Firestone Indy Lights: Long Beach 100
Topics: Long Beach 100
April 17, 2011
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on a great race, and we'll see you next month in Indianapolis.
We've been joined by our race winner Conor Daly of Sam Schmidt Motorsports. This is Conor's first Firestone Indy Lights win. The win comes in only his third start in the series. His previous best finish was second at St. Petersburg.
Of another note, Conor's father Derek won the Toyota celebrity race here in the pro division at Long Beach in 2000. Connor, talk about scoring your first win here in the famous streets of Long Beach.
CONOR DALY: It's pretty unbelievable. You know, I got here late and didn't -- I wish I could have run the first session but just missed it. The car was fantastic, again, the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team does a great job what they do preparing the cars, and that made it just a little bit easier to kind of jump in and find the limit.
The whole race I was really just learning the track still. I mean, I kind of saw a few things Josef was doing, and my car was really consistent through the whole race, so I was able to kind of find little bits here and there and just be able to start putting quicker and quicker laps together. And when I got up right behind him, I was kind of worried because when I had the best run my car skipped third gear and went to fourth and the next lap it did the same thing. So it was a bit of a stressful situation because I saw Esteban closing on me pretty quickly when that happened, and I just had to really concentrate on getting the car from third to fourth gear.
Eventually I caught back up to Josef, and he unfortunately went off, and it was tough to see that when Sam Schmidt Motorsports was in that position for one, two, three, but I'll take it.
THE MODERATOR: You now with this win are the points leader and you're also slated to turn over the car to another driver for a few races as you do dual series. Any thought to trying to extend a little more time here so you can continue that points lead?
CONOR DALY: No. It's great to have the points lead and it's great to run well in the series, but you know, the main focus is our European GP3 program, and we've got a great team on both continents, and it's just great to be able to do this program as part of the Mazda Road to Indy and just be a part of it.
It works out well, really, with just three races here at the beginning of the year, and now next is my first race over there in Turkey in the first week of May, and I'll be back to do just two more races I think mid August or late August. So it works out well.
Q. Conor, with the schedule you've been keeping, what was the toughest part of this past week? And second, we had all but three were rookies in this race. Do you know if this is a first with that many rookies in this series?
CONOR DALY: I'm not sure actually about the rookies, but I think the toughest part of the week was missing the first practice session here. We were trying so hard to find an earlier flight out of Spain, but there just wasn't one. You know, we were on the earliest flight out and missed the first session, which I was kind of disappointed about because I really wanted to do well here, but I think we were able to get up to pace pretty quickly.
Qualifying didn't really go our way, either. That was a struggle with a lot of traffic, so I knew we had the pace in the car, we just had to put in a strong race, and we were able to do that, so I'm extremely happy.
Q. Could you have caught Josef? I was watching you and thinking he's waiting for the right moment, and of course fate intervened. Do you think you could have caught him?
CONOR DALY: Yeah, I mean, I was right up behind him a couple times. Actually in the hairpin I hit his rear tire with my nose. I saw the smoke come off his tire. That was the lap I got really close. But then the car jumped gears from second to fourth, so as soon as that happened, I dropped back a lot. But I could tell he was struggling with his car, and I caught him pretty quickly after -- we struggled down the straightaways because I had to really lift off to get it into third gear, but once we had a good pace in the corners I was able to stay behind him pretty closely.
We were right behind him several times. He had to definitely worry about us into turn 1 a few times, but it's difficult to pass here for sure, but I think had we not had a gearbox issue, I was close enough to make a move, and I definitely wanted to do it. But that's how the cards fell, and this is still a good result.
Q. Is there anything to be gained by doing the two series? I mean, how similar are the cars, and do you feel that you are becoming a better driver by doing both?
CONOR DALY: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's -- any seat time in any race car you'll learn something, and the cars are completely different, about as different as they could be. But you learn things over there that you can bring over here and you learn things over here that you can bring over there. I think this will really benefit me because I'll already have three races under my belt before the GP3 season even starts, so those guys will be in their first race of the year and I'll already have a lot of race mileage underneath my belt. So I think it helps really overall, and I'm thrilled to be doing both programs.
Q. (No microphone.)
CONOR DALY: I mean, I think so. I tried to stay as close as possible, and I was getting really, really close to him at points, and I even touched the back of his car in the hairpin, so he knew I was there for sure. I could see him occasionally locking up front into the corner where he went off, and that was definitely a tough corner through the race. I could see Esteban struggled there, too, at the beginning because Josef got by him there. I was able to use a lot more curb than those guys were so I could get a good run through that corner, but as soon as he went in a little bit too deep, you could just see once you get off line there, there's really no hope of saving it.
Q. It looked like you had a lot of patience during the race today, and it looked like you were kind of biding your time as the race wore on and people were going off in front of you which got you into that second position. Coming off the hairpin on the restart towards the end you got a little bit sideways and lost some time, but talk about, were you just trying to -- prior to that it looked like you were going to catch him. Were you just trying to save everything and then just make a hard push towards the end? How did the race play out for you?
CONOR DALY: Well, I mean, at the beginning on the first restart, I was able to get a pretty good restart and pass Esteban into the first corner. It was really tough on the restarts, though, because even though you thought you had traction, all of a sudden every single car was completely sideways. And I thought I had anticipated it on the last restart, and it turns out I got the most wheel spin I ever had. It was tough, but I mean, the only reason I really fell back from Josef is when the car skipped gears.
The plan was really just to keep on him as much as possible, and I kept trying to do that, and we were pushing closer and closer and closer, and then dropped back because of the gears and then I just tried to -- I really just tried to hold the car together for the last few laps, but I was still kind of just barely catching him.
It was interesting to see that I wasn't really right on his gearbox when he went off, so that was, I guess, definitely lucky for me, and it's unfortunate for him.
Q. If you could just talk about how important the support from Mazda and being part of this Road to Indy has been for you to this point in your career.
CONOR DALY: Well, if it wasn't for the Mazda Road to Indy program, I wouldn't be here, so I've got to thank everyone at Mazda. To get the good prize from winning the Star Mazda Championship last year and to be doing what I'm doing this year, I've got to be very thankful to them. It's a great program to have, and no other manufacturer is doing something like that. Mazda really, really cares about their drivers, and I'm happy to be part of their program.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, and congratulations on the win today.
CONOR DALY: Thank you very much.
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