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IndyCar Series: Emerson Indy 225

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Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Emerson Indy 225

IndyCar Series: Emerson Indy 225

Helio Castroneves
Gil de Ferran
Tony Kanaan
August 10, 2003


MADISON, ILLINOIS

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our second and third place finishers of today's Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway. To my far left, Gil de Ferran. He started the event in fourth place, finished in third. To my immediate left, Tony Kanaan. He started the event in third place, finished second. We'll begin with Gil. Tell us a little about your race.

GIL de FERRAN: Yeah, well, we had a good race. I think in the beginning of the stint, of any stint, we weren't that fast. But then as, you know, the fuel went down and the tires wore out, I seemed to be relatively stronger against the other guys. But later on in the race, things seemed to equal out a little bit. Mostly Tony and Helio in particular probably made a few adjustments. I made a few adjustments to improve my beginning of my stints. So that meant that, you know, we were just very, very closely matched, especially throughout the last stint of the race. And it was wide open, I mean, qualifying pace. Helio was pushing really hard, Tony was pushing very hard, and I was pushing very hard. But, you know, it's enjoyable to drive like that. You know, you drive on the limit all day long. I think that was a lot of fun. I guess as far as I was concerned, there was not enough traffic at the end (laughter). But, you know, that's the way it goes. I think both Helio and Tony did a good job. You know, it keeps us in the hunt there for the points. I think certainly we were a little bit fortunate there with Dixon's problem. He was very, very strong. But, you know, it happens. Happens to everyone.

TONY KANAAN: Things happen.

GIL de FERRAN: On to the next one.

THE MODERATOR: A note on Gil. Today is his seventh Top 3 finish of the season. Completes two victories including Indianapolis and Nashville. Our second place finisher, Tony Kanaan, with today's victory, unofficially he moves back atop the IndyCar Series point standings with 357 points. Unofficially Helio Castroneves is second with 347, Gil with 340, Scott Dixon fourth with 333. As I say, this is unofficial. At this time, Tony, if you could take us through your event. You started very strong.

TONY KANAAN: Well, I knew was going to be tough to pass, so I had to give everything on the start. I mean, me and Gil were laughing about that two seconds ago because it was pretty wild. I mean, Kenny was strong, Helio was strong. It seemed that my car, it was pretty good on cold tires. Gil saw me cleaning up the up line, the high line, in turn three and four, and he helped me out to clean that in the parade lap, so he knew I was going there. Actually ended up working very well. Then the car started to understeer a little bit too much. I got traffic. Helio got me back. Like Gil said, the cars are so similar. We had a lot of fun. Good thing about it is playing with these guys, it's always clean and fair. You don't worry about somebody chopping you off or doing a crazy move. You can race hard and trust each other. Points lead is back, but only going to last for a week. We don't know what's going to happen next week. Let me enjoy that till next Friday.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Gil or Tony.

Q. Tony, after Scott dropped out, Helio took the lead, did you at any point feel you could mount a challenge for the win?

TONY KANAAN: Well, I was pushing. I didn't back off at all. The thing is the cars were so similar, my car was better in turn one and two, and Helio's car and Gil's car was better in three and four. So it was like that chain reaction. You know, I would catch Helio in one and two but I wasn't strong enough in three and four. I was trying, believe me. Like Gil said, was a qualifying pace. Not only because I want to pass Helio, but I knew who was behind me. I said, "I better hurry up here because this guy is not going to give me any break." Every time I put a fast one down, I look in my mirrors to pray, he's further down, and he was right there. I'm like, "Come on, Gil, give me a break, let me breathe a little bit." So, no, not really. Probably the last two laps when we caught traffic and Helio was kind of behind Buddy, we all settled down. Because it took me the whole race to try to pass him, I wasn't going to get him in the last lap, especially Helio.

Q. Every driver that has won here in the IndyCar Series has also raced here during the CART years here. How important is having that experience to mastering this tough track?

GIL de FERRAN: I would say it's probably having more road course experience, you know, because out of the ovals, I don't know if Tony agree or not, but, you know, this is one that you have to brake, downshift, you know, control the throttle, so on and so forth, which is sort of unique to the ovals that we go to. I think having road racing experience is helpful, when it's required of you to do all that.

TONY KANAAN: I agree. I think downshifting, it's really important. I've been watching a couple of the guys struggling a little bit on that. Here is probably the hardest braking and downshifting oval that we have. You know, the car get really light on the braking sideways. I mean, it's the type of a road course driving style that you have to have to be able to do well. I think that's what the advantage is that we have.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TONY KANAAN: For me, some of the tracks we go, you don't have to have the car, you just have to have a consistent one and keep the momentum up. Here it really shows who is good and who is so-so. So definitely it's one last opportunity for us to take advantage on that. Yeah, I'll be sad to see it go.

GIL de FERRAN: I think in a way Tony is right. This is a real driver's track. You know, so from that standpoint, I really enjoy it.

Q. Tony, how much does it mean to you to be leading the championship points battle at this point of the season?

TONY KANAAN: Just makes you feel good. But, I mean, seven-point lead in a -- 40, if you win?

GIL de FERRAN: 50.

TONY KANAAN: In a 50-point win, still almost 300 points out there or even more. So it just feels good, but it's wide open. Look at Dixon. One bad weekend and you drop. Look at myself, I came into Michigan looking reasonably, and all of a sudden I was back again. You're going to see people going back and forth. I mean, to be honest, doesn't mean anything to be leading or to be third in this championship right now. It's all going to get down to Fontana. You guys going to see a big fight there.

GIL de FERRAN: You mean Texas.

TONY KANAAN: Sorry, Texas (laughter).

Q. Scott Dixon at one point was running away with the race. How fast was he going and what were your thoughts trying to track him done?

GIL de FERRAN: He was just very, very consistent, you know. Whereas everybody else, similar to what we saw in Pikes Peak, you know, whereas everybody else tends to go off, he didn't. So he stays doing very, very fast lap times. Everybody starts to slow down. Somehow they have the setup figured out that the car doesn't seem to go out throughout the stint. As the race wore on, he came stronger.

TONY KANAAN: I agree. He looked good because we are going bad. I mean, we're going a little bit backwards in lap time. He just kept his pace. He was definitely stronger through traffic. I mean, Gil had a pretty good fight with him. I was gone at the time. But when he got up to me, just took him a lap to pass me. I didn't even want to hold him because I knew how tight it was. If you keep fighting like that, you putting yourself in a position that three or four cars can pass you back. So I guess Gil is right. His car seems to not go off as much as our cars.

Q. Talk about the points thing.

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER: I think there's a high, high, high likelihood we're going to get into the last race with four or five guys with a chance of winning the championship, you know. I wouldn't be surprised if we go into the last race right one on top of each other points-wise. It's been that way all year. I see no reason that's just not going to continue on going forward. I mean, there's five races to go. It's going to be a dogfight the last five races. I really don't see anybody pulling away, you know, a whole bunch of points here as we get to the last stretch.

Q. Dixon has been so strong since June, since Pikes Peak, it was about time for him to have bad luck.

TONY KANAAN: To be honest, this is racing. I mean, we never prays for somebody to have bad luck. That's the way it is. He had some bad lucks in the beginning of the year, as well, Phoenix. It's just a matter of people win championships being the most consistent, and that's what it is. Whatever happened to him, unfortunately bad for him, good for us. It happened to me last week. It happened to Gil. He missed a race. It happened to Helio. So I think that's why we're so tight together because it happened to all of us already. Right now, from now on, it's going to be a matter of whoever can keep in the racetrack will be the winner.

THE MODERATOR: Gil, Tony, congratulations. We had have Helio Castroneves up next. I know it's kind of bothered you, Helio, that you haven't been in this seat in a while. Certainly congratulations on your win today. You started from the pole. You fought hard and brought it home. Tell us your thoughts on your victory.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's better late than never. Again, I never lost the faith in my crew. My crew never lost the faith in me. They always believed. I guess that's the way it should be. They got me well into today's race. It's tough, you know. You have to keep knocking the door. One day you're going to get your breaks. Unfortunately, it took a little more than we expect. But this is racing, this is the game, and I just have to give you opportunity. We're very optimistic. We had a lot of troubles, but turned out to be in a good way.

THE MODERATOR: This is Helio's first victory since the 2002 Indianapolis 500. There have been 20 starts in between his wins. He has been extremely competitive. This was his seventh Top 3 of the year, and his fourth Top 3 in the last five races. You said in qualifying yesterday you had telemetry problems. How was it today?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I guess that's the secret, huh? Had a problem with the beacons yesterday, and today just had absolutely nothing. As soon as, "Gentlemen, start your engines," that's where something happened. I kept calling those guys, come on, taking this steering wheel off, putting back on. In fact, the fuel started going away without me because we're trying to fix. They say, "Well, just go." So I start going. I turn it off, put it back again, try to see if reset anything. Unfortunately, the dash just keep exactly the same way. It was very difficult. Some things, like traction control was gone, speed limiter, I didn't have any indicator that was on and off. A lot of things that might be simple, but believe me it might or not might cost you a race. Again, the team guide me really well. I believe I felt like flying on an airplane without any instrument in the bad weather. But the good news is, I don't know how to fly an airplane, but I do know how to drive a car (laughter). We were right there in the end.

THE MODERATOR: You have to focus on your driving, but obviously that's something else in the back of your mind you're wondering about.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: The problem is, like, for example, we have a sequential gearbox, the revs normally with the lights. When you don't have the lights, that's the position, when you hit the red, that's when you need to shift, but I didn't have anything. I'm like hitting the limiter every time. Obviously, people were making ground. That's why I lost so many positions I believe on the start of the race. That was a shame. But finally I got the rhythm back and start understanding in the few spots of the racetrack, that's where I need to shift before I hit the limiter. Maybe I was shifting earlier, but that was the only way to not made any damage in engine or on the car, something like that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio.

Q. How is the fence climbing?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tell you, I thought I was a little rusty. I still keep practicing in the backyard in home (laughter). They had little things on the fence here that you can't put your hand straight. Anyway, it was great fun. Was a great moment. It's good for your momentum, you know. So we just have to keep carry on.

Q. Scott Dixon was so strong today. Talk about him. When you saw him pull down there coming off two, talk about that?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, he was extremely fast, before a hundred laps to go especially. I notice he was pretty easy, you know, passing traffic, coming through the corners. It was very interesting to see how fast he was. But to finish first, first you need to finish. I'm sorry, Scott, I can't feel sorry, man, for what happened today. I been there many times. It's one of those days that seems to me everything going your way. Seems everything go to my way. When he stopped, honestly still a lot of laps to go, I knew that the race wasn't over yet. I still have more guys behind me. We're very equal between Tony, Gil and the rest of the field. Seems to be everybody on the same rhythm. I just kept my focus towards to the end, and I was just trying be a little bit worry when we start coming up 10 laps to go with traffic. But people were extremely generosity, and I think that's the way it should be. Sometimes 10 laps to go, there is nothing you can do. That helped me a lot to win the race.

Q. With all the technology that these cars have, to be able to do it without any of that, doesn't it prove that the driver and team are more important than all that?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's a good point. I don't want to get in that situation, but I think the track, as well, helped me a lot in those conditions. Yes, I was driving like in Indy Lights when we didn't have any of those things. So was very difficult to know which gear I was. Was very difficult, the restarts of the race. Coming to the pits, I was really fear because it's one mile an hour that you just blew, that's it, your race is over. Basically the traction control seems to turn it off, as well, whatever happens to the system... Everything was kind of very, very difficult. But I tried to kept cool. I tried to just drive my race and do not thinking about the problem, thinking about what we can get. The victory, that's what was in my mind.

Q. In your two years with the series, you've been involved at the top of very close points battles. Is this what you expected running the IRL?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Any championship, when I'm going for it, I'm going to do my best. It's like our races, you know, 20 races that we went winless. It's one of those things that you try and think positive, trying to be competitive. To be competitive, you need to score points as much as you can. I learned a lot with my teammate. I been winning more race than him, even in CART, but he's keep winning the championship. Well, I guess that was the formula, to win championships. Again, when we came to IRL, we knew it's going to be competitive. Sam and I last year were battling towards the last lap basically. I don't think it's going to be different this year. It's going to be right there towards to the end. So we just have to keep our consistency, keep finishing the race, scoring points to do well.

Q. How does winning change your mental attitude, for positions one, two and three?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know. I'll tell you next race. I'm the same approach coming to each race: we need to win, we need to be consistent. Again, when we start today, seems everything was gone. We start with the dash. "Great, this is just what's happening." Even when I had a bad car handling at one point of the race, I never lost the faith. I say, "I'm going to keep here and I know I can fix this." So my approach for the next race, it's good momentum, not only for me. Maybe in my subconscious might be good because, yeah, we know we can do it again. We won, let's go for it. But for the whole guys, for all entire guys, they knew we could do well. I think it's more for them instead of for me, you know, because I'm with the same spirit and the same way. I'm just extremely happy for those guys. They been working 24/7. Wow, I'm very pleased.

Q. I don't think you've ever finished out of the Top 10 on this track before. This is the last year here. How glad are you to have this race on your resume?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, honestly I really enjoy this place. In fact, when we came to the open test, my teammate was very fast. I say, "Huh-uh, something wrong here. This place, I know I can do better. I know I can do the pole position, win, everything." I learn a lot from last year. You know, for setups, the conditions of the race, everything seems to be working well. So it's good to having. It's a shame to not have the race, you know, because every place you go, when you have a data, it's always good because you can improve on those things. But is the same for everyone. Whatever is going to happen happens. Right now I just going to enjoy this moment.

Q. Having gone 20 races without winning, winning anything would be a thrill. Does it give you more pride winning here?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think so, yes, for me, for sure, you know, because was a very tough conditions out there with those situations. I wouldn't say maybe when I was driving for Indy Lights, that was normal. You like, "Okay, we don't have those things. What are you talking about?" But when you got used to and when you learn how to read those things, it is very difficult. But, hey, maybe was a good thing that happened that because I could drive my own race in terms of whatever fuel strategy, didn't have to save any fuel. Whatever happens happens. I enjoy a lot those kind of races. I was really pushing. I wasn't taking it easy, especially turn three and four. Yes, make me feel proud of myself. But, again, I know I have a team that back me up really good. That's why it's always important to have a team like that.

Q. What was the exact nature of the problem with the telemetry?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: They just told me as soon as the race finish, I think they turn it off, turn it on, everything was working fine. Thank you, that was very nice news you give me (laughter). Don't know. It's one of those bug things, you know what I'm saying? I don't know. It just felt really strange. Happened yesterday, but yesterday we know what happened. Missed a beacon. Everybody did not understand why. But today, morning, everything was running good. It was scary. So we know next time what to do. It's just hopefully fixed.

Q. Did you think about Carl today after winning?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Absolutely. I saw their family, Carl, Jr., Dave, everyone, the kids. It is awesome. It is awesome to have people like that. We almost had my first ever win here, you know, when I finished behind Michael. Before going into the race, Michael just came to me and said, "Do you remember?" "Man, that must be one of your victories." He say, "Yeah, I do remember." Again, it make me feel very honor, you know, listen to those things. I guess this place owe me a long time ago. But, you know, today finally pays off. You just have to keep the faith.

Q. The last five races are mile-and-a-half laps or longer. Based on what you did last year on superspeedways versus what Gil did, gives you a chance for a championship run. I know you have been equal this year. How do you see these final five races?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's going to be competitive, as you said. But we just have to keep still working together. Today Gil helps a lot, for me especially when I have a lot of trouble with gears and stuff like that. That's the way, same way works for him. I took a lot of chance for the race winning with a totally different everything. Again, both of us finish right there. So I guess it's depend. It's depend of the conditions. It's depend of what you need to do. But we going to try to keep the same system working. Hopefully, you right, come to my way. But, again, you can't predict those things. As you said, Nazareth is one of those tracks we know we're going to be really strong so far. But all the other place, it's tough. Trust me, Kentucky is going to be a very tough race. I guess if we don't have a win, finish second. If not, just keep finishing and scoring points. Today I'm in the hunt for the championship because I did not get frustrated. I knew I could win and I knew the team could make me win. It's a combination that come together. Man, you have to keep pushing. One day is going to come your way. Today is my way.

Q. (Question regarding IROC)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Over here?

Q. The IROC.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, the IROC. Special, don't you think? I was leading the race by whatever, really good. The only open-wheel driver giving a hard time for those NASCAR guys. All of a sudden yellow for nothing. Well, I understand. Jay told me there was a debris. A lot of people want me to finish first there, especially in such a place I enjoy so much. Hey, again, I know I can learn how to drive those cars. Maybe I have a little more time. Hopefully is not going to take long like took to win a race today. It was great. I enjoy a lot running IROC. That's teach me a lot, as well, even here in IRL.

THE MODERATOR: You were on the pole, you brought it home. Congratulations on a super day.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you very much.



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