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July 15, 2006
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with our post race briefings. Joined by Danica Patrick, our story today, best finish of the season, ties her career best with a fourth place finish, in addition to a fourth place this year, fourth place last year in both Japan and Indianapolis.
Danica, tell us about your evening.
DANICA PATRICK: It was a good night. It was a night of catching a break or two and keeping up with the race car. It was kind of an ever-changing track. I remember last year the track picked up grip the whole time. It did the same thing tonight.
We were being called to pit, pit, pit for fuel. The yellow came out. I caught that break, which was nice, because it seems like I've been caught out on that all season so far. Gosh, at Indy I thought it happened -- every time I went out on a sticker set of tires, the yellow came out, even in practice. I've been unfortunate, but I'm glad I caught a break this weekend.
Pit crew did a good job. We got in and out of the pits well. I was able to keep up with the race car out there. Like I said, the track changes. I've never had a race car yet that is the same from the beginning to the end of the race. I've never had one the same from the beginning to the end of a fuel stint.
The best part about all that was that I was able to chase the race car and have enough adjustment in the cockpit. That's not something that's happened for quite a while that I've been able to actually have enough adjustment inside the cockpit with the weight jacker and the front and rear roll bars, which I did tonight, which means we were in a pretty good range with the car.
I'm proud of the team. We've had quite a long season so far, starting with the beginning of the season. Obviously, the first race was one to remember and one not to remember. Indy was 10 times more difficult than last year. Obviously, changing over to the Dallara, we, mostly the pit crew, has been working their tails off in preparing these cars.
I'm just relieved we were able to run up there for a while at the end. We have not even really started with this race car. We've only scratched the surface of it in what we can find to make it go faster. I'm happy about that. We still have a lot of racing left to do in the season. I just hope that we can sort of build on this. This is good momentum for the team and myself.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take a couple questions for Danica.
Q. Looked like your car was handling extremely well. You could stay low all the way around the track. Your car was obviously handling very well.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I was lucky. I started taking the bottom line for a while, was able to hang on the whole time, which is good, because obviously that's a tighter line and it's slightly more difficult on the car. So it was pretty good. Like I said, I was able to really chase the car. I was ready to make some adjustments to run on bottom and I did have to make a little bit of adjustment, there was a little more understeer on the bottom, but it was just fine.
Q. Obviously the best finish of your season so far. What do you plan on for the rest of the year? How do you build on this?
DANICA PATRICK: I plan to build on this. It's not to say - and this is what I hoped for last year when I finished fourth at Motegi in the first couple rounds - gosh, I'm going to be up here for the rest of the season. Doesn't always happen like that, you know. You go up, you go down, you go up, you go down. You just hope that this sort of crooked ladder keeps going upwards.
But, you know, the next event's Milwaukee. It was a strong event for me last year. I think I qualified like sixth. It was by far the best race on a short oval we had last year. Seems like some of the same principles from the old chassis carry over, but we obviously have a new chassis, so there's more exploring to do.
I'd like to think it was probably my most sort of fierce driving that I did last year, was at Milwaukee. I pushed very hard. I was saying earlier to someone, it's going to be a little more difficult since we don't have traction control. Man, if you guys were there at Milwaukee last year, it was so unbelievably hot. It just got so slippery. It's going to be a little bit more challenging this year. We might see some more yellows.
Q. After the week, the swirl of attention about what your future might hold, was it kind of nice to get in the car and concentrate on the present?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, you know. As I was kind of getting into the car tonight, I thought to myself, I mean, I was really nervous, and it's just proved yet again that the more nervous I am, the better I do. It's not healthy. Those big butterflies don't ever feel good in your stomach. You never feel so good. But it seems to work for me.
Once I got in the car, I kind of took a deep breath and was just like, as soon as I get out there, it's over, I don't think about anything any more. That's sort of a relaxing feeling.
As true or not true as this is, I almost feel like nobody can see me out there. I don't know how weird that sounds, but I feel like it's just me out there, nobody's looking at my every move. Although everybody's looking at my rpm, speed traces, gear, weight jacker, and every move I make, I feel alone, and that's kind of nice.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
At this time we're joined bay our second place finisher, Dan Wheldon. It's his third second place finish this season. Dan led the most laps tonight with 115.
Dan, tell us about your evening.
DAN WHELDON: I think it's a fantastic evening for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and everybody involved. You know, I know Scott has had a very frustrating weekend, so it's a good for him. Some of the last couple races have been frustrating for him so it's good to see him back on top.
I think certainly the 10 side, we had a very fast car but just came up a little bit short. But I think it was a very entertaining race for everybody. This is the home of Firestone. The tires work very well at this track. I think the fans enjoyed what I would say -- it's not one of those tracks where you can run side by side, but I think it was a very intense race. Certainly you could see that at the end.
Happy for the team, happy for Honda. We've closed the gap somewhat on Marlboro Team Penske. I was a little disappointed to see Sam go out. We've had a couple of one-on-ones just recently, and he's got me. I was hoping that I might be able to try and get one back on him.
Nonetheless, it was a good result for us.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dan.
Q. Those last couple laps, you were right on Scott's gearbox. Do you think you had a better car and couldn't get around him or did he have a little bit more for you?
DAN WHELDON: No, I definitely had a faster car. You know, Vitor drove me down onto the apron and I lost a lot of ground there. When I got near Scott, I had to kind of rush to try to get by him. I think that somewhat cost me.
You know, it's good for the team. I think I led the most laps so you pick up three points for that. I think all in all, a good weekend.
Q. It seemed in turn two a couple times when you got up behind somebody, be it Vitor or Scott, your car kind of washed up a bit. Were you having trouble? Every other turn you were coming out fast. Did you have a little trouble in two?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think typically with this track and what makes this an enjoyable track is the fact that it's concrete. It's very difficult. If you're an inch or two up and may have the outside of the tires in the gray, just to be able to stay flat. That's what was happening to me sometimes.
I just couldn't quite get him. Like I say, I lost a lot of time behind Vitor so was somewhat rushing to get by him. I think that cost me. I think Andy Brown and all the engineering staff at the team did give me a fantastic car. The last few races, we've been very strong. We're looking forward to the next couple.
Q. At the end of the race, you seemed to have some questions for the crew and the strategy. Could you elaborate a little on that.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, no, I was just a little confused. I knew Scott had come in earlier than me. They gave me a fuel number that I needed. I couldn't get it, even in a pretty low fuel position. It was a case of I wasn't sure if they wanted me to let everybody go and get that number or stay in front of the people that I was in front of and try and still get the number.
It was just confusion, to tell you the truth.
Q. Going into the race, you said this was kind of a must-win situation for you. You didn't win. As you said, you closed the gap. Do you feel better about your chances of defending the championship than you did before?
DAN WHELDON: I mean, any time you close the gap, that's good. Any time you make significant points on Sam, it's a good thing, because he doesn't normally give them away.
Like I said, I definitely wanted to race him in particular because he's somebody that's obviously very good. He's tough to beat. I don't know. I think his car was just a little (indiscernible) because he found it difficult to run behind cars and must have just got up in the gray. I think any time you gain points is a good thing. I think Scott's only five out of the lead of the championship right now.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, thank you very much. We'll see you in Milwaukee next week.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Sam Hornish is still in the lead, five points ahead of Scott Dixon, who has now moved into second place. Sam Hornish, five points over Scott Dixon. The top four, Hornish in first place with 316, Dixon second with 311, Castroneves third at 310, and Wheldon fourth at 300.
We're joined now by race winner Scott Dixon, his second win of the season, sixth career win. Scott has eight top 10 finishes in his last nine races. Scott's last oval win, Richmond 2003.
Scott, why don't you tell us about your evening.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it wasn't too bad. The car was pretty consistent. I lost a few spots at the start there when I actually had contact with the 3 car and Helio. It looked like he was a little worse off. I think we bent some of our front suspension. The car couldn't turn as well, but still fairly consistent throughout the night.
I think for us the biggest advantage tonight, we just saved fuel, worked on fuel. Towards the end we just cycled to the front. It seemed a lot easier for us to save the fuel. I think on our second stop, we went about six laps longer than Dan. I think that's what got us to the front, then what enabled us to run quick at the end and stay in front of them all.
THE MODERATOR: For the Target Chip Ganassi team, it's their first 1-2 finish since joining the IndyCar Series in the 2003 season.
We'll open it up to questions for Scott.
Q. Talk about what it means to get the guitar.
SCOTT DIXON: It's very cool, you know. It's actually nice to come to these places and get a trophy that's so special and so unique I think to the place you go to. I actually got another guitar for a pole position in Nazareth. I don't know why that was. Now I've got two of them. I guess I need to start trying to learn how to play the bloody things (laughter).
No, it's very special. I think any time anybody walks into your house and sees a guitar, what is that all about, rather than looking at the trophy. I think it's very unique. It's great for all of us drivers that get a chance to win them.
Q. Dan (sic), how anxious were you those final laps? You had a pretty desperate driver on your rear bumper in Wheldon.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, Dan was behind me (laughter).
I think with Vitor and Dan, they were both very quick. I think any car that's out front, you're trying to push a lot of air out there. It's very easy for the cars behind to catch up. I think Dan definitely had a little more speed than most people throughout the night. I think I was definitely more worried about him being behind me than Vitor. I think I could see once Vitor got behind me, I could move my line around enough to sort of screw with his air, not have him to be so much of a problem.
I think he had a pretty dirty move on Dan there in running him under the line going into three, which he's been doing a fair bit lately. Hopefully he can clean that up. But coming down towards the end, Dan was very fast. I was hoping and praying those laps were going to start falling a lot quicker to get towards the end. I think we just had a good enough car that stuck on the bottom. Very hard to go around the outside here. Once I saw him try it two or three times, I knew we were pretty comfortable.
Q. You're now second, five points behind Sam. Talk a little about really closing the gap yourself on Sam.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's unfortunate that Sam didn't get to finish. I think for our team, it was definitely a big gain. He opened up a bit of a gap, nearly 40 points on us, I think coming into this race. It's always been nothing but looking towards the championship and trying to win the championship this year, and nothing's changed since.
But this definitely helps the situation a lot. Now we just need to make sure that both the 9 and the 10 car is very competitive and can try and win a few more of these next few races.
Q. What does it mean to you with the team finishing 1-2 tonight?
SCOTT DIXON: It's very good. I think going into every race, it's the goal that you go in with. It's very unique or not very often that you had that situation. There's normally only one car that's just not quick enough, and you have someone cycle out and not have it happen. It's very hard to have an outcome like that.
So as a team and for Chip and for Target, I think it's tremendous. It's huge. It's a big night for us. It's our first 1-2 since we've been in the series.
Q. You had trouble qualifying yesterday. They fixed the car, you qualified third. I understand you and Dan got together and you did work together as a team. I know Chip was excited about that part. You seem to get along well and get on well together.
SCOTT DIXON: It's been good. We've had a few issues in the last couple races where I don't think both sides have worked together enough. I think both of us have stressed it a little bit. Especially for me because it's a new package for me. The engine and the chassis is something totally different. Dan has had it for the last three or four years. I'm definitely willing to have their help. I know it's very hard on race weekends to have that situation because you're flat out, especially on two-day events, you don't have much time to sit down and discuss what's going on.
This weekend we got to run two laps in the second 45-minute session, the gearbox blew up, then we go in qualifying, get stuck in the neutral limiter, will only do 140 miles an hour. It was very tough.
Basically all we did was just copy their setup. The car was fairly decent. It was very good for the race. Those guys have done a good job all year.
Q. You had 71 laps since you last pitted. I'm sure the yellow helped. At what point were you confident you could finish the race?
SCOTT DIXON: It was going to be tough if we didn't get any yellow. I think we were going to be about three laps short. I think it was the same for everybody else. As I said, our fuel mileage was very good throughout the day. I think the guys that pitted only got about an extra gallon than us, which was not enough to make a significant amount.
I could see everybody. We leaned back. Everybody kind of set behind me while I was leading trying to do the same thing. Obviously with my team, we can see what Dan is doing. He was trying to save fuel as well. Once we got that yellow, they swept the groove a little, also with the wall problem they had up there, I think it helped everybody out to make sure they could get to the end.
Q. Long stretch on the oval portions. Tough to keep your spirits and confidence up? Do you sag a little at times?
SCOTT DIXON: You get down a little. I think we've been competitive. We've had a few seconds and things like that. We've been in the top five. The car has been quick. We just haven't been able to pull through. I think it's been the same for the team in many senses throughout this season alone, it's been hard for us to seal the deal, we've made so many little mistakes. I think we've been confident we've had the speed to do it on either side of the team. It's just finally come for me.
Q. It's been a couple years since you've had success. Now this year you're running well. Has to be a good feeling to get back to where you were a couple years ago.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's been good. I think a lot of it's the big changes that we had over the winter with the chassis and the engine. It's been a huge help I think to be back on an even playing field. Toyota were great in '03, then we struggled for a couple years. It was frustrating because you never really saw the light at the end of the tunnel, which is a situation nobody likes to be in.
But going into this year, and lucky enough for me I got to stay with Ganassi and do another year with him, has been a blessing in disguise for myself, enabled the both of us, or myself mainly, to get back to the top and has been great.
We still need to work on a little bit of speed out of our side to step it up. Dan has been very competitive at every stage throughout the year.
Q. Dan admitted to being confused with the fuel mileage. If you were able to get six more laps than he was, does that number kind of surprise you, with fairly identical cars?
SCOTT DIXON: We've seen it before. But that's the problem. When you're leading, you burn a lot of fuel. Maybe Dan needed to slip back into second or something.
The situation I was in, I was behind four cars, it was easy for me to save fuel. He had to keep pushing all that wind and tow the other cars behind him. I think he pitted two or three laps before anybody else. That's the consequence you get. Maybe they should have leaned out a little more. We have seen in a few different races this year that the engines are a little different on mileage throughout the year.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, we appreciate your time. Congratulations on the win. Good luck with the guitar lessons.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you.
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