IZOD IndyCar Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
Topics: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
August 21, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with the top qualifiers from today's Firestone Fast Six qualifying session. We're joined by Alex Tagliani, his second appearance this season in the Firestone Fast Six. He also appeared in Sao Paulo earlier this year.
Alex, if you could talk about your fast lap today and also the changing track conditions out there.
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, very pleased. Obviously it was my first time here on this particular track, so I was a little bit apprehensive, not having done the test a week ago. We were also a little bit nervous because we started to change quite a bit of things on the car after struggling a little bit in Watkins Glen and Edmonton.
So the road course has not been our strength. The street courses were okay, but road courses we've been struggling. So we changed the car in the middle of the weekend in Mid-Ohio and it paid off. From that point we continued to develop the car around what we found.
Certainly it was a good thing because we came here and we've been strong all weekend long. So it was good. For me I think the fact that I have a good car was definitely a big help to learn the track.
THE MODERATOR: Your first time here. Your initial thoughts on this track?
ALEX TAGLIANI: I had the chance to do 10 laps on the rental car (laughter). Yeah, I'm not going to tell you the company because there's no tires on that car. But I was already bottoming, so it was quite impressive.
Basically the compressions, the elevations, the blind corner, it's the type of track where when you commit and you go in, whatever you have going in is what you gonna get going out because you can't really do too many changes.
It takes a lot of commitment, but it's a very fun track. I love it. I'm sure it helps when you have a good car because if the car is bad, you could struggle here quite a bit.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by several others. Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe. Dario will start third in tomorrow's race, his ninth consecutive top-five start of the season. Scott Dixon will start sixth. Scott has extended his record of top-10 starts to 45. Ryan Briscoe is making his seventh top-five start of the season.
Ryan, talk about today's fast lap.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, thanks. It was pretty hard work out there today with the wind and tires and everything. Kind of difficult to string together a lap.
We ended up making a lot of setup changes throughout the session. We really thought the track was going to grip up and really come to where we sort of started out with our car after Will's test last week. We really had to sort of play catch-up during qualifying, make a lot of changes. We really used up the tires and didn't have anything good left for the Fast Six.
But I thought the car was as good as it had been in the Fast Six, but I didn't have the tire to make anything happen with it. It's good to be in the top five. Hopefully tomorrow we can move forward and have a good race.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, yesterday you talked about how you expected the conditions on the track to change today. Can you talk about what you saw out there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I expected it to get better. It didn't. The wind was pretty horrendous. Between people going off and the wind, it was blowing a bunch of crap on the track, that made it pretty interesting. It was the same for everybody out there.
Our Target car was a 95% car today, missing in a couple small areas. I lost, I don't know, half a 10th, yeah. But Will has obviously done a helluva job in qualifying. We have to try to do what we did at Mid-Ohio and beat him.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, you extended a record here of consecutive top-10 starts. Talk about the streak you've had going.
SCOTT DIXON: Well, top 10, you know, that's kind of a NASCAR term (laughter).
You know, the session today, we had a good car from this morning. We ran into a streak of good changes. The track changed a little bit we felt this afternoon and we didn't really keep up with the changes. The car was good in Q2, pretty good on the used tires.
I think we kind of hurt ourselves when we went out on one set of tires and came back in and went back out on another. The balance shifted quite a bit. We tried to change it quite a bit for the first set; made the wrong changes there.
All in all, I think the car should be good for the race. It's going to be tough to win the race from sixth, but we'll be doing our best and hopefully strategy can help us in that area.
Pretty good day for Team Target, both cars in the top six. Hopefully we can get some good points.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, talk about how important that front row starting position is tomorrow.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: This place is always good to be in the front. Certainly it's difficult to pass. We have straightaways, but it's not quite straight. That's why it's so difficult.
But at the end of the day it's all about a great job from all three guys in our group. We keep trying different things and at the end of the day put it all together. Certainly it's showing up in qualifying, to have all three cars in the top six.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions for our five starters here and then bring Will up.
Q. Alex, you're the little team. That's Penske and Ganassi. Does that give you a lot of pride partially owning the team?
ALEX TAGLIANI: I think it shows in the series the cars are fairly similar. Obviously our challenge as a team is to try to play catch-up from a lack of information, preparation between the races. But at some point, what we're trying to do as a team is just to make sure that when we roll our car out of the trailer, it's good.
We kind of changed our philosophy a little bit in Mid-Ohio in the middle of the weekend. We struggled on road courses. We found something pretty interesting. We kept with it. Now we're back on track.
It shows. I mean, the car is definitely good because when you come here for the first time, it's pretty challenging track. So I think the team has done a good job.
Q. Never have been on this track in any car except the rental car?
ALEX TAGLIANI: That's right, rental car (laughter). No, this is the first time, yeah.
Q. In all the series you've raced, you've never been here?
ALEX TAGLIANI: No. In Atlantic maybe it was here before I joined the series. Then we changed to go to Elkhart Lake unfortunately. When you have a good car, it's a fun track. I would hate to drive this track with a bad car.
Q. Dario, we know there's still a lot of racing left, four ovals after tomorrow's race. Here you are 41 points back. Is it just a matter of slowly chipping away at Will? Is that pretty much the way you got to do it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: All we can do is do our best. All we can do is focus on doing our best and trying to win the next five races. If we can't win it, we got to finish second and concentrate on our car, what we're doing, not really worry too much about what Will is doing. He'll be going out with the same game plan. We'll keep our head down, keep focused, see what happens.
Q. To have Will ahead in the points race, that has to be fun for you. You have a new guy.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know if 'fun' is the word at this point. Challenging, yeah. Will has a lot of experience. He's with a great team and has done a helluva job. Good teammate. Didn't expect really anything else.
Q. You all went out on stickers in the second session and were relegated to scuffs in the Firestone Fast Six. Why?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: All the guys are putting on and they're going much faster. In this place the reds seem to be a big difference. We could not hold the times on blacks. That's why to be in the top six you got to use all the red tires.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys, on qualifying. Good luck tomorrow.
We're now joined by our polesitter, Will Power. This is his eighth pole of the season, a new record for most poles in a season, breaking Helio's record.
Will, if you could, talk about the record you just set and the significance of doing it here in Infineon of all places.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, I knew it was going to be really tight. I could just see that through every session. Yup, we took a risk in the second session and almost didn't get through. I thought they were done then. But we probably should have just gone out instead of waited.
Very happy to be on pole here. I'm very happy for Verizon, our first full season with them, we've had a record eight poles now. Yeah, we need to win tomorrow basically because we have four, five races left. Just got to get a points lead.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Will, what risk did you take in that second session?
WILL POWER: We waited on the time that I did on used reds to save a new set for the Fast Six. We thought that that time would sit. In fact, six guys were covered by a 10th and a half or something. I was 2/10ths down. Halfway around that lap on my dash I was 2/10ths down. I figured, I'm done. It's going to be tough to make that up. But I made it up, which was surprising. It was very tight.
Yeah, I mean, that was probably an unnecessary risk. We thought if we could save a new set, it would almost guarantee us pole. But, yeah, we got through and it was all fine.
Q. You keep pulling it out late in these sessions. You took the pole with 1 minute 20 seconds left. Do you have the confidence, As long as I can get one lap, I can do this?
WILL POWER: I went out on a more used set of reds, and then I went out on my set that had only a couple of laps on them. That's why I went out late. Also the track gets a little bit quicker at the end because the rubber is going down. You want to time it right.
At the end of the day, I knew all I could do was three laps and the time is going to come in that. If it didn't, you're not going to get it done.
Q. Not very long ago you stepped in as a substitute driver, did well. Roger kept putting you in a car. You didn't think you had a ride. Now here a short time later you're leading the points. Just your emotions over that and how Roger stuck with you.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I don't think I've had time to think about or feel the emotion of happiness of leading it. But just really focused on what I'm doing to ensure that we can continue and lead right to the end and win the championship. That's the goal.
Very grateful that Roger gave me this opportunity. Verizon came on full-time. You know, last year when I broke my back here, they could have just said, This guy's not going to be good enough again. Often you lose confidence, you're not as quick as you used to be. But Roger and Tim are just very loyal guys. Within an hour of lying in hospital, Roger told me, Don't worry about it. Even if it's not full-time next year, we'll give you something, maybe selected races again.
That's the organization that it is. It gives you a lot of confidence as a driver. As I've come through during my career, all these different teams, I've never had this feeling of comfort within a team and loyalty. You want to do well for these guys. They're just good people.
Q. Will, a lot of the IndyCar Series races with a lot of other series on the road courses. How long did it take for the old Formula One and Star Mazda rubber to go away, not running on a bunch of marbles?
WILL POWER: Probably after the first round that went out, once they started putting reds on, once that red rubber was laid down, the track was very fast. You're right, some of these tracks we go to, the rubber isn't compatible, can be really tough, can throw the balance out.
Q. You were here when Dario said, The best we can do is the best we can do. Do you feel the same way from your standpoint, that if you're going to win this championship, as long as you do your best, that's going to determine it, it's what you do rather than what Dario does?
WILL POWER: You have to be focused on what you're doing, not what the other guy is doing. On the other hand, you need to be aware of the guy you're competing with for the championship. Us not getting through that second round would have been a disaster. We need to follow Dario on things like that. Should have followed him out there.
But, you know, if you're looking at what the other person is doing, you're not getting the most out of yourself, and neither is the team.
During the race, we're aware we're racing that guy. So you probably wouldn't go off strategy to him. You'd want to ensure you're always ahead, watching what they're doing. Yes, definitely in the race, I'm sure that's going to be a factor.
Q. Let me clarify. When you're in Q2 getting into Q3, was that the more used set of tires or the ones with the couple laps left?
WILL POWER: The time I did in Q3? Q2 to get through was new tires. I set a time on old tires I thought would get me through, went out and did a slow lap. Said on the radio, You guys have to tell me, do you want me to go or not? They said, Pit, because it looked fine. Suddenly heaps of people went across the line and I went down to seventh. Through the pit lane out, you have one lap. That was on new tires, so I had to get it done. They weren't up to temperature quite.
Q. You got out of the car and said, That was lucky. I know what you meant by that. But that's one of those defining laps of a season.
WILL POWER: It was the most defining. That was as much as I could do with that tire on that temperature, I feel. I did the best I could because I knew what it was. I knew this is the sort of thing that can really catch you out.
But, yeah, it's funny. I was surprised how quick everyone went. But it's a tough series, so...
Q. Will, I know you said a little bit earlier you're not really thinking too much about the big picture. How much fun is this for you right now, the season, today? How much fun is this for you right now?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's fun but also a little stressful because it's my first time having a real shot at the championship. You don't want to make a mistake. You don't want to throw the thing away. You're pretty focused on what you're doing and you're not really thinking about the enjoyment side of it.
I think Dario might be a bit more relaxed than me. Two Indy 500s, two championships. Cruising along, thinking he's got the runs on the board.
Q. You have had such a phenomenal road course, street course season. Are you looking forward to the ovals or is there a little trepidation because Dario might be more experienced on those racetracks?
WILL POWER: I don't know. I am sort of looking forward to it because in those four ovals we did this year, at the 500 we were very quick, just had a bad race. At Texas we ran at the front all day, we got some debris. We were on pole at Iowa. We're knocking on the door there.
Really would love to win a race before the end of the year on an oval. I'm in the right team. Got two of the teammates that are two of the best oval racers. At the end of the day, I have the least amount of the experience of the guys I'm racing, but I feel as though I'm on top of it.
Q. Back in 2008 at Watkins Glen when you were with KV, I remember asking you when you didn't qualify very well there, you were pretty down. You didn't know whether you were going to get invited back to race in '09. Now look at you.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I was down because I felt that there was a lot of pressure. I went from 2007 in Champ Car as a championship contender going into '08 to win the championship to someone thrown into a new team, new series, ovals I've never done before. You're fighting for it because you're thinking, I can finish up my career here. I was actually at the point thinking of talking to V8 teams back in Australia. I figured that I'm not going to get a ride and I'm out.
But at Watkins Glen, I was feeling that pressure. We were quick enough to challenge for the pole there. I was very frustrated because I'm trying to show what I've got to get a job, but sometimes you push a bit over that line. That's a tough thing. Like I said, when you get put in a team that makes you feel comfortable, it's much easier to perform.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and wrap things up. Congratulations on today's pole.
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