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IZOD IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Baltimore

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Grand Prix of Baltimore

IZOD IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Baltimore

Ryan Briscoe
Dario Franchitti
Ryan Hunter-Reay
Will Power
Graham Rahal
September 3, 2011


THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with today's post qualify press conference. We're joined by two of our Firestone Fast Six drivers. Ryan Briscoe. This is the fifth consecutive top-six start for Ryan this season. And Dario Franchitti. This is the ninth time that Dario will start from the top four position this season.
Ryan, let's start with you. Another great qualifying effort this weekend.
RYAN BRISCOE: Nice after yesterday's performance. Today was all about getting the confidence back. Took me a while in turn five to drive it in there as deep as you need to. But the cars are handling really good. After yesterday's practice, I really just, you know, based the information off of Helio and Will. We run very close cars. They were both pretty happy with their cars.
Today was great. It was really hard-fought. That first group was a strong group. I think a couple good cars got eliminated there. But it was really competitive. We just kept chipping away. It was good to be in the Fast Six.
I think we pounded around a bit too much in Q1 and hurt our tires for Q3 as you have to go on used tires. I wish we could always get stickers in Q3 and go for it. But that's the way it is.
Really happy for Team Penske up there in third spot.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, you were able to recover from an off-track excursion.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, more than one. You bounced back and made it to the fourth-place starting position. Talk about the first qualifying session especially.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: They were all, as usual, difficult. The competition level is very high. The first two I just really didn't think I got a clean lap. I didn't put together a whole lap.
So the time we got out on the third one, I think we made the car a little bit better. Put a half decent lap together. Obviously not where we need to be. I think we're struggling in one area now. But I'll be able to tell you in about 20 minutes when I look at Graham's data. There's one area we're struggling in right now and hopefully we can fix that tomorrow and we'll be in good shape.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by our polesitter, Will Power. This is Will's seventh pole of the season. Also joined by Graham Rahal. This is the best start of the season for Graham Rahal.
Will, talk about taking that pole.
WILL POWER: Yeah, that was definitely a tough one. Graham was really quick in the last session. I mean, I think I looked after my tires reasonably well in the first two. I think I did four laps or so on them.
But, yeah, I had one lap, I was second. I knew I had one lap to do it. I went out and did the timing, I didn't think I got it. I was down on my quickest lap from the previous.
Yup, it's a good place to start. It's obviously a long race. It's a typical street circuit. There will be probably multiple yellow-flag periods. We've just got to pick the right strategy.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, the last qualifying lap, looked like you were on track for the pole, then seemed to lose a little steam. What happened out there?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I had a good one going. They told me where Will was on the track. They thought he would jump ahead of us. I let the tires cool off. I kind of took a lap to get them back where we wanted them. I put one together. I went into the chicane about, I don't know, I think they said it was on a 1-0 or something. I locked up the right front, kind of got it through the chicane, but it wasn't pretty. Lost all our time there pretty well.
Overall, though, it was a great run for the Service Central team. I think all the Ganassi cars are strong here this weekend. Certainly feel like this is just a great circuit, it's tough, demanding. The concrete parts of it, it's bumpy as can be. But it's a great place.
Certainly love driving here. Easy to make mistakes, but qualifying kind of worked out for us.
THE MODERATOR: We have five different teams represented in the Firestone Fast Six today. Our drivers are separated by 7/10ths of a second. So a very competitive field.
We'll open it up for questions for these four.

Q. (Question regarding the tires.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know if it's that slick, but it's as bumpy as can be. When you go into there, you come down into a dip, it goes up. At the end of the braking zone, it either flattens out or goes down slightly.
You see a lot of guys. Pratt is tough. There and then three.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will start from the sixth position. This is his fourth appearance in the Firestone Fast Six this season. He has only qualified outside of the top 10 once in his last eight starts.
Ryan, talk about your run.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thanks. I don't feel like I should be up here for sixth. Tried to get everything I could get out of the car. The braking is tough around here. You ask for an extra five feet, you overshoot the corner. It's tough. We seem to be off by 3, 4, 5/10ths of a second. I think most of it's under braking entry.
It's a good place to start from, sixth. On the outside, I don't know. I don't know how these starts are going to be tomorrow in turn one. That's for these guys to talk about. I don't see how they go green two laps in a row with that turn one the way it is. Hopefully we'll get it sorted out.

Q. (Question regarding Sebastien Bourdais.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely. It's a great accomplishment for him, for the Dale Coyne team. We saw what Justin did sometimes when he was driving there. I think Dale spent a bit of money on the equipment, got some good guys there. We know Sebastien is a very, very good driver. It's very impressive to see.

Q. With the chance for a lot of yellow flags tomorrow, at what point do you start to think of it as a timed race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't think we have timed races unless it rains.

Q. Might rain tomorrow, too.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You have to pay attention to that. If it rains, we have to go through a lot of yellows for it to be timed. The track is fun. Don't get us wrong. It's a matter of us as a series figuring out this race, getting 28 cars into that corner. It's tough. I mean, for anybody, doesn't matter who it is.
No matter how well-behaved we go into it, you still have to get in there with all the bumps. With these cars, the brake lock, it's going to be tough.
But we're enjoying this track a lot. Baltimore is a great track, a fun place to be. It's great for IndyCar. It will be better and better over the years.

Q. (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I mean, I didn't race at Brazil the first year. You guys know better than me. But the bumps feel similar to that, kind of what I saw there.
I'll tell you what, though, the section basically like from four on is great. And the pavement that they put down on Thursday, I don't think any of us thought would hold. So far it has. Luckily it hasn't been too sunny or too hot on the track temperatures.
It's very similar to the other street circuits we go to. I doubt many of us kind of venture too far where we run setup-wise at those other places.
Here the bumps on Pratt are really bad. Everywhere else, it's a great facility. As Ryan said, it's a great track. It asks everything and more from you for every lap. I'm really enjoying it.

Q. (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know. I think if you look at it, all the Ganassi cars are right up there. For me, I'm really happy with the way the car is this weekend. It's just, like I said, I really enjoy driving here. I feel like, you know, so far I've been able to push a little bit harder and find a little bit more speed.
It's like Sonoma last weekend, I just couldn't quite come to grips with the way the car was handling. We were quite a ways off Dario and Scott. But this weekend it seems to be just suiting my style a little bit more.
Just really enjoying this track. I think that's a lot of it. I love street races. New street races, it's a pretty level playing field. I think that's why you see a lot of familiar faces up here at the top.

Q. (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, it was kind of an interesting session, or few sessions for us. The first session, the dash nor the radio work. The second session the dash didn't work. Same with the third. I really had no clue what lap times I was doing. They were trying to tell me, Will is on one that's just going to get you, but you're on one that's better, you're starting your lap better. Then I went into the chicane, like I said, threw it away.
I knew it was going to be tough. When they told me I did a three on that last to second lap, that was the same thing I did on the last session. I was pretty happy with that with the age of the tires.
As Dario said, the competition in this series right now is so tough. You know someone out there is going to close the gap.

Q. Dario and Will, with the championship battle coming to a close, is there any added pressure?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't think it adds any pressure really. For me, I think everybody sitting here, at the start of the season the pressure is on and it continues throughout the whole season. Every point, whether it's St. Petersburg, Indianapolis - I believe Indianapolis is a little different - but every race is all the same.

Q. (Question regarding a potential for a lot of wrecks.)
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, what that does is because the pits close under yellow, it mixes up the strategy. So if someone has pitted in that first stint within the window, you know, there's a bunch of fast cars that have remained out, they basically go to the back of the line.
It throws a spanner in the work basically. It's what it is.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: This happens every week. Every race is a potential to score maximum points or get taken out in the first lap. That's what we deal with every week.
No different this week than any other.

Q. (Question regarding discussion about the chicane and turn five.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, we talked. I think you should talk to Brian about that. I don't know if it's an issue with the FIA approval or the fact that AMS already qualified with it.
It wasn't just a case of us wanting to change it. There were some issues. In terms of turn five, we talked about it a little bit last night. I think that's something we need to change for next year.

Q. (No microphone.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Ask him. He hit it.
RYAN BRISCOE: I'm glad I hit tires and not a concrete wall. You're threading a needle through there. Second apex, you're going head first into the wall. If you're off a little bit, it's a huge wreck. I think you have to go out and talk about it. It's no quick fix you do for the race or anything. I think it could be made safer. Some way to make us turn so you're apexing not on the wall, the second one, because it's fast.
The speed itself, it's 70 something, maybe 80 miles an hour, but you're going head first to the wall basically. It will be a huge roadblock if anyone makes a mistake.

Q. Is this the most technical of the street courses you've seen this year?
RYAN BRISCOE: It's up there for sure. Different surfaces, different surface levels from corner to corner, bumpy, smooth, difficult to set up and challenging to drive.
GRAHAM RAHAL: What Ryan said is spot on. The other thing I think that's different about this place, from my perspective, there seems to be a lot of elevation. Front straight, braking zone, things are up and down. The bumps are thrown in the mix of all that. It's tough. It's tough to put a full lap together. You know, it definitely feels rewarding when you do.

Q. (Question regarding the last two road courses.)
RYAN BRISCOE: It's all part of the strategy. Infineon a lot of us were pitting early because new tire performance was better than staying out. You saw Will and I in Mid-Ohio, we did a great job of extending our second stint on fuel. A yellow comes out and it's basically like getting a drive-through penalty. We go to the back of the grid.
That's stuff you always need to look out for. Any road course where the pits close, that's something you always need to think about.
Can you pass here slower cars? Yeah. I think you got a couple of really good braking zones. If they're in front of you on better tires, it's going to be tough because the field is so competitive.

Q. Will and Dario, what are the keys to survival to making it to the end of the race tomorrow?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Don't make any mistakes and hopefully don't get caught up in anybody else's accident. Hopefully the strategy works out. God, as we know, there's a million things that go into surviving one of these things, far less winning them. Every time you press the brake pad, get to the throttle pedal, you have the potential to mess it up.
Yeah, there's infinite possibilities. So hopefully we do a good job.

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