IZOD IndyCar Series: Firestone 550
Topics: Firestone 550
June 9, 2012
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by tonight's second‑place finisher of the Firestone 550, Graham Rahal, driver of the No.38 Service Central Honda. It's your best finish of the season and best finish at Texas Motor Speedway but, again, a tough break. Talk about what happened at the end.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I just made a mistake. I just went through 3 and 4, and I'd been chasing a little bit understeer the whole last stint, and I did that kind of on purpose, which I don't know who was watching probably saw that I ran so much of a higher line, like really high compared to what I did at the start of the race. At the start of the race I was always trying to be on the bottom, and I found that being up top for me really helped save the tires and just trying to put a ton of understeer in it.
Obviously it was tricky there in the final laps. They told me Justin was coming, and probably wasn't quite coming as quick as‑‑ he was still so far back I could barely see him in the mirror, but I just went through 3, 4, car pushed, and normally it would kind of grip up towards the exit, and I just didn't leave enough margin for error, and unfortunately we brushed. We should be in winner's circle right now, there's no doubt. Something I'll learn from and move on.
But after four years of not being there, it would have been a hell of a lot of pressure off my shoulders to be there tonight. Certainly keep working hard at it and we'll be back.
Q. You mentioned yesterday you thought the changes would put everything back in the hands of the drivers is what you wanted. Was the racing what you anticipated?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Absolutely. I really felt that the drivers made a difference tonight. You know, you saw my teammate Scott who was blistering fast early on and throughout most of the race. I can tell you that guy was driving a car that was a lot looser than me and I thought my car was loose. It's amazing how long he kind of held onto it. I thought it was a really good race. I don't know how it looked from the outside, but I sure know that sometimes like at the end I was able to move forward like a bullet and sometimes I was falling back like a lead balloon. It went both ways, and that's the way these things go. But I thought that the racing was finally really good.
The tires certainly fell off. Firestone makes a great tire, and a lot of times I think that it's probably too good, and here's a case where I think it was just about right. That right rear tire started to go pretty quickly, and my second through say my second‑to‑last stint the car was getting really, really, loose and it was hard for us to chase it. I thought the formula was a lot better than say, pack racing around here. I thought that the drivers made a difference, and it's‑‑ overall I thought it was really good.
Q. Graham, how long does this stick with you do you think?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Until I win. That's what I was just saying to someone. Obviously we should be in winner's circle right now, there's no doubt about it. You know, I think the next chance for us to win is in just over a week‑‑ well, in a week, I guess, next Saturday, and Milwaukee is a place I've run great at, finished second last year. I feel like finally tonight kind of walked‑‑ started to go our way. We caught a yellow, a yellow came right before we needed to pit, some other things kind of fell in our favor, so maybe the tide is turning a little bit here and it's the time of year to do it. I'm sure this helped us a ton in points, and we really needed that in a big way.
And more than anything, obviously we're not in victory circle right now, but these guys have worked awfully hard this year. We all felt like today was a day we could win and we should have, but as I look forward, I think that the Service Central guys, we've fought the fight this year in many, many races and it hasn't gone our way, so finally the tide is swinging in our favor. So we'll go off to Milwaukee and have some fun.
Q. Earlier today or last night you were fairly direct in a tweet that you made about the discussion from yesterday, you thought maybe too much had been made out of it. How do you kind of feel? Do you feel like the racing would have been just as good without that extra 125 pounds of downforce with the wicker?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Definitely would have been hanging on a lot more. But I thought probably in the end, it's probably a good mix where we ended up there because certainly if we had taken more off, it probably would have been more strung out. I mean, again, like I said, I had times in this race where I felt like I was just hanging on for dear life. I had some huge saves. A couple times I thought the car was gone, and then obviously I had times where I thought I was a man on a mission at the end there.
So it kind of goes both ways. But I'd say overall it was a good compromise. I just think that as drivers and as our committee, we all agreed to say things in private and work on these things together, and when guys right away started going out and saying things, I just don't think that's the right way to handle it at the time. But overall, like I said, I feel like the compromise we made here was really good, and my hats off to Will and Bo for making the right decisions.
Q. And also Ryan had said earlier when someone had asked him if he wanted to come back here and race, he said most definitely. How do you feel about it?
GRAHAM RAHAL: If it's like tonight, absolutely. Why not? We put on a great show. You know, I don't like pack racing. Just as a driver you feel like you can't control your own destiny when you're pack racing, and here you definitely had to drive the thing tonight. And it's the first time on a mile and a half other than maybe Homestead in 2010 that I've really felt like the driver can make a difference. So I really enjoy that.
Q. You said the tires fell off. Do you feel like the tires themselves went off or the extreme lack of downforce caused them to wear exceptionally fast?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, certainly that's a much bigger part of it, and I'm sure when Firestone built this tire, they weren't expecting us to run half the downforce we did last year, whatever the number is. I can tell you that the amount of downforce difference is so big, you can feel it even on a pace lap, just swerving back and forth along the tire. You can feel that there's a lot less grip.
At the end of the day, though, I feel like it's perfectly fine the way it is. If the tires go off a little bit, there's nothing wrong with that. It makes the racing more exciting. Again, like I said, they do a phenomenal job for us. They always do. And I see nothing wrong with the way it went.
Q. You mentioned about what it looks like outside the cockpit. I can tell you right now that at least on social media a lot of people were really digging the race tonight. How does that make you feel considering all the changes that you guys have had to do this weekend, just having to kind of do a new philosophy on racing at Texas as opposed to the old one?
GRAHAM RAHAL: It feels good. It feels good, and that's what we need. IndyCar we put on some great shows this year, and we need to keep that buzz going. Like I said, I didn't watch obviously the race from the outside, but all I know is that I saw guys going forward like crazy one stint, next stint they were falling back like crazy, and I was one of them. That's phenomenal. That's the way it should be. That's the way it used to be. And ultimately the goal here is to put more butts in the seats out there and more eyes on the TV. If racing like this keeps helping it, then I'm all for it.
Certainly, like I said, I really enjoyed it tonight, and we're really bummed that we didn't win it. We should have, and it's going to haunt us for a while or until we do. But I thought that it was a really good formula. And like I said, the biggest thing is we didn't test it, so it was busy yesterday. We tested here May 7th and the car we tested was completely different than the car we had to come back here with. I thought we did a really good job.
Q. With all the focus on the formula and all the discussion that the drivers had to do, plays don't take this the wrong way, but is it sort of fitting that Justin with the role that he took in this that he ends up the winner?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, and someone asked me that earlier, Justin and I were kind of two of the most outspoken guys about the downforce levels, and so, yeah, congrats to Justin because certainly Justin is not known as an oval racer, but he did a hell of a job. I'll admit, I was surprised when I saw him the second‑to‑last stint, saw him come flying up behind me. I was like, whoa, wasn't expecting him. There were a lot of guys, Hildebrand had a great race and marched his way through the field. I think it was good in that sense, and it really mixed things up.
Under yellow you'd drive by and you'd look at the leaderboard, and it would be totally different, other than Dixon mainly being up there the whole night. It would be different every time you went by.
Certainly congratulations to Justin. It's hard to say when I know it should be us, but that's the way these things go.
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