IZOD IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500
Topics: Indianapolis 500
May 27, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Well, Chip, I have two different thoughts to lead into. One is, it can't get much better to have two drivers perform and have a finish like this? The other is the acid reflux that goes with two competitive guys vying for the final of the Indianapolis 500.
CHIP GANASSI: We've been 1-2 at lap 185 before in the past 10 years a couple times. I've been to that point many times. With those yellows that came after 175, 165, I guess, a little too early. Then with what happened afterward, it was a race at the end.
The thing I have to comment about is we've gone through now, new cars, new engines. There were a lot of unknowns going into today's race. It turned out to be what I thought, it was a great race. There was a helluva lot of passing going on. At the end there wasn't anybody saving fuel there. Mid race we were saving fuel on the 100-lap mark, coming up with some strategy of how we're going to get to the finish. At the end it was as fast as anybody could go, I can assure you.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, I reflect back on Dario's birthday, in here on Pole Day. He was very professional. Wasn't particularly a happy guy. He was a little frustrated. He wanted to have more speed. Felt he had a good racecar. Did anything change in the interim or it was a good racecar and that's what proved at the end of the day?
MIKE HULL: I think what happened is it's a blessing in the way we qualified so miserably. I hate to say that like that because we're not used to starting that far back. The turbulence is not what we've done at Indianapolis for quite a long time.
It makes you work really, really hard on your racecar. We had a really good Thursday before the qualifying weekend with Dario and Scott - really, really good. Found a good mechanical balance. We carried that into Sunday after qualifying. I think our guys did half a race those two days apiece. We learned an awful lot about how to be ready mechanically to race here.
Honda certainly jumped their game up a bit with the race engines we received and also the mileage and the mapping and all the things they work on. I would also say that, unlike some people, our tires were really good all the way through a run mechanically. You notice we did those long green runs, and we didn't give anything up all the way through.
I'd say not qualifying well contributed most probably to what we did today.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions.
Q. Dario just has this unbelievable ability to be a master of the moment. What is it about him that he's able to do that? Also the fact he came from the back of the pack after the incident on pit road.
CHIP GANASSI: I remember Dario, when I first met him I think was at Toronto in 1996, 1997, and he was driving for Carl Hogan. I remember meeting him. You have to remember, these guys have been in a lot of races since then, seen a lot of things. He's been through a lot of the changes in the sport, different cars, different tires, different engines, different series, different this, different that. He's the kind of guy you'd like to have because he's sort of been there, done that.
When it comes to a day like today and we were last after the first pit stop, there was never one word about that. It wasn't like, Oh, man. Nobody on the team said anything. Came in, changed the front wing. He went out. He said, All right. Before you know it, he was 23rd, next thing he was 16th, next thing he was 10th, yeah.
That's the kind of guy you want in your car.
MIKE HULL: I'd only say that because of Chip and his ability to be able to as a race driver he was a race driver before he was an owner. Race drivers understand race drivers. I think that's an advantage for us. He understands the difference between one driver that has talent and another one that has talent. It's that extra ingredient that's really important. So when it comes time to fill a slot, we fill a slot.
In Dario's case, we have a guy that hasn't reached his midlife crisis yet, that drives with the experience of his age, but he comes to work every day with the enthusiasm and the intent of an 18-year-old. That's a pretty tough combination to beat.
Then what he does, he's absolutely unselfish. In motor racing around the world with two-driver teams, how many teams can say that? I don't think there's one, except this team. Of course, I have a biased opinion.
The two drivers that we have that work together as one got us to the front today. That's made a big difference over time.
Q. This team today just seemed so perfectly orchestrated. Also it became very clear early on that you were getting two or three laps better fuel mileage than the Chevrolets. Did you know going in you were going to have that advantage or did it emerge in the race?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, we don't anything about the Chevrolets. I don't know. We noticed that after the first pit stop. That enables you to look at some other strategies maybe. But we had no idea where we were going to be, where we were going to run. Believe me, I mean, we came in here with more unknowns this year than any other year. In our race meeting, all we talked about were unknowns. We had to be prepared for a lot of different scenarios.
Q. As the race started and wore on, if you had to guess, it looked like you were going in there with everything known better than any other team.
CHIP GANASSI: I can tell you this, you weren't in our race shop the Monday after qualifying or with the chairman of Target in the Monday after qualifying and the meeting with Honda soon after that. Let's just say, it wasn't our finest moment (laughter).
Q. You guys think a lot. You've always said on the radio, Don't take each other out. We're going with 10 laps left to go. What did you think when you saw on the TV that Sato was going to come up past Dario?
CHIP GANASSI: It didn't really have me worried because going into turn one, I thought we'd have a shot at him on the back straightaway or coming to the start/finish line. I wasn't overly concerned. It was a good thing Dario raced him down into the corner. Maybe he knew something different, I don't know.
I was all set up for another Hornish/Marco finish it was kind of looking like at the end. Remember when they passed from turn four?
What was the question (laughter)?
Q. What was in your mind when you saw Sato coming up?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I knew he had a good car, a good engine. He's a formidable competitor. I knew he had the right engine, so... I mean, I wasn't worried. I got to tell you, I wasn't overly concerned because I thought we could get him on the back straightaway again or coming to the start/finish line.
MIKE HULL: Well, as you said, we do have not a written rule but a rule that if you do hit each other, you better make sure that the ride you get in that afterwards is in the Air-Vac ambulance.
What's really good about the two guys we have is they respect each other on the racetrack. Dario is overwhelmed by winning and Scott Dixon is overwhelmed by losing, but they still pull for each other all the way to the end.
If it would have been those two and not Sato, it would have been a clean finish at the end. Not that it wasn't a clean finish as it happened.
You know what, it's great that what we saw today was a motor race. We didn't see a fuel economy race for the last 15 laps of the race. I think that's really important for IndyCar racing. You can't always have a solar system program where that happens at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway because you have this lap you try to get to so you can be full to finish.
I think the race today was fantastic. If you could pull the strings every time so everybody had full fuel for the last 10 or 15 laps, we would have seen that. Everyone is looking around saying, Does that guy have enough? Why is he going 202 miles an hour? Why is that guy going 218? The announcers can't keep up with it. The people in the grandstands can't keep up with it.
We just need to see a motor race like we saw at the end. You would almost be better off with Beaux Barfield saying, Everybody in the pits for fuel with 10 laps to go.
CHIP GANASSI: Careful.
MIKE HULL: At 400 miles we saw a trophy dash. That was really good. It shows what the quality is all the way through the field for what you saw today.
Q. Chip, speaking of the fuel strategy, a year ago Scott Dixon felt he could have won the race if things had played out differently with fuel. When Newgarden stalled out, were there concerns about the fuel? At one point you were 1-2-3-4 with all your drivers. Could you imagine or envision that actually happening in this race?
CHIP GANASSI: It doesn't matter how big the fuel tank is or what mileage you get, when you have a full fuel tank, pick the number, you'll go 30 laps, 25 laps, 35 laps. We've been all over the board. Doesn't matter what number it is, three laps before you get to that number, there seems to be a yellow. I can assure you Newgarden didn't do that on purpose because he's a fellow Honda team. I can assure you that wasn't any skullduggery there.
To have it happen on 163 or whatever that happened, 162, 165.
MIKE HULL: With what happened there, it was too early.
CHIP GANASSI: It was too early. We needed to go about five more laps.
MIKE HULL: The problem was the window was opening up for us. What happened at that point is we took a full fuel load. We needed 12 gallons of fuel.
CHIP GANASSI: Right.
MIKE HULL: If he would have done it on purpose for us 10 laps later, it would have been awesome. But we kind of pounded the desk there when that happened.
CHIP GANASSI: Sure did.
Q. You had those meetings. You only had one practice session before the race after that. What did you find out in that one short practice that changed things?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, we're in this business every day. With Mike and the group of people he's put together here at Indianapolis, the continuity of the people, you do build up sort of an information library, if you will, over the years of being here. It's a real advantage to have consistency in your people, consistency in your MO, how you do things, the way you go about it.
We worked throughout the first week there. We were on track a lot working on our car. It paid off. When we eliminated some variables, there were lots and lots of variables this year, again, with new cars, new engines, new manufacturers. There were lots of unknowns. Mike and his group of people went through a list of things they had to try. It wasn't very exciting. We weren't at the top of the speed charts every day. We were just going through and working our way through our normal list.
There were some other exciting things going on that we weren't involved in. Believe me, last Saturday after qualifying, during the Fast Nine, I was on my way to Charlotte to the stockcar race. We weren't in it. I was sort of depressed a little bit. I wanted to get out of here.
This brought me back today.
Q. Chip, do you ever look back, Dario went to NASCAR, find the irony that things didn't work out there, how he kind of came back to IndyCar and has been the most dominant driver?
CHIP GANASSI: No. I know what went on there when he was there. We weren't capable of giving him the right car then. He was doing fine till he broke his ankle there. That's all.
Q. Very early in the press conference you were talking about teammates, how well they work together, how unselfish they are. I know any win for Ganassi, whoever the driver is, is a win for everybody. Does your heart ever break at all for Scott Dixon? Is there anything you can say to him who now is on his run of sort of second fiddle?
CHIP GANASSI: That's Mike's car. Mike runs his car. You'll have to ask him (laughter).
MIKE HULL: I appreciate where you're going there. I've worked for Chip for 20 years. That might be one of the reasons. Chip gets to win all the big races; every once in a while I get to win a race.
CHIP GANASSI: That's bullshit. That's bullshit. I don't even pick the teams. He picks 'em. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.
MIKE HULL: I've been really lucky.
CHIP GANASSI: I get a phone call every spring: This is what you're doing.
MIKE HULL: I started with Scott in 2003. That's when we came to the IRL at the very beginning. We had Scheckter and Dixon. Chip had Scheckter and I had Dixon (laughter). We raced really well.
CHIP GANASSI: I remember that call.
MIKE HULL: You know what, I'm very fortunate to work with Scott Dixon 'cause he's an enormously talented race driver. Over time he's proved that over and over and over again. He's matured a lot as a person, which has helped him in the car as a race driver.
He's the guy that will need the depression medicine tonight because he didn't win the race. We did everything today for him to win the race. Didn't happen. But if he were sitting here next, he would congratulate his team and teammate for helping him to win the race. I'm sure, conversely, that's what's going to happen.
Q. Mike, your cars today were good in traffic, seemed to be good at the front. You had to concentrate on being able to get through traffic. Put in a lot of practice. How much of a compromise did you have to make in terms of making the cars work?
MIKE HULL: I think to answer your question we worked right from the first day we were here to work on the race. What you always do is you try to match the mechanical grip level of the racecar for a full run. So in this case it was approximately 30 plus laps on the racetrack, then you match the aero load to that. If you can get your tires to be really good when they come off on that full green-run stop, that's our goal.
When we started here, we weren't in that position. It took us several days to be in that position. We were very fortunate with the weather for two reasons. One was it got warmer and warmer all the way to race day. That helped us. And there was no rain. So we ran every day.
I think it's more that.
We had really good racecars. We knew that by Thursday of the qualifying week. It allowed us then to work extremely hard then again on Sunday with, as Chip said, a huge menu of items to create grip. I think we matched the balance of the car to the tires and the engine today better than anybody else did.
Q. You said earlier you work as one team, Scott and Dario. How identical are the cars set up? And, Chip, you said with this race you end up with a lot of unknowns. After this race, you have no answers for technical problems for future races?
MIKE HULL: Their drive styles are different. We can certainly compare the grip level of the racetrack between the two drivers. What we try to work on extremely hard is to understand what each of the drivers are doing. It helps the other driver. Alex Zanardi, when he raced with Vasser, said, I keep a little bit close to my vest. Our guys don't do that. It's not that Alex didn't share. These guys sit down across the table from each other with their engineers, and there is nothing left that isn't on the top of the table. That makes a huge difference for us.
CHIP GANASSI: We still have unknowns. I don't think by any stretch we think we're there yet. I mean, obviously I wish we were going back to a superspeedway next week instead of Detroit. I want the rest of the season to be super, high-speed speedways. We're by no means there yet. Yeah, we won the Indy 500. That's great.
We'll be at it on Tuesday getting back to trying to win the championship. We're still way back in that.
Q. Mike, were you a bit surprised last Sunday when it seemed like some of the front-running Chevy teams took a victory lap after qualifying, some other teams chose to put in a lot of work on Sunday?
MIKE HULL: I don't know if we were surprised. Maybe the surprise was today because oftentimes when teams don't run, it means they're in pretty good shape. I think it's more that, to answer your question very directly. The surprise was today.
I know the question was asked a few minutes ago about mileage. We had no idea what Chevrolet was getting there either until, as Chip said, the first stop. Our guys jumped through hoops to make it happen.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
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