Indy 500: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Helio, Roger mentioned when you first came here, and I want to take you back for just a minute because when you did first come here, nobody knew anything about you. And I remember I met you in the garage and we ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Helio, Roger mentioned when you first came here, and I want to take you back for just a minute because when you did first come here, nobody knew anything about you. And I remember I met you in the garage and we walked together to the pits and nobody bothered to say boo to us. Then within about three weeks you were totally inaccessible because you became a superstar. I saw you on television recently and I know how emotional you are, and I think people rightfully adore the sincerity that you exude. But you said something about this whole series of events has really kind of -- these are not the exact words -- but something like this whole series of events has put life back in perspective for you and given you a better perspective or sense on that. I kind of wonder, you know, you became this instant superstar, and I'm kind of wondering how that's going to temper now your life moving forward. Is there anything that can change really given what you've done?

CASTRONEVES: No, I'm always going to be the same Helio as I've always been. Outside the car, I've always been accessible to you guys. Whenever I'm asked questions, I'm always able to do that and the fans, as well. I'm going to continue being myself because that's what my mom taught. My mom always told me to be yourself. If you're happy, you're happy; if you're sad, you're sad. But I always continue to be myself.

Q: Helio, you kind of talked about you're honored to be part of this, the category of being three-time champ of this race. Winning the 100th anniversary of this track, does that add a little more excitement to today's victory?

CASTRONEVES: Winning here, I mean it's very special. I'm just so honored to be the guy doing that. Like I said, to be in a select group, first of all, and this is just incredible to see how many people -- and I was actually coming to the track this morning, asking a lot of people. I don't remember seeing how many people were here and struck in traffic and things like that, and they keep saying the Indy 500, it's coming back. And for me, to hear those words, it's just fantastic. And be sitting here talking to you guys is just amazing because this place is very special. I'm super-happy that it's coming back.

Q: Helio, a question concerning the final stages of the race. You said earlier your team were on the radio and said save fuel, save fuel. Nevertheless, just from the outlook on the television, personally I had the impression lap times, speed, et cetera, et cetera, have been nearly identical. So how difficult was it to concentrate and do always the same speed or nearly identical lap times?

And a question also for Mr. Penske. Three or four laps before the end the camera shows Helio's family very emotional, very nervous. You seemed pretty controlled and cool. (Laughter)

How difficult was this not to show emotions and to be controlled?

CASTRONEVES: Do you want to answer the last one?

PENSKE: I guess when you've been here, you just hope that there isn't, you know, a yellow. I knew at 180, when we said, when Tim said we had fuel, and I knew Helio was behind that wheel and he made that restart without Wheldon getting by him, it was ours to lose. So you have to be rational in this thing. You get excited, it doesn't do anything to help you go faster. I think Helio, the lap times that he was turning, we have a fuel gauge, we know where we had to be on fuel, he obviously had a number he was making and still running in the 220s. Wheldon is a real competitor, and what we didn't want to do was have him jump us on the start and we didn't want to have another yellow. That's the time, you can see at the beginning how aggressive Franchitti was, and yet, as we ran about 20 laps, Helio just moved on by.

So this is -- it's a very, very different race.

CINDRIC: Just to clarify as far as saving fuel, not the last yellow but the yellow before that when he actually made his last pit stop, that's the point where everybody was really having to save fuel. If there weren't any more yellows, once the last yellow occurred, who was it, Matos and -- from that yellow because it was so long put us in a position and put Helio in a position the last 20 laps to run flat-out as much as he needed to, just to clarify all that.

CASTRONEVES: He answered that. (Laughter)

CINDRIC: What he said.

CASTRONEVES: I can't hear, man. The radio and everything, it's like a buzz.

Q: Tim and Helio, they're talking about the best of the best of the best. And Helio, you're still a relatively young man. Has the discussion ever come up the first to win five Indianapolis 500s between you two?

CINDRIC: You know, I guess it hasn't really crossed my mind too much since probably 2003, you know, at the point where he had a chance to win three in a row and we had made our last pit stop there in 2003 and he was the leader. Helio ran up on lapped traffic there toward the end of the race and he was able to get by him, and at that point in time that's probably the last time we really talked about numbers here. After that it was just a matter of what's it going to take to get back there again. We had a couple of rain races and a few things where I think we had the car to win, but we weren't able to get to the end for a couple of reasons, but rain being one of them. As we look at it now, I remember as a kid growing up here, remembering how cool it was to wait for A.J. to win his fourth and what that meant and all the hype about A.J. winning his fourth, and then again with Mears. So I kind of lived it as a kid, and it's kind of cool to sit up here and think he has a chance to do it.

CASTRONEVES: Well, for me, I tell you, you can't be thinking about five without making three. We just made three and now thinking about fourth. But I will think about it, dream about it, but we've got to work for it. Certainly have the team to do that, but we have a long way. Right now for me, I'm just going to enjoy this moment because it's very special.

Q: Helio, to win this race sometimes takes a little bit of luck. Weren't you behind Kanaan when he crashed in the back straightaway? Take me through that and what went through your mind when he veered off.

CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I saw on the straightaway like a little smoke probably from bottoming and all of a sudden, I'm not sure if it was the left rear or right rear suspension broke, and he hit pretty hard. I saw a piece of wing coming straight to me. I even told the guys to check the air box because I thought something hit, didn't hit my helmet but there was so much debris. Well, we did stop right on that yellow, and we found out there was a piece of carbon stuck into the right front or left front tire. So it was lucky that everybody stop and I stop, as well. So we were able to go back and continue the race. So it was very, very impressive because it was right on the front straightaway and it was a big crash.

SULLIVAN: We've got four questions left in line. That will be our final four.

Q: Helio, I want to go back to a question, sort of a spinoff on a question he asked before. I remember when you started the tax case, I remember you saying on TV to a reporter, "I'm trusting in God to get me through this." And today when you took the checkered flag, you hadn't completed the lap and you said, "Thank you, God, thank you."

What's happened to your faith in the course of this last six months?

CASTRONEVES: Sometimes you try -- I try to answer questions, I just couldn't find the answer. And today I found the answer and that's why. I thank Him.

Q: Helio, I want to go back toward the end of the race when everyone was saving fuel, so it might have been two yellows from the end. When Will Power was behind you, if it wasn't a situation where you both had to save fuel, and say you had enough fuel to make it to the end, what do you think would have happened? Were you worried about Will, because he looked like he was catching you?

CASTRONEVES: Yeah, he was very strong. What was up with that? (Laughter)

PENSKE: We hadn't dialed the number yet.

CASTRONEVES: I didn't know who it was until I looked at the Pagoda and saw the No. 12, and it was like he's coming here, and they're telling me to save fuel, tell him to save fuel. (Laughter)

No way. And he was very strong, and I don't know what happened. But I would not give up that position. Toward the end, certainly I don't think he was saving fuel, but he was doing extremely well up to that point because we already have quite a few laps on the tires, and he didn't have a clear lap. I had a clear vision and no traffic, and he was catching pretty fast. So he was doing very well. Then I think a yellow came up and we all had to pit, so he definitely show he's very strong and potential here.

Q: Helio, I have two questions for you but they're short. The first one: Was there some confusion about you being able to climb the fence? Were they saying, "No, don't do it?" If you want to answer that one, and I'll ask the other one. It's real short.

CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I was going over there and they were like, "You've got to go to the Victory Lane." And this yellow guy kind of like pulled me in. (Laughter)

I want to get out, and he's like, "No, you've got to stay here." I was trying to take the stuff and he was literally holding my helmet and myself there. Finally I saw the team come, and I said, "I'm sorry, I want I've got to get out." (Laughter) That was the confusion, I wanted to go and climb the fence.

Q: The other thing was so often the person leading with ten laps to go doesn't win this race just for whatever reason or whatever various circumstances. It looked like to us when you were leading at that point, there was absolutely no way that anyone was going to catch you. Do you think, did you have that feeling, I mean after the all the emotions and things like that, it really felt this is one time there is absolutely no way?

CASTRONEVES: You guys make that. You guys talking about the 10 laps, guy's not going to win. No, I was just going in and certainly I had a good gap between the second place, and I was just managing, make sure -- and I couldn't hear how many laps to go. I tried to keep looking to the number of laps, and he keep telling me 10, then I didn't know if it was 10 or seven or I was just so confused. So I'm just like, "OK, forget it, keep going, keep like the 219s, 218s." And I think I had enough car. I didn't even ask the lap time that the second place was doing. So at that point I was just trying to finish the race and manage the gap that I had and hopefully not get in traffic. Because this year the field was so tight, I can see it was very hard to get traffic. So it was interesting to see that.

Q: Helio, the boss mentioned his concern about the restart. You had seen starts and restarts where a guy in second place was in pretty good position. Were you concerned about that restart with Wheldon?

CASTRONEVES: Yes, absolutely. We didn't have the new tires, either, so I kind of like knew that in that situation if you don't have a very good car, you'll be able to keep behind and certainly it happened and I was able to manage the gap. After that I was just -- and because I had a few laps in the front as well, so I was pretty comfortable with the car. It was just one of those things when you're in the front, you just keep going and the car was just fantastic up there.

Q: A quick one for Roger and then a quick one for Helio. In '06 you said that was your most exciting Indy victory. Was today your most gratifying?

PENSKE: I would say yes.

Q: For Helio on a lighter note, are you glad this one was a decisive Indy 500 victory?

CASTRONEVES: A what? Well, the last one was never a problem for me or for us. But hey, we didn't have rain, we didn't have to deal with anything. So we proved it.

SULLIVAN: We've learned something that Tim Cindric is right, by the way, Helio used the word synchronization very well. That's a dancing turn, the decisive maybe not so much. I tell you what, how about it, folks, what a great effort by all of you? A salute. (Applause)

-crdit: ims

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Will Power