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October 9, 2009

J.R. Hildebrand

Mario Romancini

Sebastian Saavedra


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Sebastian Saavedra, who finishes third today and finishes third in the championship points. Sebastian, talk about your day out there.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It went very well today. I mean, we're happy. I think we're a bit unfortunate in the qualifying, it wasn't quite what we were expecting.
Starting from the last day, you change up your mentality. I was very calm, very mature in which way I was going to approach a difficult race. I took care of my tires for a long while. I knew that those last three laps were going to be key for the success, and well, it happened. I did step by step what I needed to do, kept a very open mind, never let anything get in my way. I'm very happy for the third place championship. I was for sure battling very hard to get that second, and it was just late. That happens, but I'm still very happy for the team. They did an incredible job.

Q. Coming into the season would you consider this a successful year now? Was this what you were hoping to do?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I was for sure hoping to get second place in the championship. As a rookie, as my first year, you come with a different point of view after learning a lot.
More than anything, coming into this series, I was very open-minded, particularly when we're talking about ovals. In the beginning we knew that we had a team, and we had the right points to go for the win of a championship.
Little things during the season took us away from the opportunity, but I'm still very happy, still very happy to be here today, and hopefully what comes in the future, we'll try again.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Mario Romancini, today's race winner, his second win of the year, he won earlier this season at the Milwaukee Mile. Mario, talk about your run out there today.
MARIO ROMANCINI: Okay. We started -- we didn't have a good qualifying run today. We knew that the race car was good. Actually we tried to work on the race setup during practice and were not so worried about qualifying. I was able to have a good start.
I think on the third lap I was already running (Inaudible). By the time that I was behind Hildebrand and Davison, I realized that it was going to be really, really hard to pass them, so I started to work together with them, I just tried to follow Hildebrand and push him so that we could pass Davison. I later did pass him, so I was running second at that time.
Again, I tried to pass J. R. a lot of times, but it just didn't happen. We had pretty much the same pace. I knew if I had one chance to win the race, it was going to be on the last lap at the start/finish line, and that's what I tried to do. I tried to just get a good run from him coming out of Turn 4, and as you all saw it was really, really, really close. I think I won by a millimeter. But anyway, it was really good to end the season with a win, and I just want to thank my team, my mechanic, engineers, everybody who helped me to be here, my sponsors.

Q. Mario, did you pretty much feel you had that move in you throughout the race? In other words, did you think the draft would help you make that after your final lap?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, actually about ten laps to go, I was still talking to my engineers to see what we could do to try to pass him, because I had already tried a lot of different moves and it wasn't happening.
But ten laps to go, actually when I took the white flag for the last lap, you can go back on the tape and you will see, I tried the same move that I did on the last lap. That was the point where I realized that I might have a chance because I was running pretty much side by side with him on the start/finish line. But then coming into Turn 1, he was going to have the advantage because he was on the inside. So I thought that my only chance would be on the last lap, so I tried to be as close as I could to him, side by side.

Q. Relive the emotions of sitting in the cockpit there. It looked like you didn't want to climb out for a while.
MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, I wasn't sure what happened. Before I came on the radio and I asked my engineer who won the race, and he was screaming, then I realized that we had won. This win means a lot to me. I think it's one of the most important of my career, if not the most.
I'm very, very glad to end the season with a win. With all the same problems that we had throughout the season and on the road courses, so it's really, really good to be back in the program and to be back winning races.
THE MODERATOR: Just as a side note, the margin of victory was the second closest ever in Firestone Indy Lights' history; the margin of victory was .0057.

Q. For the most part you're both new to this series, and for the most part you're both new to ovals. Have you now gotten used to it? Mario, you and J. R. ran side by side, as did you, Sebastian, are you guys getting used to that? Are you starting to enjoy that kind of racing, that close kind of racing?
MARIO ROMANCINI: I enjoy the ovals a lot. It was the same for him -- our first oval race was Kansas. Actually he won his first oval race. He won the race; I finished third.
So I think we had good oval races this year, and we understood how important it is to each other when we are there at the track. We are doing almost 200 miles per hour. As long as you can run side by side, I think everything should be good. Whoever has the best car and has the best momentum will win the race. It's important that in the end everybody is safe, and I think it was great for everybody to watch.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: For sure coming to the end of the season, it's the most important to learn about, and I'm very thankful to Andretti to be behind me teaching these things, such people as Mario, Michael, Marco, TK and Danica. It's unbelievable how much information you can get from them. I was very lucky to be in that position, learning from the real masters of the oval racing. As soon as I came in, I knew that I was going to enjoy it a lot.
It's been an incredible experience in this new era of ovals, and I'm really thankful for the opportunity to put something else in my box.

Q. I was watching and I saw a lot of wheel-to-wheel, the wheels looked a couple times like they touched, and sometimes there were four or five cars in the draft. Were you looking for someone to help you there, or was it just if somebody was there it was okay, and if not -- did you have buddies?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Well, I don't know if I understood the question, but I had my spotter all the time helping me, telling me what's going on around me. In some oval races, you pretty much know where the other cars are around you, and as I said, as long as -- I was just trying to keep up with my line. He was in keeping with his line, and everything went well.

Q. Are you both on a two-year plan to try and get to the IndyCar Series? Are you going to try to get up there next year, or do you have any idea what 2010 holds for you?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think I have the advantage of being on this team right now, and I have to take advantage to keep learning a lot. I'm very open-minded, whatever the series can give me.
For sure we're looking for the right sponsors, and if we are able to get it, for sure I think maybe we can get the car in the IndyCar. But I want to get as fast as possible. I do want to get more prepared. It's going to be tough for sure to get the Colombians to get involved with this type of racing, but for sure whatever I do next year, it's going to be the right step in my career.
MARIO ROMANCINI: Every driver in Europe wants to get to Formula One. If drivers are here, they want to get in IndyCar. I think I want to be in IndyCar next year, but I'm still trying to find the sponsors so that I can run my share on Indy Lights. I hope I can stay with my team.
I think we improve the car a lot through the season. They should take into consideration that it was my first year on the oval, my first year on all the tracks that we've been racing on here in America. So if I can find the sponsors to keep running, I think I will do one more year in Indy Lights with them. A good Indy Lights win will help us to talk with the sponsors, but we will have a lot of work to do. I hope we can win some race for them. It's something that we couldn't do this year because it was too late in the season. Actually I went straight to the first race and only did one test. So if we can have a plan for this year I think it will be good. But now we'll sit down with more time and see what are the options.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the second place finisher today, J.R. Hildebrand. Talk about your day out there.
J. R. HILDEBRAND: Even in qualifying we struggled a little bit qualifying here in the past, but we spent a lot of time in the practice sessions working on our race car, and that obviously paid off. I didn't really think that we had the speed to run up front for that long.
I think Mario was sort of biding his time back there. I could tell that he was looking pretty good through the race. I was sort of waiting for the pass, and he tried a couple of times and almost made it happen, but I was trying to hold him off.
Those restarts there at the end of the race, with being up at the front you've got a lot of clean air, so when you get on the restart, the tires cool off, and the first couple laps after the restarts I found myself jamming in to change all the roll adjusters and whatever, all this stuff in the car, weight jackers, roll adjusters around. And then a couple laps later the thing was kind of settling in, and I didn't quite get it back in time to hold Mario off at the end there.
Congratulations to those guys. It's a great way to end the season for the team.

Q. Obviously you had clinched the championship back in Chicago. What's your mentality racing in a race like this where you're not really racing for points or not really racing for much?
J. R. HILDEBRAND: Well, it changes things a little bit, but we're still out here to win races, so that was sort of my mentality, our mentality certainly coming into the weekend. We haven't won on oval at all this year. We've finished second three times now, which is kind of....
So we came in trying to win and keeping in mind that Sebastian was kind of in the thick of the points battle there, and that strategy changed a little bit when he ended up qualifying at the back. We were thinking that we would end up running around each other and that we could work together up at the front. But it sort of ended up being just every man for himself a little bit there toward the end of the race. We were just trying to get what we could from him.

Q. I gather that you felt like Mario was holding something in reserve. You don't think he ever could have gotten past you entirely, do you?
J. R. HILDEBRAND: I don't know. When I was following James Davison around there through the middle of the race, I didn't really think I was going to be able to get around him and was able to make a pick. It's hard to say.
I was definitely fighting the car out in clean air a little bit, and my sort of gut feeling was that he wasn't having to work quite as hard. Whether it was going to be the last lap at the line or -- I was having more trouble through 3 and 4 than through 1 and 2, so I knew that would kind of set him up for getting a good run down the front straight. Before you know it, last lap, and he does a good job.
It was a good run for us. I think that those guys have had some tough runs this year, too. So I'm glad we could all end up at the front.

Q. During your career, you've had some success. How does this rate amongst your accomplishments?
J. R. HILDEBRAND: I would say right at the top of the list. Firestone Indy Lights championship is obviously a widely-known series; it's the best steppingstone to the IndyCar Series, which is where I'd like to find myself down the road. To be able to win the championship at this level is I think the best thing that a driver can do to be able to move up and that's all of all of our ultimate goals. It means a lot to be here as the 2009 champion.

Q. What is the process for the next month or next two months looking ahead?
J. R. HILDEBRAND: I mean, there's really no rhyme or reason to how things work out for guys every year. I think that's a widely-known fact about racing, that it's predictably unpredictable.
But I've had a lot of good conversations with team owners, and I think there's definitely the opportunity for some seats to open up, some teams to add seats maybe for next year if things go well and if things work out the right way.
Really at this point I'm just trying to put myself in a position that I'll be able to take advantage of that. So it's just making sure that I've had some face time in front of the right people for them to know that this is what I want to do and that I'm prepared to take every step necessary to be there.
I think this year we really put the rubber to the road. I look back on the season, and I can't think of a single race that we finished more than a couple of spots back from where we could have possibly finished given the circumstances. That's obviously why things have worked out so well for us here. That coupled with the fact that there's definitely going to be a little bit of musical chairs going on at the next level, then hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of it.

Q. (Inaudible) announced he got named to the Sarah Fisher ride, and the fact that Alan Floyd now has the possibility of a deal with Newman/Haas/Lanigan, you've got to feel like now maybe there is a connection between the Indy Lights series and getting an IndyCar ride.
J. R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I think that's been great just the last couple months, a lot of things have come together for the Lights guys, which certainly for me that's a beacon at the end of the tunnel. I think that that shows that some of the team owners are starting to see the Lights drivers as competent guys that can get in the car.
Alan Floyd and Rafa Matos did a particularly good job of showing that today in qualifying. They were both well in the Top 10 and had great runs. I'm certainly hoping that that will sort of rub off on the reputation that the Lights drivers have with those guys moving on, and hopefully I can feed off of that a little bit going into next year.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on the championship. Thank you for joining us here.

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