Indy 500: Front row press conference, part 1

2009 INDIANAPOLIS 500 FRONT ROW PRESS CONFERENCE Sunday, May 10, 2009 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti PAT SULLIVAN: Good morning, everyone. This is the annual front row conference. I don't know how...

Sunday, May 10, 2009
Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti

PAT SULLIVAN: Good morning, everyone. This is the annual front row conference. I don't know how much sleep these guys got, but happy guys indeed. We've got a birthday man on the pole position, Helio Castroneves. Ryan Briscoe, and then Dario Franchitti did a great job.

Dario, we'll start with you, real quick question. In the press conference room yesterday, you expressed some disappointment. I'm just curious, after a night of rest whether or not you feel any different. Is it satisfying now to be on the front row or is there still a little tinge of disappointment?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's very satisfying to be on the front row here. It is a great feeling, especially Race Day to get in the car and have a clear view in front of you. But, you know, I think I kind of got my expectations up a bit little bit in the morning thinking we had more in the car and we didn't, so that was slightly disappointing. It would have been, we were pushing for the pole, what can I say? And these guys did a better job as a team, and we're back there now just making sure when we come here for the race, we've got everything we need.

SULLIVAN: Ryan, one of the things, I guess, from the outside I've always thought of as a strength of Team Penske is that there's a little bit of internal competition if Tim Cindric is calling the shots. For example, for Helio and maybe Roger for you, that one of the things that propels you guys to greatness is there is a little competition, and you had that in the pole position. You both went out and you went out again. Good accomplishment for the team, maybe Ryan Briscoe would have liked to have been in that first seat.

RYAN BRISCOE: No, it was definitely a great day. Helio put in four very strong laps to get the pole. I really felt as though I had the car to match that. We just ran out of time at the end of the day and weren't able to get the practice run in to truly be prepared 100 percent. But, you know, we thought we had a shot at it and were in line and it just would have been, you know, distasteful, I guess, to not go and at least have a go at it. So we tried and didn't work out, but it was a lot of fun all day long.

SULLIVAN: Helio, I believe it was Tim Cindric that one time said: "When we come here there are some competitions. There's Pole Day, there's the pit stop challenge, there's the race; and if it's a competition, we want to win it." This is a situation where your team was able to take the pole position and for you personally for the third time you'll start from the pole. It had to be a great day for you.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: No question about it. But every time you approach Indianapolis, Team Penske is just amazing, you can see from Roger, his mindset, himself change a little bit, you know. If you compare it to the other races. So this is very special for Team Penske and, again, Tim is not only calling my shots, is also helping out Ryan and the whole team, even Will Power.

So, again, this is all credit for Team Penske. Ryan and Will, the preseason testing, those guys did a hell of a job preparing those cars. Today is two cars in the front row, it just prove that we're going to have a lot of fun the whole season.

SULLIVAN: If you have a question, speak up. We're trying to transcribe it.

Q: Dario, Graham Rahal said last night that he would rather start on the inside of row two rather than on the out side of row one. You're kind up there in a fairly treacherous area where a lot of people don't race. Is there an advantage maybe to being inside second row as opposed to outside front row?

FRANCHITTI: This will be the third time I started outside row one, and it's worked out pretty well every time. So, yeah, I'm quite happy, thank you very much. As long as Graham is happy in fourth, I'm pretty happy in third than fourth. (Laughter)

I like it out there. I think it's a good starting position. Like we said, obviously the pole is the place you want to be and our expectations, that's why I'm kind of disappointed with our position. But our expectations are so high when you come here with Team Target; you want to be shooting for the pole here. The whole team has these high expectations. But no, third is for me, it's not a bad start spot going into (Turn) 1.

Q: You think that's youthful inexperience talking?


SULLIVAN: Questions? You guys wake up.

Q: I don't know if it's been asked already, but the way that the schedule is now, I mean, you're all going to probably go out there today and do other little work on the race setup. Will you come back again before Carburetion Day?

FRANCHITTI: We have two days of practice, Thursday, Friday this coming week.

Q: You will do that?


CASTRONEVES: As many practices as we can get on the racetrack is good. You always learn something. Basically everybody will be preparing for qualifying and not thinking about the race and now that's the typical of the next, second week is working on the race car.

FRANCHITTI: I think we're going to see running obviously today and probably next Saturday and Sunday, as well, I think you're going to see when the track opens for practice, you're going to see everybody out doing race stuff. Time is short now.

Q: Just as a follow-up. Today is totally different than yesterday obviously. Hardly any wind.

CASTRONEVES: It's beautiful. That's because it's my birthday. (Laughter)

Q: I was going to say it will be a totally different situation today.

BRISCOE: Not to mention Mother's Day. (Laughter)

CASTRONEVES: Good job, Ryan. He's always covering me.

FRANCHITTI: Don't you want to pull the car out and see if you want to go faster today? (Laughter)

CASTRONEVES: No, no, it's over, it's over. Let's move on now.

Q: Guys, can you talk about running today, will you run your qualified cars or will you start working on race setups and do work on the T car?

CASTRONEVES: I believe the qualifying car is now going to be prepared for the race. Normally the way we work, it's the T car, try everything we can and on Carburetion Day, that's the time when you pull your primary car back again and make sure that everything is right.

FRANCHITTI: I don't know. I'll find out when I get back to the garage what they've got in line there for me. I'm not sure what the plan is right now.

Q: Helio, when you think back a month ago where you were, even though you said you remained hopeful about everything, did you really envision being in this position to come back so soon the way things turned out?

CASTRONEVES: I mean to be sitting on the pole position, obviously I did not think about it. Those moments was just to be back racing, and I did see myself coming back to Indianapolis, trying to focus about it. Even if it would be for one race, you know, I was always thinking about I've got to be in Indianapolis. Plus, I was concerned about how long the trial was going to last. So there was a lot of thinking. When you're in the room for about six hours a day, you know, nothing that you can do, a lot of words that you don't understand, you start thinking about a lot of things, you know, other than those words. But it's been very special, no question about it.

Q: Does Brian Barnhart give y'all the rules of the road first start of a race like this, where you're supposed to hold your position or is it every man for yourself?

CASTRONEVES: He didn't say about the white line, did he? (Laughter) He did mention to us don't worry about the white line here.

Q: Do you all get the hard-and-fast rules you're supposed to follow coming down the front straight?

FRANCHITTI: He tells us what he would like us to do.

Q: What does he tell you he would like you to do usually? You've been here a few times.

FRANCHITTI: I guess forming up rows of three and --

BRISCOE: 400 yards --

FRANCHITTI: Yeah, he wants us to all kind of space out and give the corner to the guy on your left, I think I remember him saying that. Everybody pretty much I think ignores that, though, if you watch some of the starts.

Q: Dario, is it literally, hey, get a shot right here? What are your thoughts as you're coming down there?

FRANCHITTI: It's an expression you can't win the race on the first corner, but you surely can lose it. It's a long day, and the first corner is not, you know -- if I get ahead of these guys in the first corner, it doesn't really matter that much.

CASTRONEVES: It's common sense, you know. I mean, probably for us that we do have an experience. Maybe when you're young you're like I want to pass everybody. But I guess we're becoming a little older, I became a little older today, and the gray hairs, but it's common sense. You know, you respect the other guy and, hey, if you've got a better car, if you've got a better start or something like that, you just can't panic. You've just got to keep going and do your own thing. It's a long race, you know. But I see some drivers going like really crazy on the first, second lap. I'm like I don't think he's going to last much, and certainly it does happen that way most of the time.

Q: Does the guy in the middle always become the wiener in bun, so to speak?

FRANCHITTI: Not very nice calling you a wiener.

BRISCOE: Did he call me a wiener? (Laughter)

CASTRONEVES: You want to settle it outside, all right. (Laughter)

Q: Do you get squeezed?

CASTRONEVES: Squeeze now. (Laughter)

BRISCOE: Last year I was in Dario's position and Dan was in my position, and you know, we all sort of got an equal start and sort of gave way to the left and Scott took the lead. Dan fell in behind him, and I fell in behind Dan. You know, we just wanted to get away and get a nice, clean start and get the race rolling. I don't think there's any point in everyone sort of trying to get into Turn 1 three-wide. I hope not.

Q: Question for Ryan and hopefully this is not redundant, but did you second-guess yourself at all last evening about what you could have done differently or made some adjustment that might have put you up in the top spot?

BRISCOE: Well, you know, I think, for sure, a little bit. I really felt as though, you know, either myself or Helio had a good car for the pole, but the end result is we're sitting first and second, and it really doesn't get better than that. From the team standpoint, you know, this is absolutely perfect. The thing was, I got the pole early in the day and it was holding up, and we had to play a position of defense, I guess, really, and we didn't want to put both cars at risk and getting both cars out on the track all day long trimming out to the maximum and potentially, you know, putting both cars at risk. And so, you know, we sort of decided for Helio, who was sitting third, that he was going out and doing all the practice runs and going for the ultimate speed. We sort of sat back and just sort of played defense for a while.

Q: When they came up with this 11-11-11 format, a lot of people thought that a lot of people would take shot at the pole on Pole Day, but it really seems like it was 16, 17 people. How big of a benefit was it for the rest of you who wanted to go back out, the line wasn't clogged up with cars that didn't have a shot at getting in the top 11?

BRISCOE: It got pretty clogged up at the end; I wanted to go practice, and we couldn't. I think the last hour you couldn't practice. It was everyone in line.

FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think we were all trying to do the same thing, is practice right up until the last moment and we all kind of got caught out, didn't we? None of us could practice that last hour and people just kept trying to make attempts at the pole but also attempts at bumping in the top 11.

BRISCOE: I was pretty focused on what I was doing, but I think it was probably one of the most exciting first qualifying days, with the 11th spot bumping, especially. It looked pretty exciting for everyone. Everyone was getting in line, and there was a bit of push and shove. I think it was a pretty good qualifying day.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Graham Rahal , Ryan Briscoe , Will Power , Brian Barnhart
Teams Team Penske