Firestone Indy Lights: St. Pete 100 Race 2
Topics: St. Pete 100 Race 2
April 5, 2009
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started while we wait for Junior on victory lane. We're joined by our second and third place finishers, Sebastian Saavedra and James Hinchcliffe. Why don't we get started with you, James, and talk about your day out there.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It was a long, hot day but at the end of the day it was a good one. We started seventh, and we've been struggling with the car a little bit all weekend. I think we were extra-penalized by that first rained-out first practice session. But the guys at SSM, we worked really hard, especially my engineer Tim Neff, to come up with a bit of a solution.
I don't think we had the quickest car out there today, but we certainly had a consistent one and good consistent Firestone tires just sort of kept us where we needed to be to capitalize on other people's mistakes. So I just kept my nose clean and tried to stay out of trouble and managed to get around some people when they had some misfortune. It's one of these days where it's better to be lucky than good, but we'll take it.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastian, how about your out there?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: For sure it was a much better day than yesterday. Very happy, I think we were able to get all the problems away and be very consistent during the whole race. I think it was quite a yellow race to compete in, but very happy. I think the points are the important thing right now for the start of the championship, and at the end this is what matters, points.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our race winner Junior Strous. Just a couple of notes about him. It's an all-rookie podium finish for the series, and obviously senior has won his second race of the weekend. It's the third time in four years here in St. Pete that the race winner for both races was the same individual. So if you would talk about your day out there.
JUNIOR STROUS: Well, this was just an amazing weekend, an amazing day. I started second again. I had a good run, some great passing moves. All the guys drove so professional. We had a lot of yellows, but it was good. It was hot out there. We could cool the tires down, and on each restart we could give it all we had.
On lap 33, great move into Turn 1 again. It was really close. I think your teammate spun out or something, I couldn't see what happened. But the car was great all race long. It was really hot out there. I think everybody really worked hard.
I'd like to thank the IndyCar Series again for doing such a good job.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our drivers?
Q. You were speaking about the heat. How was the track? Did it get slippery or was it a lot hotter than you had been practicing on? Did you have to do something to accommodate that?
JUNIOR STROUS: First of all, we didn't get a lot of track time before the first race. On the first practice session we had rain and the practice session was an hour so we lost that track time. I was in the second group of qualifying on both runs, had a lot of yellows, so I think before the first race we only had something like 20 minutes of dry track time.
First race was more slippery than this race, I think. If you go off-line in Turn 1, you're just almost into the wall. And I think a lot of drivers had troubles with that, including me yesterday.
My car was pretty good all race long. I moved the bars in the car to keep it balanced and stable, and I'm looking forward to Long Beach.
Q. Junior, congratulations on your first win. I was also present at your first win in Mont Tremblant last year. I think perhaps I'm bringing you luck. Could you explain for us the differences you perceive between the Atlantics and the Firestone Indy Lights Series and also in terms of the competition?
JUNIOR STROUS: Well, first of all, the Firestone Indy Lights cars have a V-8 and the Atlantics have a four-cylinder. I think the Firestone Indy Lights suits me a lot better. The car has more power and you can be a little more rough with it. It has less downforce. You can really throw with the car and be aggressive, and that really suits my driving style.
All the Atlantic drivers that moved on up after the merge seemed to do really well, like James here. We were always close in the Atlantic Championship, and the Firestone Indy Lights Series has 28 cars. I don't think there's any series in the world, feeder series, that has that many good drivers, and I think it's a great championship.
Q. Junior, how long do you think that you'll be savoring that win before it's business as usual?
JUNIOR STROUS: Well, I have to go back to Holland. We have a press conference there on Saturday.
We're going to have a great party tonight, and you're all invited, 5:00 o'clock. It's Heineken time at our team tent. You're all invited.
I remember last year winning the Atlantics at Mont Tremblant, that stayed with me a long time. That was good. Yeah, it's cool. I'm really happy. I never expected this when we arrived at this race weekend. It's a great job from the team and from the IndyCar Series. Thanks.
Q. Sebastian, from going where you ended up yesterday to being up on a podium today, what is it -- you've come into the series, you're a rookie in the series and here you are on a podium finishing your first weekend of racing. It's got to be pretty fun.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It was fun. I really enjoyed the complete weekend. I enjoyed everything inside St. Petersburg. Yesterday we were unfortunate to have electrical problems in the car eight laps after the start that left us out, but we got everything sorted out, and I'm very happy to be able to start again with the points.
You always as a driver -- I think there's no driver in the world that doesn't like to win and doesn't like to be on the podium, so that's the main thing, to keep focused to certain things because I knew I had really tough guys by my side and behind me. So at the end, having a second finish in my first race as a rookie, I'm very happy.
Q. This is for all three of you. You've all come from various parts of the world. Have all of you raced against each other, and how many of the drivers in the series have you raced against, because the competition is spectacular?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Junior and I ran together in the Atlantic Championship for two years, and as far as other guys, I've raced against Summerton, Hildebrand -- I don't know, I'd say about probably a third of the field I've raced against before. But I've been racing in North America for a long time, so that's bound to happen.
JUNIOR STROUS: And me about a quarter of the field, I guess, because there are a lot of Atlantic drivers that moved over.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: For me I think only the European drivers and the drivers that have raced in Formula 3 in the World Series mainly, so it's not as much as these guys, but we sure have some.
Q. For Junior, just describe that move that you made in lap 33, just kind of go through that a little bit.
JUNIOR STROUS: Well, it was pretty similar to yesterday. I think we had a restart, had a good run coming out of the last turn. I think coming out of, what is it, Turn 14, we touched on the exit. I think I hit your right rear tire with my left front wing; it was so close. We powered down the straightaway with good power from the Firestone engine, and we ran really late, and when you're on the outside you really have a problem there because it's slippery as hell.
I just focused on my line and got on throttle early and I don't know what happened behind me, but a lap later it was full course yellow again and I saw some cars there, including Ana, who was running third at the moment, so something happened.
THE MODERATOR: Junior became the first driver in the Firestone Indy Lights to win the Firestone repeat bonus, which is $5,000 to the driver that wins back-to-back races. So that was an award that was instituted at the start of last season, but Junior becomes the first driver to do that.
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