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IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Ryan Briscoe
Helio Castroneves
Ryan Hunter-Reay
Tony Kanaan
Will Power
Justin Wilson
April 17, 2010


LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: We've got three of our top six qualifiers here. We're joined by Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe. Just a few notes before we begin the Q & A session here. We're awaiting pole sitter, Will Power. This is Will's third consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series pole. The current record is four consecutive poles and that's held by Helio as well as Billy Boat. This is the first time that Team Penske has put three cars in the Firestone Fast Six.
This is the career best IZOD IndyCar Series start for driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. His previous best start was third at Watkins Glen in 2008. He went on later to win that race. This is the third straight Top 5 start for Helio Castroneves this season. This is the fifth starting spot for Ryan Briscoe as a season best for him. His previous season best was 8 at Brazil. And for Tony Kanaan, this is his fourth Top 10 start for the season.
Guys, if you could take us through the qualifying top six, and your fast lap starting with Helio.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly it was all three of us were kind of discussing we were out. We're really working out there. Feels like the race -- but it's great. It's great again to have Team Penske on the top three. It was good. It was a good day for us, Team Penske.
THE MODERATOR: For Ryan, your thoughts. Obviously, this is the first time Team Penske has gotten three cars in the top Fast Six ever.
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, it's great. I think I'd sort of been letting myself down a bit. Good job, mate.
So, no, I'm really happy today. I went into this weekend with a big goal of saying, look, I need to try to make the Fast Six here because I haven't been, you know, getting it right in qualifying the last three races. Just not -- I haven't had a happy balance on new tires.
So it's a big step forward for me being able to start at the front. It was a good day. We're getting the car better as we did more laps. Into the Fast Six we started making more changes, but the tires were just finished and that was about all I could do.
I'm happy, and obviously, you know, it's great for the team, all three in the Fast Six. And certainly gets us in a position for one of us to win tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: For Tony, can you add to what you and Helio are discussing, the physical demands of qualifying here?
TONY KANAAN: Asking the two oldest guys. It's been physical just because the Paces are so close. You can't make a mistake. You're out there trying as hard as you can, and that takes away from you.
It's definitely like Helio said. I don't think there was a single lap since Q1 where they had the edge every single lap and trying to get it, and trying to get it.
With the time line before the pit entrance, I got into the pits a couple times and I had to ask my engineer to have a couple minutes before I could start talking. So it's been very physical, but it's a lot of fun.
Definitely the series this year reminds me back on the '90s when we had a bunch of good guys. So when you make to the Fast Six, don't matter if you're first or six, you're definitely happy.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our pole sitter, Will Power, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. For Will, third consecutive pole. Talk about the keyword for you right now, momentum?
WILL POWER: Yeah, very happy for the Verizon car to be on a pole again. Just our plan going into that session was to get through on blacks. I think we almost had a time good enough in the second session to get through on used blacks, because the blacks take so long to come on.
We had new Reds, did the lap. And this track you've got to be so brave to get a lap. I mean to be on the limit, you go a little bit over it, and it's so easy to hit the wall.
So very happy. But just as you saw last weekend, doesn't matter how quick you are, you've really got to read the strategy well tomorrow. We've got to execute. We can't afford to take the wrong strategy out if the yellow falls. So we'll see tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: As you mentioned earlier, this is a career best IZOD IndyCar Series starting position for Ryan Hunter-Reay. Can you give us your thoughts on qualifying today?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, it was a pretty good run for us. We had been working on the cars the past couple of days and things have been steadily progressing. Tony, Marco, and I have been pretty happy with our cars. I think today we just take that next step.
We really didn't fuss with the car in qualifying. We just kept throwing tires at it. Unfortunately, we weren't brave enough or bold enough. I don't even think we were strong enough to save the red set until the end like Will did. But we were happy. That's why he's leading the championship and stuff like that.
But we were happy with the car. It was one that I could really drive hard. I was having a fun time driving it. At one point I hit the wall coming out of eight pretty hard. Luckily I hit it all square. Left front and left rear at the same time.
But it was a pretty big one. I thought I had done my qualifying at that point. These things can take a licking and keep on ticking.
So we continued and went on the used reds for the final and we're P-2. So I'm just happy for the guys. They deserve it. It's a good spot to start from. We can definitely work from there.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Justin Wilson who will start third. Justin, I heard somewhere that you said this was one of the best cars you've had at Long Beach
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I think that just shows the level out there today. I was saying in another year I think I could have been on pole quite easily with the way this car's handled today. So I'm really happy with it. But you just can't afford to make any slight mistake or, you know, like Will did, you've got to take every chance you get.
I think the Z-Line Designs car's working well. We're looking at our tires. I'm optimistic for tomorrow, so we'll just keep our head down. Decide which of the Penskes we're going to follow on strategy, because one of them always seems to get it right. They've got their three cars. But we'll just keep working away at it, and I'm pretty pleased.

Q. There are two drivers conspicuously absent from this group, and they both drive for Target. Just kind of talk a little about what you're saying about how difficult and competitive this has become. Is it a big surprise that Dario and Scott are not among this group today?
JUSTIN WILSON: I guess I'll answer that one. I think it just shows you can't afford the slightest hiccup. In year's past in either series, you could afford to get it slightly wrong on one set of tires and make the correction for the next set. But here, you can't afford any plateau in your process.
So a wrong turn is a big no-no. Like Ryan was saying, you've got to be a brave man to make those changes when you've got a good car already. You don't want to screw it up. So sometimes the best way is to keep throwing tires at it.
They had a slight hiccup and they didn't make it. I think Romancini was 22nd or 23rd, and he did a 10.9, which is not a slow lap. So it just doesn't take much for you to be one end or the other end.

Q. Can either of you chime in on that a little bit?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I didn't hear what he said because he was talking here. But it's the way that the series is right now. You try a little thing, and it doesn't work for you, you lose a tenth and you're out.
I mean, I think apart from Will, all of us here stayed out of the Fast Six eventually this year, I think. At least myself, Ryan, and Helio I think so too and Hunter-Reay. So that's the way it is, man.
I mean, it's not a matter of, you know, you've got to have everything perfect nowadays to be able to make it.
TONY KANAAN: You put that good lap in and you used to think in your head that's fine. I'm perfectly fine, I'm in. And now you're on the radio, what's going on? Am I in? Am I in? It's so tight. I mean, again, the margin for missing the top 12, I think, the cutoff was like a half a tenth of a second again or less even. So yeah.

Q. Last year you had to switch cars and then Dario ended up winning the race. Do you feel being in the same car all weekend will give you a better chance of winning tomorrow?
WILL POWER: Yeah, last year basically the engineers, everything was new to me and new to each other. You know, we just quickly had all the team ready. So, you know, everything was -- everyone wasn't very familiar with each other.
But obviously this year, the difference between last year is I used to drive the car how it was. I wouldn't really change it very much because I was only doing limited races. But this year I focused on getting it right for me, and that's the way the paces come from. Plus having two very good teammates, I mean, we push each other hard, and that also raises the bar.

Q. You moved to a new team and you raised the level of the team. I was wondering what is gelling?
JUSTIN WILSON: I think everything is right now. Just having like Will was saying, having a strong teammate really helps. And Mike didn't make it today, but he was very competitive this morning. And in Barber he helped me out. So it works both ways. You need to have the two cars to keep improving and finding answers when you don't have a good day. So that is one part of it.
The other part is having a good, solid team and just hard work. You know, there's no magic. It's all about putting the effort in whether it's on track, off track, working on the set-up with your engineer. Just trying to understand every aspect to the game.

Q. This is for anyone who wants to answer. Knowing this is a true street race, what is the biggest difference besides being on other tracks like the Indianapolis 500 or something like that?
JUSTIN WILSON: I tell you one thing, being in Long Beach we have to say it's been more than 30 years in this place. I think it's becoming a part of every season and everybody's schedule.
Okay, we've got to go there and check it out. And that's the beauty. We're in California, a great place. Obviously close to L.A. You saw what we did on Hollywood Boulevard, which was fantastic.
So all these things are different, you know. It makes it special this circuit, this event. And that's why it lasts for so long. So I don't see other circuits, street courses being more than ten years I would say.
So just to show the promoters are doing a great job, the city, and everyone really accepts IndyCar here.

Q. We saw you in the run-off area a couple of times in qualifying, were you having any brake problems?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. I was trying to overdrive problems and get the lap time. But, no. I mean I drove a little bit too hard, and the beauty of that runoff is instead of less spot the tire and trying to make the corner, the tires were still pretty good, so I chose to save it and go through it through the run off. So it wasn't a particular brake problem or anything. I was just really trying too hard.

Q. Could each of you just sort of summarize the role Rick Mears has played in your career as Coach for the team? How does that change after tomorrow's road course as you gear up for the oval in Kansas and of course, Indy?
WILL POWER: He's spent a lot of time at my pit, especially on the ovals. He's a great guy to talk to about any situation you have in racing, from set up to, you know, even your personal life.
I mean, he's just he understands it all. He's been through it all. He's just probably the best guy I've ever met to talk about if you're struggling with something. You know, on an oval, he really points you in the right direction.
DRIVER: He has been still is a big help throughout the whole of 2008 and 2009. He's always been very close with my pit. Just listening in, and as Will said, sort of chimes in maybe in times when we're struggling a little bit.
I think I'm going to to steal him back again now though, Will, I'm sorry. He's helping you out a bit too much.
No, actually. But Rick's awesome. He's a great guy with a lot of experience both on the ovals and the road and street courses. He always is able to get you focused on the right things.
You know, you might be trying to go one direction with set-up. And he'll remind you of the important things that are going to make a difference, and that's what's always helped me on any kind of track.
TONY KANAAN: No different than those other guys. When I started on the team, Ricky was an incredible help still. And I'm very fortunate this year, I'm going to have him as my spotter for the entire season on the ovals. Sorry, guys (laughing). Somebody's got to take it, you know.
But it's great. The reason that Clive Powell, which was my spotter for ten years is running Will's car now. Been the strategy guy. So basically on the team there was a little bit of change on those circumstances. But certainly I'm very happy having him being my spotter.
He already is my spotter in Indianapolis 500 only because you've got to have two spotters there. So it's just going to continue through the rest of the season. So it's great to have Rick around.
We don't need any presentation for how incredible a driver he is. Obviously as a person, he's amazing. So we are very fortunate to have him with us.

Q. Is there any chance he can spot for you on the road course as well? It keeps him out of Will's pit that way.
TONY KANAAN: It's true. I mean, this guy here we have to take one of the red tires from him.
WILL POWER: Give me the left front only.

Q. Will, during that second tier of qualifying, I think it was in the first five minutes, I think you went off in a run-off, ask I thought you might be done. But the safety team got you. I think they had to start your engine. Can you talk about what happened there?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I thought something had broken actually going down into that corner after I came out of 8. The steering was a bit crooked. I don't know, maybe I was on a different part of the tracks and I locked up ask just went straight.
Yeah, you can't make those stupid little mistakes without having to go full course yellow. That's it. You're almost done for. You're sneaky. You can't trust this guy (laughing).

Q. Tony, what we've seen from Will in these four races or four events, the poles, really, he's one miscommunication or pit stop early from taking Barber, too. Really one of the most dominant four race stretches we've seen maybe than Al Jr. winning four events here. Can you give a perspective on what a whooping he's put on everybody so far?
TONY KANAAN: Of course we do. We wake up every day thinking about it. I think again he's doing a great job. He got a very good opportunity. He's obviously a very good race car driver. And I guess I've been in that seat. Not that dominant.
But when things are going your way, it goes your way. I think again he's been pressing everybody and what can I say? I mean, he's the guy that we wake up every morning and we look at and say what are we going to do to beat him?

Q. Helio, between yesterday practice, and today practice or qualifying in the afternoon, the lap times decreased significantly. If you had to put it percentage-wise, was it the temperature? The extra rubber as the street course comes in over the course of the weekend? Was it y'all are just driving that much harder or something else?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Wow, you actually put everything there. You said it, temperature definitely was much cooler than last year. Obviously the same conditions with ALMS running out there, we had the same as last year.
But I understand we don't have as much power last year. So that shows the quality of the drivers and teams. They did their homework during the season and improvement is impressive. We're talking about half a second at least.
Again, Firestone has been doing a fantastic job keeping up with updating the tires, but certainly I do feel that the quality of the teams have improved a lot and drivers as well. So drivers in the right place, it makes a big difference and that's what's happening today.



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