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IndyCar Series: Kansas Indy 300

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Kansas Indy 300

IndyCar Series: Kansas Indy 300

Helio Castroneves
Gil de Ferran
July 6, 2003


KANSAS CITY, KANSAS

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started. We've been joined in the media center by Helio Castroneves who finished second in today's Kansas 300 and Gil de Ferran who finished third. Gentlemen, today fuel mileage was a big factor. Helio, you came in late in the race with a few laps to go to kind of top off. The winner of the race had to be pushed into Victory Lane. Obviously, fuel was a big factor today.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, absolutely. Again first of all, I have to thank Marlboro Team Penske. We had to work really hard to come back for a one-and-a-half-mile oval, especially after Texas. Certainly the team improve a lot, proved that we are more competitive. That's obviously fantastic. Again, we are right there with the leaders. All of a sudden one of the laps I went to -- the track started getting faster because of more grip. I went to upshift to sixth, all of a sudden I lost sixth. Then I downshift to fifth, I lost fifth. Then all of a sudden my day seems to be dark and I say I couldn't believe it. Stuck in fifth gear, as I was going down to turn one, I thought, "I'm going to stop. I don't want to cause a yellow." All of a sudden I find at 20 miles an hour I downshift to fourth, the gear seems to be back. From first to fourth, the gears were okay. I was able to go back, somehow. I don't know how I managed finish second.

THE MODERATOR: Gil, you also had a good car today all afternoon. You tested a couple weeks ago. Talk about your run.

GIL de FERRAN: I think it was like Helio was alluding to, it was a very encouraging run for us today. I had a good start. The car, that first stint, was very, very good. I was just biding my time there behind Scott, trying to save fuel and all that. And very happy about that, all that. So we came in for the first stop. On the second stint, I had a little bit too much understeer in the car, so we dropped back a little bit. But from there, we decided to come in, get out of sequence there. Then it was looking good. One of the other guys came in about five laps later because, you know, we had a lot of yellows earlier on in the race. We thought, "Maybe one more yellow, it's all we need." There was a lot of guys, slower cars, between us, Helio and Dixon. I was able to break away. My car was very, very fast today, I mean very fast today. I have to say from there on I never lifted, it was flat out, flat out, use all the fuel, come in, put more fuel, go flat out all the way around again. The car was brilliant. Not only was it handling well, but I think like Helio was saying, it was very fast. You know, even though we didn't win the race, we didn't even finish second today, I would say that I'm happier about this third place today than I've been for happy about a third place in a long time. I think as Helio just alluded to, this one-and-a-half-mile oval has not really been our strength. I mean, we done okay on the short ovals, but we somewhat struggle in this type of racetrack. But today not only the car was good in traffic, was also fast, you know, fast enough to win the race. This is really encouraging for us going forward to Kentucky, to Nashville, back to Texas again and all that. I mean, I would say that, I don't know Helio may not agree, but I think he agrees, that the credit I think for us to finish second and third today is mostly due to the very hard work the guys put in in the last few weeks.

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and take some questions from the media center.

Q. Comment on Bryan Herta's win. You were both with him in CART when he won at Laguna Seca.

GIL de FERRAN: I think Bryan in my mind has always been a very competitive driver. I mean, you can tell he's got a really good feel for the car and everything else. Now he's with a very good team again. He's getting back in his swing. I think this result is very good for him. I mean, he's been running well anyway since he jumped back in the car. But I think this win certainly will pump up his confidence a little bit. I expect him to be right there throughout the end of the year.

Q. Gil, you made a stop about 15 laps left. You were in the lead. Had you and your crew considered going in for a stop earlier, see if you could make up the positions?

GIL de FERRAN: At that point, we knew we were not going to able to make it, you know, without that last stop. So it was really a matter of trying to go as fast as we could and hope for yellow. But no yellow came. To be honest, we don't like yellow very much, because usually they mean bad things. But that's the way I goes sometimes. I mean, there is no way to predict that sort of outcome.

Q. Helio, what are your thoughts on Bryan Herta's win today?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Bryan obviously adapt very well. This is his second or third race. All of a sudden he's on a great team, Team Green. He did a very good job. All times he was doing as well as you said, especially in Laguna Seca. Today saving fuel for him pays off. Now we just have to keep going forward.

Q. Could you talk about the conditions today, the weather and the conditions of the track.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Honestly, yeah, was really brutal. But I guess the race towards the end definitely was a little bit more tiring. But until that point, 20 laps to go, I felt pretty comfortable, at least myself. Seems everybody was holding up, behaving a little bit better, a little misjudge here and there. But, again, conditions wasn't that terrible. I was feeling a little heat in my cockpit pedal, my legs and my ankle, but nothing like Michigan the one day that we burn our feet. Again, was a great day. The track conditions were brilliant. It was a good result from Marlboro Team Penske.

Q. Gil, you're from Brazil. Comment on the weather.

GIL de FERRAN: To be honest, once we got going, you saw into the race, I didn't feel --.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Not even sweat?

GIL de FERRAN: I did (laughter). The pace was hard. How can I say? You're so concentrated that I didn't really feel that bad, to be honest. You know, I mean, I was a little tired at the end because we'd been wide open for over a hundred laps, but it wasn't too bad I didn't think.

Q. (Inaudible)?

GIL de FERRAN: I think the likelihood of us getting into the Victory Lane today is the same as any other weekend. I mean, we've been knocking on the door. You know, today I felt like I had a strong chance. You know, the way the yellows fell and the strategy and all that, it didn't happen. But, you know, I think it was a good run for the team. I think it was a good showing for the 1,999 start.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: For sure, it's not a victory, nothing compares to a victory. Again, consistent run definitely helps. So maybe you celebrate 2001.

GIL de FERRAN: Exactly.

Q. Were you surprised of the lead changes that occurred within the last 15 to 20 laps?

GIL de FERRAN: Well, it just all came down to the fuel thing, you know. I wasn't surprised. I was just flat out (laughter). I mean, that's what it came down to. People that stopped at different places, at different times during the race, they were coming in at different times. I don't know. I just take it as it comes. I wasn't analyzing it deeply, to be honest.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Honestly, I was just so worried to come back from what happened, having a gearbox problem, that I was like not -- I was asking who was the leader until they say, "You're P2." I'm like, "Get out of here. Is that right? Get out of here. How is that possible?" "Herta is not going to make it." "Get out of here."

Q. Gil, you said you were biding your time behind Dixon. As much activity that was going on in challenging for that position, did you think maybe you might not ever pass this guy? Did you think he was invincible?

GIL de FERRAN: Not at all actually. I was not trying to overtake him. Only once I tried to overtake him. On a restart I had a run at him. I thought, "I think I might be quicker than him leading, so maybe if I get ahead I can lead." I tried at that point. But since it didn't work, I quickly fell back in line because there's no point in going around side by side. Is the first third of the race. So we were just, I mean, both Helio and I, in line saving fuel. It's hard to do that sometimes because, I mean, if you not careful, you get swamped. But it was working okay. I was pretty happy about the way things were going. I had no thoughts similar to what you're saying, none whatsoever. I was just, you know, biding my time, waiting for a time later in the race to mount an attack or something. I felt like when we got out of sequence, there were a few cars between us, it showed that I did, indeed, have the speed to lead. That was really encouraging for me.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think, just to jump in on his question, those races, as you said, you can't go side by side, otherwise you going to have 20 cars behind you trying to pass in one turn.

GIL de FERRAN: It's a mess.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: You don't want that right at the beginning of the race. You just have to keep right there. Also, he's leading. You want him burning the fuel instead of you. But a yellow came on, and somehow turned out to be different.

Q. (Inaudible)?

GIL de FERRAN: Yeah, huge for us. We didn't do tire testing. We were just here, Scott and somebody else did tire testing, but we did not. For us, it was just really important to get the track time. We've been scratching our heads on how to get more speed out of this one-and-a-half-mile oval track, those two days here, then we went to Kentucky, they were really important, really important. Believe it or not, we've been doing this for about a year and a half now. But still, you know, trying to pin it down, our performance in this type of track.

Q. How much encouragement is there? Dixon had been dominating.

GIL de FERRAN: The thing is, back to the earlier comment, I never get discouraged. Therefore, I never get encouraged because I'm always encouraged. I don't know. Perhaps it's hard for some people to relate to that. To me, Dixon is doing a good job. I don't see him as this fearsome force that nobody can beat. To me that doesn't exist, you know. He's not Darth Vader or anything like that. He's just another guy, he's having a good run, he's talented, doing good jobs, not making a lot of mistakes. Really, I feel like is up to us to improve our performance and if we do that, by consequence we end up beating him at some point. I don't know, that's how I feel. I never like, "Oh, my God, what are we going to do?" That does not happen. I do not think like that. He can beat me 10 times in a row. On the 11th time, I'm still saying, "Okay, we go one more time. If that happens again, let's go to the 12th and 13th and 14th and on and on and on." I was always like that. I think that helps you, especially when you're going through a patch that you're not doing as well as you would like, which is not the case by the way.

Q. Did you hear any discussion about the fuel situation on the radio?

GIL de FERRAN: Well, I knew I wasn't going to be able to make it without an extra little stop at the end there. For us, like I said, I was wide open and hope for the best.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, for me, it was different. I had a gearbox problem. I have to slow down. All of a sudden I have to try to get my lap back. Obviously, we were saving fuel a lot. Tim Cindric in my radio kept telling me to do a certain number, otherwise I wouldn't be able to make it. So it was really close. It pays off to be able to finish second.

Q. What did you know about Herta's fuel situation?

GIL de FERRAN: I didn't know anything about his fuel situation. I was just trying to pass Helio at the end.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I just found out he's run out of fuel. Basically, they were telling me that he might not make it. When Tony passed me in pit, I saw, "Well, maybe the same team, I have the same kind of strategy." But, no, he was able to finish. I finished second.

Q. What are your thoughts on being the (inaudible) driver for the Penske?

GIL de FERRAN: Well, I think - how can I say? - For any driver to drive for Penske Racing is something that one is extremely proud of. I mean, how can I say? I consider Penske Racing to be one of the best teams in the history of the sport. I mean, you can include anybody there. I mean, they certainly make, you know, this so-called list of the best teams in auto racing. For you as a driver, to be invited by Roger to be a part of this team, is something that I will carry forever with me, as some of my greatest accomplishments. So it's something that I'm very, very proud of.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: For me, agreeing what Gil said.

GIL de FERRAN: You didn't hear what I said.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I was not paying attention, but I spend most of the time with this guy.

GIL de FERRAN: Be polite.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Anyway, is incredible to be on Team Penske. Everybody can talk about it's one of the best team, again it's owner, to wear the Marlboro suit. Again, he knows how to conduct that team, how to put people in the right place in the right time. It's just a remarkable. And I'm just happy to be part -- a little part of the history, his history.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Helio and Gil on your second and third.

GIL de FERRAN: Thank you and congratulations to Bryan and Michael.



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