IRL IndyCar Series - Toyota Indy 300 Second, third place press conference: Gil de Ferran, Helio Castroneves Moderator: We are going to get started with our second- and third-place finishers here. Finishing second is Gil de Ferran for the...
IRL IndyCar Series - Toyota Indy 300
Second, third place press conference:
Gil de Ferran, Helio Castroneves
Moderator: We are going to get started with our second- and third-place finishers here. Finishing second is Gil de Ferran for the second year in a row here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He had two wins in 2002 at Pikes Peak and Gateway, had four poles in 2002, those came at Nazareth, Pikes Peak, Richmond and Gateway. As we said, finished second here last year as well as this year. Helio Castroneves finishes third here for the second year in a row. He finished second, as you know, in the IndyCar Series points last year. Three IndyCar Series wins in his career: Indianapolis in 2001 and 2002, also at Phoenix in 2002. He won the pole at Phoenix last year. This year he will have a chance to become the first-ever winner of the Indianapolis 500 three consecutive years. Again, as we said, finished third at Homestead here last year. We'll open it up for questions.
Q: Gil, can you tell us what happened on the pit stop when you lost the lead? Was there any problem?
Gil de Ferran: Not that I'm aware of. You know, from where I was sitting, looked like a pretty smooth pit stop. You know, it's unfortunate they just beat us out. I guess once he was in front, he was fairly strong. I don't think he was stronger than we were, but it was so evenly matched that it was hard. I tried to get in front of him, but it wasn't working.
Q: Obviously, you finished just as you did last year, second and third. This year it seemed like it was a lot more competitive up front than last year. Can you comment on that?
de Ferran: Absolutely. Last year this was our very first IRL, apart from the Indy 500 the year before, our very first in this sort of configuration. We had very little experience. Even though we finished a long way behind last year, we learned a lot. Everything that we learned last year we were able to apply this year and be more competitive.
Helio Castroneves: I do agree with Gil the same way. We went to school last year. Well, this year we learned. But the other guys were watching us well, and they did a good job. I felt pretty comfortable today. Again, that's the way the race goes. Competition level is much higher this year. Again, I'm sure it's going to be the same guys as last year. We just hope the end of the year will change the result.
Q: Helio, approximately Lap 91, the first restart, you were dicey going into Turn 1. Can you comment where you tried to get around him and he held you off?
Castroneves: The thing is, I made a bad call. Instead of starting second, I started in third gear. I thought it was pretty good. Again, when I accelerated, it was too low. Gil made a good move on the inside. I tried to keep outside. We were very close, actually. Again, once he already settled down in front of me, I was trying to find where (laughter). I decided that we still had a lot of race to go, it wasn't worth to try a risk. I guess it was great for the fans. The race was especially good in the beginning. Start of the race, I was just trying to go and pass everyone. Big cajones, huh?
de Ferran: Go, go, go (laughter).
Q: What was your view of that attempted pass, Gil?
de Ferran: Exactly the same as Helio said. We came up for the restart. As long as there's an opportunity for you to go by the guy ahead of you ... I was accelerating a little better than Helio. I dove down on the inside, made it around the first. All credit to Helio, he kept the gas all around the outside. I tried to keep the gas on the inside. We were close on the exit. I had a little wiggle on the exit, trying to pinch the car down. Already on the back straight I stayed on the inside. I stayed on the inside. That's that. We went 2 and 3, finished.
Q: Gil, as the race goes on, you get a notion of who is going to be good and who is not going to be good. When did you get an idea that Scott Dixon was going to be somebody to contend with?
de Ferran: I saw when I was leading at the end of the race and Helio was second, Helio was about a couple seconds behind, between one and a half and two seconds all the time there. I saw behind him a Ganassi car. I thought, "Hmm." I didn't know at that time if it was Dixon or Scheckter. I think he made it by Helio, then Roger (Penske) came on the radio and said Dixon. It was toward the end of the race, basically.
Q: When you came out of the pits, do you have any doubt in your mind if you had come out first you could have stayed there, not had to deal with the traffic? Secondly, late in the race, in the stages when you saw traffic, did you think you would have a chance to pull up and challenge him?
de Ferran: I guess we'll never know, will we? I have no idea (laughter). I certainly felt that we were strong. But, you know, I don't like to speculate on things like that. I would just say that Dixon did a good job driving once he was ahead. Certainly every single point he got traffic, I thought, "OK, is this a good chance here now?" You never know if he's going to have to check up. The track was so slippery out there, if you just mistime the traffic, very likely you could understeer off or something like that. At every single mark he got to, I was trying to get closer to him to see if I could pounce.
Q: At least in race trim, do you think the Toyotas, finishing one, two, and three, have an advantage at this point?
de Ferran: I would say also we finish one, two, three, so I think it's a fantastic result for Toyota. This is the very first IRL race. We've been working with them since -- when did we test with them? In Kentucky last year? Actually I tested with them in Nazareth. Since July last year we've been helping them develop the engine. I think for them to come in and win the very first IRL race is fantastic. This is one race. We'll see how the year plays out. It's important for us not to get overexcited about this result, keep our head down, search for a better car, better driving, more horsepower. This is only one race. I guess it's a small snapshot in time. Like you said, you never know what problems all the people had, so on and so forth. I think we'll have a better measure how everything stacks up by the fourth or fifth race. But there's no doubt this is a result that's well-deserved by Toyota.
Q: Can you talk about the feel of the cars? In terms of racing, how were the cars?
de Ferran?: I was just joking with our sponsor Mobil 1 earlier on, "Have you been going out and spreading Mobil 1 all over the track?" I mean, it was very slippery out there this year. To be honest, to me it was about the same as last year. I didn't feel that much difference. I think the conditions were similar. It was very windy and very hot. I don't think Firestone brought something that was markedly different than what it was last year. It was very slippery last year, and very slippery again this year.
Moderator: Gentlemen, thank you, congratulations.