IndyCar Series: Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen
Topics: Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen
July 5, 2009
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our winner of the Camping World Grand Prix, Justin Wilson, and his car owner, Dale Coyne. This is the second career IndyCar Series victory, first victory of the season for Justin Wilson. His other victory in the series came inned 2008 event at Bell Isle, Detroit, Michigan with Newman Haas Lanigan Racing. The first career victory for open wheel racing for team owner Dale Coyne. And we settled that 558 is the number of entries that it took to get victory number one.
DALE COYNE: How many?
THE MODERATOR: Well, 558, like the stock market ticker, it may change before we leave
DALE COYNE: That didn't take long, did it (laughing).
THE MODERATOR: Justin started second, which continues the streak of the pole winner never having won this event. And, Justin, we were discussing about yesterday and one of the items of discussion was you've had an extra set of Reds left due to the circumstances of qualifying. Did that play a large role in your strategy for today?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I think so. When the option Firestones were working so well that we were able to just run them throughout the whole stint. They didn't really go off. They didn't degrade. So we knew that we could do two full stints on them without any problem.
They were fantastic. A little bit more grip, and a little bit more confidence. I mean, it was a nice feeling to have those underneath me. Especially on that last stint where we were trying to save fuel, and still trying to get the mileage to go to the end.
You know, I knew that Ryan didn't have them and I did. And as soon as that yellow came out, we didn't need to save fuel again, we could run flat out to the end. And also, the option tires seemed to be coming in a little bit quicker. It heats up faster, so I was able to open up a nice gap, and make my life a lot easier the last five laps.
Q. You probably noticed that our top three finishers, our three podium finishers are all from one point or another of the British Commonwealth. And I can assure you that our winning car owner Dale Coyne is from Chicago, Illinois, which has not been under the jurisdiction of the crown for quite a while. Dale, when you were hauling around that stock block Chevy in the mid '80s, did you ever think this day would arrive?
DALE COYNE: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: But not with the stock block Chevy.
DALE COYNE: No.
THE MODERATOR: What does it mean to you after all those years to be sitting here as a winning car owner?
DALE COYNE: It's funny. You think back at the things you do. I remember being here in '78, and in the Super V and in the trailer helping Jeff bran ham. He was changing gears on his super V. I had a Super V, I think. Bob was there, Father Bob was there. He won the race that weekend and that was a long time ago.
It's all the things you do, you know. You have a passion for this, and you love it, and you keep fighting and going forward.
When we have lean years or bad years and don't have a sponsor, and it just makes you try harder, and I think that's paid off.
The last few years we've tried to do a better job with what we've put together. We've put some top quality drivers in from Mario, to Cristiano, to Bruno. Can't thank Bruno enough. He's helped us a lot of the last couple of years.
This year, Justin became available. Some higher quality engineering staff became available. And the wife and I talked about it. It was a financial commitment to do it, but we did it and said we're going to make this thing work. We're going to try to win this thing. And win the race and keep moving forward from here.
So we worked hard to pull all the pieces together, but that's because we have a passion for the sport. And that goes back to '78 in a trailer to today. So we're very happy to be here.
THE MODERATOR: By the way, Dale was talking about the late '70s, if you look at the video screens there, advertising records by people like the birds.
DALE COYNE: Probably I could name every one of those groups that are up there.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Justin Wilson or Dale Coyne.
Q. You were very competitive at St. Pete. And, you know, also in some respects at Long Beach. You know, this whole month's going to be road and street course racing. So how big a factor do you think you'll be at Toronto and Edmonton?
JUSTIN WILSON: We hope a lot. You know, that's the way we've kind of looked at the season. The start of the year we said, okay, with the limited testing you're allowed in IndyCar, obviously for budget reasons, we've said let's focus on the road courses.
And we tested at Sebring for a couple of days. And we tested here two, three weeks ago. And it's paid off. Putting those miles in on the road courses. Working on the set-up and getting closer.
So when we hit the track yesterday morning, it was very close. We didn't really need to do a lot. Just a couple of small changes and we're there on the pace or very close to it.
So that's what it's all about it's that preparation before you get to the racetrack. So I'm hoping that's also going to translate to Toronto and Edmonton and then the rest of the road courses after that.
DALE COYNE: That was kind of a goal this year. We knew how exceptional he was as a road course driver. But we know that the top teams are pretty good on the oval. So our goal this year was to try to podium on the road courses and finish in the Top 10 on the ovals.
You know, we had a win in our grasp at St. Pete and let it slip away and had a podium in our grasp in Long Beach. And here we are, we've got a win already. So we're very encouraged about that.
Very encouraged about the engineering staff and the team, and we've worked hard on pit stops. We lacked on pit stops the first couple of races and we're much, much better at that today than we were then, because you have to be, it's so competitive.
We just, we really look forward to the next few road courses. And we're excited that next year's schedule is 50-50 road courses. So to be vain about it, it's what we like. There are some great ovals, and we look forward to those next year as well. But the rest of the season, the next six-week stretch will be good.
JUSTIN WILSON: We're slowly picking things up, and we know where the next improvement's going to come from. It's a matter of being patient and making those steps one at a time, rather than trying to do everything at once.
I've seen and been with teams that tried to do everything before the first weekend and it's a disaster. So it's one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. We'll keep learning, improving.
You know, I said out there that the only thing that's going to taste sweeter than this win today is our first win on an oval. And that's what we'll work towards and we'll get there.
Q. You won in Toronto in 2005, what can you talk to the engineers that will help them between now and Friday get ready for Toronto?
JUSTIN WILSON: Well, I think we've got an idea what the car wants on the setup and things to look for. Whether it's damping or swings, roll bars, all that kind of thing. I've got an idea of what works and what doesn't. But it's all a matter of how that translates to this car.
You can be very close and still a long way off. So it's the fine details that make a difference. You know, we tested things here and I said, well, it didn't really work here, but that's a tool to keep in our pocket for Toronto or Edmonton, whichever.
You know, it's knowing what those tracks are going to take, and I think we've got an understanding. You know, sometimes you just need to unload fast and, you know, that first run you hit the track on Friday at Toronto you'll know whether you're really close or you have a few changes to make.
Q. Take us through that pass on lap 5 that you did at Briscoe?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I was all over Ryan on lap 1. And, you know, I've got a great run on him going up the hill. And the normal line is to drift out to the outside. But Ryan didn't do that. And we got such a lecture at the drivers' meeting about not swaying from the standard driving line.
So I was a little frustrated because I was all the way to the
right. I couldn't make that. I had to left. And I went back to the left and Ryan was sort of middle.
Same happened on the second lap, and we got a couple of laps of yellow there. And I said to the team as we crossed the start/finish, is it green yet? They came on the radio and said, yes, it is green. So I said okay, here we go.
So I got a good run again, great up the hill. And just managed to wait long enough to pull out and get to the inside of Ryan before we got to the breaks.
Q. Dale, you were standing there, the laps were winding down, did it go through your head what's going to go wrong this time? After so many disappointments over the years?
DALE COYNE: Of course (laughing). You never know what's going to happen. Is something going to break on the car? Or is something going to break up there? You never know what's going to happen in the end. But it all worked well (laughing).
I wasn't nervous all day. I wasn't even nervous on the restart. But the last two or three laps, I got a little bit nervous. What could go wrong this time.
We were so close in the past even years ago at Fontana, Australia, we were really close to win and should have had wins. Fastest car of the day and earned them. But this time we got it, and we're very happy to go to Formula 1 style again. That was a last minute thought so a little more tradition here at Watkins Glen.
Q. All the years that you've been doing this, do you feel that you still as a former driver can put input in and help your driver with various things that I know a lot of guys say it's got four wheels. You still have to drive the car a certain way. So does it make you feel good when something like this comes along?
DALE COYNE: Not with this guy. No, what's important and what I offer is listening to a driver and relating to the engineers, you know, what he's thinking.
When he relays something, especially this guy, he's too polite. So they make a change, well, I think that's okay. That means it's no good. As a driver, you have to listen and say, I would probably be more blunt, but he's too polite.
So I think it really helps that way between the communication between the driver and engineers. So you kind of understand whether it's a 1, 5 or 10 scale how his answer is.
JUSTIN WILSON: Actually, Dale's commentary when we sat there in between sessions or in between runs is fantastic. It's comical and great to listen to. Unfortunately you guys miss out on that, but I'm in the car laughing away. It's great fun.
Q. Obviously you've struggled a little bit with ovals. Do you feel with this team and the way you're making a move and starting to look from here that ovals will come fairly quickly?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I mean, I hope that they'll come very quickly. But we also know we have to be patient. It's one step at a time, like I said earlier. We've got pieces that we're putting together, you know. Whether it's parts of the car or personnel that are joining us. And just building up our armor so we don't have any gaps.
You know, it just takes time on the ovals. When the speed's that high, the smallest thing makes a big difference.
So it felt good at Richmond. The car was great. And unfortunately we were further down in the order. It's virtually impossible to overtake, so it meant for a long evening. So, you know, I'm sure that's going to keep improving.
Every oval we've gone to we've gotten better and better and better. So I'm confident that's going to continue on that trend. If we get to test before the end of the year, I think that will help us improve a lot. And we'll work on that in the off-season.
Q. Can you talk about what it means to be the guy who won the first IndyCar race for Dale? And also put it in the perspective of all your heros and everyone who has won here in the past from Jim Clarke and Jackson Stewart and on and on and on. And again, not to just put your name in the record books with them, but to do it in such a sort of famous victory for an underdog team?
JUSTIN WILSON: It's fantastic to get Dale's first win, and also Gail's. The two of them put a lot into this, and their heart and soul. We all do. So it's fantastic to get the first win. It means a lot to me. I think this is my most important victory of my career. You know, I'm looking forward to enjoying it tonight.
You know, I got here early, so we're down in Watkins Glen walking around, and you see all those names on the pavement down there. The guys that have won here, and that's pretty cool. You're walking around, reading off the names. It's fantastic to get your name on the board of winning at Watkins Glen up there with some of the best.
Q. Level of satisfaction of beating Penske and Ganassi straight up? No weird pits or weird circumstances. Just going out there and kicking butt?
JUSTIN WILSON: Well, it's great, obviously. It was an all out battle. Obviously, Ryan was unlucky with that yellow. But still, he was able to get the mileage and was able to be fast enough when everyone else pulled out of the way. He was right there again.
So we had a good, strong battle. And we came out on top. So we'll take that today. It's a great feeling.
DALE COYNE: You focused on the fact and I saw it in a press event that Penske and Ganassi won every race this year. Last year was a mess, we were so focused on what we were doing, that I didn't even realize that fact that makes it much sweeter, obviously.
But yesterday, we saw how strong Briscoe was. The time he put on the board. Yeah, he got weird on the pit stop on that yellow the first pit stop where the field got split.
But the last ten he's right behind us. So, here we go. And he pulled away, so of course, we know what they put into their cars, but the staff that we put together this year we kind of get a feel for what Ganassi has put into their cars over the years.
Like Justin says for the ovals, I think this is going to be an important off-season for us. For sure our busiest off-season ever, to come back and be more prepared for the ovals next year when the car becomes a pretty important piece of the puzzle.
Q. What did you think when you came down out of the last turn and saw all your guys up there on the wall?
JUSTIN WILSON: It was great. I just didn't want to slow up too early. Because I know the finish line is way down there. It was a great feeling.
Some of those guys have worked such long hours to get to all the races. They've put a lot of effort in. There's been some difficult times this year, but there's been some great times.
As I said before the end of the season, your efforts will pay off. We will win a race. Already we've achieved that. So just got to thank all the work that they do.
Whether it's the guys working on the car or the guys going over the wall, you know, even the engineers. Everybody plays their part. And without any one of those guys today wouldn't have been possible.
Q. But did it surprise you to see them go all the way to the wall?
JUSTIN WILSON: It felt like being back in Europe, yeah. The guys on the wall. It's a pretty cool feeling to drive by and see them there. You know that they've not just sat back and blasé to what's going on in the race. It matters to them how we do. They're passionate as much as we both are.
Q. After what happened on Tuesday back in Indianapolis, I mean, how much does this series kind of need to have a feel good story like this today to kind of get back in a positive direction?
DALE COYNE: I think it's good. Somebody said at St. Pete when we were leaving everybody in the press room was cheering that we were going to win the thing. And we didn't. But I think this is good to do this here. You know, I think that's what's good about the sport is that a team with our resources and our budget can win a race.
Everybody thinks that the top two teams are going to win every race. But I think it shows the other series and for this series to be strong, we need more teams here. We need not to have to subsidize teams and we need all those things to happen in this economy to make this series work and grow.
I think us winning a race and any other team that can win a race helps to show that. A lot of teams from Grand Am, wherever they might be from, I think they can come here, get the pieces we need, the drivers we need and do the job. And I think that's very good for the sport.
Despite what Robin Miller says, this sport is forward for a long time.
Q. Are you signed for next year?
DALE COYNE: We have an option for next year. It's an option, but we'll try to get that renewed today (laughing).
JUSTIN WILSON: Obviously we're trying to build something for the future here. We're looking at this long-term as well as short term, trying to get wins this year and podiums. Our goal is to win the championship. We'll just keep working away at things.
Q. Last night a couple of your guys were saying that you messed up in the pits in the past. We're not going to do it this weekend. We've worked hard to make it right and they did a heck of a job. Just talk about that?
DALE COYNE: They all felt down in Long Beach. In Long Beach we messed up in the pits. And unfortunately we had an accident in Long Beach which wasn't Justin's fault, but the pit stop put him back with guys that he shouldn't have been back with. So that was our fault in Long Beach.
We were really focused after that to move forward and work on pit stops a lot. You know, they've proved that. They did a good job today.
Our guys have worked hard. I think you've seen over the years with the work they do, we've usually had less people than most and usually one of the last ones here. But all those guys have a love, as we all do, have a love for the sport and work hard at it. And they realize we're at the sharpened of the grid, we need to be at the sharpened of the pit stops.
We've worked at it. We've studied it. We've gone over technique. We've done lots of things during the month of May and all the way up to here to make that better and better. And they're really good. We've got a little farther to go. We could still do better than we are, but it's pretty good right now.
Q. How many employees do you have?
DALE COYNE: 16, 17, something like that.
Q. Gail, G-a-i-l, correct?
DALE COYNE: Yes.
Q. You made the reference to the two of you made the commitment to step up, hire Pappas, so forth. Can you give us a little anecdote about what kind of commitment that was? Did you have to sacrifice something?
DALE COYNE: It was financial. We're very happy with Z-Line and the sponsorship that they bring and do. But, you know, it takes a lot of money to run these things. You know, we just have to do the right things, hire the right people, and it takes a budget to do that. Sometimes you have the budget, and sometimes you have to sell more barbecues. But we're happy with what we've done.
Somebody made a comment that there's no free engines for transition teams this year. So we had to go out and build two more stairs. But we're committed to this.
We got lean in 2001 financially as the engine cost was over the moon for a Champ Car. The budgets were crazy. Engine bills were insane. Competition between the manufacturers that was a tough time. That's when we looked at how to build a financial base that was a little stronger.
There are guys out there that do a great job. Eric
Bachelart, their heart's in it, but we're not at the Roger Penske level. But you need someone to back stop it when you have some lean times. That's a lesson we learned in 2001.
We didn't build a new house, we bought an engineer.
Q. You used every ounce of the racetrack today, every corner every lap it seemed like. That kind of demonstrates confidence in the race car for one thing. But it also means you're running really at the edge. Just talk about that. Doing that and your state of confidence and running on, if not over the edge. Although you're in control, it looks great and very tight.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was nerve-racking in a few places. I know we were trying to save fuel, but also, I had Ryan right behind me pushing me hard. It seemed like every time I left early for the corner and try to break a little bit lighter, he was all over the back of me.
So I knew I had to push hard through the corner and on the exit and take everything I had. The key for me was being able to go quick through 10 and 11. The last two corners. Carry the speed and open up a gap through turn one so they couldn't draft me up the hill. That's what I just focused on doing.
My car was great through those couple of corners. You know, couple of times especially toward the end the last couple of laps I was coming down into 11, and you're setting up. And I looked over and realized how close I was to the grass on the left-hand side right before turning. And I thought that wouldn't be too good. At this stage in the race that's not going to help my car life or my health. So I backed that off a little bit and took it probably 98% through the last five laps.
Once I got to the point where I saw the yellow come out and cause another restart. If it comes out now with three laps to go, we're yellow to the end. So that's why I could back it off a little bit and take it a little bit easier.
Q. I thought it was interesting, it's been stated you've been trying to win a race as a driver and owner. But as the race was winding down with one or two laps there were owners coming down and congratulating you even before the checkered flag. Once that happened they were all down there. It's a feel good thing to see you finally get a win. As you've said you've had outstanding drivers all through your existence as a team owner, but to finally get the young man that you have with you now and everything fall into place. It was a feel-good thing to see Dale Coyne win a race.
DALE COYNE: Well, thank you. I don't think people understand what drivers go through and what owners go through in off-seasons. You work, and you don't know what the next year -- it happens almost every year.
You don't know what the next year's going to be. There is a talented guy out of work. But he didn't know if he was going to have a job. The teams don't have a sponsor and don't know if they can put a program together. They overstretch what they think the reality is going to be.
So every winter is a lot of emotion for owners and drivers that people don't understand unless you do it. So, yes, it's a hard battle. I think Tony Bettenhausen once said if you ever put as much effort into being a team owner as being a businessman, you'd have all the money in the world. Because it's a lot of work. It's nonstop a lot of work.
Again, I can't thank my crew, my team guys and everybody that's been with me. Even Bernie Myers who is not with us anymore, but was with me through all the early years and everybody.
Of course, my wife, Gail, who has stood by me through all this and big decisions and things we've done in the past few years. It's just all rewarded today.
This is a platform to build into the future. This is something we want to do for a long time. This sport's going to be here for a long time, the sport's going to get healthier. I mean, it's hard for any league to survive right now in this economy, and you're seeing that in every other series, and this one is surviving.
So despite what you hear out there, it's going to survive and it can only get stronger. So I'm encouraged about the future. We're vested in the future, and we look forward to being up here a few more times.
Q. Before the late caution came out, is there any sort of concern that the tires would hold up? I think you had them on like 18 laps? Was there a concern that you think you might have to be easy on them until that caution comes through?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I was thinking about it. I didn't want to overload the front tires and wearing them out too early because I know in that first stint the last lap was getting a little tricky with the fronts letting go. Pushing more and more.
But, yeah, I was also trying to save fuel. So you're trying to manage the whole thing and make sure you're quick where you need to be quick, so nobody can overtake. Just managing that gap and trying to work out what I was going to need to do to hang on and hold Ryan behind. So that's what I was focused on.
As soon as the yellow came out, that meant I didn't need to save fuel, the tires had a chance to cool down, and the balance was great from then on.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on your victory at the camping world victory at the Glen. And best of luck throughout the IndyCar Series season.
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