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IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

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

IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Ryan Briscoe
Dario Franchitti
Tony Kanaan
Will Power
April 4, 2009


THE MODERATOR: Tony, if you just want talk about your run out there today.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, it was quite competitive. It was fun to see a lot to people trying to play different strategies on the tires. I mean, it was really tough. We saw I think from 4th to 8. At one point we thought if we don't want to put tires on, which we thought was going to be faster, we're not going to make it to Q2, which is what ended up happening. I ended up using my two red sets, one in Q1 and another one in Q2, pretty much just to make it.
It's really exciting when things happen like this. I think this year is going to be a fun year as far as competition goes, because it's a lot tighter.
THE MODERATOR: Right before you came in, I threw out this note that this will be your 12th consecutive top 5 start in the IndyCar Series dating back to 2007. But no pressure for tomorrow. Tell us about your run out there today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, the car was good up until -- well, the car was good all day. I was pretty happy with the pace. We didn't use the reds in the first session there, which was a gamble to try and give us the advantage if we made it to the fast six. There was a couple of nervous minutes there at the end of the first 20-minute period there when everybody was going so much quicker on reds, but our time held up.
We did a good time in the second session. I think it was the quickest time in qualifying, we just didn't do it at the right time. I think that was my mistake. I didn't get a clear lap. I made a mistake in Turn 1 in one lap and I made a mistake in Turn 8 and Turn 10 on my fastest lap. I'll put my hand up to that one. Rookie mistake. So that's disappointing.
But I think the pace of the car is good for tomorrow, and we'll see what we can do tomorrow.

Q. Ryan, if you would talk about your run out there. This is your seventh consecutive road and street event where you've participated in the Firestone fast six.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, thanks. It just feels like such an achievement every weekend just to make the fast six. It's pretty tough out there, and especially today with the red tires, the options. I think was a bit of an advantage being in group two just to have a look at what the guys in group one were doing and having a better idea going in. But still, it was hard, and we haven't had the quickest car all weekend, so I really had to work hard to get it in there.
It feels pretty good to be on P4 for the race tomorrow. It's just a bit of a handful at the moment, and hopefully we can make some small changes overnight and make our car a little bit quicker for tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Will, your thoughts on your run out there today.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was tough going that first session. We would have been safe on blacks, but we weren't going to take the risk. You know, it sort of threw a spanner in the works with our tire selection. But yeah, we got through each round. I have to say it was quite tiring doing about five or six new tire runs in a row. I'm sort of in the same boat as Ryan, need to work on the car a little bit. It was a little bit of a handful.
I think we have a good chance at the race tomorrow and got a really good pit crew and a good team, so yeah, I'd love to have a podium.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. The track itself, everybody was concentrating on tires, but what's the track like? Is it any different from last year? Is it still pretty dirty or what's happening with it?
TONY KANAAN: It's a typical street course. You start and it's dirty as hell, and then it gets better and better over the weekend. Obviously it doesn't help that they have to open the track at night for people to come in and out in trucks and service trucks because every morning it's a hassle again. But obviously it gets a lot better. They repaved at the end of the front straightaway which was really slippery for me on the first day, now it's getting better. The track definitely has improved grip-wise from yesterday to today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it's the same as it was last time I was here in '07. It's very similar. I think the guys do a good job keeping up the track here. Yeah, it's, as Tony says, a typical street course, getting faster all the time, getting more rubber down, and good.
RYAN BRISCOE: You know, I think with the heat today the rubber has been laying down quick, and I think especially as Tony said at the end of the front straightaway that's where the track seems to be changing mostly as it rubbers in. Just the end of the braking zones there there's a lot of paint, and as rubber goes down it gets better and better. Lap times are almost exactly the same as last year, if not maybe a couple of tenths quicker.
The cars are the same, and I think maybe the tires are just a little bit better.
WILL POWER: Yeah, same. The track keeps getting quicker and you've got all these white lines and everything that catches you out on the brakes so you're catching wheels. But middle of the race tomorrow it's going to be really hooped up, and it'll be really interesting to see the difference between the reds and blacks in the race.

Q. You guys represent like the big three teams obviously and the guy on pole is Newman/Haas/Lanigan. Graham comes in as the defending winner, but he won last year on strategy. Is it a bit of a surprise that he's the fastest today in a straight fight in qualifying against everybody?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I think Newman/Haas have been one of the best teams in IndyCar for -- Champ Car, IndyCar, whatever you want to call it, open wheel, since Briscoe was born, I think.
RYAN BRISCOE: I remember watching you race when I was a kid, Dario.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: But it's not a surprise. Those guys have always been very competitive, and Graham does a hell of a job, as well, so no surprise at all there for me. I think Justin did a hell of a job, too.

Q. First off, Tony, how do you think the third set of reds will be used tomorrow, and then for anybody that wants to take it, was there anybody not in the top six that looks strong enough, fast enough to win the race tomorrow?
TONY KANAAN: Your first question I don't think I want to answer. But at some point we're going to put it on. I don't know, it's going to be quite tricky to see what people are going to do. But that's a strategy that I don't think I want to discuss in front of these guys.
I think out of the top six, Dixon is coming, I'm pretty sure. This is the type of track that you make one stupid mistake, and the field has been so tight right now that you go off by a tenth, you're out of the top six. I think there is a couple guys out of the fast top six that are definitely going to be contenders during the race tomorrow. How that's going to play out, I don't know, but for sure it's going to be a mystery who's going to put reds in when and how long they're going to last. It will be interesting to see.

Q. With the reds and the blacks, is it almost like playing a roulette wheel in some respects tomorrow as to when the right time is to use them?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No comment. I don't know. It's a variable for sure, and I think we saw the performance of the reds was pretty good, although TK was on blacks, right? I do think there's a performance advantage on reds, just certain people up here are screwed up.
RYAN BRISCOE: My engineer asked me before I came here, and I said, listen, you guys are smarter than me. Whatever is going to work to try to win this race. I'm sure they're talking about it right now. At some point we all have to use them, and I'm not sure if that's going to be a good time or a bad time. It could help us, could hurt us. I'm not sure when we're going to put them on.

Q. I guess I'll direct this to Will just to get him involved in the conversation a little bit, but anybody up here can answer it. How do you as a driver feel about throwing in a wild card like the reds in the race? I mean, qualifying is one thing, but in a race is another. The fact that strategy is going to have to play a part in the race now, it's not going to just be the driver that gets out front and runs the quickest most likely.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, it can be a bit of trial and error because we haven't run these reds before in a race. It depends on how much of a risk you really want to take. You know, you can get called out for sure. I remember in Champ Car a couple of times when people put reds on at the wrong time and they went backwards real quick.
We're going to go back and talk about it, and we'll make a decision on when we run them. But it'll be interesting. You know, they may not go off, so you might not see a big difference or you might see a lot of passing.
TONY KANAAN: You guys have got to keep in mind that we run on blacks most of the weekends, and you put a different tire on it might change the attitude of the car a lot. That can actually benefit some people but then can actually set some people back. I felt that on Q1. I went three tenths slower with the reds. I said, "Just throw them away; I don't want them."

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY KANAAN: Well, I like the track, but I have to say we've always had a good car here since the first year that we raced here and we finished one, two, three, four. Like you said, it's the same car. Sorry, Ryan, I kind of had an incident there (laughing).
It's the same car, same engine, pretty much the same tires, so we haven't changed a lot, and the same track. So I think on a couple of occasions I was lucky to finish on the podium, but most of the time I was there it's just a track that probably suits my style.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, we appreciate your time. We're going to bring up the front row now.

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