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IndyCar Series: Toyota Indy 300

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Toyota Indy 300

IndyCar Series: Toyota Indy 400

Helio Castroneves
Tim Cindric
Sam Hornish, Jr.
Dan Wheldon
February 29, 2004


HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, we are about to begin the post race press conference for today's Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We are joined now by third place finisher Dan Wheldon. Dan, if you can sum up your day here at Homestead-Miami Speedway, very hotly contested battle in front of a big, very boisterous crowd. Sum up your day here.

DAN WHELDON: Well, I definitely think it was a big team effort. Certainly I was very disappointed with my qualifying result, so I was desperate to kind of put myself back in the picture of being up there and certainly continuing my pre-season form. But it was busy out there. We had a few little things going on that kind of set us back a little bit. But the guy who called my race did an excellent job. I put him in a difficult predicament having stalled. I don't think we planned that one. So that made it difficult. And he pulled me out of that along with the guys in the pits. You know, the car itself, I came from the warm-up this morning, and I was pretty happy with my car. But we went into the debrief, and it was actually very useful having the three teammates I've got, each one having followed me in the warm-up. They said, "Look, you need to do this, that and the other." I said, "Really? I thought my car was pretty good." It made a big difference. The experience that they've got definitely, definitely helped. Certainly with the car setup and the power, everything turned out pretty good, to be honest.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dan.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DAN WHELDON: It's the crew. Certainly those Jim Beam guys, they changed stuff and fill me up with fuel quicker than I can image. I don't know how they did it so quick. All I was looking at and focusing on was the guy that was telling me to go. So I can't tell what you they did any different. But we got out in front of these cars and I thought -- I was hoping I'd pick up Foyt's draft before these two kind of clamped onto the back of me. Unfortunately, I couldn't pick it up in time.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DAN WHELDON: Well, yeah, you can't tell with these two because they both look the same, especially when they're coming at you either side. But, you know, it was important just to kind of keep your cool because I think it could have ended ugly. But it's obviously way too early in the season to be doing anything like that. I think we all respect each other well enough that we need to give each other room, and it worked out for these two. Didn't work out for me. So hopefully I'll get my payback pretty soon when I can go. Maybe Dario and I can sandwich this guy.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know what happened? I know what happened. It was the guy in front of you. Both of us was in the clean air. You was like, "Oh, boy."

THE MODERATOR: Also now joined by Helio Castroneves, today's second place finisher. Helio, in front of your hometown track and a very large crowd here, a large Brazilian contingent all on their feet come the end of the race. As you predicted on the new track, it came down to the final turn of the final lap. Describe the finish and your overall day.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I just wish I knew how would be the end. That was a great race. Listening a little bit what Dan is saying, no doubt about it, everybody was really close, really, really close calls. But seems the people were able to respect a little bit each other. Obviously, it was a new configuration, everybody trying to understand how the race will proceed. The wind was very strong. So looks like turn one you're going a little bit -- if you go too much high, you be in a bad situation. We start the race in traffic. My car wasn't that fantastic in traffic, but was looking good by myself.

DAN WHELDON: That's because he doesn't run with any downforce.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: You should see my teammate (laughter). Anyway, so basically I was just trying to -- as soon as I got the lead, I knew which line I should be able to go. Obviously, my car was very good on old tires. That's something that I really noticed during the run. Unfortunately, yellow keep coming, so I have to keep putting new tires. In fact, I was yelling the guys, I want to keep the same tires till the end. The tires sometimes look so good, I'm like, "You know what, let's keep going." But again, turn out in the end, wow, I say, "You know what, this guy's not going to beat me on the outside." If I let him go outside, I will not sleep today. If you would have beat me... Unfortunately, he did. I knew he had a little bit less downforce than me. But because yesterday qualifying, we try low downforce. This morning, we try low downforce. We keep having a little trouble. I said, "You know what, let's go on the conservative side. Let's try not to take a chance, especially the first race of the season." So I knew I was a sitting duck. When I was leading the last five laps, it was just a matter of time. If I would try to move a little bit high, try to take his air in front of his car, but seems his car was really well solid. Yeah, I believe was a great finish. So let's keep working hard. Finish second -- people that finish second also win the championship. So that's what we're looking for.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Dan or Helio.

Q. (Inaudible)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Dan was a little bit in the middle of the both of us. I saw Herta right there. Herta was a little bit middle line, let's put it this way. Sam was going over on the high side. My car was really good on the bottom. There would have been no way for him to keep going unless his car would be very stuck or unless Bryan were to keep going. In fact, it was good because I don't know what would be ending up today. So is opportunity, you know. This kind of race, it's all about opportunity. Sometimes you lose two, three positions. Sometime the guy move in front of you, you lose downforce, you might hitting the wall. I saw guys doing that in front of me. And you have to be patient. You know, you're not going to win a race in those kind of situations. So hold your line, and I guess that's what happened today for me.

Q. (Inaudible)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think I was trying everything. Maybe I should kept outside. I don't know. I was just trying everything, you know, because he already like a car in front of me. I just trying to catch him a little bit of a draft. Maybe if he would hit the limiter, I would have a chance. So it's just one of those deals that you have to think fast. When I saw that he was already in front of me, I don't think will be any way of trying to block him. And that's why, especially in our team, one thing that Roger really does not like, is two of us crashing. So I respect that. And I don't want to be hitting the wall with my teammate. That's the last guy I want to see in the race. So happened that with us with Gil. We were race pretty strong, but were able to race pretty clean. I don't think is going to be any difference with Sam. It's a long season.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DAN WHELDON: It was a nice feeling (laughter). Yeah, like I say, I mean, when I got out in front, I just needed the Honda to pull me up to Foyt, which it did. But unfortunately with these two, they work pretty well together. You could see them running in tandem. And I think that helped them close the gap on me. Had they not worked so closely together, I think I might have been able to do it. But it's hearsay now. But certainly the guys did a good job to get me out. The guy calling the race I think changed my strategy about three or four times, he said. So he did a good job. We played with my downforce a little bit before the race. And I think the engineer made a good choice. So like Helio said, it's a very long season. We came into -- we certainly came into these first three races with the mentality of racking up points so we can maybe risk a bit more come the Indy 500. I was impressed, I don't know what you think, with the respect everybody showed each other out there. It was really tight at some points. And it seemed everybody was running pretty high off four. Nobody really did anything stupid. So I think the drivers' meeting, Bryan did a pretty good job of reaming us out.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DAN WHELDON: Maybe it's the English thing. He was perfect with me, perfect. I think we English, we stick together (laughter).

Q. (Inaudible)?

DAN WHELDON: I mean, he just obviously said, it's important when you get new guys into the series. It's so close out there that you've got to make sure that if you enter low, you stay low. If you enter in the middle of the corner, you got to stay at the middle of the corner. I think at one point there was Helio, somebody and I running three-wide. As long as you stick with the same line, you're going to be fine. Most of these tracks we go to where you get this type of racing, they're pretty wide. Fortunately, all the people I raced with were pretty good. I just can't wait to get Helio back. Like I say, I've got to sandwich him with one of my teammates.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Don't worry, man, we'll be there.

Q. (Inaudible)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: My reaction? I didn't know. I was shocked that he was going to retire. I wasn't actually surprised that Sam coming to the team. If Gil would have stop, a great American driver, a great talent out there, I'm sure Roger would not miss opportunity. So if that what happen for sure, he took a chance, is the right chance. If I would be team owner, I would be done the same thing. I just was shocked that Gil was retiring.

DAN WHELDON: If he was going to go anywhere, I thought it would be Penske. I actually raced with him at Panther a little bit. And he seemed to fit into that organization very, very well. I didn't think that Roger would actually split Gil and Helio because they obviously work very well together.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DAN WHELDON: No, not really. I think Helio's going to win just as many races. I think they're both going to be very strong. I mean, my teammate, Mr. Kanaan, talks very highly of this guy sitting to the right of me. I don't think any one of them's going to be any better than the other. I think they'll both be very strong. On each given day, whoever turns out to have the better car will end up with the result. I think Sam obviously carried less downforce than Helio today. Had it been the other way around today, I'm sure Helio would have won.

Q. (Inaudible)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm going to be teasing him every day, you know, calling him home, "Hey, what's up, buddy," trying to put some pressure. I hope will be like that. No doubt about it, the first race of the season, getting a result like that, builds up not only the confidence from himself but also for the entire team, you know. And it's good when things like that happen. Again, unfortunately things not wind up during the session the way I wish. And he took a chance, which many times with Gil also he would have took a chance, you know, like running less downforce or more downforce. I guess when you feel comfortable with the setup that you want, you have no trouble. So hopefully we end up like this in the end of the season, except finish will be a little bit different.

Q. (Inaudible)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it just concerns you a little bit. Obviously, I was trying to go too fast to the pit lane, trying to gain time. Everybody knows in those conditions, if you don't have a green flag -- yellow flag, I'm sorry, you know that in and out count a lot. So, again, as I was trying also less downforce to make sure I would be feel comfortable after that. Said, "You know what, better safe than sorry." Today it seems -- not seems that I am, but I am happy to finish second because it's good points. Hopefully those points in the end of the season... I wish I had this second in Chicago last year. That for sure would have helped me a lot in the end of the season of last year. So that's the way the team win the championship. Hopefully it's going to happen this year.

Q. (Inaudible)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's a good point. I think was pretty good, I felt especially towards the end. In fact, like I said, I want to keep the same tires, the same stint. Team keep telling me, "No, no, no, we can't keep same tire." I said, "No, no, no. The car is great. Not change it." But as soon as we change it, obviously pretty much the same. Homestead very a good job in smooth out all the things. So I believe was a good show.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thank you for a great show here at the Toyota Indy 300. We're about five minutes out for Sam Hornish, Jr. We're about to begin the winner's press conference here for the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Pleased to be joined now by the winner of the Toyota Indy 300, Sam Hornish, Jr. This is Sam's third victory if four starts here at Homestead-Miami Speedway and his 12th career IndyCar win. He absolutely has dominated in many respects competition here at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading 314 of 800 laps of competition here in Miami. That's 39% ratio. Sam, if you can talk about your success here at Homestead-Miami Speedway and in particular today's race. Put on a great show coming down to the final turn, final lap.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It definitely was exciting. A lot of people had asked me what I thought about the change in the layout of the track. I said I was real partial to the way the old track was, but I really like this new track. It's just a great day to be able to come out here in my debut with Marlboro Team Penske and have a win. Everybody just really welcomed me in, made me feel at home. I'm really excited to start off the year this way and looking forward to a lot of good things down the road.

THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Tim Cindric, the president of Marlboro Team Penske. Sam becomes the first driver to win in their debut race for the team and the first driver in the 37-year history of Penske Racing to accomplish this feat. Also worth mentioning, this is Marlboro Team Penske's sixth 1-2 finishing in the Indy Racing League. Tim, can you talk about the 1-2 finish as far as your team goes and obviously your reflections on today.

TIM CINDRIC: Days like that can't get over soon enough. You watch those two guys side by side. I'm standing in Helio's pit telling him what to do. Roger is just watching Sam do his thing. It didn't matter what color his car was today, it was going to the front. You know, I think for us to come out and execute in the first race is really a testament to our team and something we've been waiting for for six months. You know, with a big change with de Ferran not being a part of our organization, Sam stepping in and really not missing a beat as far as the team's concerned is a big testament to the overall program.

THE MODERATOR: Also worth noting, a 1-2 finish for Toyota, the sixth straight 1-2 finish here at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Toyota. We'll open it up for questions for Sam and Tim.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIM CINDRIC: Do we think we hired the right guy? There was never a question.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIM CINDRIC: I think it's what you hope for. And unlike that Grand Am race I watched yesterday, after watching that thing, until that checkered flag fell, I didn't know who was going to end up. But, you know, having these guys run wheel to wheel like that, no different than they've done in the past, they're just flying the same colors. You know, it's just great to see that for the team.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Basically a little bit earlier on in the race, Helio was leading and I just wanted to stay behind him to learn where his car was good at. And I tried a couple times just to see, you know, spacing so I could see going through turn one where I needed to have my car to be able to gain little bit on him. And I couldn't quite catch up to him and be able to go to the outside at any time. I kept thinking that I was going to be able to get it right and get it timed right. When it came down to it, the last lap, he just wasn't going to give me that outside line. He gave me enough room to probably get a car in there, but I just knew that I wasn't going to be able to time it right and it was going to be slower. I just want decided I was going to go for the inside at that time. Anybody that tried to pass on the inside, they had a little bit of a hard time keeping it down on the bottom, and usually had to lift. I wasn't quite sure if I was going to have to. It just seemed to work out, so sometimes you kind of walk into it, I guess.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: No, you know, we had the car set up really well, you know, the engineering staff did a great job. We had a car that we could stay right in behind other people all day. A lot of other people couldn't do that. As soon as somebody was right in front of them, they'd wash up the race track. We were able to stay in the draft, conserve fuel. It was a great day. The car handled awesome.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I mean, we haven't actually had a talk, "Don't crash each other." Pretty much just a known rule (laughter).

TIM CINDRIC: Helio told him, "If we crash each other, follow me, I'm going to climb the fence and you're going to come right after me."

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, I've had close finishes from all the way to, you know, 1-2-3 finishes being that close, to winning races for the championship. Today is probably the one that's highest on the list because I thought that I had it all day long. Helio really stepped it up there at the end. I don't know, he just gained quite a bit of speed. I thought, "Okay, we're just going through the motions." Then like the last five laps, I'm trying to get a run on him, and I couldn't get it timed. I couldn't get it done. So this one was real unexpected. Just great to be with Marlboro Team Penske and to have started out the season this way because I could want to start the season off this way, and I thought that we'd have a good start, but I really didn't think it was going to be this good.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIM CINDRIC: Well, you know, Helio knew he was there. You know, he felt like if he got the right run, he might not be able to hold him off. The main thing for us was, you know, Roger and I talk about these guys holding their lines. You know, whoever the best man is should win that day, but as long as it's one of them. We call it the red light. He and I have a line to each other, Roger and I do, where we talk to each other during the race. About eight to go, I said, "This is going to be interesting, isn't it?" He said, "Yep." Then he said, "Tell Helio just to hold his line." I said, "Is that so Sam can follow him or just get by him? Which of the two?" It's interesting conversation. But at the end of the day, he and I -- it doesn't matter, as long as one of them brings it home. And, you know, that's definitely the way we try to operate.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, it was more than one time that that was like that. I started to go to the outside of Wheldon, and all of a sudden I was past him. I thought I would hear "clear" from the spotter. I just saw Helio. I thought, "That was great." He pulled ahead of me. We ran around there a little bit longer. Then we did the same thing around Herta. We both just had two really good cars this race. I know there's going to be times when Helio is going to beat me by a nose. You know, I'm just glad that the team started off as well as they had. There's going to be times when it turns out the other way. So we just need to keep working together. I'm glad that we were able to do that today. There were no problems. Everybody had the expectations of what was going to happen. We had a good time working together today.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, it was -- sometimes there's not a point to lead. I mean, there's no benefit of it. You know, if there was three or four guys that were capable of leading that were running a little bit faster, and we had a little bit more downforce on the car so we could stay in behind them. I don't think we could run quite as fast when we were out front, so there was no point in doing it. I knew if I could stay right in behind somebody, we could sometimes slip away from the rest of the pack. And I knew we probably wouldn't be able to do that if I was out front. Sometimes you make compromises. And we compromised a little bit more speed so we could have a handling car that we could run down bottom or up top or run right on somebody's gearbox.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I mean, he was running pretty quick. There was just no reason for me to be out in the lead.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think half to three-quarters of those guys won an Indy 500 for Roger, so that's the main thing (laughter). That's what I want to do. You know, I'm glad. I was thinking about that a little bit this morning. I wonder if anybody has won their first race with Team Penske. I'm glad I could be the guy to do it.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, it was -- I was right there behind him. You know, I'm looking at his rear wing. And his rear wing, you know, I was tucked right up in behind him, trying to help us be able to break away from the rest of the pack so it was just us two fighting for the win. I thought, "How different." It's all the same, but it's different because I can see my red gloves every time I turn. I can see the orange on the wind screen. I look in the mirrors and I see the orange rear wing. It's a little bit different, but still just as much fun.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, I told everybody I preferred the other track just because of the success that we had, and I didn't know what was going to happen. Any track that we go to, everybody asks me, "What's your favorite track?" Indianapolis is my favorite track because of the heritage. But as far as the shape of any track or the banking, you know, I don't care. It's all about adaptability. That's what this series is. Especially next year when we go to road courses, that's really going to be evident. I think the more adaptable you can be to any kind of track, whether it be flat or banked, two-and-a-half miles or three-quarters, the better off you're going to do in the championship.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, it's always -- you know, it's always tough when somebody goes from not having a teammate to having a teammate. You know, a lot of people probably were skeptical because Helio and I have such different personalities out of the race car, but we'll both pretty much do whatever it takes to win in the race car. You know, part of that is being a teammate. So, you know, staying right behind him and not trying to be out and run right beside him or trying to lead, I knew that, you know, that's how we could get away from the rest of the pack. I don't know, it was like lap 50, I said, "Just tell Helio to stay on the bottom. I'm not going to try to pass him. I'm going to follow him. We'll run away from the rest of these days." We got like a second and a half lead. That's the best way to ensure that the team will have success, is by not having anybody else around you to spoil your fun.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TIM CINDRIC: I'm not sure. I'm not sure whether it has or hasn't, to be honest. I mean, I've looked at it the same way, regardless of what helmet is sitting in that car, you know, bring this thing around. But, you know, I think the difference is that when Helio and Gil first came together, they didn't really have any battles for a couple years as far as, you know, 1-2's, oval racing and that type of thing. They knew each other two years as teammates before they came to the IRL and raced this close this fast. So it's a little different that way.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think that everything on this team is as equal as can be, from, you know, the guys that do the tires to the cars to the engine. They want the -- the biggest thing they want to do is have drivers finish 1-2. They want both cars right up there on the front, finishing in the top two positions. So I don't think there's ever really a favorite played because they want both cars to do good, so they give both drivers the best equipment they can possibly put on. Just like, you know, when they do the engine, everything's within a couple horsepower. I'm sure it's even probably closer than that on a race engine.

TIM CINDRIC: If you ask Helio that question, he'll say the benefit is that he gets to meet Crystal's friends (laughter). Had to throw that one out there. He would have said it.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I know there's no better way to start off the season than by winning the first race. It gives you good feelings about the beginning of the year. It gives you a little bit of momentum. If we go out there and crash the next 15 races, it's not going to do us any good. The big thing is to remain focused and do our job just the way we've been doing it, things should be pretty well. We go to a lot of tracks that I like. I really like Phoenix and Motegi. I've only had one chance to race there and I had a great time there last year. And especially Indianapolis. So I'm just really looking forward to these next couple races leading up to the 500 and the 500. We'll see how we get through those, then I'll give you a little more on how I feel about the rest of the championship.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: You know, calling out the laps, telling me, you know, where the rest of the pack was. About five laps to go, he just five, four, three, two, one. I mean, I can't honestly tell you what anybody really said after the checkered flag. Head in the clouds. But it was great.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Everything was great. The car handled well. We could run it wherever we wanted to, high or low. We were just a little bit loose right at the beginning of each tire stint. But once the tires came up to pressure, perfect. You know, we didn't have a problem with the tires all day. You know, Firestone did a great job. Brought us good tires to race on. We saw some close racing today.

THE MODERATOR: Sam, Tim, thank you very much. Congratulations on the Toyota Indy 300 win.



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