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IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Graham Rahal
Justin Wilson
April 21, 2013


THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference. We are pleased to be joined by Justin Wilson who finished third.
Justin, after a rough start to the weekend with an accident an Friday, an issue that prevented you from qualifying yesterday, you bounced back with a podium. Talk about the race.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, a pretty crazy race. I'm still kind of confused why I'm sat here. It's one of those you think, we had a good car, we pushed hard. I think we had a great strategy. Guys started to pit on lap five. I think it was just perfect strategy. On those restarts, everyone else had blacks on, we were able to drive by people. We had five or six more laps with fuel. When they pitted, we could keep going and do some quicker laps. It was just good strategy and making the most of the situation we were in after the rest of the weekend.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. You say you're a little confused. What were your realistic expectations coming from 25th today?
JUSTIN WILSON: This field is so tough, I figured if we got in the top 12, top 10 on the outside chance, that would be a great day. To actually be on the podium, that's a great day. I have to thank everyone at Dale Coyne Racing and Boy Scouts of America, they worked hard after the crash on Friday. We made a lot of changes on Saturday. Obviously we had the setback on Saturday, didn't get to qualify. But they gave great pit stops today and great strategy. A real team effort. Just got to thank them.

Q. Your team works from comparatively modest means. You had a Come-to-Jesus meeting after what took place prior to qualifying. Talk about how that meeting, if it did influence today's result, had an impact.
JUSTIN WILSON: I'm not sure. I wasn't in that meeting. Probably want to stay and watch qualifying at that stage. I left them to it.
But I think it's the realization, or I'm hoping today is the realization that we can be up there competing every weekend.
It's possible. I think if that sinks in we can achieve more and more. I think this weekend helped. We're just going to keep working on it. We've got some great people on this team. It just takes a little bit of something like this, a little bit of chemistry to get the whole thing moving in the right direction. Hopefully this is the catalyst for the rest of the season and we can be strong and just keep working forwards.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined guy Graham Rahal, who finished second today.
Graham, you were in here Friday talking about how much fun you're having this year. Talk about the race.
GRAHAM RAHAL: We had more fun this weekend than we've had the last couple, that's for sure.
You know, I think today was just great because it finally came together. I mean, we all felt that we had the speed. You look back at St. Pete, I felt like that could have been a similar result to today, we just couldn't see it through unfortunately.
Without a doubt, it feels phenomenal to be up here. It feels great to be on the podium at Long Beach. Obviously like to win here. I think dad and I, five times a Rahal has finished second. One of these days we're going to win one.
What a great day for Honda. They responded in a great way today at home in some ways here in Southern California. I'm very happy for them.

Q. It seems like the first three races this year, whoever the leader in the standings is is going to end up having a bad race. Because of that, that gets you in pretty good shape here heading to Brazil in terms of the standings.
JUSTIN WILSON: What are you saying? We're going to have a bad time in Brazil (laughter)?

Q. This has got you back in contention.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I think it's just so tense. There's so many drivers in this championship that are capable of winning races. When you do your lap in the car, you don't know when you come in if you're first or 25th. It's really tough. It's the way it is.
You can't afford to miss anything. You can't afford to have a bad result. The way this championship happens, when racers have had bad results, it opens it right up. I think it's going to be more intense and interesting as the season goes on.
GRAHAM RAHAL: It's a good point. I think what Justin said, I think Allmendinger said, there's no bad guys here anymore. It's so competitive. You look at me. Last week I qualified 21st, today I'm finishing second. It's so competitive, if you barely miss it, that can be 20 spots.
So on the points side of it today is extremely important. The last two races, looking at points, Man, that is brutal. But here we are. I don't know where we are, but I'm sure this had to help us in ha huge, huge way.
As you said, you look again, Hinch had a bad day, Hunter-Reay had a bad day.
Brazil is a place I love. We're going to go back and hopefully have a good weekend there.

Q. You touched about returning Honda to prominence this season. Honda in the top four. Talk about how impressive that is for them to come in here and perform like that.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I think they've done a phenomenal job. We as drivers have pushed them extremely hard. We push on each and every one of our race engineers that are with us each and every session. The response that they've given us, I mean, has been phenomenal. At times it would be easy for them to get down on themselves because of the things surrounding them. I can't say I've seen them with a negative outlook on anything.
As we go forward, sure, there's still room to improve. For the here and now, I think that Honda has done a phenomenal job. Of course, they're based, what, 15 minutes from here. This is a big event for them. For them to sweep the top four, it's going to make our trip to Honda better tomorrow. Congrats to them. We also feel that a place like Indianapolis is going to be a strong point for us.
JUSTIN WILSON: I think Graham said most things. It's just fantastic that we were able to get a decent result here. Honda has turned it around for Long Beach.
I felt the last couple of races it is more circumstances than Honda was really lacking anything, particularly at Barber, it's a lot of circumstances. It's nice that it all worked out here. Really that kind of determination, that grit to recover and come back strong is what Honda is about. That's what I've witnessed spectating over the years when they've been competing, is they never give up until they win.

Q. I'm not positive this stat is totally accurate. I think it's the first time since 2008 there was not a Ganassi, Andretti or Penske on the podium. Speak at this point where smaller teams are able to compete weekly, teams that aren't the super powers.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Probably a while since two guys over 6'2" have been on the podium.
From our team's standpoint, look, I left Ganassi Racing and I left there for a reason. I felt like this team can be as good and competitive as any. We're just starting. This weekend was a huge weekend for us. I think it shows each and every one of us this strength that Rahal Letterman Lanigan has. All of our cars were competitive this weekend. Think there's nothing but an upside for us as a team.
Look at Justin. Nothing that Justin achieves surprises me. I think obviously I was fortunate to be a teammate with him. I view him as if not the best one of the best guys out here, top three certainly. Nothing surprises me there.
I think you're seeing that it's so competitive right now that obviously those three teams made a little slip this weekend and we're all here to jump in. So if the stat is accurate, it certainly feels good. But I expect a lot from our team going forward. I think that's what we'll see.
JUSTIN WILSON: I think we could see more of this, as well. Again, it's coming back to how competitive IndyCar racing is. I think it's a good rule package with the car, everything is so tight, any little slip-up, just because you're driving in one of their perceived top tier teams doesn't guarantee you to be in the top six every weekend. You have to work hard at it. A mistake is going to cost you, like it should.
It's just circumstances. I think it's going to get harder.

Q. Justin, you have seen Sato for a long time, known his reputation. Can you talk about how he's come through that, won a race, his shining moment in his career.
JUSTIN WILSON: I think Takuma has done a great job this weekend. He has all three weekends. Also A.J. Foyt's team has done a great job. They've been quick and competitive every time out. I think it's great that he's finally got his first win after being so competitive since he turned up here.
Again, it just shows that teams can compete. This isn't a closed shop. Anyone can go out there and compete.

Q. How good does it make you feel to know you aren't the big Honda team, Ganassi is supposed to be, and you're getting equal equipment?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I mean, I think it's great the way this series is set up, and also the job that Honda does. They all give us the same opportunity and chance to win. There's no favoritism. We've just got to work hard at it. If we get it right, we're going to be at the front. If we get it wrong, we'll be at the back.
Like I said, I'm pleased we're at Honda. It's a great organization to be with.

Q. There was talk on the broadcast in watching that the primary tire seemed to be a better tire, that the red didn't seem to last quite as long as it normally would. Was there a perceived difference?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Actually it was funny, because the lap around at the end there with the podium finishers, I was talking to Justin. I think the tire situation today is exactly what the tire situation is meant to be. My car was better on blacks. I really wished I had new blacks for the end of the race. I think I was quicker on new blacks. Just the balance was better.
On reds, certainly I was fast. I thought they were pretty consistent. My last lap was 69.6, my fastest lap was a 69.5. Very close. If that's exactly what the whole soft and the alternate are supposed to be, some cars one is going to work better than the other. I thought it was a really good mix today. There were guys I was around on the first stint on reds really struggling, the guys on blacks, like Hinchcliffe, looked like he was able to make some moves. That's what it's supposed to be. It's supposed to throw a different strategy in there, which is exactly what it did for me. I still felt good on the first stint on reds, bus I pitted purposely early because the guys in front of me were slow, and we jumped three spots. I thought that was pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: We'll wrap things up with Graham and Justin. Congratulations on a great race. We'll see you in Brazil.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Thank you.

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