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Indy Pro Series: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Indy Pro Series: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Chris Festa
Jim Guthrie
Jay Howard
Raphael Matos
Jeff Simmons
April 1, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with the three Pro Series drivers that finished second, third and sixth. Let's start with sixth-place finisher Chris Festa, who will start on the pole in tomorrow's second half of the doubleheader.
Chris, your thoughts on this type of format, finishing sixth.
CHRIS FESTA: Well, with this format, finishing sixth today was probably the best thing that could happen to me, to be able to start on the pole tomorrow. We just got through the race. We had massive understeer with the race car. And the team told me after the last yellow that "You're in P-6," and then I knew I didn't have a car to challenge the couple of guys in front of me. I just decided to back off a little bit and bring it home since there was nobody behind me that was in position.
THE MODERATOR: Jay, let's talk to you real quick. You were in here yesterday, second fastest of the day at the time. You were up front as well. Talk about today's 40-lapper.
JAY HOWARD: Obviously, everyone knows I'm now like a local boy here. I try my best, put on the best show possible. Unfortunately, like Chris, I had quite a bit of bad understeer in the car right from the start. Initially, I could just hang on to Raphael. Then he started to pull away. After maybe 14 laps or so, started to really getting worse.
Yeah, whatever. We're going to make some changes and we'll do our best to get a win for all the locals, especially for all the friends and families that have come down.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff, a win last week at Homestead-Miami. Follow up with a second place finish today. You were also at the top most of the day. Talk about today's race.
JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, I threw it away I think in there. Probably without that first yellow, I would have fallen a fairways back because the car wasn't really good at the beginning, then came on strong. The last yellow actually I didn't want because I was starting to chase Raphael down and my car was probably getting a little bit better. I think his was going off little bit.
Just made a mistake. Missed it by an inch or two -- basically did the same thing Jay did to let me by. As soon as you miss just a little bit down there in that last corner, you get out in some marbles, you're dirt-tracking for the rest of that corner.
It was a good race. I hate to throw it away at the end like that coming down two laps to go I think I was and leading. Fortunately, this weekend we got a chance to redeem ourselves tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Second, third and sixth place finishers. Questions.
Jeff, your thoughts on the doubleheader and quick turnaround for tomorrow.
JEFF SIMMONS: I've heard a few of the crew members saying it was pretty busy. I know my guys have been working pretty hard. You know, it is what it is. That's why you have to try to take care of your equipment all the time and not make those mistakes. Even this weekend, usually we get three sets of tires for a race weekend. This weekend we were getting four. You really had to make sure, with all the track time we had you had to make sure you didn't flat spot anything. You could really hurt yourself.
I think I put a premium on being precise and not making mistakes.
THE MODERATOR: Your thoughts on the doubleheader format and quick turnaround for pit crews.
JAY HOWARD: Yeah, definitely want to stay off the walls, that's for sure. I don't want the guys to work any harder than they have to. We've done a pretty good job so far. Touch wood, I have not hurt my car since I've driven it. Hope to stay that way.
Just like Jeff said, the guys are working hard enough. My guys are running around like crazy in qualifying making changes for me. Anything I can do for them, I'm glad to help.
THE MODERATOR: Chris, your thoughts on the doubleheader, quick turnaround time.
CHRIS FESTA: The guys are definitely working hard. They've been here pretty early and stayed late every day now. They're getting tired. It's all up to me to keep it off the wall to make it easier for them.
I like the doubleheaders because a lot of times in one race you make mistakes, afterwards you're like, if I had done this different. With the doubleheader format, you get a chance to correct the mistakes you made in the race before
Q. Do any of you know Ralph from before?
JAY HOWARD: Raced against him in Formula Mazda last year. He was with (indiscernible) Motorsports. I met him there. That's how I know.
I know yesterday I sat here with Raphael, I knew he was fast. We'd raced together previously. I knew he was going to be fast, for sure. He's a good driver. He's done his job. The team has done a great job as well. All credit to them. It's all down to us guys to make our changes and work hard and see if we can (indiscernible) our winning. We shall see.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.
We're joined by today's Pro Series winner, Raphael Matos, along with team owner, Jim Guthrie, the 1997 IndyCar Series Rookie-of-the-Year. Raphael is the fifth driver to win in his Indy Pro Series debut. The others are AJ Foyt IV, Mark Taylor, Phil Giebler, and Marco Andretti here last year.
Raphael, just quickly, you were quickest of the day yesterday, fast all week. Talk about today's race, your comfort level in these race cars.
RAPHAEL MATOS: I'm pretty comfortable already in the car. We did one day of test at Homestead. We were pretty confident. We were fast. We were second quickest at Homestead. We came here, had a lot of confidence. The race today was just the way I was planning. We had the pole. It's funny, we always had problems with traffic this weekend, but I just need to be patient on the race and wait for the opportunities.
Unfortunately, I made a big mistake on the last lap. Jeff passed me. I closed the gap on him. He made a mistake, I passed him. I just tried to be consistent on the last two laps and bring the car intact to victory.
THE MODERATOR: Jim, welcome back to the IndyCar Series. Your thoughts on today and getting back into the league.
JIM GUTHRIE: Thanks. It's good to be back. Today, boy, was full of ups and downs. Of course, obviously we were pretty proud of Rafa for getting the pole, for going as fast as he did all weekend. Then when the yellow came out, I was like, "Uh-oh." We had a restart. He's never done a restart in these cars. The guys behind him have. I thought, "Here we go."
Of course, Jay got by him. I think we waited, it was about four laps. Rafa made a bold move and he was gone. We knew he was faster. He was about eight seconds ahead of Jay when the yellow came out. We knew he was faster. He just had to get back by him.
Well, after that second restart, I figured, man, he'd have this figured out. No, we still need to work on that just a little bit. Got passed again.
Anyway, at that time Rafa said he just defended his position a little too much. It caused him to be too tight in that corner, got the car loose. Of course, Simmons got by. But he ran him down and got him.
We're proud of him. He did a great job.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.



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