IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Topics: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
April 5, 2009
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate your time. We'll see you in Long Beach.
Now we'll have our race winner Ryan Briscoe. Just a couple of notes on Ryan, today was his third career win. He has now completed a cycle of sorts, one on an oval, one on a road course and one on a street or temporary facility. This is the 30th career IndyCar Series win for Team Penske, and Team Penske's third win in five visits to St. Pete. Ryan, your day, tell us about it.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I was just listening to Justin and Ryan, but much the same. But I think it really started off for me when Roger called me in for that first pit stop. We short pitted just because I was starting to get held up by Franchitti. He really slowed up on that first set of tires, and we dropped off at least a second and a half. We were just getting held up. So we short pitted, came out of the pits, and there was a full course caution. So that put me to the front.
Up until Justin came out of the pits in front of me, I was sort of commanding the race, and the car was great. My car was a little bit better on the harder tire. But as far as consistency goes, it was hard to say which was better. I think maybe the red tire, the softer one, was a little more consistent.
But you know, at the end of the race then, it was just all about -- with the restarts and trying to keep heat in the tires, getting traction off the last corner and making sure you could brake well into Turn 1.
Q. Take us into some detail about that pass that got you the lead. Is that a pass you got in 1 or did you get that pass done from 14?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it definitely started from 14, but I was a bit surprised. Justin had been doing great restarts, and it looked like he changed his strategy that restart. He was normally accelerating right at the entrance of the far chicane, really going far deep into the last corner and then it was difficult to stay close.
Really this time he just let me stay close up until the last corner. I would have come off 14 right under his rear wing. I think, it looked like I may have had a bit less downforce than him because I got the slip stream and I would have pulled down pretty easy and come down beside him into Turn 1. So it really just started the way he made that restart.
Q. How gratifying was it to cross this place off the list after it's been the scene of some bad circumstances for you in the past?
RYAN BRISCOE: It's much like Milwaukee last year. Certainly coming into it this year, we knew we could run well. I've led laps each other time I've raced here, but we've just never gotten the job done.
Really the key today, the main goal, was to get the car to the finish line, and I wasn't going to do anything desperate with Justin at the end there. I knew there were important points. I think as we get to the ovals, Justin with Coyne is probably going to struggle a little bit more than we will. And second place today was going to be a great finish, but I saw the opportunity, went for the win. On a day like today where a lot of the key players were a little bit further back, certainly those extra ten points are very valuable.
It's a great feeling to get the win here in St. Pete. Certainly another sort of relieving win as I crossed the finish line.
Q. With Helio's status still up in the air, Roger Penske said this weekend that you're the guy on this team now. Does it feel good to be able to sort of justify that the first time out and get the victory and signed of assure yourself of that status at Penske? And does it feel good also that the two guys who finished up there on the podium with you, Justin and Ryan, also are kind of under-the-radar guys and you guys are kind of the story of the season opener now?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, you know, it's certainly been tough not having Helio, but no matter who my teammate going into this year, my approach was the same. I wanted to come in carrying off the experience I gained last year and try to kick the season off gaining points and trying to go for this championship.
You know, I do feel as though I've probably taken on slightly more of a leadership role with Team Penske with Will coming on board, just letting him feel comfortable and showing him the ropes. Like Homestead I was doing some laps in his car just to make sure it was all right. But Will is doing a great job. He's a great asset to the team, and he's extremely fast. I think we're going to see big things from him.
With Justin and Ryan, they both won races last year, and they're great drivers. I must say today, racing with them at the end there in those tricky conditions, it was extremely clean racing and it was hard-fought, but they were extremely fair, both when I was passing Justin and when I was trying to hold off Hunter-Reay. So it was good fun racing with those guys today.
Q. Ryan, a lot of people thought that with the addition of Dario Franchitti that Target would be the team to beat, but some of the guys in the paddock were saying you guys were the team to beat. With two races on street courses, there is a possibility you could go into the month of May in Indianapolis with a pretty decent points lead. Talk about opening with two street courses and the opportunities there for you in terms of points.
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I think the opportunities we have are the same for the other guys. Scott and Dario are as good as anyone on these street courses. We saw Dario, he was pretty dominant throughout practice and even qualifying until the fast six. I was surprised he didn't actually get the pole yesterday. But you know, I was thinking, when Dario was in second place after the start there in front of me, I thought, oh, this isn't good, he's just going to run away with this. But actually towards the end of that first stint, he was on the hard tire and was really struggling. He was holding me up a lot, and that's where it forced me into doing that short stop which ended up with that caution that followed putting me into the lead.
But Target is going to be strong all year. Both Scott and Dario, they're good at any of the tracks we go to. They're the previous champions the last two years, and Indy 500 champions. So that might not have been the best day for them, but it's the first race of a long championship year.
Q. Even though Surfers Paradise was a non-points race and you won in your homeland, did that give you a lot of momentum, your team fired up to come here to Streets of St. Petersburg and do well? Did you carry through the feeling of winning?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, firstly, I think the win in Surfers Paradise, the only difference with it is it's not on the IndyCar stats. But it was as competitive as any other race we go to throughout the season. Everyone was there, and certainly I felt good finishing off with Surfers Paradise, a very difficult street circuit where we were competitive running at the front and knowing that first two runs this year were going to be on street circuits. It was a great opportunity for me.
We brought on board my new engineer for the Surfers Paradise race, so it was a great opportunity to start working with him, and going into this year on very similar circuits, and by the time we go oval racing we'll know each other really well, and I'm looking forward to good things with him.
Q. What's your take on what happened on the first lap, and why do you think there were so many mistakes and misadventures today?
RYAN BRISCOE: I haven't really seen what happened on the first corner. I just know I was coming down, staying as close to Tony as I could. I wasn't being super-aggressive, I just wanted to defend my position. And then I saw, I think, Dario got on the inside of Tony, and Tony was getting pushed out into me, so I was just looking everywhere except straight ahead of me going into Turn 1.
And I saw Tony got hit, I think, and he was coming out sort of between -- into my side part, and so I had to go wide. I think I had someone on the outside of me, and really I was just trying to avoid contact from the inside, just going as wide as I could to avoid getting caught up in the accident, and luckily I was able to get through without having touched anyone. That was the goal going into the start. You never know on this track, but I was pretty happy to come out third even though Dario came from pretty far back to get in front of me. But it was a good start for me. I haven't seen it, though.
Q. I wanted to ask you, from your perspective, being with Penske, do you kind of welcome this, if you want to call it, new competition with Dale Coyne coming in and obviously Vision Racing and some of these guys that in the past, or teams in the past that weren't necessarily considered in the same realm? Do you kind of welcome that and see that as being a very positive thing for the league?
RYAN BRISCOE: I think it just proves the competitiveness of this championship. You don't have to be with the biggest team or the team with the most experience to win races here. I don't know how many years we've been on the same car, this Dallara. It's a great chassis, but it's been so long that it's really given everyone the chance to know all the secrets, know what setups to put on, and there's not really much you can invent right now to go faster. Where maybe bigger teams with newer equipment maybe able to make that slightly bigger difference, with this car right now I think anyone who goes out looking for the information can find it and make a competitive car.
I was really impressed today to see Wilson with good pit stops obviously, with Coyne. I think it's a team with a lot of experience. They're new here, but I think they've made a very good choice in hiring Wilson to race in Indy Racing League.
Q. As far as during the off-season, what do you do? Did the Grand-Am help you keep the cobwebs off or do you do anything else that would attribute to the win starting off the season?
RYAN BRISCOE: I love starting off the year with the Rolex 24. It's a lot of fun and just a great way in January to keep in race mode and work with engineers and teammates and keep your head in the game. I'm not sure if it helps or not going into the first IndyCar race three months later, but my key focus coming here has been training a lot, working hard at the winter tests and really just keeping my fitness level, actually trying to make it better than last year, because I think these races, they're very physical, and it's key to be fit, and that's probably been my key focus coming into the season this year.
Q. Looking ahead to Long Beach a little bit, how much different do you think that track is than this one as far as what you're going to be facing there?
RYAN BRISCOE: I don't know. I raced there in the ALMS a couple years ago. It's a fun track. It's very challenging; it's fast. It's probably somewhere in between Surfers Paradise and St. Petersburg. You've got that crown in the road. It's got some fast corners, long straight down the front. It's going to be tough. I think, again, we're going to see a lot of these guys that have Champ Car experience from the past really doing well in Long Beach, maybe even more so than here, because still at this race the IndyCar guys probably had more experience.
But Long Beach is going to be tough. It'll be my first time driving in open wheel around that circuit. With the limited practice it's a challenge, but Penske raced there in the past. They've won races there in the past at Long Beach and we have quite a lot of information going into it. Haven't looked at a lot yet, but starting tomorrow we'll be really getting focused on that race. I'm hoping we can run at the front, keep getting points.
Q. Is the surfboard going to get any use, or do you surf?
RYAN BRISCOE: I actually don't surf, but I'd like to get some lessons and give it a shot.
Q. The drivers mentioned problems with the tires. The Le Mans Series drivers also had problems with their tires, issues one way or the other with hard compound versus soft compound tires, but one thing that they mentioned also that none of you guys have mentioned, at least so far, is that they found Turn 1 particularly tricky. Did you find that? Did any of the other drivers find that? Were you warned about that by your teammates?
RYAN BRISCOE: Turn 1 has been really tricky. I think today was the first day where we actually had really good grip going into Turn 1. Qualifying was disastrous going into Turn 1. I think it was new asphalt, new paint, something, towards the end of the braking there. You'd be slowing it down and all of a sudden you'd hit the paint and you'd either lose the front or lose the rear. It was very difficult. But in the race today actually it was probably almost the grippiest corner of the circuit really getting into Turn 1.
As far as the tires go, ALMS, it's typical, they always get really bad pickup on the tires. I think they've got a lot bigger contact patch in the front, and something about those cars, they just get a lot of pickup.
This track has been traditionally bad for pickup for the IndyCars, and I think it's the only one where we've had problems with pickup. I don't know why that is. Long Beach, we haven't raced there, could be the same. I'm going to talk to Will who's raced the Champ Car and see what he says about that. But this track for some reason, whatever it is, we always get bad pickup under caution.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, thank you very much. We'll see you in Long Beach.
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