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Indy Racing League Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Racing League Media Conference

Helio Castroneves
July 9, 2013


THE MODERATOR: We're now pleased to be joined by Helio Castroneves.
Helio, welcome to the call.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Helio does lead the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings by 23 over 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Helio won at Texas and is the 2000 pole winner at Toronto.
Helio, talk about your season. You're the only driver to complete every lap of every race so far, have 10 top-10 finishes in 11 races. Are you happy with the way the season is going so far?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes. Whenever you're leading the championship, when it's by 1 point or 100 points, it's always good news. Of course, we still have a long way, eight more races to go, a lot of points in the game.
We got to keep doing what we doing because right now it keep us up there.
THE MODERATOR: We return to street courses this weekend, have a doubleheader at Toronto. Talk a little bit about the doubleheader format that was started at Detroit and how you prepare yourself to race at Toronto.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Since we already have one in Detroit, the Dual in Detroit, we certainly are understanding how it works.
But still not because we been through one it's going to be the same. I believe people going to readjust from one race to another.
The Toronto track is a traditional place, very, very tight. The track is very technical, as well. Plus we're going to be standing start, so it's also another trick, something else for us to think about.
But in the end of the day, we know what we need to do. Just hopefully we put ourselves in good qualifying so we can start on the front.
THE MODERATOR: I know you are in New York for the Turbo premiere. We saw you this morning on The Today Show. How excited are you to show your daughter the movie and be associated with the movie?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's great to have Mikaella. Now people can't make fun of me going to animated movies. Turbo is not only going to make kids happy but adults happy as well.
It's very interesting, it's touching everyone. It's cute. You know, there is a lot of action. We going tonight to the premiere. We're really excited we have this great opportunity not only for the drivers but it's special for the IndyCar Series. It's a great trampoline, let's put it this way, so people have knowledge what is an open-wheel car, Indy 500 especially.
It's all good things. I'm really excited to be able to be part of this experience and hopefully people enjoy it.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for Helio Castroneves.

Q. Can you talk about the performance this year of the young guys like Carlos and Sage Karam? What does it say about the future of the sport?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, certainly we need to make the series a little also more competitive. But doesn't matter. These guys seem to be showing right now a great amount of skills. I came from Indy Lights. I know how tough it is going to the same tracks we go, most of it. Even if the car needs to be updated as well, it's showing these guys, these kids, the potential.
Carlos raced at the Indy 500 this year, not because Andretti Green had a great car, but he showed he can be aggressive, mature, drive 500 miles. Always finish 500 miles is an achievement.
They're great kids. Sage, as well. He's been racing for many, many years, winning a lot of races.
I wish, to be honest, so do team owners and everyone, to have more cars, more drivers so you could even have opportunities, more opportunities for young drivers like them.

Q. Did Carlos and his performance at Indy surprise you veteran drivers or did you feel he's a guy that has been coming along, was capable of doing something like that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, in Indy 500, yes, every time you finish a race you're surprised, especially when you're a rookie. Especially for me watching him race, being very aggressive many times in some of the corners, I thought he would have a problem.
But you got to understand, like I said, the way the racing is going right now, it's a little bit different than it used to be in the past.
But it did not surprise. I think the equipment that he had was good. I believe the way he's driving in Indy Lights is probably showing a little bit of that on the race day he did in Indianapolis.
But at the end of the day it was a great result for him.

Q. How have you kept motivated in the quest for your first championship?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, I'm always motivated, doesn't matter whether I'm first or last. I love what I do. You have to learn how to enjoy the small, good moments, because racing is very, very brutal in those kind of scenarios.
For me I learn how to enjoy that. I cannot only live in that moment. We just have to keep moving forward.
I have a great team, a great car. Hopefully this weekend in Toronto we'll continue doing a great job.

Q. Have you ever gotten tired of people bringing up Dancing with the Stars?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. Absolutely not. In fact, when people don't remind me, I try to remind them that I worked really hard to win that competition. I really appreciate the support of the racing community. I enjoy very much when people talk about it.

Q. I realized you've been in open-wheel racing for at least the last 15 years. How different are you from the Indy Lights driving days?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: First, it's been a great run. I have to say I've changed quite a lot compared to what I used to have in the past, not only the rules change, but safety change, a lot of things change. The competition, it's actually getting harder. Even then was already very competitive, but it's still harder.
The only thing I see, like I said, the Indy Lights, it is a great step to IndyCar. Today we need to make some adjustments, I would say, for IndyCar and for Indy Lights. Indy Lights cars I think is a little too old. If we want to build more talent, if you want to build interest in people in open-wheel, we got to also make sure that the steps are in the same line with IndyCar.
Back then it was extremely powerful. As I said, it was big teams from IndyCar that were part of Indy Lights, which was great, because you could make a career, stay in the same team. Hopefully we can go in that direction, as well.
But we're still working a lot on small details to be honest.

Q. Going to today, you're in the points lead. You have yet to win a championship. How much would it mean for you to finally win that IZOD IndyCar Series championship?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It would be great. Certainly it would be great. That shows that it's not a lack of trying, effort, lack of a team. We've been always pushing, been very competitive every year.
You can only control what's around you. Hopefully this year so far we've been able to do that, put ourselves in a good opportunity.
It would mean a lot. I would be extremely happy to get this title. But I know there's still a lot of racing to go, a lot of points, and I'm going to continue pushing for it.

Q. Now that you have one of these doubleheaders behind you, what do you think of all this? You run a full race, all of the effort, intensity, et cetera, that's required, then you have to get up the next morning to do the same thing all over again. Having done it once now, what do you think of the format? Also, in Toronto, will you do anything differently?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Honestly, I don't know. I believe for the promoters, financial, probably makes a lot of sense. I believe for the drivers and mechanics, it's a little bit rough. To do a race in IndyCar, it's tough. We don't have power steering. Street courses are very bumpy. It is very physically demanding.
I think lack of patience from the drivers, as well. They run the first race, and they know, Man, you know what, I'm going to kick that guy's butt. That's what happened in Detroit, a lot of people had a lot of issues on the second race.
But I don't know. It makes a lot of sense I think for financial and promoters I believe. For Toronto, I don't know what I would do different. We did collect good points down there in Detroit. But this year we're going to have standing starts. I don't think IndyCar ever had standing starts. I don't know the history back then.
But it's going to be interesting when you have the clutch in your hand. We don't have 900 horsepower like we used to have. You can wheel spin a lot. There's a lot involved.
Hopefully it's for the best. Hopefully we take advantage that we can make good starts and collect double points.

Q. In the second race at Detroit, did you feel you were lacking anything because you had just run the day before?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. In terms of physical as a driver, no. It was afterwards. Next day I was like, Man, I feel it. But, no, I think the adrenaline, all the drivers are really well-prepared physically in terms of preparation, so we're able to do that.
Detroit, let me tell you, it's a very tough track. Very bumpy. High-speed corners. I think Toronto might be a little less difficult because first and second corner in Detroit was third gear, very fast sweep area. I feel it will be less fatigue on the drivers.

Q. When you were growing up and learning racing when you were younger, did you think, I can do this at the top level? Did you kind of pick it up as you went along, it happened for you as you moved up?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tell you, man, when I was about 13 to 15 years old, I knew what I want. Till this day I don't eat red meat because of that. I remember watching some of the drivers say they go through a very tough diet, give up a lot of things that they think it's going to improve in their performance in the race.
When I saw that, I said, If I start doing it now, when I get there, I won't have any problem. Well, it did work. So it's been 20 years and plus not eating red meat, soft drinks, things like that.
I know this is a little example, but in my mind when I decided to do it, I knew that I have to be dedicated, work for it, push. I have a lot of 'no's' in front of me saying you can't do it. What's been good is prove those people wrong. I know what I want since the beginning.

Q. The good results you're having, how do you feel that is building a momentum going into the remainder of the season?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's a combination of a lot of things. I believe it's a combination of maturity, a combination of experience, a combination of getting the guys that I have behind me, some of them are new people. Even that they are not new on the team, but they are new working together.
It's a combination of a lot of things. So hopefully we keep going. Like I said, I have Roger since I've been here on the team, we have four races together, and three of them was one win and a second and second. Last weekend unfortunately we had to do a saving fuel mode, but we had potential to finish another top five.
I enjoy it, working with Roger directly. So it's a lot of good things happening in a good way for us.

Q. It seems like every week we see you run in the top five, top eight. It seems like Ryan Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, one of the Andretti Green cars fluctuate on who is up front. They can't seem to be as consistent staying up front. Hinchcliffe will get a win and then three bad finishes. You seem to be able to take advantage of it. What do you feel you have to do as a team to gain on them to be in the top three so the championship can be more in your control and be in your hands?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Great question. We work extremely hard, obviously. Seems Andretti Autosport that weekend in, weekend out they're very competitive. Plus they have four cars compared to us. That's able to improve their data but at the same time might hurt themselves, as well.
I have no doubt in my team. I have the best equipment out there. I have the best guys out there. We doing everything we can so we can be consistent. Sometimes you don't have the car to win and you got to finish second. Unfortunately that's the name of the game. The series are so competitive that sometimes someone found something that you don't know what it is, and it makes a big difference on the racetrack.
Our engineers are working extremely hard to keep improving. I do believe in Toronto we're going to do much better. Plus, you know, I know it's Chevy, but Honda as well is starting to improve, they showed in the last race. We can never stop. This series is about finding small details. When I say 'small details', the size of a hair, it's that small details and makes a big difference.

Q. It's been a long time with standing starts and whatnot. In Europe they do that. What have you done as a driver to practice or what are your feelings about standing starts?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think it's great. Right now the closest thing is leaving the pits. When we stop, getting ready to go, leaving the pits.
My only concern is the tracks that we go to, they're street courses, they're set up for the rolling starts. Like Toronto, for example, it's been the same since I remember racing there. Even the asphalt is pretty much the same.
Sometimes when you adopt a new rule like that, you do have to make some adjustments on the standing start. I understand they did that when it was Champ Car. I hope we have that kind of scenario pretty much figured out. When you have a clutch in your hand, which is very difficult, it's kind of like very sensitive, you don't want to have any issues.
That's the only thing that concerns me. But I know the series is always looking to the areas to improve. I'm trusting everyone that the right call is made and we going to be okay for these double races and standing starts.

Q. You've had a lot of experience through the years. Hopefully we don't see this for a while. You've had the chance to go through CART, you've seen Atlantic, Indy Lights, Indy. You had some great ideas what we can do to improve the other series. Do you see yourself as an ambassador for the sport? Where do you see yourself?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Listen, I would love to help. I would love to be involved one day with my expertise as a driver. I'm not sure about the technical terms. As I said, driving is specialized these days. It's actually more computerized than technical terms.
The Road to Indy, it's been a great program that I believe Randy Barnhart started. They're giving people the opportunity to win the championship and keep climbing. We saw that from Josef Newgarden, Hinchcliffe is another one. I believe there was another one, as well. Hildebrand. He also came up from that ladder.
If you see that, we have the right thinking. The fix, as we always know, it's find a good marketing, sponsors that are willing to believe. With that you just grow as a series. Even IndyCar went through a very difficult moment in the economic situation that affect everyone in racing.
So now that everything is recovering, hopefully we'll be able to get smart people and try to look for those areas that can help build up new talent and build up that ladder where I came from one day as well.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing as we have no further questions for Helio, we will thank you for your time today and wish you the best of luck at Toronto this weekend.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you so much, all of you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Helio.

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