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IZOD IndyCar Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

IZOD IndyCar Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

Ryan Briscoe
Helio Castroneves
Scott Dixon
Dario Franchitti
James Hinchcliffe
Will Power
August 27, 2011


THE MODERATOR: We're here with the post‑qualifying press conference featuring five of our Firestone Fast Six qualifiers for tomorrow's Indy Grand†Prix of Sonoma. We are joined by Helio Castroneves of Team Penske. Is a former pole sitter and he has never started†outside the top 4 in now 7 starts at the track. Congratulations, talk about today's qualifying run.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: First of all I want to thank Guidepoint Systems, Shelby, AAA Insurance, Penske Truck Rentals, Snap‑On, Team Penske and all the fans. Thank you very much, how about that.
It's been a long time. I'm not starting in the top 6, but certainly they did a good job coming over here a week ago and testing, so the car seems to be good for myself, for Ryan, and of course for Will. We are working really well together, so we are trying to push each other but in the same way help each other. This place is awesome. It's tough, it's special with the way the tires are†‑‑ it's different, it's one or two laps, max, and that's it. It's very difficult. You've got to put everything together and, in fact, this morning I couldn't†‑‑ (Away from mic.) But it's up to Will to do it, and I'm happy for the Team Penske 1, 2, 3.
THE MODERATOR: We have also been joined by Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske, who won the poll here in '05 and has started in the front row two other times, Dario Franchitti of Chip Ganassi, who was the only other two‑time poll sitter here at Infineon, and Scott Dixon, Dario's teammate, he sat on the poll here in '06 and won in '07. Scott, talk about today's qualifying effort.
SCOTT DIXON: It was definitely tricky. This morning the car was pretty decent, and once the track got hot it just felt like we lost a lot of grip; it was hard to get the balance right. I was just frustrating. It was hard to get the balance right and just a bit frustrating. Q1 the car wasn't too bad, but loose, made some changes and it went slow in Q2. So it was even more of a handful. Our team lost a lot, been struggling with the car they brought here this year, which is (away from mic) seemed pretty exciting.
Obviously starting 5th is not where we desired to start, but hopefully it's a good position, and we can do fairly well, but Will seems to be quick today.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, talk about Team Penske sweeping the top three spots today in qualifying.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it's great when we can get three cars in the top 3 in qualifying. It means preparation and work effort is paying off, and we need to execute tomorrow. It's a good event. We didn't have the best of days yesterday, we had a few issues with the brakes and so on, and we've come on strong today and we were certainly fighting for the top spot all day long. It feels great; hopefully we can move up a little bit tomorrow as well.
THE MODERATOR: And for Dario, you were quickest yesterday in practice, making today the Firestone Fastest. Talk about today's qualifying.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I echo what Scott said. My car had good balance on the black tires yesterday and this morning, and we put the reds on and it disappeared pretty quickly, and we worked hard to change that in the second group and it actually made the car worse ‑‑
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I know how you feel, buddy! (Chuckles).
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know how I feel? And the Fast Six itself was difficult for us, more going for keeping the car on the track than actually going for a lap time, so that was the toughest for us. It was frustrating. We have a lot of work to do tonight to get a happy balance on both black and red tires for tomorrow's race, so we shall work hard and see what we come up with.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks. We'll open it up for questions. We've got our remaining Firestone Fast Six qualifier, Will Power, from Team Penske. Will sat on the poll here last year and is the defending race winner. This is his sixth poll this season. He previously won the poll at St. Petersburg, Barber, Long Beach†S„o Paulo and Toronto.
We're also joined by James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Hass Racing. This is James' first appearance in the Firestone Fast Six and his best start on the street course. James finished on the podium in Indy Lights last year and won the Star Monster Race at Infineon. Will, talk about today's qualifying effort and getting that poll again.
WILL POWER: The key was putting minimal laps on in the first two rounds, but we had a really good car. We worked hard after the last two races. We knew we had a bit of work to do. So coming here and testing was worthwhile and just really thrilled. I think it's what we need more of, and that's what we're heading towards, so I'm very happy
THE MODERATOR: James, you're progressing in your rookie season. Last race you had your best start on an oval, and now you're having your best start on the a road street event. Talk about the progress you're making as a rookie in the Izod IndyCar Series.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: As a rookie, you like to think you get better as the series goes on and not get any worse, so I think we're showing that, and a lot of that is credit to the team. A rookie coming into this series, it's a super tough series and you don't get a ton of testing and track time. We're all maximizing every stretch of the race each race weekend. We didn't get a chance to test personally last week but†others did, and I had a baseline to go with.
Didn't have the best car this morning, so the guys went out to Lowe's and bought a kitchen sink and threw it in, and it was a bit tight to get it done, but really pleased to be here in the Fast Six for the first time.

Q. Helio, you kinda made the day a couple times in practice, you went off road there. Talk about you were trying to get all you could out of the care and talk about how you were able to turn the car around into a top‑3 effort.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know what happened, somebody went off in turn four, and I probably was the first guy to hit the dust there, and it really caught me by surprise. I think†they went off straight, but anyway I didn't want to†(away from mic) and somehow I did not stall the engine but something†‑‑ as soon as you push the neutral or the downshift it shut off the engine all of the sudden.
So I continued to push the clutch and tried to take advantage of the steep hill going from the crossroads away from the danger zone, you know, and actually I was glad that we didn't cause yellow. So in that case the car was. I knew what I had to do and especially with old tires my car seems to be better than actually with new tires. I was confident we going to be the top three today, and I'm glad it was Team Penske.

Q. Will, can you explain how you were so much quicker today than yesterday? You were down in the 118s today and you weren't able to get that low yesterday, and, two, do you feel more comfortable with your teammate, between you and Dario for tomorrow's race?
WILL POWER: Well, the tires are the reason we went so fast. Red tires are worth basically a second, and that's what we gained and that's why everyone basically went a second faster, so that's where the pace came from.
It's great having two teammates around me, that's the optimal we could hope for as a team, so we're happy about that. We would hope we can do that tomorrow, but obviously the race will be a different story.

Q. This is your last race in the Golden State this year. Next year there will be three races with the addition of the California Speedway. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts about returning to the California Speedway.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm excited, AAA insurance is†‑‑ that was good, huh? (Chuckles.) AAA were the guys who support it and want us back. Fontana, it's an awesome track, especially with the new car coming back, so we will be interested in finding out how we going to go with a lighter car and different manufacturers.
So I believe it's going to be great, you know, and certainly I think everybody here ran†‑‑ did you ever run there? No? So sucks for you guys but†‑‑ (Chuckles.) But I'm excited. Anyway, excited we're coming back. It's great for California having three races and show the type of fans, they really welcome the Izod Car Series. So always nice to go to a place that we are welcome.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, Ryan, Helio, Dario have all started there and Dario is a former winner there, correct?
THE MODERATOR: You haven't? Okay, three on, three off. Other questions? We'll go ahead and wrap it up. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

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