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August 26, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We have our third-place finisher, Dario Franchitti, here with us. Dario, talk about your day out there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was a pretty perfect day right up until Marco and I got together up in turn one. We'd come close to getting together earlier on in the pits. You know, we did it in turn one. He was out there on cold tires going a good bit slower.
Tony and I had a similar situation earlier in the race. Tony had given me the space. Hell, even Dixon did it on cold tires. But Marco was out there trying to win the race, and we were out there trying to win a championship.
A case of, I guess, you know, he had his priorities, I had mine. You saw what happened. I'd really like to look at the accident, talk to him before, you know, making further comment on it, I guess, is the best way.
Right now I've only got my side of it and he's only got his.
Q. Michael Andretti thought you should have been a bit more patient in that situation, waiting for the next corner. Did that come into mind?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Michael is in an awkward position, I guess, being a team owner and a father. Sometimes he doesn't have as clear a view as he should have as a team owner maybe.
Like I say, I'm trying my hardest to win a championship right now for Andretti Green Racing. We'll leave it at that.
Q. For most of the day it looked like you had this race totally under control. After the contact you were wobbling around like a wounded duck out there. How was the car handling? Were you doing your best to make your position?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, the car was a little bit loose most of the day but I was able to be very consistent, do what I had to do to stay up front. Once I had the contact with Marco and the front wing was broken, I think the suspension was damaged, as well. After that, I mean, I turned into turn one up the hill, I think with a broken suspension, the car was running a lot lower than it was, it hit a bump, shot me off to the right. From then on, I just knew I was in trouble. Tony really helped me out. I'm sure Tony could have punched any point, but he didn't.
Q. Dario, you mentioned the incident with Marco. Talk more about the strategy on the first stop.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That was one of those things that nobody knows, with the strategy, that's going to end up with us coming in and out -- me coming out, him coming in at the same point. That's not something they can really time that well, I would say.
As I say, we've got to be clear in our priority. Are we trying to win a championship or are we trying to win other stuff?
Q. Dario, can you overstrategize things? I'm not sure there's such a word. Trying to have somebody move four pieces around, things like that.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We try not to do that, I would say. Yeah, we tried it at Mid-Ohio at the start, saw how that worked.
Q. You appear to be a little tired. This is a physically demanding track, is it not?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah. I mean, look at me and my buddy here. You'll see Dixon when he shows up. He's not exactly feeling like he wants to run anywhere any time soon.
It's a very physical track. There was, what, one yellow from lap 69 on. It was a long, long day out there.
Q. Talking about Tony. He's in the points chase, too. It appeared he might have been able to pass you. Can you speak to that situation.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, no, Tony was definitely, I think when the car was broken, was in a situation to be able to pass, and he didn't. You know, Tony and I, since he came to the team, I've been amazed at how much of a team player he is. When he was going for the championship in '04 there were a couple of races I kind of sat back and helped him out.
Here we are, the positions are reversed. I would do that for him again in a heartbeat. You can see, he'll do it for me. That's a pretty cool relationship.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Dario. Appreciate your time.
Again, we're joined by our second-place finisher, Helio Castroneves. His best finish since winning at St. Petersburg back in April.
Helio, talk about your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, in the morning it was cold weather, our car seemed to be doing very well, very consistent. Somehow every time it started heating up, kind of feel a little bit strange.
But it's funny, I mean, we had like four cars running very close to each other. In a place like this, to pass, it's extremely hard, extremely difficult. Especially for the beginning, you know, everybody's like trying to conserve fuel, trying to be fast, but don't know what to do.
I have to say my car was just a little bit push. Every time we put new tires it was great. After that, it was a little bit understeer, which was fine, because then it can really, really go for it in some of the corners that sometimes the car feels a little bit twitchy.
The strategy that we tried to do, it's always pit early in -- always in our window in case a yellow come out. We would probably end up being in the lead pack or the leader. It might not happen. Every time we pit, we have to slow down quite a lot because the pit entry here, it's after the hairpin.
Every time you go in as quick as you can, unfortunately you have to slow down otherwise you going to T-bone the guy in front of you. We kind of losing time over there. But that was the only strategy we could do.
Towards the end of the race we had a good opportunity to make a move over Tony. Dario, obviously he had a little bit of trouble. He knew that I was on the move, you know. It would be ugly if he tried to do something. He was smart obviously.
With Scott, the same thing. But Scott was very, very clever. During the race, we had an opportunity to do the same thing, what we did with Tony. In fact, we touched wheels when I was on the outside. I was a little surprised because he is in the run for the championship.
Especially with the move that he did, tried to do what he did, it was kind of like I didn't understand. But then I was like, let him try to do it again. He was smart enough to find out. Never gave me a small opportunity, because I would go for any small opportunity. I think it was a payback from St. Pete. So he did a great job.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio.
Q. You were really charging towards the end. How much did you feel pressure to try to win this race?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I just want to win so bad, you know. Unfortunately, we're not in contention for the championship. Last year, remember, I would like to be in the same position to try for it, to win a race.
Unfortunately, we have to be conservative thinking about points. But today I had no thinking points in my mind. It was just win, win, win. That's why I was like, I'm going for it. When I had an opportunity with the yellow, I'm going for it.
I guess Scott was on tippy toes. He knew I was coming through. He did an excellent job on the restart. From then on, it was a little hard to get since both of our cars are very, very similar.
Q. You seem to be able to out-brake Scott, particularly in turn 11. Was there ever an opportunity in those last few laps where you thought maybe you would go for it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, he was very good. He never put a wheel wrong. He was always leaving the corners very well, which I believe that's why outside impression was that I was approaching really good. Plus you have the reference of the guy in front.
But he was doing -- obviously, he was trying to get off the corner quick instead of trying to gain lap time or trying to gain distance. With that, I was just trying to find an opportunity as soon as he make a mistake. But only five laps, it was not much. Three laps, wasn't much. But that's all I could do.
Q. Now that Scott has the lead overall, the momentum, would you consider him the favorite to win the championship now?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, that's a good question. I don't know the difference between him and Dario. It doesn't matter right now. Both are really well on the road course and oval. Road course, basically you saw both in contention here to win a race.
I'm sure Dario will be very strong down there in Detroit, and also Scott, and myself, too. I guess you're gonna see again all those three or four guys battling again, with the only difference I don't have much to lose. On those last two races, I want to win as bad as anybody.
Q. When there's no cautions for so long in the race, does that break your rhythm, or do you think something is bound to happen?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Good question. It's actually the opposite. You coming in a zone because everybody is doing the same thing. Even if you push, you're being, what, a car, half a car. It's so difficult. That's what happened, you know. If you see, everybody was basically follow the leader.
The only restart we had, at least the first restart we had, you see a lot of action happen, people trying, going for it. We are so equal. Every car is very, very similar, especially the top six guys, that only if someone make a mistake. Today everybody was so well fit and prepare, it's very difficult to happen.
Even Danica was doing an extremely good job at the beginning of the race. I have to say it was tough. For me I'm glad that we had that opportunity to -- of the restart because we try to change the strategy, we try to make this race to turn around. But the yellow never came, so unfortunately we were unable to take advantage of it.
It was tough. It was a lot physically demanding. I don't know if because I had an opportunity to keep going, I felt -- I feel like I can go like 50 more laps, you know (laughter). But I had a lot of fun.
Q. Can you comment on the incident with Marco and Dario. If you had to assign blame, was someone to blame for that? Is that just racing?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's interesting. Surprise that Marco was behind me, and now you talking about could be me doing that strategy. But never mind, that's another thing.
To talk about that, it's hard for me. I was a little far away. I have to say I can't tell you who was wrong, who was right. Obviously I can give my opinion. If you leading the championship or things like that, you have to consider.
But in the same time, you know, Marco want to win a race. He won last year here. If he can do it again, he's going to go for it.
I just can't tell you what happened. The only opinion I'm giving is very, very plain, because it's hard for me to just point fingers. I was way far behind. I just saw actually dust. I'm like, Somebody went off? I guess so.
Q. You go from this course down to Belle Isle in Detroit. How much has that track changed? Who has an advantage, if anybody?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Good question. Hard to say, to be honest. Everybody's, like I said, seem to be very close to each other. Detroit bring me fantastic memories.
You know, that was the first time when I won a race, first time I climbed the fence. So it's a great place.
I can't wait to go back there. Obviously was a good result for us. Not what we were expecting. Well, we going to try to make one better spot over there.
Q. Since you're going to have some momentum coming out of here with the second place going to Detroit, is it easier being out of the points chase, the pressure is gone? Is it easier to have the mindset of having nothing to lose, grab a victory in one of these last few races before the end of the year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: This is the first time in terms of a road course, I remember 2005, I think last race, two races to go, we didn't have much to lose. But right now it's hard because you want to be in that situation. But I don't see the pressure. Even if you are in that situation, you know, right now I'm just going to go for it.
What makes less difficult, I would say, is if you have a small opportunity, you're not thinking twice when you're leading a championship, like last year for me. For example, when I saw Tony, like I'm going to go for it, because I don't have much to lose. That's why the move works.
Things like that, it might be a little bit easier. Other than that, you have to play safe.
Q. Mentally, do you race Dario and Scott differently, knowing they're in the points championship?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, man, not that I'm going to force something. I mean, that's not the point. But for sure if I'm in a situation that I saw a small window, that's why Scott was really smart. He never gave me that opportunity.
I saw Dario having trouble. He tried to make a move, but no. I'm gonna go for it. He kind of felt that.
So not that I'm gonna push or anything else, no. I'm going to race fair and square. But a small opportunity, if it happens, I'm not gonna back off.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you very much.
We're joined by Scott Dixon, his fourth win of the season. This is his third win of the season on road courses. It's the 10th win of his career. His win today puts him atop the championship points standings with 560; Dario Franchitti second with 556, Tony Kanaan third at 498; Wheldon and Hornish were mathematically eliminated from the championship race after today's results.
This is our first change at the top of the standings since Milwaukee, nine races ago. Scott actually takes over the championship points lead since he was atop the standings at Indianapolis back in May.
Scott, if you would, take us through your day.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, the whole weekend's been tough for us. I think it's the first time for us to have a Dallara chassis here. To be honest, qualifying, we really haven't got it sorted out.
AGR, looked like they had a bit more mechanical grip than us, especially power down off of a lot of the tight corners. We just couldn't figure that out. It's kind of strange because come the race, they seem to come back to us.
Today was very frustrating, especially having to deal with T.K. a lot. He was not playing fair at all. We were all warned in the drivers meetings about team tactics. I think IRL maybe was watching another race because it was definitely going on.
It was tough for us. We tried to figure out strategies to jump ahead. We did at some points. Just on cold tires we didn't have enough. T.K. sort of got us back.
Then towards the end, it was kind of ironic when, you know, Marco and Dario hit each other. I think Dario's car was damaged. I think we were a little bit better on cold tires and restarts anyway. It looked like he was trying to have to save fuel because he wasn't warming his tires up on that last restart. That just enabled us to have a really good go at him. He slipped up a little bit in two, we had the run going into three. Pretty much then, it was clean sailing.
The race was all about strategies. We were trying to save fuel early on. All kinds of people were trying to do the same things. Very hard to tell what was going on until sort of the last stint.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. When Dario had the damaged front wing, were you pretty confident at that point whether you got him in the first, second or third turn that he was pretty much a sitting duck?
SCOTT DIXON: It's always hard to tell because I've been in situations like that where you've damaged a car, you end up going bloody quicker. You know, I couldn't see the car obviously because it was in front of me. I didn't know what his wing was like. The team had obviously said that he had some right front damage or left front. I'm not sure actually. Must have been left front damage, damage to the front. That is going to slow you down.
But I think the problem with him was definitely warming his tires. He had to save the fuel from what our team was telling me, and it looked like he struggled just to really get going on that restart.
Q. I heard your team notify the IRL that they heard AGR tell Tony to hold you up. I know that made you frustrated to hear it. How was he doing it? What was he doing?
SCOTT DIXON: You mean, you could work those words out?
Q. I cleaned them up.
SCOTT DIXON: You know, he was just obviously slowing down. When we had clear laps and he was at speed, we'd be doing 77s. When they came across and told T.K. to, you know, slow down because Dario was getting into lap traffic, obviously started running in the 79s, almost two seconds a lap slower.
In the middle of the corner he was just crawling. You can't go anywhere. Off the line is very dirty. The only place you need to be quick here is out of the carrousel, so nobody can get a run into seven. It's the same going into 11.
You know, there were definitely two sections of a lap that he was making it very slow and very pronounced that he was trying to give Dario a gap. Of course, it's frustrating. If that's how it's going to go, it's just a bit sad really.
Q. The out-laps today during practically every stop were pretty intense. Could you talk a bit about those?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, the out-laps, you're pretty much watching your mirrors. It was almost you weren't watching in front of you. It was tough to try, by turn four or six, you kind of had the tires up to temperature.
The problem was that the car -- my car was very loose on new tires. I was definitely struggling with that. I think if Dario hadn't short-filled on that last one, I think we would have got him quite happily, but they definitely played a good strategy there.
But, yeah, it was very intense. You knew when you had to get out, you had to be standing, but it was very hard. You didn't want to spin out and lose all those kind of points. There was a lot of compromise going on, but it was very intense those first couple laps.
Q. You're known for keeping somewhat of a low profile. With that in mind, does it bother you at all that this victory might be overshadowed by that crash? Or do you prefer that?
SCOTT DIXON: It doesn't bother me whatsoever. We won the race and that's what matters. It shows on the points board. You know, I'm sure that's going to be a topic of a lot of segments on TV. I have no problem with that. I think we needed to do what we needed to do. It's all fine by me.
Q. Did you see the crash between Marco and Dario? In a case like that, is it anyone at fault?
SCOTT DIXON: That was kind of tough. You know, I think Marco had obviously thrown down some pretty good laps. We came in because we thought our tires were sort of at their end. We could probably go another couple laps on fuel.
The stint before that it really hurt us. T.K. sort of jumped back in front of us. I think if we pitted the next lap after he did, we would have jumped in quite comfortably, but we just started to slow down.
I could definitely see what happened. It was kind of one of those situations where, you know, Marco was coming out of the pits, Dario was at full speed. Dario probably felt, because Marco was his teammate, that he was obviously going to give him some room.
But I really don't think Marco knew he was there. It was just one of those things, coming out of the pits, you're trying to get out as fast as possible. Those kind of things happen.
Q. It appears that the team owner over there is upset at the guy who used to be leading the championship until today. When you kind of see something like that going on, your eyes have to be getting bigger. It only plays into your hands. How do you feel about all that?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, you know, it's good for us. Obviously we've got a lot of momentum out of the three in a row, then this last one. To be honest, the last two races they've had us covered. For some unknown reason we've still come out on top.
I think it's six races in a row we've earned more points than them. That is obviously going to cause a bit of questioning within the team and obviously a lot of stress. For us, we've just got to play as much as we can on that.
It's definitely tough for the amount of points they've lost over the course of those races. The more the merrier, to be honest.
Q. Considering all the frustration you were having on the track, four against two, how satisfying is this victory for you today?
SCOTT DIXON: It was big. You know, I think after last year we had a fair bit of unfinished business. Our car was very strong. I think we deserved to win last year. But, you know, you always have these problems. It's a problem, when you have a good weekend, you kind of think what's going to happen, what's going to go wrong. It sure did the last year.
I don't know. Like all of it's good, positive stuff. We've just got to try and build on it and move forward with it.
Q. You've been chasing Dario for weeks now. You're in the lead, albeit a slim one. How much does the strategy change now that you're playing from in front instead of from behind? Do you change the mindset at all since the lead is so slim?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think with the competition in the league it's very tough to sort of give anything up. You've really got to keep the same pressure on. We've got to keep the same mindset going into each weekend: trying to be the fastest we can, fastest of everyone, each practice session put as much pressure as we can on them.
You know, I think they may have let up at some points of the year because they did have quite a healthy lead. We've just got to try to go out and win. That's all we can do. I don't think we can change our strategy one bit.
Q. When you saw them get together, the way they raced you earlier, did you think they got what they deserved, karma? Does that enter your mind?
SCOTT DIXON: It sure did (laughter).
Q. You've never been one to kind of toot your own horn about your accomplishments. You swept the road courses. Personally, does that mean something to you?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, it means a lot to me. It's a hell of an accomplishment. I definitely wouldn't say I've done it by myself. The team have been a massive part of me getting these victories, not just on pit lane, but the R&D that they do, all the work. Everybody back at the workshop that make and prepare these cars definitely make it a lot easier for me.
You know, for me and for my little record book, how I feel about it, it's tremendous. But a lot of it definitely is owed to them.
Q. You've won a championship once before. How does this one feel now that you're in a real battle to try to win it again?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, obviously we're working on trying to win a second. It feels a lot different this time around. I think in 2003, it was a bit of a surprise, the performance that we had going out winning the first race, having three victories, then I think five or six DNFs. It was a very different season.
This year, if you had that situation, you wouldn't be even in the top five. It's definitely a lot more on the edge this year, a lot more hectic. I think the fact that everybody has the same car, the same engine, makes it very different.
I think in '03, we had a performance gain with Toyota. Same for the guys that won in '04 and '05 with the Honda.
This is definitely a more gratifying fight, definitely more on the edge, a lot more tougher.
Q. I noticed a magazine article where you were interviewed by your girlfriend, described you as smiling more, being happier. On the outside, do you feel like you have this massive personality change?
SCOTT DIXON: No, not really. You know, I guess I have changed a lot. I think Emma has been a great friend and definitely we have a great relationship. We're obviously getting married in February. I think she has changed me a bit. Everybody says it's for the positive. Definitely must be a good thing (laughter).
But, no, she's a fantastic girl. She's brought a different side out of me. That's what was meant to happen.
Q. How has she changed you?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. It's just me. I'm probably a little more outgoing. She's definitely -- being English, they like to talk. She's very, very outgoing.
But, no, she's just very personable. That's changed the views. I think a lot of ways, maybe outlook on life, all kinds of stuff. It's just been -- I don't know, I guess good things have rubbed off of her onto me.
Q. You keep talking about how difficult it is for your team to get a handle on the Dallara chassis. Here you've won all three road courses in a Dallara chassis where you were using the Panoz before. Has it really been that difficult?
SCOTT DIXON: I think I said, you know, we've struggled with getting the speed out of it in qualifying. I think our best qualifying this year was probably second. Did we have a second? I'm not sure. But we had some poles and stuff in the G Force. We sort of got into a rhythm with that car.
After three or four years with that, now you're competing against teams that have had this car up to five years now, four years. It's making it very tough.
You're only looking for a few 10ths here and there. That's something we need to work on over the next few tests, hopefully in the off-season. You know, the race car, I'm very happy. The race, they sort of come back to us a bit.
Q. Last year you were kind of in a gentlemenly type fight with the Penske drivers. Ganassi and Penske drivers fight each other fair. Do you feel this year AGR has brought a gang-fight mentality with them? It seems like four against one out there.
SCOTT DIXON: Unfortunately, Dan's had kind of a rough run on the road courses. Unfortunately, again, that seems to be where AGR is very strong. Three of them in front of me in this race, one closely behind.
Then Mid-Ohio, you had all four of them in front of us after qualifying. It kind of has been four on one. Luckily at Mid-Ohio they all sort of took each other out, which was a big help. Here, you know, that made our day much better, them working together.
But that's why they have four cars. That's the advantage they have. We're working very hard to try and help Dan get a lot better. Just I think the guy's obviously quick. And then the warmups this morning, I think it was a 10th off me, fifth overall. In the warmup I was not happy with my car. He was not bad with his car, but, I was like, Dude, you need to do that stuff on Saturday for qualifying.
The team's going to work on that. He's been a great teammate this year and definitely helping me tremendously.
Q. Next is Detroit, a new course, then Chicago. What are your expectations for those two races?
SCOTT DIXON: Detroit's kind of gonna to be a bit of Australian unknown. I think our emphasis is probably going to be on qualifying well. It looks like it's a circuit that they ran in '96 or '97. Maybe people like T.K. and Dario have been there in Champ Car.
I did the last revised circuit in 2001, but it was slightly different through the mid part there. So I think some of us are going to have a little bit of an advantage maybe in the first practice. Our test last week at Sebring was sort of more in line with trying to find grip on bumpy circuits. That's for Detroit.
Hopefully we feel a little better with general grip and qualifying at Detroit, because I think that's going to be big.
Unfortunately I think the three guys or four guys left in the championship are going to be very tough on both those circuits.
Q. You were getting a lot of pressure from Helio Castroneves at the finish. Did he actually tap you in the last couple laps?
SCOTT DIXON: No. I think we may have hit each other sort of about 20 laps to go going into seven. Nothing towards the end. I know he was very good under brakes going into 11. For the first few laps, the first sort of 10 or 15 laps, looked like he was trying to sort of hit T.K. every lap.
He was definitely pushing very hard. Luckily enough I think we just had sort of enough grip to get out of nine to get into a run into 11 that he wasn't too close. We were very loose on the last stint. I was glad that last stint was quite short.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, thank you very much. Congratulations.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you very much.
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