IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Topics: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
April 15, 2012
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports. This is a career best finish for Simon, previous best career finish was fourth, which he did three times, Mont Tremblant, Toronto and Edmonton, which is also a best finish for team owner Sam Schmidt in the IZOD IndyCar Series. His previous best finish was with driver Jacques Lazier, which was third in Nashville in 2001. Simon, you certainly put on a show today, reeling in Will there at the end. Walk us through the race in those closing laps.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't really know until I watch the race to be honest what happened because it seems like it was a pretty cool race to watch. So I'm glad for the fans. I'm glad to be back in Long Beach. It's a place where I've been pretty lucky in the past with two wins in sports cars, so I love coming back here. The Schmidt/Hamilton racing team is just fantastic at the moment. I think we are a one‑car team, but we need to give a lot of credit to Sam and the whole team for putting such a program together. They're the strongest in Indy Lights with five championship wins, and here we are again with second position today in the IndyCar Series.
A lot of credit to those boys. HP is a big support for us with my new ride Best Buy, so thanks to them for giving us what we need to fight against Penske and Ganassi.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport, James is also having a career best finish today. His career best finish was fourth, which he did several times at St.Pete, Long Beach, New Hampshire and Kentucky. In three starts this season James has yet to finish outside the top six. First podium. Walk us through today's race if you can.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't know where to start. It was a bit of an eventful race, but man, I know from my seat it was certainly exciting. I bet it was from the outside, too. It's cool to see some exciting racing back in IndyCar. For us, clean start, didn't have the greatest first stint, kind of got held up behind E.J., he was struggling with the balance you could see, but ultimately it came down to the Andretti guys making the best calls on the pit stand. They've been doing that week in and week out this season. It's cool to have such a great team behind you supporting you and making those right decisions because that's what makes IndyCar racing so cool is you can start 16th and still have a crack at this thing if you play the strategy right. Credit to them. The GoDaddy car was strong right up to the end. I think my fastest lap was the second last lap of the race. Didn't quite have enough to catch Simon and Will, so congrats to them. I do feel bad for Ryan because obviously we finished fourth on track but with Ryan's penalty, and I only got there because of Ryan. He was punching holes left, right and center and I was just following him through for a lot of the race, so big thanks to him as well. Hopefully it's not the last time I get a trophy in this series.
THE MODERATOR: What is this we hear about seeing baby face Hinch in two weeks?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, I may or may not have foolishly made a bet with Wade Cunningham and the best was my first podium I had to show up to the next race with a completely clean shaven face, and that's not happened since about 2004. So I guess in Brazil you're going to be seeing baby face Hinch show up, and I'm not thrilled about that.
Q. Simon, in your mind what was the biggest reason for your success today?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Every time he's around we have a blast. I hope we get to do many podiums together.
I think it's mostly my engineer and all the development they are doing is not by himself. He's got a few other engineers working with him, so Ben Bretzman, Nick Snyder and Brendon Cleave, those guys are really close together, and the fact that we're a one‑car team is actually not a bad thing because they're very focused on just my car and very focused on my feedback. So everything I'm asking, I get it.
So we just‑‑ obviously it's taking us a little bit longer than those guys with three cars because we don't have as many data, especially this weekend with less sessions. But when we have a normal weekend, we can actually be with those guys because we have time to catch up.
When we don't unload from the truck really well, it's a little bit harder like it has been this weekend, but still, they make good decisions as you can see, and I think it's all about the right decisions at the right time, and I think that's what they're doing.
Q. Simon, not to pick on E.J. Viso, could have been any back marker, you had to have mixed emotions when you saw Will come upon him and slow down and then you had to realize you've got to get around him. What went through your mind at those two moments?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I really thought I would have a go when E. J. Was there. I thought E. J. Did a good job. He did his best to get out of the way in the right place. There's not much else he could have done, really. I was hoping we was going to end up a little bit more, so it gave me some time, but I just needed one more lap or a little bit more pace. But to be honest, that's all I had, and I think it's plenty quick.
But it is what it is; sometimes you can make it happen, and sometimes you don't have the opportunity. But he knows we're coming.
Q. Simon, this is along the same lines because I know race control asked the car 5 and 6 to move over for the leaders, and it seems like car 5 took a while, at least a lap before he did so, and I know there aren't too many places around the track, but if he would have done it sooner do you think you could have challenged Will Power?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't know. With a lot of ifs, you could change the world. It is what it is at the end of the day. I'm really happy with second. If I had an opportunity, I would have definitely tried. You can trust me on that. The day I have the opportunity, I will try.
But I didn't have the opportunity, so I don't think I'll go end up (indiscernible) once again badly during the middle of the race, but that's another story. The others I think are doing a pretty good job.
Q. Simon, can you clarify for us, your car appeared to have the best view of the first lap incident. Did you think Dario made the contact with Newgarden?
SIMON PAGENAUD: That's going to start to be political now. To me it looks like Dario drove him into the wall, but that's just to me. I'm not in his car, I'm not in Josef's car. Again, I need to watch the race and then I could have a clear point of view. I think it's a little bit harsh for me to say what I said.
Q. The tire that you struck, was there somebody on your outside when you hit power's tire?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Actually, you know what happened, is when I got out of the pits I saw somebody coming in my mirror, so I tried to stay as far as I could on the inside to leave him room, but it was actually Will, but I didn't know it was him. So I did my best to stay on the right to avoid a contact with that car, and I touched the tire. Really sorry about any delay I could have caused him. But it's a tight pit lane.
Q. James, you get your first career podium. I'm wondering, are you celebrating it or you sort of got it by something happening in front of you.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: No, you certainly‑‑ any competitor wants to earn it. I would have rather have done that pass on the track to get the first podium, to get any podium, to get anything. You don't like being given stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it's a function of racing, and it is what it is. Sometimes those things work for you and sometimes they work against you, so it all sort of balances out, and you just have to take these little things when they come.
Q. How does Long Beach compare to other races on the circuit?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: How does it compare? Long Beach is fantastic. I mean, this is a race that everybody looks forward to coming to every single year because it's‑‑ selfishly from the driver's point of view the track is a lot of fun to drive. It usually produces really good races. And then from the fan point of view, the atmosphere, the environment, everything about this event is just so cool. It's been around 37 years now, and there's a reason for that‑‑ 38 years now, I stand corrected, and there's a reason for that, still. And yeah, it's a favorite among drivers, it's a favorite among fans, and I love coming back here. It's always treated me pretty well. I wished we raced here three or four times a year selfishly.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it's a great place with a lot of history. It's good to come to California, as well. It changes from Florida where we are all winter long. It's nice to be here, and to me, as well, has been a pretty good track to me. The fans, they show up with‑‑ it's a pretty big crowd out there. As James said, there's a great atmosphere, great restaurants around, so it's cool for us to come over here.
Q. Simon, as the only Honda among the top seven after the penalty, is that kind of demoralizing to see that?
SIMON PAGENAUD: No, it's not. I think Honda is doing a great job. I think it's very tight with Chevy. But you know, Chevy has got‑‑ teams like Penske and Andretti with six cars, so it's quite a bit of cars to beat, and they're very strong as a team. I think it's just the consistencies of the race. I think drafting the Chevy, I don't feel like we're doing. I don't feel like anything is better on their side. I just think it is what it is at the moment. But luck turns around, so we'll see.
Q. For both you guys, how did the new rules with keeping the pits open during some of the full course yellows affect your races?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Honestly, I don't know again. I need to watch the race. I just came back to the pit as early as possible when they said pit, pit, pit, and I tried to rush into the pit. I think it makes it better for the strategist. It shuffles everything, and you can‑‑ we initially started to think we would do the race on two stops, and because of that we changed our plan. So I think it makes for good racing.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Sort of like Simon said, I don't know exactly‑‑ that's a tough question to answer without watching the race. But our strategy seemed to change lap by lap. It was pit in five laps, pit in four laps, pit in two laps, pit now. It's sort of a bit of a bouncing ball for us. I think what is cool about this new rule is that it's not a guarantee. Bo has the right or the prerogative to close the pits under a caution if it's a severe enough accident and he doesn't want people at speed trying to catch up or in pit lane. It just throws another element in there, another unknown, and I just think that's great for the racing, spices things up a bit.
Q. Simon, at what point after your second stop did your team tell you you would or would not be able to make it, and did they tell you to go for it at that point because you were pulling out enough of a gap and you needed to close back the gap after your third stop?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I asked them at some point where I was because I didn't know what was going on. I was just pushing as hard as I could with what they were saying. At the beginning of the race they said do this fuel mileage and you need to go as fast as you can so I was doing the fuel mileage and once we started thinking about the three‑stop strategy it was clear I had to push and not save fuel. So I pushed as hard as I could at the end when Will was behind me. I realized if he wasn't staying up with me, it's because he was saving fuel, so I knew he was going to the end and I wasn't, so I was trying to open up the gap.
I understood, but when the team is just telling me to go as fast as possible, I just go as fast as possible. I don't think that much.
Q. Have you ever closed on a leader like that before?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I did in 2010. I thought it was a repeat of what happened in MP1 in 2010 when I passed Adrian Fernandez in the last lap. I was hoping he was going to make the same mistake, but he didn't.
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