IRL: St. Louis: Top-three finishers press conference, part I

EMERSON INDY 250 Gateway International Raceway Top-three press conference transcript August 10, 2003 HELIO CASTRONEVES (winner) TONY KANAAN (second) GIL de FERRAN (third) Part 1 of 2 THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our second and ...

Gateway International Raceway
Top-three press conference transcript
August 10, 2003


Part 1 of 2

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our second and third-place finishers of today's Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway. To my far left, Gil de Ferran. He started the event in fourth place, finished in third. To my immediate left, Tony Kanaan. He started the event in third place, finished second. We'll begin with Gil. Tell us a little about your race.

GIL de FERRAN: Yeah, well, we had a good race. I think in the beginning of the stint, of any stint, we weren't that fast. But then as you know, the fuel went down and the tires wore out, I seemed to be relatively stronger against the other guys. But later on in the race, things seemed to equal out a little bit. Mostly Tony and Helio in particular probably made a few adjustments. I made a few adjustments to improve my beginning of my stints. So that meant that, you know, we were just very, very closely matched, especially throughout the last stint of the race. And it was wide open, I mean, qualifying pace. Helio was pushing really hard, Tony was pushing very hard, and I was pushing very hard. But, you know, it's enjoyable to drive like that. You know, you drive on the limit all day long. I think that was a lot of fun. I guess as far as I was concerned, there was not enough traffic at the end (laughter). But, you know, that's the way it goes. I think both Helio and Tony did a good job. You know, it keeps us in the hunt there for the points. I think certainly we were a little bit fortunate there with Dixon's problem. He was very, very strong. But, you know, it happens. Happens to everyone.

TONY KANAAN: Things happen.

GIL de FERRAN: On to the next one.

THE MODERATOR: A note on Gil. Today is his seventh top-three finish of the season. Two victories, Indianapolis and Nashville. Our second-place finisher, Tony Kanaan, with today's victory, unofficially, he moves back atop the IndyCar Series point standings with 357 points. Unofficially, Helio Castroneves is second with 350, Gil with 347, Scott Dixon fourth with 333. As I say, this is unofficial. At this time, Tony, if you could take us through your event. You started very strong.

TONY KANAAN: Well, I knew it was going to be tough to pass, so I had to give everything on the start. I mean, me and Gil were laughing about that two seconds ago because it was pretty wild. I mean, Kenny (Brack) was strong, Helio was strong. It seemed that my car, it was pretty good on cold tires. Gil saw me cleaning up the up line, the high line, in Turn 3 and 4, and he helped me out to clean that in the parade lap, so he knew I was going there. Actually ended up working very well. Then the car started to understeer a little bit too much. I got traffic. Helio got me back. Like Gil said, the cars are so similar. We had a lot of fun. Good thing about it is playing with these guys, it's always clean and fair. You don't worry about somebody chopping you off or doing a crazy move. You can race hard and trust each other. Points lead is back, but only going to last for a week. We don't know what's going to happen next week. Let me enjoy that till next Friday.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Gil or Tony.

Q. Tony, after Scott dropped out, Helio took the lead, did you at any point feel you could mount a challenge for the win?

TONY KANAAN: Well, I was pushing. I didn't back off at all. The thing is the cars were so similar, my car was better in Turn 1 and 2, and Helio's car and Gil's car was better in 3 and 4. So it was like that chain reaction. You know, I would catch Helio in 1 and 2, but I wasn't strong enough in three and four. I was trying, believe me. Like Gil said, was a qualifying pace. Not only because I want to pass Helio, but I knew who was behind me. I said, "I better hurry up here because this guy is not going to give me any break." Every time I put a fast one down, I look in my mirrors to pray, he's further down, and he was right there. I'm like, "Come on, Gil, give me a break, let me breathe a little bit." So, no, not really. Probably the last two laps when we caught traffic and Helio was kind of behind Buddy, we all settled down. Because it took me the whole race to try to pass him, I wasn't going to get him in the last lap, especially Helio.

Q. Every driver that has won here in the IndyCar Series has also raced here during the CART years here. How important is having that experience to mastering this tough track?

GIL de FERRAN: I would say it's probably having more road-course experience. Because out of the ovals, I don't know if Tony agrees or not, but this is one that you have to brake, downshift, control the throttle, so on and so forth, which is sort of unique to the ovals that we go to. I think having road-racing experience is helpful, when it's required of you to do all that.

TONY KANAAN: I agree. I think downshifting, it's really important. I've been watching a couple of the guys struggling a little bit on that. Here is probably the hardest braking and downshifting oval that we have. You know, the car get really light on the braking sideways. I mean, it's the type of a road course driving style that you have to have to be able to do well. I think that's what the advantage is that we have.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TONY KANAAN: For me, some of the tracks we go, you don't have to have the car, you just have to have a consistent one and keep the momentum up. Here it really shows who is good and who is so-so. So definitely it's one last opportunity for us to take advantage on that. Yeah, I'll be sad to see it go.

GIL de FERRAN: I think in a way Tony is right. This is a real driver's track. You know, so from that standpoint, I really enjoy it.

Q. Tony, how much does it mean to you to be leading the championship points battle at this point of the season?

TONY KANAAN: Just makes you feel good. But, I mean, seven-point lead in a -- 40, if you win?

GIL de FERRAN: 50.

TONY KANAAN: In a 50-point win, still almost 300 points out there or even more. So it just feels good, but it's wide open. Look at Dixon. One bad weekend and you drop. Look at myself, I came into Michigan looking reasonably, and all of a sudden I was back again. You're going to see people going back and forth. I mean, to be honest, doesn't mean anything to be leading or to be third in this championship right now. It's all going to get down to Fontana. You guys going to see a big fight there.

GIL de FERRAN: You mean Texas.

TONY KANAAN: Sorry, Texas (laughter).

Q. Scott Dixon at one point was running away with the race. How fast was he going and what were your thoughts trying to track him done?

GIL de FERRAN: He was just very, very consistent, you know. Whereas everybody else, similar to what we saw in Pikes Peak, you know, whereas everybody else tends to go off, he didn't. So he stays doing very, very fast lap times. Everybody starts to slow down. Somehow they have the setup figured out that the car doesn't seem to go out throughout the stint. As the race wore on, he came stronger.

TONY KANAAN: I agree. He looked good because we are going bad. I mean, we're going a little bit backwards in lap time. He just kept his pace. He was definitely stronger through traffic. I mean, Gil had a pretty good fight with him. I was gone at the time. But when he got up to me, just took him a lap to pass me. I didn't even want to hold him because I knew how tight it was. If you keep fighting like that, you putting yourself in a position that three or four cars can pass you back. So I guess Gil is right. His car seems to not go off as much as our cars.

Q. Dixon has been so strong since June, since Pikes Peak, it was about time for him to have bad luck.

TONY KANAAN: To be honest, this is racing. I mean, we never pray for somebody to have bad luck. That's the way it is. He had some bad luck in the beginning of the year, as well, Phoenix. It's just a matter of people win championships being the most consistent, and that's what it is. Whatever happened to him, unfortunately bad for him, good for us. It happened to me last week. It happened to Gil. He missed a race. It happened to Helio. So I think that's why we're so tight together because it happened to all of us already. Right now, from now on, it's going to be a matter of whoever can keep in the racetrack will be the winner.

THE MODERATOR: Gil, Tony, congratulations. We have Helio Castroneves up next. I know it's kind of bothered you, Helio, that you haven't been in this seat in a while. Certainly congratulations on your win today. You started from the pole. You fought hard and brought it home. Tell us your thoughts on your victory.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's better late than never. Again, I never lost the faith in my crew. My crew never lost the faith in me. They always believed. I guess that's the way it should be. It's tough, you know. You have to keep knocking on the door. One day you're going to get your breaks. Unfortunately, it took a little more than we expected. But this is racing, this is the game. We're very optimistic. We had a lot of troubles, but turned out to be in a good way.

THE MODERATOR: This is Helio's first victory since the 2002 Indianapolis 500. There have been 20 starts in between his wins. He has been extremely competitive. This was his seventh top three of the year, and his fourth top three in the last five races. You said in qualifying yesterday you had telemetry problems. How was it today?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I guess that's the secret, huh? Had a problem with the beacons yesterday, and today just had absolutely nothing. As soon as, "Gentlemen, start your engines," that's where something happened. I kept calling those guys, come on, taking this steering wheel off, putting back on. In fact, the fuel started going away without me because we're trying to fix. They say, "Well, just go." So I start going. I turn it off, put it back again, try to see if reset anything. Unfortunately, the dash just stayed exactly the same way. It was very difficult. Some things, like traction control was gone, speed limiter, I didn't have any indicator that was on and off. A lot of things that might be simple, but believe me it might or not might cost you a race. Again, the team guides me really well. I believe I felt like flying on an airplane without any instrument in the bad weather. But the good news is, I don't know how to fly an airplane, but I do know how to drive a car (laughter). We were right there in the end.


Part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan