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August 30, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Helio, talk about your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We have a great car, you know. I knew this was going to be between Scott and I. Unfortunately, the times that you see out there does not represent what we think it is in all our times. But it will be very close between both of us.
On the second round I decided to predict a little bit what the track might have with the thicker tires, and we made some change, very small change. But those changes were enough to unfortunately make the car a little bit difficult and loose.
So with that, we did about three laps in 3 and 4 or 2, which was not very good. We used to do that on old tires. We went back right away. We changed and went back out there. That change, definitely it proved that was bad. So we were faster all the time.
But, unfortunately, when we get to the small, the slower section 4, 5 and 6, the car just lost the edge on the tire for it to turn quick. And, unfortunately, that edge it was enough to make the gap between Scott and I.
So I really tried. I was pushing as hard as I could, but, unfortunately, we couldn't be able to put a better lap. So, okay. Second is not bad. Actually, it's pretty good. And we're going to try to do everything we can to win the race tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Starting third and now joining us, Oriol Servia. Oriol, why don't we get your thoughts on your run out there this afternoon.
ORIOL SERVIA: This place, I don't know if it was easy for him, but I always find that here you have to push so hard, so hard in qualifying. And I did, you know, every time.
I find this qualifying format really amazing. It really asks a lot from the drivers. I mean, if you're a driver, you don't understand how much we have to push how many times. Usually in qualifying you always find that extra magic from somewhere. Well, here you have to do it two sets per tire per segment. So you're really, really pushing it so hard in the end in the last segment.
You know, basically you have to keep the tires under pressure. The one lap wonder, you know, I'm just really happy. Really happy to be able to put it together.
Obviously we didn't have enough for Scott at all. It was deep. I don't know how he did that lap. But I'm just really happy for the team to be first again, and to be showing that we're closer and closer to the big guy.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We have two other drivers joining us here now, too, so we'll just move right into them. Starting 4th will be Justin Wilson. Starting 6th will be Graham Rahal. Justin, why don't we start with you, and if you would, talk about your run out there.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yes, thank you. Just glad to make it this far. It's quite eventful. The first qualifying session there were a lot of yellows. I just never got a lap time in.
You know, I think we had one opportunity right at the end to scrape through by a couple of hundredths. It was just nerve-racking all the way, and to make it to the final six was good.
But, you know, the car was working well. I was very pleased. And I thought I was going into the final six, I was hoping that the McDonald's car was going to be good enough for the pole. But Scott sets it up. I just couldn't quite get my car to hook it up. Couldn't quite feel the limit, feel the bite. I'm just happy with what we've got. I think we've got a good race car for tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, how about your run out there?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Overall I think it was a pretty good day for us. First time in the top six, so we're pretty happy about that. I think as a team we felt this was a great opportunity for us to be competitive.
Obviously, at St. Pete, Justin and myself were pretty quick. So we felt being back in the street course would play into our hands. Certainly today kind of proved that.
It was a bit of a trying week up to this point. We started out, obviously, yesterday morning the car was pretty good. It seems like we could never quite back to that point. But especially the second round in qualifying today, my car was really good. And we were able to put a pretty quick lap time in, and, unfortunately, could never match it again. But, yeah, overall it was a pretty good day.
Q. Helio, is it almost too much to expect a repeat performance from last week or from Scott? Because basically he thought that the whole team went into a control defense last week but didn't really work out well. How much is that going to affect? Obviously, you're going to approach the race you are. But is it too much to think that Scott's going to have a repeat performance of last week?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know. No question it was a wake-up call for those guys. That might be good for approaching the championship and cutting a lot of points. But now I've got to keep continuing what we're doing, can't relax here. So yeah, they are kind of awake. I wish they could be sleeping.
But, again, Scott since the beginning of the week, he seems to be in a very strong car. But I don't know. He's keeping brushing that wall, so kind of surprised he didn't do that on qualifying. And he's coming over there, so don't tell him what I said, okay?
No, anyway, I think they're definitely going to go for it. They'll definitely be the team to beat. But those guys here as well, they're pushing pretty hard. I think it will be an exciting race tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our Peak Pole Award winner Scott Dixon. His sixth Peak Pole of the season. Scott has won from the pole four of those times. Scott, talk about your run out there this afternoon.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was tough. The track is definitely very demanding. It was probably the only session I didn't bend the car, which was kind of nice, too. For us, it was just trying to put a lap together.
Throughout the day it was probably similar for most people. You can get different sections of the track pretty good. And you try to push it a little bit more and you might hit a bump that you didn't see before. That messes it up quite a bit.
To be honest with you, didn't change the car too much. Just tried to get clear laps. We had a big one going two laps from that one. I think I was up 14 in the last ten. So it just shows that you need to try to piece something together. And I think everybody's in the same boat. But the team from the get-go this weekend has done a very good job.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Scott, does it help in any way that he's in your sights?
SCOTT DIXON: Oh, I think for us we've just got to concentrate on getting the job done. There's no point concentrating on Helio or any of the other people. There's a whole field there we've got to try to beat.
If we can win the race, that's going to help us the best way possible. I think last weekend was a strange run in many ways for the team. And maybe I was thinking about different things opposed to just going out and winning races.
So this weekend we've got to continue on doing what we've been doing throughout the season and try to win races. That's what we're going to try to do. These guys up here are going to try to do the same thing. As we know Detroit's critical to strategy. Last year I played a pretty good part of the what the outcome was. So we're going to have our hands full.
Q. Are back markers going to be a problem?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, I think it's going to play a part. It played a part in the race last year. I think Helio was leading and then got caught for a couple of laps. And then the three of us pitted two laps before him and actually jumped him because he got slowed down quite a bit.
So I hope it doesn't play too much of a part in the race. But obviously with more cars and, you know, things like that, I think we're going to catch them a lot quicker than last year, too. There's two more cars here this weekend. So I think it will play some part of the race.
You're going to have some of those people in the back of the field that are going to change and try some pretty crazy strategies. So the field's going to be pretty full, so.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Good point from last year, we lost the lead. We were in fourth place, I believe, because they are behind the three cars. And even in Sonoma we had some issues. But ultimately it was the end of the race.
I think that we've got to deal with it. Hopefully a lot of competitors. We'll see that they don't have a chance to do anything. Just see what's the situation on the race and what strategy they're using. Because one day they might be in our situation, and we can play it the same way. But I'm not worried about that. I just want to go for it.
Q. This is basically for all of you. Because this track is narrow, it's hard to pass in places, is there a particular area where you feel comfortable? You feel optimistic you could pass someone if you had to? Because if we have what happened at Sonoma last weekend, what looked to me like people were just gambling on when to pit. The yellow comes out and they suddenly end up leading. You may have to pass someone if they do that again.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's a tough place. And like Sonoma, the only issue here you can't make a mistake. Because you don't have a run of areas here. You might be in trouble. So I think everybody understood that.
But, again, it's going to depend on the opportunity, you know, the track. Because of the bump it gives opportunities to make a mistake. Then you might be able to put yourself in a position to overtake. But I think you've got to play cool.
Q. To Helio and Scott, you're pretty chummy up there right now. But are there a lot of mind games being played between you two?
SCOTT DIXON: Helio tries.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I really try. But this guy, he's doing a pretty darn good job, and the team as well. But, you know, the way I see it when people respect you, you respect back. Not only Scott, but I feel a lot from the other drivers. And, you know on the track you want to go and be as tough as you can. But I don't see any problem in being -- I mean, being upset or trying to do something outside of the racetrack. So the way I do, I'm having a great time. It's a good battle. A healthy battle, and best man win.
Q. Graham, since your win at St. Pete, I know you've been frustrated with your qualifying results and your race results on the road course. How much did today kind of boost you a little bit?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think it certainly helps. It's been disappointing. I mean, there have been so many opportunities for us to do well. You know, you've just kind of missed the curve. Most of the times we've been lucky and been in groups where we should have been able to get through, and it just hasn't happened.
So obviously today feels good. As I said, you know, coming into this weekend I thought that, you know, if there was a place that we could do well, it was going to be here.
Just being that it's a street circuit, I -- personally, street circuit has always been my favorite. So it was one of those things that there was definitely a little more confidence coming into this place, and certainly wanting to do well.
I knew we could put a good car on the track. We did it in St. Pete. On the first session Justin was quickest down there, so I knew we'd have a good car, and certainly, that's what we've done. It's a heck of a lot easier when you start further forward than where we've been starting lately.
Q. Justin or maybe the three gentlemen on the right. How is this different waking up tomorrow versus when you wake up and you've been at a road course and you struggled to get in the field, to get yourself positioned? How is it going to be different tomorrow with your attitude and how you feel?
JUSTIN WILSON: You mean compared to --
Q. (No microphone).
JUSTIN WILSON: Well, it's obviously great. You come here and you know that if you do everything right you've got an opportunity. You've got the same car, the same engine, the same tires. It's all a matter of how you do the job.
Fortunately, for the six of us or five of us up here, we're starting in the front. We have a chance of going out there and making something happen and trying to win the race.
So it definitely puts you in a good mood and your spirits are high coming into the race. But you still have to do everything right in the race. You can't take anything for granted, otherwise, like last weekend I thought we had a good race, and we finished 9th. It's just how it goes. You've got to make sure you've got everything right, and not make any mistakes on a track like this.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, it's a different mentality. Especially for us starting where we are, it certainly makes you more enthusiastic about going out there and trying to do a good job. I think at Sonoma we did a good job. And as Justin said, we got rewarded with an 8th place finish at a place we weren't very competitive.
Compared to an oval, I mean, I really enjoyed racing on the ovals. But as we all know, it's been tough for us at times this year when you're sitting there and you're qualifying 20th and 21st. You know, you really just wonder what's going on.
But obviously, I think we made some gains. I am looking forward to next weekend. I think that we can do a good job. But it is different when you know that you have a shot at it. Certainly that's what Justin and I -- I think that's what we both look. Forward to coming to road courses
Q. Oriol, just like after the Indy 500, you've consistently been in this group. Whether it be on ovals or road courses, just talk about the gains that you've made and the gains the team has made coming over here?
ORIOL SERVIA: I think not just every race, but every session we're closing up the gap, making me very proud of my team and myself. As I said, even on the ovals at the beginning of the season, I thought I was going to be fine because I had an oval. But, definitely you've got to refine yourself a lot to be competitive.
On the big ovals they were saying I don't think we have yet the development in the car to fight with these guys. But in the short one, we definitely showed that we could catch up. So I'm just very happy.
I mean, somebody was saying if this championship would be like a NASCAR 38-race weekend, we'd be contending with these guys at the end. So we're really looking forward to next season.
Q. The three of you guys came in this year, how big a difference has the car made in your performance? Is there that big a difference from the car you're driving now to the one you drove last year?
ORIOL SERVIA: You mean the car compared to last year? I mean, we were surprised in St. Pete to be as good as we were. I'm talking about myself, but I think the three of us in power also.
So I think the car is not that different to drive, to be honest. It's just actually a little less power and less grip. So usually it becomes more difficult the more power you have.
For us I think was a little easier than adjusting to more power. In that way, I think we were pretty much in the game quite early. But the team's made huge, huge progress for the season.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think Oriol said it all. You know, these guys on our right here, they've had experience in the Champ Car series as well, so they know what it's like. But it's just a different car.
This car's a little heavier, little less down force so the grip is a little less. It's got a little less power, so physically it's a little easier. But it's a different ball game. Well, you need to just get in the gym a little more. It's a different ball game.
But it's incredibly competitive here. I don't think it matters what you're driving. It's how competitive the league is, and I think everyone of us here can appreciate how difficult this year's been.
Obviously, Scott's gotten the better half of all of us. But I think we've shown this is a competitive group, and that's what makes it important.
SCOTT DIXON: I think the point that Graham touched on there was most important. It's not necessarily the car, it's the competition. That's what we all enjoy. When you get into qualifying like this and you're pushing and trying to get to the limit, it's so close. In a fraction of a second it means you're in or you're out.
It's very exciting. It's good for the drivers. It's good for the teams. And hopefully it's good for the fans to watch.
THE MODERATOR: All right, guys, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts