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August 28, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by Dario Franchitti. Dario is our championship points leader with a 26-point lead over Will Power. This is Dario's 11th top-five finish of the season.
Dario, walk us through today's race.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think you guys saw most of it. I think the most action-packed parts were obviously the start there. Scott got beside me, but I was able to get out of turn two better than him. The restart, almost crashed, didn't fancy having that same problem. Ryan made a couple mistakes, but I couldn't get all the way alongside him to make something happen. So it was always going to be a risky move. 4th is better than 20th.
The Penske guys did a great job. From qualifying onwards, their cars were really good on Firestone reds. I think we were as good on the blacks, but didn't count because the reds were a bit faster. That was the long day for the team, both Target cars. Yeah, that was about it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Dario.
Q. Does this mean it was as lacking in adventure as it appeared?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was lacking in passing, but most corners were an adventure. Anytime you saw us leaving black lines out of turn seven, out of the carrousel, a lot of times crossed up there. It wasn't through lack of effort there was no passing. I was pushing as hard as I could to keep the Penske cars in sight. I wasn't just cruising around, I was really on the ragged edge for pretty much the whole day really.
But, as I say, I wasn't able to make anything happen with Ryan.
Q. With your lead down to 26 points, how much more pressure does that put on you to finish the season strong and try to hold off Will?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You can only do your best. That's the same attitude I take every championship I've done. You can only do your best. There's going to be days like this and hopefully days where we have the upper hand. There's no more pressure. Ultimately it is what it is and you have to deal with it. The only way to deal with it is to go out and try to win the weekend after that.
Q. It sounded yesterday as though you thought passing on the back markers was going to be easier. That didn't seem to be the case. Was that a surprise at all?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Not really. When we met a lot of the back markers, they were coming out on new tires. Our tires had already degraded. Briscoe and I were joking. Seemed like every back marker pulled in front of us. Busy day with the back markers. I think we all at some point caught somebody.
Q. What did you think of the Penske Racing's dominance today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: As I said before, if you listened, I thought they did a good job.
Q. Tell me about the gap between Ganassi and Penske here compared to Mid-Ohio where you had the marked advantage.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's the question we're asking ourselves right now (laughter).
You know, we thought in both practices Friday and Saturday morning we were comfortable with the car balance-wise on the black tires, both Scott and myself. We put the red tires expecting the balance to do one thing and it did another. From that point on, we've been chasing the balance on red tires.
The problem is red tires were, I don't know, half a second, second quicker. We ended up destroying the balance. The Penske guys found something. All three of their teams did a great job all weekend. We've got some work to do.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, we appreciate you taking the time.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by one of today's podium finishers, Ryan Briscoe, who is part of the Team Penske 1-2-3 podium sweep. This is the first time Team Penske has had a 1-2-3 finish since Nazareth in 1994. This is the eighth time Team Penske has had a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium in IndyCar competition. The last time a team has finished 1-2-3 in IndyCar Series competition was 2005 at St. Pete with Andretti Autosport.
Ryan, talk about a great race and a great finish for you and the team.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, no, the result is great. Uneventful race. Certainly not easy. It may have looked easy out there. The tires were a struggle. They were going off, which just made us have to conserve and drive the car around issues, move our adjustments in the cockpit to try to keep after it.
But all day long I felt like any lapped car that wanted to come out of the pits came out in front of me. I had Dario hounding me down all day long. I knew I had a little bit more speed than him but I just had lapped cars in front of me. A few of them were very inconsistent. Every now and then they would make a mistake, it would check me up, Dario would be right there.
We sort of got to a point in the race where my focus was just to hold off Dario and bring home this 1-2-3, especially on that last restart. There was no point in trying to risk anything to make a position. It's such a milestone for this team to get this 1-2-3. My focus was entirely on keeping the Ganassi cars behind me.
It's a huge result. We performed well all weekend long. We started 1-2-3, we finished that way. Everyone has been working so hard back at the race shop to do this. It's a long time coming. Two years we've been teammates and we've come close a few times. Probably should have had a 1-2-3 before now, but it feels great.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Helio Castroneves, he finished second. Helio, it has been a rollercoaster type of season. Talk about having another great race today, another second-place finish.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, no question it's been a rollercoaster season, you put it right on that. But this weekend was about the team doing a great job. Back home, definitely got our butt kicked in the past. I think they deserved this because they really put their heads together. Again, it was a great, great result.
It's very rare to have starting 1-2-3 and finishing 1-2-3. All of us working really well together. The results show up today.
For me, the race, it was great. I definitely knew Will was a little bit faster, especially from the warmup. I noticed what he was capable of. I knew he was trying to save as much fuel as possible. I was just trying to go a little bit different. But Cindric knows my tricks a lot, but I know his tricks, too. It was fun to try something different. John and Ron, my engineer, we tried something a little different. We pit a little bit early, took advantage of the tires. Unfortunately, the black tires was a little bit different than what I expected. But the reds were finally up for me, like used to be in the past. So I was very confident.
But Will saved enough 'push to pass' in the end so I couldn't do much. But, you know, there was only one chance on the restart. I really tried. But somehow it was very dirty outside and I almost couldn't come back to the racetrack. But in the end, great, great finish for the entire Team Penske. I'm very happy today.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Talk about the importance of keeping Dario back there in fourth place as far as Will's point of view. What you two did today may get him the championship.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it might be. Right now for the team to win this championship, we need to keep Dario behind Will. Certainly Will winning, us between him and Dario, is a huge boost for the championship. Couldn't have been any better.
As I said, my big focus today was keeping him behind me, not so much doing anything stupid to try to pass Helio or Will on the restart. It was all about keeping that No. 10 behind us.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Pretty much in our case, you know, I was in a very fortunate situation. I saw Ryan there. My deal was just trying to push as much as I can with Will, see if we could make a gap between the rest of the guys. We quite did. But Will definitely didn't make any mistakes. His car was very good, very consistent.
I had one chance on one of the pit stops. I really try to pass him, but I didn't want to do anything stupid, especially in this position, in this stage of the championship. I would just go if I have a clear opportunity.
In the end today, this is the way we going to steal points from Dario, from Target Ganassi team, is finish ahead of them. If we have a chance to race fair and square, we will. But at this point we definitely want to bring this championship for Team Penske.
Q. In the last six races at Sonoma, the Penske team has had 12 top fives. What has made you so successful here at Sonoma?
RYAN BRISCOE: I mean, it's hard to pinpoint. I think we all love this track and we come here with great racecars. A lot of it's in preparation. But our setups have been different every year. You have to keep adjusting for the conditions, the tires are always different every year. We just keep working at it.
It's certainly a track that has suited our team and our driving styles.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Pretty much the same. A combination of a lot of things. I do feel that the last two races unfortunately we didn't have the result we quite wanted. We came here well-prepared. It paid off today.
Q. Will came here and did the testing last week for the team. How much did you end up straying from what Will came up with?
RYAN BRISCOE: Actually, the test was beneficial to us all. Will tested a few things which we all applied to our cars and basically used his baseline setups to go from.
We all sort of made variations of changes on the mechanical balance of our cars. But at this track, we're really able to help each other a lot. That's the case at a lot of circuits, not everywhere. But this was certainly one of those tracks where any information seemed to work across the board. We were able to help each other.
The other big part is how we push each other, just looking at speed tracings, cornering. I mean, having three cars, as competitive as we all are, we're pushing each other so hard, learning from each other, trying to get ourselves a step ahead of the rest.
Q. Actually some of us were in the room in Nazareth. It's taken a while since Penske went 1-2-3. That was a spectacular season that Team Penske had back then.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I don't even know if Ryan was racing. I did remember watching that. Certainly for us it's quite an honor to be in this position coming back with three cars. Obviously, that year they had the push rod engine, which is quite a big advantage over the competitors. But today everybody has the same engine, same car, same tires.
So for us, as Ryan said, last year we came quite close. Year before, as well. 1-2-4, I guess. Finally we got to keep pushing ourselves like we doing.
It's quite an honor. I know Roger wants that, Cindric wants that. We actually want that. So finally we're able to make it. Hopefully we can make many more races like that. Just change a little bit the winner (laughter). Everyone has to have a chance.
In the end of the day, we're extremely happy with the outcome of the result.
Q. Helio, Ryan said that this was a fairly uneventful race. How concerned are you that a race like this, especially where it's difficult to pass, is not an exciting race for the fans to watch?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The good news is people that come over here, I mean, it seems to be in California, they are really, really well-knowledged fans. They not only came here to see fast cars but also they understand a little bit about it. They have fun. It's a little bit different fans I would say that wants to see crashes and things like that.
This place is very technical. This place is very challenging. It's not about passing all the time. Especially people that came over here had an opportunity to drive or see this track many, many times.
So, yes, sometimes it's boring to watch. But, you know, it's difficult to keep the car on the track because there were so many variations and I do feel the fans we have here are much more knowledgeable in that aspect. So it doesn't become that boring.
In the end of the day, yes, it's a show. People want to see that. We could do something in the track, you know, the layout. Probably this hairpin here could be a little bit longer. That I'm sure would produce more opportunities of overtaking. We could do something like that. It's up to the track and also the league to make some adjustments for safety.
But other than that, I do feel this is a characteristic of this place. Again, we don't have bumpers and fenders like NASCAR so that they can push each other out. We're much more of a fragile car that if you touch, things go in pieces, and you end up finishing your race.
Hopefully in the years to come, we might adapt a little bit. But I don't think we should change anything. Right now it's working pretty good for us.
Q. Helio, you had a pretty extensive conversation with Tony before the race. Can you elaborate on the topic?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: How do you know that (laughter)? Man, I hope you don't have the football things like you can hear from far away.
Tony and I were just talking about how competitive the series is. Certainly it's a situation that we want to see, we're the experienced guys now, the way it used to be in the past. We do have more cars, but we're happy and hoping for next year the manufacturers coming in, kind of like a mix. Hopefully have more support from sponsors and things like that.
We were just talking about how it used to be in the past. He won here 2005. I won here in 2008. We were just exchanging kind of thoughts on that. But, you know, we're good friends. We're just trying to put our conversation in day to day, but nothing more than that. And about kids, too. We're fathers, so... Things like that.
He probably was reading lips out there, huh?
THE MODERATOR: Helio, we wanted to know if it was in English or Portuguese.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was in Portuguese, so I'm sure he didn't understand any of it (laughter).
Q. Would you like to do a round course here in the West Coast?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The good news is next year we're going to be on the AAA racetrack, cha-ching, again. We're really excited to go back to Fontana. That's where you hold the track record basically. It's about 241. So, yes, it's nice to give the fans a little bit of diversity so the people can still enjoy fast speed.
I do believe it's going to be great for next year. California is going to hold three races in one season, which is pretty good. That means you guys welcome us here. So it's a good way to come back.
Q. Then Dancing With The Stars?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm really excited for this season. I still don't know who it is going to be. Even if I knew, I would not tell you guys. I'm sure I'm going to end up doing my ordinary stop there, seeing my friends, like becoming my favorite show. Still pushing for them to do an All-Star Dancing With The Stars champs. I would definitely go back there. Hopefully it will be at the end of the season.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan and Helio, best of luck in Baltimore.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thank you.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by today's race winner, Will Power of Team Penske. This is Will's fifth win of the season. This is his 14th career win. Will is the first repeat IZOD IndyCar Series here at Infineon Raceway. He led 71 of 75 laps to clinch the bonus points led in addition to the points for the pole.
Will, it was a great day for points for you.
WILL POWER: Uh-huh (laughter).
No, like I said before the race, if we could finish how we started, it would be a perfect weekend. You know, now we have a legitimate shot at the championship. I think we're 26 points out. Two more road courses, two more ovals, we can get this.
Great momentum for the team. Just really happy for just the team effort overall. To have a 1-2-3 is something we've been working hard for for the last two years and we finally got it.
THE MODERATOR: A question we asked Dario on Friday. If you look at the four remaining races, three are new courses. Does that give you more confidence knowing it's new territory for everyone?
WILL POWER: It does actually. I always enjoy going to a new circuit. Usually do well on new circuits. I think that potentially could play into our strength. These races, especially the street courses, it's hard to predict what can happen with double-file restarts, how much mayhem happens. If you just keep it clean, have a good day, you can end up winning the thing.
That's got to be our focus. We've just got to go for it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. We know what you thought of the last race. Do you give today's race two thumbs up?
WILL POWER: Two fingers up, but not the middle ones (laughter).
Yeah, there was one yellow. Just shows the caliber of driver in this series now. Everyone is fast, in good cars. If you watch the race, you watch all through the field, I'm sure there were fierce battles all the way to last place. It's great to be part of something so competitive amongst so many talented drivers.
Q. Will, like I was telling Ryan and Helio, Penske has 12 top fives here since 2006. You won the two races you've ran here. What made you so dominant here at Sonoma?
WILL POWER: This is actually my fourth time here. In 2009, I had a nasty accident, left here in a helicopter. Came back last year and won, came back this year and won.
I can't tell you. I mean, it's just one of those tracks that I seem to click with. But in general on road courses and street courses it's what I know, it's what I'm good at. I understand very much what I need to get out of the car to be fast.
Q. After your win last year, coming into this year's race, how much did you learn that played a part in your win today?
WILL POWER: Actually the tires have changed quite a bit. Last year the fronts went off really badly. This year the rears started to go off.
I think around this place it's quite abrasive. You have to be really smart about what end of the car is going to go off and then react accordingly because if you keep passing, the end is going to go off, you're going to head backwards. That's something I was very mindful of going into that first stint on red tires.
Q. After Mid-Ohio, you said you thought the Penske boys had found something. Dario was up here and said he thinks you guys found something. After nine years, what the hell is left to find on these cars?
WILL POWER: It is amazing, yeah. I'm sure Ganassi has definitely improved on road and street courses.
I think coming here, we went back to some older setups. I can honestly say my setup from last year to this year is hardly different. It's funny, you know, we came here, and when we tested we worked out why we were slow at Mid-Ohio. That's what we learned. I think if we went back to Mid-Ohio, we'd be a bit stronger than we were.
Q. Can you talk about the restart with seven laps to go, how much of a charge did you expect from Helio? How comforting was it to look back and see your two teammates back there behind you?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was very comforting to have Helio and Ryan behind me on the last restart, two guys that you could totally rely on. I was sure, if I got a jump, there's no question, if I had clear air, I could go, I knew I could pull a gap no problem. When I was behind lapped cars, I was thinking it would be hard to hold Helio off and somehow get behind the guys battling for position, so I was happy to see the yellow.
Q. Was there any question on which tire you would go to on the last pit stop?
WILL POWER: No, I knew halfway through that second stint, there was no way I was going to use black tires. The reds were just that much better. I thought if you go on blacks, you'd be a sitting duck.
Q. If this championship goes down to the wire, the fact that those two drivers separated you and Dario, that could be the key to winning your championship. Talk about the value of what they were able to do today.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, it's invaluable to have guys like that performing at the top level, taking points away from Dario. I expect them to be the same the next four races now that we've got a bit of momentum, we understand what we want from the car. I'm hoping that this is going to be the case every weekend.
Q. Did you feel like you had the tires figured out through the practice runs and qualifying or were you still figuring it out during the race?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, after the morning warmup, I had some idea. But probably 15 laps into the stint I'm thinking that the rear tires do go off. I'm actually pretty smart here to look after them. The track gains grip, so it's evolving. That sometimes helps the tire. Sometimes it helps one end more than the other. You're always reacting to what the condition is.
THE MODERATOR: Will, congratulations on a great win and best of luck in Baltimore. Thank you very much.
WILL POWER: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports