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August 9, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin after a very thrilling Meijer 300 here at the Kentucky Speedway, just a couple quick statistical notes. Scott Dixon increases his points lead to 78 points over Helio Castroneves. Marco Andretti at 311 points is just a few tallies behind Danica Patrick after a good run; Helio at 480 points.
By the way, a couple of very interesting statistics about tonight. Both Scott and Helio have recorded 12 Top-5 finishes. This is a great statistic, really, but I suspect Helio isn't happy: He's finished second for the seventh time this season, which is a great year any way you slice it.
And Marco has had just a very, very good year. He finished in six of the Top-5 for the sixth time in 2008 and so it's been a very solid performance.
Helio, I'll begin with you. Obviously you tried the pit strategy there, and I guess there were questions right after the bat. Did you have to go into fuel conservation mode immediately for the rest of that stint, or were you in fuel danger at the end? Tell us about the late stages of the race.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's funny, Scott Dixon says to me: "Man every time I win, you finish second."
I say, "Well, every time I finish second, you finish first. We've got to change that. You've got to finish behind a little bit and let me win."
At the beginning of the race, obviously we tried everything. We noticed that our car was not handling very well. We didn't have enough speed. So I was just trying to find a partner, you know to, keep carrying me or at least keep me with a good contact with the lead pack.
On the pit stops, we tried to make some changes and tried to do something crazy with the car, you know, try everything to make sure that the car gave some speed because it's really difficult. I had no idea why we could not go faster.
We got an opportunity to play a strategy. It wasn't very -- not high, to be honest, and we tried for Team Hendrick, and whenever we came in, right away, I just tried. I knew Mutoh was on the same strategy on me except one lap early. He definitely had a fast car. So I said, I'm just going to stay behind him.
Somehow during the traffic, I was able to pass some cars, and right away, I just want to make sure that I try to be connected with the lead pack. And then all of the sudden it was different cars, which I'm in slot one and letting them by and trying to stay a few behind those guys, and all of a sudden I see myself running by myself.
I didn't have no idea again how many laps to go until when I ask -- when I saw Scott coming right behind me to lap me. And unfortunately, I'm in a battle championship, you know, I was trying everything to keep him behind and they pitted right away, and right after that, I was really saving a lot of fuel, like lifting up quite a lot, just letting everybody pass. And then at one point, they are like, listen, you've got to go, because they have got to pass you, and I didn't know how many laps, and finally I downshift and I get some speed.
Honestly, it was just enough to finish the race, because until that point, when I was going to turn three, I'm like, "Finally, I'm going to win a race, I can't believe it!"
And all my thoughts on that on turn four changed and I went down the hill. Obviously at that point I was just trying to finish, and I just saw Scott pass me and I saw a bunch of cars pass me and I'm like, "I can't believe it."
But I was very happy because I would have finished sixth or eighth or tenth, and with a second place, it's very good. The championship, it ain't over yet. Still continue working hard. Hopefully next race.
THE MODERATOR: We chatted privately as you came in before Helio, I suspect mixed emotions. I saw you right off the start, you were aggressive right at the very beginning, you drove a great race and were able to get around Scott, and you had a great race car and obviously you two were in contention clearly to win the entire race. So sitting here now with a third place, a podium finish, is the feeling one of a good feeling, is it a disappointed feeling? Where is it at right now?
MARCO ANDRETTI: A little of both. Obviously we've got to be happy with the third, especially with the season eve had, we've got to take it.
I think tonight was a night we had one of the cars to win. I think Dixon was probably the other one. But you know, we tried to play traffic as bet we could. I was turned down behind him trying to work with him to pull away, and then as soon as I saw traffic, slower traffic ahead, I went to position one and committed to the outside and held him low, and then we were able to overtake him twice, but obviously it didn't pay off.
I think we have to take it, but you know, we have to take advantage of days and races where we have the car to win, and doesn't come that often in the IndyCar Series, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: I want to ask you one more thing. You over took him and there was a pit stop and you came back and you were behind him again and I was thinking, the psyche of a driver who was worked lap after lap after lap to get around this guy, and here you come back and you've got to start all over again. That's got to be a bit frustrating.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, a bit disappointed especially for how much fuel I was conserving behind him, and coming down the straightaway, everything was looking good until then. Good race.
Q. Helio, you still have a lot of points possible with a few races left, but I have the impression you were as far back as maybe 15th or so. I know your car wasn't handling that well, I was listening on the radio, but how did you get to second again you didn't pass cars, it was on pit stop strategy?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, it was towards the end. I decided to pit in the yellow where everybody had to pit on green and that's where we made a lot of position. While everyone was still in the pits, I was still on the track, so that's are where he paid it happen.
The strategy was made by Cindric, and I was five miles an hour slower than the leaders, and that just proves that we were saving a lot of fuel. Obviously to finish the race, it's pretty much like Japan. A flashback of Japan came to my mind when I was leading; for ten laps, I did not save enough fuel. I think the circumstances here were a little bit difficult than Japan, but again, I was committed this time and obviously if a yellow would come or something like that, we would be able to stay right in front. But we might not be able to finish in the position that we did.
So now we are in a position of the championship that we need to take chances to win the race, this weekend especially because the Ganassi team seems to be really, really fast. And when we notice that we didn't have a chance, not even to be in the Top-6, sometimes you've got to take chances, and solid chance, not ridiculous, crazy chance, and that's what we did.
Q. Marco, with three races to go and with the championship guys all kind of ahead of you, do you kind of just put all caution aside and just do whatever it takes to get a W?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, but obviously you've got to be as sensible as possible and try to help my teammates who might be in contention, and obviously we'll be going for the victory, as is probably 27 other guys.
Obviously maybe take a couple more chances because not much more to lose, but it would be nice to climb up a little bit in the standings. I don't know where I am now, but you know, after a year like that, it would be nice to finish in the Top-5, anyway.
Q. Talk about with you being right on the tail of Dixon, you could get there, but you couldn't get ahead; what do you do? What do you do to try to get that little oomph figured around?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Just play traffic, because obviously with his speed, and he's able to just run flat-out along the bottom of the racetrack, you're not really going to overtake, if there's nobody really ahead of you.
So you know, I knew as soon as I saw traffic, I just put myself on the outside of him so at least his spotter would see that I'm there so that he really had nowhere to go; and he was slow and he had the dirty air from the traffic and he had to get out of it and we went around. Just try to play traffic as smart as possible. There's no way that you can pass a car with that much speed, for sure.
Q. They said earlier in practice yesterday and so forth that coming in turn two, it's bumpy, and the higher up you go, the worse it is. You were running half a leg I think ahead of him. Was the bump on turn two, was that causing you any problems?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, you definitely felt it, but you have to be mindful of it before you go in and position your car where you think you need it before you hit it, because you do feel it, for sure.
That's something that you work on, you know, the whole weekend trying to make your car feel good over the bump, and I think we did a decent job. I think we were really good in traffic and we were able to run the high line. I tried a couple of times in turn three, but there wasn't much grip on the high line over there, especially three-wide, and I wouldn't recommend that.
I still have to talk to my IPS boys and tell him not to do that, but I tried, especially outside of Danica on one lap and almost hit the wall. We were trying.
Q. Describe the sinking feeling that you must have had whenever you had that little cough there through turn four.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have to describe the bold feelings, that when I was going into turn three, I thought, "I got it!" Like I'm finally going to win this race, or a race. And all of a sudden I'm coming out of turn four, all of a sudden the car just coughed. And my reaction at that time, it was like "No!" But I need to still finish the race. I didn't want the car to stop right away. I didn't know how many cars was behind Dixon and Marco. I just want to keep finish the race as high as I could. As soon as I coughed, try to coast and lift it and make sure that it keep collecting fuel.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Couldn't have lifted a bit more? (Laughter).
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Trust me, man, I did everything I can at least to finish. But it was just enough to finish second, but not enough to finish first, which it was -- it was mixed feelings of disappointment, but for that result, and the car we had, it was a good result.
Q. Marco, I'm sure you did everything you could to get by Dixon, and got to help this guy out a little bit so you can get a win once in a while. You didn't see this I'm sure from the track, but those little white towels they gave to all the fans, and every time you got close to Dixon they were spinning them in the grandstands waving you on. I think you said this; that Dixon kept his car low, which made you go around him on the outside. Was your car good everywhere on the track, like all the lanes?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think it was. Like if I was forced low, I was able to stay flat-out on the bottom. If I had just gotten in the track position, I don't think anybody was going to come around me. So that's why we are a little bummed, because I think we might have had the car to win.
But yeah, like especially in traffic, I think I felt definitely stronger than the majority of my competitors and I could put my car pretty much where I wanted, and that was the goal going into the race.
Q. Helio, this is a tough question to ask. This has been the most difficult year I think in your racing life. All of the seconds, you're going good, but you can't get the win. How does that play with your head?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's not difficult actually. I'm extremely happy because we're still in the chase for this championship.
I would say if it would be any other different circumstances rights now, and with my finish, even not winning the race, I would probably be leading a championship.
Hey, you've just got to say that Scott, as well, is having a fantastic year. So in my mind, this is probably one of the first races that we did not have the car that to be right there with those guys.
But we took chances and chances are supposed to -- are good risk chances, not just like crazy ones, and hey, I'm sure -- I'm not letting this thing bother me. I mean, how many great drivers were with a long time -- and as long as I've been competing up there and as long as I've been in this chase for this championship, and as long as we've got a chance, I'm going to be happy.
Q. Helio, you keep posting these good results. What is it going to take to catch Scott over these next three races?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think I'm going to hire someone in Indianapolis to break his leg, because that's probably what -- (Laughter) no, just joking. If it happens, it's not me! I'm not that kind of person. I want to compete on the track.
But the point is, you know, the whole thing is getting it right. Sometimes when they take chance, like in Nashville for example, even when they make a mistake, they finish in the Top-10; things like that. Obviously Edmonton, we had a fantastic car and they beat us in the pit.
So little things like that, believe it or not, it stopping us from winning a race, and it's benefitting the Team Ganassi to win a race. As you can see, both cars are really competitive. Wheldon, as well, but there is only one thing going right for one car only and that's Scott Dixon, and unfortunately for me, it not happening.
So, like he said, every time he wins, I finish second. Unfortunately every time I finish second, he's winning, too.
THE MODERATOR: 12 Top-5s, heck of a year and headed to Sonoma where this guy has a career victory. Congratulations to both of you.
Sometimes you're in the zone and you have the world by the tail, and this it guy certainly does at the moment. I think you're well aware that with his sixth victory he ties his teammate Dan Wheldon for a season number of victories with six, 16th in his career. He extends his point lead by 78 points. It's just been a remarkable ride for Scott Dixon, and Scott, I would imagine that there's times that you have to pinch yourself and just say, my gosh, what a year this is.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think it's definitely circumstances of when, it's your year, things just seem to go your way. Definitely races like Nashville and here tonight, we maybe didn't have the best strategy, and guys like Penske and Helio pulled up a pretty big one there and had us definitely surprised.
We thought we knew what they were up to, but obviously not as much as -- or not as quick as they were going to be and as close as it was for the last lap.
It was a tough night. Definitely had a lot of fun racing with Marco. He was helping me out a lot there, and I kind of got pressed down on the bottom with a lot of traffic throughout the night which moved us back a few spots occasionally.
To be honest, it was good to try to save some fuel. All in all, pretty uneventful night apart from the strategy right at the end. And I'm sure the fans were definitely standing on their tippy-toes watching that one, so a good way to finish it off.
THE MODERATOR: For the record, there was racing all over tonight in the Meijer 300 tonight. It was spectacular.
Q. The stakes might not have been as high as last year at Chicagoland, but was it as reminiscent as could you get with a role reversal?
SCOTT DIXON: It definitely was, and I spoke with Dario in one of the areas on the phone and I said, "That view is pretty sweet," coming through turn three and turn four; and seeing Helio run out of gas and blowing by him with a few hundred feet to go was pretty special. I must say, it's definitely nice to be in that position.
Q. When Marco got past you the first time, was that just you having to check up with traffic and lose momentum? You dropped back like three places.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I don't know, unfortunately, it was one of the Conquest cars, he was on the bottom, and going into one, my spotter was like: "Outside, he's on your corner, you can probably move up: But he had been helping me all night. I didn't want to screw him. I didn't want to run him wide and maybe have the two of us touch. So it was an easy situation to maybe got out of the gas a little bit. Unfortunately I think the Conquest car was coming in the pits, as well, so he slowed down a lot. I think I had to go down the fourth gear where I had been running in six, so it was a bit of a mess for a few seconds and we were safe and through there and no problems and we continued on.
I think we needed speed to catch the leaders if we needed to anyway, and it worked out fine.
Q. Were you able to run high, you ran most of the race down on the white line, and I was listening on the IMS radio and Davey thought that perhaps Marco could not run down, and now he said he could have run anywhere. Could you run anywhere and just decide to stay low and make him pass you on the high side?
SCOTT DIXON: I think for us and the situation we were running, maybe a shorter gear was saving some fuel. I think at that point, the shorter line was definitely the best way. And you might not have the momentum that the guys on the top side do, but I definitely passed -- especially earlier on, a lot of traffic on the high side, flat-out it was no problem. We had a great car that was very consistent and had a lot of grip. The track did a good job of making sure when they smoothed the track out, they did on all three lanes and the grip was pretty efficient throughout.
I think just being up front when you have somebody pushing you, they want to use the sort of, up-half-a-line, so they can keep pushing you along, and it's just courteous I guess to stay on the bottom and let them push you.
Q. Maybe about the middle of the race and after Marco passed you, even at some point Vitor was ahead of you, and I'm not sure if Dan got ahead of you, seemed like you fell back a little bit; I don't know if you lost the draft, but was that intentional or were you just saving fuel at that point?
SCOTT DIXON: I think that might have been the same circumstance with Conquest car. You know, it didn't really bother me at the time. The team, the spotter definitely was jumping on the radio like, "Keep going, keep going," and we're flying; sit back here and try to save a bit more fuel. And I think this that situation, throughout the night we ended up going a lap or two longer than most people when we were going a full stint.
I never had too many moments -- one or two early on in the race, and I just tried to stay between half the lanes, and I caught, I don't know, a bit of a line or something and got a bit sideways, but throughout the night, the car was fine in any three of the lanes.
Q. Six wins now, three races to go, do you feel like the championship is closer to your possession?
SCOTT DIXON: I definitely think it's closer. You know, obviously with a 78-point lead now, I think it's pretty healthy, but as you can see tonight anything can happen. Helio could quite easily have gained on us and made it more of a fight.
So definitely with Sonoma and Chicago and Belle Isle, tracks that those guys are very good at, as well, and so we are going to make sure we don't lose too many points. But it would be nice to gain a couple on Helio in Sonoma and maybe we only need 82 points or something to have it sewn up by the end. That would be nice, but all reality, I think we'll be racing almost till the last race.
Q. We've pretty much seen every title contender and leader in the past couple of years have a little bit of a slump or a little bit of a stretch of the season where they are not running very well. We saw it happen with Dario last year with Michigan and here, and you haven't really had that this season. How surprising is that to you that even your worst finishes aren't bad at all?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, we've had some pretty low moments this year, definitely, like at Watkins Glen, that was a reality check and probably a good kick up the bum. Yeah, definitely, those you try and work off, and as consistency goes, yeah, you're right, and I think you look at even the guys that are in the championship, too, look at Helio, this is probably his seventh second place or sixth second place this year.
So consistency, and definitely wins is what it takes to win the championship. We have won six races, and, you know, they're still only 78 points behind us, and with three races to go, it just shows you what you need to do to win these championships at the moment; whereas when I won in '03, I won three races and had six DNS. It's a strange thing.
But it's been a strong year, I think for myself and for the team, but it's what we knew we had to do to win.
Q. Was there any talk between you and your crew about Helio's fuel situation and how close he might be?
SCOTT DIXON: They didn't mention Helio, or they didn't single Helio out. They said, you know, under yellow, wow, there's like three guys that are trying that strategy, and we all knew what it was. It was going to be similar circumstances so what happened in Japan, people running lower to try to get to the end.
I think we kind of knew what he was doing, and when I tried to pass him, obviously he didn't want me to go by and ran me wide on one and two; and next time he tried to run me off the grass going down the back stretch. They were fighting me pretty hard, and I would be doing the same thing if I were in those situations going for a win.
I didn't think coming out of the grass that we had enough to win it, and definitely took him having a problem there in four with the fuel to finally pass him.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned the battle with Helio pushing you down on the grass and very close wheel-to-wheel action with Marco; Vitor was right there. If we would have been in the last stages of the lap and those two guys were all over you, would there have been any discussion in your mind or your team's, let them go, finish third, the championship is the big prize?
SCOTT DIXON: No, you know, I respect those guys, and to be honest when you're on the bottom, it's a pretty easy scenario. You can't really go anywhere and all they can do is go around you. I think it depends. Those guys have had not a bad year, but definitely want to go for the race wins, and definitely especially with Vitor, and he's never had very many second places and a victory. They are pushing pretty hard and it's good to see the results, and it's pretty amazing seeing Panther, when they are beating teams like AGR and Penske. In those situations, you never really know until you get to it. You'll maybe think about it with a lap or two to go, but it's hard to tell.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on a great race and a great year.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts