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July 12, 2015

Sebastien Bourdais

Helio Castroneves

Graham Rahal


THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and get started with our Verizon IndyCar Series post race press conference.  We're pleased to be joined by Graham Rahal, our third-place finisher.  This is Graham's 18th career podium finish, his fifth in 2015. 
Graham, as you keep racking up these strong results, your closing in on the championship gets closer and closer.  How does this race fill your confidence? 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  It was good.  As I said before Fontana, these next three races are big.  We got a first and a third out of them.  Going to Iowa, I think it's going to be a very similar package. 
From my perspective, my team did a tremendous job today.  The last pit stop was awesome.  I think the Honda fuel mileage was excellent because, frankly, I was planning to do a three-stopper.  We kind of bailed on it.  I was able to go about 10 laps longer than anybody else that first stint.  That really helped.  Gave us some flexibility particularly to come to the end.  We didn't have any concerns on fuel, which was nice. 
All in all the car was really well-balanced.  I wish we had some stickers there for the last run, but it is what it is. 
THE MODERATOR:  This condensed weekend schedule seemed to have played into your favor.  What are your thoughts on it? 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  It plays into your favor if things are good.  When we rolled off the truck yesterday, the car was pretty competitive.  It was a pretty easy transition. 
For sure, I like the condensed schedule, frankly.  I thought it was pretty good.  It's just a tough day.  All around, guys are working very hard.  But I hope we're back here.  I hope we come back.  I hope the fans keep turning out stronger and stronger. 
All in all it was a good points day.  To be tied with this guy for third in points, getting closer to Will, getting closer to Dixie.  It was a good day.
THE MODERATOR:  We are also joined by Helio Castroneves, our second-place finisher.  This is Helio's 38th career second-place finish.  Since 1946, only Mario Andretti has more second-place finishes. 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Congrats.  That's a great stat. 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  When you don't take first, you take second. 
THE MODERATOR:  What are your emotions this weekend, having to start from the back of the field, all the way up to a second-place finish? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, no, it was very frustrating unfortunately.  It was a miscue on that situation.  We were 10 minutes late on showing up to the line for the field. 
Certainly I think the weekend at Fontana somebody else had the same issue.  Those are the rules that are really reinforced.  Very disappointed because we know how tough it is over here to pass. 
But I guess, you know, we changed a little bit of the race strategy.  The Hitachi car was actually very good.  A little difficult in traffic.  I never quite had a good chance to have a clear lap.  Obviously it's tough to have it here. 
But once I was having less turbulence here, the car was definitely fast.  I was trying just different lanes out there.  At one point we were catching the 11 car.  We were doing a great job.  Unfortunately he moved the line up once, and that took my air out.  I had a huge moment.  Unfortunately, that was it for us.  I knew he would do something like that as I was getting closer. 
It's one of those things that's great.  I'm not taking for granted second place.  It was very tough, great work, great job from Roger, from Travis, Jonathan. 
THE MODERATOR:  We'll take questions. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Well, I mean, this guy, hit a good day.  Montoya has unfortunately taken off on us here. 
You know, I'm not too worried about getting defensive.  Our objective right now is to go forward and do the best that we can. 
We knew flat out I expected Penske, I expected Ganassi to be the ones to beat here.  I expect it to be hard to beat them next weekend.  For us to beat those guys, pretty successful.  Those are the guys we're contending with right now.  I can guarantee you, when I was behind him, I was doing everything in my power to try to get by. 
I knew there were points on the line there.  At the end of the day we had to settle for a good third-place finish.  That's kind of the objective of the season.  If you got a third-place car, finish third.  If you have a first-place car, win.  So far we've done a decent job at it. 

Q.  Graham, they were talking about the pit strategy.  I think Helio came in on 47.  Was that a little bit of a surprise that some guys came in early?  Helio, was that part of the plan? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, for us, we had to do everything we could to be different than everybody else, especially the conditions.  That's what we were trying to do, just trying to throw it out there and see what happened. 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Our fuel mileage, like I said, the Honda got excellent fuel mileage.  I could have gone further than I did. 
On lap 60 we decided we were going to try to make it a three-stopper.  Unfortunately we led there for a second, but all the guys that were on new tires that came out of the pits, they were so much faster, went sailing on by. 
By the time we came out, we went from a legitimate fourth to 10th or something.  A little bit frustrating.  At the end of the next stint, only 40 laps into it, we bailed off the strategy, came in, which I was a little shocked about. 
The three-stopper is only going to work if there's one yellow or no yellows.  If you have yellows, everybody is going to stop and it will equalize it out.  In the end it didn't really make a difference. 

Q.  Helio, when you look at Team Penske overall, your teammates were sort of down in the grid, as well.  Juan had a pit road speeding penalty.  Looked like a rough day, and here you are, Juan finished fourth.  Does it speak to how resilient you are? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Certainly, as I said, I think all of us, I mean, Juan Pablo finished fourth, Will was up there.  We were running together, as well.  Simon might have a little bit of a problem.  At one point he was up there. 
I understand qualifying, took a little bit of a gamble.  We thought it's going to be one way, with the warmup pretty fast, and it turned out to be a different one.  It was an issue on the setup, it was just an issue of taking too much risk. 
But in the end of the day, we knew we had strong cars.  All four of us were a little bit tough in traffic.  But we knew we had very strong cars.  It turns out to be harder when you start from the back, no question.  But the team delivered the pit stops that I wanted and that put us in a position to fight for the win. 

Q.  Graham, two straight weeks with a podium finish.  Is there something you guys are particularly finding is working for you in this kind of setup the last couple weeks? 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Honestly, the setup we showed up with yesterday, never touched the track ever.  Never been tested.  It was just thought up between the engineers.  Thank God it worked 'cause otherwise we were going to be in trouble. 
Hopefully some of this stuff we can carry on to Iowa.  We were pretty decent at Iowa last year.  We'll have to see how that translates. 
Our strength has not been ovals.  Within the last couple years, we've been terrible.  So I'm pretty shocked by the way that everybody has performed.  It's pretty awesome to see.  I think it shows the resilience of this team.  Being short-staffed, undermanned, they keep working hard, putting their heads down.  It's amazes me what these guys have accomplished. 

Q.  Helio, you're an emotional guy.  Can you describe sort of the waves of emotions throughout the day from having to start in the back to maybe winning this thing? 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  In the car, you can't be emotional unless there was issues with other drivers, which you get used to.  Maybe you not get used to it (laughter). 
But the point is, we never give up.  Honestly many times I didn't know the position I was.  They didn't tell me.  I was trying to drive as hard as I can.  We knew we had plenty of tires because of not qualifying.  It gave us an extra set.  That could be an advantage for us.  We knew putting new tires would be better. 
You know, the strategy was to passes a many cars as possible.  But I want to pass when I knew that I have an opportunity.  Sometimes I was just checking to make sure my car was okay to go inside, outside, things like that. 
It work out really good.  I think experience definitely paid off.  Great job for the entire team. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, just in the end.  I didn't know what position I was until lap 220.  218 was the yellow.  I glanced in the pagoda, I saw my name up there.  Oh, I am doing well (laughter). 
At one point in the race I was by myself.  Actually, there was one car.  I didn't know where was everybody.  I look in the mirror.  Nobody front, nobody.  What happened?  I must be doing really bad or really good. 
When the yellow came, I thought, Now we got a chance to win because now we got good tires. 
The 11 was just too quick. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Still got, what, four to go?  It's still not over, man. 
It's been a great year.  You got to thank all of our partners for that.  We had five podiums this year.  Finally got the monkey off our back getting the win two weekends ago. 
I never finished in the top five in points.  Really my main attention is paid to next weekend.  I feel like we'll be pretty good at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma, but Iowa is another challenge for us.  Hopefully we can go out there and prove ourselves. 
You're only as good as your last race.  We're going to keep our heads down and push as hard as we can to contend with these guys. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Bourdais?  The guy is not a champion four times by luck.  He definitely has talent.  Looks like the combination with his team this year, he got two wins.  It's definitely showing. 
The series is competitive.  Everyone, every driver, to be here, you got to have talent.  For sure I have no doubt, winning the race, especially Milwaukee, a place like this, the team did a great job. 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Yeah, I was teammates with him.  I saw all sides of him.  But when it's his day, he is damn hard to beat.  That's just the truth. 
As Helio just said, this series is so damn competitive.  I mean, it's not just a driver anymore.  The pit stops have to go well, setups have to be good.  You're not going to luck into these things. 
Did an excellent job today without a doubt.  When Helio was behind him, I kind of expected that they would, you know, frankly, I thought he would get him.  I don't know, I hadn't seen either of them all day so I wasn't sure who was better. 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I thought I was going to get him, too. 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Then you didn't.  Then I was hoping I was going to get you.  Just didn't work out. 
But Bourdais was very, very good. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  No idea.  How he was able to pull away?  When somebody told me he was a lap ahead of everyone, I mean, then I understood that's why he was so good. 
For me, I was catching him for sure.  But as soon as you move up, it took the air from me.  It was very difficult to come back. 
I wish you wouldn't have traffic.  It would give us a little bit of a chance.  But, man, we were trying.  I want to win so bad. 
We'll keep working very hard and we're going to get it. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL:  But today's race was different. 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  It was one of those scenarios where we learned that having more downforce, it paid off.  That's the first lesson we learned in the IndyCar Series.  We knew it was five miles an hour slower, but during the race you end up going faster than anybody.  That for us was the last thing we learned.  But, yes, you're right. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL:  I haven't seen the race.  I don't know.  There was a hell of a lot more passing than I thought there was going to be.  I think the cars were pretty even.  The Honda was pretty competitive today.  They've done an excellent job there. 
You know, I mean, I don't know.  I feel they're definitely more difficult to drive in traffic.  When Helio and Bourdais were kind of like two-wide, when they were spreading out, it was very hard for me to follow them.  When they're single file in line, you can kind of place your car a little bit better.  When you get two-wide or something...  Next week it will be interesting. 
When you take away the undertray like that, there's no sidewalls.  We'll see what happens. 
HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yup, same here. 
THE MODERATOR:  Gentlemen, we'll see you in Iowa.  Thank you. 
We'll continue with our post-race press conference.  We're pleased to be joined by the winner of today's race, Sebastien Bourdais.  This is his 34th career win.  It ties Al Unser, Jr. for seventh on the all-time list this career wins.  Also his 51st career podium finish, his second in 2015. 
Another win in the books for you this year, what are your thoughts?  A very dominant race for you, especially towards the end.  I believe you had a lap over the entire field for a while. 
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  Yeah, I don't think it's sunk in yet.  It's one of those days where just everything works out. 
We knew we had a really good car this morning.  In traffic we felt strong.  We could run the bottom, move forward.  They were bubbling up on the outside.  I thought maybe we could do something today. 
Then in qualifying, just messed up.  The car hit the ground so hard, it picked up the wheels.  An easy top five turned into an 11th-place start.  From there I knew it was going to be a different race.  It's not easy.  You got some good guys at the front.  It's hard to pass here. 
I just had a very aggressive start.  I went on the inside.  I was on the outside for a couple of laps.  By the time it was all said and done, we were seventh.  At that time I was like, Okay, maybe it's not all over yet. 
The car felt pretty good.  The rear tires were showing signs of not being too happy pretty quickly.  It was pretty much a surreal day.  We were free, free, free the whole time.  As soon as the car kind of took a set, it was just tough. 
It was just about managing that, managing traffic.  Then that crucial yellow situation where we stayed out because we didn't think the rears were going to take it.  Jimmy was coming on the radio saying, Do whatever the leaders do.  Too late, passed pit lane.  I guess we're not coming in (laughter). 
In the meantime, I was like, Boy, only did 10 laps, running in clean air, we're going to be able to go quick.  I was thinking, Not so bad.  Sure enough, another yellow came out.  I'm thinking, Boy, that's not looking very good. 
At that point I just said, All right, I'm going to have fun in the car, enjoy the clean air, run quick, and we'll see what happens.  And that worked out pretty good. 
The next sequence was the crucial one.  When I came out of the pits, boiling, on a mission.  They all had to save fuel.  They had significantly older tires than me.  They didn't have the pace at that time because they had to drive a pace to save fuel and make it.  There was no more yellow to make their life any easier.  At that point they were trapped in their own strategy. 
So I just run like hell and start passing one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.  Here we go, leading the race again.  I was like, Man, that's just awesome. 
Yeah, after that never looked back, was pretty much in control from there.  Not making mistakes.  We didn't have time to make an adjustment for the last stop, we were really free at the end.  At that point I was running in front of the pack and I really didn't need to do anything crazy to make anything happen. 
Car was strong and I could just ride it.  It worked out really good. 
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Sebastien. 

Q.  Sebastien, that's your 34th career victory, seventh on the all-time win list.  Do career accomplishments and your place in American open-wheel racing, is that something that's meaningful to you or maybe you'll look more back on when it's all said and done?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  I respect the stats because you put yourself on a very special list with very respected and great drivers.  But I don't live for stats.  I don't look and contemplate myself.  It's not me. 
I just enjoy the moment, have fun with it.  You know, that group gave me a chance to finally get me back in a car that's something able to contend for wins.  Not every weekend, but it's a very competitive field.  When you look who can win every weekend, it's actually not so easy. 
When you see Penske dominating last year, us struggling like hell, like just driving another series compared to these guys, then today, you know, we're just really starting to make progress on the ovals. 
Obviously the big thing is it's always a two-day event.  Every oval is different.  There is no testing.  So continuity is the key.  That's where it takes time to get back in the groove.  Even for me, to sharpen your game.  I have not been driving ovals for a while.  Then I came back in '11.  I still didn't drive the ovals.  I didn't drive the ovals in '12.  Then '13 was the first time.  Last year the first time with KV.  We kind of set things in motion a little bit, but didn't get it right most of the time.  Actually, never really on the ovals. 
Now it's starting to come together.  (Indiscernible) is helping us understand a few things.  Olivier is getting more information he needs to kind of chase what I need from the car.  We're going against guys who have their own shaker rig, their own resources to go to the wind tunnel, do everything.  We're just going out there with our guts and our feelings and our energy.  It's a small group, but it's a heck of a group, and I'm really enjoying my time. 
I'm 36 years old, and I don't feel I've been any better than I am right now.  I'm just hoping it lasts as long as I can. 

Q.  Do you kind of feel like you're getting closer to the Sebastien Bourdais that was so dominant in Champ Car? 
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  I mean, you're only as good as your car is.  You can only dominate as much as the field allows you to.  Certainly I've dominated series and seasons when there were five, six cars that could really give me a run for my money. 
Now it's like 15 cars can win every race.  So you really got to step up your game.  It's a much more danger field, higher-quality field.  It's a heck of a lot harder to win races, especially when you're not in the big buck team anymore. 
I think we're doing a great job.  Now to be able to step it up on the ovals and make it kind of complete, because we've been strong on street and road courses, really what we need is to step up our game on the ovals, especially the superspeedways, because obviously now it seems like we got a pretty solid baseline for Milwaukee. 
We'll just keep working at it.  But I don't think I'm any better or worse than I was in my best years at Newman/Haas.  I'm a more experienced driver and a more composed guy.  I think it's just all about feeling comfortable and not feeling like you got to overachieve whatever you're trying to do behind the wheel, trying to compensate for a car that's only good enough for a top 10.  When I came back, I did a lot of that because people just were expecting me to be Sebastien Bourdais from 2004 to 2007.  It was just impossible.  I tried to do the impossible.  I made a lot of unforced errors and looked like an idiot for a long time. 
Now I kind of feel like we are running consistently at the front, we got a good thing going on, I don't need to do anything special to get good results.  I sure have a lot of fun with these guys. 
We got great package with Chevy, giving us great engines, aero package.  It's working.  So we just got to keep on doing what we're doing and look for more of that. 

Q.  You mentioned you knew you had a good car.  When did you know you had 'the' car?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  Once the race was over (laughter). 
I mean, you never know because sometimes on ovals, these races are long enough that you got a bad car, you got a great car, you got a not-so-good car, it goes either way from there. 
You have a good car, it's fun to race.  I knew there was something.  I thought we had something for a top five, like I said.  If we're starting with top five, we can really have a great race.  But we started 11th.  It's not the same thing. 
So once we got in the groove, I could see the leader, then we were third, anything can happen from there.  The car is either going to fall to pieces or stay together and get a lot stronger.  That's what happened. 
I think for us, the key was we could run the battle and make moves in traffic.  A lot of guys didn't feel comfortable doing that.  That was really crucial to our capacity of going through the field once we went on that ultimate strategy because they were sitting ducks and having to save fuel and everything.  They were all kind of nose to tail. 
At that point they were just spaced enough that I could just pick them up one by one and not be too affected by the turbulence because I was running a different line.  That really worked in our favor.  That's when this place is magical when you're behind the wheel.  When the car is responding like it did today, it's awesome.  But I've been there where it's just going wherever it wants to go and you're just along for the ride, and that is no fun. 

Q.  Sebastien, as far as remembering old races, what do you remember about your previous win here?  Did today compare in any way?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  It's very funny because it didn't happen the same way, but it's pretty much the same thing all over again.  In '06 we started from pole, ran away, got a flat, went a lap down, lapped ourselves, went through the field, almost lapped the field again to go and win the race. 
It was obviously quite a bit harder than today, but we had a bit of a rollercoaster ride the same way.  In '06 the difference is, like I said, there were not as many strong cars, so it was easier to go through the field.  First of all, there were only 18, 19 cars.  Not so many of them are as good as we've got them right now. 

Q.  Sebastien, what did you think about the format?  You won at Toronto last year.  It was a weird schedule. 
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  I'm just glad I didn't stall the car in qualifying.  I don't know the shortcomings, the tiny constraints and everything, but it's risky.  When you do that, nobody has fast cars.  If anything goes wrong and you stop the car, you're not making the race. 
I think everybody got into qualifying thinking, I want to start at the front, but I want to start, period.  It's tough enough I think with these two-day events.  Don't give you a lot of time to turn around and get your stuff figured out.  When it turns into a 24-hour thing, it's challenging for sure. 
I don't think it's good or bad.  It doesn't make it easy for anybody.  It kind of blocks yourself in if weather comes, too.  I guess we'll see.  I won here in '06.  They told me there were a thousand people in the stands.  It's good to see this place kind of getting a rebirth, a lot of enthusiasm in the paddock, a lot of people in the stands.  I think Andretti Promotions doing a great job.  I hope it keeps going.  It's the roots of IndyCar.  It's that special oval that nobody likes in the racing business except IndyCar because it fits our racing style.  It's something different. 
We don't need the banking to make exciting racing.  I think we proved that today, unlike other series, so that's quite cool. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  Let's look at the upside.  It was a good crowd today.  I know everybody's trying to make it work.  There's a lot of money and energy put together to keep that event.  There's a lot of energy put together to come twice in Wisconsin, to Road America, where we should have never left.  Obviously the difference between the sporting side and the financial side is always very challenging.  I understand everything.  But you got to be true to your fans and to your sport.  It's our roots.  It's very deeply anchored in IndyCar.  I know the organization will try as hard as they can to keep it on the schedule. 
Hopefully it all works out and we come back to race. 

Q.  Today you weren't sure how the setup would be in the race.  How pleasantly surprised were you?  A few hours earlier you didn't know what to expect about your race setup. 
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  I was pretty comfortable.  The race setup was good, the setup in general was good.  It was just when we went out in qualifying, hit the ground so hard, didn't know what the balance was like because the wheels were not touching the ground.  I was bummed.  I was like, Man, we just had an easy top-five start and we just made a mess of it.  We didn't even touch the car. 
So I don't know what happened, but we'll definitely look at it and try not to repeat it because that was not a nice feeling. 
I wasn't too worried about our performance in the race, I was just afraid it was going to be a big burden for a better result because maybe we were able to get close to the top five with that starting position.  For a long time it looked like the dynamic of the race was going to be very hard to pass.  Why I know if we were going to be good enough to make moves.  It just so happened that we did.  It was a different game from there. 
There was no guarantee we were going to be able to do what we did, you know.  But I wasn't worried about the setup or the quality of the car.  I was just worried about anybody could make big moves like that. 
THE MODERATOR:  Congratulations.  See you in Iowa. 

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