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VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA


August 29, 2015


Juan Pablo Montoya

Josef Newgarden

Will Power

Graham Rahal


SONOMA, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with our Verizon IndyCar Series post qualifying press conference. Joined by points leader Juan Pablo Montoya who will be starting fifth in tomorrow's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Juan, talk about your qualifying run and are you happy to be starting where you are?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I am. Last year here we started like 19th or something, so Mid‑Ohio was a little better, we were like tenth, and our road course has been getting better. It's kind of funny because apart from Indy we haven't made the Fast Six in a road course. It was encouraging today to do this. We did, I felt, a really good job in practice this morning with the car and again in qualifying. Just have to be smart and have to be patient and see what it brings.
THE MODERATOR: Your teammate Will Power clinching the pole, do you think that will help you if he's up in front helping you out?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I mean, if he wins the race, we can finish in the Top 5 or something, it will be really good because he takes the big points away from anybody, and that will be one of the key things. But we'll see. Dixon starting 9th, I don't know how they're going to play that and Rahal next to me, so we've just got to have a smart race, a good day and see what it brings.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Juan.

Q. You started relatively late in the last qualifying run; can you explain why that is?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We wanted to let the tires cool down because my first set we did two laps and it went away pretty bad, so we just wanted to do one lap on the Reds. So I felt like the Blacks would have been quicker, but we wanted to save these tires for the race. So I said just put the Reds on, let them cool down as much as we can and just do one lap. That's all we can do.
And I made a mistake here. Not a huge‑‑ not made a mistake, just went there and the thing didn't turn. So I lost a bit of time there, but apart from that it was a really good lap.
THE MODERATOR: Juan, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
Now joined by Josef Newgarden from Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing who will be starting second in tomorrow's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Ties his best start here at Sonoma Raceway and a race best finish of sixth. Josef, you were speaking earlier in the week about how so many things had to go right for you to make a shot at the championship. It seems like you've made a good start to that starting second in tomorrow's race. Tell us about your qualifying run?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, getting pole would have helped a lot more. It is worth points and double points this weekend. That was really disappointing, to be honest, at the end there. You know, Power, he did a really great job, so I mean, he's very worthy of getting the pole. He's incredible around here. But I thought we might have had something for him there, so that was tough. You know what I mean?
We had a really good car. The fun thing about this weekend is we have GoPro on board. This is our home race, one of their home tracks. It's great to have them. I think the car looks awesome. It's really fun for us to be in this race and represent them. We're hoping to have a really good race.
It starts with qualifying and we did a pretty decent job there. I had a great car and there was not much more to do. The car was there to get it done and we missed it by a little bit, so that's disappointing. But tomorrow's what really counts. So being up front is going to help that cause, and if we keep clean, we have a shot at winning this thing.
THE MODERATOR: Joined by another championship contender, Graham Rahal who will be starting sixth in tomorrow's race. Graham, you made seemingly a lot of changes throughout qualifying to try to better your car. What were some of the things that changed over the run?
GRAHAM RAHAL: We changed quite a bit. We've just been struggling. I know we've been up front and everybody thinks things have been really good. We've just been struggling to get a really good balance here this week, and having said that, tomorrow is a new day. Obviously, I'm disappointed to be 6th, which is a good thing, but disappointed to be there. I think we're definitely capable. Particularly on the new tires the car was pretty good. But the second run I don't know why but it had a lot of falloff.
The other thing, I don't know, it seemed a like a lot of guys ran a new set of blacks there in the third in Q3, and we decided to keep them for tomorrow. So either they have more tires than us or we're making the wrong move or they are, I'm not sure which.
I'm looking forward to getting out there tomorrow. It's a new day. With trying to get the Steak 'n Shake car in victory lane. Our whole season we've been in the entire race and putting ourselves in a good spot. And it's a lot easier to come in 6th or 13th than further back, so I'm looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Graham and Josef?

Q. Graham, you're disappointed in the way the car handled, but you're not disappointed with where you are in your set up for tomorrow?
GRAHAM RAHAL: No, I think we'll be okay. Obviously tomorrow we're not packing nearly as hard as today, but you never know. Like I said, we have all new tires for every stint pretty much in the race if we need them, and I'm looking forward to that.
So we'll see what we can do. Obviously need to work on protecting the rears. It looks like the rear tires are going to go off pretty aggressively pretty quick. So we'll see how it all plays out. It's going to be entertaining tomorrow, I can tell you that. There are a lot of guys hanging it out really, really hard to get those lap times out, so you're working it pretty tough.

Q. Graham, you were saying it's a new day tomorrow, but I mean as close as you are, do you all feel like you could reach out there and grab it?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, Montoya's 5th, so not yet. But I'll be watching him. That's for sure. We'll see how the start goes.
But it's going to be a good day. I really do have a good feeling about it. But obviously as you guys know, we have to win, in essence, and he's got to have a bad day. If we win, yes, he has to finish third, but in general if we don't, then he's got to fall way further behind. And we can't overlook the rest of these guys. Obviously, Power is right on pole, Dixon's not too far behind us. So, look, man, we're going out there to win tomorrow. I mean, that's what we have to do.

Q. Josef, do you hold off that lap right there at the end, were you holding your breath? Did you know that Power still had a lap to go?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I mean, I think the lap was good. It obviously was not good enough. But when I did it I was like it's got to be pretty good. I hope that's pole. But you wait, you wait, obviously, you never do anything until it's over. You have to wait until the checkered flag flies and everyone stops before you figure it out.
But I didn't think he was going to do a third run. I was surprised they actually did three runs. I've never seen those guys do that so I thought it was good. I really hoped it was going to be good enough for pole. That's so much fun to do. You have no idea how cool that was out there. So it would have been nice if it was for pole, but once they told me it wasn't and that's what it was, you've got to immediately shift the focus forward to tomorrow.

Q. How exciting is it to have double points in the season finale which could win you the championship?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Good and bad. I'm excited because now I have a chance to win the thing. But I'm not so excited because if we have a bad day we can go back pretty far. So you have to be on your game. You have to be on your game.
Montoya won the other races double points this season and that's really what's kept him in the lead the entire time in the points lead, so we've got a little ground to make up, but it definitely helps. And I think it does make it more intriguing for the fans. I mean, lets be honest, if it had been normal points it would be only two of us that are in contention, and instead you have six. So it definitely makes it more interesting.

Q. Do you think that also the heat is an important factor tomorrow for the long race?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, for sure. I mean, not from a physical standpoint. I mean, yes and no. First off, it's really physical. I don't know how Graham feels, but it's hard. Last year was tough. It's actually probably a good thing that we're getting some tire degradation, I think it's going to make for a good race, but it's also going to give us a break inside the car.
I don't think it's going to be super hot tomorrow. I think like 82. If it was 90, that would have been way more of a problem, I think. So it's probably good it will be 82.
But as Graham said, I think the tires are what are going to make this race really good tomorrow. I mean, they're fantastic when they're brand‑new. They have amazing grip, good stability. But they go off a little bit around this place. It's a very slippery racetrack, and they're going to go off and people are going to be sliding around. You're going to see guys going forward, guys going backwards. I think you're going to see a lot of mixed up racing tomorrow and it's going to be a typical IndyCar amazing show.
GRAHAM RAHAL: And I think the last thing that most people don't account for is that all of us up here, everybody's under the gun, you know, under pressure. So that's going to play a big factor tomorrow in decision making for everybody, in the pits, pit crews, everything else. So tomorrow's going to be a big one. Definitely a lot of pressure going into it.

Q. Will did that pole lap on sticker blacks. Is that something you guys even considered doing?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I did my first run on sticker blacks. You know, I don't know if they were planning on doing that. I feel like we showed our cards a little too quick because normally you don't do that. I think around here we saw maybe there would be an opportunity and most people don't want to use their blacks. Most people are saving those for tomorrow.
So we thought we were being sneaky doing that. And I think the Penske boys saw it. And it was a decent time that I put up with it, but Will did an even better one. So we thought of doing it. And it was close to working out, but Will made it work the best.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, and I just said to the guys, should we be putting new blacks on here to give it a shot? And they said flat out no, we're going to keep them for tomorrow. So it was never really something that we thought about. I saw Josef do it, I saw Power do it, and I knew that they were probably going to be a bit quicker, but, you know, I guess for us, unless you really felt you were going to be almost guaranteed the pole position, you probably didn't want to waste them and that's where we kind of got to.
I mean, I don't know. We were doing some really good ones on Reds, but we didn't have enough to beat Will today, I don't think.

Q. Sounds like from what you're talking about the black tires that maybe the red tires aren't going to be that popular. I don't know that, but how long do you think they will last? You only get to run it in qualifying.
GRAHAM RAHAL: They both last a lap, pretty much. Am I wrong? I think the Reds last half a lap maybe. I mean, it goes quick. It's going to be entertaining.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's a slippery place. When it's gripped up, it's gripped up, but it goes off very quick. There is high degradation here with the way the surface is, so you're banking completely on new tire grip. You're taking it easy on an out lap. On my out lap I never launched out of turn 7 out of the hair‑pin because I'm afraid of using the rear tire up. So that's what I mean. Tomorrow's going to be a show.
GRAHAM RAHAL: They're both the same. They both do the same. It's just going to be pretty crazy.

Q. So you think you would maybe want to come in and do another pit stop just to get fresher tires? Is that one of the strategies that some people might run tomorrow?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know. I mean, Graham's not speaking, so maybe that has strategy. You know? I don't know. Yeah, it's hard to say.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Honestly, that's what I was saying about pressure. We have to think about this tonight, and you've still got to play it as it comes. We're all starting up front. We can't just take a flyer on strategy. You're in that zone where you're kind of stuck trying to make up time in the pits on the track, but you're not going to go on a strategy call that‑‑ I don't know. You're not going to hurt yourself, that's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you, and good luck tomorrow. We will welcome in our pole sitter, Will Power.
We are now joined now by Will Power. This is Will's fifth pole here at Sonoma Raceway, and he also has three wins here at the track. This is also Will's fourth track record of 2015. He set it at 1:16.2597 seconds today in qualifying. Will, what is it about Sonoma Raceway that you seem to have figured out so well?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think it's obviously a team thing, but personally I love the area, I love the track. It's a very technical track and you've got to be very committed when it comes to qualifying. So my favorite session the whole weekend is qualifying where you get to get the absolute maximum out of the car and wring its neck, I so enjoyed that a lot.
But obviously the race is a totally different story. A lot of points on the table for tomorrow, so you've got to think very carefully about how we execute this because we need to win.

Q. Currently sitting fourth in championship points, does this boost your confidence at all heading into the fact that it's double points and you might have a shot at it?
WILL POWER: Well, I think when you think about all the races we've had this year on road and street courses, it's been very mixed up and very hard to predict how the strategy is going to play out. I think Firestone brought a really good tire this year which slows the grade over the run which creates really good racing. So you're going to see that play into strategies. And I think you're going to see good racing and a lot of passing.
So we'll have to think about that and what we have to do to the car to make the tire stay under us longer. And go for that win.

Q. So the track record kicked in broken, broken, broken, you just weren't going to let it go. Did you know the track record kept getting broken?
WILL POWER: I didn't. I was just aware of the time I had to beat. I didn't even know what the track record was. I just knew Josef had set his time and I had to beat that. Our strategy was just to do two runs on used Reds, the two sets that we had used in the previous round to get through, and then we didn't think anyone would put blacks on, but he did and he went quicker.
So we had no choice at the very end but to throw them on and they were faster. So he kind of showed us the way. Had he put them on at the end, I have a feeling he would have gotten pole.

Q. Everyone seems to be flying in qualifying compared to your teammates. How identical in a set up (Indiscernible) to your teammates?
WILL POWER: I don't know how they ended up. I think they're pretty similar going into it. Obviously we share a lot of data even as we come in pits. We can share the data between the cars so you can see where you're quicker and slower and we're all stronger on different areas of the track, and it's a matter of putting it all together to get the ultimate lap time. But, yeah, I'm not sure. The cars obviously are very similar. But you know, everyone has different driving styles, so certain cars suit certain people.

Q. Will, you talk about qualifying being your favorite session. This season you've moved now fourth into the all‑time pole winners in IndyCar and Car Champs or whatever they're called. Next one is Bobby Unser at 49. Obviously, this season is a long possibility of that now sitting at 42?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I hope to continue to get poles. That means I'm doing my job and I want to keep my job, so I need to keep working hard. But, yeah, it's definitely 42, that's a big number right there. It hadn't even registered.
Yeah, it just shows what sort of team I've got under me. These guys give us the best cars. If we ever fall behind, we quickly catch up, so it's a real honor to drive for that team and be in that situation to do what you love in the best possible way with all the resources that we have.

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