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IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Scott Dixon
Ryan Hunter-Reay
March 25, 2012


THE MODERATOR:  We'll get started with today's post race press conference.  We are pleased to be joined by Scott Dixon, who finished second today.  Scott previously finished second here in 2006, 2007, both times to Helio.  Additionally Scott clinched the bonus two points for most laps led today. 
Scott, you made up some great ground at the start of the race, led a lot of laps today.  Talk about that battle with Helio and especially the pass in turn one around lap 73.
SCOTT DIXON:  Yeah, I don't know, the start went pretty good.  I think everybody was pretty kind to each other, which was a big shock.  Don't think there were any sort of cars coming together, which was a great way to start the race.  Everybody dove for the inside, I went to the outside, picked up a couple of cars.  Then strategy started to go a bit crazy. 
We missed the first one, which I think the 12 car and Dario ended up taking, which were pretty angry on the radio, thinking that was the strategy that was going to win the day.  Kind of nice to see when we got out of the yellow at a perfect time which helped us, in the end being on the right strategy. 
Yeah, it was a good day.  The car was decent.  Car was really good for the first couple laps, then sort of about 10 laps in we started losing a lot of grip, couldn't keep the pace of the others. 
At the end, Helio beat me out of the pits.  I got him back into four and then a couple laps later he got me back into one.  Not sure we made the right decision on tires.  We went to used reds which we abused pretty badly in qualifying.  They didn't seem to have that good of grip. 
Helio was a man on a mission.  I don't think we had the pace.  Probably a little too cautious on turn one where he did go around the outside.  I didn't push the envelope too much.  I was trying to envision a finish here.  So that's the way it went. 
He was rocket ship fast and kind of in a class of his own today.  That was all we had. 
THE MODERATOR:  We also have been joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Ryan, talk about today's race.  During the broadcast we could hear Kyle on the radio pushing for you to save fuel at the end. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  Yeah, it's interesting when you're in a fuel race.  It's like fighting with one arm tied behind your back.  Guys like Dixon and Franchitti and Helio and stuff like that, they're the best in the business at doing it.  It really is an art to actually turn quick laps and save a lot of fuel. 
But, yeah, I went through a period there for four or five laps where I was trying really hard to get the number they wanted and it wouldn't just come out of the car.  I thought I was going to end up going too slow.  But figured it out, then Scott started backing up to me.  So we were all saving fuel. 
Yeah, it's a good start to the year.  Good strategy.  I only wish we could have fought at the end, really fought hard, because I think we had a really good car on used tires, old tires.  I would have liked to have given that a shot.  But it was a race we were running.  Auto racing has been like that for many years.  It's all part of fuel.  Luckily Chevy had some good efficiency in there, as well. 
THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions. 

Q.  How important was it to start off the season with a nice, clean race? 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  Extremely important.  I know Scott hasn't finished here in quite some time.  Last year we were taken out from behind, so... 
To really just start the season off on the right foot and log the points early, this race counts as much as the last one.  We want a points race this year, we really do.  Last year I came out really aggressive.  This year I want to come out aggressive, as well, but with the big picture in mind.  We want to fight for the championship. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  The boys and girls did a good job today.  I figured with the long off-season and carbon brakes, it was going to be a brain meltdown at times.  At times during those double-file restarts, I was waiting for the thud from behind, but it never really came.  That was a very nice surprise. 
SCOTT DIXON:  I think it's important, especially for us, we've definitely struggled the last few years probably with the first four races. 
Obviously you're going to be aggressive and not change your style at all, but you just have to focus on making the right decisions I think throughout the day. 
All in all, it was a pretty clean race.  I think a few of us touched occasionally.  Lap traffic was a bit of a pain at some points.  But, yeah, I think it's important to start the season strong. 
Ryan hit it on the head.  This race pays the same amount of points as the last one.  Consistency, if you look backwards with Dario over the last couple of years, that's what's won the championship. 

Q.  I want to ask you about Dan Wheldon.  Obviously his presence was here today.  Ryan, after the race you said something about the wound still being open.  If you could talk a little bit about that.  And, Scott, if you could add your thoughts. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  Yeah, it is.  It's only the next race since the tragedy happened in Vegas.  It is still wide open, the wound.  This is Wheldon's hometown, adopted hometown, I should say, his U.S. hometown. 
He's just a great champion of our sport.  I know every driver in the series wants to be like him in many ways.  We all emulate him.  Yeah, we love the Wheldons, and today he was there with us in every way, so... 
We wish we could have him back.  He was great for our sport in so many ways.  But that's just life, not fair. 
SCOTT DIXON:  Yeah, I think it is still so fresh.  I think in some ways it's almost fitting the first race was in St. Pete, not that you'd ever want it to happen.  If you could turn back time and change things, you certainly would. 
For me personally, I just miss the guy.  It sucks not to be able to turn around and see him coming through a door with those bright white teeth sort of smiling at you. 
It's tough to deal with.  I think it's nice to see Holly here this weekend, have her support, for a lot of the guys and teams, she knows a lot of people.  So, yeah, it just sucks.  It just plain sucks. 

Q.  Was it harder than you thought it would be to do the race today or about what you expected?  Maybe, if you could react to Helio's celebration. 
SCOTT DIXON:  I didn't see Helio.  I saw him pull off, and figured he did that for a reason. 

Q.  Was it harder than you thought it might be? 
SCOTT DIXON:  I think at some points.  I think it's different for everybody, as well.  Even last night when I went to dinner, myself, Emma, Stefan, Holly, there's reflection when you look back and talk about the good times, times you've eaten at that restaurant we were at. 
I think it's important to keep the memory alive and reminisce about what a great guy he was.  I think it's important. 
I think it's tough.  It has been tough this weekend.  In some ways it's kind of nice to be fairly busy.  When you're in the car, you're focused so much on what you're trying to do, making sure you don't crash in the next corner.  You know, definitely thinking about the situation and him a lot. 

Q.  Ryan, did you see the celebration? 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  I didn't.  I saw him stopping there.  I remembered, yeah, at that point that that was the corner where the tribute was made.  Really seeing Susie and the boys last week, that just tore it all wide open again.  It was great to see them.  Reality set in, too. 
This is his track.  He's won here.  Like Scott said, it sucks not having him.  He was great for our sport.  He absolutely should still be on track and fighting for race wins. 
But I think in a way it makes us all stronger, too. 

Q.  This may be the most naïve question ever.  Passing was at such a premium.  Why was that? 
SCOTT DIXON:  Are you saying there was a lot of passing or not a lot?  I thought there was quite a bit of passing, first part of the race. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  Where did you start from? 
SCOTT DIXON:  I started in seventh, got to the lead, then got passed.  That is eight spots right there.

Q.  (No microphone. 
SCOTT DIXON:  Don't blame us.  Blame the TV (laughter). 
You know, I thought the racing was good.  I think at the end it was just the style of racing.  You see it across the board.  Once a fuel race starts to happen, it turns into more of a rhythm as opposed to pushing a car to its limits.  You're trying to save.  That's why the last 30 laps went green, no real accidents. 
I was thinking we were going to have at least one restart in that last window, but everybody was focused on trying to save fuel. 
The first part the race was good, mixed up really good, people were trying to pass. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  I think had it not been a fuel race at the end, you would have seen a lot more action.  The way the yellows fell, the way it was, the amount of laps that are here, it just happened to be a fuel race at the end.  Otherwise I think it would have been pretty action-packed, especially with the reds falling off. 

Q.  I know this track may not be the best test of it, but I was wondering if you think the Honda and the Chevy are pretty well-matched and if you saw any engine with one advantage over the other. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  I know this guy, I had a good run on him once, I'm going to get him, Chevy power, and it never happened, so... 
It was pretty evenly matched on that side of it, I thought.  I had no idea what downforce he was running. 
SCOTT DIXON:  Sure Chevy didn't want to hear that. 
We have some work to do in some areas that we know we need to definitely achieve.  But all in all I think we have a good package at the moment.  Honda is a great outfit and a great company.  We'll be able to fight back in the certain areas that we need. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  Certainly Chevy has shown they're strong, so hopefully we'll keep that going.  They've been towards the top, occupying the top, most of the top five.  Yeah, being a Chevy driver, hopefully that continues. 

Q.  There's a lot of talk going into the race about brakes.  How did they end up working out?  Glazing issues was the rumor.  Trouble heating them up, but if you heated them too much, they would lock up.  Did that come to fruition during the event? 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  I didn't have any issues. 
SCOTT DIXON:  Mine in the race were fine.  I think we've had plenty of inconsistency with the brakes from the supplier.  That's a totally different subject. 

Q.  Ryan, the Chevy teams are all screaming about keeping the revs up under yellow because of a voltage issue.  Did you experience that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  I had the, Save fuel, save fuel, save fuel.  I'm putting around in sixth gear under yellow.  They said, Okay, we need to be in first gear from now on.  Things were revved up completely.  Didn't feel good at all.  We had to do it to charge the battery. 
It's something they're hopefully going to have changed for the next race. 

Q.  Talk about the car on the flat track of a street course here compared to what you're going to have next week at Birmingham. 
SCOTT DIXON:  You know, it is a totally different circuit.  It's hard to know, you know, sort of based off what's happened in testing.  Things change.  Obviously the track will be a lot different, tires a lot different from what we tested last time we were there. 
I think we will be a little better suited there.  I think we have a better package for a course like that.  You'll see that mix.  Some cars will be better at this track than next week's. 
I don't know.  You know, it's still a bit of an unknown till you get there and you see how qualifying sort of rolls out. 

Q.  Ryan, I believe you said on Friday that today would be the first test session of racing this car out here against other cars.  With that concluded, how well do you think it did? 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  With the car, the engine, or the combination? 

Q.  The whole thing. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  The whole thing.  I learned quite a bit about it in the race.  It's certainly going to help for my next race.  The team did, as well.  Fuel mileage.  We learned about the battery charging issue, you know.  There's many things we need to fix just for next week to get it all right. 
That's a good thing.  That's what we wanted to do.  We wanted to learn, finish, head on to Barber. 

Q.  Do you think you'll be able to be more aggressive from race to race? 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  I think there was aggressiveness today, everybody just used their heads.  Scott was certainly aggressive and pulled off some moves today, so that was certainly good. 

Q.  Scott, you were talking about your set of reds, used reds, going off.  Was that in the last segment? 
SCOTT DIXON:  Yeah, last stint.  I think I abused them way too much in qualifying.  You know, we kind of knew that was going to be a possibility.  My balance changed a lot.  I had a lot more understeer on the last stint there, the second time I was on reds. 
It wasn't horrible.  But I think if we had actually run blacks, it might have been a better option, new ones. 

Q.  Can you address the track conditions after the rain overnight.  When you get a situation like that where the rubber gets washed away, is that more of a factor on a street course or road course than it would be on an oval? 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  It certainly is a factor, it washes the rubber away.  We'll put the rubber down pretty quick, especially at a place like this.  To me the only difference that it rained overnight, we didn't get a warmup to try some things we wanted to try.  That was the only difference to our day.  Not a big deal.  We put the rubber down pretty quick.  26 of these going around, it happens pretty quick. 

Q.  You said this was a learning experience for the car, the engine, things like that.  What did you learn about how race control is going to call the races?  Seemed to me like it was the referees in a basketball game letting the guys play and not calling ticky-tacky fouls all the time.
SCOTT DIXON:  I think the racing was pretty good, but it was more on the fact that guys were good to each other.  I protected my line a couple of times.  The last time I did it, it didn't really work out with me because Helio got around the outside. 
Yeah, you know, I think there were other instances in the race that maybe could have called for an infraction or a penalty.  I haven't seen the race.  I know what I did, the people I was around.  But it seemed to be pretty good. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  Yeah, it was good.  After almost seven years of a no-blocking rule, because I came from CART and Champ Car, straight into IndyCar where they had the no-blocking rule, it's definitely different.  Takes a second to get used to. 
When Scott defended one time, Oh, yeah, he can do that.  Forgot about that. 

Q.  After what obviously has been a difficult few months, coming back here, everything that has been going on, is there any sense at all there's some closure now to Dan Wheldon, that you can move on now, that this race is behind you, back to work in the cars now? 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  He's the defending Indy 500 champ.  He's a champion in our sport.  I don't think it's going to go away.  I mean, he's going to be on every ticket at Indy this year, and rightfully so.  Like I said, a great champion of our sport. 
We don't want to forget about him, but it's going to constantly be there, as well. 

Q.  I meant from an emotional standpoint.  Obviously you never forget it, but can you get back to work a little bit easier now? 
SCOTT DIXON:  It doesn't change your work ethic or the way you approach a weekend.  It's always in the back of your mind.  I don't think that's going to change. 
As Ryan touched on, he was a great champion.  The memories are always going to be there.  But as far as work ethic and the way you approach things, you might have a few more questions this weekend than what you do for the rest of the year.  Indy I'm sure is going to be tough, as well, for a lot of people. 
But, no, it's not going to change anything in the way you remember him and who he was. 
THE MODERATOR:  Scott, Ryan, thank you so much for joining us today. 
SCOTT DIXON:  Thank you. 
RYAN HUNTER-REAY:  Thank you. 

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