IndyCar Series: Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County
Topics: Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County
August 24, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by race winner Helio Castroneves, who drives for Team Penske. This is Helio's first victory of the season, the 13th of his career, and his first at Infineon Raceway. Congratulations. Maybe you can walk us through the race from your perspective.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, absolutely. First of all, what a great day. I want to thank the entire Team Penske. They gave me a fantastic car. Definitely the car was superb. I was pushing to the limit, and there was nothing left out there. They did a hell of a job.
Again, starting the race, it was a pretty smooth start. We knew what we needed to do. Unfortunately because of the amount of laps, we needed to save fuel from the beginning, so it was pretty flawless. I knew I had Ryan behind me, so we knew we were just a conservative pace. We were just cruising to be honest. When the first yellow came out, the first words from TC was like, oh, that's not what we're looking for. I'm like, okay, don't tell me that (laughter).
But then we decided to pit, and those guys stayed out. That's where I'm like, oh, please. Hopefully we're not going to miss another chance.
And then in the middle of the race, it was difficult to pass, but our cars are very strong on all tires, and we have to be patient. Towards the end of that stint, he kept telling me push, push, and I was going for it. I was not wasting any time to be honest. I was pushing to the limit and not locking wheels or desperate situation. I was very aware to what the car was doing.
That for me was perfect. They were consistent fast laps, and they keep checking with me if we were going to hit traffic or not.
I don't know, normally I'm always wrong, and this time I was right. I nailed it right on the traffic, so we didn't lose any time coming to the pits or any time out there on the racetrack.
We were able to do great pit stops, in-and-out laps were fantastic, and as soon as we got the lead -- it still didn't sink to me, and TC keeps telling me, take it easy, man, you're in the lead, that's it. And it's horrible when you have a rhythm, like pushing most of the race, and all of a sudden you have to slow down, it doesn't feel very comfortable. You have to change your zone.
My zone at that time was just to keep pushing, and finally I was getting used to it, taking more easy, and a little traffic was kind of on the way unnecessary, but finally we were able to get through, and it was definitely a great win.
I mean, we've been looking for it, but it's not the main focus to win, you know, through the whole time until actually the last five races. Now that we have a chance in the championship, and we just want to keep pushing to win the race, to put the gap between me and Scott, and hey, it paid off today, and hopefully in the next two races it's going to continue the same.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Performance. Tim, this has obviously been an amazing week for your team. How rewarding has this been for your guys?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, I enjoyed probably about Saturday and Sunday of this week. Other than that, it was a difficult week, but like I said all along, it shows the determination of the group that we have and the depth of the team. You know, for those guys to do the job for us and qualify first and second and finish first and second, it wasn't as easy today as I wanted it to be when that yellow came out because it's a Catch 22 no matter what you did, and he probably had to work a lot harder than maybe what he should have had to work.
It worked out in the end. We were able to put just the right amount of fuel in each time we stopped to be able to get the track position we needed so that we could rely on him running hard and pick up a second or two a lap when we had open track, so that was really the key to the race was him being on the gas all day.
Q. It's also your first win since being a dancer (laughter).
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes.
Q. Have you ever seen the two different fuel strategies converge as well as they did today to finish one-two?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, it was kind of like interesting. Like he said, he kept telling me to go for it. I didn't know if I was going fast enough because I had some cars that I had referenced, and it looked like I was turning the same lap times, but I think it probably was a bunch of cars so it just seemed --
TIM CINDRIC: One important point to look at, to see how close it is and how dependent it is on how fast you can go and what have you, Dixon came in the same time we did, right behind him, and where we finished versus where he finished, it's a big, big difference but a very small thing on the racetrack. If you go back and replay the race, where did he finish, 14th, and he came in exactly the same time we did right behind him. So it's a big, big difference as far as how much fuel you put in, where your track position ends up and how hard your driver can push.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's a combination. That's what I was saying; I kept looking at some cars and I felt like I wasn't going that fast, and then you kept telling me, you're doing fine, just keep pushing. I literally was at the limit of the car. The good news is I never put a wheel off the asphalt, I never locked any wheels, I was just pushing.
It was an interesting situation. It paid off, and I'll tell you, it was a lot of fun. For me it was a lot of fun. Sometimes just conserving fuel is the worst thing to do, and we didn't conserve fuel at all, we just kept pushing.
Q. You ended a 29-race victory drought. Did you look for a fence to climb before the race started just in case?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I did, actually (laughter). And I told them exactly where I'm going to go, which is that fence and climb with the crowd. Ask the cameraman; he was right there. He's like, hey, I don't want to jinx it, but where are you going to be climbing the fence? And I'm like, right there, make sure you wait for me there.
It was just a positive attitude, not only for myself but for the entire Team Penske. After everything that happened this week, wow, man, we never lost faith, we never let any negative come into our way, and today it was just proof of that.
Q. Two-parter. Were you monitoring where Dixon was running during the race? And more importantly, were you out of -- after all that dancing you climbed a tiny fence and you were out of breath. Why was that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's why I need to keep winning, to not get out of shape. No, I did not monitor at all where Dixon was. I think I saw him when I was going to carousel, probably going to Turn 1. I think I saw his car, I'm not sure, it was too fast. But I always just keep pushing to make sure that I get the leaders who I need to get.
At one point I thought in asking, how am I doing, let's keep doing exactly what you're doing, don't try to take your concentration away. Let me tell you, man, it was hard. To race like that and climb the fence later on and do an interview, trust me, man, it's not easy (laughter).
Q. Considering all the adversity this week and the drought and all, how does this win rank up there for you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, in my perspective, I don't know about TC, but in my perspective it's a great and special week for us. Imagine, we have truck drivers driving 2,200 miles straight from Charlotte back to here, and I mean, they were -- it's just a reward. It's like all the hard work, it paid off, unexpected hard work. Well, we proved it once when we had the flood in the shop. We proved it another time when we had the fire on the hauler. So just to prove that those guys, they keep these cars in fantastic shape, and for the drivers to not even notice -- I didn't notice, actually. For me it was a great car. I don't know about you; what do you think about that? Good answer?
TIM CINDRIC: It was a good answer. You work on a little bit of English, and you'll have it just right (laughter).
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm getting out of my 50 words (laughter).
Q. Now that you've cut into Scott's lead, what is your viewpoint looking ahead at the championship?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, it's a fantastic opportunity. I mean, Detroit is a place that I captured my first win last year. We got the pole position. We know we can be fast again, and that's what we're going to focus, and continue not taking chances. Continue -- good chances, not crazy chances, trying to win again another race, because that's what we need to do to cut down to this chase, and I know I can do it. And it's the boss's track, don't forget about that. We want to look good.
Q. They changed the configuration of this track with the idea that there would be more passing. Did it work?
TIM CINDRIC: Let me just touch on that a little bit. I talked to Steve page that runs the track here, and one thing that we really need to look at is the length of the races relative to the fuel mileage of the cars. Because we knew when the green flag started, when the race started, we were probably going to have to run a second or two slower than what we were capable of running. And for the fans, they deserve to watch us run and pass each other, and what we really need to look at is what fuel mileage these cars make, how many laps we need to do to make the race a good race.
The fuel window today was a one-lap window. We had to make it to lap 26 to do it in two stops. So when the green flag falls, everyone is trying to make it to lap 26, and the yellow actually made it a lot more interesting than what it would have been.
But what needs to happen is the best racing in my opinion is to have a fuel window that is a four- to five-lap window because then some different strategies can play out, but the people that are deserving to win the race have a good chance to win the race. If they're huge windows, then there's a lot of Mickey Mouse that the people don't understand. But if they're three- to five-lap windows, that to me is a race that's worth watching, and you'll see a lot more passing and people can follow what's actually going on.
You saw the guys coming in at lap eight, lap ten, usually that's when people have problems and that's when people start -- the fans don't really understand unless they have someone describing to them why the cars are doing that type of thing.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: And also, to say that I was pushing harder than anybody else, I don't know, but I really, really was pushing. It was very difficult to pass. I mean, when you were talking about, even if you were second passing anybody, our cars are very sensitive, and when you're running behind someone, we're very affected by the turbulence there. I had a lot of situations that I could have easily gone around, but when the tires hit to a situation that you don't have new tires anymore, you have that level that's kind of like slippery, it is hard just to make a move unless you take chances. But that's going to be like an unnecessary chance or you're going to crash.
So it's not the track's fault. I mean, it's nobody's fault.
TIM CINDRIC: Just to answer the question, the track improvements would have helped in a situation like I described. The improvements would have helped for sure.
The suggestion we've had is to look more at the NASCAR type Turn 11 here on the other side to where you can actually get a run on somebody and pass in that zone a bit. It's a bit more difficult in the one that we have here. But it's little things, but it certainly would have improved it. The problem today was it was a fuel mileage race in terms of the distance.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, I like it the way it is (laughter). I don't think it should change.
Q. Helio, kind of a follow-up on the Detroit question, because you've had so much success there, do you feel that you can make even further progress going after Scott?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's great momentum for us, for Team Penske. Like I said, last year we got the pole position. We proved that we have a fast cars. Yes, you just carry the good momentum. That's what's been happening with the Ganassi guys. They just have good momentum, a little bit of luck, and all of a sudden, book, they are like 78 points lead. Now it's our momentum. Hopefully for Detroit it's a great place, I enjoy very much that place, so we hopefully carry some good momentum to win another one.
Q. Tim, I know you don't like to have team orders. However, with two races to go in points, Helio still having a chance to win and Ryan being out of the championship, will there be any team orders, or what can Ryan do to help maybe Helio win?
TIM CINDRIC: Our team orders have been always the same, don't hit each other. If you do, climb the fence with him (laughter).
Q. How many more races do you think you'll have to win before to the general public you'll be known more as a racer as opposed to a dancer?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think it's a combination of a lot of things. This win definitely is big for everyone, especially here in California. We saw a lot of fans out there. I think the track did a great job promoting. We should keep doing like that. We're going to another race that we know the promoter is going to do everything they can to keep the series and the race alive, especially around the area. So it's more about -- the series is going to fantastic momentum right now, I mean, after the merge. We definitely have everything in our hands.
We need to talk to -- the series needs to talk to the promoters and make sure that we continue spending in the right direction and marketing the place and the drivers, and very soon we're going to have people knowing not only myself but everybody else. It's just a matter of a combination.
Q. Helio, how are you going to celebrate this win tonight?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know if I should answer that (laughter).
Q. With your team?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: With my team. That's my answer. With my team.
Q. Are you staying around here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm leaving tomorrow morning.
Q. Bonfire, cookout?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Trust me, I'm going to celebrate in the best way because it's been a long time. But we only have tonight and that's it. Next week we've going got to focus on Detroit, and that's what we're going to look at.
Q. You said earlier in the weekend that one of the things you lost in the fire is your favorite seat. Is this now going to be your favorite seat?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I just found a new one. What a guy; I fall in love easy, and I just found another one. Again, the guys did a great job to not even make me feel any difference.
Q. I heard you say on the radio after the race, in addition to the cheering --
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I didn't say anything bad, did I?
Q. No, no, but you did say how the car was awesome. Was your car like normal Penske-prepared cars? Was that one of those cars where you know this car is so good it should be the one that wins?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: As soon as we put this car on the track, even with everything that happened this week, as soon as I jumped in the car, the car was fantastic. It's exactly the same way that we've always prepared the car. But you have to remember, it was the first test we had, and last week -- the first test we had, probably, what, January in a road course or February? I mean, it is hard. I mean, with only half a day, it wasn't even Ryan, it was Romain Dumas practicing. I mean, we didn't find anything. I mean, it was just -- at least we eliminated a lot of things, and our guys were fantastic.
It's just to prove that sometimes it's good to have a little bit of test for everyone because they can improve their setup and obviously their performance, and that's what we did.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let you guys go. Thanks very much. Congratulations.
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