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August 22, 2010

Scott Dixon

Dario Franchitti

Will Power


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by today's second-place finisher, Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The end, quite an exciting race. Talk about chasing Will in the final laps.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was a tough day. Started a little further back which we gave up definitely some in qualifying which to try and pass on this track is difficult in itself. When you disadvantage yourself starting from sixth... Because we did feel like the car was pretty quick, definitely a top-three car most of the weekend.
But pretty clean start on the initial. I was pretty adamant that I had Briscoe before they went back. Obviously went back to the start/finish line to determine where people were.
All day it was kind of a fight of strategies amongst everybody. The Penske cars, except for Will, seemed to struggle on the red tires in the first stint and had to pit quite early. Briscoe and Helio were definitely destroying those reds. We seemed to be able to go long enough to get some track position. I was catching Dario pretty quick as well. As that cycled, Briscoe pitted early, picked up pace on the black tires as we were getting worse on the red. Definitely didn't allow us to try to gain on Will.
All in all, you know, for Team Target it was a good day. To be in the top three, both, was pretty big. The tough decision for our side was what to do with Dario because obviously he's the closest in points to Will. We felt we were in a good position to maybe challenge Will and get close to him and maybe win the race and take some points away from him that way. We didn't have enough. Obviously, Will won the race. We probably didn't help Dario's chances in that. So that was probably the downside to today.
THE MODERATOR: Next weekend we head into the final oval portion of the season. Talk about how your mindset changes heading into a few one-and-a-half-mile ovals.
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's exciting for our team. Both Dario and myself have done extremely well on the one-and-a-half-mile circuits, especially the ones we have left. Kentucky was a bit of a downer last year. I think it was just 'cause we didn't take tires at the end.
I think our cars have always done well. I think I have five second-place finishes at Chicago. Hopefully we can turn that into a win for a change. Try and just keep Will back in the pack and take some points off him. Obviously my job is going to be to try to help Dario and myself close the gap as much as possible, apply as much pressure as possible, and hopefully put them under enough that they make mistakes.
I think that's really the only options left for us. We're confident going in. We have to work together as a team, obviously finish 1-2 to try to overcome the points deficit at the moment.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by our third-place finisher, Dario Franchitti.
Dario, talk about today's race, the gamble you took at the end with the black tires.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Sure. At the start, the first set of reds, they were really good grip to start with. Then, you know, they do what the reds do sometimes: the performance started to go down. They're kind of the qualifying soft tires. We were struggling towards the end of that stint.
We came in, took the blacks for the middle stint. It wasn't too bad. They short-pitted me at the end. They were trying to separate the strategies a little bit. We felt there was too much of a gamble on the reds the way our car was using them, especially the fact the reds we had put on already had eight laps from qualifying yesterday. We went on the blacks.
I think we passed Ryan in the pit stop sequence. They came on the radio and said Scotty was on reds. So I let him go because it would definitely suit me for him to go and pass Will. I let him go. He chased after him. The yellow came out. On the restart, I could see he was giving it everything he could to get past him.
At that point on the blacks, I was just trying to stay ahead of Ryan who was on blacks behind me. I had nothing for the two guys in front. So, yeah, a little frustrated there. But one of those things.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. Scott, you made a real strong bid on Will after that last yellow flag on the restart, challenged him hard. Looked like you made a move on the inside. Could you talk about that, please.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I tried to apply as much pressure as possible to force him into a mistake. Ultimately for me it was also to try to help Dario. It was a difficult situation with him being the closest in the points to try to overcome a deficit being in the middle of it, me in the middle of it, is not going to help it.
I think I tried several times even into two on the restart, even trying to get alongside going into four at one point, then in through the carrousel into seven. Just didn't really have enough. He had the same amount of 'push to passes' as I had, maybe had a couple more than me. I think through the first part of that stint, I'd used my tires up too much trying to catch him. I could tell that he was maintaining kind of a three-second gap. I'd catch him one lap and then he would sort of open it up again to maintain it.
At the end of it, I think he saved his tires a little bit better. Ultimately it's pretty tough to try and get close and make passes around this surface when you have somebody so fast in front.

Q. Scott, how many places can you pass on this track?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, you know, it's tough. Obviously, I think the biggest factor today is the combination of the 'push to pass' and the tires. We need more races I think where the red tires go off that badly. That's the purpose of it. That's why Firestone makes them. They're so fast straight out of the box with so much grip, but then they degrade quicker than the blacks, which makes the racing exciting.
To start from sixth and physically pass probably those four cars on track is not something easy at this place. This is probably the toughest circuit that we have in the whole season to try to make any kind of moves.
So definitely that first stint, I think some of the cars were on the reds, some weren't. Throughout the rest of the day, the strategies went along.
Going into turn seven, you come out of the carrousel, going into turn nine, if you get a good run on the back straight, and then sometimes you can make a pretty bold move going into 11, the last corner here.

Q. I think you've been asked before, but I didn't hear the answer. What did Chip mean when he said, You know what you have to do?
SCOTT DIXON: Obviously, what we're there to do is to try to win. He was making sure that I understood that I'm there to try to push as hard and try and knock Will off that top spot. That's all I was trying to do.
I tried to apply as much pressure as possible, tried to get as close as possible to at least get an inside run. But it goes back to I think he saved his tires a little bit more. We had a couple close calls with some braking zones there, trying to get inside him, alongside him, things like that.
In the end, we just didn't have enough.

Q. Dario, can you talk about the challenge you face now as you try to catch Will over the last four races.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, it's a fairly large deficit. But it's four tracks we've run well on. We've won at Chicago. Dixie won in Japan. We both won at Homestead. Won at Kentucky as a team. I haven't won at Kentucky personally. There's places we can do very well at.
I don't underestimate the challenge at all. Will is going to be quite strong. People are writing him off because of his lack of experience on the ovals, but he'll be right up there. We have to do a better job. We'll be pushing 100%.

Q. You two were fairly clear, but did it seem like an amplified level of elbows-up driving? People were highly aggressive. Was that what you expected with the tires going off as bad as they were?
SCOTT DIXON: When you see tires going off, especially the person in front of you, your eyes light up, you're like, Yeah, we're going to be racing, pass the car in front. That's obviously what starts to happen.
Under the cautions there, I saw some of the big-screen action with three-wide going into 11, things like that, which was pretty cool.
I think you have to have more difference in the race. That's what they achieved today. You had tire degradation, which was a big thing, and it was hard to maintain. Some maintained better than others. That in turn gave us a lot of great racing. That's probably the best racing and more passes that I've ever heard of at Sonoma in any kind of car.
I think they definitely improved there. It was good to see. There was some action. People were really trying. You didn't have to get in a rhythm, get stuck in that rhythm, just stay in that rhythm, and try and go a lap further.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think you saw that when Helio locked up at seven and I passed him. He just couldn't stop the thing. It was very bizarre to watch. Almost like he hit oil or something. I was right behind him almost doing the same thing. Definitely livened things up today, no doubt.
We were all fairly sensible I think up front. But you could see further back people were getting excited. Quite right, too. You're back there, you're wanting to get forwards. Yeah, sometimes you make some moves that maybe, you know, don't work out.
There was a lot of cars went past us when we were standing there with donuts on the side, bits hanging off them. I think Dallara will make a lot of money this week on spares.

Q. (Question regarding passing in the back of the pack.)
SCOTT DIXON: There definitely is. If you look back, there was probably more passing than any race we've had here before.
I think with Will today, he was protected most of the time. He had his teammates that were working for him that were able to give him gaps that we couldn't quite get past.
I think it would have been a totally different story had we been all on the same strategies and us two behind Will. I think it would have been pretty interesting coming down to the wire. Majority of the day we had to deal with some of his teammates, so I think that was probably the toughest part. Might be the only reason why we didn't get a passing opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, Scott, thank you so much. Congratulations on today's podium finish.
We're now joined by today's race winner Will Power, who also was crowned the Mario Andretti Road Champion today, the inaugural one.
Will, talk about today's race. You certainly know how to come back, lead the pole, lead the most laps, win the race and get a championship.
WILL POWER: Yeah, unbelievable. I watched this race from the hospital bed last year. You know, I said it all year: I'm coming back to win this thing because I thought this track owes me after what happened.
You know, I just went about my business, put my head down and did absolutely the best I could on every single lap, with fuel mileage, everything I could do.
So, yeah, very happy. Very happy.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. Will, last year the terrible accident that you had, injury. Any thoughts about that as you were out there today or this weekend? Were you successfully able to completely block it out?
WILL POWER: No, every time I go over that hill, I see some dust. That's what happened last year. So, in fact, that was my slowest sector in qualifying. Not that it had anything to do with the crash, it was just funny that it was.
But, yeah, I think you remember things like that. I don't think you ever forget it. But you just put it down to experience. I think you understand more what can happen at high speeds, when something unexpected happens like that. It obviously didn't slow me up this weekend.

Q. Will, you and Helio really left everybody at the start. Did you talk about the start, the two of you? Did you have a strategy?
WILL POWER: Yeah, we did talk about it before the start. I thought if I went too late, Dario was going to get by Helio. I wanted to ensure that Helio could slip into second place.
Yeah, it worked out. Did exactly that.

Q. Can you talk about the confidence that Roger had in you. This time last year you mentioned you were watching it in a hospital bed. You had to be thinking, Am I going to be able to drive let alone get a full-time ride?
WILL POWER: The sort of the guy Roger is, he called me probably not long after I arrived at hospital and said, Look, don't worry about it. We'll look after you. We'll have something for you next year, even if it's not full-time. That's just the sort of guy he is, the sort of team he runs. It gives you confidence as a driver because I've been in so many situations in my career where you don't feel that.
I can't thank the whole organization, Roger, Tim, the Verizon guys, for sticking by me, giving me a chance. We're going for the championship. I tell you, at the end of 2008, I was almost ready to go home to Australia and race V8s. Had I not gotten this opportunity, I never would have known what my potential was.

Q. Will, the red tires didn't last all that long. It created a lot of interesting racing. I don't know how many fans were aware of that. Did you find they went away earlier than normal? There was a lot of good racing going on because of that.
WILL POWER: Yeah, the last five, six laps for me, it was really bad, the front tires. I think that's great that Firestone makes a tire that's very sticky and very high grip early on, and there's a variance then between the speeds. It makes for good racing.
You know, Firestone deliberately do that. It's a very good tire, but it's not as durable. I think we need that in this series. It rewards guys who look after their tires more, but it makes for great racing. If you're on reds, somebody else is on blacks, there's no passing. If the reds go off, there's more passing again. We need that.

Q. At the end, Scott Dixon was pushing you harder than anybody pushed you all day long. Did you feel that pressure? Up until then, he was kind of catching you, running faster laps than you. At the end you seemed to pull away just a little.
WILL POWER: Well, when he was catching me, I was aware every lap of the gap. I was just managing the tires. Being aware of what happened in the first stint, I thought if I pushed too hard, I can allow him to catch me 3/10ths a lap here, he'll wear his tires out more, I'll go at the end.
At the end, he pushed really hard on his tires and destroyed them, and I was able to pull a gap.
It was about tire management. I could have gone a lot faster, but I would have been 10 laps to go with tires that were junk.

Q. Could you talk about how you came to be named Will Power.
WILL POWER: I was named after my greatgrandfather William Steven Power. My name is William, but everybody called me Will. Everyone called him Will. So it's Will Power.
It's amazing. No one ever gave me crap at school (laughter). They just called me Power or Will. But, yeah, it's only when I became a race driver that people started to catch onto this 'Will Power' thing. No one calls me just 'Will,' it's 'Will Power.' I have a younger brother named 'Honda' (laughter).

Q. 40 years ago the first open-wheel race was held here at Sonoma. Mario Andretti was on the podium that day. The entire purse was $53,000. What does it mean to you to accept the Mario Andretti trophy from a legend like that today?
WILL POWER: It's exactly that, you're accepting an award from a legend, one of the greats of the sport, a guy you look up to when you're a kid. I mean, it's fantastic.
Was that the purse, 53 grand that many years ago? Nothing's really changed (laughter).

Q. When exactly did you start to feel comfortable on this racecourse again?
WILL POWER: I always liked this racecourse. Do you mean after the accident?

Q. Yes.
WILL POWER: I mean, pretty much when I got straight back on it. It's just one of those things. It was an unfortunate thing that happened, bad set of circumstances.
I just got down to business when I got out there. When I go over that hill each time, I'm aware. When I saw a little bit of dust or anything, I was a little bit hesitant. I just put my head down, did my job.
I think as a driver, you need to learn to shut those things out and not let it affect you because you're going to have a big accident, you're going to have something happen during your career. It's just part of what it is.

Q. Easily the most animated we've seen you in one of these interviews. Do you feel like a big weight has been lifted off you're shoulders and this championship is almost yours?
WILL POWER: No, I don't think this championship is almost mine. There's a lot of racing to go. Four races, a lot can happen. Really, whatever it is, the buffer, 15 or something points, you can lose a lot of that in just one race.
We're going to work really hard. I'm going to race those ovals like I want to win the championship. I think I got enough experience now and I think we'll be very strong.

Q. Scott mentioned your teammates did a really good job of keeping that gap for you throughout the race. How aware are you of what's going on with your other teammates, what the strategy is?
WILL POWER: Well, actually I wasn't really. I just went, did my job. I didn't even know what my teammates were doing. I think we were all out there to do the best job possible, hopefully get a couple of my teammates ahead of the Ganassi guys.
Yeah, I haven't even spoken to them. I'm not even sure what happened, how it all played out. It was very quiet on the radio today. Gave me a fuel number, go for it, get the best lap time with that fuel. Yeah, only time I was aware of someone behind me was the first few laps and then the last few laps.

Q. Will, you led every lap except when you pitted. When you're leading like that, is it easier or more difficult for the race?
WILL POWER: For me, I really like leading. I always have. Whenever I lead, I'm always able to pull a gap, be very aware of saving my tires, saving more fuel. I'm a driver; of course I love to be out front. It is good for me. I can't stand being behind someone getting held up.

Q. Were you surprised or happy to see it was the 9 car in your rearview mirror at the end of the race rather than the 10 car?
WILL POWER: You know, I was just happy that someone on reds was behind me because I was just -- I asked, Is Dario on blacks? Yes. Okay, got to be very smart with saving these tires. They said, Dixon just passed him, he's on reds. Good. I'm on par with this guy, I think I can out-race him.
So, yeah, on the restart, that last few laps, it was just about driving as quick as I could with what I had, keeping him behind.

Q. On the racing out front, is a part of that because of the clean air, no disturbance? Does that enable you to push harder?
WILL POWER: Yes, clean air is always better. But sometimes following someone on tracks like this, if you're saving fuel to go a lap longer, it helps you save fuel because you're not pushing as much air.
It can work both ways. You can sit behind someone and outsmart them with fuel, go a lap longer. But it wasn't the case today.
THE MODERATOR: We'll wrap things up. Congratulations on the win.

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