'It's interesting when second place kind of sucks.'
Helio Castroneves came up just short of his fourth Indianapolis 500 win Sunday, as Ryan Hunter-Reay flashed across the finsh line less than a car-length ahead. Here is a transcript of Castroneves' post-race interview:
We saw the shot of you in the car after the event. I was reflecting that I saw you in the hotel in Texas after you'd been nipped for the championship a few years ago. This one looked like one that really stung a great deal. Tell us about it.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: First of all, I want to thank Shell-Pennzoil for a great way to start and launch a new product. I appreciate that. I want to thank again Roger and Team Penske with all the sponsors.
Great race. Second place, it's interesting when second place kind of sucks. But certainly taking the positive out of this, it was a great race. I think you guys had a good time.
Second thing, congrats to Andretti Autosports. Ryan Hunter-Reay, great race. He did everything he could. I did everything I could obviously to try to stop. Definitely unbelievable.
The reason that I was down there, I didn't know you were watching, to be honest, I was just trying to collect my thoughts and make sure I say the right things (laughter).
I'm glad I did that because, as I said, it's frustrating to be so close to something that only a few guys did.
But I do not take for granted. I'm extremely happy with the result. The car worked really well during the race. The team did a great job during the pit stops. It was the first time having Roger on the radio. It was kind of awesome.
We dodged, avoided a few issues out there, incidents, were able to put ourselves in a great position to win. Unfortunately, as I said, it wasn't our day. It was great to see an American driver winning.
You made a great move on the inside. Ryan in some ways returned the favors. Did you show him a move you wish you wouldn't have shown him?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Now that you say it, I wouldn't have done it, because the results didn't show up.
Several battles I had out there. I guess I show my cards. I was able to keep them behind. Ryan, maybe we didn't have that kind of a battle, and maybe in the end we show it.
But no matter what, coming on the front straight he was able to have a very good run. I was trying to do everything I could, like I said, guys. The car, the way it's designed, is very difficult to keep the guy behind.
I thought it was a very good race. We did exactly what we needed to do to make it happen.
You said it was frustrating. To come that close, are you replaying moves that you could have made? What's going through your brain?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: To be honest, this is the first time I kind of think through in terms of making the pass. I didn't think they going to go for the outside obviously. That's why I was really hugging the inside lane. But, like I said, didn't have much of a choice.
Like I said, it was a great race. I tried man, trust me. I really tried. We tried to find answers, like I said. You can't question destiny. Today I did everything, my team did everything we possibly could have done to win this race. So close to win four.
But this is not going to knock us down. The opposite, it's going to make us move on to the championship. This is a great day for championship points.
You said it was great to see an American win. Is that diplomacy speaking or do you think there's a benefit to having an American win here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, why would I just say something I haven't mean it?
It's great because for several years the series was a foreigner up front. It's great to see American drivers succeed. Third was Andretti. You see the top two are American drivers. IndyCar Series is showing it's the right way to go, as well. I say that in a positive way, and I mean it.
Ryan Hunter-Reay got you on the backstretch. Seemed like his car went into the grass. What went through your mind?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tried to not leave any room, but he was able to find some room there. Once you put the nose inside, nothing you can do in terms of blocking, trust me.
I use every inch. I think both of us used every inch of the track to make sure that both of us -- I mean, at the end of the day there is stupid and then there's bravery. I think we're right there on the edge, both of us, really trying.
I'm glad we both come out in a good way. I'm sad it did not come out the way I wanted.
The decision by IndyCar to red flag the race to ensure a green flag finish, did that catch you by surprise?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It did. I believe the amount of debris that was out there, it would probably be a green and white and checkered flag. I believe it was the right decision, to be honest. It break the rhythm, but it give everybody a good, clean race. I think that was definitely the right choice to do.
In all your races in the past, have you ever had a race that came down to five or six laps of one guy passing the other back and forth like that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, man, I did. I won't say I didn't. I did have some races like that. Pikes Peak with Gil de Ferran. I think I had the same thing in Milwaukee. I did have some races, but nothing for the Indy 500, such an important race.
I think, like I said, it hurts a little bit more than the others because it's such a big race and you want to win as bad as anybody.
In the end of the day, like I said, I'm very happy with the performance of the team.
Ryan Hunter-Reay said at the end of the race you were using lines you hadn't used all month. Can you embellish that a little bit? You said you left him a little room when you thought you didn't.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I thought I didn't leave any room, but he found it. You said it. We trying to do stuff that normally over 220 miles an hour you don't do it. It was a great testament that the car was able to hold on in those type of circumstances.
When you have two experienced drivers battling that, it was a great show. I thought it was awesome. I had a great time. Like I said, I did everything I could to stop Hunter-Reay.
Great job. Some of the lines out there we never used, and now we know.
Both your teammates at one point were penalized for pit speed violations. Were you alerted there might be a concern for you on that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, they did tell me that. Like I said, this race is about making less mistakes. That's what we did. Even though you lose a little bit of the time, I was always trying to make sure that I don't cut that close.
They were able to go back in the top 10 and show that all three cars are looking really strong.
Rick Mears got into a duel with Gordon Johncock in the day, but lost.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Rick was very happy for me on the radio, and that is worth a lot. Everyone was excited for a great result. They saw it. We were fighting really hard as a group, as a team, the entire race. We were driving smart, trying to make sure we put ourselves in that position.
It's amazing, when Rick comes and says something like that, it makes you feel really good.
Now we move on for the next one.
The third win was emotional and special for a different set of reasons. When you come as close as you did today, do you feel maybe you appreciate those wins a little bit more, the fact you were able to win three times?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I always appreciate those wins. I never took it for granted. Like I said, they happened at the right time, at the right moment.
Rick already had those kind of battles as well. He could have won five, but he won four.
Right now, at this point, I feel that the team, myself, the entire group is eager to make it happen and win another as soon as possible. That's just a testament to the series the way it is, because the cars are so close, giving an opportunity for everyone.
At this point it just give me more fuel, literally Shell fuel, to come back here and make it happen.
It seemed like you were having to react a lot to Marco's advances on you. Did that play in the back of your mind and prevent you from making a move on Ryan?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the thing is, Marco was doing an extremely good job, especially in the lead. Sometimes I was trying to send a message like, Take it easy. But he didn't want to do it. I'm like, Okay, man, if you're not going to do it, not going to play with you anymore - but in a good way, obviously.
You push the button of someone until the guy is desperate. I thought he was going that way. But in the end of the race, he knew my line was similar to his. Hunter-Reay was able to run a different lane. That's why we were able to back and forth, back and forth.
That was the only time actually Hunter-Reay and myself were battling for a lead because before I was trying to save a little bit of fuel because I know that saving fuel was more important than anything else.
as there ever a point on the last lap where you thought you might have him?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah. I said, I'm going to get him on turn four and this is going to be great. But suddenly my car wasn't pulling enough. Especially because I noticed the wind, I was going against it. I'm like, Go, go, go. As soon as I passed the pit entrance, I'm like, This is going to be close. It was close (laughter).
Does it make the race any more difficult when it starts with so many green flag laps, 115 laps? Does it make it any more difficult?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I mean, especially when we just finished the pits I think. Yeah, I think we just had the pits.
No, actually, I'm sorry. It was perfect because we have only a few gallons on the car, so we were able to pit and come back again. It didn't affect us.
The one that actually affect a little bit was 170 to go which we still had kind of like half tank in the car. That was the one that I was kind of upset, start creating some type of mess, because that's when people get anxious and really trying as hard as they can.
For us it was good.
During the break before the last eight laps, what were you thinking about sitting in the car? Was it a hard time? Did it disrupt what you had planned?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's a very good question. I was thinking, What am I going to do? Where I'm going to pass? How am I going to push?
Again, it wasn't pulling. That was my biggest advantage comparing to them. I did everything I could to have a good start. Marco came on the outside. Instead of looking at the guy in the front, I'm trying to deal with Marco, and he was very aggressive.
As soon as I was able to take care of him, now the next target was Hunter-Reay. I'm like, Okay, man, I'm coming.