IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Topics: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
March 24, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys, on a great start to the season.
We're glad to be now joined by Michael Andretti. You start this season with Hinchcliffe getting the win and Marco on the podium. Talk about that.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We worked so hard over the winter because we knew it was going to be that much harder to be competitive this year. To come out the way we did, I think all weekend all of our cars were showing they had strength.
For Hinch especially, he just was on it from the first practice on. He just did a heck of a job. He did not put a wheel wrong all weekend. He drove his butt off. Then to bring it home for Go Daddy, his first win, and Go Daddy's first win as a primary sponsor, it was just awesome.
So proud of him. I'm really happy we were able to get Go Daddy their first win as well.
THE MODERATOR: Also missed in the excitement of the top five, outside of that was E.J. Viso finishing in the top 10.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just to set the record straight, we screwed him up on Saturday. We made the mistake with something in the practice, and then also in qualifying it was a mistake on his car. He didn't deserve to be where he was on the grid.
But he kept his head today and drove a really good race. I saw a very smart race. He was very aggressive, but yet there's times where maybe the old Viso would have kept going there, but he was backing off, really used his head and drove a good race.
I'm excited that we were able to get through this race for him. I think he's going to win some races for us before the end of the year.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead with questions.
Q. This race last year is when James kind of showed just how good he really is. What is it about this course that suits his driving style so well?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Honestly, I don't know. I mean, he's good on street circuits in general. So this is our first street race. I think that's part of it.
But, you know, in the end he's really quick everywhere. I don't think he has a weakness. I don't think any of our drivers have a weakness. I think all of them are strong on all disciplines of tracks. That's something I've always looked at when I look at drivers.
Marco struggled on street circuits, but he worked hard over the winter. All that work is paying off for him as well. To come home on the podium after all that hard work, I'm happy for him, as well.
Q. For you to win here at St. Pete in what would have been Dan Wheldon's car...
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That's another special one. That's what James said, as well. It was so fitting for James to get his first win here in Dan's car. It was great.
We miss him so much. It made it even more special.
Q. To see Marco come in third, all the struggles he's had on street circuits, how did you feel?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I mean, all weekend he drove really well. You could see all the work he put into it over the winter. It's paying off. He was on pace all weekend. Really drove a good race. Really conserved his tires there to really nail 'em in the end. He drove a really good race. He was making good fuel mileage. We were watching it.
I'm excited about that for him. He deserves it. He really worked hard. So hopefully this is a sign of good things.
Q. He finishes where he finishes today. He comes in here and is talking about this could be the start toward the championship. James gets his first win. Simona has a breakthrough weekend.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's only positive. This whole field is so full of talent, such great personalities. It's great we have the mix we have. Simona just drove good all weekend long. Yeah, I think it's all just a positive for the series in the future. Vautier, great job.
Yeah, it's exciting.
Q. You have a Toronto connection. Now you have a driver from Toronto. Can you talk a little bit about that.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's great. It's great that he's Canadian. I love Canada. I love Toronto.
But we don't really look at the flags in the end, we just look at the personalities. I think we have great personalities, and James is one of them. He's a great guy, fun to be around, great for the series. To have him up front I think is really great for everybody involved with the series. It's good.
Q. You're talking about a guy who won the series' most popular driver before he even won a race. Can something like this catapult him on to a lot more people's radar and benefit not only him, but the sponsor, team, series?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: All of us. It's good for all of us. He is such a great personality. He's not only a great personality, but he also performs on the racetrack. You got it all. That's a great thing to have. I'm so happy and proud he's part of our team.
I'm excited. I'm glad he finally broke the ice. This isn't going to be his only win I don't think.
Q. Were you surprised at all that Hinch finished on the blacks whereas Marco finished on the reds? What did you make between the two compounds?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: They were different. But it was different strategies. It was interesting the way it worked out. It also worked out how many sets of tires you're using, how many you had. The way it worked out, I think Marco had the sticker of reds, James had the sticker of blacks.
I think in the end it was the right one for James because it was all about the end of the race. I think in the end he had the tires more than Helio.
Helio, he had to make his move early. He wasn't able to. James was able to hold him off. I knew 10 laps to go, I think we're in good shape now because James has got the blacks, so it worked out.
Q. I know things change week-to-week in this series. You come off a year in which you win the championship, you take two of the top three spots today, meanwhile Chip Ganassi isn't happy with his engine manufacturer, and you beat Penske today. How do you feel about all of that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think we have a great team. We have great drivers. But we also have just great people throughout, from engineering down through management to mechanics. It's really, really fun to be around the people we have on the team right now.
In the end, it's all people that make it happen, and they're making it happen for us. I'm very excited about it. I felt really good coming into this year, even better than last year. I think there's so many things we added to the team.
So, yeah, I feel really good right now about where we're at.
Q. You mentioned the characteristics of your drivers that you pick out. Without giving away any trade secrets, can you get specific about James, what qualities and talents you saw in him?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I watched James' career all the way back in Mazda when he was racing Marco in Mazdas. He was always quick. Didn't matter what type of car he was in.
The other thing that really caught my eye the year before when he was with Newman/Haas was how he was able to perform on all different racetracks, as well as having a teammate like Oriol next to you and he's running with him. You knew he had the talent at that point. It was a no-brainer for us to bring him into the family.
Then, like I said, the added bonus on top of his talent is he's just a great guy, a great personality.
Q. All this time we've not heard Ryan Hunter-Reay's name today. What do you think about what I would call the three championship contenders way in the back today?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I've got to say thank goodness. I don't wish bad luck on anybody, but it helped us that Will had his problems as well. Ryan, I know he would have been battling. He would have been right up with Marco.
Something happened with the throttle. We don't actually know why yet, so we have to look into that. It's interesting, I'm wondering if that's what happened to Hildebrand. Looked like the same thing happened to him.
That was the only downside of the weekend I would say is that. But we can't be greedy. I know that we got lucky because the other championship contenders, besides James, who I think will be one, and Marco as well. But, yeah, I think we got lucky in that way with Ryan.
Q. I know you've been a big proponent of this series since you came over here in 2003. For those watching today's race, didn't have all the drama, subplots, story lines, that you would hope to see in an auto race.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, it was actually about the racing. What's that about? It was great. It was an all-out fight. Those guys were running flat out the whole time. That's what racing's all about.
It was fun that Helio was keeping the pressure on there. You didn't know until the last stop what was going to happen, Marco and all that with his tires going off. That's what makes this series so great. The racing product is the best in the world.
Q. Talk about the synergy between James and Craig.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It wasn't by design. We had a change happen right after Christmas, so we had to go to work to try to find a replacement. We had tried to get Craig back in the off-season before that, like right around November, but he couldn't do it because things were happening with Newman/Haas. It's so weird. One door closes and another one opens.
Almost that same day we found out that Craig could leave, so it was like a perfect thing. Adding him to our team is just going to make us that much stronger because we rate him very highly, we always did. We've been trying to get him for a while.
To have him come and slide right in with James worked out perfect.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on today's race. Thank you.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I also want to say great job for Chevy. Top five, that's pretty awesome.
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