and go out and sit in a corner and watch, it's a lot of fun. So I would imagine the fans love it, too.

But it's just great for everybody. I'd imagine there are people here who are diehard race fans, I imagine there are people here who are first timers and those who aren't necessarily huge race fans, and I guarantee every one of them loved this weekend.

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think that helps, but I don't think that's the key. I think it's just the entire environment. Like Graham touched on a very good point. We just need to go find the places that people want to come and watch us. We have a great product. Some people say, well, what about your racing? Our racing is good, and we prove when we come to places like this, we go to Indy, we go to Mid-Ohio that we have places packed.

I mean, it doesn't hurt to have other series. You just always have action. But funny enough at a track this big they have so many other things to do. When it went yellow, I looked between Turn 7 and 8 and there were people on the go-kart track go-karting.

GRAHAM RAHAL: People on the zip line.

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, on the zip line. I guess some of them weren't even watching the race. But it helps. It definitely helps.

Q. Was there any point during the race or any place on the track where barring some sort of mechanical or mistake, Will looked vulnerable?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't think Will's pace was much better than us, it was just that we got behind on the first stint, and then we just stayed the same. I mean, we were trying to catch him. TK and I would claw up to him a little bit on a lap and then I could see both of us fell back a little bit. My guys were giving me his lap times over the radio. We were doing pretty much the same, but we lost that distance in the first stint, and it pretty much stayed right there. It's hard for me — I mean, TK probably saw him closer than I did, but all of us have strengths and weaknesses obviously around the track, so I'm sure there was, but I didn't see it.

TONY KANAAN: I don't think he was much stronger, but obviously the advantage of being in the lead, you have clean air in that first three laps, that's when he got the gap, and we were trying to sort ourselves out with our cars. Nowadays if you have a car in front of you that is even like a two-car length, it's already taking the air out of you so you're not going as fast, and having a clean track helps a lot, and then I think you saw that on the restart. He got it, me and Graham started to fight a little bit, he pulled away, and then I started to fight with Pagenaud, he pulled away even more. It took me an extra lap to catch him.

But I think he had a fast car, but I don't think he was like anywhere stronger — we closed the gap any time we needed to, but he just had that little advantage every time because he was in the lead.

Q. TK, the next race coming up is at one of your favorite tracks, Iowa Speedway. Do you view this portion of the schedule a great opportunity for you to make up a lot of points?
TONY KANAAN: Of course. You know, this year I've been working really close with Dario trying to improve some of my weaknesses that maybe has been costing me a little bit, and I think we've done a lot better. We've been qualifying a lot better. That was my weaknesses in the past two years.

Yeah, but Iowa, obviously it's a track that I won a few times. I have a lot of podiums there. So for sure I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Pagenaud was a factor right before he dropped out at the end, but how do you think you stacked up against Pagenaud?
TONY KANAAN: Well, for us it's good. He's not going away with the lead. To be honest, we swapped strategies. I personally think I would have passed him, and I would have gone to chase Will because the reds were so much better there at the end and I had a brand new set. Obviously him having the problem just helps with the points because he dropped even more. Instead of being third, I don't know where he finished, but — so that's a big — I'm only 92 points behind now, you know, so it's — it makes the championship very interesting. He was strong. When he passed me, he was on the Push-to-Pass on the red tires and I was on the black. We were going to swap at the end.

GRAHAM RAHAL: Honestly I think we were better than Pagenaud today, but as TK said we kind of did the same on the strategy and started on new red which we shouldn't have, but we beat those up and we got by him, we passed him in the first stint and pulled away quite a lot, but then we went to blacks, and I think he gained a little bit of time on us there, and then he did new reds I think the third stint, and that's where he got by me and that's where he got by TK. He was kind of on kill, but then he went back to blacks and I thought we'd get him, too.

But it is what it is. As TK said, I chewed up a lot of Push-to-Passes there in the first — trying to get by him on the restarts. When I got to Pagenaud, I was pretty lucky that he had the engine deal because I was trying to save the Push-to-Pass as long as he could, and it just kind of worked out.

But yeah, I thought like all of us were pretty evenly matched like all day. Even if you look at TK and I, he'd pull me for a little bit and then we'd catch up. Everybody was pretty similar pace, just kind of tire strategy and if you had clean air or not.

Q. We've heard aero wash and the way these cars affect each other on racetracks quite a bit this year. Is it any more or less noticeable here at Road America? Do the straits offset that at all?
TONY KANAAN: No, it's actually a little bit better. With the long straightaways, it affects us in the corner a lot, but in the straits we have a lot of places to pass. Having those long straights helps. So no, to be honest, it's actually better than some other places.

THE MODERATOR: Joined now by the winner of the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America, Will Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Will, your 27th career win, also your second here in 2016. You're on a roll. What's going on?

WILL POWER: Yeah, it's finally back to my normal fitness level, and just the way I do things. Obviously the start of the year was very tough for me. I couldn't train in the off-season. Didn't do the first race, so my fitness really — I usually turn up for the season very fit. This year I turned up way off where I normally am. I've got my normal energy back and I can perform like I normally do, and that's the difference.

THE MODERATOR: Being back here at Road America, what does that mean to you as a driver coming back to compete on such a historic racetrack?

WILL POWER: It's just a cool, old-school track. There's not many of them around that we go to anymore, and any of the ones that we do go to — you go to Mid-Ohio there's a big crowd. You come here, it was amazing just walking around on Thursday, there was so many people. But even Friday night I went for a walk through the camping grounds and it was just awesome to see so many people having fun and just so many people, and on your parade lap, it was just such a big crowd, it was crazy. It's great, great for IndyCar. We should have been back here a long time ago.

THE MODERATOR: What was going through your mind late in the race when there was that late yellow and you knew a restart was coming up with just a few laps to go?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I was like, oh, you always dread that late restart, but I thought I'm going to make the absolute most of it and do the best I can and try to get a jump. I knew I had Push-to-Pass in hand, which I thought before the race is going to be the key here, to keep that for the end, and that's what I did. If I didn't have that, TK was going to — he would have had a really good shot at getting me. He was very quick, and on reds, too.

Yeah, very satisfying race. Very satisfying because I felt like I'm back where I was, and that's a good feeling for me.

THE MODERATOR: I heard somebody ask you this in victory circle, they asked are you thinking about the championship now, and you replied I was thinking about the championship before this race started. What's on your mind now with another win?

WILL POWER: Yeah, if you look at the points situation, obviously things can change so quickly. You look at the last race, there can be something like an 80 or 90-point swing if the guy you're racing has a bad day and you win. You know, and then you've got seven more races. It's just so many points left and so much to happen. Obviously Pagenaud has had a very good-flowing season up to this point, but that doesn't continue, it never does. You always — you have your good runs, it goes in cycles, and we're very determined from here on out. We want to be there at the end. We want to win the championship, simple as that.

Q. You've got your teammate you're going after, but Dixon had a really bad points day, so you're getting closer to leapfrogging him. Every guy you pick off, how important is that?

WILL POWER: Not even looking at the people I'm picking off, just going out there and trying to win races. Obviously the gap — that's what you're looking at. Who cares about everyone in between. It's the points lead that you have to close. You've got to continually finish ahead of that guy. That's how you win the championship from here. You've just got to, every time, knock him off every weekend.

Q. Are you going to start to petition to do more races in Wisconsin? At the mile last year you flat-out dominated that race, too.

WILL POWER: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, it's a pity we're not going to the Milwaukee Mile. Yeah, that was also one of my most satisfying wins was — that was in 2014, and that started my run to win the championship. Same here. I screamed on the radio when I won the race here because I was so excited. I was just so — like just all weekend I wanted to get pole, I wanted to win the race, and I did it.

Q. How hard is it to have a dominant weekend like this anymore? You used to have it a lot kind of in the old car, but in the DW12 era this doesn't happen often. How satisfying is it to have a weekend like this?

WILL POWER: Yeah, it is, it's super satisfying. The races have been very green this year, and I was just so pissed off that I wasn't fit enough to qualify like I normally do. I wasn't where I needed to be. It wasn't really a fitness thing I guess in qualifying so much, but there's so many times that we should have challenged for pole but we made a mistake or got traffic or got a penalty, and a lot of those races were green, so we lost a lot of points there. But there was a point in the season where I just felt like I couldn't use my talent, when you don't quite have the energy to do it, but now I do, so you start getting into the flow of things and feel like you're a challenge every weekend to win.

THE MODERATOR: You mentioned you have a new fitness routine or a new diet or something that you're doing differently that gives you the energy now. What kind of things are you doing that's caused this energy swing?

WILL POWER: Well, it's just getting back to where I was. I had some health problems in the off-season, so I couldn't train. Some of that was some food allergy stuff and a couple of other things. But it's just slowly building myself back up so I could do my normal regime. I haven't changed anything the way I exercise, it's just being able to do it, and then having car fitness.

Yeah, then diet played a role in that. Suddenly I couldn't eat certain foods. It really, really destroyed me.

Q. The records will show that you led 46 laps, never gave up the lead on the track, were out by several seconds a few times. Were you that much better than everybody else today, or was it just a matter of getting out early and getting out after the restart?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]WILL POWER: You know, you had to look after your tires, so it was not a matter of — obviously I could have gone a lot faster at the beginning of the stint but then you'd struggle at the end, so I really tried to maximize the whole stint, like never really lean on it or slide, which is the fast way anyway, I was just very particular about that because I knew that that would be a factor. And as the track rubbered up, I started to be pretty quick at the end of stints.

If we had to push, we could, pull the lead, and then we'd save fuel like we wanted to at the first stint and did everything we needed to do to win the race basically.

Q. So you were just playing with them?

WILL POWER: No, not at the end there with TK. That was everything I had because he had reds, new reds, and he was coming fast. But I'd saved Push-to-Pass for that reason, because I knew if there's a late restart, you want to have a lot of Push-to-Pass because it's such a huge gain here.

Q. When we were at the mile for four years, it always seemed in the back of the minds whether the race would stay in Milwaukee. What's the feeling now after today with the show and the race and a weekend like IndyCar had this weekend about the future of having IndyCar here at Road America on a more permanent basis like it was as opposed to Milwaukee was a little more clouded?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, obviously, when you look here, we'd be crazy not to come back. I think it's a three-year deal. I actually don't know, but that's great. I just think the series needs to go to tracks like this. It's tough on street courses because you don't have them long enough to build that fan base, and you need to come back to these old tracks on the same time every year so it becomes a routine for me, and you can build a really good fan base. I just think permanent road courses are much easier.

The street courses, yeah, Long Beach and St. Pete that have been around a long time, you see Long Beach always gets a big crowd because it's been there so long. It's just tough to find street courses now that stick around long enough. That was why I was really happy we were going back to Watkins Glen because it's the same thing, a track with a lot of history. IndyCar has been going there, Formula 1 before that. It's got a big history of open wheel racing, and same with here. That's how you build a series.

THE MODERATOR: Will, thank you very much. Congratulations.

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