Sonoma: Post-qualifying press conference

Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma Post-Qualifying Transcript Saturday, August 22, 2009 An interview with Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe & Scott Dixon THE MODERATOR: We have been joined in the downstairs media center by points leader Scott Dixon....

Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma Post-Qualifying Transcript
Saturday, August 22, 2009

An interview with Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe & Scott Dixon

THE MODERATOR: We have been joined in the downstairs media center by points leader Scott Dixon. Scott will start 10th in Sunday's race. Scott, how did you qualifying go for you today?

SCOTT DIXON: Well, it was probably one of our worst qualifyings. You know, it was a bit frustrating, especially coming off such a strong finish at Mid-Ohio. But we struggled here in the test. This weekend we seemed to have some inherent braking problem. All the time that I lose comparing to Dario (Franchitti) is basically in the big braking zones. We found something wrong in a master cylinder or braking kit that we run that seems to lock the rears straightaway and then halfway through the braking zone. We don't really know what's going on. Hopefully we can turn that around tomorrow.

All in all, obviously tenth, we'll have to be on an off-strategy kind of race and try to work out something a little bit different to try to compete up there, you know, with the front-row guys, obviously Dario and Penske.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Scott.

Q: Scott, what do you think this is going to do to your pit strategy for the race on Sunday? Obviously you're starting in tenth position. Might change the way the Target Chip Ganassi team might want you to come in earlier.

SCOTT DIXON: It depends. There are many different ways to look at it. I think obviously the good thing for us would be an early caution that the leaders wouldn't take and then we would take and maybe stretch our second window a little bit more.

I don't know. It's constantly a moving target. No pun intended. You just kind of got to go with the flow. I don't think it's good for us to go in with a set idea. The only set idea I think we all have is probably do the opposite to the leaders.

Q: With the new configuration of the wings and stuff, will that help? Is 'push to pass' on the cars now already?

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it is. The wing configuration for road course racing stays the same. It's for the mile-and-a-half ovals or some of the ovals that we've hit, some changes. We have 'push to pass' here. It's 15 pushes I think for 15 seconds. When you're running full mixture, it's only five horsepower, so it's not a huge difference.

Q: (No microphone.)

SCOTT DIXON: Any addition is good. The problem is every other competitor's got one, as well. You got to try to time it right. Probably coming out of the carrousel up to seven might be a good way. And obviously out of seven down to nine is quite tough because you rely on the downforce through the high-speed corners. It's really hard to get close to someone

You know, this place is going to be tough to pass. That's why strategy sometimes seems to be the big race decider.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Scott. Good luck tomorrow.

SCOTT DIXON: You're welcome.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by second-place qualifier Ryan Briscoe. Ryan, how did things go out there for you today?

RYAN BRISCOE: It wasn't bad actually. I was going into qualifying not the most confident driver out there, I don't think. I didn't have a good practice session this morning. We seemed to spend more time in the dirt than on the tarmac. I certainly went into qualifying with a very big question mark over my head.

The first run I sort of worked up to it, really came together. We made a few small changes to the car between practice and qualifying, and I think I adjusted my driving -- I was used to driving here at the test last week. We had a really strong wind last week. It was in the complete opposite direction. I don't think I really adjusted my driving to the wind as well as I could have in practice. I really focused on that for qualifying.

The car was good. So from that point, you know, we just focused on the strategy with the tires and making adjustments to move forward. It was going really smoothly. Actually, the whole thing went very smoothly. You know, it was much like the previous few road courses we've done.

We were debating whether to save a new set of reds going into (Turn) 2-3, but it looked like the times were just a bit too close. I went out, did a few laps on reds at the end of Q2. We didn't need to. And I didn't go faster. Allowed us to address a bit after braking we've had going into three. So it was all right. I'm a little frustrated because there were a couple laps where we were quicker and I was just really struggling up in seven with the braking. I was moving the bias to counter the rear locking and just struggled a little bit with the braking at the end there. Had a couple of laps which were quicker than Dario's final time. It was a little bit frustrating, but he was definitely I think the quickest one here today and did a good job for the pole.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q: Ryan, coming off the hairpin, I think I'm seeing on the red tires a much tighter exit and you can get the power down a lot faster. Is that going to be enough to get you into turn two to make a pass?

RYAN BRISCOE: Passing up into two is going to be tough. You know, the fast racing line is pretty much a defensive line anyway, and it's a short straight. I think we've seen here in the past some passing. It's easy to make a mistake, especially on the black tires. We'll see in the race, even with the red tires, if they start going off, we're not sure how the degradation is going to be, but it could be severe. It's easy to lock a wheel going into the hairpin. Someone will get a tight line, come off side-by-side, have a race up into (Turn) 2.

The reds today definitely had a lot more grip. You could carry a little bit of a tighter line and get the power down a bit sooner.

Q: At Mid-Ohio, the blacks seemed to be the way to go. What are you seeing here, feeling here in terms of difference between the blacks and the reds in performance and what you felt over longer stints?

RYAN BRISCOE: No, it's a good question. We're still not all that sure from Mid-Ohio. At Mid-Ohio we replaced a right front tire on a used set of red tires. Halfway through the race, we actually believed that the red tire was going to be the better option. In the final stint, in Mid-Ohio, went for red tires, but we had a brand-new sticker right front. What happened, I think just because it was sticker, the others weren't, we cooked it on the first couple of laps, just blistered that tire. So that really hurt us. The other three tires were pretty good. We blistered a right front tire in the final stint. It was clearly worse than blacks.

But we're going to have to weigh that up I think as we move forward through warm-up tomorrow, maybe do some long runs on red tires and see how they last. Outright performance is clear that new reds are quicker than new blacks. But in the race, you know, it's probably a three-stint race, two-stop race, so we have to do reds, we have to do blacks, then we just see for the final stint whether we go for another black or red.

Q: Ryan, with the points right now only separating you and Scott, three points, we have four races, there's not a whole lot of points in between the top 10 drivers, how do you see the rest of the season shaking out for yourself?

RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I mean, we're going for it. I think it's really coming down to between us three for the championship. It's been a tough one. I mean, maybe whoever's coming second going into Homestead is the one to put your money on. Looking at how this championship's gone so far, no one can hang on to the lead.

I think we're seeing that wins reward greatly, and I think whoever's going to win this championship needs to go out and win races. Obviously you need to finish and collect points. But getting those 50 points is always really important.

Q: I hear Will (Power) is going to be OK. (Indiscernible) change your team strategy?

RYAN BRISCOE: It doesn't change my strategy whether we've got one car, two cars or three cars. Definitely hoping Will is going to be all right. I heard he fractured his back, so pretty serious. I think we definitely need to look at the safety over here and what can be done differently with spotting or whatever. Turn 3 is a dangerous corner. I'm definitely wishing him the best at the moment.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Ryan.

We have been joined by Dario, our top qualifier. This is Dario's third pole of the year. He is the only driver to have been in every Firestone Fast Six so far this season. He also gained a point for the pole. So he is now 19 points behind Scott Dixon.

Dario, congratulations on the pole. How did your laps go today and how do you feel going into tomorrow?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Feeling good heading into tomorrow. With this two-day format, it's pretty rushed to get like an hour and a half practice. Then this morning with the horrible accident with Will and Nelson. Who else was involved? Three cars, right. You know, that took a lot of the time out of the session, too. We're kind of making changes on the run in qualifying.

Qualifying, this new format, I'm used to it this year, having a year out, it's bloody hard work. You have to do five I guess absolute hundred percent runs, four of which are on new tires generally. Those Firestone reds, I got blisters from those already, the grip level from those was incredible today.

No, it was good. The first, took it pretty easy, segment one. Segment two, on my second set of Firestone reds was able to push hard and got a good lap. Going out on used reds for the Fast Six, the track was gaining grip all the time and I was able to brake later. The problem was, I was braking later and the rears were starting to lock. The car wouldn't downshift, the paddle shift. I was coming to some of the corners in like a third gear corner and I wouldn't be able to get down past fifth. That's why I went off up the top of the hill. That was pretty interesting. I actually had to back it up to go faster. Actually had to slow down, bring my brake points back. The car was capable of it, but the gearbox wouldn't cooperate. Unfortunately, that was a standard formula. The Honda engineers can't do anything about it. In the days when we had engine competition, you could have had a word with them, they would have fixed them out. Now everybody is running the same.

I'm really proud of my Target guys to make every Fast Six this year. Helluva achievement. I've got to thank them for giving me a great car.

Q: Do you have any dirt tracking in your past?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I've been off in the dirt there a few times in my life.

Q: On the more serious side, when you went off there and you were able to maintain control and get back on the track, you didn't have the option of changing tires. Were you concerned you were going to be able to scrub enough dirt off of them to get in a good lap?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know, Turn 7, the hairpin at the end, they were back in. I'd gone pretty easily through the corners to that point, again, just to build back up to speed. It's kind of pointless to push until it was necessary. But it came back pretty quickly. That was good.

Q: Dario, I was asking Ryan before you came in about the points lead. The points are real close. How do you see finishing out the season? The top five are within real close points. How do you see the end of the season shaking down? He said wait till the end.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: How do I see it or how would I like to see it (laughter)? Whatever happens, it's going to be close. The three of us, Scott, Ryan, myself, seems to have separated ourselves a little bit from Helio (Castroneves) and Danica (Patrick) now. But that's not to say that that can come back. They're still in mathematical contention. As we've seen the past couple of years, big leads with shrink pretty quickly.

I don't know. I believe it's going to go down to the last race. I'm going to have to beat these two guys. It's going to be tough. They're great competitors. I mean, obviously I've fought with Scott for a championship in '07. He's my teammate now. We know each other well. We're in the same equipment. So, you know, we know how good he is in the championship fight. And Ryan, again, he's very, very quick. He's doing the job this year. So it's not going to be easy.

Q: How do you like the 'push to pass'? On a road course like this, you have 15 of them for 15 seconds. Is it a help? If so, where would you use it most likely?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's a help. You know, when they told me the kind of numbers, I thought it's not going to be a help. Graham Rahal used it two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio to pass me. I'd used it coming up the hill at Turn 1. It switched off, the keyhole up there. He used it on the backstretch and passed me. It definitely helps.

Q: I know you spent some time at the Target House. I know you have a lot of guests here this weekend from Target. What kind of feelings or support do you receive when you know you have a lot of people behind you in person even far away?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I've been lucky to have a lot of great sponsors over the years. You know, especially coming to America, even before that, I was lucky to have great sponsors. But I've never seen I don't think a company that is so into the racing as Target. The whole program, they love it. They really use the program and get a lot of benefit out of it, which is why it's been going on so long. To have that kind of support from them is amazing.

Going to the Target House with Scott and JPM (Juan Pablo Montoya) two weeks ago, that showed another side of the company, the amount of support they gave the kids at the Target House. Going there, it kind of showed me that you might think you've got some problems, but life is good. The kids there, they're there fighting, and they've got smiles on their face and stuff. It puts everything, life into perspective, definitely.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thanks.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thanks.

-credit: irl

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya