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June 10, 2006
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with Scott Dixon, tying tonight his best finish at Texas with his 2003 fall performance, second place. Four top 5's for 2006.
Scott, talk about the race tonight. A close run at the end.
SCOTT DIXON: It was kind of a frustrating night for me. The car had a lot of understeer to start with. We kept on getting cords on the right rear. First part of the stint we had a lot of understeer, then get loose in a big hurry. I don't know, throughout the night we worked on the car. It got a lot better. Definitely very easy to drive later on, the last two or three stints. Flat out for about 150 laps. The car is just draggy, it has been since Indianapolis. We had the same difference between the 10 and the 9 about half mile an hour. We can't seem to find it. We always run the same car pretty much. It's just been that way.
I think we're pretty happy. It's sad that Dan didn't win. He definitely dominated the race. I think he had the speed to do it.
THE MODERATOR: Speaking of Dan, he obviously pitted there about 14, 15 laps to go. What were you thinking at that time? It might be a two- or three-car run at the end?
SCOTT DIXON: It gets like that. A lot of it can be down to in-and-out laps. For me coming in with Helio definitely helped because you have someone to benchmark yourself off. Helio is definitely quick in and out.
We had a bit of a bobble on our stop with the left front I think, we lost a bit of time getting out of the pits. He put a bit of a gap on us. But I just didn't have the speed.
I don't know. You know, I think with Sam, too, I think they tried to stretch it on fuel. They ran him out of fuel in the end. I think they tried to stay on the same tires. I know he had cords as well. That was a pretty big gamble. It's always going to get a bit funky at the end with people coming in and out of the pits, how much time they gain and lose.
THE MODERATOR: Your season, it kind of shifts towards the second half of the season with Texas kind of being a swing race. You still have a win, four top 5's. Your thoughts about how it's going so far .
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's been pretty good. I think once again we've been a little disappointed. I think there's two or three other races that the team should have won, if it wasn't Dan or myself, which is pretty good to be frustrated about, I think being second in the points. Had some good finishes.
We really need to capitalize on these. Penske definitely has been, and you can see Helio has a bit of a jump again now. We need to work a bit harder.
For myself, it's been a great year back. It's very nice to race at the proper end of the field, race with other great teams. I think for myself and Ganassi, it's been a lot of fun so far.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Were you surprised as to how relatively clean the race was?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I don't think -- has there ever been an IndyCar race with no crashes? I don't know. I think for Texas, it's pretty amazing, to be honest. I think everybody definitely kept it pretty clean.
I think some of the situations with how the car has changed, the tires, don't allow you to be in one big pack for very long. It's only at the first part of the stint where you have a ton of grip. I think that definitely helped. You get the better team, better cars, start moving away from each other.
THE MODERATOR: It is unofficially the third fastest race in IndyCar history with an average speed of 185.7 miles per hour.
Q. There was a lot of talk at the end of the race on the last stop whether you were going to change tires. Did you change your tires? How did the tires hold up?
SCOTT DIXON: The team didn't want to. After how the first couple stints had gone on my car, the right rear was pretty much toast. We had a lot of cords on the first stint. They said, How about we change the right rear? I wasn't really up for it. I think it was easier, safer and better for the championship to put on new tires and go for it, whereas you can see with Sam they tried the other route, it sort of caught them out maybe on the fuel side. I think every other team changed tires.
Q. After qualifying, many of the drivers were saying qualifying doesn't matter at Texas, you can move around. The top qualifying drivers stayed out front the entire race. Has the track changed enough that qualifying does matter here now?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I think you still see the fastest cars move to the front. I was struggling earlier, slipped back a bit. After we started, we sort of moved back up. I think it's just the trend of the season so far. There are a few teams that are a little better than anybody else. It's going to take a few more races for those other guys to catch up. You can see Kanaan and AGR definitely stepping it up, getting a lot closer. We'll have to see how it plays out.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Scott.
We're joined now by Dan Wheldon, finishing third tonight in the 10 car.
Dan, I know you were making a run at the end. I think unofficially you may have had the fastest lap on the last lap. You pitted with 15 to go. Talk about what was going on.
DAN WHELDON: Well, obviously it's incredibly tight in the IndyCar Series right now. Obviously, at Texas you always seem to have very close finishes. We had a fantastic car. I think Target Chip Ganassi Racing put together a package for us with the Honda motor that was working very, very well. But we made a mistake in the pits. It's one of those things when you're racing Marlboro Team Penske that you can't afford to do.
Obviously, the person that dropped the wheel, it's just one of those things. He's trying his best, but unfortunately we did in those circumstances gift a win to Marlboro Team Penske. It's tough because we could have had a very good day points-wise. It turns out we gave Helio 10.
THE MODERATOR: Scott was talking about the pace of the race, very few cautions. Unofficially the third fastest race in IndyCar history, 185 miles per hour. Green flag racing out there tonight.
DAN WHELDON: I think the respect a lot of the drivers show one another, with the way the races seem to pan out, Firestone put together a good tire. I do think it's harder than it has been in the past. Because of that, the car is more difficult to get a handle on. It isn't so easy flat out, even when you're side by side. Actually, even on your own. Because of that, it spaces the race out. But at the same time, because it spaces out, you can still somewhat run in line. Because of that, you get a fast pace with not many accidents.
Just very frustrated. I led a lot of laps at Indy and didn't win when I think we had a very good car. Watkins Glen, I'm not sure we had a fantastic car, but we put ourselves in a position to win, lost a drive shaft. Now something silly like this. It's just tough right now.
THE MODERATOR: Four top 5's now for you. Is that just an indication that you are that close?
DAN WHELDON: Well, 'that close' isn't good enough. Four top 5's doesn't really mean anything when the person that's leading the championship is beating you. You've got to beat that person. We had a team meeting before. We understood the fact. I said to the team that I wanted to lead early on, dominate the race because that's what we need to do to overcome the points deficit. We did this most of the day, then screwed up at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Questions
Q. Could you walk us through that pit stop. Some of us didn't see all of it.
DAN WHELDON: I didn't see it. I mean, you know, it's tough. The poor guy that is putting that wheel on, I mean, it's not his fault. He's just trying as hard as he can. It's one of those things that happens. It's very competitive.
I think everybody in this room makes mistakes in their job. It's part of it. I mean, I don't know anybody in any job that doesn't make a mistake. Unfortunately, his seems like it cost us a lot, which it did. But it's part of the whole deal.
I'm not sure exactly what happened. I can't see. Obviously, I engaged first pretty quickly because I knew it was going to be a short stop. I was sitting and waiting and waiting and waiting. Because of that I think we lost about three or four seconds. That lost me track position.
Q. At one point in the race, you and Scott, the Penske cars, had the field covered by 13 seconds. What has gotten you into the position where you have the field covered that well?
DAN WHELDON: I think both teams have been working very hard, particularly last year. I was in a very fortunate position of having Honda power, which was dominant. I credit Honda with the job that they continue to do, that they're giving us an engine where we're actually going quicker than what we have done in the past at some of these tracks. But it's still able to run a lot of miles. I think we're doing about a thousand miles on an engine now. I think that's credit to them.
In the last couple of years, I think Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Marlboro Team Penske have had a very big horsepower deficit. They've had to work very hard on mechanical grip and other things that I really can't tell you to make the cars fast or to make up for that deficit. I think you can see that now.
When you look at the two teams' history, they speak for themselves. They've been very, very dominant in IndyCar racing when they've had the right package. It doesn't surprise me.
Q. I noticed during most of the race when you were leading, when you come out of two, you stayed very low, much lower than anybody else. Coming out of four as well. Was your car handling that well that you could stay so low?
DAN WHELDON: I think so. That's what makes it even more difficult to swallow. I think Andy Brown and the engineering staff at the team do a very, very good job. We approach it somewhat different to the Penske team. We do focus a lot on the race.
It kills me, but we've had very, very good race cars. At Homestead we had a very good race car. Motegi, we had a good race car. Indianapolis, we had a good race car. Here, we had a good race car. We do have good race cars, but we're not capitalizing on them, which we did last year.
It's important in this day and age to capitalize on them because, you know, just ask Michael Schumacher a couple years ago, he couldn't win for the life of him, and he couldn't stop winning before. You have to every win you get make every win you get happen, but we just didn't quite do that today.
Q. We had a stretch of races in a row. Do you think the week off is going to help you?
DAN WHELDON: No, I wish it was next week now. I think the way that they've got the schedule, it makes it fun, it makes it tough. Week in, week out, you've got to perform well. When you have a bad race, you want to get in the car as soon as possible. I'm going to be in the car Tuesday at Kansas. It would nice to be racing tomorrow Richmond, I would say.
Q. With the next races coming up, do you have any races you're looking forward to? Where are you going to make up ground on your rivals?
DAN WHELDON: I think by just not screwing up every time we're leading. I hate to be that harsh, but I think it's true.
I think this next batch of races will be very strong for us. I think Richmond we'll be very good at. I think Kansas we'll be very good at. I think the next four or five we'll certainly be strong, Nashville, Milwaukee.
Like I say, when you're up against a team like Penske, it felt at the beginning of the race like I was kind of fighting them on my own. You have to make sure you're taking the points away. Now, with the mistakes we've made, we've got to make sure we do that, because not every weekend will we have the best car.
Q. How does a mistake like today in the pits affect team chemistry in the coming weeks?
DAN WHELDON: You can't expect anybody to be perfect. The guy's done a fantastic job for me all year. Personally, I would never hold that against anybody. I've been in this business long enough to know that you win as a team, you lose as a team. For me personally, I'm very much driven by wins. Just to give so many away this year is disappointing. That's part of the business.
I definitely feel the next one I win, I'd like to think I'll be able to string a few together because we've put ourselves in so many good positions, but just not quite capitalized.
Last year it went for me. It's not going for me this year. It makes me more determined to do it again. If I race next week, I'm on two to Hornish, he's open pole, I'll try to get him the first corner instead of turn three like I did this race.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Dan.
A few notes about Helio's win tonight. His second victory at Texas Motor Speedway, his third IRL IndyCar Series win this year. Helio has won three of the six races in 2006, has started on the front row four times, and Helio has led in every race this year. It is his eighth career win on an oval. Penske Racing has now won 78 oval wins out of a record 128 career wins for the team.
Having said all of that, two wins here at Texas. Talk about what that was like out there tonight.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Incredible. It was very hard because hardly we had any yellows. I'm sure it was tough for you guys to watch because you didn't have side by side, which is normally what we have here.
I don't know. The track was very greasy on the beginning. I don't know why. It was difficult to be side by side. Towards the end of the stint, the cars were loose. That basically make everybody settle a little bit, which is good. Everybody on safety, nobody trying to be a little crazy. Seemed everybody respecting each other. That was very good.
Again, at the beginning I was trying to save fuel, but when I start saving fuel, that's what caught me at Indianapolis. When I was leading, I was trying to save fuel too early, all of a sudden my car having such a terrible reaction. I decided not to save that much fuel. I just go with the flow. I noticed some other drivers were speeding on the same lap that I was speeding. I'm like, I'm not that bad, just a matter of stay here and cool.
Towards the end, it turned out to be one of those sprint races. I never lift since I left the pits in the last pit stop, it was full throttle all the time. Just look in the mirrors to see the gap shrinking between me and I think was Scott, I can't figure out. I just counting the laps. It was the most longest five laps that I had here.
I'm just so proud of this entire team, this entire organization, Marlboro Team Penske. Pit stops basically was the key to win this race. Well, that's why they won at the pit stop competition, such incredible speed.
This win, it's a great combination. It's bring back a good momentum for our group. The whole team already have good momentum. It was just incredible. I'm very happy.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Coming into this race, would you be shocked that it ran that green, few cautions?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, yes, I was surprised. I was waiting for a yellow to come, especially when the car start to be getting very hard to handle. I was like, man, I'm sure something's going to happen here soon. It never did. That showed that the series improve a lot and the drivers controlling themselves and turn out to be awesome.
It was hard, but at the end I love it.
Q. Over at Bombardier, Sam pointed out when he won his two championships he won here. Is it too early to think championship?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's right. Thanks to remind me on that one. I literally forgot about it.
Hey, if things look that way or if it is this way, I'm extremely happy to win today. You're right, it is too early to thinking about championship. I don't think even half time of the championship. Not only that, I don't think the gap still is large enough, you know. Scott and Wheldon and Sam, they still pretty much right there.
Again, looks like it's going that direction with those guys, but probably other teams going to catch up. Right now we just need to keep finishing ahead of those guys.
Q. Everyone here was kind of amazed at the pace that Dan Wheldon set with all the laps you led. So much happened in the pits with your stop flawless, Sam stalls, Wheldon has a wheel nut dropped. Is it surprising the third fastest race comes down a pit stop at the end?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, it is. This is not an individual sport. It's about team effort. Without a good car, you can't win a race. Without a good driver, you can't win a race. Having key moments like today, you're not going to be able to win championships.
Again, that's just -- it's unfortunate for whatever happened to those guys, but is just proof and show that this series is getting tight and tight as the competition goes by. People making less mistake, definitely the guy is going to benefit from that.
Today we benefit from it.
Q. With so few caution laps, can you talk about the toll that takes on your body physically? Is there a big difference in the change on running so many green-flag laps?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, right now I don't feel my right toe. It's kind of numb because I was flat out most of the time in the race. My left thumb as well, turning all the time, holding the car.
You got in a momentum and focus that you're not thinking much. You hardly see how many laps to go. You just focus on the fuel that you need to do, the mileage that you need to do, and pay attention on what might happen.
Again, because the track was changing so much, you have to change some style, like trying to go in high, leave low or trying to change a little bit, trying to avoid the guy with the dirty air. It was a lot of a chess game, let's put this way. Just have to be waiting to see what the guy's going to do. Sometimes people using more fuel trying to pass you, then you have to use fuel.
It was an interesting race. A long time I don't have a race like that. We proved that we need to be expecting the unexpected.
Q. What Tony Stewart won the IROC race here in April, he climbed the fence, something you're known for. Why no fence climb?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Why no fence climb? I did.
Q. I missed that.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's okay, man. If I win, I'll be there.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Helio.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you.
End of FastScripts...