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IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Helio Castroneves
April 1, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

THE MODERATOR: Now joined by race winner Helio Castroneves, his second consecutive win here at St. Pete. This is the first time in league history that the polesitter has gone on to win a IndyCar Series road or street event. Helio led 135 of the last 200 laps here at St. Pete. Now has 12 career wins, tied with Wheldon for second on the all-time IndyCar Series list.
Helio, to get started, tell us about your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the start of the race, I tried to start a little bit quicker, you know, to make sure that we don't have any trouble. And somehow, I mean, Marco was right there. He did a very good job in the beginning on the first few laps. I have to really try to do everything I can to not make him pass. And he was pushing right at the beginning, right like all the time. I'm like, Man, it's just the beginning of the race. Take it easy.
I guess the young stamina was working for him on the beginning. I have to keep pushing, as well, to not making any mistake. Until a point that I'm start saving fuel, looks like my car is working extremely well in medium to old tires, not so much in the new tires. And that for me was the key, you know, to keep going, to keep pushing in that direction.
As the fuel going low, my car was getting better. Again, I was just trying to make sure that I make the number that they're asking me in the pits to make sure that we do enough stops and don't get caught in any situation.
Then we got to a point that I had like, I don't know how big was the lead, but I couldn't see them getting out of the corner right on my tail. So I'm like, Okay, looking good here, looking sharp.
And then a yellow came. We made our first pit stop. Very difficult leaving the pits. With the new engine, everybody kind of stand still in the pit box. And then my team did a great, great job, put me right up front. I guess Wheldon was in front at that time. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened. I really had no intention to bump him.
As soon as he start going out in turn 10, I was just following him, and all of a sudden he really brake. I don't know if he's trying to brake a little early, one of those tricks that drivers has, like a brake test to maybe upset you, or he really had cold tires, he was just trying to be cautious.
It was just very difficult, you know. I bump into him. In the same time was green, green, green in my ear. You know when green goes out, means race started. And that's where I say, You know what, I'm going to have to go, buddy, sorry. I start going. I guess also Scott came with me. I don't know what happened after that.
Again, Scott after that was really, really pushing. My gears start wearing out a little bit, especially second gear or third gear. I started to focus a little bit more on the equipment. I'm trying to push, but not so hard in the gears.
Then the last pit stop, I think I pit the same as with Scott. I got a little trouble with Sarah. She was coming to the pit as well. It was a little moment, to be honest. But she did a good job. She didn't get out in front, in the way.
As soon as we get out, was 20 laps to go, 25 laps to go. I say, Okay, now make sure we focus. Don't make mistakes. It was actually good that he was right there in my gearbox because for me was better. For me, having the guy in the gearbox, it means you have to pick what best you can do. I knew fortunately my braking, it was good, but unfortunately the gears start wearing out. So I say, You know what, let's stop. Getting a good exit. That's what I did. It work out pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio.

Q. You didn't do much of a fence climb today. Also didn't do a victory lap. Were you tired at the end of the race?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Big time. You know, I was so focused. I have to say, that was probably one of the races that I was extremely focused. You know, nothing was distracting me.
I'm glad. I'm getting better. I'm still learning, believe it or not. It was very good for me to achieve that stage. It looks very easy for you guys on TV. Okay, the guy is having a great car, a great time. I have to say, it wasn't easy. It wasn't very easy.

Q. How tough were those last several laps mentally when you have a really good car, a track that's played a little tricky this weekend and two really good street road racers behind you waiting for you to make a mistake?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Very tough. I know those guys for a long time. That's a good thing. I do believe they know me, too. They know that three of us will be always pushing very hard. And I know I couldn't let off because in any moment those guys were trying to make any move.
So basically three of us, at least Scott was closer, he was extremely pushing. I remember last year he was also in the pretty much scenario. That's what I felt. I said, You know what, it will be a tough one. I always predict it will be a tough one. And it was a very tough one.

Q. I'm going to get a good answer out of this question yet. How do you think Dan feels knowing he's not the best driver in St. Pete the last two years?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think we should swap. He's going to start moving to Miami and I'll start moving in St. Petersburg.
You know, it's tough. Scott is a very tough driver. You see Sam did a good job this year. I mean, many, many times I saw him, I don't know if I'm right or not, but I think he was running third. Just to see that he's learning, he's also getting better and better.
I'm sure he's not bothered about it. I don't know. I can't answer very well that question.

Q. Talk about the gearbox and what was actually going on with it.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Normally I'm a right foot brake. That means you use the clutch to downshift. I believe a lot of guys here, except Manning I just found out this morning that he also right foot brake. What happen, sometimes when you're not synchronized with the downshift, you can do dog-to-dog damage. If you do that many times, you end up wearing out the gears and can possibly break the gears. That's why you start have problems downshift.
It was a problem that I having long time ago. My nickname inside the team actually is 'Termite'. I can destroy a gearbox pretty nice (laughter). I would say I was able to finish, so...
But I took care of it. I know what I have to do to prevent. But sometimes when I have the big lead I was kind of relaxing. That's probably the times that I probably damage because I'm just downshift, you know, easy and not so much focused. That's why I'm glad when Scott was right there. I'm like, Okay, now I have to do exactly the same way every lap.

Q. Talk about the new package with the ethanol fuel, the bigger engine, and whether you were getting the right kind of fuel mileage or how close you were as we went through.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have a very -- I cannot say how many gallons I have in the car, but it wasn't very much. So I have to thank ethanol to being a good fuel and not burning so much like methanol.
Package was good. I have to say it was really, really good. You know, we had a good race. Obviously three guys finish in the top three, but they knew each one of those guys are thinking. So that's why maybe for you guys, Oh, it's boring or it's difficult. We know what kind of tricks we have to use to keep one each ahead of each other.
But I have to say that it was the right package to make the engine a little bit stronger, fuel a little bit smaller. And it was a very close call on the fuel. The yellow came out probably on the perfect time. People that probably took a chance, didn't work out this time. But it was interesting.
I still talking to Brian Barnhart about the package that we should come with next year with the pedal shifting, power steering. You guys heard me talking about. We have to change that because it's going to be much better for everyone.

Q. How far did you get with Marco's shoelaces before the race? Was that a kind of psych-out?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: How far where?

Q. How undone did you get with the shoelaces?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's right. I think that work (laughter). I was trying to loosen up, just playing around. He seemed to be a good kid. Again, I'm always speak good things about him. He does have a good team behind him, I have to say.
But it's still very difficult, you know, even that you have the grandpa and the father that are such incredible race car drivers for you to follow the steps. It's very hard.
I was just trying to loosen up. Make him, Hey, just relax. We're going to race against each other. We're not going to kill each other. I guess he did a good job.

Q. Other than being an accomplished street and road course racer, why do you think you're able to get around this course as fast as you are without making mistakes here two years in a row? Are you serious about buying a place on the beach here and moving here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, I am. I'm just looking around. It's like Lance Armstrong. I think he bought a place in France. So it works.
All jokes aside, the place is so beautiful. Probably just something that I had in mind since last year. This place is very nice. And, again, I enjoy street course. This place is very technical, very bumpy. We work extremely hard, like I told you guys, from Friday in all aspect. And we're good. I prepare myself very well to make sure that I not only condition but mentally. It paid off.
I have to say my trainer Carlos, he'll be extremely proud of me again because I didn't feel -- actually, I was better well-prepared this year than last year. Last year I end up with cramp and stuff like that. This year was like no problem. I was tired, yes, but no cramp.

Q. After next weekend, it's a pretty brutal stretch you have there where you go to Motegi, Kansas, then Indy. How are you going to prepare for that? What do you do between now and the time you go to Motegi to keep from getting burned out at the beginning of the season?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The ovals are not so tough, I have to say physical. Buy traveling, yes, it's going to be tough coming back from Japan straight to Kansas. I think the mechanic's going to have a hard time. We are in the same boat as everybody. We're going to have to continue trying to do everything we did and make sure that we understand.
I know it's a different season. Races are much closer. We just have to follow some regimen and hopefully it work out.

Q. On turn 10, you were one of the only drivers that almost always hit the rumble strips. What does that do to your body in terms of conditioning?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Last year when I was in third, I remember a lot of guys touching that. I didn't know that. That's why I start touching this year. I guess they saw me that I wasn't touching so they change (laughter). Good observation.
I don't know, the car seems to be holding well. Sometimes if you hit wrong, if you go a little bit too much, the tendency is to touch the cockpit and the car jumps a little bit too much to the wall, to the outside wall. But somehow my car was working very well through that turn.
If you doing well, don't change your plans. So I want to stick with everything I was doing, make sure I don't change, because it was working from lap one to the end of the race. So I kept with the same plan.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you very much.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you.



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