Richmond: Post-race press conference

SunTrust Indy Challenge Post-Race Transcript Saturday, June 27, 2009 THE MODERATOR: We have with us Graham Rahal. He finished 3rd this evening. And Dario Franchitti, who finished 2nd. Graham, we'll start with you. You started fifth this ...

SunTrust Indy Challenge Post-Race Transcript
Saturday, June 27, 2009

THE MODERATOR: We have with us Graham Rahal. He finished 3rd this evening. And Dario Franchitti, who finished 2nd.

Graham, we'll start with you. You started fifth this evening making just your second start here at Richmond; 18th last year. Obviously a big improvement. Talk about tonight's race.

GRAHAM RAHAL: It really speaks volumes for what the McDonald team can do. I think to start this weekend we certainly were no place we wanted to be. The car didn't feel very good.

At the end of practice one, we had a lot of work to do. And my engineer Martin (Pare) and I and the entire team just kept plugging away and for us to get this result.

I should say to come home second to the Target team is like a victory for us. And especially with the troubles that some others had, obviously far fewer troubles this year than last.

But still for us, the guys did a great job in the pits. And to be standing on the podium finally on an oval, it feels pretty good. And to kind of give us momentum into the next couple of road courses where we feel we should be one of the favorites; it's a good improvement.

THE MODERATOR: Dario, you started from the pole this evening, finished second after the win in Iowa last week. You take over the series points lead. Also your thoughts about tonight's race.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was obviously disappointing not to have won. But in the track position race, Scott (Dixon) and I think we were very equal in performance tonight. He was out front. Unfortunately, my mistake was trying to use too much fuel to pass I think it was (Hideki) Mutoh.

And ultimately I was trying to put some gap between Scott and I at that point in the race, trying to put some cars between us. And ultimately that hurt us, because we had to pit when the pits were closed on that yellow. Literally had come off the track just about to go into the pit lane and the yellow came out, so pit lane was closed. So we just made a round.

And that was really all there was. Once Scott got ahead, we did our best. And we were pushing like hell to pass him, but we couldn't get it done. And the guys in the pits tried their best as well. And they almost got it.

But when you're up against the Target guys, it's the same with the cars, the cars are equal, the guys are equal in the pits. It's hard to find an advantage. That was it.

But points lead's pretty good. I think we're one, two in the points now, Scott and I. Looking forward to that and to the week after.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q: Dario, in '07, Iowa and Richmond was what catapulted you on your way to the championship. Iowa, you win at Iowa; you finish second here. Now you're the points leader. Do you think that this could be a situation where history repeats itself?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'd like to think so. But it's going to be a tough race this season. We're going to have to try and win every race, because Scott's going to be there. The Penske guys are going to be there. I think Graham's going to be there.

The AGR car is going to be there. And especially on the road course, a bunch of other people. So it's going to be pretty exciting. But we've just got to each week get the maximum we can.

Q: Dario, do you still feel like -- how much does this win give you as far as momentum is concerned, especially how you, in July, have got three road and street courses coming up, just especially that pivotal stretch of races, how is that as far as momentum for you?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think to be leading the points is nice. The stretch of results we've had is nice. But it can turn in an instant. We've just got to take each week as it comes, each week as a whole new thing. Nothing carries over. So I think the team is very experienced, which helps. So we'll just keep on it.

Q: Dario, you were apologizing after the race to the fans. Do you think this was kind of like a fuel efficiency race, that it looked like you were able to -- you were trying to make a run at the end but just didn't?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I apologized to the fans because they came out to see good racing and traditionally the IndyCar Series put on fantastic races, especially at Richmond. I didn't feel tonight was that.

It was a track position race. And to a degree it became a fuel mileage race. As I say, I think Scott and I had very, very equal cars, but nobody could pass.

I don't know what Graham's thoughts are, but from the people at the very front, whether it was Scott or myself, we were hanging on all night, pushing it as hard as possible. I know I was pushing as hard as I could to pass him and look at how much oversteer he had coming out of the corners. He was pushing.

The guys who were trying to lap were pushing. Everybody's pushing. It's not that we're just cruising around, but we cannot get close enough to make those passes. And we need to look at that and fix it.

Do you agree with that?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah. Definitely felt similar to me.

Q: Dario, would you be advocating more downforce as a way to kind of clean that up a little bit? Or a lot less?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: We have run the zero package before with good results. Whether it's just the track is getting older or what, I don't know, or it's a new compound tire, I don't know what the deal is.

Because we've got the same ingredients we had two years ago and three years ago when we put on great shows. So we can do it. We just got to figure out what's missing and I don't know the answer to that.

Q: Dario, along that same line, I know you were here. I think you won here two years ago. Is it just, do you think that the teams have all caught up and equalized, because this was -- it's not just this track. It's Texas. It's Iowa. There's been a lot similar results.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know. I don't know. I don't think it's because things have equalized because there were some people out there tonight with horrible handling cars. We couldn't get around them.

At the start of the run, we'd run 16.8, then dropped to 17.0, as the things equalized. And you catch traffic and you'll be running 18.0s and 18.2 on a normal lap. 18.2 on a bad lap. It's not that the cars tonight were close in performance. I just don't know.

Q: For both of you to answer this: I know IndyCar Series officials have pointed out that Kentucky is where they want to have stuff figured out and fixed. But I know Mike Hull on your team said last week they need to kind of fix it now. How big of a challenge is it when they get back to the ovals that something like this be figured out and fixed?

GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know. I mean, obviously this is really our first -- last year we were in the series but we pretty much just ran around on the ovals. But this is our first year being somewhat competitive. The further to the top you get, the tougher it gets. As Dario said, tonight just didn't seem -- I passed maybe two guys the entire race.

And certainly guys behind me at times who were quicker and couldn't get by. The way to fix it, that's obviously not for me to figure out. I think that Kentucky last year for us was a close race. So you could go there and it would be a better race anyway, I think.

What is it that fixes it? I honestly can't really tell you because I haven't been in it long enough to know what the cars felt like two years ago here. I know what it felt like last year, and it was a handful for me anyway. So this year we're finally competitive.

But from my perspective, it seems like everybody's gotten so close, it's so competitive now, that that makes it tough. But then, again, as Dario says, there are guys certainly struggling out there a lot more tonight than I was. And it was tough to get by.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I guess the frustrating thing tonight is as far as driving the car, my car was one of the better ones out there and it was a handful. I don't think anybody had an easy night. And unfortunately the fans can't see that. It doesn't translate into the show tonight.

But everybody was out there hanging on. When you're out there pulling five Gs mid-corner, you get a big blow to snap over, steer and leave black lanes coming out of the corner, you're trying hard. And everybody was doing that tonight. So it's just a shame that that doesn't kind of -- people outside the car can't really tell that that's going on in there.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

THE MODERATOR: Now we have the winner of tonight's SunTrust Indy Challenge, Scott Dixon. This is your second career victory at Richmond. This is your second win of the 2009 season. Also won in Milwaukee earlier this year. 19th career victory in the IndyCar Series. Ties him now with Sam Hornish Jr. for the most in series history. Talk a little bit about tonight's race.

SCOTT DIXON: It was a bit of a procession, unfortunately. It was very tough to pass because of the track. I think it's just the last couple of years we've really slipped into a car that is not enabling a whole lot of passing.

So tonight was a premium of trying to save some fuel. I saved a little bit more than Dario, and he got caught out with that yellow and I was able to continue on and jump him in the pits.

So that was the pass for the lead. There was a few other cars I think throughout the night that were popping up. There was AGR cars, I think they did a fantastic job to jump up from where they were.

But it was totally down to strategy. Even once you got to lap traffic it was very tough to pass. It was kind of one line out there. If you tried to go around the outside or even move up or make dives, it was very slippery off the track.

So it was a frustrating night. A fantastic night for Team Target; obviously we're one-two in points, too, now. And to gain over the Penske cars was a big night for us.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q: Scott, you and Dario were able to open up a gap, a little bit of a gap between you and the Team Penske in the points. Just wanted to ask, how much momentum does this give you in the second half of the season, especially in July with the street and road courses coming up there?

SCOTT DIXON: Anytime you can get a gain on Penske, you've got to take it and run with it. It's not too often they make mistakes like they did tonight. I don't know what happened with Helio (Castroneves), maybe he got caught up in some traffic there, and Ryan (Briscoe) just spun coming out of (Turn) 2.

We've had some bad races at the start of the year, and obviously Helio started a little bit later. We got to hope that we can continue to be a little bit more consistent than them and gain points when we need to.

So tonight was a big gain for us and could be a pivotal point of the season.

Q: Scott, it looked like today was more like, tonight was more like not making any mistakes. Looked like some people made mistakes going out of the turn. How were you able to maintain?

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you just really had to stay focused and be almost cautious. It was very hard to throw the car down underneath somebody.

The most excitement I saw tonight was probably my teammate on the first stint, throwing the car under a few people. Looked like some of them weren't actually going to -- he was going to make it through.

But he did. And that was pretty hairy to watch. But he pulled it off. I think that might have been kind of one of the only passes I think during the race for a position up front, when he passed Danica (Patrick).

So it was tough. You just had to try not to go in too deep, get off line. As soon as you got off line it was really slippery. And then if you picked up some of the mottles, you continued to be slow for the next few laps. So you just had to try to follow the car in front of you, to be honest.

Q: Looks like you may have another car to be contending with on those ovals besides the Penske cars. Looks like Graham Rahal is starting to get this mess figured out.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was a great night for Graham. I think he's had a rough start to the season, especially with some of the ovals, like Texas and even I remember seeing him at Iowa and I felt bad for the guy. He had his hands full there.

But to come away with this place on the podium is nothing to sneeze at. And I think those guys have been working hard at it. Hopefully we can have more of a mix like that throughout the season.

To be honest, people like him getting in the mix is going to help us out a lot. If we can stay on the point end and have them in between the Penskes, it would be pretty nice.

Q: Scott, tying Sam Hornish Jr., I know when you came in here, he was the big name, and just a little over six years you've tied him for most victories in this series.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's pretty cool. I definitely would like one more so we can have that record outright. But achievements like that are something that you can look back and really treasure.

And I know there are many years, hopefully, in my career that I can try and build on that. But there's a lot of people that I think are like T.K. (Tony Kanaan) and Helio that are pretty close.

I have to stick at it for a long time to try and keep that going. But it's pretty cool to be in that position. I know Sam really well. He's a fantastic driver and definitely had this series captured many years ago when he was first in here, and to leave on the note he did, with (Indianapolis) 500 and a championship, was pretty special as well.

Q: Also, there's been a lot of drivers that have been complaining about the fact that the cars are difficult to pass. You keep waiting for some decisions to be made with maybe some rules changes here and there. Are you beginning to run out of patience that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of movement in that direction?

SCOTT DIXON: Fortunately for us, I'm just the driver. I get put in it and told to go fast. I'll do that no matter what. And I'll complain as much as the person next to me about what we need to fix. It's fine for a situation, say, for me tonight, when I'm out front, it's pretty cool because you're not going to get too much pressure.

The only guy that kind of got close is my teammate and, to be honest, I don't think there was any way he was going to pass me even if I went a half second or second slower. It's not one thing. It's not going to be one thing. There are many things we've changed over the last two years that have maybe stopped the amount of passing that we have had. But we've got to keep in mind what we're here to do.

And we're here to race. We're here to put on a show. Without our fans, we don't exist. I definitely want to keep on racing for many years. I want to put on a show because I want the fans to come and watch and love what we do.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Graham Rahal , Mike Hull , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske