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July 5, 2008
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
THE MODERATOR: (Introduction of Scott Dixon off microphone.)
SCOTT DIXON: It's a long qualifying session. I guess in the end it didn't work out too bad for us. We struggled in the first session. I just had no front grip. I couldn't turn the car.
The second session wasn't too bad. And then our last one there in Q3, or whatever we want to call it, the gearbox kept locking up so we had to go to manual mode, which was a bit of a pain. I think twice it stopped. Actually I tried going back to auto again.
That was one of the things that we had out there. But ultimately I think the car's pretty decent. I think we had a little bit more in it. I don't know if we had enough for pole. Those guys were pretty quick out there. But I still believe we got a pretty good car for the race.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, for the most part it looked like you had a pretty good racecar most of the weekend. Tell us about that.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, we changed the car a lot overnight to today. It was a massive improvement. We just went with what worked with me and the car rather than going with the team's other data. Went with it and it went great. We made the car better and better over the sessions. We kind of snuck in there. I mean, we were like sixth in the first one, sixth in the second one. Like Scott was saying, it's really long.
By the last lap on that last qualifying session, you're on the ragged edge just desperate for every half a 10th. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it today. That's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Tony Kanaan, you're the only driver to make all of the Firestone Fast Six competitions. That's quite an accomplishment in and of itself. Congratulations.
TONY KANAAN: Quite a consolation for today, I guess. Yeah, we made it. I think, obviously, it doesn't count. It's just for the record. But me and Helio, we were the only two guys that made all of them, then Helio had the misfortune not to make it. It makes me feel bad.
Like Scott said, it was a long qualifying, especially, you know, the competition the way it is. So we struggled a little bit with the setup as well. I think we had a better car in Q1 and Q2. We tried to make a dramatic change just to see, and it did not work out for us.
THE MODERATOR: Oriol Servia, very solid racecar today. Didn't come as a huge surprise that you got in the final six. Congratulations on the start of a very good week.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, thank you. I'm happy. I'm happy. And I think, you know, the team's done a great job, to be honest. I thought Will for sure was going to be in the top six also. To put both cars in the top six just shows how the team's working and how we're catching up on ovals, but that we still haven't forgot it on road courses. I'm very happy, very pleased.
When I did my lap, I think it was my third lap or fourth lap, and Jimmy on the radio told me I was at that point 1/10th and 3/10ths off the pole. I thought I still had a couple of 10ths in the car. I ran wide in turn one and I broke the front wing, had too much understeer.
But the car was really good. So I'm very happy, especially when I was like 15 in the morning and we kind of changed up a little bit the car and we made the right choices. So I'm very happy.
THE MODERATOR: Justin Wilson, I'm trying to read your body language. You were almost there. So is the feeling one of satisfaction or right now one of disappointment?
JUSTIN WILSON: A little bit of both because, you know, to come back in the pits, get out the car, see the timing, go from first to second by a couple of hundredths, that's quite frustrating. But at the same time I'm very pleased with the performance we had in qualifying and we had this weekend, considering, you know, we came straight to this track completely blind. We haven't tested here. We haven't done any running. We still haven't tested on a road course.
I think the team's done a fantastic job. I'm just very excited at being able to challenge for the pole position. My car was working really well. There was a couple of times on the last lap where I knew I had to pull something out. I think three times I thought I'd put it in the wall. But fortunately the McDonald's car was gripping well, hanging on. I was just able to get back on the power. Closed my eyes on a few of the exits.
THE MODERATOR: From the chuckles from the other guys, sounds likes almost going into the wall might have been a universal experience there, as well. We have a variety of drivers here. They've worked very hard. We'll take some questions and get them in and out of here as soon as we can.
Q. Scott or Tony or any of you want to chime in on this. There's some pretty fast guys that are starting way back in the pack, including Helio, Will Power, some of those guys. How do you see their charge to try to come through here and how difficult is it going to be for somebody starting so far back to get back up to where you guys are?
TONY KANAAN: I don't know. I think pit strategy, for sure. I mean, it's a hard track to pass. They might make a few moves in the beginning. But you might see them trying a different strategy there. I mean, I think in Helio's position, you have nothing to lose really.
It's going to be exciting. Like you said, you have fast guys everywhere, all over the place. It will make it exciting for the fans.
THE MODERATOR: I want to point the new announcement we've made about Izod. I understand there's going to be a 60-by-80 billboard of Rahal Letterman Racing driver Ryan Hunter-Reay in Times Square New York this week. I just wasn't available, Ryan, so congratulations to you. That's going to be pretty cool, though.
TONY KANAAN: Can I have your autograph?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Tony, I'll get you the autograph.
It's a good first weekend, too, that way, the partnership with Izod. You know, it's an American brand. You know, I'm an American kid racing on July 4th weekend. It's an American thing. It's pretty cool. Having a blast doing it. I think it's going to be a good future.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions.
Q. Scott, you all have said this is a tough track to pass on. Starting fourth, going for a fourth straight win, how tough is it going to be for the guys up front to be passing as well as the guys in the back?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I think as tracks goes, it's probably one of the easiest ones to pass at. You've got long straights. If you trim out, you can pass people on the straights. We've done it in the past. Other people have done it to us in the past. If you're starting way back, that gives you the first option to take the strategy. Definitely many times it's almost worked out here at this place with track conditions that we've had and weather conditions that we've had.
So, you know, I think it's always difficult to pass guys that are similar speed as you. But, you know, if you're starting back, you can probably make a few early gains on the people back there.
It's always tough to pass. But I think this track is probably one of those circuits that makes it at least doable.
Q. Justin, you said you're new to the track here. Are you getting familiar with the nuances or are there still surprises for you as you're going out because now you're going to have most of the field behind you tomorrow?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I think we're getting used to it quite quickly. There's always things left to learn. But I don't think there's big chunks left.
You know, it's just a case of adapting to your car at that specific time throughout the run you're going to do. And the slightest little change of the setup makes a huge difference because the speed's so high.
So every time you go out after you've made a small change, you really feel it and have to change your style to suit the car again.
Q. Tony, from the start, you've always run well here. You've always been fast, very consistent. Are you able to pinpoint, though, what's been missing as far as breaking through and winning here?
TONY KANAAN: Well, it's tough to say what's missing. I mean, the way the races are these days, you never know what's going to happen to you. I think, you know, we had competitive cars. I started with Helio in the front row one year, and then it rained, then it started to get dry, we got in the wrong strategy at the time. All the other years we just didn't have quite as good a car as Scott and Helio.
You know, that's the way it is when you go to a road course. It's tough to get it quite right. And this track, it's very particular on setups. I mean, if you see the way some of us struggled today, we had a car that I'm pretty sure Scott was quite surprised when he had that amount of understeer on the first session, and so was I. It changes so much that, you know, it only goes by -- you know, obviously you've got to try to make the best of it. But the way the condition of the track is going to be sometimes is going to suit you, sometimes it's going to suit somebody else.
Q. Where do you think Scott is beating everybody here?
TONY KANAAN: I guess the one that is beating everybody here is Briscoe. Scott has won the last three years. I think he's been strong. Last year it was kind of a shame I think, you know, Helio kind of gave us a better position by crashing. But he's been in a position to win. I think by watching, this is kind of a track that you have to have an oversteer car to be fast. Watching his car the last two days, I see more opposite (indiscernible) than anything else. I would probably say that's probably been the secret around.
Q. Justin, at what point this weekend did you know you had a car that could challenge for the pole or at least the Fast Six?
JUSTIN WILSON: I think first qualifying (laughter).
No, we've been pretty quick in the practice sessions. We felt we were capable. But when it came down to it, we weren't quite there. And I said to the guys, I'm really not sure where the next chunk of time's gonna come from. I don't know how to get from this sixth, seventh area to first and second.
You know, my engineer, Mike Talbott, did a great job. He made some real subtle changes. Went out, it helped everywhere around the track. The first couple laps it was really loose, like you heard already. I nearly pitted and said, I can't drive it. But I stuck with it and it came good. It was fast. That was in the second session of qualifying that I was pretty pleased with the car at the end.
Q. The drivers from Champ Car, you used to have a little button that you could push to get some extra speed. Do you miss that?
ORIOL SERVIA: We're going to miss that tomorrow, yeah. I think the 'push to pass' was a great thing we had in Champ Car for us and for the fans. Hopefully in a place like this, you know, we're gonna see enough overtaking.
But, yeah, it's something I think we're gonna miss. I hope myself that in the future we can have it here, too.
THE MODERATOR: I take that as an agreement, Justin?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, not much more to add. It was a lot of fun. It was another part of the strategy that you could use and the driver had a tool in the race to make a pass happen. With open-wheel cars, it's not easy to make a run when everyone is driving as well as they are. It just helps you change your strategy slightly.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Let's excuse those five drivers. Congratulations, gentlemen, for making the Firestone Fast Six.
Ryan Briscoe, second career pole for the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. He also sat on the pole at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. This makes one more time that Team Penske has set on the pole here at Watkins Glen International. Helio Castroneves had a string of three in a row. This marks the 171st pole in Indy style competition for Penske Racing. That's quite a legacy, indeed.
Ryan Briscoe, you were the first to jump down, if I remember, in the 1 minute 29 second in terms of elapsed time. Moved to the top. Justin Wilson got up there and posted a pretty big number. Pulled it out in the end. Congratulations.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, thanks. It was great to see Justin doing so well and getting right up there.
You know, my car, we made some changes overnight, nothing big, but enough where I was able to carry more speed through the corners today. That makes a big difference, having momentum around this circuit.
So we made some nice gains overnight. Just been tweaking it a little bit as we went on today. The track has been changing a little bit as it's gotten warmer. So just been chasing it a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: You got a monkey off your back with that big victory in Milwaukee. That had to feel great. Also to get a pole position for Penske Racing on a road course also has to be another step in a positive direction for a relationship with a very good team.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, step by step, you know, trying to get myself well-fitted within the team, it's been great. The whole team is just fantastic. I'm feeling right at home there.
Just really excited to be here in Watkins Glen. I love this circuit. It's one of my favorites from around the world. You know, I'm having a lot of fun around here.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Ryan Briscoe.
Q. I think it was your last lap that you did in qualifying to take the pole. Did you know that was it, that was going to knock him off?
RYAN BRISCOE: If my dash was accurate, I could see -- I haven't actually seen the official timing, but I think I saw I was 3/100ths of a second under Justin's time. I started that lap and actually it was about a 10th slower than I had been in the first sector. They came on the radio and said, You just jumped down to P2 and told me what P1 time was.
I knew that was the last lap. So I just sucked it in. Pretty much had to almost, you know, slow it down a bit to go faster because I'd been overdriving a little bit and just going a bit wide around the fast bends.
I just slowed it up a little bit and I could see my splits were getting quicker. So close. I was expecting it to be close going into the session. But to come down to the last lap, that was nice for me.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about you're starting first, your teammate is starting last, how basically you'll see the team splitting the pit stop strategy to keep you guys on two different things to try to get you both up front?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, I'm sure Tim Cindric will work his magic as usual. I wouldn't be surprised to be racing with Helio partway into the race. With these races, such long laps and so on, I've often seen at this track different strategies, pit strategies. I'm sure they'll do whatever it takes to give themselves a shot at being at the front at the end of the race.
But it's tough, especially with 26 cars. I'm very happy to be at the other end of the field. I think it just makes life a little bit easier, you know, starting the race.
Q. Tomorrow, you're obviously going to have to defend well. Where do you see some overtaking points, what parts of the track?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I think as Justin mentioned, it's difficult to get a run on guys when everyone is driving so well. But I think as tires start to go off, you know, we'll see different cars starting to handle a bit differently. That's where the passing will probably start.
You know, at the start, obviously when everyone's close, it's a very long back straight, and there could be some passing into the Bus Stop. Always turn one is a typical place if someone gets off the last corner quick.
But it's a little bit difficult around this track. But, really, it's going to come down to not making mistakes and coming off the corners well.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thank you.
End of FastScripts