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September 15, 2002

Helio Castroneves

Vitor Meira


MODERATOR: We have Helio Castroneves and Vitor Meira. Let's get some quick comments from Vitor, our polesitter, pole winner. You came back to finish third. You had everything happening in front of you and a great run. Kind of recap the day for us.

VITOR MEIRA: The car was very, very good, but then on traffic wasn't that good. I have to learn how to run how those guys run. By the end, they were fighting really, really tough, like using all the way the track and everything. Our car was very quick. Our car was very, very quick. Those guys were fighting very hard. I didn't want to go between them.

MODERATOR: Helio, obviously a tremendous battle, not only for the lead, but for the championship, everything on the line. Talk about those last 15, 20 laps with Sam side by side. Did you guys really touch?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have no idea if we touch or not. One eye was on the track, the other one was on Sam. You know, what a great series. I mean, I couldn't be happier in terms of a great competition. Very fair, seems to be clean. Tony George and Brian did a fantastic job. I'm very happy to be part of the family. Yeah, a little disappointed because you want to win a championship, you want to win the race, you want to win everything. But I guess wasn't my day. We were very close together. I didn't have the fastest car, as we saw in qualifying, but we were able to manage through traffic pretty quick, pretty comfortable. So I was just trying to be consistent, trying to lead the most laps, trying to win the race. Everything in my job, I was trying to do that. But the Pennzoil team did a great job, Sam did a great job. Congrats to them and I'll take second.

MODERATOR: Vitor, obviously best effort, Menard team and all. Are you happy with third place or did you really think you had a chance to win if something happened to those two?

VITOR MEIRA: Maybe. It's very difficult to know what's going to happen. But I'm very, very happy to be here, as Helio said. I'm very proud to be part of this family. I want to continue doing that. Next year, I don't know what am I going to do yet, but I'm going to pray to keep on doing this.

MODERATOR: Helio, was today fun? Were you nervous? Describe the emotions before, during and after the race.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I guess was everything, you know. There was a point where you're upset with people getting a little out of hand. At the same time you're like, "This is fantastic, this is really fun, wheel to wheel." I enjoy it. Obviously, it was very close. I wasn't expect much different. And it was fantastic. My pits, I have to thank my pit. What fantastic people. Again, they did an awesome job, they did a great job. Strategy-wise, I'm proud to be part of Marlboro Team Penske. I'm honored to be part of Roger's team. We didn't get it this year. More boost for next year, try to come back and win, come back stronger.

MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions.

Q. Any better way to decide the championship, Helio, than have the top two guys fighting it on in the final laps?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm wishing he was here, as well, maybe we could mix it up. No question about we try everything we could. I guess you guys saw how hard I was fighting out there. I do believe the same way was with Sam and Panther. Definitely I gave my blood. The only thing I didn't try was get out of the car and try to push, which I don't think would help (laughter). What a great result. Definitely was a great show.

Q. Two Indianapolis 500s under your belt, was that the hardest you had to race for everything?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Championship is always tough. Today I'm thinking about Richmond. That was the result that really basically hurt my points over here, the end of the season. But certainly you have to be consistent, you have to be up there, different tracks, different places. You always create more challenge. I wouldn't change obviously my Indy 500 victories. But just give me more exciting, more power to make sure I come back next year, see if we can do it again.

Q. First full season of IRL competition. Everything you expected it to be?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Pretty much. We have to learn a lot of circuits. We have to learn our place. Again, I remember here, in Texas, we were leading. We finished fourth. Wrong gears, everything bad. That race pays off today. We were probably very close to victory. But no doubt about it, was very good for me to learn and to improve. A lot of tracks that we might go back next year, we might improve in our setup. Was a great learning curve. No question about it. And the competition, I always knew that we would be there, between Sam, between all the guys, even like Vitor coming later to the season. You know, this series is basically -- the cars are very equal. They try to make those cars as close as possible, as we can see during the race. We have a great team, great sponsorship. If you have a good organization like we have, as well, I'm sure you can succeed.

Q. Helio, do you feel fortunate that Roger Penske and Marlboro made the choice to come to IRL?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, definitely. I had no input on Roger's decision. I was hired for him to do three years racing for Marlboro Team Penske. You have to give the credit for Roger. You know, he saw the light at the end of the tunnel. He made the move on the right time, I believe. I felt a major improvement in the series, you know, this year. I'm able to say that. Last year I was racing Phoenix, Indianapolis, and I saw the series. I said, "I guess they will improve." This year, you saw how many people were out there. And, yes, I would have to give credit for his decision, credit for Tony George and Brian to make everything happen. I do believe from now on, we just going higher and higher. The sky's the limit.

Q. Vitor, talk about Sam and Helio in front of you while at the same time you were worried about Scott Sharp and others in your fight for third.

VITOR MEIRA: I had the best view up there. Those guys were running really, really close. I think I saw them touch, I don't know. It was quick. But then was just a great race. I was worried about Sharp also behind me. Didn't want to get in the middle of the championship. Those guys had worked pretty hard all year to position theirself. They were close, running pretty, pretty close - closer than I would.

Q. As far as next year, status with Roger Penske, upcoming Formula 1 tests, do you have a desire to move to Formula 1?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, yes, I do have the test. I should think it's going to be between Friday and Saturday. I'm leaving tomorrow. We have to do a seat fitting. The team is going to be Toyota. I don't know if all the people are going to race there or try the ride. It's an opportunity. Yes, I always have a wish to drive a Formula 1 car. I guess the opportunity show up. I'm very happy to go and try. As far as next year, so far I'm set with Roger. I guess I'm very happy about the team. I believe they're happy, as well. When you have a good combination, it's difficult to break. Everything is going to depend. As far as I'm concerned, I'm here next year.

Q. Helio, is your level of respect for Sam Hornish increased over the year?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, being a champion, you did something really good. When I came to the series, I never decrease or bad-mouth or anything. I knew those guys would be competitive. That's what turns motor racing exciting, you know, when you have good teams, good competition, clean competition. I guess that was good for everyone. You know, I guess that was good for us, learning the first year the equipment, the tracks. Yes, I'm very happy to have guys like him in the series racing very close.

Q. As far as today you mentioned you moved to fourth. Were you concerned that somebody else besides Sam would come up on you today and move you back a position or two?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. The way that we conduct ourselves out there, Sam and I, I don't think they would have enough space to go around us (laughter). I don't think myself or him would let anybody go around us. No, I was fighting as hard as I could. I didn't have much to lose because I was already in second place. As long as I was in the race, my chance was still alive. It's a shame it didn't come to ourself, but we'll go back next year.

Q. Vitor, first exclusively oval track series you raced. How do you like it?

VITOR MEIRA: I'm enjoying very much. It's the best thing I ever did. Also I want to stay on it. I don't know what can happen next year, but I enjoy it. It was actually my happiest weekend of my life. Going to keep on trying to be here next year.

Q. Helio, talk about you and Sam, closeness of the race again.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, he definitely was a little faster than me. Actually, you see he was by himself at the beginning of the race. He was able to pull away. Unfortunately, we weren't that quick. The low line sometimes give you help. Might not give you the speed, but at least you be able to still running competitive. He knew he was fast outside. The only way to keep battling the way we did is if I would have been inside. We did that during the sessions Friday and Saturday, know each other, know how to be fast. I knew my only chance would be low line. To keep that spot, would have to fight really hard to take from me. That's why I was really willing to stay there. Yes, side by side, we noticed that you still could be able to draft. Maybe that we learn in IROC because that's the way you do it. So the same way was working. We were trying to put our wheels as close as possible. At one point, I was like, "Hello, you're coming too close right now." Then, I guess, we got used to. I tried not to move my steering wheel, make sure that we don't bring ourselves together. Basically, yeah, I don't think could be closer than that.

Q. Alex was fast in there. Talk about racing with Alex Barron today.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Especially at the beginning when Sam was pulling away with Cheever's car, I believe, I just was telling -- I let them pass like twice. We trying to catch those guys. Then I said, "Let me go." He was trying to pass me back. But we were pretty much in the same range. I was just telling Roger and those guys to tell him to stay behind, then we could catch the rest of the guys. I don't think he decide to do that, so I back off again, trying to go back behind, trying to go back to the other guys. So definitely is a lot of thinking about that. It's not only go ahead flat out, you know. A lot of difficult situations. But I guess, again, couldn't be more close than that.

Q. Al Unser was talking about the wind, it was tough in turn two. Vitor, any trouble in turn two? Any different than any of the other corners in the track that you noticed?

VITOR MEIRA: The only trouble I had was on traffic. Car was pretty consistent. Didn't have anything on turn number two.

Q. Helio?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: At the beginning of the race, the car looks good. All of a sudden I start picking up a lot of understeer in turn two. That's why maybe we lost time maybe on some of our pit stops. But towards the end, we made some adjustments in the car. When I have a clean air, basically the car was pretty much in good shape. But at the beginning of the race in traffic, I was having a lot of trouble.

Q. Rumors of additional teams coming in, Michael Andretti, Mo Nunn, Chip Ganassi possibly adding cars. Helio, how much more difficult is it going to be next year?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I guess will be the same level. Instead of just Sam and I, maybe we have three or four guys battling for the championship. It's going to be real exciting. It's going to be fun.

MODERATOR: If we don't have any other questions, I'd like to congratulate both of you today in the Chevy 500. Thank you both.

End of FastScripts...

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