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July 9, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by several of our Firestone Fast Six qualifiers for tomorrow. We have five different teams represented in the top six. We are now joined by Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia.
Scott, talk about today's qualifying session.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was pretty tough. As I said yesterday, I think the track's very demanding, more so this year with the bumps, just where you got to try to get the speed out of the car.
Qualifying was pretty smooth for us for the first two groups. I think the big question for most people today was how much you're actually going to gain on the reds. Maybe some speculation they weren't going to be much quicker at all. Turned out they were.
So, you know, pretty decent. Little disappointed with Q3. We might adjust. Had enough in it. I'm sure Will didn't get the most out of his lap as well. At least we've made improvements. The cars are quicker and obviously quicker to the No. 12 that's been dominating on the road courses.
Pretty happy all in all. Pretty confident both Target cars will be strong in the race.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, your thoughts on qualifying today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, similar to Scott really. I thought that my car was good. That last Fast Six, I didn't get the most out of it. I kept screwing up one corner and eventually got it halfway right, by which point was about lap five. Probably the best of the tire had gone. That was totally my fault. I didn't get into rhythm quick enough. So ended up third.
I felt we probably had enough to get close to these guys, maybe not ahead. But P3 is all right. I think I'm happy with the way that the Target car is on black and red tires. We'll see what we've got tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: What corner was bad?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm not telling you (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Oriol, another great qualifying effort for you and the Newman-Haas crew here.
ORIOL SERVIA: Absolutely. It feels great to be with this company of drivers and teams, trying to break their dominance the last few years. But it's tough. It's getting tougher and tougher. But we're getting closer, too.
It's just about guessing right the last little changes, guessing what the reds are going to do. I'm very happy. We seem to be the only kind of Telemundo (indiscernible) out there. I think the little red is working for him, so maybe he'll ride in my car.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, a top-five start here, importantly on the 25th anniversary of your dad's win here. Talk about the importance of this great start.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I mean, it feels really good for us to qualify here. We're pretty pleased with it. All weekend the Service Central guys have worked hard to improve the car. First practice yesterday was pretty disappointing. We've slowly moved forward.
For us to make the top six I think is a huge achievement because you look at the people that are surrounding us here, it's the best of the best. Certainly this series is so competitive right now, you're finding hundredths of a second to move in and out of one group.
For us to advance into the top six and qualify fifth, it feels really good. Really happy, excited for the race. We've raced a lot better this year than we've qualified. So to qualify up here, it feels real nice.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Mike Conway and our polesitter Will Power.
Mike, looked like you had a bit of a whitewall in the second qualifying.
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah. You always try and challenge it on the exit of turn eight to get that final bit of speed, but got too close. Luckily nothing was bent. It was a close one. That's it, you're always looking for that little edge to try to get in there. Kind of neat to do it a little bit, but maybe not that hard.
Apart from that, it's been a good day. Yesterday was tough. We were kind of out to lunch a little bit. Managed to make some good improvements overnight, came out this morning strong. To be in the Fast Six, very happy with that. All my thanks to the guys at Andretti Motorsport.
THE MODERATOR: Will, you had the fastest lap at the end of the day but you still weren't happy with your car. Are you liking it now?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think it's impossible to get a good balance around this place with so many different surfaces and the bumps. So you got to make the most of it.
It seems impossible to put a perfect lap together, too. You gain somewhere on one lap and you lose it somewhere else. It's such a fun track because you absolutely ring the car's neck in every possible way, under brakes, on power, everywhere. It's always fun.
I don't think qualifying is a big deal because I really think you can come from the back and win this race. It's just that sort of track. Plenty of passing, lots of mayhem.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Some of you said this is a tough track to pass. How important is it to be in this group to have a chance to win the race?
MIKE CONWAY: Obviously it's very tough. We're not quite sure how the reds are going to hold out just yet. Wait till the morning to see that. That's one factor that's going to count into it. Everyone is very quick. As I said, it's very close. If you pit slightly too early or too late, you're going to be back there.
To be in the top six in qualifying is tough, just to get in the top six. Obviously the race is a whole 'nother thing. It counts to be in the top six and be up there.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think it makes the job a lot easier. Last year I started towards the back, ended up fifth and passed a lot of guys. I think you can pass here. The other side of it is it's super easy to make a mistake. As Will said, you're pushing it so hard every corner here, it's easy to go on a runoff. I don't expect to see that much in the race, but it can happen.
If you're pushing people hard, hopefully they'll make mistakes and you can get around them. You can definitely race here, that's for sure.
ORIOL SERVIA: I agree this is a place that you can pass, but I don't think the way we're driving on the back straight it's going to make that easy. We're all kind of driving on the right-hand side to avoid bumps. As Graham find out last year, that creates for some confusion when it comes down to the last few meters there.
I don't know. I think it's only my opinion, but I think Brian should make us all brake on the left-hand side even if we all have to raise the car for that. It would be good for the show because it would allow more passing and less wing changes during the race.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think he's going to do that.
ORIOL SERVIA: But I don't know what they're going to do.
Q. Dario, this is your best qualifying on a road and street circuit. Does that surprise you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Qualified second at St. Pete, I think.
Q. Okay, sorry (laughter).
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Moving on.
I think we missed it by less than a 10th if you add up all the times we missed it. That's what happens when you don't get it all together. There's no margin for error anymore. You got to get everything right. Couple times we didn't, so... We saw the result.
Q. What about the back straightaway thing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Everybody does go to the right to avoid the bumps. By the time you get to the brake, the No. 5 marker, you have to be to the left. That was the rule last year. I talked to the guys, the promotors this morning, about resurfacing that for next year, the two main straights. That would really help and get rid of confusion.
The rest of the track is cool. Being as bumpy as it is adds to the fun of it. That means straights would definitely benefit from it.
They're not scared to spend the money. The whole place is lined in new fences this year. That's pretty cool to see.
Q. Where would you rate it bump-wise?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Probably halfway between new Brazil and old Brazil. I don't know about you guys.
Q. Dario, there's been questions about double-file restarts on road circuits. Now that you're here and you've been out and practiced, how do you feel about them?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I've been here a few times before so I really knew what we were getting into. That's the rule we've got and it's up to us. We know how to do it.
It's going to be challenging in turn one and turn three. But we're all supposedly professionals (laughter). You know, we can all screw up, too.
If we give a little margin for error, which not many of us are liable to do, not any of us, I think, if we do that, we can make it through there. But it's going to be a challenge every single time. It's up to us to make it work.
Q. (No microphone.)
ORIOL SERVIA: You scared me when you said 'financial' (laughter).
I think if I want to have any hope of even trying to get back to Scott on third in the points or even maintaining where we are, we need to win races. It's just not gonna continue this way. You have to be smart when you have a chance.
I still hope we're going to improve the car more for tomorrow because I'm not totally happy yet. I think that's why in my last run, my second run on the tires, I lost more than these guys. I couldn't pull the magic.
I'm confident. Every session we improve. If tomorrow when we start the race I feel I have a car as good as these guys, we'll risk it because I have to win races. Like Long Beach, I felt I had as good of a car or better than Dario, and I was against him the whole race.
Right now I don't think I'm there yet, but if I feel that in the race, we'll go for it.
Q. Will and Dario, same question from a different perspective. Dario will start right behind you tomorrow. The whole rivalry thing, given your rearview mirror, does that account for anything?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I'd rather him beside me, but that's what it is.
I mean, Dario in general races clean. Except St. Pete when you drove me into the wall (laughter).
He doesn't want to knock his front wing off and be wrecked in the first corner. It doesn't even bother me. It's what it is. Do the best start I can and see what happens.
Q. Dario, starting behind him, does that change your strategy?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No. I mean, I think all of us, we've been racing against each other that we always end up, I'd say in particular with Scott and Will, we end up racing against each other in the championship, but also week in, week out. Some weekends you're ahead, some weekends you're starting behind, sometimes beside. You race everybody out there. You do your very best. You don't really keep an eye on one person, whether it's Will or Scott or anybody out there. I just go out and do the best I possibly can.
Q. (Question regarding how challenging it is with the number of cars.)
MIKE CONWAY: I think most places you can get caught up with traffic. Here it is really tight through the last section. That's where everyone seems to back off a little bit, try to get a clean lap.
I think, anyway, the team is going to give you as much space as they can. Still you get people going out in front of you coming out of exits. But I think everyone is quite fair. If they do that, they try to get out of the way. I think generally it's the same.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think Mike covered it. A lot of these street and road courses, it's hard to get a lap. It's hard here because you don't know exactly how far to gap off. You can't see much around that back section. A place like Brazil where the straightaway is so long, you can see everything around you.
I think, as Mike said, everybody has been pretty respectful moving over, getting out of the way if they come out in front of you. The tough thing as a driver, you come out of pit lane, you can't see what's on the front straight. The guys in the pits have to be communicating with you to tell you who's where. It's definitely difficult.
ORIOL SERVIA: I'll just say it was one of the times that I was not remembering we had the split groups, and I was not the happiest. I was thinking, Man, it's going to be a nightmare in qualifying. It's nice to have split groups and have only half of the guys out there.
Q. What is the mental preparation like as you get closer to the race for tomorrow?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think you get what you need for the race setup-wise, you have a better idea after warmup in the morning. I think everyone has had so many years to work on these cars and setups, they're all so close now, it's only details you're looking for. It's not much.
Mentally, that's all we can do, is prepare the best we can.
Q. Will, is your weekend playing out any different (indiscernible)?
WILL POWER: No. It's been an easy transition. Tim is a pretty smart guy, great with strategy. I think they just made that move to have him oversee the crew because we've had a few problems in the pits. It hasn't been one particular thing. Just having him there, I think he'll have a better idea if anything needs to change or if we just need to get some small details right.
Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: I don't think we'll see anybody go quicker now. Obviously, the weekend has been extremely fast. I think pole was 61.1 last year, something like that, almost a second quicker. That's been consistent with the blacks and the reds.
So, no, you won't see the track go any quicker unless somebody goes out on a fresh pair of reds in the middle of the race, no fuel, which isn't going to happen. It's definitely going to be a much quicker weekend than what we typically see here.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Best of luck tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports