Interview with Helio Castroneves, Roger Penske, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan.
FT. WORTH – Helio Castroneves made a statement tonight at Texas Motor Speedway. The No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 driver took the lead on lap 97, and never looked back as he held the point for 132 laps on the way to capturing his first victory of the 2013 season and the 28th of his career.
Defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second behind the wheel of the No. 1 DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, after leading for 35 laps on the way to his fourth podium finish of the season, including one win at Barber Motorsports Park. Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan brought the No. 11 Sunoco “Turbo” KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet, to the checkered flag in third to make it an all-Chevrolet podium.
In total, Team Chevy drivers of the 2.2 liter V6 twin turbo charged engine swept the top-five finishing positions with Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti completing the top-five. And, eight of the top-10 finishers were powered by Chevrolet with Will Power, James Hinchcliffe and E.J. Viso finishing seventh, ninth and 10th respectively in the eighth race of the season.
"Team Chevy collectively bounced back from last weekend with a powerful win at the Texas Motor Speedway,” said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager, IZOD IndyCar Series. “Helio Castroneves and Team Penske executed a dominant strategy to take the win, followed by four other Team Chevy drivers; Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti.
Congratulations to Helio, the new points leader, for managing his tires and his focus to lead the posse of Chevy Indy V6-powered Dallaras to the checkered flag. We are proud of our Chevrolet teams and technical partners, and shift our focus now to the race at Milwaukee next weekend."
With the victory, Castroneves extended his points lead to 22 points over fellow Team Chevy driver Andretti. Hunter-Reay is third in the standings, and Kanaan jumped to fourth. Chevrolet continues to lead the IZOD IndyCar Series Manufacturers’ Championship Standings.
Next on the schedule is the Milwaukee IndyFest at the famed Milwaukee Mile on Saturday, June 15th. The 250-lap race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 4:00 p.m. ET.
An Interview with Helio Castroneves, Roger Penske, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan
The MODERATOR: We are joined by the winning team owner, Roger Penske. This is Mr. Penske's eighth win at Texas Motor Speedway in the IndyCar Series.
Roger, if you can talk about your evening and how proud you are of Helio getting his fourth career victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
Q. Just talk about tonight's race, are you surprised ‑‑
ROGER PENSKE: I think it was ‑‑ we knew there was fall‑off going into the races ‑‑ certainly, delivered it today and he's a great race driver, you don't win the Indy 500 three times ‑‑
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think all of us were on edge because we knew we were better ‑‑ we have got great competition with the cars and the engines as close as they are and we have great drivers out there and to me that's the great thing about the series that we have to make sure everybody understands.
It's a matter of us putting it all together. The key thing here was to have that car be able to run over 200 miles an hour with over 45 or 50 laps on the tires, and Helio was able to do that. I think it was the car setup and obviously his driving ability made the difference.
Q. How much fun is it to win at Texas, be in the victory lane?
ROGER PENSKE: I always like ‑‑ Eddie's (Gossage) funny, I told him, it's a great place, Bruton (Smith) is one of the greatest promoters. I've known Eddie for a long time when he worked with us at Miller and it's great to see whatever he does here, whatever racing is going on. To me it's a great place and it's.
ROGER PENSKE: Obviously take care of the tools in your car to keep the tires underneath ‑‑ quite positive and Helio did a grit job. To me, he should get the credit for it. He drove all night long and coming up on cars that are ten or 15 miles an hour slower and is able to maintain his speed and the distance between the cars behind him. So overall, it was positive.
Q. There was a point about the midpoint of the race where Helio ‑‑
ROGER PENSKE: We wanted to get a yellow or something and be able to have a lap or two on most of the field. He was running 200, 201, 202, and then if you looked at the difference between 212 miles an hour, and 200 miles an hour, it's only 1.2 seconds on the track. So it would take 20 or 30 laps for someone to lap him.
So we looked at all that strategy, and, in fact, Helio and I went over it this afternoon before the race. We knew we wanted to run as long as we could and the tires were so good when we took them off the first time, we didn't have to worry about any cording of tires. The tires were strong all day, so tires were good.
We wanted to get to our field ‑‑ a lot of guys came in and made that last stop. Kanaan had to come in, Marco came in, and I think even the car had to come in early one time because the handling had gone away. We just stayed steady the whole time. By running a consistent race, it give him the advantage to be strong at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by tonight's winner, Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 AAA Insurance Chevy, his fourth win at Texas Motor Speedway, first of the season and he's now the winningest Indy Car driver at Texas Motor Speedway surpassing Sam Hornish, Junior, ninth career.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Don't bring him back, don't bring him back, Roger, please.
THE MODERATOR: You're the points leader and you moved, this is your 28th career victory, and you are now in sole possession of 12th place on the all‑time win list, breaking the tie with Johnny Rutherford. Talk about your evening tonight. You showed a lot of emotion in victory lane.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, the AAA boys did a hell of a job. The car was absolutely on rails, and picking up on what Roger said at the end, we discussed ‑‑ Jonathan, my engineer this year, he did a hell of a job putting everything what I was looking for. We started the race, the car was already ‑‑ and then we just try to understand what the track was doing.
Most of the managing of the tires during the race ‑‑ any time Roger was telling me, save fuel, go fast; honestly we were running lights‑out. Everything was smooth.
And in the end of the day for us, a little bit of an issue with the lights that we had on the pits when we come in, some of the lights wasn't on because it was daylight. And I wouldn't see my pit very well, so I had to put my hand up coming in, and on my end coming in was a little bit slow ‑‑ but we were able to have a flawless everything. It was great.
And towards the end, to be honest, we had a long ‑‑ Roger telling around 10, 11 seconds and I'm like, okay, I'm just going to manage the tires now, 40 laps to go. So ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ I didn't know, I saw Tony, I could keep going, but I was thinking more about the long term and not in the short term.
So it was saving, it was about five seconds that I understand Hunter‑Reay was behind me and I got a good chance to go and I did it and we opened up a gap and it was just great.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: In the winner's circle right now but I thought, we had to drive the car and it's not about ‑‑ and you said it, sometimes it changed the track. But I think with my spotter, we were able to be ahead of the car and he was giving me some tips while I was driving to be honest and it was paying off.
So everything we were managing most of the times, the tire and ‑‑ the setup was fantastic. So when you have both this combination and it feels like that ...
Q. Yesterday in final practice, you came in and hopped out of the car very, very quickly, and spent some time with a member of your crew really, really looking at the right front tire, a pockmark; could you tell us about that conversation and if that had anything to do with your setup tonight and your miraculous win?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Very good observation. Yes, we finished the practice yesterday, we were having some handling problems unfortunately and everybody went back to the truck and ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ that's why it seems big. Things doesn't happen like a miracle. You have to work hard, you've got to look for details and ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑
Q. The last five laps, what's going through your mind?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I've been around this a long time and been leading with five laps to go, so I never count our chickens. In the end Helio, I just wanted to give him the cars he's coming up on, and said, let him go by, we just didn't need to get trapped and get ourselves in trouble.
I was just waiting with ten to go and then five to go, and to me, the big move was when he went back by Franchitti, because we let Franchitti go by, there's no reason wearing the tires out trying to stay ahead of him. I think that was good, and I think his line, he ran high; he could run high, he could run low.
One thing, he running ten miles an hour slower, so he came up high speed, he had to be careful. His oval skills, what you saw win at Indy three, times you saw it here tonight. I just wait until the end before I celebrate, and that's what I did tonight.
Q. So much is made about past races and guys going flat out, how different for you was this win tonight?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Very, very different. It was nothing like in the previous years. It was tough. Hardly going flat, only when I took the lead for the first time on the restarts was I able to go flat.
Other than that, the entire race was very, very different from the past. As you guys mentioned and as you could see, a lot of cars were going forwards and a lot of cars were going backwards. Because of that, it just changed and you had to be ahead of the game.
Setup is important and is a big part of it and very fortunate to have great guys in my crew and to be able to do what I wanted. So that's one of the reason we were able to be in victory circle today.
Q. You talked earlier this week about how you would take seconds and thirds all year long if it meant winning the championship. Do you think that took some pressure off yourself?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. Absolutely not. We can't stop right now, because the championship is still wide open.
Like I said, we've got to be consistent, but when you have opportunities, and good opportunities like I had in St. Pete, and unfortunately I miss it, you know, you can't do something like that. But at this point, just got to keep moving on and today we had a phenomenal opportunity, extremely excited and to be in victory circle.
Right now, maybe tomorrow still going to celebrate a little bit, but Monday, got to turn the page and focus on the next race.
Q. One of the story lines of the whole season is that the ability ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ how much of a relief is it for you to check that box and get that win?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, for us, we want to win races. It doesn't matter at this point who is who. I know the press itself ‑‑ has to write stories and it's over now, but I don't feel any pressure.
I feel pressure to go out there and perform the best, and when you have the opportunity, you have to go for it. And today, we keep pushing the same button about this, but it's true, the car was just fantastic, and we were able to do that.
Q. Toward the end of the race, yellow came out and TK seemed like he had the fastest lap at that point.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: At the beginning, I saw Marco taking away a little bit when I was fourth or third I think, and I thought, well ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ and I was just taking it easy, when traffic is going to come up ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ race early and seeing Marco running up there. We had, probably we were similar at that point.
But I was adjusting the car and the car actually wasn't bad. I was just waiting for a little bit of an adjustment inside the cockpit trying to make something different there. As soon as I took the lead, I thought, you know, just try to keep going.
So next stop, put new tires ‑‑ I didn't know about Tony to be honest. I saw Tony as soon as I came out of the pits, and he was passing on the outside. And I was about actually to go with him but I decided, just take it easy, because the team told me ‑‑ the lead, and I'm, wow.
So I decided not to be involved in that traffic scenario, because there's still 40 laps to go, so just take it ease‑and see what happens. In the end, it was very good.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Just got to trust in what your car is telling you to do.
Q. Do you like the bump in turn two?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The bump, yes, it's a little bump. If we can have Eddie to resurface that area it would be fantastic. But if not, it's just another challenge that we have to face.
Q. I watched you last night in practice ‑‑
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was difficult, when you go ‑‑ people don't understand. When you go high, the car changes a little bit of the setup. It change the feeling, and when you go low, you have another one.
And that's where it was very difficult, even for me. But we set up the car that when I do some adjustments, I was able to go high, and then I can move back when I have a low line. It was an interesting scenario.
But the car was great. When you have a car like that, running high and low, man, it's a dream. So, I love it. I just love it.
Q. Seemed like Marco got it right when the sun was out and you nailed it when the sun went down. Were you surprised more people didn't nail the setup? When you both were hooked up, you were considerably quicker than the rest of the field.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, at the beginning, it was different, because remember, when we practice, we never practice at night. We always practice in the day, so it becomes very difficult to predict. But the car, I think because the temperature of the car cools down, you don't have any more downforce with that, the car was just much, much better.
And what happens is if you don't have that kind of dial down, it's becoming a little push or it's becoming loose. It's a very difficult place, there's no question, it's a very difficult place. That's why it's exciting. Maybe it's terrible in the beginning but it's great in the end.
Q. After qualifying when your teammates ‑‑ you made a comment about the setup and how ‑‑ did you go get that set up?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes. I was a little bit disappointed because I let my engineer decide it, and when I went back, I saw a two and a half mile, one‑and‑a‑half‑mile an hour difference, and I'm like, dude, what did you do. And I found something and I'm like ‑‑ we found something, and I'm like, come on, man, can't miss this opportunity. But in the end, we use a lot of the information and we applied it.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by tonight's second place finisher Ryan Hunter‑Reay, driver of the No. 1 DHL Chevy. It's his career‑best finish at Texas Motor Speedway, fourth top five of the season and he's now third in points, 27 points behind Helio. Ryan, talk about your evening.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Oh, man, that was interesting. It was a battle (phonetic) out there. It was like, at times, a race against yourself, just to save the tires and keep yourself off the wall. It was just a very challenging race.
But the No. 1 DHL Chevy was great all night. We made it better and better. I was searching around for grip, getting into a rhythm, but definitely has the full range of racing here at Texas Motor Speedway from 2008 to now. It's so difficult to get the package exactly right with the downforce and the tires and the degradation of the tires, and as a series we're working toward that.
I think we've nailed it perfectly in the past, and we'll get it right, for sure. But I don't know, I didn't watch the race, but it was sure ‑‑ it was sure a struggle in there for me.
TONY KANAAN: It was exciting from my perspective.
THE MODERATOR: Driver of the No. 11 Sunoco Turbo, Chevy. It's his eighth top five finish at TMS, third top five of 2013 and 4th now in the standings, 64 back of Helio.
TONY KANAAN: It's a long night. I think Ryan said it all. It was a difficult race at times. I decided to go off strategy because I was not comfortable with my car towards the end; I didn't know what ‑‑ guys, I want more tires, give me more tires; well, you're going to go a lap down.
In the end, when I saw Ryan pitting right away, earlier than me and it worked for him, I drove into the pits. But I think unfortunately, I caught more traffic than he did on my out‑laps and that kept me ‑‑ but great result for us. First race that Sunoco came aboard with the Turbo car, so it's a great result for them; and top five, Chevy, so great result for them, too.
So we'll go back and talk about. It, talk about the package for next year.
Like Ryan said, I don't know what happened behind me but I can tell you that I had my hands full, so comeback and try to make a better package.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about the momentum you have, two oval races, two top‑three finishes, talk about the momentum as you head into a stretch where there are a lot of ovals on the schedule.
TONY KANAAN: Well, I think the races that are coming up are extremely favored for me and this guy right beside me here. We have a pretty good chance and we need to take advantage of that. I think that we haven't got the handle that we wanted it to have on the speed and road courses, so we need to try to maximize the races right now.
We do have a great momentum on the team. It's extremely tired. I mean, we have a lot to celebrate but also we had a lot of work. So try to keep the boys on their toes and take advantage of the momentum.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about eight winners in nine races, just the competitiveness in the series right now.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Yeah, it's been amazing, any weekend; it could be any driver in this series. Especially the top, I would say, 15 to 20 drivers, any weekend could be theirs, which is a great thing. You go into every race thinking you can win it. There's not a whole lot or other any series out there that's like that. It's great to see all the change‑ups, but I'd like to make a move.
Q. Last year, the races coming up on the schedule ‑‑ do you both feel that these races, Pocono, the doubleheader is where we are going to see the championship ‑‑
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: I think it's going to come down to the end, the last race like it always does. There will probably be three drivers in it this year again for the last race and hopefully we are one of them.
Tony and I were on the podium for the next two races last year, and then we have some new challenges. I like Pocono being on the schedule, it's a new challenge and it will make everybody think, take everybody out of their comfort zone a little bit.
But we have doubles at Houston and Toronto, and there's a lot of curveballs coming at us, so it should be an interesting championship.
TONY KANAAN: I don't think you'll see anybody dominating. Obvious, nine race, eight winners, consistency is going to be the key. I think right now for us, we need to try to maximize, and obviously maximize winning; but if you didn't, you've got to finish in the top five, that's because what's going to play down at the end.
We have seen a lot of inconsistency. That's why we have it bunched up the way it is. So I think from now on, people are going to have to start being consistent.
Q. And tweaking the package, would it be just a little longer on the tire or just a little more downforce ‑‑
TONY KANAAN: It's both. I mean, Firestone has a great tire. But you can't ask everything, for the tires to do everything. So I think it's a combination of both. More downforce to make the tire less ‑‑
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Firestone could easily make some tires that we could run around here.
TONY KANAAN: But we don't want that.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: They are a big part of our product and the race itself. It needs to be the right combination.
TONY KANAAN: Both. And once we decide the package, the aero package, then we need to go to Firestone, and stay, look, and then we'll come back here and we do a tire ‑‑ a proper tire test and we try to make a decision. Because you can't take ‑‑ my tires went off; yeah, well, unfortunately those aren't only the things ‑‑ it's not the tire's fault.
This car has plenty of downforce. You need to remember: We do not want a packed race. That is what we don't want to have ‑‑ going overboard a little bit. This car is capable of downforce.
TONY KANAAN: No, no, it was bad luck, no. We create our own luck. It was planned. I wanted to have a better tire. The way the race was playing out, I knew that I was not going to win, because of the gap that Helio had at the time.
So me and Ryan, we chose a different strategy and again, it worked, definitely worked better for him. He did a better job coming out of the pits. But I knew that it ‑‑ there was two things that I thought. The worst‑case scenario, we are going to finish in the top four, which is that's what I wanted because the win was going to be very difficult.
But, if it had gone yellow, it was going to be a battle between me and this guy, and I probably would have had nothing ‑‑ because of the disparity of the grip of the car, didn't happen.
Q. Which one of you is going to be the favorite?
TONY KANAAN: Give him a hard time ‑‑ there's plenty of other guys. I think Marco is going to be extremely strong.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Helio.
TONY KANAAN: Hell of a battle. You know, you go to the next two tracks, we finished on the podium the last three years; so it's hard not to think that we are going to have a shot. But, having said that, I'd be very confident at two places one year to the other and been nowhere, so there's no guarantee.
Q. Tell me what it's like running at the end of a stint ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ and how hard is it to hold on?
TONY KANAAN: How can I describe that to you more? Those cars are not made to run at 190 miles an hour. The slower you go, the slower you go, the worse it is.
So I don't think we are describe a feeling, because unless I put you in the two‑seater and give you an example, but it's extremely uncomfortable. Because here, you're along for the ride. Things that you know, if you lift, the car is supposed to slow down, not speed up and get closer to the wall.
Or, if you turn the steering wheel, the car is supposed to turn, not to go great. And then it goes straight, and all of the sudden hooks up and then it gets loose. I mean, just horrible.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: The lack of predictability ‑‑ the car gives you a feeling and then it does something different and then ‑‑ I liken this place into dropping into a bowl and comeback out of it.
When you don't have the downforce or the tires, it does not want to get into the corner at all, because you're going in and the rear ‑‑ so you're coming around, and then when you're leaving the banking. The car does not want to come up out of the bank. Once it does, the rear just snaps loose, and I had some major ones, corrections; I'm sure everybody did tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.