IZOD IndyCar Series: Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union
Topics: Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union
April 11, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by the inaugural winner of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Helio Castroneves. A few notes on Helio's win today. This is Helio's 17th career, IZOD IndyCar Series win. His last victory came 2009 at Texas Motor Speedway. The win also extends the record for Helio. This is his tenth consecutive season in the IZOD IndyCar season with a win. Helio, can you talk about today's race, and more importantly, a chance to show off the famous fence climb to new race fans?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, that's right. I'm very happy that we were able to show that. Started from the beginning, a good start. I know Scott jumped right -- I'm not sure if he jumped or not, but all of a sudden he passed two cars in front of us. And I just heard on the radio that he's got to give us room, so it was kind of confusing in the beginning.
But we went -- Conway, I have to say, they were pushing quite hard. And on the radio we decided right after that to try something different, you know. I was doing good mileage. We were doing what we planned to do, and those guys just kept going ask kept going.
Finally, when they decided to pit, it was kind of like different than St. Pete. St. Pete I was ahead of Will, and I end up hitting and no one came and follow. So I think that's what happened again this race.
As soon as I restart, Marco did a good job in passing me. In fact, he kind of like pushed me away. And he was driving like he was more patient this time. He was driving like remind me like his father, Michael Andretti. Hell of a job.
Then when I was behind him, I was just saving fuel, is saving fuel. Make sure that I could reach the number that they were asking me to do. We were able to actually go a little farther than that. So we were able. It was great. It was a great situation.
When we pit after Scott and Dario, Marco was able to do an incredible job and back again in the lead. So I felt like I had a better car than Marco, but, unfortunately, I just couldn't pass him. And I was just patient and waiting for an opportunity, and well, I guess we were able to be smart enough to save a lot of fuel.
Towards the end, we just had a yellow flag. I didn't ask for that. Especially when you have Scott Dixon and those guys behind you. So I just decided to make sure do not give any opportunities for those guys, and that's what I did.
I knew what the car was capable to do. Sometimes you've got to count with a little luck. So today was a great day for Team Penske, and especially the No. 3 guys.
Q. Were you confident in the fact that it would only be a matter of time before Marco would have to pit again?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, they were coaching me pretty well. Sidney was coaching me pretty well saying he's got to have a yellow. He's got to have the stop. But at the same time he said if you have an opportunity to pass, go ahead and do it.
But when you're saving fuel, you can't use the push to pass, because you're going to burn fuel. Because it was one of those things where what do I do, you know? Some parts of the tracks I was much faster than him.
But on the high speed corners, it's hard for you to be behind a guy. It's like an oval, you know. You can't just take much chance, otherwise you can make a mistake.
So with those conditions, I knew what I needed to do. Trying to make him make mistakes. He drove really well. But, again, we pushed for him to spend more fuel, and it paid off.
Q. You said you thought you had a better car than Marco, but what about better than Will?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, I said in the beginning the man of the week was Will Power. Surprisingly, Conway actually was giving him a little breather right at his neck at the beginning of the race. I don't know what happened afterwards.
But certainly Will has been very successful this season. He's been very fast. The only way for us to beat and stop Will Power was trying something different. Today was an opportunity for us to do that, and it worked on out perfectly.
Q. Tell us the truth. Does it feel different winning as a daddy?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: On the celebration, I guess, after the fence, yes, it was great to see my daughter there. This is one thing that probably I told you guys already that I want to take a picture with her on the podium. So when she grows up 20 years later she can look and be proud of dad that we were sharing good moments.
So it was great. Now it's just I'm happy that that happened sooner than later. So now let's go for the next one, and hopefully the big one we can celebrate as well.
Q. You appear to be somewhat more overjoyed than usual at this victory, with the climbing the fence and victory lane with your daughter. Was this victory that much more for you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it felt great. It felt great for several reasons. We have a new group of guys. Even though they're not a new group of guys, they've been with Team Penske for quite some time, but it's kind of like we know each other. And it's good to give confidence to those guys.
We used to work with Rick Rinaman basically since I start on the team, and Rick was an outstanding guy. To this day I learned so much with him. We miss him a lot.
But it's a great opportunity to give Sean an opportunity to work. So for those guys, I'm happy. I'm happy for them. I'm happy for the group.
It's a beginning and we can look around and say, great, guys. So let's unify here and continue working like this. And that's what needs to be done. The atmosphere inside the team is fantastic. Ryan, I and Will, even though Will's very, very fast, we're still joking around. And I think it's helping everyone.
Q. Have you been scouting around all weekend to try to find the right fence to climb? How did you decide on that place?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, I didn't realize until yesterday. One of the fans asked me where are you going to climb the fence? I think it was in the elevator going to the hotel. And I was like yeah, I didn't think about that.
And this morning I just looked around actually on the parade lap. I looked around like, hmm, I think there has a lot of people. So it might be really cool to climb the fence there, and that's exactly where I stop it. So it was great.
Until that point, I did not have anything in mind. So it was great that one of the fans got me going.
Q. What did you think of Barber and Birmingham?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, I'm suspicious to talk about it. I love it. I mean, three years ago or two years ago when we came here, I knew this track is incredible. First of all, the facility, the museum it's a first-class operation.
Mr. Barber did an incredible job putting everything together. I don't think I need to say much because everybody saw it today. Again, the lay out is great, it's a lot of fun, lot of up-and-down elevations. Very difficult, in fact, but it's a lot of fun when you get it right.
Now if you ask me if it needs to be changed, again, I'm suspicious to talk about it. I like it just as it is. But, you know, if we could have a longer straightaway or things like that to create more opportunities. But this is the challenge of this place, you know.
Every place we go, we create challenge. If it's Brazil and the bumps or St. Pete and some other areas, and here it's difficult to pass. I think it was a really exciting race, you know. Today I'm just happy that everything we did paid off.
Q. We know you for the fence climbing spider man thing. Down in turn five and six, there is a spider. Did you think about possibly doing something different and getting up on it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, that's great (laughing). Do they have a fence there? I don't think they have a fence. So had that spider is a little bit bigger than me, but that's good.
When I came here first time I didn't notice the spiders and things like that or the arts, but I think it's great. I think it's great that we have that. I'll keep climbing the fence.
Q. There was some suggestion earlier that perhaps the number of laps should be changed to make it less of a fuel strategy race. What do you think about that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Right now I don't think it needs to be changed (laughing).
Q. Scott and Dario touched on it briefly when they were in here. What did you think about the reception by Alabama race fans? This is the heart of NASCAR country, but what did you think about the reception for IndyCar?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I was very surprised, but good surprised. I'm happy that everybody accept. And it's great that we actually tell everyone we're not competing against NASCAR. In fact, we are just another or different type of racing. It's open-wheel versus closed cars and stock cars.
So we're only ten miles away from Talladega, so for Alabama, I think it's just fantastic to have those two types of racing. You saw how many people came.
I have to say that I didn't hear any negatives this weekend. In fact, I just heard positives. You know, the lines in the autograph sessions were big. Friday was a lot of people. Normally we don't have many people on Friday. So that just shows that we are in the right direction.
Alabama is a great place that people will enjoy having this type of racing, you know. And I saw a lot of people with NASCAR shirts, and that's great because we can mix with that series as well.
So one helps each other, and I'm glad that we had a warm welcome. Now I can't wait to come back next year.
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