Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 5, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to today's IndyCar conference call. We're pleased to be joined today by Dale Coyne Racing driver Justin Wilson, and KD Racing Technology to make a sponsor announcement.
First we'll start with Justin.
JUSTIN WILSON: Hello.
THE MODERATOR: Justin, the season has been super competitive so far, featuring six winners in seven races. With the momentum your team has coming out of Belle Isle, do you think it's possible to make it seven race winners in eight races at Texas.
JUSTIN WILSON: We're definitely approaching it that way. We feel we're having a good season. We feel we have a good chance at the next three races, Texas being where we won last year, but we're quick in Milwaukee and Iowa.
We're actually looking forward to these, seeing what we can do, seeing what we can achieve.
But definitely, it's competitive. There's so many good entries out there that are capable of winning. We have to be on our game to make sure we don't make any mistakes.
THE MODERATOR: How much confidence does a weekend like last week give to a team like Dale Coyne Racing? Even though race two didn't go for you, Mike Conway and yourself were strong all weekend.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was great. Everyone at Dale Coyne Racing has been working so hard. It's nice to have two cars up there and get a win this season. We're looking for more. We were disappointed with race two, only getting one car on the podium. It was a big disappointment. That was a nice way to look at things.
We felt, if we weren't involved in that big pile-up, we had a reasonable chance of being in the top five again. You never know what happens. That's just racing.
That 10-car pile-up was frustrating for a lot of people. That's just part of it. We want to regroup. We think we're going to be quick here in Texas, see what we can do.
THE MODERATOR: Looking forward to this weekend, obviously last year you came away with the win. It also featured the new aero package that really put the racing back into the drivers' hands. What kind of racing do you expect this weekend at Texas?
JUSTIN WILSON: It's going to be interesting. They took the downforce away, made it harder to drive. But that was good because we weren't flat out.
This year, I've been told they've taken even more downforce away, so I think we've lost another 300 pounds, if I'm correct. I think that's going to make it challenging again.
I know Firestone have changed the tire slightly. All the team has to readjust for that. We're going to be working on our setup, trying to get a good balance. It's having that balance that saves the tires, and you can run longer in the stints. That's what we're looking to do.
We did that quite well last year and won. We weren't the quickest car outright, so people would pull away at the start of the stints, but we tried to manage it and be quicker over the full stint. More of the same hopefully.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for Justin Wilson.
Q. Justin, it's been about a year now since you won here. Can you put in perspective what the victory meant to your career as you've gone forward since then.
JUSTIN WILSON: It meant a lot. Not only with the recognition, but in the confidence. That's the biggest thing, is having the confidence on an oval. I felt like I knew what I was doing, but I still wasn't classed as an oval driver. I was kind of disregarded.
From that point on, I felt I had the confidence to go out there. I knew what I was doing, knew what I was trying to achieve with the car in the race. Like I said, we backed up Texas qualifying second at Milwaukee, was coming through after a penalty from a testing engine problem, moving to the front and another engine let go. I thought that was a missed opportunity to win there. Same at Iowa, very similar story.
I think it just gave me that confidence to go out there and attack and believe in myself.
Q. What is your theory or your take on the reasons behind so many different winners so far this year?
JUSTIN WILSON: Well, the obvious one is just the competition level. Everybody is stepping up. There's a limit to what you can do with the car. So when you get everything just right, you're going to be in the top five. Then whoever has that little bit of fortune, things go just their way, will win the race.
I'm not saying it's down to luck. It's down to a lot of hard work. You have to have the perfect weekend to be in the top five, is the way I look at it. From then on, it's just the way things break out.
Just the competition level, the restrictions in what you can and can't do with the car. Everybody is in the same little box, window. It makes it intense. There's a lot of stress for the teams and drivers.
Q. Justin, you talked about what the win did for you personally last year. What did it do for the team, the crew, the engineers? What did you see in their body language the rest of the year?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it did a lot for them, as well. The whole team, yeah, I'd been saying to them, We're going to win a race this year. I'd been saying that and saying that. They kind of didn't believe me (laughter).
When we did win a race, they understood, Okay, we're in the game, we've got a chance. Every weekend we've just got to approach it as an opportunity to win. If we do everything right, we'll be at the front.
It's just the circumstances that make a difference on the weekend. Like I was saying before, with everyone being so close, it doesn't take much to fall in and out of the setup window or just getting that little bit of racing fortune to go your way.
Like I said, the confidence for everybody on the team, the mechanics, the engineers to know that we're doing the right things, we're moving the right direction, had good racecars.
Q. Have you been looking forward to this date for the whole year?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, actually at Detroit, after the frustration of the second race, we had a great car there, we should have been in the top five, but would haves and should haves don't count.
Sat there with my engineer, Bill and myself, the other engineers. Frustrating as that is, we're now getting into our strong points. We're going to Texas where we were strong last year, and some of the other ovals.
So, yeah, we're pretty motivated and looking forward to this one.
Q. One of the things that got introduced last weekend for the umpteenth time was the aero kits. How do you think IndyCar can, going forward, strike a balance between how competitive it is now and technology such as aero kits? Would it worry you that any advances might price a smaller team, such as Dale Coyne, out of the market?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I saw IndyCar's plan. It's great. They've got a plan. They're working towards that. I think that was really interesting to see.
Personally I'm looking forward to the aero kits. I think it's going to spice things up a little bit. I know some people think all it's going to do is change the look of the car and everyone is going to migrate to that one look.
But I think it will be a good talking point, interesting to see what the manufacturers come up with. I don't think it will be a negative.
Then again, I'm not paying for it (laughter). I'm looking forward to it, but I also understand for smaller teams that can be a problem, paying for it, and also if you have the wrong aero kit, you're behind and trying to catch up. Realistically that's just the way racing is.
Q. Last year's aero package at Texas wasn't decided, as I recall, until after the last practice. I'm wondering, what was it like going into that race last year with relatively untested package?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was strange. It was changing all the time. That's how the mix-up happened on my car, just lack of communication, things changed at the last minute.
We still believe it didn't make any difference. But everyone's going to have their own opinion on that. So we're looking to back it up this year.
It's just tough. Everyone's in the same boat. We had to try and guess a little bit at what the car needed, what you needed to do to deal with that downforce level.
But, like I said, everyone's in the same boat, so we just had to deal with it. We went for the conservative side with our mechanical setup just to try to make sure we didn't get really loose and lose the tires early on. That was just our rough stab at it.
It was one of those weekends where we didn't think we were that good until I was driving by people. My car is a bit of a handful, but everyone is worse than we are, especially late in the stint.
It's going to evolve this year. Everybody will have a better idea and you can prepare better for it. It's going to be different again.
Q. You said earlier there will be 300 pounds less downforce, is that right?
JUSTIN WILSON: I believe so. Again, someone told me the package changed a couple weeks ago. I think there were a few guys that tested there right before Indy. I think from that test, they've taken off more downforce. For that test, I think there was a new tire from Firestone.
It's all kind of moving as we go along. I'm sure the teams know the information a lot better than I do. I'll find out more once I get to Texas tomorrow night or actually tonight.
Q. This is going to be three weekends in a row that you've had a different teammate. How has that affected the Dale Coyne operation this year or has it at all?
JUSTIN WILSON: No, it's been fun. Just seems to be the way things go.
I had the same thing before. Once Mike Conway got hurt in 2010 at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, it kind of set things off changing teammates every weekend. Kind of getting used to it now.
It was great to have Mike back. He had a fantastic weekend in Detroit, just did a fantastic job. So that was cool. Back to what we're doing with the car setup. It was a great weekend.
We keep gaining more information. Pippa Mann was also with us with Ana. She's been with us before, so she has an idea of how it works. But I'm not sure who is driving the car after Texas, not sure who is in it Milwaukee and Iowa.
Q. Like you said, you were Pippa's teammate at Indianapolis. Do you two share a similar setup or are there any similarities at all to your style of driving?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, we all started with the same car in Indy. We're going to be starting with the same cars here in Texas. It will be interesting to see how the weekend goes, if we go different directions, trying to work out what we want.
Texas is tough because we get so little track time. You get one practice, qualify, another half-hour warmup session, then the race. It's kind of the opposite of Indy where you've got a lot of time to think about it.
We're just going to focus on the race. We've already decided we're not going to do anything special for qualifying. Wherever we end up, just like last year, 17th, 20th, wherever, we're going to race from there. We'll use qualifying as another test session for the race to make sure we have a car that's good in race trim.
Q. Being so close to Mike Conway, being his teammate several times, was there ever a time with your road background, did you kind of feel the same way that Mike did about the oval situation? Was there ever a point where you wanted to stop doing it, too? Now that they have changed the downforce rules, do you consider this style of racing considerably safer?
JUSTIN WILSON: The one-and-a-half-mile ovals when we're flat out running on the white line, I wouldn't say it put me off because I still enjoyed the racing. But it was frustrating, really frustrating, especially when you're doing everything you can, someone drives by you. It's like being on the highway and someone has a more expensive car, blows by you in the fast lane. Hang on a minute, what am I supposed to do? That's what it was like.
I really enjoy the style now. But I wouldn't say I ever got put off or didn't enjoy them. I've experienced some really good cars on the ovals. I've experienced some really bad ones. I know what the extremes are like. I've had times where I think, This is miserable. I've had times when I think, This is the best race ever because I'm driving by everyone.
I get what Mike did. I think it took a lot of confidence in himself and balls. I saw a couple comments, people were calling him a coward, whatever. Well, kind of the opposite. He's pretty brave to do what he did, have that confidence in himself to say, No, this is just not for me.
That's something I totally respect. I know he's not afraid of driving a racecar at the limit because he showed that again last weekend. I mean, some of the stuff he was doing inside the car, that's not a guy afraid of hitting walls. It's a guy that knows what he wants to do.
Q. A lot of IndyCar fans in Texas now know your name. Would you like to have a better-known name in the series, maybe the world, back home?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, you know, I'm just working and trying to win races. I've always been of the philosophy that winning races is what I'm about. If that builds my reputation, then that's what it does.
I wouldn't say I go racing for the fame. But it's nice. I love the response that we get when we go to Texas from the fans - not just me, but the whole of IndyCar. It's really cool to see the passion they have for the racing.
It's a lot of fun. Hopefully we can have some good results and build my reputation up around the rest of the races we go to. But we'll take it one step at a time.
Q. You mentioned earlier that Firestone might be bringing a little bit different tire to Texas this weekend. How much of a wild card is the tire compound? Do you worry sometimes that you might miss on the setup because of the tire compound? How does that factor in?
JUSTIN WILSON: It's going to be interesting. Things are always changing. It's not just the tire. Like at Indy, we ran the same tire, but it felt so different. We put that down to the track in the end. It had NASCAR testing there two or three times, racing there.
. I think maybe the weight of those cars just ground down the track slightly, 'cause it was a very coarse surface after it being ground. Maybe it lost some of those sharp edges that we grip onto. It lost grip.
We definitely felt at Indy less grip to the year before, even though everything had stayed the same.
You never know if it's just the tire or it's the track. As the track ages, it loses grip. New asphalt has more grip. There's so many different factors. We're always adjusting every time we go back to a place, trying to get it right.
I wouldn't say we get stressed out for what Firestone brings because we know they bring a great product, we know it's going to be safe, we're going to be able to work it out.
It's just the level of competition between ourselves and the ever-changing conditions, whether it's track surface or temperature or the car. It's everything that goes with it.
Q. Last year it appeared that Graham Rahal was on his way to his first oval track victory, brushed the wall, opened the door for you. Have you ever discussed that moment in the past year, what it's meant to him and you?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, we've talked a little bit about it. We haven't discussed what it means to us.
Yeah, I remember sitting there at the time with four or five laps to go thinking, Okay, I'm getting closer, but I'm only going to get to his rear bumper if I'm lucky.
Then I saw him go wide. Four laps to go, Wow, he's hit the wall.
Came out of the corner, No, okay. No, he made it, wow.
Few laps to go, I thought, Okay, he hit the wall. It took me by surprise.
Kind of disbelief. It was just one of those things. The track was getting slick. It was so easy to slide up there at the end. Like I say, when it finally happened, I didn't really believe it because of how close he'd been running the previous few laps.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing as there are no more questions for Justin, we'll thank him for his time today and wish him best of luck at Texas Motor Speedway.
JUSTIN WILSON: Thank you.
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