Series post-race press conference

St. Pete

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Post-Race Transcript
March 27, 2011

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our story of the day, driver of the fourth place finish in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Simona de Silvestro. Her fourth place finish is her career best in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Simona, let's talk about that fight with Tony Kanaan at the end of the race. Just talk trying to pass.

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: Yeah you know we kind of battled like the last 15 laps to get in. You know, it was kind of a high risk to try to pass him because it was so dirty on the inside of [turn] one.

I had one shot that I think I could have made it, but I almost overshot it. So I think I'm really happy with fourth because we started 17th. And, with how we started the weekend, it wasn't how I would thought we would end the race here.

You know, I'm just really happy with my new engineer. We started working together on Friday, and to be running fourth today is something pretty special.

THE MODERATOR: Last year in the opener you led laps, and you're the first rookie to lead laps in a race since Graham Rahal did it here at St. Petersburg. With all that you went through with your engineer leaving, how gratifying is it to get fourth place?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: It's huge. Like I said, I never thought on Friday that we would be running so well during the race. We were keeping up with the leaders, and my new engineer….. communication in the beginning was pretty tough because I never worked with him. But this morning it seemed like it really clicked and we really tried to figure it out.

It was a tough moment for the team last weekend. We were scrambling to try to find a new engineer, and I think we made the right choice. Brent Harvey is pretty awesome. When he talks to me on the radio, he's really calming me down, so I think we'll make a good team.

Q. Describe what you saw going into the first turn and the first lap?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: I started way back, so I couldn't see anything really because there was so much dust. But, I kind of made it through. And, I think I saw Marco - I saw a car kind of going up in the air. I tried to find a hole and I did.

I came out in ninth position, so I think I made the right move. Maybe I was a little bit lucky, also, through turn one at the start of the race.

Q. One quick follow‑up. What did you think when you saw Marco upside down?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: Oh, I didn't know even know he was upside down. I hope he's all right. It's always kind of crazy when something big like that happens. You never wish anything like that to happen to any driver, but it happened and I hope he's all right.

Q. How did you work yourself into a position to be in a position to race for a podium finish?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: It was kind of hard, I got the inside and pretty much everybody kind of came down on me and I had nowhere to go. I kind of made a little bit of contact with Will because I was pretty much on the rumble strip (ph).

But I thought the double‑file restarts were pretty fun because it actually gave us a chance to actually make positions. Last year, we would start single file every time, it would be hard. You would be just following the leader. I think it [the restarts] made it exciting and I really enjoyed it.

Q. Did you have any boosts left at the end and do you think you would have gotten Tony if you had a couple of extra laps?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: I definitely had a couple of boosts left. Maybe I should have used one a little bit earlier, but I got close to TK a couple of times because he was making a couple of mistakes.

But, like I said, it was really risky to try to make the move. I was running fourth and I never really quite got the shot that I was next to him.

I didn't take any crazy chances to ruin our race because the [race to the] championship is really long.

Q. What is the biggest thrill in your racing career so far? And, as a female driver, do you ever compare notes with Danica or talk to her?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: Definitely Indy was one of my highlights. Just to qualify for the Indy 500…. not many drivers get this opportunity, and we were in the field last year. I couldn't believe how many people were there just to be part of such a race.

Today is definitely going to go right up there, too, because I think it was one of the best races I've done. I didn't really make many mistakes and I really liked that.

Being a female driver, I really get along with Danica, but it's not like we compare notes or anything. I think she's doing a great job. At the end I think we are just here to try to beat every other driver.

Q. You said the car got a lot better this morning in the warmup. Did you make a lot of changes? What did you do to it?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: Yeah pretty much. We struggled with the new tires with our car. We couldn't quite figure it out, and then this morning we pretty much changed a couple of things on the car and suddenly it was there. I finally had the feel for the car.

And I think it was mostly the communication between my engineer and me that started to click this morning. Before, he was trying to understand me, I was trying to understand him. And for me, it always has been a big part of it - for my engineer and I to have really great communication. And, this morning, I thought, "okay, that's what we are going to do," and it just kind of went in the right direction.

Q. Talk about Wiggy . Here is a guy that's been a survivor in this business and there's been years when you'd wonder how he gets from race to race. He's been able to make a lot with very little.

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: Yeah, definitely. I think even last year when I was racing there, we struggled towards the end to get the sponsorship together. But he worked hard and he has a great group of people on the team. They are like a big family. It's a pretty small team but we really get along really well. And my manager, Imran Safiulla, put the whole Nuclear Clean Energy deal together. Those folks are going to be with me for the next couple of years.

I'm really lucky; not many drivers have this opportunity. And, with an industry like this supporting and choosing you as a spokesperson, it's something pretty special.

Q. How much grip was left in your Reds at the end of the race?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: They were pretty good. When we compared them to last year, the Reds really felt off and we were a little bit worried about if we were going to run two sets of Reds. We did our first stint and when we were on the second stint, I asked how TK was doing on Reds. He seemed to be doing fine.

We had a lot more grip on the Reds and we chose those pretty much for the entire last stint. We had a lot of grip the entire way. I think Firestone did a really great job with their tires this year.

Q. What is your opinion on the new restart procedure?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: I think it's pretty cool because I got to pass a lot of cars (laughing).

Q. Now that TK is here, you can answer it, as well. Have you raced together before? Are you friends? What relationship do you have?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: It's the first time we've really competed against each other. It's pretty crazy for me because I've been watching him since I was growing up. To be right there racing him now is pretty cool. (Laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Simona, thanks for your time and congratulations on a fourth place finish. We are now joined by the second and third place finishers from today's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Will Power and Tony Kanaan.

Will did start from the pole, got a point for that, and although he probably doesn't like it, finished second to Dario Franchitti in the championship last year. Tony Kanaan - first week on the job with KV Racing Technology Lotus. You did a test earlier in the week and then puts the car in third.

TK let's start with you. Just talk a little about your first week on the job.

TONY KANAAN: Not bad for an old guy. It's not even a first week, because you know, we did have a shakedown on Tuesday. But that team - the whole team - was built the Monday before we went to the test - the day before. None of the mechanics had ever worked together. My mechanic and engineer walked into the shop straight from the track.

I still don't know all of the names of my crew but I'm just glad to be here. I think I have to thank the sponsors, obviously, all of my Brazilian sponsors, and Jimmy and Kevin, and all of the journalists and the fans who supported me all the way. It was a long, long road. It was probably the longest five months of my life. And you know, I had a job and lost a job twice without even driving a race car, so I guess it was pretty interesting.

So I'm just glad to be here.

THE MODERATOR: And Will, just talk about your second place performance today.

WILL POWER: Yeah, it was a very interesting start. Dario got me fair and square with a really good move around the outside. Then, I can't even remember how many starts, I got hit really hard and went into neutral so I went back into seventh but was able to get back up to second.

So, I'm really happy with the day. I didn't have the pace of Dario. He was really quick. I struggled a lot on Blacks. That was a big problem. Struggling of keep Tony behind there. He just kept hounding me and hounding me.

TONY KANAAN: I was happy to be there, trust me. It was pretty cool.

WILL POWER: It was. Man, you join a team and on the podium, that's a fantastic job. Very, very good. But yeah, I'm just glad to get the points. Very glad to get good points. And Dario beat me again. (Laughing).

Q. There's so much made about communication between driver and team and getting to know each other. You kind of threw all of that out the window this weekend. It's almost like you're a modern day gas man jumping into this car. Talk about how fulfilling that is for you to be able to do this after what you went through.

TONY KANAAN: I stepped into a team that has been communicating for a while. Takuma and Viso and have been teammates for four years. I can't thank them enough. They welcomed me.

Viso, he's kind of a crazy Venezuelan. I think we can tell that. He's a funny guy, and you know, they made me feel right at home. And I think the chemistry, you either click right away or you don't.

Yeah, I always approve of having a good atmosphere on the team. I think we do. But I haven't had time to do anything this week and I'm just catching up. We are running behind every time. I mean, twice under the yellow I went to talk on the radio and I pressed my overtake. (Laughter).

That tells you how unfamiliar I am with my steering wheel right now. And then I get yelled at, "TK, why are you using the overtake?"

"Ah, just for fun." (Laughter) That's how it's been going on for me. So hopefully - I need to take a picture of the steering wheel. I am going to put it on my nightstand so I can look at it every day so I don't make the same mistake.

Q. That first start going into turn one, that looked like Cleveland. What did that look like to you having to go through that?

TONY KANAAN: Felt like I was a little cat with a bunch of wolves trying to catch me. It was crazy. I mean, when I look in my mirrors I saw him coming so fast. I said, "if he makes it I'm going to congratulate him." Obviously he didn't.

So I tried to stay out of trouble as much as I could, but obviously yellow brings yellow. I think as the field got clear - after two attempts of crashes and stuff - me, Will and Dario were like, "you know what, let's try to get it going." Then Simona had a hell of a start. Then we got situated and raced.

I think it was a positive thing to have a double‑file restart. It helped me a lot. I mean, I gained five positions on the start without doing anything really, just going through the corner. But it was a little crazy.

Exactly like Cleveland, yes.

Q. You started to mention the double‑file restarts. Can both of you maybe make a comment on whether you thought that was a successful rule change and what changes you might like to see made if they are going to continue with them?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I wouldn't call it successful restarts. 15 laps. The problem is, is they have so many cars bunched in such a tight space. There's zero room for error, and we can't bump like NASCAR.

I don't know. I think this is just going to continue every race. There's going to be people getting knocked out every single restart. I really do. I think that's what it's going to be. Maybe they should do it in single file but start late. Then you would see more passing.

But as it is, there's no passing. It's just everyone in the road, and if you are going to get by someone, someone is going to get knocked out. That's what happens. So, I was actually glad there was no restarts at the end with the marbles.

But no, I wasn't satisfied with that, and I'm sure that we made some big moves at the end.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I agree.

TONY KANAAN: I think we were told that that's what the fans want , and I think if the fans want to see it, I'm fine with it.

But like Will said, I think we are maybe trying to copy something that the other guys do. But we don't have bumpers and we can't bump each other. We have 15 cars on the same second; you are not going to tell me we are not going to try to pass on the restarts. And the double‑file, you saw it the first 15 laps of the race, every three laps, something was going to happen.

And this, it's a place that you have a lot of room. Go to a tighter place, like Long Beach, and Toronto; think about it. I think we need to listen to the fans, but I also ‑‑ we need to make the show good. And I don't think it's good for the show to have the first 15 laps under the yellow. It's crazy.

So I'm not going to say yes or no, but we definitely need to reconsider. Personally, I agree with Will. I don't like it, and I think it's taking a lot of people out. It's just, if you're lucky, you make it, and if you're not, then you're done.

THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by the winner of today's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. It's the 27th win of Dario's career, tying him with Johnny Rutherford for 10th on the all‑time list. Dario had 94 laps today, earning two points for most laps led, and he is the two‑time defending IZOD IndyCar Series Champion. Dario just a statement on a pretty easy Sunday.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I wish.

TONY KANAAN: For him.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: We were comparing notes there, how tired we were after the race. The first race is always tough. The amount of grip we had there, especially with the Firestone Reds, and being perfect, and pushing as hard as possible, it wears you out.

And then the big guy here showed up and he was worn out so, we knew it had been a hard day at the office. I didn't feel quite as bad that I was worn out.

A lot hinged on that first or second restart passing Will there. I forced the issue fairly aggressive there. I was going for it, and you know, that's what we are going to have to do, I think.

The car, the Target car was pretty good all day, both on Reds and Blacks. Once I got a gap I was able to kind of control it; not abuse the tires too badly. I wanted to save something for the end just in case there was a last, three‑laps to go restart or something. I was just trying to keep something in reserve.

But, it's a great day for the Target team. My little used‑up buddy here who is past his best, past his prime, (Laughter) he did a great job. Not bad for an old‑used up guy.

TONY KANAAN: 36 years old is not bad.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: 38. Every day counts. Every day counts. (Laughter).

Q. Dario, the other two guys talked about that double‑file restart. But each time you managed to pull away, the double‑file restart really did not affect you much on the front row. Can you talk about that? And Will, could you talk a little about what happened, was it a mechanical issue that you dropped back to 7th on that?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Somebody driving into him; I think that was the issue.

WILL POWER: When I got hit, it hit me so hard, it bumped the car into neutral. With not going first, I was trying to go into emergency mode, and was like, three‑wide and getting hit. I was like, "unbelievable".

DARIO FRANCHITTI: As far as the restarts, you had some decent battles into turn one there. So for the front row guys, I don't think it was such a problem. I think you have to ask the guys further back in the pack what it was like and what the problem was, because there was obviously a problem.

You have to work out the problem, is the problem the double‑file restart? Is it the late acceleration? Or, is it just people not paying attention? Not that they are not paying attention, but not respecting each other, just being crazy and going for gaps that aren't there. Which one is it; we have to figure that out. And then we can change it.

I do like ‑‑ I think for passing -- this later restart thing. It's a good thing. Having that restart zone, I think that's good for passing, but like in Indy, if you're leading, you're going to be a sitting duck. Third or second at Indy in the last restart would be good.

So I like the fact that the guys in the series are trying stuff. I really think it's good that they are listening to the fans. They are modifying the show and some things are going to work and some things aren't. You just have to figure it out. "Can we adjust this, or is it not workable?" And that's the conversations that I'm sure they are having right now, because nobody wants to see half the field taken out in some of these accidents.

Q. It seems as if a lot of the talk in the preseason was about this entertainment versus competition thing, and we saw it play out today. Maybe there are unintended consequences when you make world changes based on what fans allegedly want. What happens now? Are you hopeful fans will voice their opinions and change their minds?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think maybe I should be clear on that; team owners wanted that, too. I think it was more the team owners, as well. And the team owners, they wield a pretty big stick, and they said they wanted it. So there's probably a few of them sitting there scratching their heads now looking at bills for loads and loads of carbon fiber and going, "Why didn't I ever think of that?"

As I say, there's going to be some combination of what we are trying to do that can work. Again, I don't know, it's better to ask the guys that are sort of in the third row, I think.

TONY KANAAN: And it's not a matter of blaming the fans or blaming anybody. We are trying something different to be able to make the show better. It could be a success, and it couldn't. The fans had a voice.

But like Dario said, it was the owners and some people; and we go out and we try it. It's like a test day when you have a new bit in the car. You don't know if it's going to work. We had said in a driver's meeting today that we need to sit down after this race and talk about it. I think the fans want it, the owners want it. But do we really want to see six cars taken out on the first lap? And then you know, taking chances with people, maybe not.

So maybe we have to fine tune it. To make a rule and then have it work right away, it's quite hard. Everybody needs to think about it really hard. And what we are doing is to make the show better.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: One point just sitting here thinking about it. Most of the cars were taken out on the original start, right. It was a start.

WILL POWER: It was a start, a NASCAR‑style. And we are not NASCAR. That was the problem. We can't hit each other. We can't bump each other. And you know, when you start cars nose‑to‑tail that late, there's so many cars in a short space.

TONY KANAAN: But Dario is right, the biggest accident, it happened on the start. Because after that, actually, yellows kept happening, but it wasn't because of the start. We actually got it together.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I just think, as drivers, I think we have to take some of the blame there for what happened. We are ultimately in control of these cars, but again I wasn't back there so I can't comment. But, it was a start. Last year you were on the pole, right? How much earlier did you actually accelerate than last year? A hundred yards?

WILL POWER: A lot earlier. I can't remember but it was a lot more spread out, basically. I mean, drivers have got to have respect for each other. You've just got to back off a little.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: But it's so easy to make a mistake.

TONY KANAAN: Probably going to be someone that is going to see that gap and go for it. Like two years ago ‑‑ lucky we didn't do it today ‑‑ (laughter).

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Better to be lucky than good.

Q. I'm curious, after you got through the first turn, you mentioned something about your car didn't handle as well on the Black tires. Can you kind of explain, did you have any other problems mechanically, was there any kinds of electronic problems, and do you know how Dario got by you?

WILL POWER: The problem was I couldn't adjust my brake visor. It was jammed. Kept locking. And just my car was not good on Black. Dario's car, Dario himself, and his car was just quick on Blacks. I think I could have held with him on Reds. But I couldn't hang with him. He's just ‑‑ he's fast.

Q. Tell me about your pass around the outside of turn one and then also kind of outside of turn two, that narrowed down quickly and looked a little scary.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I knew if I could get through the apex of one, I would be on the inside for two and it was up to Will. He had the decision to make. Our tires were cold and stuff, and we were both going in there pretty hard. Neither of us wanted to give.

But that was the thing to get alongside of him on the outside of turn one to get on the inside for two, and then I managed to make that pass stick. But I said it after the race. Sunday has a bit of motivation for this year and maybe that answers the question of how badly I still want to win races and championships and all that stuff.

But when you get to do moves like that, and they come off, it's a buzz. And when you have a day like today with the way the Target team was, it was just like clockwork: Pit stops, the car was great and didn't make any mistakes. They are few and far between so you have to enjoy them when they happen.

Q. The Ganassi bunch has been close several times. This is your team's first win in St. Pete, what are your thoughts on winning? It's one of the few tracks, if any, of the others that you had not won at yet.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Chip was fairly happy; put it that way. He said that; that it's the first time we won here. And I remember Scott, when Tony and I were teammates, I remember Scott being in position to win a couple of times, and one thing or another happened.

And I found myself in a similar situation, two or three years in a row that we were in a position to win the race and something would go wrong, so it all came right today.

Q. As far as right after the race, when you guys first met up on the stage, it looked like a very friendly exchange, it hardly looked like a rivalry. Some other sanctions have some real strong opinions after a race, yet you guys were acting like friends. Could you talk about that a little bit? I thought that was interesting.

WILL POWER: I have a lot of respect for Dario (Laughter). I have a lot of respect for these guys you know, and Dario, I mean, he's like clockwork, he never makes mistakes and he's good, hard and fair.

When we race, we race clean and hard. Yeah, I enjoy racing with Dario, you know he's not going to stick the wheel under you. But he'll push you to the edge. Yeah, it's a good rivalry, race hard on the track, and friendly off the track.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's the best way to put it. Our rivalry is on the track and occasionally it spills over to here. We've all had it. But we try and keep it on the track, and you don't get situations like we had today with moves like that if you are not ‑‑ if you want to beat each other. You saw some of the stuff, some of the passes that we made, you don't have those unless there's that competition and that will to win. But, we keep that on the track most of the time.

Q. Tony, talk about the battle at the end with Simona, she was really hounding you pretty good, and it seemed like a really clean fight.

TONY KANAAN: It was. I mean, I had the Black tires. I chose to put the pressure on Will in the middle of the race and so that's the only way I could keep up with them. So I knew I was going to be jeopardizing my position at the end, so I kept it as close as could I to him to open the gap, but she was very fast.

And you know, I used every bit of strength and experience I had to hold her off. Obviously I never blocked her. I never did anything. I just really drove it as hard as I could, and I made a mistake, three laps to go, she put alongside me, couldn't make the pass, and then at that point I was hoping for a no yellow because I was going to be a sitting duck and I knew I was going to lose the third position because of the choice of the tire.

But that's the choices we make and it worked out for me. I think experience counted a lot today. She did a great job. Obviously I have not been in any single like open test or anything, so we are still getting familiar. I said, "Who is it? Who is behind me?"

And I'm like, "Who is the 78 car?" I didn't know who it was. Because obviously Dario and Will, they have not changed colors, but even looking at Hunter at one point, I said, who is this yellow car right beside me. I don't know anybody.

And then they said that was Simona, and I remembered because she blew my doors off in the restart before. And I knew she was strong. You know, I used everything I could to be able to hold her off.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time.

- source: indycar

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Series INDYCAR
Tags franchitti, izod, kanaan, power, st. pete