Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
October 7, 2009
ARNI SRIBHEN: Thank you, welcome to today's IndyCar conference call. We're pleased to be joined by the three drivers who will decide the 2009 IndyCar Series Championship this weekend. Our guests are two-time IndyCar Series Champion, Scott Dixon, and 2007 IndyCar Champion, Dario Franchitti, of Target Chip Ganassi racing, and Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske. Guys, thanks for joining us today.
Scott Dixon leads Dario Franchitti by five points with Ryan Briscoe just 8 points behind entering the season-ending Firestone Indy 300 this Saturday at Homestead Miami Speedway. It's the second closest three-man championship battle in series history, and the points lead has changed hands a record 14 times over the 16-race season.
The first question is for all of you. What is your confidence level heading into this weekend? It's a winner-take-all event. Do you approach this race any differently from the previous 16? Scott, well you're the points leader, so we'll start with you.
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. For most of us, you almost treat it just as a normal race weekend. I think if you try to change your strategy or the way you approach the race, you know, it might affect, you know, how you or how quick you go over the outcome of the race, and ultimately the outcome of the championships.
So I think you try to keep it simple. Not put too much pressure on yourself and let it all play out. It's pretty much whoever beats who is going to walk away with the championship. So it's definitely good for all the fans and one of the toughest days for the drivers.
But definitely looking forward to it. It should be a great show, and you know, happy for one of us. It's been a great shootout so far as far as the whole championship's gone, and I think everybody's definitely put in a lot of hard work this season, teams and drivers and everybody else. We'll all find out probably 7:00 o'clock Saturday night
Q. Dario, what about you? Taking a different approach to the race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I can echo what Scott said. It's the same as any other race. Points from the first race to the points to the last. You just go out there, do your best. The team that does the best. Everybody's prepared. Seemingly prepared for every race, we just go out there and do our best and see what we can do. You know, confidence-level wise, I think all three of us are fairly confident. We've had a good season. And it's just whoever does the best on Saturday night who gets a little bit of luck as well. Yeah. It's what we race for.
Q. The championship fight is new to you. But do you approach it any differently?
RYAN BRISCOE: I think the only difference is as we get down to the final stages of the race it's you can't just feel, at least from my position, feel comfortable coming in if it's Dario in front of me, and you know, we'll make a difference coming second or 10th, really. For me, if they're in front of me. So the main difference is that we're going to have to put a lot on the line and. Do what I can to finish in front of them to finish in the final stages of the race.
Otherwise the approach going into the race is the same. We've all been doing a great job at all of these races this year. And there is no reason to change up what we've been doing. It's just, you know, there's a bit more on the line there as you come down to the final stages of the race
Q. With a three driver battle you can't focus on any one driver. So this falls into you basically concentrate on what you do best. But how do you keep from having the little things start to bother you? I know a lot of times when a driver is leading the Indianapolis 500 in the closing laps, he starts hearing noises coming from the car that he hadn't heard all race. Is it kind of a similar situation when you're battling for a championship?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, I think Indy is because the bad thing with Indy -- well, not the bad thing -- but the tough part is you have such long straits and a little bit of time to actually think about issues like that.
I think Saturday night's definitely going to be very tough. And I suspect that all three of us will be neck and neck for the race win at the end, and you're not really requesting to have time to think about that. You're constantly going to be looking on the corner ahead and trying to do the best that you can. And probably think how you can maybe make the car better and things like that.
So I think in that aspect it's definitely different to Indy. I don't think you'll Indy. I don't think you'll have a runaway race in this league. When you start thinking, it's when you don't have so much on your plate, and I really don't see that this weekend.
It's probably going to be for us guys, it's probably going to feel like it's going to be over quite quickly, because it's going to go with a rush.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think Scott has hit the nail on the head there. It is going to be a very intense night. I think that's part of the job, isn't it? Doing the same thing you do when you're out there testing on or whatever, whatever's on the line, driving the same as you normally do.
I think just getting the best out of yourself. That's the same if are the guys on the pits too. Whether it's the Target team or the Team Penske, when the pressure's on, they have to do the same job they do in practice.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, same again. But, you know, I think the ideal situation is getting in a position where you can find the time to start thinking about maybe what can go wrong. Not who is around you, but I think it's going to be a very intense race.
Probably not just between the three of us, but I'm sure there are going to be lots of other guys up there as well. All of our ovals this year have been extremely close. And with other competition as well.
I'm sure it's going to be very action packed, and doesn't leave you a lot of time for your mind to go wandering off into other areas aside from just being focused on your line, on your car, and who is around you. I think as Scott said, it's probably all going to be over pretty quickly
Q. With the push to passes, are you going to be using that rather judiciously in the early part of the race? Because I'm sure you want to have as much of an arsenal of that left in the end as possible.
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I think you've got to use it when you need to use it during the race, and obviously, if you're out in front, you know, and maintaining a lead and maybe saving a bit of fuel, you don't need to use it. You might end up with more than enough in the end.
You look at maintaining Kentucky, and I found myself falling back mid pack, and I really felt like I needed to use it throughout the middle of the race just to get myself out of trouble. I think you've just got to use it as you need it, as the race goes on.
Q. What can you do to minimize mistakes or can you do anything for the race? And the other thing is you guys are taking incredible risks out there at incredible speeds of the how much confidence have you got in the three of you? Have you spoken about what you might do and what you might not do at the start of the race on restarts?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I think the three of us have raced very closely throughout the whole season. We have a bit of confidence and faith in each other's abilities at this point. I think that's got to continue. I don't really see anything different happening in the race, you know. We've got to be smart, aggressive, but safe as well. And certainly take it to the line.
You know, I think we've sort of worked up a certain amount of respect between the three of us, which we're going to need going into this race.
Q. Anyone want to address the question I had about minimizing any mistakes in the pits, in particular?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it comes down to everybody just doing that job. This is what I think can separate you sometimes is doing -- is closing the deal. Doing the job right when there is a lot of pressure on them. That goes for the drivers as well as the guys in the pits and the guys calling the strategy. I think on Saturday a mistake will be very, very costly either from the drivers or the crews.
Q. Real quick for Ryan. Do you feel outmanned there, two against one? The two teammates against you? And also, I think Scott was the one who said that we'll know quickly, we'll know as far as the outcome? Why will we know so quickly?
RYAN BRISCOE: As far as feeling outnumbered, I really feel as though all three of us are going into this last race really in the same boat. You know, it's either one of us win the race, it should be the championship.
Obviously, between myself and Scott, get a couple of bonus points in between. I might need more than that. But really, I think we're all feeling the same pressure going in, you know. I'm sure Scott and Dario will still be working together to try to get the best performance out of their car. But the same way I'll be working with Helio, moving into the race, trying to get the best set-up as well.
I think we're all in the same boat. You know, still feeling the same pressure.
Q. Scott, could you talk about what you meant by we're going to know early?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, well, just quickly. I mentioned that it would be over quite quickly as far as, you know, I didn't think that the race would drag on. It's not going to be any downtime for us drivers.
So what I meant by that is we're going to be at the end before we know it, and it's all going to kind of rush past. It's going to be manic the whole race for the three of us and probably some others that will be up there racing, that quickly for us. The race is going to go by, that's what I meant.
Q. Talk a little, each of you, about the two teams. These two teams are always battling it seems like for championships every year. What is it about these particular teams that gets them to this high level and keeps them there all the time?
SCOTT DIXON: I reckon Ryan's the perfect one to answer that.
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I just think that both first car teams put a lot into every aspect of the game. From pit stop practice, you know, the crews, the engineering department on both teams, I think, is what, you know is most important.
You know, I think that the confidence that each team has to go at each weekend and win races and the experience that each team has it all adds up. There are definitely a lot of similarities between the two teams.
Q. Dario, you're new to this side of the Ganassi Team, can you talk about that a little bit about what makes this team so good?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I haven't been with team for ten years, I got to know the team very well. And I think the car's of the same quality. The big difference that separates the successful teams from maybe the not so successful, some of it is budget for sure. But it's attention to detail. Attention to detail on the small things.
These days they focus on every single aspect of what it takes to win races and championships. And as a driver, they push you to do the same thing.
SCOTT DIXON: Just the same as what the other guys are saying. And more so with Dario, it's attention to detail. It's not one or two big things. It's 50 small things. That's what I think the team, you know, every day when they go into work or after a race, we can first look at how we performed, and then the next part of it is to really how they can better the cars and make things work better, obviously be quicker.
So they're constantly looking ahead, some teams, to just maintain. That's not how you're going to come out with the ultimate performance.
Q. With the points race being so tight and knowing what the stakes are, does it make you a little superstitious in effect in terms that you need to know where you are? Has there been any discussion among the teams about do I want to be updated on the points and that kind of thing and where you stand? Or you just pretty much look at it, I've got to win this race, and that will take care of itself?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think if you watch one of the IndyCar races and you were up there in the points it would change every bloody lap. You would be more sort of focused on that. From my point of view, and I think Scotty shares that, we just go ahead and do what we've done all year, and the same information we've had all year.
The same answer for all three of us, I think. If we win it, it takes care of all the problems.
SCOTT DIXON: Going through the race, really, you know who has the added points for pole position. I think probably halfway or two thirds you're going to know who has the other bonus points from there. And then from that point on on you know who you need to be ahead of. The hard part is obviously staying ahead of me, my teammate or Ryan.
So as Dario said, I think all of us are going out there to win. And if you win, you're going to walk away with it.
Q. How concerned are you about other people's agendas in that race? Do you think almost everybody else is going to let you all run your race knowing that it's between the three of you? =
RYAN BRISCOE: I don't really expect it to be any different than the other races have been. There are other races going on within the race. There are important goals to be achieved by the drivers. I think, you know, you just you go through, and take care, and really just treat it like it's any other.
SCOTT DIXON: I think for me, I saved quite a bit of money, so I should be looking pretty good. You've got these limited edition watches that he's got. So --
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yours is in the mail, man.
SCOTT DIXON: Oh, okay.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Anything I can do, man.
Q. For Scott and Dario, I know that you guys are one big happy family, and you guys are buddies. You're getting a good deal on the watch from Scott to give your brother, Dario and all of this. But give us the real scoop here. I know your two teams have to be -- I mean, you guys each want to win this. Give us the real scoop on what the competition is like and how your teams are approaching it? You each want to win this, so what is that really like? And also, do you have any kind of fun side bets going on between the two of you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think for me it's no different than when I was a kid and racing at the go cart track against my friends. It's that kind of attitude. And the 9 and the 10 car, they're very competitive. You know, Scott we're under no doubts that we each want to beat each other in any race, and obviously, the championship as a whole.
But we, I think we do it with the right attitude. We go out there, in Japan, for instance, we did everything we could to beat the main car in the pits to get back in the lead. There wasn't a case of okay, you guys are one-two, now take it easy. It was how are we going to beat Scott? And that's a very healthy rivalry, and it works very well. But when the race is over, we go back to having a good time.
SCOTT DIXON: I think Dario said it. First you have to work as a team and try to accomplish as much as you can for straight out speed. Because it's going to be nice if you're in that situation like we were in Japan, but you're racing it within the team. You don't have to worry about the others too much.
I think Dario and I understand in racing that you have the same equipment as someone else, and your friends and your teammates and things like that. Some days you've just got to understand that your teammate's having a better day. It might be hard to swallow, but that's the way it goes. I don't think it changes anything. That's what racing is all about.
First you've got to work together with your teammate, and then see what plays out. But both of our teams have done a lot of preparation and looking forward to it. Obviously, the winner picks up the bar tab. So the other guy might win in the end.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That is one thing. We had a bet in 2007, whatever the results Scott and I were going to go out after the race, but he was a no show. So whatever the result this year, we're going to go out and have a good time.
SCOTT DIXON: I'll definitely do that.
Q. You know where to find him this year.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Exactly.
Q. Real quick. What is the information between the two of you? Does that tighten up at all this week? Not the two of you, but the teams.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We sit on the opposite side of the table, and there's nothing there. It's even been the point of the year in the middle of the season we were talking about different corners, and Scott said have you tried to do this. If you do this, the car gets a little bit quicker. And I've said yeah, if you do this in this corner.
So we're there to help each other. At the same time, we're racing against each other, and some of us has a better day than the other some days.
SCOTT DIXON: Some tracks we need one car with two steering wheels because we're better at other points.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yes, we are (laughing).
Q. This is a showcase event of the year, pretty much for the championship at stake. There's pressure for you guys to put on a really good show. You think it's important to make this one of the great recent races in the series?
SCOTT DIXON: With no doubt, I think it's going to be exciting. And some of the tracks we went to earlier in the year with the rules package that we had maybe wasn't the greatest racing. But I think with some of the changes they've made, and definitely Homestead being the typical track that it is, it's going to put on a fantastic show.
So for us, by all means I would love to walk away and try to lift the whole field and I wouldn't care about the show. But that's not what we're dealing with. And I'm sure the other two guys on the other end of the phone would think the same thing. No doubt in my mind that it's typical IndyCar Series, last race, last corner, last lap. It's going to come down to that.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I agree with Scott. I think the field's going to take care of itself, I'm just going to try to win the race.
RYAN BRISCOE: I think part of the show is already made exciting by having the top three going into and points separating it. That in itself is making it exciting before the race starts. I think it's going to be a very exciting showdown.
Q. Scott and Dario have won this championship before, I don't believe you have. But looking back over your career and the way you've come back and what's gone on this year, how huge a win would it be for you to win this championship?
RYAN BRISCOE: Oh, it would be unbelievable. I don't think I've ever wanted something so much. You know, it really has been a fantastic year for me. And I feel I'm still improving and getting stronger and need to improve on some areas. But it's just a phenomenal feeling being where I am right now. You know I wouldn't have thought it a few years ago.
I'm just really grateful for the opportunity that's been given to me, especially by Roger Penske and Tim Kendrick getting me to where I am now. It's just amazing. And to win the championship is really just a bonus for everything that's happened. But win or lose, it's been a great year and I'll be back next year to try to do it again.
Q. I just wanted to ask the flip side of that. Jimmie Johnson we see him going for his fourth in a row in NASCAR. Here you could repeat and win your third in four years or so. And Dario coming back after having won it in '07 and now back here and the possibility of winning it, can each of you guys kind of talk about what a third championship and a second championship would mean respectively?
SCOTT DIXON: I think for me, definitely trying to go for records and going for three would be fantastic. Obviously, that is the reason I'm pushing. Dario's would be from winning the championship in '07 and trying to come back and do the same thing once he has a full season in IndyCar again.
Obviously, with Ryan, it would be his first. So I think all of us have the motivation. That's definitely not lacked by all means. But, I don't know, for me it's more about records. I think agendas from all of us are a little different. But ultimately I think the goal is by all means the same. I think the motivation is the same from all of us.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's great to have won it once in 2007. But my focus is really just on this championship as a one off. Whatever has happened before, you know, it's great to look back on sometimes, but right now's not the time for doing that for me. My focus is, you know, what's going to happen this weekend, and what I have to do to make it, to come back with the trophy. And it's going to be tough to do that.
Q. Good afternoon, guys. I apologize for the group. I'm curious how each of you have tried to occupy your minds for these last three weeks. Knowing how tight this race is. Knowing that it was going to be 21 days from Japan before this thing got decided. How have you not sort of let this occupy your every thought, every breath, every moment these last three weeks?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It hasn't been a problem for Scott and I because we've been pretty much flat out. We got back from Japan, and raced at Petit Le Mans. We tested at Homestead, and I tested at Indianapolis last week. So I haven't had a problem occupying my mind.
SCOTT DIXON: Spending time with the team, trying to be 100% prepared for this. And we tested down at Homestead with Dario, and after that there was a lot of information to go over, trying to come back and be stronger for the race.
Aside from that, just being sort of doing my day-to-day life at home. Being a little bit distracted. I don't need to think about the racing. It's actually been quite easy. I've been really excited and motivated. Really just can't wait for this weekend to come. So I'm happy to be here.
RYAN BRISCOE: I think Dario spoke for me. I've been pretty flat out, and been doing a lot of babysitting, so that's the furthest you can get from racing.
Q. Homestead has a venue to close off the season. If you can kind of give your opinion about that, and the quirks of that track and everything and if it's a fitting venue to sell this thing compared to maybe Chicago or any other fast track that you've ever been on this year?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, for all of us it's been quite strange. I've been in the series for seven or eight years. It's always been the kickoff event. It's always been the first race of the season. It's in a lot of ways quite fundamental in how the championship rolls out. And in some ways if you look at stats, too, because the person who has won the first race at Homestead has gone on to win the championship.
But I think it's a perfect scenario. It's Florida, it's Miami in October. It's hot. Obviously it's going to be a twilight race, which is even better. The cars look fantastic under the lights. The track always provides great racing.
I tend to like the scenario of being at Homestead a little more than being at Chicago, because Chicago's almost pretty much just straight out speed. Whereas Miami, Homestead, is definitely a little more technical, a little more grip reliance, to make sure you have a car mechanically that's quite good and the driver can manipulate that quite a bit.
So I think it's more of a team effort whoever wins at Homestead. So I think there are lots of positives for it.
Q. If you could elaborate more on the Indy test. I know they've tried a few different things with the car for next year. How do you think those work? Do you think that that's a step in the right direction that make it a little bit more competitive in next year's 500?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was in the Firestone test. I wasn't really involved in the Aero stuff. I saw the car on the track the whole two days I was there. For me it was a very busy test. So I was pretty flat out in the tire works for Firestone.
I like the ideas that the league has got. They seem very simple. They work on the one and a half mile track.
I think they'll work, giving the cars less turbulence at the speedway, which will definitely make passing easier. The lane of the track is now down because some of the bumps in there, and that will definitely help us for next year making it easier to pass.
Q. As far as testing the tires for next year, it's kind of hard to replicate what the weather will be like next may from when you were there last week. But what were some of the changes that Firestone was looking at? Also, there had been talks that there had been a bump or two that's developed on that track since you last raced there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: There's definitely a bump or two. It's the first time I've ever felt a real bump at the speedway. So, yeah, I was quite shocked, actually. It's normally just absolutely billiard-table smooth.
As far as the tires, I'm not really allowed to talk about that. We were just trying some new stuff. And I think it will be -- Firestone has done a fantastic job and they'll continue to do that. No doubt about it.
Q. If all three of you could maybe talk about this. Gilles DeFerran is probably going to be involved in the series next year, and though he hasn't named his driver yet, it all seems to point that it's going to be Santo. Just to have another team of the caliber of a guy like Gilles DeFerran involved in the series, what that means?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm glad. If Gilles going to become a team owner, I'm glad he's not driving, because he's bloody quick. What is the word, his high number of years and he's still getting the job done on the track. I'm kind of glad he's not out there. If he does end up with a team, it's going to be a phenomenal team. With Gilles, he's going to be with (Indiscernible) he's learned a lot. And he's going to be a tremendous team owner.
Q. Scott, you've driven for Gilles on AMS. Talk about how first class an operation you expect his IndyCar to be?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's plain and simple. Gilles's not going to do it unless he does it right. So hopefully he gets the pieces together that he needs to of the he's put eight lot of pressure on himself to get the job done. As Dario said, he's got a long history with a lot of fantastic teams. He's going to be no slouch.
I think in the first year even if that team competed, it's going to be looking for some wins. It's going to be great competition for all of us three, and the team that's we compete with, and getting a team to watch in the future as long as he gets it going.
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