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VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: INDY GRAND PRIX OF LOUISIANA


April 12, 2015


Helio Castroneves

James Jakes


AVONDALE, LOUISIANA

THE MODERATOR:¬† We'll go ahead and get started with today's post‑race press conference.¬† We're pleased to be joined by our second and third place finishers, Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, and James Jakes of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.¬† Helio finished second in the race.¬† His 82nd career podium finish, and 36th career second place finish, it is also his 120th career Top 5 finish.
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Really, you have to say that? 
THE MODERATOR:  I have to say it all.  Helio, obviously it was a very interesting race with a lot of different factors to consider.  What was most challenging for you? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Well, we started, and it was a tough weekend for us.  We definitely did everything we could.  The conditions were very difficult, but I have to give a big thumb’s up for the entire Verizon IndyCar Series, the track workers to push to make this race happen.  I mean, if you would have said in the beginning of the morning, there was no way we'd be racing.  So for the amount of water that was out there, it turned out to be great. 
Yes, unfortunately, there were some yellows, but when we had the rain tires, which it was fine.  Up to that point it was very good.  The guys made the right changes on the car, and I felt very comfortable.  Then during the race, obviously, we had some issues out there with a back marker, I believe.  But things happen for a reason. 
Great strategy from the Hitachi boys, Roger and Jonathan, my engineers.  So they were able to put us back on the spot.  It was a good, fun fight with James Jakes.  We were pushing each other, and unfortunately, there was a big accident, which I don't know what happened, but obviously we take the points.  We take the opportunity, and move on to Long Beach. 
THE MODERATOR:  James Jakes, our third place finisher today.  This is his second career podium finish.  Finished second in 2013 in Belle Isle race too.  James, back in the series this year with a great team in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.  How rewarding is it to be seeing strong results so quickly? 
JAMES JAKES:¬† It's nice.¬† Nice to be back after a year out, second weekend and second podium.¬† Thanks to the team.¬† Great strategy.¬† It was very difficult out there.¬† We've not had the season start we kind of wanted.¬† We struggled a little bit pace‑wise.¬† I think not entirely all our fault.¬† But everybody is working their butts off, and we look forward to the next rounds.¬†
But like Helio said, a great credit to the whole IndyCar, Verizon IndyCar Series for getting us out there today.  I think all 24 drivers at noon were looking at the clouds and thinking there is no way we're going to get this in.  It was great to see. 
You know, we got hosed yesterday in qualifying.  We made it into the Fast Six and they cancelled the second session, so it was disappointing.  But I knew that if it was going to be a tricky day, and if you just kept your nose clean and we run the right strategy, we'd get a good result.  Those conditions seem to favor us.  They always have.  We look forward to more times driving like that.

Q.  Helio, how many times did you pit? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  No idea.  A lot.  It wasn't our schedule to pit, but I think about four or five times.

Q.  And you had contact.  How did you finish second? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Well, I guess they did their math.  Roger is very good in math, if you know that, and he was able to put it together with Jonathan, and I guess understand what might happen.  I don't know about if it was a time race laps and things like that, and I guess they figured it out and put us back in the game.

Q.¬† James, we've heard a lot about how Honda hasn't necessarily had good results and here they are 1‑3.¬† Good showing from the team.¬† How do you all get to be able to be 1st and 3rd?¬† What kind of strategy did you start out with?¬†
JAMES JAKES:  Towards the end of the race we were on the same strategy as Helio over here.  I think if the race had gone another five laps, the 5 car wouldn't have made it.  I think they were barely on fumes.  Those are two of the guys that could run a bit longer.  But we actually had a good start to the race.  Obviously, had started 22nd because of qualifying yesterday.  Got up, worked our way to 15th, and actually spun on the last corner on the restart.  We managed to save it and get back around. 
But that actually helped us because we then pitted.  The guys in front realized they had to stop one last time before the end of the race, and we didn't.  So I think there was four or five cars, those two, maybe Tony and Simona and a few others that got straight up to the front and were able to run there from the end.

Q.  James, how close was (No Microphone)? 
JAMES JAKES:¬† He was pretty, I mean, he was close.¬† It's so slippery out there.¬† We were talking, that is the one place especially for the restart.¬† It was like a river out there.¬† We were on slicks and trying to get the power down.¬† It was a nightmare.¬† It was very difficult.¬† But, yeah, I spun there, and I think he went over to my right‑hand side, and I believe he ended up in the wall.¬† But that painted concrete is so slippery in those conditions.

Q.  I heard you say sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.  Could you reiterate that for me? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, I mean, in those conditions we're running up front and all of a sudden in a place that is very competitive fuel, when you go from 3rd to 21st.  In the normal conditions it's extremely difficult to come back.  But in the way it was playing around with so many yellows and so many variables, amazing that we never gave up and were able to go back in the game with the strategy and timing and yellows and things like that.  Things that happen outside of our control.  If you went with a prediction, that wouldn't be the way we would be finishing.  But that's why I said, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and certainly I'll take it today.

Q.  A lot of people on social media are complaining about the race not being able to go more than one or two laps without a caution.  What do you say to those people? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Well, unfortunately, it's weather.  Imagine like an oval.  Sometimes we have a little bit of a puddle, an area that the whole track is dry but it keeps coming water out from the track.  And you're like, well, the track is dry.  Why don't you go out there and drive?  Because our cars in those conditions are very difficult.  So now we are running here.  The track was dry, but in two areas it was a river.  It was water running in those areas.  For us, when we're passing around those areas, even on the straightaway, you don't have to do anything.  Just not even turn.  The car was about to take off.  It was like ice. 
So for those people that don't understand, we're trying our best, obviously, to keep the car on the pavement.  But our cars are not supposed to be in those conditions, you know, and that's why I give the credit for the series for pushing.  We all want it.  Don't get me wrong.  We want to race.  We don't want the yellow because it takes the rhythm away. 
James had more push to pass than me.  I'm sure he was like, man, I want to actually keep going because Hinchcliffe also didn't have enough fuel.  So there were so many things that we didn't want, but sometimes it's necessary.  Today, I have to say, a credit to a lot of drivers for not tearing more equipment.  Especially the limits that we have in those circumstances with the aero kit.  I thought everybody did a great job.

Q.  James, some people look at Sam Schmidt like a genius for what he's been able to do with the two of you.  He defers it all and says the drivers makes me look like a genius.  What is it about Sam's ability to run a team? 
JAMES JAKES:  Yeah, we're not the mass volume as the organizations like Penske or Ganassi or even Andretti, but the group of guys that he's put together there is a great testament to Sam.  He's a great inspiration.  He's there first thing in the morning and leaves late at night, and he loves it.  When you see him in the position he is, he inspires everybody around him, and it's great to be part of that. 
I think the credit just goes all to him because he's put this great group of guys together.  When times are hard, everybody knits together.  And when we have great days, like today, it just all works out.  But he knows what he's doing, and hopefully as we said earlier, this will be the start of many for the team.

Q.  You're a veteran driver.  How tough were these conditions? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  It's extremely hard when you have slick tires and going through the critical areas that when you have water on the racetrack.  Again, even I got caught in one of those restarts and I'm spinning out out there because, again, it was damp.  Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish where it's wet because of the color of the asphalt. 
You know, it was hard.  There was no question it was a great testament for everyone to keep under control in those conditions.  But, again, for us to be able to be here, it's just a great testimony of never give up and pushing everybody to the limit.

Q.  You said two spots, I know 13 was one.  Was it the front straight where the other water was? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  No, it was the back straight between 9 and 10, the fast chicane.  I mean, it was a straightaway, but it was a big area.  Which I keep seeing the workers going on the end of 9, but I always kept saying on the radio, it's not 9 that's the problem.  They're cleaning in an area where we're not even going there.  But I know it's so many things, and for them to be doing the short, short period of time.  But 9, between 9 and 10 and 13 were the toughest places to handle the car.

Q.  This was the first event here.  Would you like to see it again? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:¬† Oh, no question.¬† I mean, we've been here under dry conditions, obviously, the track is a very tough track in terms of physical, very technical.¬† Like I said, and I take that in a good way.¬† Every first event you have some‑‑ and they went through a very‑‑ a great test.¬† Meaning the worst conditions is the wet, and it was raining like no other day to be honest, and to pass this test, to move on, it was a great credit for the entire people in New Orleans.¬†
Yes, for sure, we want to go back, and hopefully it will be a drier day, sunshine out there, so everybody, not only ourselves, but all the fans can have a better time. 
THE MODERATOR:  James, your thought on that as well? 
JAMES JAKES:  Yeah, it's an awesome place.  It's a real drivers' track.  It's fun, it's fast.  Obviously there are a few little teething problems just with the drainage.  We could see those.  But I think anywhere we would have run with the amount of rain we've had over the past two days, it would have been the same anywhere. 
It's a great place, and we look forward to coming back here.  It's really fun, fast flowing.  It's probably here and maybe Barber, another road course that is similar, where you can really get a feel of how quick the cars can be through the corners outside of the ovals.  So it's a fun spot, and we look forward to coming back.

Q.  You and (No Microphone).  How good does it feel to see him get a victory in the second race? 
JAMES JAKES:  It's great.  I wish I was up there.
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I was about to say that. 
JAMES JAKES:  I mean, I like him, but not that much (laughing).  No he's a great guy.  I think we can work well together to really propel the team forward and do great things for Sam, like you said.  So we look forward to the year.  When they put us together, we were both excited about the feedback and information that we can bring to the team.

Q.  It may seem like a strange question, but the enhancements to the body work and especially the front wing, could you tell if that made any difference? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, it was unfortunate the incident.  It was about a back marker, and I thought he was aware of what was going on.  And, unfortunately, even if it would have been the strongest front wing, I don't think it would have been able to come out of that scenario without any damage. 
But, again, we're always looking for improvements.  At this point, the IndyCar Series is doing everything they can too, and I think it's been working.

Q.  It didn't seem like an issue really. 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:¬† No, well, it depends on the track.¬† Remember, this is much wider.¬† But at the end of the day, you're right, it didn't have much of an‑‑ and I think it wasn't an issue even on the street course.¬† Again, it was the first race.¬† Everybody is excited.¬† The space is a little more limited.¬† James and I were like switching positions without having any issue because we have space for you to actually give room and you can find other ways.¬†
When you go into a street course, you don't have that luxury and you end up touching.  When you touch, our cars are not supposed to be touching, and that's why we didn't have an issue today. 

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