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IndyCar Series: 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

IndyCar Series: 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Dario Franchitti
April 19, 2009


THE MODERATOR: Joined by race winner, Dario Franchitti. Give us your take on today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I had to get up early this morning, I know that. Warm-up was early. In fact, we were sitting in this very room at 8:00 o'clock this morning. I was half asleep.
What can I say? I made a terrible start. I made a good start in St. Pete, and as good as that was, this was bad. Will just timed it perfectly and I didn't. Justin and Matos got past me, and I was lucky I got past both of those guys again during the run, so I knew that the Target car was quick.
We were running second to Will. And the Firestone Reds, the performance was good. The car felt really good. The guys pitted me early, because the last two races we felt we had a ar car to win, and we waited to pit, and the yellow came out and caught us.
So we pitted early today. That caught us track position ahead of Will. And that second stint was really saving fuel. Got me to save fuel, so I was doing my best saving fuel during the lap times.
People say you're saving fuel you are driving slowly. Trust me, you're not. You're braking later and carrying more speed through the corner to make up for your lack of speed on the strait where you're trying to save the fuel.
So that second was difficult. Then we did that last stop, and I was pulling away from I think it was Danica. And then she pitted and Will was behind me, and I was managing to pull away from him while still saving fuel.
Got a reasonable gap there, and Moraes came out of the pits right in front of me and didn't seem too keen to let me pass, even though he was a lap down. You could see he was all arms and elbows and then he stuck it in the fence, full course yellow and that was the end of my lead.
So that last restart we were able to get on it again, pull away, and the Target car, the pace was great all day from the car. It allowed me to drive exactly as I wanted to. Yeah, we saw the result. So it was good. Great to finally win here in Long Beach.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dario.

Q. Can you talk about the irony of having finished second twice to Ganassi cars here in Long Beach, and now coming back to win as a member of Ganassi?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, the target cars do have a great history here. Jimmy won in '96, and '97, and Montoya in '99. I finished second to Zanardi in 98, and Montoya in '99.
So I remember distinctly following that Target on the rear wing. So nice to be another other end of that today and get the job done. It really feels good to win here back in IndyCar Series in the unified series in front of a great crowd who were, you know, who were they were loving the race, and loving the whole weekend.
You know, to race in this series and the competition level has gone up even since 2007, so, yeah. It felt good. I'm trying to continue what my teammate Scott did last year. He obviously did a fabulous job. He's having some pretty crap luck these first two races today. I mean to get spun like that was pretty terrible. So I expect him to be back and up front next week.

Q. Were you aware that will was having radio problems? I said he had the car to get you, but he was saving fuel.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, yeah. I was aware he had radio problems because I could see them with the chalk board. But let me say, I'll give you an idea, at one point they came on the radio and said what is the car doing, what changes do you want? I said I'm not pushing the car hard enough to know what the car is going to do on the limit. That tells the story.
You know, if I had to go, trust me, there were another couple of seconds in that car, but I didn't have to go. I was saving fuel.

Q. During your TV interview, I believe Chip said he was exorcizing a lot of demons. What did he mean by that and could you expand on that a little bit?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think you have to ask Chip what he means by that. I've got an idea. We both went through a pretty tough time last year. We committed to go over to NASCAR together, and we couldn't find a sponsor.
And for both of us that was very tough to swallow because we're used to such success. And Chip lost an awful lot of money last year. And I lost my driving. Bunch of people lost their job. So I don't think it was easy on anybody. So I think that's what my take on it is. But to know exactly, you'll have to ask Chip.

Q. What were track conditions like out there this afternoon? And how does the Long Beach course compare to the other Indy track courses around the country?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The track condition was obviously, very, very warm. As far as the track conditions, that was pretty good. Obviously, the track was bumpy as most street courses are. Yeah, it can be treacherous if you make a mistake, like I saw yesterday morning.
So normal Long Beach for me. That's the one thing about the Long Beach course, you can pass here if your car's good enough. Sometimes that's maybe not the case on a street course. But yeah, it's a great track.

Q. You've always said that you wanted to try the opportunity last year of trying to drive in NASCAR. So you got to do that. But do you think what could you have achieved if you stayed here? And maybe you could have had two championships?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know, it's difficult to say. By the end of '07, the reason I went to NASCAR wasn't anything to do with IndyCar. And I said at the time, it was like I need to do something else.
I've been doing this a long time, and I need to try something else. I need a break. I didn't expect to be coming back. I'm bloody glad I'm back, obviously. But that year away showed me what I'm missing. With the unification as well, it all added up.
So I think had I stayed, I'm not sure what job I would have been able to do. So things worked out really well. I couldn't believe it when Chip middle of last year started talking about coming back to drive the IndyCar, and here we are.

Q. Did this weekend feel like the good old days of the Long Beach Grand Prix?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yes, it did. I went out for a dinner a couple of times during the weekend, and the buzz I keep talking about it, it was amazing. And the stands are getting bigger here again, and the fans are loving it we're loving being here. The teams and the drivers are loving being back. To have that unified series and everything together, it's cool.

Q. We've had the two street races to start the season, and you've come away with the championship lead. But there are new faces up front. You've seen Graham Rahal, Viso, and guys like that. How do you think going to five or six races in a row is going to affect the complexion of the championship?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know, John, to be honest. I think if we've seen one thing from those first two races like you said, it's been jumbled up, the order. And you've seen some of the young guys coming in and really putting pressure on it.
That's one of the things I was talking about. The competition level is just ratcheted up again this year. You know, obviously, historically on the ovals, the target cars, the AGR cars and Penske cars have been strong. But other people are figuring it out.
So I really don't know. I hope the Target cars going to walk away with it. We'll be up front fighting it out for the winds, but we'll see.

Q. Given that competition and the year off, did you in your heart believe you were going to be this competitive two races into the year?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You can always hope, can't you? I'm not a person to go in there in my mind and say I'm going to kick everybody's ass. That's not the way I do it. I go in there and do my best. And I don't try to put any expectations on it, because that's when you set yourself up for a fall. You just go in and do your best. And that's the way I've always gone about it, really.

Q. What is this deal with Tony? Are you concerned if next week if he wins you may have to get on a razor?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: He keeps changing the rules.
Tony concocted this bet in his head last week. It was kind of confusing. But the story is whoever won first, if I won first, Tony had to grow his hair long. Had Tony won first, he would have had to -- I would have had to shave my head.
So even I'm confused. Now Tony's saying if I win in Kansas next week I don't have to grow my hair long, you have to shave yours. Well, he's changing it.
What I want to see is Tony with an afro, I've seen photos. Tony's mom showed me pictures of him as a kid. And he had this huge afro, so. It's going to be pretty cool.

Q. Describe the performance of your car on the Reds and the Blacks today? There seems to be quite a transitional difference in the way the car performs?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: To give you the history of that, when we went to St. Pete the Red alternate tire and primary tire were very, very close in performance level, grip level and durability.
And the Firestone said that they were going to spread out this week. They were going to have a bigger difference between the two tires and you could definitely see that.
Yesterday, in qualifying, it reminds me of the good old days because those red tires had so much bloody grip, it was great. And the race was exactly as Firestone said it would be. Reds had a higher performance initially, which dropped off. The Blacks were just a little bit less performance, but consistent throughout the whole run.
I figure I could have done two stints on on the second set, I figured I could have run another stint. And balance-wise, very similar.

Q. Do you think the vast experience you had in open wheel helped you transition back this successfully so soon from NASCAR?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Say that again, I'm sorry, I didn't hear

Q. Do you think the experience that you've had in open wheel helped you transition back so successfully from NASCAR in open wheel and winning today already?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I do think so. I think experience helped. Back in 2003 when I broke my back in a bike accident I was out for eight months. And it was actually easier to get back in the car then because I hadn't driven anything in the interim.
But definitely the first couple of tests, going to Australia for the championship race, that was me getting back used to it.

Q. I'm wondering if you and Tony are mellowing off the track. Because I remember when he was on live TV, you sawed his carbon fiber bicycle in two. And it just escalating and escalating. So you're down to hair now. Are you guys mellowing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know. As I said, it was Tony's idea. I found out when I read it on SpeedTV.com. I thought, oh, God, here we go.
You you forget leading up to that he smashed a bunch of cream pies in my face on TV. That's what prompted me to saw his bike in half.
Yeah, I don't know. Let's be honest, we're all big kids, aren't we? So it could head that way pretty quickly.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate your time.

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