Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript May 26, 2010 An interview with: Helio Castroneves Rick Mears THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today's Indy Racing League conference call. We're joined by two guests with a storied history in the ...
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript May 26, 2010
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today's Indy Racing League conference call. We're joined by two guests with a storied history in the Indianapolis 500 race. We're joined by four-time winner Rick Mears and three-time winner Helio Castroneves. Thank you for joining us today.
Q: The polesitter has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 several times, including last year with you. You have this one in the bag, right?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Wow, they start with pressure, tough question right off the bat.
I wish. Certainly I know how tough is the place, how difficult it is, especially with the weather conditions. We got to find out what it is, if it's too cold, too hot. Not only that, but you got to expect the unexpected.
Team Penske has won 15 times. They certainly know what they're doing. I will do everything I can. If it means to be, will be.
Q: Rick, I know winning the Indianapolis 500 is not an easy task. You did it four times from 1979 through 1991. If Helio wins on Sunday, he will accomplish it in a faster period of time. How difficult a task is it to win the fourth Indy 500?
RICK MEARS: They're all difficult. It doesn't matter whether it's the first, second, third or fourth, they're all difficult.
One thing, myself and Helio, too, we've always approached this race as a new day, a new race, almost the first time. You don't really think about which one it is. We're here to try to win the race.
In this business, it's about being flexible. You have to be ready for change at all times. Every day is a new day. You don't know who is going to be strong, who your competition is, what the track conditions are going to be like. You got to be open and ready to change, do what's necessary to get yourself in a position.
The guys, the team all make the right calls, the right decisions in the pits, all falls your way to put yourself in position to win it in the end.
Q: What makes turn one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so difficult and so unique in the sport?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tell you what, I'm going to let Rick answer that because he never told me, so today he might come with an answer. I'll let him answer that.
RICK MEARS: I've never told him because I don't know (laughter).
No, you know, all four corners basically geometrically are supposedly the same. When you lay the surface down, they always have their own little characteristics.
I think over the years it's either turn one or turn three, those are the two at the end of the straightaways where you approach at the highest speed, so they are going to be the most difficult.
I think a lot of the times the prevailing wind here is at your back coming down the front straightaway which carries you into turn one faster and tends to blow the car off on the exit. That's one of the things that makes one a little more difficult. To me, there always seems to be a little bit of a transition or elevation change about two-thirds of the way around the corner coming out of the exit of one that would tend to hook the car a little bit. If I was loose, that's where I would get loose first. It's almost like you couldn't feel it, but it would upset the balance of the car a little bit.
But historically I think a lot of it's due to wind direction and the speeds that you approach that corner.
Q: Helio, you have Rick as your spotter. He's a four-time winner. How assuring is this going to be for you in the race?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, every time I have Rick, especially in the 500, maybe that's the secret, you know. He certainly knows a lot in this place. Basically he's there to make sure that I don't have any issues, stay out of trouble, especially when somebody come from behind, taking chances, unnecessary chances.
In fact, he saved me quite a lot many, many times over here that I could end up not in a good situation.
Sometimes I do ask him, Hey, Rick, what do I do? I don't know what to do anymore. The car is tough. Obviously I'm sure I'm going to do the same thing this weekend.
So I'm glad to have Rick on my side being my spotter. Always when you have someone with such an incredible experience, obviously he's the one to have the secret here, but I'm always listen, I'm always up for innovation or up for learning because this place is all about that. It's all about taking every lap by lap and learning every time.
Q: Helio, talk about if you do win, joining the company of people like A.J. and Rick and Unser, also to be the first non-American-born driver to do this. Can you talk about your thoughts on that. Then, Rick, if you can kind of compare yourself and Unser and A.J. and Helio, different styles, different eras, nutshell on what makes the four-time winners.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly Team Penske and I, we're going to do our best to see if we can accomplish that goal. I have to say, you guys basically comparing, talking about it. I'm trying to focus on the race, go out there and win the race. Yes, Indianapolis is the most important one. Again, if it's not that this time, there going to be a next race.
My mindset is what can I do to accomplish my goal to finish first and beat everybody. Now, when you guys talk about it, for me, Rick, A.J., they're the gods of racing, the legends. I'm so honored to have this opportunity that I'm facing right now.
Not taking anything for granted. As I said, I'm still a lot, lot to learn. Even to be compared with those guys, if I'll be able to accomplish what I want, it will be a dream come true. So I'm just honored to be in this position right now.
RICK MEARS: Pretty much the same with me as Helio. When I won the fourth one, to be anywhere near compared to A.J. and Al, two of my heroes, was just a great honor.
I think over the years as far as comparing all of us, I think desire, the love of what we do, sitting in that racecar, competing, the competition, I think that love of what we do creates the desire, and the desire creates the results.
Obviously, one of the most important thing is all of us being fortunate enough to have the right equipment, the right people behind us supporting us to give us the tools to be able to accomplish those things. And then the final thing I think is having a lot of thing is having a lot of lady luck on your side and the car fall in your direction.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You're right on that one (laughter).
Q: Helio, as far as being the first foreign-born driver to do it, if you do it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's great. I feel that I'm part of this country already. They say once the government chase you, you an American. Hey, I'm the one there.
No, all joking aside, I don't see my nationality being important in this matter. When you're a racecar driver, if you're here in Europe, Brazil, wherever you are, if you love the sport like Rick were saying, you love the sport. You just got the best thing you can.
It would be honor, again, being foreign. But today I'm not even thinking about that. I just thinking about go out there and do my best.
Q: Helio, if you'll just go with me on this one. Are there times you've arrived at Indianapolis and really felt good about how everything was going to go and then you would end up winning the race? In other words, are there times you feel as a driver that all is kind of looking well, then you ended up getting the success, the wins you wanted? If so, this is a year, a week or two, that you're feeling very strongly things are a go?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, I was watching the Masters this year. Phil Mickelson, when he won, he said people were asking why he play so well. He said, This is the Masters, I feel comfortable playing here, seems to bring the best out of me.
We're talking about the Indianapolis 500. This is the driver's best team in the world when they're competing here. This place does bring the best out of me. It's a challenging place, very difficult place. Every time I come over here, it's a new beginning.
I do feel comfortable, don't get me wrong. I enjoy. I like to go to the limit. Even sometimes, unfortunately last Saturday, we got to go many more times than once. But this is the greatest thing. I mean it's awesome to accomplish.
Again, as Rick was saying, you got to have the equipment. When you come over here with Team Penske, you know off-season, actually, as soon as the race is over, they already start working for the following season. That shows the preparation is extremely important.
Roger has 15 wins. It just shows the captain, he certainly come over here prepared. When you have a combination like that, you feel definitely very good.
Q: Is it a feeling you have in your gut? Each of the times you've won, did you go into the race feeling good about it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It is a gut feeling. Sometimes at the beginning of the race, because it's such a long race, you still adapting to the rhythm. If you leading, you ask how many laps to go, and you're not even at the half part of the race. You're like, C'mon, this is crazy. If your car is not good, you're hoping, I still have time, things like that.
It does feel great. But, remember, and I think Rick can apply to that, not always the fastest car is the winner of the Indy 500. That's Rick's words. You come over here for two types of racing: winning the qualifying, then winning the racing. We got one check, but now we have to certainly keep working hard because I know it's going to be tough.
Q: Helio, can you compare last year to this year? Are you feeling more relaxed or comfortable just after all you went through last year at this time?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, certainly when I jumped in the car, I was just thinking about going have fun. It was very recent after all that difficult time of my life. But, again, as soon as you put your helmet on, close the visor, you are the same guy.
Certainly a little bit different rules in terms of the setup of the car. This year for everybody that doesn't know, the ring light was positioned on the aero that was creating a lot of drag. There is a side gurney on the side plate that was creating a lot of drag. Those things were making the car turbulent, difficult to get too close.
This year is a little bit different. We have that thing moved away, which means make the cars a little bit better to follow someone. Plus you have the 'push to pass'. Remember, see, that's what we talk about. It's always a new thing. So it's changing again. Even that you have everything in your bag, but in the end of the race you might not have enough 'push to pass'. This might be the decision who's going to win this race.
So, again, that will be certainly different. I feel very confident, as always, because I know Team Penske will give everything they can to give us the best. But still we have to complete the full 500 miles.
Continued in part 2