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IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Helio Castroneves
Scott Dixon
April 7, 2013


BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

THE MODERATOR: We are now pleased to be joined by two of our podium finishers from today's race, Scott Dixon who finished second, and Helio Castroneves, who finished third.
Scott, another second-place finish, but more importantly you're starting the season off with great momentum in terms of points. Talk about starting the season off so strong.
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know, today was kind of a crazy race. At the start I think Will just got a little flustered. I think Hunter-Reay went and Will should have kept going, but he tried to slow down. Our whole lane lost about three or four spots straightaway. The whole day was trying to play catch-up.
We had a fumble in the pits on the second stop, then we got stuck behind Charlie. He was on blacks, we were on reds. It was really hard to pass today until the tires started really going off.
We switched up strategies a little bit. I think we had to gain like 12 seconds to get back to the guys that were leading, which was Helio and Hunter-Reay.
Car was super fast. I think definitely one of the cars to beat. We almost needed a slightly longer race, maybe another full stint.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Helio Castroneves, who finished third.
Talk about today's race. I understand there may have been some contact between you and Hunter-Reay.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, that's right. First of all, AAA and Turbo team up. My mistake saying September 17th, it's July 17th that the movie coming out. I'm sorry.
But what a race. I tell you, as Scott said, I was right behind Scott on the start. Unfortunately Will, whatever happened, he didn't go. We were trying to go away. But the left lane start coming in, everybody start pushing you away. We went a little bit off in turn one. We ended up going from 6th to 10th. The other restart was similar. I was just trying to stay away from Will. Will, I don't know what you're doing.
It was a shame because we know all three cars - myself, Will and AJ - had a good car. We just changed to Plan B, the strategy, which was a great idea from the team. We decide to pit early. Had a clean lap. This time it worked for us. I'm very excited about that.
Then towards to the end, I went on the outside of Ryan. I know Will was there with the black tires, so it was just a matter of just taking a chance, a different line. Ryan went a little too deep, couldn't stop the car, end up hitting me on the right side.
I hit one of the buttons on the steering wheel. That means it goes to very yellow slot. I thought something was dragging on the car, then I realized it wasn't. A little bit of excitement there.
Then when we took the lead with the black tires, it was 19 or 18 laps to go, Scott and Ryan, they had the reds, it would be very difficult to hold onto those guys. I did everything I could to brake deep as possible, but I couldn't do much.
At the end of the day, third place for us is good, especially the way we started the race. So we're excited.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Scott and Helio.

Q. Scott, you at Long Beach last year got left on the course all day. It happened to Hinchcliffe again today. Do you think that's something that needs to be looked at?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it makes it a very long day. Luckily a fan gave me an umbrella so I could sort of cool off a bit. I should have got out like Hinch did, would have been more exciting doing that.
The rules state, the will tow you back till the last 10 laps of the race. I don't know what the deal is with that. I know I was pissed when that happened to me, and Hinch should be as well. There's a whole lot of the race to go.
I thought they were going to tow him back, but we already had a yellow, he caused another yellow. I think they get worried about these yellows being too long. It needs to be in the rule book or they need to tow you back.

Q. You finished second again. Four now. You can't be content with that. What is your mindset about that?
SCOTT DIXON: I'm going to go buy a bridesmaid's dress tonight and party pretty hard. I don't know (laughter).
It's frustrating.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Better than third.
SCOTT DIXON: That's right (laughter).
You know, it's coming in different ways, too. We had to come through the field like today. Last year we made our own mistake to not win the race. But it's still good points. I think we're second in the championship. I think Helio is leading. It's good at the minute.
You know, it would really be nice to win at this place sometime.

Q. Helio, I heard your radio interview. You got excited when they told you you were the new points leader.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's good. I didn't know that till they told me.

Q. But it's two races in, too early to think about that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You have to take as it comes. You have to enjoy the moment, but work for it. Those points are very valuable if you thinking about the long-term. Last year the championship was lost by, what, three points. So you got to take as it comes.
I'm excited when I get out of the car obviously with that achievement we got. We going for Long Beach with good points in the bag, but we looking for our opportunity to win a race.
Today we ran really, really good. We tried different strategy and we show the speed of the car. We got to keep putting ourselves in those opportunities and the win is going to come. With that, I'm going to add more points.
But I'm extremely excited.

Q. With the changes in the track since last year, the diamond grinding, what has been the difference in tire wear versus the first three races here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I felt the tire wear was similar to last year, except it change a little bit the balance of the car. It became much faster. We're talking about three seconds faster than what used to be in the past.
But in the end of the day you could see the black tires were a little bit rough compared to the red tires. They were not fast comparing to what we thought would be. So I felt that the degradation was pretty smooth, especially the reds were actually not bad.
So it was a positive change, for sure.

Q. The race between Hunter-Reay and Will, then all of a sudden you close in really quickly for third, it looked good on television. Did it look as good from ahead of you? Did you see an opportunity there to catch up on them?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm very happy you liked it.
It was fun actually. I notice Will was on blacks and Hunter-Reay was on reds. He couldn't make a move. I was just closing up. For me, I knew that my strategy changed at that point and I got to go. I said, I got to make a move, otherwise I'm going to be stuck with the blacks at the end of the stint and that's going to be a really bad situation.
So when I saw an opportunity, Hunter-Reay went wide in turn two, I went inside. That point we were side-by-side. I'm like, Okay, I got to do something here, brake really deep on the outside, the car hold on.
I think the way he was explaining me, he let go the brakes a little bit. Then unfortunately it hit me. Thank God it didn't damage the car. But we were able to pass. Then did the same thing with Will.
In that opportunity, was really fun. I was exciting. Honestly, I wasn't saving fuel. It was one of those races that when I won here 2010, you got to save fuel, I was just going for it. When you get a scenario like that, your blood just keeps going, now I'm going for it.
If you said you liked it, the same thing we liked it, because I was having a good time.

Q. Scott, at any point in the closing laps did you think you might be able to get close enough to Ryan to pressure him into a bit of a mistake or slip?
SCOTT DIXON: It's hard to tell here. I think our car was definitely quicker. We closed a pretty decent gap. But once you get sort of a second back or so, it's really hard to close it any more.
We got close a couple of times. He made a mistake in 15 or 16, then also in two a couple times, then in five as well he locked up pretty big. Unless you make a really big mistake here, it's going to be pretty tough, if you're fighting with cars, similar tires, similar tire wear, also speed.
You know, it was going to be tough, but it was going to take a big mistake on his behalf for us to get past.

Q. It seems like the first two races of the season have been really good. There's a lot of great competition through the field, some new names contending. Do you see it that way?
SCOTT DIXON: It's been a pretty good mix. I know some of the bigger teams have made pretty big fumbles. We didn't expect to start 20th at St. Pete. Dario probably didn't expect to start 17th this weekend. The tires are adding a different dynamic. The first few races you have to work out what they're doing quickly. Especially in qualifying, if you hesitate a little bit, you're going to be back a bunch of spots, which is what happened to Dario.
Yeah, the competition is always tough. I think this year you have a lot of smaller teams that have caught up in areas. The damper program is about all you can do apart from lightening the cars in different areas and the teams prepping them a little different.
It's tough. It's not like the old days if you messed up with a big team a few 10ths, you would lose a spot or two. Now it's like five, six or seven spots. You have to keep your eye on the ball and try to make the most of it. So it is a tough season. I think it's going to get tougher as the season goes on.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I agree. I totally agree with you. I just add a little bit having new names for the series, especially the guys from Indy Lights coming up, showing the potential they're showing. I say we have the best drivers here, great teams out there. Certainly it's becoming very, very competitive.
Just to point out when you mentioned I was excited. Now I do remember what happened. On turn 12, believe it or not, I know I was four seconds ahead, but I had some computer glitch in my car that stuck in fifth gear. I went from 12 all the way to the finish lane in fifth gear. That's why I thought I wasn't going to be able to finish. When I was finish, it was, Whew, I was able to do that.

Q. Not that there was any question about it, but the resurgence of Andretti Autosport, talk about the fast start they've gotten off to.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's obviously two separate cars, and they both had bad races, too. Andretti, they were split a long ways across the grid, and in St. Pete, too. You can't take them out. They're always going to fight hard. They're very good in covering all bases. A bunch of guys over there, I've known many of them for a lot of years.
It's exciting have such a mix I think at the front. Even seeing Marco and Hinch and Viso being quick, as well, it's definitely a strong team, a team that will fight for the championship, I'm sure.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yep, they are keeping their status of team champion. They won the first race. They won the second race. They're showing whatever they're doing, they're doing right. We just got to keep working and hopefully we're going to get our turn, as well.

Q. (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I thought he did a great job, especially at the start. He was pushing very, very hard. He did a great job through the whole weekend. You know, we're just talking about how competitive is this series. To come here after seven years, have two tests before first race, be right up there with us, it just showed he's a real talent, as well. I'm happy to have him around us and let's see what's going to happen in Long Beach or after.

Q. When the series first came here, fuel strategy was the big thing. Today I think Will was the only one on a two-stop strategy. Is that strategy pretty much out the window now?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: What position he finish? Fifth. I think, yes. I don't know if everybody was saving fuel. I was not. I was pushing. Again, you try different strategy in a different ways. This place is very difficult to pass even. But I'm glad we had the 'push to pass' this time. A few years ago you didn't. That's probably one of the toughest things when you don't have that.
But right now I felt that was a good, entertaining race. Hopefully we keep continue to have entertaining races.
THE MODERATOR: We'll wrap-up with our podium finishers and in a moment we'll be joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay.



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