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IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

Dario Franchitti
Simon Pagenaud
August 4, 2013


THE MODERATOR: We'll get started. We are pleased to be joined by Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
This is Dario's sixth career podium here at Mid‑Ohio and his fourth consecutive top four finish this season.
Dario, great place, talk about bouncing back from that sixth place start to finish on the podium.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Sure, yeah, the first order of business was really getting past Marco. He was on the Firestone Blacks and we were on the Reds, and obviously the performance of the Reds was a lot higher, so I had to get past Marco, got past him.
And then we were all kind of cruising around trying to‑‑ I say cruising, you know, trying to save fuel and you're busting your ass because you're trying it to make up all the time in the corners and there's ways to do it and they end up carrying more corner speed than you would normally.
And so you're doing that‑‑ as soon as Charlie pitted, it became clear that we were on the wrong strategy and how much quicker you could go if you let loose, so my guys made a decision, pretty brave decision I think, to change the strategy. They did it probably two or three laps before Scott's guys, and I think that made a huge difference to where we finished today, so they cut me loose there.
I was able to get past Justin, and then coming into the last stop there, Will was on worn tires and he got very close out of two and into four and was able to hold him off into four. And I think obviously he was saving fuel at that point, and then I could go hard. But at that point, the guys were so far ahead, there was though chance of catching them except for a yellow.
Could have been worse today. Could have been better, too. But as I say, brave call by the guys to change that strategy and that got us the podium. The GE car I thought was very fast all day, when we did get a chance to run it wide open.
And I have to say, Charlie and the Novo Nordisk guys did a fantastic job. They called the strategy right but also drove a cracking race, really good race, so hats off to him.
Yeah, that was it.
THE MODERATOR: Also invite Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. This is his second consecutive podium here at Mid‑Ohio, great race.
Talk about today's race, as well as that pass with Charlie there towards the end.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it was a good race with the HP car. Obviously we started with a pretty bold strategy starting on the Black Firestone tires. We knew we had a very consistent car, but the goal was to come back to the leaders at the end of the first stint, and then both on the new set of Red Firestone, we knew the car would be good on those tires.
And then my race was basically to go really, really fast on the second stint to try to jump the guys in front because it's really difficult to pass on the racetrack. The goal was to try to pass as many cars as possible doing that strategy, and we did.
So I think the fact that all those guys were saving fuel on the first stint really helped. From that moment on, it was just full attack mode the whole way. And you know, unfortunately Charlie and the Ganassi boys did a little bit more than when did. I gave had 100% but it just wasn't enough to cover it.
So, yeah, it is what it is. You know, I'll take second place. It's a good result for us. It's a good championship, also.
Yeah, Charlie, that move in turn four, wow, I never thought he would make it to be honest. Gave up my lead‑‑ but, no, he made it, hats off. It's well deserved when you're making such a move and it works. It's well deserved; it's congratulations to him for such a good job.

Q. Since Pocono, Honda has really been laying hurting on the competition; talk about how this new generation engine has really got you guys back in the game.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, Honda has done a fantastic job for Pocono when they introduced the next generation engine. The engine has got a the low more power at lower RPMs. So it helps us especially on the road course, the drivability is fantastic. It drives like a normally aspirated engine. Actually on the debrief sheet, there's not much to say anymore, apart from power‑‑ a lot more, but they are doing a fantastic job.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I definitely agree with Simon. That was a big step up in the engine. It probably didn't actually show as well as Pocono as far as pure performance of that boost level, but the fuel consumption was pretty good there with the 1, 2, 3 we got.
But they have really improved in a lot of areas we've asked them. A lot of the feedback from car to car and team to team has been very similar in what we've wanted, and the Honda guys have really answered a lot of questions for us.
We are still pushing; and we still want more, and I think we have seen it. When we make a step, Chevy make a step, and Chevy make a step 00 and just constantly pushing and that's what this competition is. I think that's one of the reason that Honda and Chevy are around in the sport; not only in power, drive ability, fuel mileage, all that stuff.
Lengthened the race by five laps this year, but unfortunately for the strategies and stuff, the engines, the fuel mileage, has improved a lot, too. So we found ourselves in that position again, almost being a fuel mileage race.

Q. Were you surprised by a caution‑free race, and how does that change strategy when you see the race going on and on you and don't get time to pit and do what you need to do to execute.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, it's the second time it's happened here in two years. There's more of them nowadays, isn't there. There's less mechanical issues, guys making less mistakes. It's harder to push ‑‑ I don't know why. There was a couple of times I thought I was going to be the caution today, yeah.
There's very little margin for error here. But no, it can change the strategy and everything, but whether there's a caution or not, you've got to be ready to change your strategy at a moment's notice and I think that's what the good teams can do.

Q. Talk about Charlie, you've been around him now, talk about him as a driver and what it does‑‑ you went for your first win way back when‑‑

Q. What does it do for a guy once you get over the hump, and his engineer, too.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, when I first came to the team, Brad was my assistant engineer with Chris, so it was good to see him get that first win.
Charlie, his timing, man, he's been so quick. Like Barber, wow, the job he did at Barber, the job he did this weekend, he wrapped the thing up in turn one, and then go straight back on it first run in qualifying like it never happened.
Especially on I would say the strength right now on the permanent road courses has been great. He's learning quickly; he's a smart guy so he learned quickly. Bit by bit you see him get rid of his weaknesses, and he's smart and he's taken full advantage of the fact that he's a member of the team, the Ganassi team and all the stuff that he's got available to him, whether it's experience or the engineering group or equipment at his disposal. He's taking full advantage of it.
And as I said, I just thought this weekend, he's driven fantastically, and the race today‑‑ yeah, they called the right strategy, yeah, but he executed it and he did a really great job. Full marks to him.
He hates it when we call him Charlie Murphy‑‑ or ask him a question. Say, 'hey, Charlie Murphy,' when he comes in here, he loves that.

Q. Is there talk about coming out of the pits and the battle there with Charlie, just if you see it coming, did you sense it, or just how it played out.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I knew it was going to be close, but our friend, Viso, again, was in the middle of the racetrack and racing the leader, so that didn't help. It is what it is. It's racing. But it's frustrating when there's no need for it really.
But if it wasn't for Viso, I think I could have kept my lead for at least longer. But Charlie was really strong, anyways. I don't know if I could have kept him behind.
But it certainly didn't help. But, you know, I gave it 100%, so I can't really be disappointed in the situation. I never backed off. I always tried my hardest and it is what it is.
I think today was Charlie's day, but it's important, also, in the championship to score points like we did today with the HP team. So I can't be disappointed about today. I think starting eighth and having such a good race is tremendous.

Q. Kind of compare, obviously you come from the sports car world; kind of compare or contrast competing at mid‑Ohio in a sports car to competing at Mid‑Ohio in an IndyCar.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It's actually quite similar to be honest, apart from the weight of the car. The IndyCars are nimble through section five, six, seven, eight and nine, it's very quick through there. But the downforce on the sports car is very impressive through turn one and turn 11. Here with an IndyCar, you slide a lot more, but you can catch it, where sports car, if you try, you end up in the wall.
So it's a very different feel, but the speed is similar, and both cars are very enjoyable. The weight is the biggest difference, and the way the tires behave, because it's completely different tires, as well. It's been fun to come here with different cars.
I was lucky enough to drive a Champ Car in 2007 testing here, and then I did an LMP2 with Gil de Ferran and LMP1 and came back with an LMP2 and then IndyCar.
So it's been fun to come with different cars every year. It's probably the first time I come with the same car two years in a row, so I enjoy it. I really enjoy this track.

Q. The decision to go from two to three stops, was that something that you maybe asked for, or once the team made the decision, you questioned or were glad to see it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I kind of made my feelings clear that I thought sitting there trying to save fuel was maybe not the way to go. But the guys had already made the decision.
They said, hey‑‑ they came on the radio and said, hey, if you can get around the guys in front, go for it. And I went to make a move on Scott, and it was not going to happen easily.
But the next best option was to then pit and get out of that strategy. And then as soon as I did it, they were like, thank God for them and then I was like P‑10 or something, and I thought, ooohh, this is going to be tough. And then bit by bit, we were able to run four to five laps and get by a couple of guys and ended up on the podium.
I tend not to question their decisions. They have a lot more information than me and they have won me a lot of races by making a lot of calls, so I don't question it. I just get on with it and do what they tell me.

Q. So you will be coming back to Target Chip Ganassi next year‑‑
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Just to kind of‑‑ the answer‑‑ I was asked a question yesterday, would I like to come back, and I said, definitely. So the question was then changed to attached to my answer, if you know what I mean.
I would love to come back next year. Chip would like me to come back. Target would like me to come back. The team would like me to come back. So we are all on the same page, but we haven't anything to announce yet.

Q. Thank you for the clarification. So assuming you do comeback next year, obviously you're still competitive, how many years will we see Dario Franchitti behind the wheel of an IndyCar?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, I don't know. Let's try to finish this one strong first and then we'll see.
The important thing to me is that I can still be competitive every week, and I just take it ‑‑ at this point, I just push every week and I think, okay, this weekend is now over. I'll think about what we can learn and then we'll get ready for Sonoma and really I just focus one weekend at a time.
Hopefully everything goes to plan, we get the deal done, and we'll almost start thinking after Fontana about next year, and then we'll see.
But I've said it a lot: If I'm competitive and if I'm enjoying it, then I'll keep doing it. Those two are pretty closely linked. If I'm not competitive, I won't be hanging around long.

Q. A lot of times here, it's follow the leader, but today you did a lot of passing, and Helio did a lot of passing and there was two or three or four drivers in particular that did a lot of passing. What was different?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, if you think, the car now with a little bit less horsepower than we had make ten‑plus years ago, the straits are longer, you've got longer to get in the draft and start to make a move.
Plus, obviously, the overtake is quite significant. When you only have ten of them, so you have got to use them carefully. It's not like you can just whale away the button all day, so you have to be careful.
You can make things happen, but ‑‑ I don't know about you, but I was concerned with the fact that you're lawed to he did end if to the inside, I thought it was going to be difficult to pass. But I saw a couple of people make moves around the outside into turn four, so it was possible to pass today and I thought that was pretty cool.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it was a little bit harder for me to pass, but everybody is running a different level of downforce, maybe we had too much, I don't know. But I passed a few cars, but it was quite difficult still.
But it's not as difficult as it used to be, for sure, I agree with Dario. And yeah, the overtake is a great advantage, great idea to help us making moves. I wish we had more, you know. (Laughter) I don't like to feel like I'm being cheap on the overtake.

Q. You've had obviously your long career, a number of periods where you've had sort of high momentum and low momentum, and if you look at that cycle, having gone through a low momentum period in this season and now coming back into a high momentum swing, can you talk about the mentality of an IndyCar driver as you go through that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You can never, unfortunately, you can never have seasons like we had in '09, '10 or '11, or '07, just doesn't always go that way. It would be lovely if it did, but there's always those moments when things just don't click for whatever reason.
And it might be something as simple as things just don't go your way. It could be that. It could be, as I've said, we've had moments where the performance has not been what it should, whether it was me getting a hold of the car or getting the setup right. I take my full part of the responsibility of that, it's not, well, the car's crap. I take full responsibility. I think me, the car, the engineers, we all have to work together to do that. With Iowa and Indy, we just ‑‑ we didn't get that right.
But a lot of the times this year, we had cars, we felt the performance was there. Certainly on the street courses and road courses‑‑ okay, forget St. Pete, that wasn't quite so good. But you are going to go through those cycles sometimes. The important thing is, keep fighting, don't give up.
And I went through that, I think 2000, 2001, those were tough years. 2006‑‑ that sucked, so you definitely go through those ups and downs, and you just keep‑‑ if you can keep fighting, nothing you can really do I think.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much for your time today, congratulations on the podium finishes.

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