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IndyCar Series: Firestone Indy 200

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Firestone Indy 200

IndyCar Series: Firestone Indy 200

Helio Castroneves
Gil de Ferran
Scott Dixon
July 19, 2003


GLADEVILLE, TENNESSEE

THE MODERATOR: If we can have your attention, we'll begin our second and third place press conference for tonight's Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. Finishing third on the far left over here, Helio Castroneves. Finishing second tonight, Scott Dixon. Scott, you started up front; you finished up front. Obviously, a tough race. Give us your comments.

SCOTT DIXON: Sure. I think Gil drove a superb race. I think his car was a little faster, especially on the straights. Must have been running a little less wing. We came pretty close in turn one there. I didn't realize I came down that much on him. Lucky we came out. It was kind of a real strange race. Everybody was doing different things and strategy. Then we had the end there to save fuel. It was just bizarre. That last stint, we were down to the cords on our tires, so we were done (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Helio, you started on the front row, as well. Very good performance for you. Take us through your race.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, it was pretty good. Obviously, I had a little trouble in the pits. But we were able to recover later on. It's very difficult to pass here. I got stuck behind some other guys. That was very difficult, you know. When you have a one-line groove, what you have to do is wait, see if you can get trafffic, take advantage of that. Towards the end, the only chance I had was to pass Wheldon because of the restart. I took a chance, was able to do it, successful bid. Finished third. That's good. We keep knocking on the door. That's what we did. Hopefully at the end of the championship, we can have our turn.

THE MODERATOR: Scott, let's get your comments first. 1.3-mile oval with the concrete, what was traffic like tonight? Looked like everybody had some pretty close racing.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was strange. It depended on who you were passing, I think. There were guys who were fairly good and some that you had to be fairly cautious. Remember Foyt towards the end there was in the middle of the corner going so slow and everybody checked out there for a while. I don't know, it was going to be difficult, especially when you're trying to pass guys near your own speed, it was going to be something else to try to pass them. It was difficult. If you got even a couple wheels up in the groove, you know, in the high line there, just lots the bad rubber and stuff. It was terrible. The only place to really sit was on the bottom.

THE MODERATOR: Helio, can you comment on just the close racing, not necessarily slow cars, but even up front?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, pretty much the same as Scott said. First time when I tried to go a little bit outside, I lost two positions. I said, "You know what, I don't think the outside groove is good." It's one of those days. Close race, as everybody is saying. Very exciting, very fast. Again, different strategy. I guess I think it was really exciting. We were full throttle most of the time. Just the middle kind of saving fuel. But, again, turned out to be good strategy for Marlboro Team Penske. My teammate won, we finished third. Good performance for us, especially one and a half miles, I know this is 1.3. Normally we are not very successful, so I'm pretty happy with the result today.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions from our media.

Q. Scott, you finished second, started on the pole, but overall in the points race you have to be happy. Kanaan looks like he got ninth.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, that's real good. I didn't know where Tony finished. That's what we had to look at. You can't set your sights on the championship; you have to keep racing like you normally race, otherwise you'll be down the back. So we've, you know, tried our best, tried to stay at the top. Obviously if you can stay at the top, you're going to collect some points. You know, I'm not sure if we really had a car to win tonight. It was probably a second, third-place car. Team Target has done a great job at the moment. Good to see we've gotten rid of our fuel problem. Hopefully we can have more consistency throughout the year.

Q. Scott, did the late cautions affect you in any way at all? If it continued under green, would the outcome have been any different?

SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. We probably would have blown our right rear. I was pretty happy to see that last caution. I know Helio was coming up pretty fast through the middle of the corner. We couldn't really go flat out, it was pretty loose. You know, that was the way it went luckily for us.

Q. Same for Helio, did the cautions affect you in any way at all at the end?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Actually no. I was hoping for more cautions because that was the only way for you to take advantage and try to pass somebody. In fact, that's what I did with Dan Wheldon. But obviously towards the end, just trying to catch and see if something would happen with the two guys in front of me. But, again, it was a tough race I believe for everyone, obviously even for myself. But, again, I'm happy. I'll take third. I'll get out of here happy, smile on my face. Not as big a smile as my teammate, but hopefully next one we can keep continuing our consistency (laughter).

Q. Helio, you mentioned early on you tried to go on an outside groove. Was that in the first two or three laps of the race? Did the track come back to you at all? Were you able to race side by side later on?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Never tried to go outside any more. I learned my lesson right at the beginning. I didn't want to take a chance and lose spots again. Spots today, even if it's one spot, was like gold. So you're trying to treat it very well. That's why when you have some guys slow coming up to you, you are just trying to make a good strategy, set up in a good way. But it was very difficult.

Q. You look really drenched in sweat there, Scott.

SCOTT DIXON: I think it's from my drink bottle. It came out of the helmet. I kept pushing on it. Couldn't get anything. It's just water (laughter).

Q. Was it pretty hot out there?

SCOTT DIXON: It wasn't too bad, I don't think.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Just one of those races. We pull a lot of Gs here. If you ask this question to my teammate, I'm sure he's going to be like, "Oh, I'm tired. Oh, it was tough. I'm a hero." (Laughter). That's him. After he won Indy, he's like all of a sudden, "Oh, yes, baby."

THE MODERATOR: Are we in danger of a song from the winner tonight?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm sure he will.

SCOTT DIXON: He was out there singing.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: He's already Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Wake Up Little Susie, Falling in Love With You. Man, the sky's the limit with CDs, records.

THE MODERATOR: Let's get each of your comments, next week the big track at Michigan, racing on a two-mile oval. Scott, if you'll start off.

SCOTT DIXON: We seemed to have a fairly good test there. Hard to say. Weren't many teams out there. I think we'll qualify pretty good again. Our car seems to be good on the bigger circuits for qualifying. Tomas will probably shine a little there. I think we have a really good race car. Kansas was a good sign, from my side of the team anyway, we had a pretty bad car in Texas, but Kansas we came back very strong in the race. Had the fuel problem. Hopefully in Michigan, it goes the same way.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the same day Scott was testing, we were testing, as well. We were happy. I think it's going to be fast, exciting. It's not going to be much like one line here. But I'm sure it's going to be like three lines over there. So, again, it's going to be one of those strategies, who is going to pit later, saving fuel behind guys, stuff like that. So we looking good. Hopefully we're going to be in a good shape.

Q. Scott, I understand you had a gearbox problem. How did you keep Helio from passing you?

SCOTT DIXON: It was mainly like the restarts and things like that. It was more of an inconvenience. The shift without lift wasn't working. It might have been a little slower. But, you know, it's one of those nice things we get to have and we didn't have it, so.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Almost passed me at the start (laughter).

Q. What's your thoughts on Hornish being able to take the new Chevy engine, but tonight he was very strong?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Was he? I didn't see him. Actually, it was one of those kind of strategy. You know, Sam is a very good, fast driver. No doubt about. If he's changing engine or stuff like that, I'm sure he's just going to keep shining for the series. Obviously, American drivers are good. He's one of the American drivers that were really fast. It's going to bring more excitement for the series. You know, I don't think it's going to change for me or for my team. We just have to keep working and thinking our job. Hopefully we'll keep doing a good performance the way we're doing.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I didn't really see Sam tonight either. I think he was up there a little bit towards the end when they were out of sequence or we were off a different sequence anyway. Yeah, good to see. The more competition, the better. I'm sure Toyota is working hard. We're going to have better engines towards the end of year. Hopefully we still have an edge over those guys. Once again, it will be good to see them up there.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm sure Toyota is not going to be waiting. They're going to keep working, as well. Hopefully we're going to be in good shape.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on a very strong evening. Buddy Lazier was involved in the late race incident. He has been checked and released from the in-field care center. Gil, congratulations, your second victory of the season. Tell us a little bit about your race, then we'll get into Q&A.

GIL de FERRAN: Thank you. I'll tell you, it was a fantastic race today. I mean, right from the start, the car really felt good. We had a good start. I came out of turn two in third place, I think it was. But I could tell, I was right on Helio. I thought, "Yeah, I might as well take a chance here while dust is still settling." I was able to pass him I think second or third lap. Then I was right on to Scott. I think we had a yellow in between. But anyway, I was able to pass Scott, as well. The car was just fantastic. I have to say right from the start, things were going well. We had a problem on the first pit stop, I believe it was the first pit stop. The car didn't come up. I think we had a problem with the hose, I believe, so we lost a few positions there. But I think from there on, the race went as well as we could have hoped really. I mean, the strategy from Roger, it was just spot-on. The car was very good all day, either in traffic or by himself. The stops, even though we had that little problem there on the first one, they were absolutely spot-on, I mean, especially the last stop, which was crucial to get me out ahead of the Ganassi cars. The guys just got me out of there in front of everyone. It was great. I mean, they really did a good job. I think today was a real team effort I would say between the car being so good, the stops and the strategy. There you go. It was a fun race. There it is.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Gil.

GIL de FERRAN: In English, please (laughter).

Q. Did you put on tires after that first stop?

GIL de FERRAN: I put tires in every stop but the last one.

Q. But the last one?

GIL de FERRAN: Yes.

Q. Looking at this championship hunt, after missing that race, you are all of a sudden in this championship race. Can you talk about how well things have gone in the last few weeks.

GIL de FERRAN: I think, you know, we never really lost heart. You see what I mean? It's certainly hard to be out of it for a race and six weeks, feeling like I felt. But, you know, I never really lost heart, said, "It's all gone." Racing is racing, man. Things change, things happen. The likelihood of you having two or three bad results in a 16-race season is very high. So I guess I felt like, "Okay, we had our two bad results, out of the way early on." From there on, I mean, everything's been great, with the exception of Texas, which we weren't particularly strong. Every other race, we were very strong. It's nice to have everything come together again for a win. You know, as far as the championship is concerned, certainly my goal is to win the championship, make no mistake about it. The way I focus on that is by not focusing on that. It's by focusing on each and every weekend as they come. Come out of here with a first place, a second place, a third place. If you can win, win. If you can't, you have to still bring it home. Today the car was great. I thought we perhaps could have won in Kansas. Came up a little short there. But today it was just perfect.

Q. Gil, you said you didn't take tires in your last pit stop. Scott Dixon said he was running on basically threads. Were you worried at all about your tire situation, especially with the abrasiveness of the concrete?

GIL de FERRAN: We were certainly concerned. I mean, tire wear was certainly an issue throughout the race. Even prior to the race, we talked a lot about that. The reason being is that this track is very abrasive, and it wears the tires a lot. That's not a problem; it's just the way it is. So we took several steps to try to make the car as easy as we could make the car on the tires. Like I said, the car was just very, very good, you know. I mean, it was getting a little sliding around there at the end. I was wide open. It was hard to keep the boot in. But had a couple slides coming off four a couple times, coming off two, got sideways a little bit. But, you know, it was still good.

Q. The Commissioner of baseball has been called, you've been fined $5,000 after what you did to Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

GIL de FERRAN: That's okay (laughter).

Q. Describe your pass in turn one. Couldn't have been more than a couple of inches when you made that pass on Scott Dixon.

GIL de FERRAN: Yeah, I mean, he protected the inside line. I had some momentum, and I kind of went a little bit to the outside first, then I think he started to come up. When he came up, I went straight down. I didn't go below the white line, because that's not allowed, as you know. You know, I came straight down. It was just enough room there to fit me between the white line and Scott. Once I was inside, you know, the momentum just carried me alongside. At that point I said, "Now, how am I going to make this?" The car was pretty stuck. At that point I had clean air in front of me.

Q. What about the lead cautions? How big a concern was that to you, when they kept wipe be out the lead for you?

GIL de FERRAN: I have to say that they were a help in a way because it took away our fuel worries. We were trying to do 70 laps on a tank, and that's not all that easy. Certainly those last cautions took away that worry so we could run full fuel all the time. They made matters a little bit easier on the tires, as well, because it meant we run a few less laps under green. As far as the restarts, there's always an opportunity for the guy behind you, you know, to challenge you. Restarts are always a good thing. Thankfully, I was able to pull away in every single one of them.

Q. Describe the difference in emotion. I know the win is the win, but victory circle at Indy, and victory circle in Tennessee, what's the difference in the feeling?

GIL de FERRAN: Do you have kids?

Q. Yes.

GIL de FERRAN: Which one do you love the most?

Q. The one that won at Indy (laughter).

GIL de FERRAN: All joking aside, it's a similar thing for me, you know. Certainly the Indy 500 is the biggest prize in auto racing. I mean, you can't take anything away from that. But a win is almost like a child. You know, you've got to love them, whichever one they are.

Q. Regarding Hornish, what are your comments on him with the new engine?

GIL de FERRAN: I wasn't aware of that, to be honest. In a way, it's not a great surprise to me because Sam is a great driver and they do a great job there at his team. It's just a matter of time. I think they have a new engine package on the way. He should be even more competitive. Sam, I don't care where you are, he's always a force to be reckoned with.

THE MODERATOR: Gil, congratulations on a great performance tonight, good luck in Michigan.

GIL de FERRAN: The singing one or the driving (laughter)?



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