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IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Helio Castroneves
April 2, 2006


THE MODERATOR: Scott, Tony, thank you very much for joining us.
We are now joined by race winner Helio Castroneves. It's Helio's first win since Richmond last year, 12 races ago. It is the fifth different race winner in an IndyCar Series race in the last five races. Today's race was the fourth non-oval event in league history, and the fourth different winner. For Helio, it's his first win here in St. Pete and his 14th career IndyCar Series win.
Helio, talk about your day, please.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, definitely it was very busy out there. You know, it was awesome, the rhythm, we didn't have much yellows, which made a very intense race probably for three of us. That was fun until I got the lead. I was like, okay, you guys better back off. But they never did.
But it was interesting. At the beginning I was just playing strategy trying to make sure, saving fuel. I was doing very good in mileage. I'm like, okay, no problem. In fact, I think Tony stopped and we probably would have pit three or four laps later. We decided to not get traffic so we pit I think together with Scott. When we go back, we go back in front of Tony.
And then my car really turned out to be really good. I don't know. I think the track got a lot of grip. My car was like, wow, especially in turn one, two and three. It was perfect because that's where you make passes and going for it.
Scott I think got traffic. I was just waiting for an opportunity. When that opportunity show up, I made a move. He was actually very cool because obviously it was early in the race. He protect, but there was not much you can do. I was on a mission at that time.
From there on, it was just, again, manage the lead. I wasn't trying to go crazy. I was just managing in front of those guys. However, we did have some incidents, bumping into Herta, bumping into Scott Sharp, I think. It was just suddenly I pull in to pass, they slow down. I didn't know if they were going to let it by or not. It was just one of those miscommunications. Thank God nothing happened to my car, I did not lose the performance.
Then a yellow came with a very tough scenario, which most everybody came to. But we still going to have to do another pit stop. When I was in the lead, able to make my way through Danica, Herta and I think Buddy Rice, we just trying to, again, manage the lead and trying to see what's going to happen.
Scott was very quick in the back in turn 10. I was just trying to make sure the main straightaways, where you have opportunity to pass, I was just trying to make sure they couldn't pass me.
Again, I was just driving conservative until they called me to pit. I'm like, no, I don't want to pit (laughter). But I realized that we're going to have to make another pit stop, everybody going to have to make another pit stop.
The time they called me to pit, there was one car in the pits. I didn't want to get traffic. I decided to continue. Then they call me again. You can't disobey twice, just once (laughter). Then the second time I pit, they told me, Drive like (indiscernible). They told me different, but I don't think I can tell you guys what they told me. So I came with the drive like (indiscernible).
I kept going really fast. Oh, I was trying, taking a lot of, lot of chances, breaking deep, very close to the wall. They not gave me much information until the yellow came down, not even the lap times, how many laps to go. Suddenly the pace car came. Okay, okay, you're in the lead. I'm like, now you guys tell me I'm in the lead. I've been trying like crazy here.
Then I was ready to go on the green flag. My car was handling extremely well on cold tires. I was ready. When I saw the white flag, I'm like, Is that what I'm thinking? They said, Don't celebrate yet. We'll see what's going to happen. Turned out to be that way.
I'm extremely happy about it. One year ago we didn't complete 13 laps, only 12. Today we completed the whole laps today, in front of everybody. If it is mistakes or not, which I still think not, but whatever, I learned from last year, and today paid off.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio.
Q. Refresh my memory what happened at Watkins Glen last year. You were shut out on all the road races last year.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Dude, last year is last year. Let's talk about this year (laughter).
Q. That's my question. Did you have a sense that maybe you just were snake bit on the road courses and street courses last year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. Mistakes last year, unfortunately from my point, that's my point of view, was outside my control, especially the rookies.
Well, I guess the rookies today, they seem to know what they're doing out there. But that's the sense that I was talking about. You know, it was very frustrating last year, coming with such high expectation on the road course, and did not happen. So I was very disappointed.
But there is so much I can do, things with my team, myself. Again, today we did exactly what we were supposed to do. We came out pretty in good shape.
Q. How physically tiring was today's race?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: How many hours we have in three? Two? The problem is in the street course, it's so bumpy, and the track change so much, the range of error, it's so small, that's what happen. You have to focus. You have to brake on the same point. Obviously, the brakes start going away, the tires start going away, everything, the equipment starts going away. You have to keep the rhythm, very quick rhythm, also pace yourself mentally.
I have a huge cramp in my right butt cheek here. But I think was the throttle. I keep telling those guys, the throttle is too long in the road course for me that I have to extend too much my leg. They say I was pushing too hard. Well, we never going to know what going to happen. It was very physical today.
Q. The other two guys were glad you were the one making the holes. How well-behaved was the traffic today?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know if they like me today. I wasn't waiting too long to make my pass. It was one of those Paul Tracy moves, you know (laughter), but with one different thing, I wasn't (indiscernible).
It was tough. It was hard. A lot of miscommunication because when I was making the pass, trying to make a move, they didn't realize. I don't know if they're looking in the mirror or not, because they're braking really deep. I'm like, Hey, just back off. I'm going for it. That's what happens when you have a second thought. I didn't have much second thoughts. I was just pushing my way in.
Q. When Scott went in to pit, as you were coming down the main straight, did you see what was going on? Was your pit talking to you? What was going on?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I didn't hear much. That's what I'm saying. I was like, I heard something pit, Scott pit, but I thought it was like he was going to pit. So I'm still continue going like crazy. I guess I already pass him. They did not tell me. I still keep going like crazy.
I only realized that I was in the lead when the yellow came out, which was three laps to go. When I realized that, I'm like, Thank God. But even if the green was coming, I was ready for it.
Q. What did you think about the atmosphere of the event? Comparable to last year? Better, worse?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Incredible. I mean, we have to face it, this is the second biggest event of the series. Obviously the first one is Indianapolis, but it's because it's been there for so many years. It was just incredible. You know, Bryan and I were in the same car today, we were talking. I was like, those days, back those days, when I wasn't even in the series, he used to say every race used to be like that.
Definitely we need more events like this. They just prove it more and more year. Maybe the track got a little different from last year, maybe a little more bumpy. But was the same for everyone.
Again, St. Pete did a fantastic job again and also the promoters.
Q. Which Bryan?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Bryan Herta when we were in the third row.
Q. Coming off the disappointment from the week before and that there were only a few days in between, does that make this win even more special?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I never look on the disappointment. Yes, you want to win. You lost like on the finishing line basically. But I look at what a great start we had of the season. I guess the two years that we've been struggling -- actually, we've been working hard, I guess it show on the last race that we are very strong.
I never bother. In fact, a lot of fans, a lot of people, the only thing I can thinking about, they always saying like, What a race. They never say, I'm sorry. What a race, that's the only comment. It was very good. Dan did a hell of a job in making patience and wait to make a move.
Again, my only concern here is completing more than 12 laps today (laughter). I knew if I passed 12 laps, I would be safe.
Today was -- again in qualifying, we didn't understand why it didn't go that quick. You know, my engineer, Ron, he was keep working. That's one good thing about him. We kept working, too, before the race. We finally found it. That's just to prove that work paid off.
Q. Scott was saying that his radio wasn't working very well all day. He really didn't know what was going on at the end. He wasn't really aware that much of where he was as far as position was concerned. As fast as you were going, were you aware that he was the guy that you were trying to get past? You were aware of what was going on as far as strategy was concerned?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, on the last pit stop, they told me 15 seconds. In one of our meetings, we mentioned about how long take for the pits. I knew I was a little bit safe, but at the same time you're still going to have to make it. They never told me to slow down.
The only thing I don't understand, they keep telling me to save fuel. How come we need to save fuel if we already pit? That doesn't make sense. I keep putting full fuel in it. No way, I'm going to go all the way down. You know what, it turn out to be.
I knew what is going on, except when I took the lead, I didn't know about it. But I knew the whole strategy.
Q. There's still 12 more races left, including Indy. You had a hell of a start this year. Second place, first place. What's the morale on the team, the momentum? Spiderman I and Spiderman II won today. Comment on that. Tony Stewart won in Martinsville.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Did he climb the fence?
Q. I don't know.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Anyway, good. No, he did not.
Start with the second question. He's a good guy. Obviously I don't mind people climbing the fence at all. I think people should do it, whatever they feel about it. I'm just glad that they are copying. They should express their emotion in a good way.
The first question, yes, is a good momentum. But I'm not thinking about championship, I'm thinking about every race. So far it's been working so well. I don't think I'm going to change that strategy. We're going to have a lot of work ahead of us. Japan is one tough track. Again, my only thing is now it's to continue the momentum and keep going. So hopefully we can also have a strong finish.
Q. Both Penske and Ganassi have struggled the last couple of years and were underpowered. Now that you have equal power, you two are up front. Any reason for that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know what, people obviously talking about the lack of power we had last year. Nobody talk about how hard work they did, too. They trying. Toyota trying extremely hard to keep it up with Honda. Unfortunately, Honda was always on top of the game. At the same time made us work extremely hard in our car, in the performance of the chassis.
Again, now that it seem to be obviously leveled out, it's been not only Team Penske, Ganassi, but Andretti Green is there, too, and Rahal is there, too. It's a matter of competition and the hard work. Eventually they also will catch us and it will continue to be the same. I hope it's not going to be the same as last year because we were really having a hard time, but it will be leveled out.
Q. How much did Sam out-qualifying you get you pumped up? Get you a little competitive?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Let me tell you, Sam is doing a hell of a job. Whatever kind of vitamin he took under the winter, it work. Everyone can notice that, even the pre-season or pretest, he was doing extremely well on road course. People are saying your car is so good, even him can do it. No, he has been doing his hard work, taking a lot of attention and listening. Even has been kind of outgoing, too.
It's just a matter of combination, both of us. I didn't get upset. I didn't know what happen in my qualifying. I think we know what happen. It show in the race. We think we know what happened. But, again, it's still he's doing a phenomenal job. It's total credit for him.
Q. (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, yeah, big time. Probably I'm not telling you as much as I used to. But definitely we still sharing a lot of information. It's good because one car pushed another. If it's an oval and road course, it's going to make the team better. I'm extremely happy about it.
Q. Sam could have probably been up there at the end before he spun off course. He still finished eighth. Do you feel it's a legitimate possibility that you could see him in Victory Lane at a road our street course race this year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No question about it. It's the steps. How many times or how many races he has under his belt in a road course in an IndyCar? I don't think many. For a guy already showing pre-season and doing stuff like that, it's good. Like I said, he's doing phenomenal job. Both of us working together this way, we definitely going to have a good strong team not only in the oval, but in the road course, too.
Q. With you and Sam doing so well, can you two guys walk away with this championship?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I hope God hear you, man. I hope will be like that. Unfortunately, it's never like that, especially this year. It's always very competitive. One of the proof is last weekend race. You think you finally did it, and all of a sudden didn't.
We're going to extremely work hard to make that happen. But the probability, I don't think that's going to happen.
Q. (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm extremely happy. It was such an incredible day. The fans, I believe they had a fantastic time out there. You can see that everybody was having not only a race day but a weekend, a fun weekend. We definitely need to have more shows like that. It's just St. Pete is an example to show other racetracks that we can -- if they make it happen, other ones can follow the example.
I'm extremely happy. You can ask anyone, not only myself, but you can ask anyone, they would definitely agree with me.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you very much. Congratulations.

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