Indy 500: Front row press conference, part 1

92nd INDIANAPOLIS 500 FRONT ROW PRESS CONFERENCE Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon Sunday, May 11, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway PAT SULLIVAN: Just a quick note for Ganassi Racing. You might recall that they also went one-two (in ...

Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon
Sunday, May 11, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

PAT SULLIVAN: Just a quick note for Ganassi Racing. You might recall that they also went one-two (in qualifying) at the Allstate 400. So it's been a pretty good calendar year in terms of races here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for that team.

Scott Dixon is the gentleman who is going to start from the pole position for the 92nd running for the Indianapolis 500, his first Indianapolis 500 pole, I believe the 12th in his Indy Racing League career.

Scott, in the Media Center you were asked about the pole and you, I thought, gave a great answer, you have to determine whether or not you're a contender. You did say something that I remembered very clearly and that is, and you're probably right most of the time, people don't remember who wins the pole, but they remember who wins the race. Guess what, Scott, they do remember who wins the pole at Indianapolis. So congratulations on that one.

SCOTT DIXON: Thank you. I guess they do remember for these couple of weeks, but once you're the winner of the race, I think it overcrowds everything. I think from a driver standpoint it means a lot to us because, you know, you know how hard you work for it, and I kept saying that yesterday, as well. It's the same thing, and I guess you get bragging rights for a couple of weeks, and that's about it. But I think starting on the first couple of rows is key to this race. Even Dan started maybe 16th a couple years back and still won it from there. If we can make it a little easier for us if at the start of the race, that's always nice. We'll just see what happens, but we see the big picture for us is still trying to win the '500' on the 25th.

SULLIVAN: Dan is still studying those times over there, and I know what a fierce competitor he is. You had that run at your own teammate there, particularly on the last lap, looked like you might get it done. Scott said you were protecting your position, but you're teammates and I know you want that pole position, as well.

DAN WHELDON: The team put a lot of effort into this particular race. A lot of the people back at the race shop while we've been in Japan and Kansas have been working toward programs that would help us here. It was nice to have fast cars to contend for the pole. And it was nice for Chip to give me a shot. I gave everything I had and so did everybody on the 10 side, but we were just a little bit short. But I think Scott did a very good job, and it was fun, actually. It was a really fun day when the conditions are, you know, pretty similar throughout, and you have a good car. It is a lot of fun. But I enjoyed it. But like I said, I just came up a little bit short, but now we've just got to work on the race car.

SULLIVAN: You can certainly win from where you're at, Dan.

Ryan, we were here at this same location here just a couple of days ago with your team. I thought Mr. Penske was pretty candid. He said last year in some sense was a little bit of a look at you to see whether or not it was going to be a good move to join the team. He's never shy about saying you have to perform. I don't think anybody is surprised that there is a Penske driver on the front row, perhaps maybe a couple of people surprised that it's Ryan Briscoe. Congratulations, you had a great run.

RYAN BRISCOE: Thanks. It's been a great run and Roger has been looking after me, and it was a great feeling coming into this knowing we had a shot at the pole. It wasn't easy; it was pretty tough. We knew it was going to be close, and we could see both Dan and Scott were really fast, looking at the practice times, and we gave it our all. But you never know over four laps, I mean, you look at last year and see the times going up and down from lap to lap. We tried to keep it consistent and see what we had, but it was definitely a good run.

SULLIVAN: We'll take questions.

Q: Ryan, can you describe the difference between coming in with a Penske full-year program this year versus coming in with a Penske-assisted program last year?

BRISCOE: Yeah, I guess the objectives are a little bit different. Last year I came in and wasn't a full-time driver, and it was more about just getting the experience and trying to have a good, solid run and not trying to be the quickest guy all the time and really looking at consistency more so. I mean, last year after I made the first qualifying attempt and we were sitting pretty good, we came back out and did some practice runs. We knew we had the speed maybe to contend for the front row but just decided to sit back and be conservative. This year, you know, we took that other run and did go for the front row. So they're the little things that have changed, but apart from that, the big picture is still the same. You know, we're going to be going out for the win this year and not just hanging back, really, not that I was hanging back last year. But, you know, last year we went into the race and ran a little more downforce than we probably needed to to win the race, but that' s what we put on the car to try to run solid from the front.

This year we're going to be analyzing it and putting on the car what we think we need to win. There are little differences and I've got more experience, so that all adds up.

Q: Ryan, can you talk about what it's like for you yesterday going through, you know, you did your first qualifying run, and I guess it's the same for all the three drivers in that, you know, you go through, you qualify and there's possibly relief that you're done, but you're not really done because it's probably team strategy, everybody knew they might have to go back out another time.

BRISCOE: Yeah, it was all pretty straightforward yesterday, actually, because it was the first car to run and we ran a pretty conservative first qualifying run. We were 90 percent sure it wasn't going to stick, but we wanted to put a time on the board, and we knew being the first car out we would have a chance to go through tech, come back to pit lane and do some practice runs and see what we needed to go faster. That's exactly what we did, we went through tech, came back out and started trimming out the car a bit more. We saw we had the speed to go quicker, and I think we took three or four practice runs and we were confident with what we had and went for the second attempt. You know, everything was pretty much planned, and we did what we set out to do. It was a good day.

SULLIVAN: Ryan was one who came in and said instantly you were going to go back out; you knew that going in. How about you, Scott and Dan, what were your thoughts on that?

DIXON: That was our plan straight away, as well, to just put in a solid effort to start with. And for us, the team, it was probably the only time we actually run clear of air. In the practice in the morning, we tried and I know Dan got a good run by himself. We got traffic every time. So it was just sort of a time to go out and see how the car actually really fares by itself on a conservative run. And as soon as we came in, we made the same decision that we were definitely going to go out again because we knew we could trim out. The car was extremely consistent and quite easy to put those laps together. So that was the plan from the get-go, and that's what we did.

WHELDON: We were waiting to see what other people did, but we had a pretty good idea that that wasn't going to stick. So we had that in the back of our mind. And we just needed to work on, you know, trimming the car as much as we could and remaining with a good balance. I think the biggest problem that we've had the last few years at Ganassi certainly is, you know, as people have trimmed their cars, they've found more time than us, and that was something we were very conscious of this year to make sure that when we trimmed we could maximize that.

SULLIVAN: Other questions for the front row?

Q: I know it's all a relative question, but in qualifying trim, how much scarier is the ride or the drive when you're trying to hang on for 10 laps as opposed to what you hope to have for a couple weeks from now?

DIXON: You know, qualifying, it changes from run to run and even lap to lap. As I said yesterday, my first couple laps of our pole run, I thought it was pretty easy and the car was really consistent, and I was rudely awakened to that side of it. You know, it was a bit of a handful. You're definitely on the limit; there's no point where you can relax. I think when we're testing or practicing next week and getting the car ready, laps when you're by yourself, the car is well stuck, you've got tons of downforce and you're just looking for traffic the whole time. Still at that point when you're going for full-fuel runs and wearing tires out and things like that, it gets pretty exciting for a couple laps. But there's nothing like qualifying here. It's totally different from what we do anytime through the year because you can adjust the car so much and it depends on your speed or the ride quality or the grip that you have.

Q: Scott, with all the rain we've had, we keep losing the track as far as rubber being in. How much is that hurting you as far as the month goes and chewing up tires, are you going through a lot more than you thought you would? Granted we've had a couple days off.

DIXON: I don't know. We've gone through a lot anyway. Most of us went through a lot yesterday going for the pole. As far as wear-wise, we're still pretty good because we haven't been running. But yeah, we used a lot considering what we had before that. So we're still good. Obviously, everybody is still good on tires because we haven't been running at all. But next week I think is probably going to be the time that you'll start chewing them up in long runs. But, you know, none of us have done long runs yet, so we have no idea what the tire wear is going to be like.

Q: Scott, on this side, since days like yesterday are times we stop and look at a driver's career because it's such an important moment for you. Your 2005 season is just a contrast to the last year and couple, three months. Can you talk a little bit about that and how far you've come with it since '05? I know you had '04, a good season before that, obviously, but it looked like you were in a spot that was just a terrible situation and then to come this far.

DIXON: Yeah, you can say the same probably about the guy sitting next to me. It was a rough time for us, and I was lucky enough to sort of stick around and continue to be a part of the team, you know, after the bad times when it gets good. I think Briscoe has been extremely lucky to get his ride with Penske, as well, and we found ourselves both in good situations. But, you know, I think those years were tough, and you learn a lot from it. You realize the first year coming in in '03, and I could have victories and won a championship, but it seemed a little too easy and you take advantage of that. Those two years really grounded me, and you've really got to be thankful, I think, for a lot of the wins that you do get and when you're on a good roll because it doesn't last too long sometimes.

I think for us, Dan was a big part of my transition to definitely picking it up. He's a fierce competitor, and there's no better time or person to have than someone like him when you're racing in the IndyCar Series and going for championships. I think 2006, I learned a lot again. I learned a different style of racing, I think something he brought from AGR and learned from guys like TK. It was a big help, and that was probably my big transition year then.

Q: Ryan, if you could follow up on second chances that season, you got the biggest second chance of anybody.

BRISCOE: Yeah, definitely. I'm grateful of this second chance I've been given. 2005 was extremely tough and I was extremely inexperienced, and it was a tough year for the whole team. I think definitely through the hard times you've got to keep your chin up and keep pushing and, you know, definitely make the most of the good times when they come around.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing