Belterra Casino Indy 300 Press Conference Aug. 11, 2002 FELIPE GIAFFONE Moderator: We alluded to first-time winners, what a string we've had. This is a gentleman who has been right there. It's been right there, from his Rookie of the Year ...
Belterra Casino Indy 300 Press Conference Aug. 11, 2002
Moderator: We alluded to first-time winners, what a string we've had. This is a gentleman who has been right there. It's been right there, from his Rookie of the Year campaign last year. In fact, as Tim Sullivan leaves the room, I'm going to use the statistic again, I believe this is his 25th Indy Racing League start, I believe he's got 21 top 10s in that period of time. So this gentleman has been a model of consistency, finished second earlier this year at Nazareth, finished second at Texas in his career, ran great at Indianapolis. Congratulations, great to see you here.
Giaffone: Thank you.
Moderator: Tell us about the day. Man, oh, man, you had a multitude of people come at you, not just one.
Giaffone: Yeah, I think was one of those weekends, you know, that everything works great. I think Mo (Nunn) is never going to let me test again, that was pretty much the only track we never tested, and we did pretty good (laughter). We had a great car. I knew in the warm-up, I knew we ended up 10th. I said, "We don't have to change anything. The car, it's really good. "And I think if there was anybody that screwed up there was me in the first pit stop. I don't know what happened there. I was so used to having Hornish in front of me in the pit stop, you know, and then when I saw the guys in front of me, I tried to go there. Messed it up big time. But the guys managed put me back.
Moderator: We had both Buddy and Sam in here. Both of them said that at moments they thought they had the legs to get around you. Sam obviously did at one point, leading the event. Did you feel that way? Did you feel that way? Did you think Sam was going to get around you?
Giaffone: From what I could see behind me, I think Buddy, he had a really good car by himself, but he was pushing a bit behind me. So I much rather have at that time, you know, Buddy behind me than Hornish. Because Sam, I mean, he showed me before, like 50 laps to go, that he had a strong car. That was my big question. We were running side by side. I said:"Is that it or he has some more left? It better be, is going to be tight. "If he's saving something today, on my side, that's it (laughter). So I knew. I was just a little concerned to see how much Sam was pushing, you know. But I think he was trying hard at that point. But, for sure, my car was great. He had a great car, too. He could manage to run right behind me, side by side, anywhere.
Moderator: We'll take some questions for Felipe.
Q: Got out of the pits fast every time today. Could you comment on that?
Giaffone: I think, besides the first one, it was a real mess, you know, I think I just -- I think we had some good pit stops. You know, the guys did a great job. Just trying to do my best out there, you know. I think in Michigan, we had a great race, as well. I mean, unfortunately the Infiniti guys were really strong there. I don't know. I never compare my pit stops to the other guys, so I don't know if I was doing good or bad. Maybe no better than me.
Q: May have been the last pit you had Sam coming in breathing down your back. Were you not trying to give Sam an inch? Talk about that stop.
Giaffone: I never try to play with him. I think that's the way I saw the pit lane, you know, the pit lane there. For me, from inside the car, just try to take the best line that I could take. I mean, I knew at the same time that I really had to be close to Sam, you know, to have a shot. I was second, right? I was right behind Sam at that point, as you're saying. Is that right? The last pit stop, which one you talking about?
Q: The last one.
Giaffone: I think the last one he was ahead of me. Oh, my God, so many pit stops, I forgot (laughter). When I was ahead of him, there was one that he was behind me, I was trying to have the best shot, you know, to go to the pit lane. Never try to play there.
Q: If there has been a rap on Felipe, it's been he's not been aggressive to close out a race or to finish a race. Do you feel those questions have been answered?
Giaffone: You know, it's always easy to quit guys, you know. I think my team, for sure, we have to have a strong car to attack, you know. I don't want to be aggressive and stick the car in the wall to finish fifth or seventh. If I really have to be aggressive, I'm going to do for the victory. I think Nazareth, where I finished second, I tried to be very, very aggressive. Almost crashed, you know. At that point I really tried to go for it. I think a couple of times I tried. If I'm not in the top five, guys, I'm not going to stick the car in the wall for trying to be aggressive to finish sixth, you know? Just going to bring the points back home.
Q: The comment that you've been the unknown Brazilian with Helio and Gil. What does it feel like emotionally to break into Victory Lane?
Giaffone: First one, I think there's like four Brazilians in the top three, but I think we're very lucky to be driving for good teams, as well. I think Helio and Gil had the opportunity to be driving for Penske, and I have the opportunity to be driving for Mo Nunn. But, yeah, I mean, it seems somehow that the Brazilians are doing good. It's hard to say coincidence or not. But Sam is doing a great job, you know. You have drivers like Renna that's like new. I think he really going to do well. You have Buddy Lazier. You have so many good drivers. I think we're very lucky to be driving for good teams at this point.
Q: And the emotions of your first win?
Giaffone: You know, after Indianapolis, where I really felt that I had the car to win the race, I said, "This is going to be it, I think I'm winning this race. "When the race was over, I said, "Oh, man, even if I win a race, the next one, I'm not going to be happy because I'm so mad, you know. "I can tell you, it's completely different. It's race by race. It's just when I saw like one lap to go, I said, "One lap to go, that much? "Sam was all over the place. Then when I look, look at the mirror, Sam, I was drafting the guy, I say, "No way he's going to pass me. "It was good.
Q: In the past when two or three cars hook up, they're able to pass the leader, but that strategy did not seem to work today.
Giaffone: I think this track here is not like a pure horsepower track. The car has to be working quite good. I mean, when I went to the back, you know, I could see, my car was really good by myself when I was running up front, but when I went to the back, I could see it wasn't like a really easy track, you know. Like Kansas City, it's very similar to this here, somehow I went to the back one time, back to the front, then we had a bad pit stop, to the back again, back to the front. It was so easy for me, you know, to go up front. This one was a lot harder somehow. I don't know if the rubber is a little bit different. We had a hard time qualifying yesterday with the stock car, with the race that we had before, you know. So I don't know if maybe the rubber was still somehow on the track, you know, and didn't let us have like a two-by-two race.
Q: A comment about the fact that last year you drove for the Treadway team, very consistent, no drop-off, no change. You're just as consistent with Mo Nunn. Talk about that.
Giaffone: I owe a lot to Treadway. Last year they gave me a big, big help. They gave me more than that, a good car. It was my first year. All I want to do last year is finish as much race as I can just to gain experience. You have to go through the pit stops, cold tires, going to the race, you know. I try to manage just to finish the race. By the time that I saw, I was fourth in the championship. I said, "Maybe this is going to be the way to go, not just while you're a rookie, maybe this is the way to go. "That's the way I try to take it. If the car is good, try to go for it. If the car is not good that day or if it's good for like a fifth place or fourth place, just bring it home.
Q: What is it like racing side by side with Sam?
Giaffone: With Sam, we had a few problems. Let's say last year we were a little too close. Today, and actually this year with Sam, we've been racing wheel to wheel. Never had an issue. I'm so comfortable to be with him because it's always better to have somebody beside you, know he has a good car, so he can hold the line. Even though it's closer, you know that the guy know what he's doing. You feel a lot more comfortable. That's why he come toe close together because you trust the guy.
Moderator: Thank you.