Firestone Indy Lights GP of St. Petersburg Post-Race Transcript
THE MODERATOR: With us is Peter Dempsey from O2 Racing Technology who finished third and Conor Daly from Sam Schmidt Motorsports driving the Mazda Road to Indy car, who finished second.
Start with Peter first, talk about the start of the race, you went from fifth to first and left quite a few laps there at the start of the race.
PETER DEMPSEY: Yeah, I mean, it was my first rolling start and to be honest, I told the guys on the team, I'll be leading after the first lap, and I made it happen. I pulled No. 36 up front for a few laps. And unfortunately just the tires went off a little bit in the rear, but I was hanging on. I made a slight mistake letting Josef by me.
But I also told Josef before the race, "You're going to be looking at my gear box at some point, so don't worry". Unfortunately, I didn't keep him there for 45 laps. But to get a podium out of it on the last restart, I'm very proud for myself and also for my team, O2 Racing Technology. And I'm really happy for my sponsors that weren't able to be here this weekend and Microbiology for giving me the opportunity to be here.
And hopefully I can take it to the next step and get a first or a second rolling on from this.
THE MODERATOR: Conor finished second, obviously your first race in the series doing a limited campaign. How gratifying is it to finish on the podium in the first race and talk about the battle that you guys had on track with Peter?
CONOR DALY: Yeah, it was good. It was great to race against my old friend, Peter, here again. We had quite a racing season against each other in 2009. So it was cool to race with him again.
It was a great day for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. We had really fast race cars, we were running one, two, three until that restart. Unfortunately on the initial start, I was just in the wrong gear, my mistake, and next time I'll learn from it.
I thought I could get a little bit of a jump, but it turns out I was on the limiter immediately. It was unfortunate for us there, but good to know that we can make passes happen in this car. And it was a lot of experience for me if I have to get into a real dogfight situation again.
And then the last restart was pretty epic. Esteban and I went straight down the inside. He saw I was coming and I think he was trying to make a move on Josef, as well. But I could tell that it was basically an ice rink on the inside of the track; so there was dust flying everywhere. I braked just early enough not to get into the back of Josef, and Esteban just tried to break a bit too late.
It was a great day for me and Josef. We have not raced against each other since 2008 but we are back together again and we always seem to end up one, two, somehow, one way or another. So it's a great day for everyone on the whole Mazda Road to Indy team.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by today's race winner Josef Newgarden of Sam Schmidt Motorsports driving the No. 11. Robo‑Pong Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.
Josef this is your first win and you are the ninth driver to win his debut race in the series, and several of them have happened right here at St. Pete, including Rafael Matos and JK Vernay last year. Talk a little about the first race and the first win.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, it's certainly unbelievable. I'm just so happy for everyone involved, especially all of the Sam Schmidt Motorsport guys. All of my partners that helped me get to this race and helped support me for the whole entire season here, it's unbelievable.
It is going to be a very long year, and to be able to start it off with a win in this fashion is just ecstatic. I think the biggest thing we need to focus on is keeping a level head.
The attack strategy we had going into this race was to basically take what we could get. I mean ‑‑ and when I say that, take what the track gives you. If you have got a third place car, you're in a position for third; you make sure that you can secure a place.
So I think if anything, we came up a little bit lucky, pulled some really good points out of here. So we just need to focus and try to keep this pace up all year long, because we are going to be going for the championship and it's important to be very consistent.
THE MODERATOR: Josef, can you talk about the pass on lap 15, the pass of Peter Dempsey for the lead?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think Peter did a remarkable job. First off, this guy has not raced in a year and a half and gets just two days of testing and comes out here and is right with us. Great job to Peter. He raced me really fair. He got a great start and got by me, and I got by Esteban; so it kind of flip‑flopped, I guess you could say.
The attack plan once I was behind him and I noticed he was in front of me ‑‑ it's a long race. It's 45 laps; you need to conserve the car, and I knew if I would just press him enough and conserve myself, that maybe one way or another he would make a mistake.
What I was seeing happening is he was starting to lose the rear end of his car, and it just took a couple more laps inching, inching, inching and finally he made the mistake I could capitalize on, and I just took the chance that I could get it.
Q. (No mic).
CONOR DALY: Right after this, I have to go to the airport. I think my flight is at four o'clock straight over to England. I think I'll get there tomorrow morning, and I believe I'm in the car Tuesday or Wednesday maybe. Whatever it is, I'm in the car for three days straight, and then back over here, because I have to get ready to go to Barber.
So I think I'm back on April 1. And, yeah, a bit busy.
CONOR DALY: I was up around 6:00 in the morning ‑‑ oh, absolutely, I can't wait. 24/7.
THE MODERATOR: Conor is racing in GP3 for Carlin. He's doing a lot of transatlantic flying.
Q. Obviously this is the first race with the Mazda sponsorship with the Mazda Road to Indy. Talk a little bit, if you could talk about what that program and had it prepared you for coming over to racing in Firestone Indy Lights.
CONOR DALY: Well, I mean, I'm here because of the whole Mazda Road to Indy and the Mazda Speed and Motorsports Development people.
Everyone at Mazda has been really great to me. It's been a great relationship over the last few years, and you know, I think they do an absolutely incredible amount for young drivers and no other manufacturer is doing something like that.
So it's great to be a part of their program and it's just ‑‑ I think it gives all of us a really great opportunity to reach the next level. We all have to be pretty thankful for that.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Absolutely. If you look over in Europe, they don't have something like this going on, so it's a huge tribute to Mazda and the effort that they are putting into it. I know the drivers appreciate it.
So it's a great program to be involved in, and for them to provide these types of opportunities just to get a chance to try and make it to the top of the ladder in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship is really fantastic. And I enjoy being a part of it, as well. I'm really thankful to be here.
PETER DEMPSEY: For me, Mazda was the main reason I came over from Ireland to race in the States. I raced in the States for two years, 2008 and 2009, and it was a great success there and I made a lot of friends with the Mazda people. And I think the program that they have put in place now with the Road to Indy is really what U.S. motorsports was looking for. It's a program for young drivers coming up and gives them something to aim for.
For me, I think it's really exciting to have Mazda involved in the whole Road to Indy program, and I think all of the drivers involved are very thankful for that.
Q. Could you walk us through the start how you got from fifth to leading the race by turn one, and for Conor and Josef, what's your reaction in the car when you see a guy fly by like that and take the lead?
PETER DEMPSEY: Well, I told them I was going to be leading by the first corner, so I just made it happen. I was expecting them to kind of go a bit deep, and they did. And I was smart enough to hold the car at the apex and just back the power nice and early. I just bullied my way through. I'm only here for myself at the end of the day; but we are all good friends. We race each other extremely hard and fair, but I got through and I think they were a little bit shocked to see No. 36 pull ahead of them.
CONOR DALY: Yeah, I don't think the outside was the best place to be, because as soon as I went as deep as I could on the brakes, Josef was inside Esteban. So I was basically either turning to Esteban or keep going straight.
As soon as I came around, I just saw Peter's car was already gone. And I was like, oh, you've got to be kidding me, not again.
And then luckily I held on to fourth or wherever I was, fourth or fifth, because I saw Stefan Wilson was right on my right rear and as soon as I went into two, he was spinning backwards. So luckily we didn't get caught up in any of that. I think we just really escaped and I just had to put my head down and go for it. I knew we had a good car.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it was pretty surprising how well it turned out at the beginning. I thought there was a large chance for a big pileup at the first corner.
Certainly for me I was really excited at the position I was in. I wanted to be leading and that was the plan by passing Esteban. I went a bit deep and obviously that's what allowed Peter to get under me.
To come out of it second, that's one place higher than I started. I was really thrilled to just be in that position at the start.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for your time. Congratulations on today's performance.