IRL: St. Louis: Top-three finishers press conference, part II

EMERSON INDY 250 Gateway International Raceway Top-three press conference transcript August 10, 2003 HELIO CASTRONEVES (winner) TONY KANAAN (second) GIL de FERRAN (third) Part 2 of 2 THE MODERATOR: You have to focus on your driving, but...

EMERSON INDY 250
Gateway International Raceway
Top-three press conference transcript
August 10, 2003

HELIO CASTRONEVES (winner) TONY KANAAN (second) GIL de FERRAN (third)

Part 2 of 2

THE MODERATOR: You have to focus on your driving, but obviously that's something else in the back of your mind you're wondering about.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: The problem is, like, for example, we have a sequential gearbox, the revs normally with the lights. When you don't have the lights, that's the position, when you hit the red, that's when you need to shift, but I didn't have anything. I'm like hitting the limiter every time. Obviously, people were making ground. That's why I lost so many positions I believe on the start of the race. That was a shame. But finally I got the rhythm back and start understanding in the few spots of the racetrack, that's where I need to shift before I hit the limiter. Maybe I was shifting earlier, but that was the only way to not do any damage in engine or on the car, something like that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio.

Q. How is the fence climbing?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tell you, I thought I was a little rusty. I still keep practicing in the backyard at home (laughter). They had little things on the fence here that you can't put your hand straight. Anyway, it was great fun. It was a great moment. It's good for your momentum, you know. So we just have to keep carry on.

Q. Scott Dixon was so strong today. Talk about him. When you saw him pull down there coming off two, talk about that?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, he was extremely fast, before a hundred laps to go especially. I notice he was pretty easy, you know, passing traffic, coming through the corners. It was very interesting to see how fast he was. But to finish first, first you need to finish. I'm sorry, Scott, I can't feel sorry, man, for what happened today. I have been there many times. It's one of those days where everything seems to go your way. Seems everything went my way. When he stopped, honestly still a lot of laps to go, I knew that the race wasn't over yet. I still have more guys behind me. We're very equal between Tony, Gil and the rest of the field. Seems to be everybody on the same rhythm. I just kept my focus towards to the end, and I was just trying be a little bit worry when we start coming up 10 laps to go with traffic. But people were extremely generosity, and I think that's the way it should be. Sometimes 10 laps to go, there is nothing you can do. That helped me a lot to win the race.

Q. With all the technology that these cars have, to be able to do it without any of that, doesn't it prove that the driver and team are more important than all that?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's a good point. I don't want to get in that situation, but I think the track, as well, helped me a lot in those conditions. Yes, I was driving like in Indy Lights when we didn't have any of those things. So was very difficult to know which gear I was. Was very difficult, the restarts of the race. Coming to the pits, I was really fearful because it's one mile an hour that you just blew, that's it, your race is over. Basically the traction control seems to turn it off, as well, whatever happens to the system... Everything was kind of very, very difficult. But I tried to keep cool. I tried to just drive my race and do not thinking about the problem, thinking about what we can get. The victory, that's what was in my mind.

Q. In your two years with the series, you've been involved at the top of very close points battles. Is this what you expected running the IRL?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Any championship, when I'm going for it, I'm going to do my best. It's like our races, you know, 20 races that we went winless. It's one of those things that you try and think positive, trying to be competitive. To be competitive, you need to score points as much as you can. I learned a lot with my teammate. I have been winning more race than him, even in CART, but he's keep winning the championship. Well, I guess that was the formula, to win championships. Again, when we came to IRL, we knew it's going to be competitive. Sam and I last year were battling towards the last lap basically. I don't think it's going to be different this year. It's going to be right there towards to the end. So we just have to keep our consistency, keep finishing the race, scoring points to do well.

Q. How does winning change your mental attitude, for positions one, two and three?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know. I'll tell you next race. I'm the same approach coming to each race: we need to win, we need to be consistent. Again, when we start today, seems everything was gone. We start with the dash. "Great, this is just what's happening." Even when I had a bad car handling at one point of the race, I never lost the faith. I say, "I'm going to keep here and I know I can fix this." So my approach for the next race, it's good momentum, not only for me. Maybe in my subconscious might be good because, yeah, we know we can do it again. We won, let's go for it. But for the whole guys, for all entire guys, they knew we could do well. I think it's more for them instead of for me, you know, because I'm with the same spirit and the same way. I'm just extremely happy for those guys. They've been working 24/7. Wow, I'm very pleased.

Q. I don't think you've ever finished out of the Top 10 on this track before. This is the last year here. How glad are you to have this race on your resume?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, honestly I really enjoy this place. In fact, when we came to the open test, my teammate was very fast. I say, "Huh-uh, something wrong here. This place, I know I can do better. I know I can do the pole position, win, everything." I learned a lot from last year. You know, for setups, the conditions of the race, everything seems to be working well. So it's good to having. It's a shame to not have the race, you know, because every place you go, when you have a data, it's always good because you can improve on those things. But is the same for everyone. Whatever is going to happen happens. Right now I am just going to enjoy this moment.

Q. Having gone 20 races without winning, winning anything would be a thrill. Does it give you more pride winning here?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think so, yes, for me, for sure, you know, because it was very tough conditions out there with those situations. I wouldn't say maybe when I was driving for Indy Lights, that was normal. You like, "Okay, we don't have those things. What are you talking about?" But when you got used to and when you learn how to read those things, it is very difficult. But, hey, maybe was a good thing that happened that because I could drive my own race in terms of whatever fuel strategy, didn't have to save any fuel. Whatever happens happens. I enjoy a lot those kind of races. I was really pushing. I wasn't taking it easy, especially turn three and four. Yes, make me feel proud of myself. But, again, I know I have a team that back me up really good. That's why it's always important to have a team like that.

Q. What was the exact nature of the problem with the telemetry?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: They just told me as soon as the race finish, I think they turn it off, turn it on, everything was working fine. Thank you, that was very nice news you give me (laughter). Don't know. It's one of those bug things, you know what I'm saying? I don't know. It just felt really strange. Happened yesterday, but yesterday we know what happened. Missed a beacon. Everybody did not understand why. But today, morning, everything was running good. It was scary. So we know next time what to do. It's just hopefully fixed.

Q. Did you think about Carl (Hogan) today after winning?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Absolutely. I saw their family, Carl, Jr., Dave, everyone, the kids. It is awesome. It is awesome to have people like that. We almost had my first ever win here, you know, when I finished behind Michael. Before going into the race, Michael just came to me and said, "Do you remember?" "Man, that must be one of your victories." He say, "Yeah, I do remember." Again, it makes me feel very honor, you know, listen to those things. I guess this place owe me a long time ago. But, you know, today finally pays off. You just have to keep the faith.

Q. The last five races are mile-and-a-half laps or longer. Based on what you did last year on superspeedways versus what Gil did, gives you a chance for a championship run. I know you have been equal this year. How do you see these final five races?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's going to be competitive, as you said. But we just have to keep working together. Today Gil helped a lot, for me especially when I have a lot of trouble with gears and stuff like that. That's the way, same way it works for him. I took a lot of chances for the race winning with a totally different everything. Again, both of us finish right there. So I guess it depends. It's depends on the conditions. It depends on what you need to do. But we are going to try to keep the same system working. Hopefully, you right, come to my way. But, again, you can't predict those things. As you said, Nazareth is one of those tracks we know we're going to be really strong so far. But all the other places, it's tough. Trust me, Kentucky is going to be a very tough race. I guess if we don't have a win, finish second. If not, just keep finishing and scoring points. Today I'm in the hunt for the championship because I did not get frustrated. I knew I could win and I knew the team could make me win. It's a combination that came together. Man, you have to keep pushing. One day is going to come your way. Today is my way.

Q. (Question regarding IROC)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Over here?

Q. The IROC.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, the IROC. Special, don't you think? I was leading the race by whatever, really good. I was the only open-wheel driver giving a hard time to those NASCAR guys. All of a sudden yellow for nothing. Well, I understand. Jay (Signore) told me there was debris. A lot of people want me to finish first there (Indy), especially in such a place I enjoy so much. Hey, again, I know I can learn how to drive those cars. Maybe I need a little more time. Hopefully it is not going to take long like it took to win a race today. It was great. I enjoy a lot running IROC. That teaches me a lot, as well, even here in IRL.

THE MODERATOR: You were on the pole, you brought it home. Congratulations on a super day.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you very much.

-irl-

Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Dixon