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April 17, 2011
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: We're joined right now by our second place finisher Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske. This is Ryan's best finish of the 2011 season. After really a tough first two races of the year, you've got to be happy with the second place finish.
RYAN BRISCOE: It's amazing. What a weekend. We came out of the box really strong and led a couple of the practice sessions and then qualifying just was a mess. It was a combination of things, didn't really get a clear lap together, and we went the wrong direction on setup and I ended up in 12th. It's crazy how competitive the IZOD IndyCar Series is right now. Just by a fine mistune of the setup we're sitting 12th on the grid when I thought I was going to be going for pole.
To be able to be back up on the podium fighting for the win today, absolutely amazing. Roger Penske, he made the master call again, and it worked. We pitted before that full course caution came out. We started on the hard tire, which we were the first car on the grid actually on hard tires, so when we got back out, we were on the soft tire, was able to make a gap over Hunter-Reay and Will and stay ahead of them after the next pit stop. So that was key to at least giving us a shot at winning.
Unfortunately at the end, Mike Conway, he was just a bullet. I don't think he got pickup on the tires and just drove around Dario and myself like we were standing still and drove into the distance. But it was a great race. Really want to thank Penske Truck Rental and IZOD. Without them I wouldn't be here. And obviously Roger Penske, he's just a legend to race for.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by our third place finisher, Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Dario has finished on the podium of all three races this season, and today's finish puts Dario on top of the championship points standings, taking the top spot from Will Power. If you can walk us through your race today. I know you guys started with a tough weekend but have to be happy with the podium finish.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely delighted with a podium finish. A lot of Target guests today. They always come to the Long Beach Grand Prix, so we had a lot of guests.
Yeah, qualifying wasn't great yesterday, wasn't what we hoped for. I was a little surprised at the start. I was more spaced out than I thought it would be. On the one hand I was disappointed not to have a chance to pass the guys ahead. On the other hand I was just happy we made it through the first corner unscathed.
First run the car was very good actually, inconsistent all day, though. It was very quick from sort of turn 1 right through to turn 10, but just out of the hairpin, I don't think I did a good enough job relaying to my engineers what I needed there this weekend so we would get gapped out of the hairpin by about one or two car lengths and I couldn't make it up on the rest of the straightaways so it was very difficult to make a pass, and that was consistent all day. But the car was good on reds, good on blacks in that second spin.
I lost the radio. I could hear them; they couldn't hear me, actually. I could hear them intermittently, I guess, after the first stop. Second stop, really struggled to get up to speed. I don't know if we tried something different with tire pressures or what, but I struggled to get up to speed out of the pits, lost a bunch of positions, and after the restart I thought we were doing okay, we were kind of sliding around and trying to clean the tires up, and here comes the Conway Express. He was hooked up and blew by both of us in two coughs.
Yeah, I spent a lot of the day stuck under the wing of a Penske, whether it was Helio or Ryan at the end there. I felt I was a little quicker through a lot of the track, but just out of that hairpin was getting gapped all day. I'll have to think about how to fix that for next year.
I mean, absolutely delighted with a third from the day we had I'd have to say. At one point we'd made some places up, and then with my slow lap it got us back in traffic again to I think T7, so when the guys got together in turn 1, that was definitely a lucky break for me and got me back on the podium. So very happy with that.
Got to thank the Target guys and everybody at Target. The team just, as usual, didn't give up and just kept fighting. We'll move on to Brazil and see if we can close the gap a bit. The good news for us, I think the car through most of the track today was the best it's felt all season, so we're getting there.
Q. Ryan, once Conway got past you, it looked like he was pulling out about a half second a lap. Was that just him being -- was his car that good or were you just struggling a little bit on the restart there?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, you know, I was thinking about it, and I just really think it came down to the fact that Dario and I on that restart were right down the inside of the track and drove through about, you know, 600 feet of marbles into turn 1, and I think we just coated our tires with a lot of rubbish. I'm not positive because I haven't seen it, but I'd be guessing that Conway probably kept his tires clean and was more on the racing line. It took us six, seven laps until it started feeling good.
I think our lap times at the end were pretty competitive and just as good as his, if not quicker, but just him keeping his tires clean, it made all the difference. I thought I was doing a good job, and I'd be trying to get the power down and he'd just drive by me.
You know, kudos to him. It's a pretty special place for him to get his first ever IZOD IndyCar win, and he drove well, so good job.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I never thought about that. You're probably right. I thought they were supposed to sweep. There was no sweeping all day, and I was behind Ryan on the last restart, and I got in the marbles trying to draft him and pass him, and I was completely sideways on the straight, because for some reason we talk about sweeping the inside of the first corner or the outside so we can actually run side by side, and I guess they just forgot today. I don't know what the hell happened. Anyway...
Q. I'm sure both of you would have liked to have won today, but under the circumstances, considering what Mike Conway went through last year at the Indianapolis 500, can you still kind of feel pretty happy for him?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, absolutely. Both Ryan and myself have come back from some pretty serious injuries over the years, so we know what Mike is going through, right, and it's --
RYAN BRISCOE: Absolutely.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: He deserved it today. I'd love to be up there right now with the Target boys celebrating, but Mike did a better job today and Mike's team, and good on him. It's really good to see. He drove a hell of a race, and it's quite a comeback from where he was at the end of last May.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, same thing. Just really happy for him. He's a great driver. It's great to have him in the series, and it's a really good team and they executed today. Sometimes I feel like maybe you see Power, Conway, sometimes you come back from an injury and you work so hard on your recovery and sometimes you come back even stronger. I think he's definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with as we move forward.
Q. Were either of you involved or near any of the accidents today, and if so, how did you respond with your car?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was pretty close to that last one in turn 1. I locked up the fronts going in, and I was just able to get round -- I think Scott had to hit some of the debris. Scott was an innocent bystander there and he was coming through and there was all kinds of crap lying on the track, and I just managed to get a tighter lane than Scott and miss it, so I was pretty lucky there.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I wasn't. The start of the race I started 12th, but we were so spread out, I was actually quite happy that we were spread out because I wanted to do -- I couldn't sleep last night because I just wanted to get through turn 1 today, and so it was all spread out, and I was like, perfect, I've got no one around me, let's just get this race going. After that the next restart I was leading, and it was definitely a nice place to be on restarts.
Q. Ryan, after Barber you talked about how big a hole you were in. Just how badly did you need this today?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, real bad. I mean, points, confidence, you know, the team, everybody. It means a lot. We've been performing well, and I really think the 6 car in general from myself, my engineer, everybody, we're really motivated this year. I think we've picked up the game. We're stronger as a team, and it's just been real heartbreak not to get the results in the first few races because we've been up in the front and we've been strong.
So coming here, you know, we didn't qualify very well. To get this result means a lot more than just points. I think it's just going to strengthen us as a team moving forward.
Q. Ryan, you had kind of gapped when you got out in front, you put a little bit of space between you and the others, but when Conway got by you later on, was he just that much better or had your car changed from the earlier point in time?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, I think when I'd really gapped the field, I was on soft tires, they were on hard tires, so that was the real difference. We started on hard tires, whereas everybody else in front of me had started on the soft, so I had that advantage in the second stint. For me it was going to be important to gap because I didn't have as much fuel in the car, and I was going to have to pit at least two laps before Hunter-Reay and Power, who were behind me. So I knew that with the slow out-lap before they were going to have to make their out-lap I was going to have to make a gap. I think we got it up a bit over four seconds or so, and it was just enough. Both of them, I came down the straight and they were both braking to come out of the pits and come out in front of me, so we just got in front of them, and that was key.
At the end of the race, Conway had a fast car. Again, I think it was just a case of having cleaned the tires.
Q. Dario, you are the two-time and defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion. Some of my listeners might think you're in the catbird seat for No. 3 here. I know it seems a little bit early, and when you drivers explain how early this is in the season, how much racing there is to go, brings a little more credibility to that. How early is it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It would be No. 4, not No. 3. (Laughter.)
But besides that, it's way too early, man. It can change (snaps fingers), like that, and we're just taking it one race at a time. We did the absolute best we could today. A couple areas we were weak. Got to improve that. We've got to go to Brazil and do a better job; then we've got to move on to Indy, and obviously that's a big one. Just take it one race at a time, and we'll see how it all shakes out.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on the podium finishes and best of luck in Brazil.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Just one thing. The crowd was amazing, just want to say that. On the parade laps they were so enthusiastic. There was a massive crowd, has been all weekend, and then on that truck right after the finish the enthusiasm and just the number of people, it was good to see. It's been a long time since I've seen that kind of vibrant at Long Beach, and it was cool.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner, Mike Conway of Andretti Autosport. This is Mike's first career IZOD IndyCar Series win. The win comes in his 26th start in the IZOD IndyCar Series. His previous best finish was third place at Infineon in 2009. This is also Andretti Autosport's second consecutive win here on the Streets of Long Beach. The team won last year with driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, and team owner Michael Andretti is a two-time winner at the track.
Mike, congratulations. It's got to feel good. Will you talk about today's race, specifically that last restart there and then that pass on Ryan for the lead?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I mean, initially was just kind of following Will and Ryan. The car was good, kind of just saving fuel, just keeping the gap the same and not pushing too hard, trying to save a little bit of the tires just in case. If they pitted early I still had some tires left to push.
And we came in for that pit stop, and things kind of went a little bit wrong from there. A little bit my fault, I think, just coming in just locked the tire in. There was a problem with the left front. From there it was kind of a case of try and pass as many cars as I could. But at the same time it wasn't easy; it was tough.
But as soon as we came out on the reds and kind of jumped a few people in the pits, car kind of came to life again, and yeah, on the restarts the car was awesome. Everyone else was kind of struggling for grip and we were just kind of charging through.
Yeah, great we won, and Dario and Ryan I passed later, so it was nice to really fight for the lead there and a nice clean pass, and from there it was kind of just head down and try and pull away.
Q. Were you surprised how big a gap you were able to open up once you were in the lead? Because it looked like you just kind of drove away from them.
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I mean, as I said, the car was good on the restarts and I was kind of just pushing the car to its limits, as always, and yeah, they just kind of dropped away from my mirrors, so it kind of made my day a little bit easier not having to fight with Ryan all the way through to the end there. Yeah, the car just was good, and came out determined to do really well. Yeah, we were just able to pull away.
I think the gap that we pulled so quickly was great, and I would just keep it from there. So yeah. I don't know, a little bit surprised maybe, but the car felt hooked up, so I thought I could do it.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by team owner Michael Andretti. As I mentioned, a two-time winner here at the track and his second consecutive win as a team owner here at Long Beach. Michael, Mike joined the team here at the start of the season. What made you take a chance on Mike and his comeback this year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: First of all, I don't think it was a chance. I think Mike showed a lot of signs of brilliance last year at the beginning of the season and then unfortunately had his accident. Coming back, I had no question in my mind. I personally felt like he was going to be hungrier than ever coming back, and that's exactly the way it came about. The first time he got in a race car for us, he was literally up in speed in about four or five laps after being out of a car that long.
I never felt like it was taking a chance. I was so happy that we were able to put a deal together with Mike because I was really wanting him all the way from the end of last year, and the deal came together really late and I was very happy because I felt like he was going to be a great addition to the team not only as a great talent, but he just fits in with the other three drivers, which is quite important to have that chemistry. And I think we have a great chemistry right now between the drivers, and because of that, I feel really good about the rest of this year. I think we're going to be strong.
Q. You won last year with Ryan Hunter-Reay; your father Mario had a lot of success here; you had a lot of success here. Is this one of your favorite tracks?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's a special place for sure. For me personally, like you said, winning my first and my last race here, my career, and there's something about Long Beach. When you come here, you just feel the energy. It's different than anywhere we go. The fans are just so great, and the track is great, promoters are great. It's a fun part of the year.
You know, it seems like when I go to places like that, you feel like you do better, and I think maybe that's one of the things that really has always affected me in that way and that's why I've had good luck here.
Q. Considering what happened last year, how much does this victory mean to you, and did you at any point after last year's accident think that your career might be over?
MIKE CONWAY: Well, yeah. I mean, initially I saw the injuries I had, and I just wasn't sure when I'd get back. Yeah, things like that can definitely stop your career. But I was just determined to not let it, determined to get back, back to fitness and back in a car.
As soon as we were kind of talking to Michael, it was really exciting times knowing that we could possibly be with such a good team like Andretti Autosport. Yeah, for it to finally come together was awesome.
Yeah, this year just full of energy and just all ready for the fight ahead. A long season. To get a win in the third race in, third race back, is awesome, and I can't thank Michael enough for believing in me and the team for doing such a great job.
Q. For Michael, talk about how quickly your emotions changed from when Ryan had his issue and then all of a sudden you look up and there's Mike in the lead?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was crazy and I've got to admit unexpected. It's so difficult to pass here, so I was really happy to see Mike up in the top six, and I thought, that's not bad considering what he had to go through, and at that point we were feeling good about where Ryan was and then all of a sudden Ryan has this problem and I felt really bad for him and the whole DHL Sun Drop team, and I was like, oh, man, this is over.
And then all of a sudden everybody starts cheering, and I'm like, what are they cheering about, and Mike is like, boom, going past Dario, and next thing you know he's past Briscoe. Unbelievable. And then he just walked it. I was so happy and proud.
But like you say, mixed emotions. That's the only downside about it when you have a four-car team, that not everybody is going to be happy leaving here. I feel bad for the other three, but so excited for Mike, and I know what he's gone through and how hard it's been, and to come here and do it that way was -- it wasn't given to him. He had to fight back hard, and it just shows he doesn't give up, and that's what he did. He drove like a champion today.
Q. How do you think this is going to play back home, and have you heard from any of your family and friends back in England yet?
MIKE CONWAY: Well, yeah, actually my mom, dad and brother are here, so it's great that they're here to enjoy it all. Yeah, I'm sure it'll be great. The press back home is always pretty good; my local kind of town always follow me. Yeah, I'm actually flying back to the UK tomorrow, so I'll probably see. I'll see what it's like. No, it's always good. Great following in the UK with the IndyCar Series, and I think it's just getting stronger and stronger as it is over here. Yeah, I think it should all be good.
Q. In the months after the accident, was it more physical or mental at that point to get back to where you're at?
MIKE CONWAY: Just physical, really. I mean, as soon as it happened I wanted to know what the time frame was and when I could get back in a car. I was already kind of over it, really. And then you've got the physical side of things, which just takes time. From there it's just an ongoing process, bit by bit, day by day, until kind of where I am now. Yeah, I mean, it was a long off-season, but I had a lot to focus on and a lot to keep my mind on, and when I kind of got the chance to get back in the car, I was ready.
Q. For both of you, Mike, we had talked about the support earlier in the weekend that you got, and even on the side of the car it makes a lot of sense with When the World Cares and the heart. Maybe if you could talk about that. And Mr. Andretti, you know the history of this race leading up to Indianapolis and how important that is, and is your driver aware of what this has meant in the past?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I don't know, you'd have to ask him, but this is always a good one to win. It doesn't matter what. It's always nice to have the momentum of a win going into the long month of May, so it's great.
What was the other part of your question? Oh, yeah, it's great to have When the World Cares on board. They've been great supporters. They're with -- my cousin John is going to be a sponsor, When the World Cares, and this is their big charity, When the World Cares. It's so cool to have those colors on the car and to get them in victory lane, and hopefully help the cause, which I know they do a lot of different things, but one of their big things is with the St. Jude's Hospital for Children and things like that, which are great things, and it's nice to help out a little bit.
Q. For Mike Conway, you made it sound like it was an easy drive today. Did you have any difficulties at all during the race?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, maybe I'm making it sound too easy. No, it was not an easy day. I mean, at the beginning it was just kind of controlling it, the gap between me and Ryan and Will and saving fuel, and from there, once we dropped back in the pack, it was a fight, really, a fight to stay where we were and to try and move forward on the restarts and to keep us in the game. You know, kind of restarts worked out for us, the strategy worked well, and yeah, the car was just on fire, really, at the end. We were just able to push by the guys and make some good moves, and before I knew it I was in the lead and went for kind of a few laps. Yeah, just a great job from the guys made my day that little bit easier, I suppose.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports