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September 3, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with today's post qualify press conference. We're joined by two of our Firestone Fast Six drivers. Ryan Briscoe. This is the fifth consecutive top-six start for Ryan this season. And Dario Franchitti. This is the ninth time that Dario will start from the top four position this season.
Ryan, let's start with you. Another great qualifying effort this weekend.
RYAN BRISCOE: Nice after yesterday's performance. Today was all about getting the confidence back. Took me a while in turn five to drive it in there as deep as you need to. But the cars are handling really good. After yesterday's practice, I really just, you know, based the information off of Helio and Will. We run very close cars. They were both pretty happy with their cars.
Today was great. It was really hard-fought. That first group was a strong group. I think a couple good cars got eliminated there. But it was really competitive. We just kept chipping away. It was good to be in the Fast Six.
I think we pounded around a bit too much in Q1 and hurt our tires for Q3 as you have to go on used tires. I wish we could always get stickers in Q3 and go for it. But that's the way it is.
Really happy for Team Penske up there in third spot.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, you were able to recover from an off-track excursion.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Just one?
THE MODERATOR: Okay, more than one. You bounced back and made it to the fourth-place starting position. Talk about the first qualifying session especially.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: They were all, as usual, difficult. The competition level is very high. The first two I just really didn't think I got a clean lap. I didn't put together a whole lap.
So the time we got out on the third one, I think we made the car a little bit better. Put a half decent lap together. Obviously not where we need to be. I think we're struggling in one area now. But I'll be able to tell you in about 20 minutes when I look at Graham's data. There's one area we're struggling in right now and hopefully we can fix that tomorrow and we'll be in good shape.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by our polesitter, Will Power. This is Will's seventh pole of the season. Also joined by Graham Rahal. This is the best start of the season for Graham Rahal.
Will, talk about taking that pole.
WILL POWER: Yeah, that was definitely a tough one. Graham was really quick in the last session. I mean, I think I looked after my tires reasonably well in the first two. I think I did four laps or so on them.
But, yeah, I had one lap, I was second. I knew I had one lap to do it. I went out and did the timing, I didn't think I got it. I was down on my quickest lap from the previous.
Yup, it's a good place to start. It's obviously a long race. It's a typical street circuit. There will be probably multiple yellow-flag periods. We've just got to pick the right strategy.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, the last qualifying lap, looked like you were on track for the pole, then seemed to lose a little steam. What happened out there?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I had a good one going. They told me where Will was on the track. They thought he would jump ahead of us. I let the tires cool off. I kind of took a lap to get them back where we wanted them. I put one together. I went into the chicane about, I don't know, I think they said it was on a 1-0 or something. I locked up the right front, kind of got it through the chicane, but it wasn't pretty. Lost all our time there pretty well.
Overall, though, it was a great run for the Service Central team. I think all the Ganassi cars are strong here this weekend. Certainly feel like this is just a great circuit, it's tough, demanding. The concrete parts of it, it's bumpy as can be. But it's a great place.
Certainly love driving here. Easy to make mistakes, but qualifying kind of worked out for us.
THE MODERATOR: We have five different teams represented in the Firestone Fast Six today. Our drivers are separated by 7/10ths of a second. So a very competitive field.
We'll open it up for questions for these four.
Q. (Question regarding the tires.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know if it's that slick, but it's as bumpy as can be. When you go into there, you come down into a dip, it goes up. At the end of the braking zone, it either flattens out or goes down slightly.
You see a lot of guys. Pratt is tough. There and then three.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will start from the sixth position. This is his fourth appearance in the Firestone Fast Six this season. He has only qualified outside of the top 10 once in his last eight starts.
Ryan, talk about your run.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thanks. I don't feel like I should be up here for sixth. Tried to get everything I could get out of the car. The braking is tough around here. You ask for an extra five feet, you overshoot the corner. It's tough. We seem to be off by 3, 4, 5/10ths of a second. I think most of it's under braking entry.
It's a good place to start from, sixth. On the outside, I don't know. I don't know how these starts are going to be tomorrow in turn one. That's for these guys to talk about. I don't see how they go green two laps in a row with that turn one the way it is. Hopefully we'll get it sorted out.
Q. (Question regarding Sebastien Bourdais.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely. It's a great accomplishment for him, for the Dale Coyne team. We saw what Justin did sometimes when he was driving there. I think Dale spent a bit of money on the equipment, got some good guys there. We know Sebastien is a very, very good driver. It's very impressive to see.
Q. With the chance for a lot of yellow flags tomorrow, at what point do you start to think of it as a timed race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't think we have timed races unless it rains.
Q. Might rain tomorrow, too.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Then we do.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You have to pay attention to that. If it rains, we have to go through a lot of yellows for it to be timed. The track is fun. Don't get us wrong. It's a matter of us as a series figuring out this race, getting 28 cars into that corner. It's tough. I mean, for anybody, doesn't matter who it is.
No matter how well-behaved we go into it, you still have to get in there with all the bumps. With these cars, the brake lock, it's going to be tough.
But we're enjoying this track a lot. Baltimore is a great track, a fun place to be. It's great for IndyCar. It will be better and better over the years.
Q. (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I mean, I didn't race at Brazil the first year. You guys know better than me. But the bumps feel similar to that, kind of what I saw there.
I'll tell you what, though, the section basically like from four on is great. And the pavement that they put down on Thursday, I don't think any of us thought would hold. So far it has. Luckily it hasn't been too sunny or too hot on the track temperatures.
It's very similar to the other street circuits we go to. I doubt many of us kind of venture too far where we run setup-wise at those other places.
Here the bumps on Pratt are really bad. Everywhere else, it's a great facility. As Ryan said, it's a great track. It asks everything and more from you for every lap. I'm really enjoying it.
Q. (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know. I think if you look at it, all the Ganassi cars are right up there. For me, I'm really happy with the way the car is this weekend. It's just, like I said, I really enjoy driving here. I feel like, you know, so far I've been able to push a little bit harder and find a little bit more speed.
It's like Sonoma last weekend, I just couldn't quite come to grips with the way the car was handling. We were quite a ways off Dario and Scott. But this weekend it seems to be just suiting my style a little bit more.
Just really enjoying this track. I think that's a lot of it. I love street races. New street races, it's a pretty level playing field. I think that's why you see a lot of familiar faces up here at the top.
Q. (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, it was kind of an interesting session, or few sessions for us. The first session, the dash nor the radio work. The second session the dash didn't work. Same with the third. I really had no clue what lap times I was doing. They were trying to tell me, Will is on one that's just going to get you, but you're on one that's better, you're starting your lap better. Then I went into the chicane, like I said, threw it away.
I knew it was going to be tough. When they told me I did a three on that last to second lap, that was the same thing I did on the last session. I was pretty happy with that with the age of the tires.
As Dario said, the competition in this series right now is so tough. You know someone out there is going to close the gap.
Q. Dario and Will, with the championship battle coming to a close, is there any added pressure?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't think it adds any pressure really. For me, I think everybody sitting here, at the start of the season the pressure is on and it continues throughout the whole season. Every point, whether it's St. Petersburg, Indianapolis - I believe Indianapolis is a little different - but every race is all the same.
Q. (Question regarding a potential for a lot of wrecks.)
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, what that does is because the pits close under yellow, it mixes up the strategy. So if someone has pitted in that first stint within the window, you know, there's a bunch of fast cars that have remained out, they basically go to the back of the line.
It throws a spanner in the work basically. It's what it is.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: This happens every week. Every race is a potential to score maximum points or get taken out in the first lap. That's what we deal with every week.
No different this week than any other.
Q. (Question regarding discussion about the chicane and turn five.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, we talked. I think you should talk to Brian about that. I don't know if it's an issue with the FIA approval or the fact that AMS already qualified with it.
It wasn't just a case of us wanting to change it. There were some issues. In terms of turn five, we talked about it a little bit last night. I think that's something we need to change for next year.
Q. (No microphone.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Ask him. He hit it.
RYAN BRISCOE: I'm glad I hit tires and not a concrete wall. You're threading a needle through there. Second apex, you're going head first into the wall. If you're off a little bit, it's a huge wreck. I think you have to go out and talk about it. It's no quick fix you do for the race or anything. I think it could be made safer. Some way to make us turn so you're apexing not on the wall, the second one, because it's fast.
The speed itself, it's 70 something, maybe 80 miles an hour, but you're going head first to the wall basically. It will be a huge roadblock if anyone makes a mistake.
Q. Is this the most technical of the street courses you've seen this year?
RYAN BRISCOE: It's up there for sure. Different surfaces, different surface levels from corner to corner, bumpy, smooth, difficult to set up and challenging to drive.
GRAHAM RAHAL: What Ryan said is spot on. The other thing I think that's different about this place, from my perspective, there seems to be a lot of elevation. Front straight, braking zone, things are up and down. The bumps are thrown in the mix of all that. It's tough. It's tough to put a full lap together. You know, it definitely feels rewarding when you do.
Q. (Question regarding the last two road courses.)
RYAN BRISCOE: It's all part of the strategy. Infineon a lot of us were pitting early because new tire performance was better than staying out. You saw Will and I in Mid-Ohio, we did a great job of extending our second stint on fuel. A yellow comes out and it's basically like getting a drive-through penalty. We go to the back of the grid.
That's stuff you always need to look out for. Any road course where the pits close, that's something you always need to think about.
Can you pass here slower cars? Yeah. I think you got a couple of really good braking zones. If they're in front of you on better tires, it's going to be tough because the field is so competitive.
Q. Will and Dario, what are the keys to survival to making it to the end of the race tomorrow?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Don't make any mistakes and hopefully don't get caught up in anybody else's accident. Hopefully the strategy works out. God, as we know, there's a million things that go into surviving one of these things, far less winning them. Every time you press the brake pad, get to the throttle pedal, you have the potential to mess it up.
Yeah, there's infinite possibilities. So hopefully we do a good job.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
We've also been joined by Sebastien Bourdais, who starts fifth tomorrow. This is his best qualifying result of the season. This is the team Dale Coyne Racing's first appearance in the Firestone Fast Six.
Give us your thoughts on qualifying today and how things are picking up for you guys.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, that's a helluva question.
Quite honestly, everybody could tell we had a bit of a rough start of the season, for the least. Things just started really, really late. Yeah, just being new to all this with a car that is extremely different to what I was used to, it was a big challenge. It's definitely all kind of coming together. It's not perfect yet, but you can definitely tell when the car was right, it was really good at that time. It's getting pretty close to being the fastest car out there.
We just don't have the consistency and all the knowledge to click it all the time session after session. Coming off three top-six finishes, getting obviously a good handle on the street course setup is a nice help. It really helped us to get some knowledge on the team about the car and everybody is working really well together. We have a pretty sweet little team really. I think it's just kind of late. Kind of wishing we'd be at race one right now.
No, I'm just really happy. Like I said at the beginning of the season, it doesn't matter where we start, it will be about where we sit towards the end of the season. It's kind of all coming together. So better late than never. For sure I'm definitely having a good time in the car. Hopefully we can turn form and get a top five, get on podium at some point. We still have two races to go and we'll give it our best shot.
Q. Can you contrast the frustration level you felt at the beginning of the season to the progress you've made?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I wouldn't call that frustration. It was despair (laughter). It was pretty rough. I knew it was going to be tough, but never I would have believed it was going to be that bad, for sure.
Q. Are you starting to feel like an IndyCar driver?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, absolutely. I think every time you get in the car and you feel you actually having an impact on what's going on and being competitive out there, that's all we want.
I mean, we know it's always going to be very difficult to step it up all the way to the Penskes and Ganassis. We still haven't put the car on the shaker. We still don't have a clue what we're doing. But we're doing it all right.
Q. What are your impressions of this course?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's a funny thing. It's super, super smooth for half of the lap, and then it's the roughest place ever on the other end. So it's definitely a very challenging mix where you either compromise and get low, have a really good car on the asphalt section, and an extremely tough car for the rest, or the other way around.
There are a lot of technical solutions you can go with.
As far as we're concerned, we obviously want to make the car work when we're soft. It doesn't really matter where we go, street, road, we just run really soft. It seems to be working for us. I think if Craig would have believed I would ever say I like soft form springs...
But, yeah, you know, I think the guys at the track did a really good job. It's always a huge undertaking to put such a big event together. It's a pretty long course. You have to face big challenges.
Personally, I was extremely worried about having them repave as much as they did with asphalt the night before. I don't know what they put down, but that thing is grippy and it's not going anywhere. I guess the MontrĂ©al people probably shoot get a handle on that stuff because, man, it was a big surprise. I would have never put a penny that that thing was going to stick, but it did.
Hats off. Tony Cotman and his team, all the Baltimore people did a really good job. It's really easy to make a mistake on the concrete part. But it's probably what's going to make it a very interesting race because until you cross that checkered flag, nothing's going to be written. Everybody can make a mistake at any time. If somebody puts pressure on someone, it's super easy to shoot long. You have a lot of downshift issues with all the bumps and stuff.
It's a lot of challenges. It's going to be a very long race tomorrow. I don't know what the weather is going to be like. But if on top of that you put the rain, that's going to be a whole lot of a different game.
Q. What would you expect your chances of being a full-time driver in this series with this team?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: With this team, I don't know. I think Dale is really trying to step it up. Since he got that win with Justin, he knows it doesn't take maybe as much as the Ganassi and the Penske have to be a contender. To be a championship winner, yeah, of course. But to be running up front, to feel good with yourself with a decent budget, but not the best out there, if you get the right people at the right place, it's possible.
I think Dale is really looking at trying to put something pretty good together as early as we can, which would obviously be the complete opposite of this year. And if you get things going pretty early, you can start thinking, Okay, we have a shot at this.
It's a new car next year. So, I mean, am I going to be part of the plan? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. It's very early to say. I obviously don't really know what Peugeot wants to do, as well. But to do IndyCar in good conditions and full-time is a big challenge. I've had the honor to experience that kind of feeling with good teams for the longest part. It was the best race season of my career. Hopefully there is still a few to come.
Q. If you had gotten one more lap, do you think you could have improved?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I've been bitched at too many times saying, If we would have done this, we would have done this or been in that, so I won't get there.
You never know what happens, that's for sure. We had a communication issue. I heard, Finish hard and pit. That was just after the timing line and just before pit. So I didn't want to cause a yellow or run out of fuel or anything like that, so I just came in. It was another lap, too bad.
I think we probably made a little mistake with the tire management we did. I wouldn't go into details, but I think we lost a lot more grip than we would, and I think we got a pretty good idea of what we did wrong. Because the car was really as close as it ever got to a P1 car in the Fast 12, then we lost a whole lot of momentum for that Fast Six. Maybe a bit of a lack of experience on our end, but I think we should have been a little better than that.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Interesting. It's always interesting, I guess. I'm not going to tell you I like it. It might be good for the fans who watch races just to see cars wreck. But being a racer, I think you always try and have the fairest result you can get, and that's not doing it this way. There are already a lot of things which impede the racing with all the yellows. How many times did we lose a race which seemed to be all done with and how many times did we win one that was not ours? It's just the way things are in the States. Sometimes it's good for you, sometimes it's not.
I think it's another thing on top of it that just makes it a little bigger gamble. No, I'm not a big fan of it. I haven't obviously spoken to Brian about it. But if we split after the chicane, which was a suggestion, might not have too many rows piled up, and that might be savior. If we all pair up and get to that first corner over there, it's just going to be mayhem and chaos, that's for sure.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: In terms of driving, it's not that different because you have a bit less downforce - well, quite a bit less downforce - and less power. You can't brake as deep. You don't have to compromise so much about balance for the traction part to save your rear tires and all that.
But the technical solutions, it's like basically you take everything you learned in Champ Car and throw it away because nothing works.
It's a pretty big change. That's also been one of the reasons why we were so off at the beginning. Just kind of trying to apply too many things that we took for granted, which were completely out of the window really.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastien, thank you for joining us today. Best of luck tomorrow.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports