IZOD IndyCar Series: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Topics: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
August 24, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by several of our Firestone Fast Six qualifiers for tomorrow's GoPro Indy Grand Prix here in Sonoma.
Ryan Hunter‑Reay of Andretti Autosport who qualified fourth, this is a career‑best start here at Sonoma for behind. His previous best was 7th in 2007 and 2012. And also Charlie Kimball is with a career‑best qualifying result here. Previous best was 21st in 2012.
So Charlie, let's talk about qualifying and really this weekend carrying momentum from Mid‑Ohio.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Yeah, I'm really proud of the guys, the whole Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew, because in the test we were not quite as quick as we wanted to be and even in practice yesterday, the speed wasn't quite there. But.
I think one thing they have proved, to me, at least, I don't know if everyone else sees it, but all year, they really dig deep when we need to to overcome a lot of issues.
So to see the progression, and to end up inside the Top‑6, is definitely good. The car was there, and I think it was there for another couple of tenths, which would have moved us up a couple of spots. Even in the Fast Six, even coming from my previous results here at Sonoma Raceway, is impressive, and I'm very proud of the guys for that.
Coming off Mid‑Ohio, it's nice to have that confidence and that momentum, for sure. I think one of my favorite quotes from the team owner, when asked about what his favorite race win was, he said, "The next one." I admit, Mid‑Ohio was great, but it was; and now we are looking forward to trying to get a great result tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, another great qualifying result for you. If you can, talk about today's Firestone Fast Six, how important it is to be in the front two rows here at Sonoma.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: It's a pretty disappointing day for us. I think we had a pretty good pace leading up to it and then the wind shifted, and it's the same for everybody. Just made for really difficult conditions and we just didn't capitalize on it.
It was tough to get the lap time out of the cars; it was for everybody, but the Ganassi cars have been one step above and yet Dario did what we did in Mid‑Ohio, used Reds in the second group or second session, and I think that's where he won the pole. Congratulations to those guys. They have been super quick.
We are a little disappointed to start fourth, but all considering, we can definitely work from there. So now we've got to go re‑engineer it and make it a race car instead of a qualifying car.
Q. Are we over‑estimating the wind change, or is that possible? That seems to be making a huge difference, seemed like it shifted even between groups.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: It's massive here. It surprised me. It's more like the wind effect that you would have in an oval when the wind shifts. And here, it goes one way, the car is hooked up; it goes the other way, you're out to lunch. It's amazing how much the wind changes and how much different you have to drive the car when it happens. You've got to completely change it. It's a different racetrack; I mean, different turning points, different braking points. It's amazing the changes.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Will Power of Team Penske who qualified third. Will has never qualified outside the top three at Sonoma, and the streak continues. Talk about today's qualifying.
WILL POWER: Yeah, like Ryan said, the wind does totally change the track. Our car was quite tough to drive on Blacks, but on Reds, it was reasonable. So pretty happy; I think the Ganassi guys have definitely got a leg up on everybody here.
Yeah, see what we can do tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing who qualified second. This is Scott's second front row start here at Sonoma. He started on the pole here in 2006. Scott, talk about today's qualifying.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's been a decent week. I think the cars have had ‑‑ generally all three of them have had good speed. We didn't get great laps together as far as ultimate times and having a good shot at the pole.
Dario, obviously made a strong call to save a set of Reds and Q2 and go through to Q3 with a new set. So, we were kind of setting our sites on trying to be second and that's where it turned out.
Fun restart for us. We are really happy with that. Typically Penske, a pretty strong track here, so nice to get on the front row. But obviously tomorrow is where points pay, and looking forward to that, so we'll see.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, who qualified fifth. Helio has never qualified outside the Top‑5 here at Sonoma. Congratulations and talk about today's qualifying run.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was interesting, when the track, the wind changed, I'm not sure if the guys already said that, which I believe they did. Everyone said it so I'm no different.
Plus, the first group was really brutal because of different tires, different series running out there. So, man, I struggled just to pass the first group.
But thank God for the guys‑‑ they did a great job breaking from the right point on the setup of the car, and we were able to position ourselves for the Q2 and the Q3. We just took another session as a test and paid off, as well.
So I mean, it didn't pay off ‑‑ to hold up the Ganassi guys, but, well, we are right there. We are right there in the area that we need to be, and, well, let's see now, what's going to happen tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We'll bring up our pole sitter, we are pleased to be joined by Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, a Verizon P1 Award winner. This is Dario's third pole position at Sonoma. He also won the pole here in 2007 and 2009. This is the 33rd career pole for Dario and his fourth pole of the season, and he also qualified five on pole at Long Beach, Belle Isle and Toronto.
Dario, congratulations and talk about today's qualifying.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you. Yeah, obviously both Target cars have been fast all weekend, and in the test, as well. So we haven't made many‑‑ made a lot of changes, but we couldn't seem to go back to where we started‑‑ (Laughter). I could tell you some of the changes there.
Q1, we just did the one lap on the Reds and it was a pretty good time, so they pulled me and we felt there's still a lot of good left on the tires so we put them on for the second run, and the car was good again and I managed to make a couple of mistake, actually.
So still was surprised to be as close to the guys on the new Reds. Then we had the new Reds on for the Firestone Fast Six, which is just as well, because I did a good job on 10 and 11 corners, and royally screwed up turn 6 in both laps. Luckily I had the advantage in the other corners to make it.
Really happy, and good to have all three of the Ganassi cars in the Top‑6 is pretty cool. I don't know if the guys have said, it's obviously been a very tough week with Pat Floyd (ph) passing away and Andy Brown's wife, Christine, passing away, too, it's been a fairly crap week. So we are pretty focused on bringing a good result for the team.
Q. The people that came and spoke throughout the weekend, the drivers, they said that you're here on a mission trying to make a statement, and you drove that way; is that true?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, not particular. I'm just doing what I do every week. Just trying to do the best job I possibly can.
Obviously we have seen recently where the team has been on a good run, but in a sweet spot with the car, Honda has made an improvement, too. Scott has won three races, Charlie's won one; I have not won one yet. I would like to sort that out ‑‑ I know ‑‑ me and you, brother. (Laughter).
Q. Ryan, you said that permanent road courses, you were having a problem after last year. How different is the car this year, and how much did you improve from Wednesday's test to now?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: The car is a lot different this year. I think at Barber and Mid‑Ohio, we had poles at both of those tracks, and I think we definitely turned the corner a bit.
But here, we have gone from a seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth place car to right now, it seems like we are right in the third, fourth, fifth realm. So we still have a ways to go.
But 65 anything can happen in the race and especially if we have wind like this tomorrow, it's going to be tough for anybody to slow down in turn 9. I think that will be pretty interesting. But we have no idea.
So, yeah, we are definitely chipping away at it and working on our weak spots, but we still need to be better at Sonoma. This place, we come here testing and we come here working so hard on the car and it seems like we test here more than anywhere else, and tough nut to crack. Obviously Dario can talk about cracking that (Laughter).
Q. For the three Ganassi drivers, obviously before Pocono, it was a little bit like pedaling uphill, and Honda comes with the latest generation engine, and then you guys have just been spectacular ever since. Just how do you describe how dramatic that Honda engine is, kind of really helped boost everything for all three of you.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, every Honda run has got the same engine. I think you've got to give credit for the team for really working hard and figuring out our weaknesses. There's still weaknesses there, but they are less than they were.
So it's been a lot of hard work for all concerned to figure out some of the problems, and Honda have definitely made a step, too, which really helped us. We did a test at Sebring, who had been there in 90‑degree weather and we learned some stuff. That was a big help for us, too.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Yeah, I think to echo, really what Dario said, that test at Sebring where it was just kind of the three of us. It wasn't a lot of fun, because it was miserable hot and our day got cut short, but we were able to work through some stuff and really focus on finding some answers rather than getting caught up in the problems we were having.
And then‑‑ it is a package. So when Honda came and made some improvements, we have been able to take advantage of that, because I don't know that the cars were good enough to take advantage of any improvement Honda brought to the table.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I agree. I think we went through stages throughout the year, I think after St. Pete qualifying, especially, we knew we had some issues from the development areas that we had been working on over the winter and it was just trying to sort of methodically go through those and figure out what direction we messed up. There was a lot of going backwards and it's hard to do that.
But on the right course, we had to do that and unfortunately it took us that long, and Sebring was a great test, and we found areas where we had gone wrong. We made a new direction, and that went a lot better.
But yeah, Honda came through with some good updates, you've still got to say that the Chevy, look at the speeds of qualifying at Pocono, straight‑up speed, they are pretty strong.
As a group, we have still got some work to do, we have got areas to improve on, and you know, Honda is always pushing as much as they can, because they want to win races. This year I think the Manufacturer's Championship, we are equal at the moment, so we have hopefully made some inroads on that.
Q. Yesterday we sat in the same room and the flag, it was blowing in the opposite direction, mainly on‑shore. How does the change today in the wind, especially in the back straight, effect the handling of the car?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Wow, I was so surprised on the first group, because like I said, also the combination with the other series and different rubber, different grip on the racetrack; but it was completely different.
For example, in turn 9, there was a turn that you could brake really deep, and right now ‑‑ all of a sudden it was a little bit difficult. Turn 11, as well; it wasn't stopping. But in turn 7, it was actually pretty good.
So it was just completely ‑‑ changed a lot. Especially the top of the hill, it was a little bit better. It was all over the place. You just have to really kind of like‑‑ you can see everybody talking; it's very‑‑ finding the expected ‑‑ unexpected expected, or expect the unexpected.... yeah. Anyway (Laughter).
And then the sun is really beautiful right now and actually no clouds‑‑ anyway. It was very difficult for everyone.
Q. Tell me about your tire strategy and saving a new set for your final round.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, the car was good enough that I was able in Q1 do one lap on Reds and pulled me straight in. That was a gamble there. It was, okay, let's see if we can get away with this and run for a second lap, and it wasn't an issue. I even messed up the lap a little bit, so I was quite happy. Still think I was third. So obviously that gave us a bit of a buffer, which it turns out I needed in Fast Six because I messed up one of the corners both laps.
Q. Will and Dario, the situation with team orders tomorrow, obviously you've both got yourselves of the guys racing for the championship. What's the strategy?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I want to win the race, obviously. But, the big picture, and we say this every year in our team, we sit in the first meeting of the year, and our two goals are to win the 500 and win the championship. We didn't win the 500, so would he have got to win the championship.
Scott is our best shot at that and whatever I can do to help him win that championship, I will. But I want to win the race tomorrow, too.
The guys on the stand are really good at telling me what they want me to do‑‑ I'll do what I'm told.
WILL POWER: I also want to win the race (Laughter). I mean, the same thing. Anything to help Helio win the championship.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Does he give you money? He pays me‑‑ (Laughter).
WILL POWER: He gets so excited when you give him a free dinner‑‑ yeah, yeah, okay, I'll let you go.
No, it's the same thing. I mean, it's a team ‑‑ team effort. You've got to try ‑‑ for Helio to win the championship; If I'm in a position to help him, I most definitely will. But I also want to win the race.
Q. You have a championship battle to think about. How does that play into your strategy both with your teammate and overall tomorrow?
SCOTT DIXON: Sorry, we are laughing at the car that just flipped. (Laughter).
Yeah, we are just trying to focus on doing what we try to do each weekend, and that's try and win the race. If we can do that, then that will help us a lot for the championship.
But it's still early. We have still got, what, five races to go, and a lot of points on the table to try and move that around. Just got to stay focused and not so much hope for the best, but do our best and hopefully it's going to be good enough.
Q. A little bit off the subject, but I understand you're going to get to drive Jimmy Clark's car next month ‑‑
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, Lotus 38. It's a Lotus 38. Sorry.
There's a parade at good wood to celebrate gym he he's life and career, and I believe Ford are bringing the 38 and I'm going to get it drive it again. I'm very excited about that. Although, good wood is almost all right hand corners and that car was only ever designed to turn left. (Laughter) maybe they will let me run the track in reverse.
But I'm delighted to drive it again. It's a real privilege to drive that car; it was to drive it at Indy, and then to do it again back at good wood‑‑ it's a beautiful car.
THE MODERATOR: We'll wrap things up with today's Firestone Fast Six. Congratulations on a great run and best of luck tomorrow.
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