AN INTERVIEW WITH RAPHAEL MATOS, RYAN BRISCOE, SCOTT DIXON
Saturday, October 10, 2009
MODERATOR: Raphael, if you would talk about your day out there.
RAPHAEL MATOS: It was a very good day today for me. The track was extremely hot, and the conditions were extremely difficult. I think for me physically it was one of the most difficult races of the season.
While we qualified quite well, we couldn't duplicate that speed we had in qualifying to the race, and you know, the box in the car was definitely an issue today. I'm very happy we kept the car in one piece, and we were able to finish the race in reasonable condition, and hopefully we'll learn from it and use the information for next year.
MODERATOR: Rookie of the Year, was that a goal coming into the 2009 season?
MATOS: Yes, definitely. That was one of the things we had hoped from the beginning of the year, and we were able to accomplish that. And for sure I've got to thank the Luczo Dragon team, the whole crew, the guys who help me drive all year. They work very, very hard. We were trying to put ourselves in a position that we could win, and it's something that means a lot to the team and a lot to me. There's a lot of important and famous drivers that have won the Rookie of the Year title, and that's something important.
MODERATOR: I guess even more impressive is really this was really Luczo Dragon's first full season, so it's got to feel good for you guys, Rookie of the Year and your first -- and the team's first, full season in the series.
MATOS: Yeah, definitely. The team has learned so much this year. It's just incredible how steep the learning curve on the rookie driver and with a rookie team.
Like I said before, I just think that we're just looking to be even better things right now for the future.
Q: What was the biggest adjustment coming from the Lights to the IndyCars?
MATOS: I would say obviously the car, it's a bit harder to drive. It's heavier, the weights are longer, so it's more physically demanding, and also getting used to the pit stops is something very unique that you have to practice a lot. So you have to be very precise and hit your marks. And under pressure it's very easy to make a mistake, and that's something that I had to pay attention and I had to push myself and learn very quickly.
Q: Talk a little bit about how you feel that you redeemed yourself, because I know that early in the season you had gotten a little bit of criticism for being involved in a couple of crashes, and I know in June you kind of felt like you were being unfairly singled out. At the end of the season you were able to finish strong. How good of a redemptive feeling does that give you?
MATOS: Yeah, it kind of feels like redemption. I definitely made some rookie mistakes, something I wouldn't -- I wouldn't make those mistakes again, for sure, especially the one from St. Petersburg. I got involved in an accident with Danica, and I took both of us out.
And also the Indianapolis accident with Vitor, which I think was a weight incident.
But the biggest thing I learned is not to put myself in other drivers' hands, not expect the other drivers to cooperate with me when we're battling. So that's the biggest thing for me. I think I learned very well this season how to deal with this.
MODERATOR: Rapha, congratulations, heck of a season.
We'll continue with our post-race presser, joined by second place Ryan Briscoe, who ends up finishing third in the championship points; Scott Dixon, who finished third today, second in championship points, just one point separated the two.
Ryan, why don't we start with you and talk about your day out there.
RYAN BRISCOE: It was really good. It was really hard-fought. You know, I really thought Scott had been the stronger car today, and I knew that to get the championship, if I won, expecting him to come second, I needed to lead the most laps, as well. We were racing really hard throughout the whole race trying to lead the most laps and so on. We were trying to force each other into the race that we ran, as far as using fuel and so on. But it was great. It was a lot of fun.
I can't believe there wasn't a yellow. I wish there was. But no, it was a great race, and it's just unfortunate for us that Dario and the 10 car had maybe a smarter strategy today and saved a bit of fuel and got home on three stints.
MODERATOR: Scott, your comments on the day?
SCOTT DIXON: As Ryan said, it was a tough race. I think it's the first time ever that we've run from green to checkered, which is definitely different for us.
As far as strategy goes, it was kind of a lap race. On a full tank you can really only do about 48 laps or 47 laps when you're full, and that was what kind of what threw us into the battle, fighting over those extra points back and forth all day, and that might have been what killed us in the end. I do think that the Target cars were by far the best cars out there.
But we just ran the wrong strategy, and it's frustrating. I think about midway through the race the team came on to me and told me that Dario had gone for the ultimate strategy to try and save fuel and stay on the lead the lap. I think at that point he was the only other car on the lead lap.
You've got to give them credit, man. They put it out there, they tried it. It's fantastic for the team. Job well done by those folks over here. And it sucks to finish second and third in the race today, second in the championship. But that's the way it goes sometimes, and you've got to take it on the chin.
MODERATOR: It was indeed the first time we've been caution-free in league history, and the speed of today's race at over 201 miles an hour was the second quickest in league history. Questions for either one of the drivers?
Q: Scott, I saw some cars that looked like a big handful out there, and even some lap traffic that didn't look easy to pass. Did that enter your mind, there's got to be a caution, somebody's going to lose the race right here eventually?
DIXON: Ryan and I were actually joking about that after the race. It was tough to even stay flat. The cars were sliding around everywhere, and we had the good cars. So I can't imagine what some of the others were putting up with, and nobody went into the fence, so that was not good for us. We obviously hoped a few guys put it in the fence, but it wasn't the way it rolled today. It was tough.
I think our car was very good early on in the sense that we could run a low line and maybe run a little bit quicker. Yeah, there was some people you didn't know where they were going to go when you got to them.
BRISCOE: Sometimes on the old tires at the end of the stint it was hard. We had to run hard through 3 and 4. You know, I couldn't get down low as the tires got old. You know, we thought that for a lot of cars. Sometimes we were running really high near the fence. And you just really had to take your passes and maybe watch the cars you were catching to see what line they were running to try to get the best of them.
The only real time I used the push-to-pass today was to try to get around lap cars to try and make it safe, but it was hard work.
Q: I was just curious because from the very first pit stop Dario went longer than both of you did by maybe three laps even, and a couple on you. Was it evident early on that that was going to be the way it was, and could you have changed strategy, or did it come down to you guys really having to fight each other to lead the most laps and things like that?
BRISCOE: We pitted early in the first stint. The tires went off worse in the first run than in the rest of the race, and I started really getting loose at the end of my first stint, and I was going to be getting into trouble. I caught a lot of lap traffic and we chose to pit a couple of laps earlier than we could have just to get out of traffic and get some new rubber on the car. That's where it sort of set off the strategy for the rest of the day.
DIXON: Ultimately I think when you're lifting more, you save more fuel. Then Dario from probably midway through the stint stayed flat, whereas we were flat for most of the race with no problems. And once you start lifting, you get two or three tenths a lap better fuel mileage, and over a stint that adds up to a good two or three laps. So I think they just stuck with that and consistently run that much longer on each one.
Q: Ryan, do you remember when you realized you were damned if you did, damned if you didn't, because you needed to stay ahead of Scott for the last leg, but you couldn't do anything about what Dario was doing? Do you remember when you realized that?
BRISCOE: I was not really worrying about it too much. I was running my race and doing what I had to do in regards to Scott. You know, it was a team decision. We were sort of deciding what fuel to run together and going for it.
I actually -- I thought about it early on, and we pitted a lot later for that last -- for the fuel later than I was expecting to, and at that point I was like -- I knew Dario was going to go long with that, and I wasn't sure what was going to happen. And sure enough, when I came out of the pits, they were saying just bring it home, you're 20 car lengths on Scott, we're not sure if Dario has to pit, and that was where it kind of sunk in.
Q: Scott, another strange twist of fate, the way it was in 2007, was back then the only two guys that could win the championship ended up on the lead lap. Today the only guys on the lead lap were the three of you. Did that kind of blow you away a little bit, that the three of us have a lap lead on everybody else, so it's just basically us that's going to really slug it out here?
DIXON: It did seem like that through qualifying and the practices. I don't know why our three cars, and I was saying to Ryan, I don't know whether it's just -- maybe the cars were rubbing on the cars a little bit more to make sure we were quicker. But that was quite even very early on. I think once we lapped TK, which was probably the middle of the second stint, and then -- yeah, so Dario was the only one left, and we almost lapped him just before we pitted.
Yeah, it was quite exciting for an IndyCar race, but obviously when you have a green race from start to finish, it's definitely very hard for a lot of people even to work on their cars, because when you come into the pits, you're trying to make such a quick stop, you don't want to make any changes to the wings or anything like that where you might be able to pit through the yellows and do a little bit more work on the car.
Q: Could you speak a little bit about the fact that you had to be making decisions at a split-second for the entire race, and never getting any rest on a caution? And how does conditioning come into play with that?
BRISCOE: I don't know. The race went so quickly, I didn't even have to think about it. I didn't even have a sip of water for the whole race. It was really hot before we started. When we got in the car, and we were sitting on the grid, and it was so hot, and I had sweat dripping in my eyes.
But as soon as we got going, the breeze was actually quite nice, and then from start to finish obviously no yellows, it was just balls to the wall, and watching Scott, and just trying to go as hard as I could, and the race just flew by.
DIXON: You know, for us, we obviously just get told what to do and kind of get after it. Obviously, you're on a fuel-saving strategy or you're going to try to drive as hard as possible.
As you could see, as Ryan put it, balls to the wall and try and go and fast as possible and put a lap on the whole field. I didn't have any time to think about how I was feeling physically or anything like that. The car felt pretty good, so it wasn't too much of a tough day.
Q: Ryan, you had that one moment -- I'm sure you had several, but there was one moment coming out of 4. Did you think you hit it? It didn't end up being a factor, but it looked very close.
BRISCOE: Well, I mean, it wasn't really a moment, it was just -- I think it was when I was going on the outside of Graham and Scheckter. We had a good run. I was on the outside of Graham, and he knew I was there, and I just don't know if Scheckter knew that I was coming, and at the last minute he gave me enough room. It wasn't much of a moment apart from the fact that he just kept drifting up the track into me. Thankfully, I knew where I was with regards to the wall, and I think at the end of the day there were a couple of feet.
Q: In 2007 you were supposed to meet Dario for a drink, either you had won the title, he was going to beat you, or vice versa. Do you almost kind of wish you could skip out on that tonight?
DIXON: No, I'll be there, for sure. I was probably a little more pissed that year. I don't know why. I obviously had the slower and then maybe later sitting on the floor a little bit longer, maybe I'd get angry again. We're going to be there. We're going to hang around and go to the banquet, so I'd better get over it.
MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations on your season.