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June 6, 2009

Helio Castroneves


THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by tonight's winner, Helio Castroneves for Team Penske. You become the second three-time IndyCar Series winner at Texas Motor Speedway, joining Sam Hornish, Jr. It's your 16th career win, second this season. It's your seventh top five finish at Texas Motor Speedway. You pick up the fifth win for car owner Roger Penske at Texas Motor Speedway. Talk about your night.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, tonight was incredible. Certainly started on Thursday when we have the night practice. We noticed the car was very good - not only mine, but also Ryan. So we try to make some change for qualifying, obviously. Ganassi kind of surprised us a little bit.
But we were very confident, very strong. We felt we have a two strong cars. I told them like, We got to finish first and second. When you got a car like this, you got to execute.
Towards the race, Ryan seems to got very comfortable with the car. He might be better set up at the beginning and just took off. At the beginning we were like saving fuel, but also kind of figuring out what I need in the car. Was a little bit loose. Some corners was a little bit push. So it was a lot of difficult to find out what it is. But later on play with the bars and everything inside the car, plus a little help from the team, definitely gave us a great setup.
Obviously the last pit stop, I mean, those guys are incredible. They won the pit stop competition in Indianapolis because they deserve. They keep practicing every off-season. Every time they have a time out there, they gonna practice. This team is just incredible. Today it was the No. 3 group, they gave this victory to me.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. You're always smiling. Have you had a chance to trademark that smile yet?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have no reason to not smile, man. Actually, it's a big reason. Hey, life is too short, I have to say. I'm doing what I love to do, so that's why I'm smiling all the time.

Q. About the race tonight, at one point your teammate was 10 seconds in front of the rest of the field. What changes did you make to your car to hold him off and stay in front?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Normally that's not usual, somebody go out there and just took off. I'm not sure if he was saving fuel. We got hold on in lap traffic, I'm not sure, quite a lot. And he was able to manage to pass those two cars.
And then myself, Dario and Dixon, we just stayed back there. I mean, there was not much we could do. And we didn't have much yellow. That's another reason. When somebody just took off, you just keep going.
So basically the change that I did was inside the car and opinion what they gave me, and also front wings and probably tire pressure as well. Little things like that, believe it or not, makes a difference. Towards the end, it paid off.

Q. We talked Thursday about the No. 3, how that is your number this year. Can you comment on that. What do you focus on next?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, hopefully this No. 3 in the end of the season or for next year can become No. 1. That's what we always looking after.
But right now, No. 3 seems to be a great number for me. I like the number actually. But, again, it's one of those things that you've been so long with one car and one team, the number basically become your identity. So I'm happy with the No. 3.
And next is gonna be Iowa. I guess Iowa is the next race. We gonna focus on that. We had a very good car last year. Hopefully we can have a good result as a team effort, first and second, in Iowa, as well.

Q. Yesterday before the truck race you were out talking to Todd Bodine. He won last night. You won tonight. Was there a meeting of the minds going on?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Maybe (laughter). I don't know. That's a coincidence. Todd and Mike Skinner and a bunch of guys that I have friends in especially the Red Horse team, I become friends with them when I was doing IROC. It's nice when you have an event together just to say hello.
But certainly Mike was asking about the racetrack, especially after we practiced. Bodine was the same thing. I mean, they're a totally different car, so nobody can take any data from each car.
But it's good for them and it's good for us.

Q. When Ryan and Dixon were in for their news conference, they said they thought the racing here used to be better, there was a difference between running the bottom line and the high line. Now it's so even that you're not really racing, it's part of an engineering exercise, you put your foot down and that's it. You won the race. Was the racing better here a couple years ago?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, obviously they don't think the race is good. They finished behind me. Don't blame them. But one thing I have to say, I mean, these cars, since 2003, same car, same design, so everybody already learned the small details, the tricks. And once you're running speeds very close to each other, it's not anybody's fault. It's just the way people develop, all the secrets that you have becoming revealed after many years.
So it's things like that that you can't predict and you cannot stop. Especially with the IRL rules becoming more limit, it makes everybody even. So basically the guys that doesn't have much effort or sponsors or development resource, you know, they have the same cars than us, so they're going to turn a very similar speed than us.
So it's becoming very important like pit stop competition. Pit stop is basically becoming a key to win races, and all of those little details. So it's not about the track, because you guys saw how many close race we had before. Just because it's so many years with the same cars that it gives everybody the same equipment and same speed.

Q. With pit selection being set by owner's points, you missing the first race, could you share your thoughts about how critical it was to be able to have the owner points from Will Power from the Long Beach race?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Tight pit area like this is very key because you don't need to worry about how you stop the car, you just need to worry about leaving fast as you can. Because of those pits, when you're in the front, obviously it's a great advantage to do that.
But remember in Indy we have problems in the pit stops where we have the first pits and we lost some spots. So it just depends. Depends for a lot of things.
I think my team is succeed under pressure. I think they do very, very good. My guys do very good under pressure. And it's a shame. I would love to be participate the first race because that would give me probably the lead on the championship right now. But circumstances didn't work that way. But right now we are benefit from that and credit for Will Power to get those points for us.

Q. Early in the race you seemed to be following Dario or Dixon, you made some changes to your car the first pit stop. Were you waiting your time? Ryan had taken off. Tagliani held up Dixon and Franchitti and you which gave Briscoe maybe a third of a lap ahead. Did you have the ability to challenge the Ganassi cars when they were in front of you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Like I said, I think myself, Dixon and Dario were saving fuel in that time. We trying to plan a little bit on the pit stops if a yellow come up. But that plan did not work. It worked later, because the yellow never game. So Ryan took advantage of that, made great moves passing the back markers and just kept going.
So second, third and fourth, probably fifth, I don't know, all of a sudden they got stuck there because saving so much fuel. Basically, you know, didn't have much we could do.
But when the yellow came, we were able to go to the front. Actually I think I passed Marco on the back marker, as well. So I was able to be with Ryan. After that it was just like hopefully next pit stop we be able to save fuel and pass them as well, which was the case.
So it's one of those things. Sometimes Dixon and I have the same thinking. One guy sometimes go wild and it's his day. It looks that way for Ryan today. Fortunately for me it didn't happen. But certainly it's great for the team finish first and second.

Q. Was there any type of strategy that came into play to get you into the front of Ryan? Is there a team order at Team Penske?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We don't have team order. Obviously when you fighting your teammate, you have to make sure you give extra space. And today pretty much the same. You know, we trying to make sure that we don't have to challenge.
But when you go 10 laps to go, if you got a chance to make a move on your teammate, you gonna do it, and vice versa. It's one of those things. It's great to work with Ryan. He's an incredible talent. He's learning very fast. His second year on the ovals and he already doing like extremely well. So you can see right there we understand each other. That's the way it should be.

Q. One of the interesting moments of the race was when the second yellow came out for debris on lap 150. Ryan was running away with the race. He said he didn't see any debris. Did you see any? Looked like a NASCAR caution to spice up the race.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I didn't see anything. In those points, you got to trust the call. You can never know what there is, if there is debris, if there is something that might affect and put somebody in dangerous. But I didn't see anything. I just trust those guys. Sometimes there are situations like that. You're in the lead, you don't want to see any yellow. Been in that situation as well. But there is nothing we can do. We have to trust safety because safety is always first.

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