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IndyCar Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

IndyCar Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

Helio Castroneves
August 28, 2006


SONOMA, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: Dario, thank you very much.
We are joined by our fifth place finisher, Helio Castroneves. With his fifth place finish, he's now in the championship lead with 441 points. Teammate Sam Hornish trails by one point with 440. Dixon is in third at 423. Wheldon is in fourth at 422. Vitor and Tony were eliminated from the championship point race today. A one-point difference.
In 2003 we had a tie with Helio and Dixon going into the last race of the season. Those are all the numbers.
Helio, why don't you tell us about your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it was interesting, very difficult. Finally I completed the whole laps. That was my goal first of all. But at the beginning, a good start. We were running pretty good pace. Obviously, Dixon was start taking off.
I don't know, it was very interesting because I was saving a lot of fuel and I still pit before those guys. That's what kind of I didn't understand much. Marco was actually doing a really good job, not making mistake for the beginning especially I was expecting. He definitely did a good job.
But in the end, everything start getting crazy. Obviously with the yellows, different strategy. Our group, the No. 3, decided to do everything we can to keep running the guys we're competing against, which was Dixon, Sam, and Wheldon.
In fact, we pit -- we have fuel to stay out, like Marco and Tony, which I almost went in, but Cindric decided to keep with those guys, which was smart decision.
And then I was just holding. I don't know what happened with Tony. I don't know if he was going down. I understand he was saving fuel, but he was really, really slow. This place is very hard to pass.
Obviously, I would have take a chance. But when you battle the championship, knowing that Sam is back there, Wheldon and Dixon behind you, you have more to lose than to gain.
After he lapped, Dario passed by, you saw, literally I was really faster than Dario. You saw how much gap he opened up. I was just waiting, you know. For one point his car was really miss firing and everything. I was like, Man, we going to have a problem. Because every time you're approaching the corner, one of those things you have to do, it was a chance game. If you get too much close to Tony, those other guys would make a move because you upset your car.
So I have to back off, which causing the same problem to Dixon. And Dixon have to back off causing the same problem to -- it was like that kind of situation, you know.
Until last lap, he really -- he was really slow. I pull right beside him and he didn't lift. It would be a bad decision. I didn't want to take a chance.
Vitor came like taking every chance that he could obviously because he want to be in front of Tony. I let him by and then Dixon then also took another opportunity.
Instead of lose a lot of points, I prefer lose like three, four points. I hope I don't regret that in Chicago.
THE MODERATOR: If you would, why don't you talk about taking over the championship point lead today. Obviously, I don't think you're going to share your game plan for us going into Chicago. It's got to feel good being in the points lead.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Right now I'm going to enjoy this moment. Let me tell you, it's no question it's a situation that it's really close. We came here to take as much points as we could. Fortunately or unfortunately, fifth place was what we got. I'm very happy.
Monday night I would like more, but this is part of the championship. This is part of the game, which is fun. Now let's go to Chicago. It's kind of every man for himself, no question about that's what it's going to be there. The odds, it probably help a little bit Sam because he's more familiar with the ovals.
It will be very interesting. No question we're going to try everything we can to finish and clinch this championship.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Just the fact that you did this once before with Sam, different teams. How much different is it now going into the last race on the same team?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, one thing, no question is, we don't want to give the championship to Target Ganassi. We're going to try everything we can to win this championship, whether it's going to be me or Sam. My opinion, obviously it should be me (laughter), but I don't think Sam would agree with that.
Again, we really -- I don't see the difference. For me, I have a good news. I know what he's got. The bad news, he knows what I got. That's the only difference compared to three years ago.
Hey, it's going to be a hell of a fun and I'm sure guys going to enjoy it.

Q. Were there any points during the race that you felt like you could get out in front and battle with the leaders, or was it always kind of like you were close but not quite?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, when Tony let Dario by, I'm like, Okay, he's definitely having problem. I said, Okay, man, now you going to hold him till you can. I noticed he was having a lot of problems.
He didn't make any dramatic move or something. It was just really slow. All of a sudden, in fact, I pulled side by side him at one point and he still continue trying to come. Anyway, that was the point that I thought, Okay, if I pass him, it will be a home run, we'll finish third, and that's what we got today.
But, again, losing those two spots was a little unexpected. Again, it's just part of racing. So I'm happy. Even if it would be half point leading the championship, I would be happy.

Q. One of the things you said as a goal, you said this was your chance to really get some points, to walk out of here the leader. You succeeded in that goal.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, at one point we did. You're right, that's what we want to do. We want to take as much as we could. I do believe in 2002 it was very close call as well. I would have to win the race, and Sam would have to finish third for me to clinch this championship.
Well, now doesn't matter. Whatever. If I finish 10th, he finish 11th, the championship is mine. That's why it's going to be very interesting.
I'm going to go for it. Obviously, it's been working since Michigan when I switch my plan to instead of be conservative, go for it. I'm going to continue doing that. I do believe we have the car to win there this year. We're going to go for it.

Q. What did you think of Marco out there today?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Unfortunately, my hands were a little full with Tony. But when I was running behind him at the beginning of the race he was doing definitely a good job, no question about it. And the rumors obviously saying about the yellow, unfortunately we never going to know. I have to say that he earned my respect. You know, he did a hell of a job not making mistake. Sometimes even like that, if it's easy or hard, anything can happen. So he definitely deserve it. Well done.

Q. Do you feel you would have been ready to win like this when you were 19?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, when I was 16 I was ready (laughter). I never doubted I could jump in one of those IndyCars or Formula One, say, those guys don't know what they're doing.
That's why I would say when you're young you make a lot of mistakes. Maybe you try too hard too soon or maybe you didn't try hard enough. I guess he's been in the business with his dad, watching his dad. Definitely he got the talent.
Today, it was his day. You know, anybody can say anything they want, but the guy that's over there at the top of the podium is him, so that's what happened.

Q. Of the Target Chip Ganassi, two guys that are still in the championship, which one do you fear the most in Chicago?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Good question. Good question. Are they close in the championship?
THE MODERATOR: Scott is 18 behind you, and Dan is 19 behind you.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: They're in a similar situation than us. Whatever finish those guys have had. I say Dan has been leading a lot of laps in the ovals, but Scott is the one that is making it happen.
It will be a definitely good battle. It definitely is going to be interesting to see. I'm sure other guys going to be in the mix. You want to be in the mix. I can't wait. I wish the race would be next weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you very much. We'll see you in Chicago.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you very much.

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