IRL IndyCar Series - Toyota Indy 300 Winner's press conference: Scott Dixon, Mike Hull Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to our press conference now. Scott Dixon, of course, our winner of the Toyota Indy 300 today, along with...
IRL IndyCar Series - Toyota Indy 300
Winner's press conference:
Scott Dixon, Mike Hull
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to our press conference now. Scott Dixon, of course, our winner of the Toyota Indy 300 today, along with Mike Hull, the team managing director. To give you some quick facts, this was the second open-wheel racing win in a row for Target Team Ganassi. They won in Mexico City last year, then opened the season with a victory here today. This was the first ever IndyCar Series event for Scott Dixon. He used it to good advantage, I would say, scoring a victory. Winner in the CART series back in 2001 at Nazareth, we spoke about that a moment ago. He was 2000 Indy Lights champion. Just for your knowledge, the last driver to win his first IRL IndyCar Series start was Juan Montoya. That came at Indianapolis back in 2000. Scott, congratulations. We'll start off by asking you to take us through your drive today.
Scott Dixon: You know, basically we had a pretty good start. We picked up a couple there. The traffic was pretty tough. We basically just sat back for a while. I waited to see what the car was going to do over the course of the run. It seemed like the others deteriorated a lot more than us and we were able to pick a few up. Tomas' (Scheckter) car also looked very good. He got a little ahead of us toward midway there. We seemed to get better throughout the race. On new tires, the car was excellent. We had slight understeer. Guys did a great job in the pits. We picked up spots just about every time. Once we came in for that last pit stop behind Gil (de Ferran), that was the key to the race right there. We had an awesome stop. From there, we knew we had a pretty solid car. It was going to be hard for the first couple laps because we were running a lot of downforce compared to what the Penske cars were. We were able to hold them off, come away with a victory.
Mike Hull: I echo what Scott said about the team. The guys worked really hard to do what we did today. It's nice to be able to do that because obviously Sunday is what we're all about. Up until Sunday, we don't get paid. We're really excited about winning this race. We're really excited about being in this series. I know Chip the other day mentioned the fact he thought this was the most competitive open-wheel series, if not in the United States, in the world. We're happy to have been the best today.
Moderator: We'll open it up for questions.
Q: Can you go through the last pit stop when you took the lead? Was there anything particularly special about it? Was it just a normal pit stop that happened to be quick enough?
Dixon: I don't know. We got alongside Gil coming into the pits, which I think helped a little. Everything just went very smoothly. I think we didn't rush ourselves. I didn't come into the box too hot and overshoot, which is pretty easy to do when you're fighting for that position. I think everybody just did their job properly. Maybe not the fastest, but they were very consistent. That's what we needed.
Hull: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. By the time we got to that point in the race, obviously, guys had rehearsed that, but there's always a lot of pressure there. Everybody on the team was very well composed all day long. I guess we talked our way all the way through the end of the race on the radio. The guys on their intercom system talked themselves all the way through. As was mentioned earlier, we won two in a row now here with Target. Our team certainly has a lineage of winning races. We've got a great group of guys to help us do that.
Q: Scott, were you surprised to be up there?
Dixon: Not at all (laughter).
Q: Come on.
Dixon: After qualifying, I was a little disappointed. We missed a little I think on balance. We had a big understeer on (Turn) 4. We worked a lot on Friday on our race car. I knew we could run in traffic pretty well. Our cars were very good like off Turn 2 and 4. I knew we would be able to pass. But, honestly, I didn't think it was going to be this good. I think we just kept our cool all day, the car ran well, and this is what we came out with.
Q: Does it seem ironic that you win the first time out here on an oval? Do you feel like you're a reluctant defector?
Dixon: I don't know. The problem is, these ovals I keep winning on, but I can't seem to win a road course (laughter). I've only seen them since '99. I don't know, this is what this series is all about. I don't know, I just want to keep doing it, if we can. I think this year it's just nice to stay with the team. They're a great team. The guys back at the shop, they've got to be thanked for sure. They've done a lot of hard work. We've been flat-out for weeks. It's just everybody's stuck together from last year, and we've got a great group. Everyone's working really well together.
Q: Scott, it's often said the first victory is the sweetest. That was a fuel strategy victory last time (at Nazareth in CART). This race, you ran to win. Can you reflect on the two wins?
Dixon: It was still a victory, come on (laughter)! It's always nice to win, especially coming from 12th and having to fight through the field. The greatest thing today is I really had fun. I haven't had fun on an oval for quite some time. You follow a car, last year and the year before. This year, it's great side-by-side stuff. This track might not produce the best racing for this series, but it's great for what's coming up down the line.
Q: When you came over to the IRL, I'm sure you expected to be out there slugging it out with Sam Hornish Jr. Were you surprised he wasn't much of a factor today, Scott?
Dixon: He was there early in the race. He actually beat us in the pit there once. I don't know. He is very good. He's been pretty dominant here. There's a lot of other great competitors out there, as well. We were mainly looking at Penske. I think the Toyota engine has been a big key to what we're doing. We don't have to worry too much with the engine side of things. Got a lot of horsepower, it's very reliable. It's been a huge help for us.
Q: Everyone seemed to be writing off the (Panoz) G Force chassis until today. Did you have any doubts?
Hull: I don't have any doubts about the guy sitting to my left. I don't have any doubts about the race team. I don't have any doubts about Toyota. I don't have any doubts about what we can get as a race team, period. Yeah, the G Force was a handful here, there's no question about that. But in fairness, those guys at the factory, the guys overseas for G Force, Dr. Panoz himself, they support us a hundred percent, and we support them in turn. Chip Ganassi Racing is all about partnerships and teams. You know, we have 15 races to go. Those guys are humping really hard to have a good product for us for Phoenix, Motegi, Indy and so on. We've got a lot of confidence in what they're going to be able to produce for us. We think it would only be fair that at least we get to mix Indianapolis up 50-50 with the Dallara guys.
Q: Scott, at the end of the race you were coming up on a considerable amount of lap traffic. Were you ever concerned that was going to help Gil overtake you?
Dixon: Gil was not so good in traffic, I noticed. He seemed to be good by himself toward the end of the race. We got into traffic, me and Helio closed in on him a lot. I would have to say those last five laps, we started to get pretty loose. I think I went out too hard on the tires to start with. I had to sort of gauge with I think it was the Panasonic car in front of us, gauge and get out of it early to make sure I could get a good run onto the straights every time, hopefully block Gil on the re-entry. It seemed to work. I don't know, if we were by ourselves, it might have been a little bit different.
Q: As you were walking out here, Gil made a quick comment to you. Can you share with us what he said?
Dixon: I can't say exactly what he said, but basically, "Where did you get that from?" The speed.
Q: Is the team as energized by these two drivers as it was in the days of (Alex) Zanardi and (Juan) Montoya?
Hull: I think we're as energized a team as we've ever been. We're more together today with our two drivers since we've been since we had (Jimmy) Vasser and Zanardi. These two guys are most like those two guys, can work with the guys that work on the cars. When you can have that opportunity, you can accomplish a lot. We should probably say that Scheckter was as much a part of what we did today as what Scott Dixon was because there are not many G Force cars running, and all the information that we have, we have to pool. When we came here in January and when we came here in February for the Open Test, when we came back this weekend to test, we had two distinct test plans for every session, including all the way through the warm-up today. I think we've got a great group here, and these two guys are together with us, for sure.
Q: Scott, born in Australia, lived in New Zealand, started racing in Australia, made your name, now you're here. What nationality do you claim?
Dixon: I think I have to go with a Kiwi, especially after the America's Cup. Have to help them out a bit (laughter).
Q: Chip (Ganassi) said the other day you're a New Zealander, not caught up in the Hollywood of it all. The question is, do you think you could get caught up in the Hollywood of it all if this sort of thing continues?
Dixon: I don't know. I think I always stay pretty positive, but not get out of control like some others do. You know, I just want to win races. I might get as emotional as a lot of people, but I still feel very happy. You know, I just want to stay the same person.
Q: Have you heard from Chip yet?
Dixon: Not yet. I'm sure he's coming.
Q: At what point did you say to yourself, "I can win this race?"
Dixon: Once we got onto the Penske cars, you know, I saw that Gil was going to be the hardest. But Helio was struggling a little on that stint when we got him. I knew we could get him. But as soon as we got past him and then once we got -- we were chasing Gil for a little while, I knew we had a little more speed than him. But we were very close and were going to struggle to pass him. You know, the key was, as I said before, the guys in the pits.
Q: May be a new series for you, but there were an awful lot of guys in that race today that you raced against for the last two years. Does it almost seem like a continuation of CART?
Dixon: Yeah, you know, you walk through the paddock, and it's pretty much the same. There's a lot of great guys out there. It's just a very strong competition over here now. I think if you want to go racing, this is the series you want to go racing because it's so tight.
Q: Where will this rate in New Zealand? Will it knock the Cup off the front pages?
Dixon: I hope so. They didn't win. We won. It's pretty big news down there. That America's Cup brings a lot of money, and I don't, so...
Q: Mike, is the team pretty much the same with personnel as last year?
Hull: No. It's probably -- there's some of the guys that worked on Scott's car that were with him last year. I was on Kenny's (Brack) car last year. Barry, who is the chief mechanic, was on Jeff Ward's car. Julian Robertson was Kenny Brack's engineer last year and was with Jimmy Vasser before that. He's been with us for nine years. It's a mixture of guys. Obviously, they jelled pretty well together. It's a mixture of people.
Q: How about the guys over the wall?
Hull: Over the wall, a combination of the guys from Kenny Brack's team last year and Jeff Ward's IRL team. What we did last year in the IRL was a good thing for us to do. I think some of the people in this room as well as some others, I've read some articles recently that said Ganassi has defected to the IRL, they've come over to the IRL. You know what, we were here last year. At least we had a head start, good start. We've been lucky enough to win the biggest race they have. Now we've been lucky enough to win two more races in their series. It's good to have guys that we can put together that have experience already here.