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August 6, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started. We're joined by two of our Firestone Fast Six qualifiers for tomorrow's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Dario qualified third. He's the defending race winner, winning here last year, and is a two-time polesitter at the track. Ryan Hunter-Reay started fourth last year and is going to start fifth tomorrow.
Both you guys tested here on Thursday. Did you use any of that setup or information that you picked up from then to qualify well today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: They still haven't cleaned the track since Thursday last week. There's dirt everywhere. It's like a motorcross track (laughter).
You know, I think everybody's been struggling a little bit for grip. The test was definitely helpful for us. When it's so restricted now, anytime you can get on the track, it's helpful.
I think all four of the Ganassi cars have been strong all weekend, and Scott in particular. He was very strong at the test, too.
Yeah, I mean, if I would have put a lap together, I could have been second. I was maybe overdriving a couple of bits, so I didn't get it together. In those conditions, when I didn't do a perfect job, I think third is not bad. Have a go at them tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, you'll be starting fifth. You started fourth last year. Tell us about your qualifying session today.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, like Dario was saying, I felt like if I put a lap together, it was going to be good for third, second. But I couldn't attack the entry to the corner with the way it is right now. The track feels different this year for some reason. I was just loose on the way in and couldn't put it together.
But tomorrow, starting fifth, we can absolutely work from there. I love driving around this place. It's a lot of fun. To be able to get through all three qualifying sessions is getting your money's worth today. It was fun and hopefully we'll go out and get a win tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, obviously ad nauseam this week with the hometown hero stories. You were fast in practice last year as well as this year. Last year wasn't quite as fast in qualifying. What did you do differently this year that helped you be in the Firestone Fast Six, starting in the top six?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think the team has a big part to do with that. As Dario said, we have four Ganassi cars in the top 10, three in the top six, so we're definitely pleased with that.
On the Service Central side, we've had a good weekend overall. I didn't think I'd ever say that I'm disappointed to qualify sixth, but I am. We had speed in the last run. Seemed like I was overheating the fronts, couldn't get the car to turn too well. Lost a bunch of time.
But overall for us to make the Fast Six is very important for us to have a good race tomorrow after being taken out in the last two events. So I certainly hope we can have a good run, get to the finish line, get some good points.
THE MODERATOR: Now we're also joined by Ryan Briscoe, started on pole here in 2009, won here in '08, starting second tomorrow. Never qualified outside the top 10 here at Mid-Ohio. Looking back at your success here, the fifth year you've raced here. What about the track enables you to qualify and race well?
RYAN BRISCOE: It's a beautiful race circuit here, one of those few pure racetrack circuits that we go to on the calendar, just a permanent track that has a lot of history. It rubbers in. You've got great elevation changes. It's a beautiful, fun track to drive. You can be very aggressive, push the car to its limits. It's satisfying when you get a good lap out of it. I always love coming here.
It was a hard-fought session today. Just very physical out there. It took lots of laps to get lap times going. It's like the track keeps improving and you need to be out there at the end. So it's great.
It's good to be on the front row again. You know, I thought we were going to have a good battle for the pole, but Dixon just blew us away there in the end. He certainly laid one down.
Feeling good on the front row. It means a lot to everyone at IZOD, Penske Truck Rentals. We have a lot of supporters in this area. Hopefully we can bring home a good result tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. How big of a cluster is turn four going to end up being, since that's going to be the first turn after the restarts?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know. I think we made it work in the past. It's the best place for us to do the restarts. We're never going to make it work off of the last turn here. You know, I don't think it's quite as inviting as some of the corners that we've had recently.
From my perspective, I hope we get through cleanly and don't have any problems, then kind of let it file out through five and six.
It's a slightly banked corner. There's some grip. We've seen incidents there before. But I certainly think we can make it work.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's really the best choice of the two we've got. If they sweep and do a good job of sweeping the outside of the corner, outside of turn two and outside of turn four, it lends itself well because you can go through there side-by-side - again, if the track is clean.
So, yeah, should be interesting.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Like Graham said, we've done that here many times before. It's not the type of racetrack where you're going from sixth to first gear. We should be able to run two-wide if they sweep right. Going to need some good sweeping tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: The polesitter is here, Scott Dixon. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your qualifying session?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's been I think for both Target cars a pretty smooth weekend. I think everybody struggled to get good pace out of the cars. The track is constantly changing. It's very low grip in some places, and then improves a lot. It's been a bit confusing throughout the weekend to make changes on the car and make sure it's fairly consistent and you can push hard.
For us, from qualifying, the red tires definitely helped the balance of my car. We were struggling with entry and things like that. So once we got to the reds, it was pretty smooth. The car actually was not bad to drive. I wouldn't say it was easy to pull off the laps it was doing, but it seemed maybe a little bit easier than some of the others were having to deal with.
You know, it's been a long time since a pole for me, a couple of years, so it's nice to be back in that situation. Tomorrow's another day. The pole, obviously it's a nice place to start. But I think after the first caution, it could be pretty mixed up with cars off sequence, then it gets messy again.
Fingers crossed, hopefully have a smooth day and stay out of as much carnage as possible.
THE MODERATOR: Some more questions.
Q. Dario, was there any issues with traffic? With the sports car race, do you see any problems with the grip level?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No problem with traffic. They put me out in a good spot. Especially the Fast Six, with only six cars on the track, we did a good job of staying out of each other's ways on that one.
The sports car race, talking to Jan and the Dyson guys, they're having the same problems as we are. It's taking a long, long time to get any kind of grip out there. It might rain for them. If it does, I think it will be quite an interesting race.
Q. Dario, since you're Mr. Safety, any concerns with Justin's situation?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was pointed out last week when we were at the test. It's been a problem there for a long time.
But with the new owners, they haven't had time yet to implement a lot of the stuff they want to do. They seem very, very keen to improve the safety in a lot of different places, but they haven't had time to implement that.
We talked about that, it was pointed out as a big problem. It was pointed out to them last Thursday. The grass is very, very rough. Massive undulations on the grass. Then you swap onto an access road almost, another part of the track, then it goes back onto the grass. The difference can be as much as a foot in places. Especially there, you're fourth gear, I don't know what the speed is in miles an hour, but it's bloody quick. The cars don't deal with that kind of rough ground.
What is the update on Justin? Do we know?
THE MODERATOR: No, not yet.
Q. How were you able to get more than everybody else, Scott?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, I don't know. I think our car maybe just had a little bit better balance. It seemed to be able, especially on hot tires, get up to speed pretty quick.
I don't know why. Obviously we can't see what the other cars are dealing with to obviously get the speed. But from my car, turns 1 and 11, split times we were gaining a little bit on some of the others.
I don't know. I really don't know apart from that.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by a freshly changed Will Power who started here on pole last year, is going to be fourth today. Picked up one spot in the last lap. Take us through your qualifying situation.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was quite difficult to get a balance. Not much grip on the track. Yeah, I mean, the Fast Six, just kept plodding away, getting little bits here and there. My last lap was good. Could have been good enough for second. I didn't make a mistake -- well, yeah it was a mistake in the last turn there, lost a couple 10ths. Still quite a ways off Scott. He seemed to have a chunk on the whole field.
It's going to be tough to beat him tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Continue with questions.
Q. Scott, you've had a great run here in the past. Is this the start of your late-season charge?
SCOTT DIXON: It would have to be a helluva charge. We're a long ways back.
For me it's taking each race by itself at the moment and trying to make the most of it. I think as far as a team, with the exception of Indy, we've done a helluva job to put ourselves in the right positions, especially on the road courses. I think we've improved our qualifying a lot from last year.
So, you know, it's been good in many ways. But obviously the races and the points just really haven't been there for us. I think every race we get to we hope is a turning point. But only tomorrow will tell.
Q. How about the strategic advantage of starting on the pole?
SCOTT DIXON: As I said earlier, I think it will only take like a lap, 10 or 15 yellow, then it's going to be mixed up again. You might find yourself in the middle of the pack when the pit sequence opens up.
We'll have to see how it goes. It's obviously a moving target all the time. Hopefully you pick the right one.
Q. (No microphone.)
SCOTT DIXON: Maybe. This track has a little bit better flow to it as far as there's not big massive braking areas too often. Even the back section is a lot of single file. I don't know.
It's a little easier to judge your braking distances in corners with the layout of the circuit, being a permanent road course. The grip, even though it's slippery out there at the moment, it's generally easier to read.
Who knows. It doesn't take much in these cars. With the competition level so high at the moment, everybody is trying to gain a position here and there. You got to stretch it a little bit further to try to pull that off.
No, you can't say that this race is going to be any better.
Q. (Question to Scott regarding the test.)
SCOTT DIXON: No, you know, it was evolving, too. The test was the same. We started the test doing 1 minute 15s and doing 1 minute 8s or whatever it was. You're constantly chasing the track. We just tried to stay at a consistent sort of platform, adjust small things to try to adjust for the track.
As a team, I think we learnt quite a bit at the test, but we're still all in many directions. I think a lot of it is on a circuit that's low grip is trying to get a feel that you're comfortable with.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Good luck tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports