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IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

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Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Michael Andretti
Ryan Hunter-Reay
April 18, 2010


LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on the podium finishes for Justin and Will Power. We'll see you at Kansas.
We're joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who piloted the No. 37 Izod car to victory lane for Andretti Autosport. We're also joined by Michael Andretti. A few notes: This is the second career Izod IndyCar Series victory for Ryan; his first came in 2008 at Watkins Glen. This is the first Izod IndyCar Series finish for Andretti Autosport since Tony Kanaan won in 2008 at Richland.
This is the first victory for an American driver in the Izod IndyCar Series since Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Watkins Glen and the last American driver to win here at Long Beach was Michael Andretti in 2002.
Ryan, it's been 27 starts since you were last in victory lane, and you're the first American driver to win here since your boss, Michael. Talk about the importance of this victory in your career.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: First of all, Long Beach means so much to me. This is where I had my first big-time race in Atlantics, and also my first big-time race in kart. This place is awesome. I've been telling everybody -- not to make Michael feel old but I remember being a kid and watching the TV, watching him win, and I was playing with my cars on the rug. (Laughter.)
It's just -- and also, you know, it goes back to Mario being here winning, and it's an awesome racetrack. I've lived here for the past six years, Dana Point, right down the street and I love it here. It was like a home race for us, more so than any race in Florida, so this is huge.
Then for the racing side of it, I'm just so appreciative for what Michael has done for me here. He's put a lot of faith in me and in this program. This thing started out as a small, small program. He put the faith in me and where it could go and now we're just -- I feel like we're just gettin' to work. The team, the way the chemistry is building is so much fun. I wake up a half hour earlier than I should every day because I'm excited to get to the racetrack, get to work and that's why things like this happen.
Of course Izod, what they're doing for this series is huge! It's going to -- you won't even see the results for another probably few months, maybe even a year but what they're doing is monumental for the series, and what they've done for me, also, it's been two and a half years of support now through thick and thin, and they've been there for me, and they have absolute faith in me. It means so much to me to get that car up there with not only Andretti Autosport on it but with Izod on the side of the car.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, talk about being in victory lane as a team owner as well as the importance of this win, taking sole ownership of Andretti Autosport.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Long Beach continues to be special for me, myself, our family. It's the -- it's one of the big highlights of the year, I can assure you, when we come here. It was killing us the few years that we weren't here and it was great to get back here last year.
Then to come back this year first-time as a full owner, to come back and get my first win here, this is where I won my very first race as a driver and my last race as a driver, so you can see why it's really, really special to me. Couldn't be more excited. Couldn't be more excited for this guy. He's working his butt off, he's fit right into our team, he fits into the chemistry.
He works well with the other three drivers, they're all gettin' along really well and he's pushin' 'em real hard and it's so fun to watch it all happen as an owner, and you know when you're seeing it on the results of the track. Last week we dominated the race, almost won, this week dominated and won. And I was happy that Ryan got us the win and Izod being the great supporter and the best series sponsor we could every want. What they're doing with all the things, they're doing -- as Ryan said, you're going to see it -- just this thing explode. I'm so excited about the future of IndyCar racing right now.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: When I was talking about the team and how great it is, I've been in a position where I haven't had teammates, right? I worked with Ed Carpenter for maybe two, three races it wasn't time to get anything going, but this team is unbelievable. Since I've been in IndyCar I haven't had teammates and now having three other teammates who have won races, they know what they want out of race cars, and it is such is a tool to work with them. And the fact that we all sit down and talk about what we do to the car and what we need from it, hey, this works here, there, the lines of communication are open, I think that ball is just -- that snowball has started to roll down the hill, and it's great having great teammates, and I have to thank them for being where I am today because it's all a team work development thing.

Q. Did the full season contract get signed on the way over here?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: If it's up to me, yes, and I'm just hoping that we can get the rest of the support we need to get him through the series because, you know, we just can't let his car stop runnin', and I can assure you that we're going to be working hard to make it happen and, you know, we're going to keep -- if he keeps doing what he's doing, he's making it easier for us, I can tell you that.

Q. How close do you feel you are?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know yet, like I said, we'll have to see when all the dust settles after this weekend and see what happens and what comes out of it. But like I said it helps a lot for Ryan to be running up front where he's running and so, you know, all I can say is I'm hopin' that we will be able to announce, you know, a full season sooner or later.

Q. Ryan, can you give us the spelling of your mother's name and what day she passed away?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Lydia, L-y-d-i-a, same last name, and she passed away November 14th. You know, this is a race that she loved coming to. She came every year I was racing pretty much here. She had a couple of years -- what was it, '0 -- gosh, it was '08 in Indy she had pains in her back, and I want everyone to know if you have pain in your back, get it checked out. She's a nurse and she ignored it and low and behold, she had an extreme case of colon cancer, which spread everywhere.
I was with her during every bit of the fight, and the number 1 thing she loved was to see me racing. Even during that fight, that's what racing gave me, it gave her and I the strength to push forward. She passed away and you know she was definitely there with me this weekend. So this race was definitely for her.

Q. I was wondering if there might be some envy from your prospective brother-in-law.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: From Robbie? I don't know. If I talked to him he would probably be like, "Yeah, you did all right."
(Laughter.) We have a lot of fun. He is so busy with NASCAR and I'm on the other side of it, obviously, and he's racing everything every weekend, NASCAR, trophy trucks, off-road, this, that, and the other, and if he's not he's building something that he's going to race with, so I see him once or twice a year but he's fun. Hopefully I will talk to him soon.

Q. Ryan, you were behind Will during the beginning of the race. Were you measuring him up?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I was saving a bunch of fuel when I was behind him, and I was gaining on him a lot and I thought I needed to save fuel. That's the beautiful thing about Brazil, you have straightaways where if you have a faster car you can get by. Whereas here you can be behind a car that's a second slower but if that car is good out of the hairpin every time, you're not gettin' by.
That would have been tough. I think we would have -- we could have still beat him on in and out laps, because we were solid there today, but on pure pace we were definitely, I think, the fastest car out there, whether we got the fastest time in the lap, race lap --
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You did.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Michael says we did, but I know we were pulling away when we needed to at any point, so that's the most important thing. We deserved this win, whether he got stuck in first gear for 3 seconds or not; this was definitely our race.

Q. Michael, if you can't put this deal together how are you going to start a new tradition?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: What do you mean?

Q. Winning, Andretti Autosport winning in Long Beach? The whole team and you and Ryan.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Right.

Q. What are we going to do and how soon?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know, that's what I'm saying. Obviously this race is going to help and I'm hopin' it's what we need to put it over the goal line to get the support to be able to fund the car the rest of the year.

Q. Michael, I saw you at the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame induction ceremony and I believe I heard you say that Ryan Hunter-Reay was going to win this race. I was wondering what kind of premonition did you have and where did it come from?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. I had a good feeling about it. I think Ryan has a good history of running well here at this track and he ran well in Brazil, which we felt that Brazil was similar to this place a little bit, so he was actually the guy -- you're right I remember saying that, that I felt like Ryan was going to win it. Nice to be smart.

Q. I thought it was great because a tire hadn't hit the concrete yet.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Another thing I forgot to mention, too, with everybody -- everything with my mom weighing so heavily on my mind right now, I met Becky Gordon here at Long Beach in '04 at this race, so Friday was our anniversary, not like it was anything special because we were at the racetrack, but we're engaged now, six years, having a great time and it's another bit of Long Beach that's special to me, so to win here is extra special.

Q. Ryan, you had a pretty sizable lead leading up to the wreck between Rahal and Romancini, when the caution came up, what went through your mind at that time?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I can't say the words, I was definitely not excited about it. (Chuckles.) I was in such a rhythm I mean, I -- I was having so much fun. It's definitely the most fun I've had driving a race car and I didn't want to interrupt that rhythm, but yellows happen on street circuits. I was disappointed about it for a second but at the same time I was like, hey, this is our race, and I just went back to work after that, no big deal.

Q. Gettin' back on the American angle a little bit, when you raced you were the great American driver in this series, now Ryan gets the first victory for an American driver since his last won in '08. How important is this for the series to get an American driver up there who is going to be out there fighting for victories every week?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. I don't look at it that way. It's funny the way it's ended up that we have a bunch of Americans on our team but it wasn't by design. I think it comes down to personalities more than where you were born. I really believe that. I think that's what's made IndyCar racing so great over the last 20 years. There are so many great guys out there that weren't Americans that everybody fell in love with, you know? So I don't get stuck on that.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I won, I mean, yeah, it's important about Americans, but like Michael said, that's what IndyCar is, it's the best talent from around the world, different nationalities, you know, I think we have the right amount of Americans in here if you think every other country that has talent should be represented, and we're close to it right now, you know, with myself, Marco, Danica, Graham in the race. One or two others here or there will poke in during the year. I think we're pretty well represented, but I'm happy to be wearing the red, white and blue colors and being the guy that won, and I'm so honored to carry that flag to be the American that's moving forward right now.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's not to say I'm not proud to be an American. I was proud to be an American wearing the flag for sure, it's not that. It's just that I'm not sure our series needs to be built on only Americans.

Q. Michael, Ryan has talent but is he elevating your entire team to make everybody better?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's always great to have new blood in there pushing hard, you know? He comes in with a lot of respect and our guys are respecting him and they're just pushing each other. I don't know if you saw within our team but every weekend it's not just Ryan, it's Tony one weekend, it's Marco last weekend, they're pushing each other hard, and they're making the cars go forward together.
That's what's -- that's how this all worked in the past when our team was successful and I think that's what's happening now. Getting Ryan in there just -- he fit right in.

Q. Ryan, there was speculation that there was contact between you and Lloyd on in the hairpin; yes or no on that? Also, you're basically in a zone and turned your fastest lap of the race. When was the last time you had such a feeling in the car in any race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I don't think I have ever! It was such a great feeling in that -- all right, this lap I'm going to step up the pace a little bit and there it was, and the time was quick and the lead opened up and, you know, I was like, wow, this is how it's supposed to go! It was so much fun being at Long Beach, pulling away in the lead.
I definitely savored it. I was having a good time doing it. It was actually easier for me to push hard and drive hard rather than conserve and lay back and try and be very careful, and all that it was easier for me to push hard and go for it. And for Alex, no, we didn't have contact. I don't know why he -- it was almost like he brake-checked me in the hairpin. I'm not saying he did brake-check me, maybe he got an unorthodox line through there, but I almost got into the back of him, and I had to check up, so it took me a few more laps than I would have liked to get by him, but I finally did and that was great to get him between ourselves and Justin and the other guys. I knew all those lap cars were going to be tools for us to win the race.

Q. Ryan, you're going to ovals and you won your first race by leading every lap on the ovals. Are you looking forward to going there now?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. That's what I love about IndyCar, there is no series in the world that goes from a road course like we just did, to a street course, to an oval. That's what it's about; you have to stay on your toes.
The talent that you bring to it has to be diverse and that's what I enjoy about IndyCar, but, yeah, I'm looking forward to this and gettin' in some great race cars when I'm turning left, you know? It's a struggle on ovals when you're not fast, it's not fun, and when you have the car and you have the team behind you, it can be some of most fun racing you do.
So I'm looking forward to it and I think we're third in the points right now or something like that, so we're heading into Indy, and it's the primary objective. Every driver wants to win that race so bad, but I really want it. We're going to be pushing forward.

Q. Michael, you talked about Ryan not being signed for a full year. Is he signed through Indy? Is that his last race?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, actually I think he goes to Texas.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I don't know.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's so weird it changes every day because of what we're pushin' so, yeah, around then.

Q. Michael, I know this is a tough question but is Ryan the best American driver in the series right now?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. I mean I think he's definitely up there. You know, I think Marco is on top of his game right now and having a good year, and just a bit of bad luck but good year in terms of performance, and Graham has done a great job, but Ryan right now definitely has things -- he's firing on all cylinders right now.
THE MODERATOR: Michael and Ryan thank you for joining us and congratulations on today's win, we'll see you in Kansas.



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