Championship Press Conference Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Mike Hull Moderator: Scott, tremendous championship, a tremendous season, and an excellent day today. Let's take the race first and then we'll talk about the season a little bit. Overall ...
Championship Press Conference
Moderator: Scott, tremendous championship, a tremendous season, and an excellent day today. Let's take the race first and then we'll talk about the season a little bit. Overall impressions of the day. What was paramount to you? The championship or making sure -- trying to go for victory.
Scott Dixon: I think today we pretty much from the start -- we had a very good car. Gil (de Ferran) was very fast. It seemed very hard to pass on the high line for some strange reason. We had a good car today. It was very well balanced. We had a little bit of understeer on the first set of tires we came in for. We sat back and saved fuel. It was a little harder when we started getting back in the traffic. We couldn't really keep the car down low. I was running up high, especially on (Turn) 2. I think everybody was sort of just saving fuel. And even the leaders were just sort of hanging out, leaning back and waiting for the last sort of 20 laps and things like that. The majority of the day, the car was very good. And, we just sort of sat there and tried to save gas and stay in the front bunch.
Moderator: Mike Hull joining us as team manager. How do you prepare like a day for today? Do you go for all costs for the win, or are you just making sure that you're ahead of everybody else? How do you prepare for every contingency that was ready to be thrown at you today.
Mike Hull: What we did as a team is we just emphasized to our guys every day. Today's a new day, and we're doing it the same way we've already done it. That may make me sound like a little bit of a cliche. That's exactly what we did. We told Scott on the radio a couple of times today, "It's real easy. All we have to do is win the race today." That's what we work to do. We work to run at the front, and that's what I was saying to Scott before we started. I thought it was really cool today. The five guys that had a mathematical chance to win the championship raced against each other today. I know you guys, you guys are astute people, and you see that stuff. But, I think that point needs to be emphasized was that they raced fair. That's the way they raced all year long. If you look at the balance sheet for each race driver during the year, they've had good days and they've had bad days, but today is what the IRL was all about. It would have been great if Tony (Kanaan) and Helio (Castroneves) could have been there at the end. It would have made it tougher for us, but it would have been fun to watch.
Q: Scott, of course it's a tremendous season all the way through. You had victories at Homestead, Pikes Peak and Richmond. Five first or second runner-up finishes. What was the key? The consistency of the team, the reliability of the car? The reliability of the driver?
Scott Dixon: The thing with the team and Team Target this year, is we were consistently fast. Every second we went to -- every session we were in, we were right at the top and fighting out for being the fastest and trying to win the races. I think after Homestead it gave the team and everybody involved a huge lift. Everybody just kept pushing. But, then we had the down times, but we could still fall back on that we knew we had tremendous speed, and we'd be fighting for the next race win. I don't know. Everybody -- I think there's a lot of guys in Team Target that have been in championships before. It's great to be involved with people like that. They know what to do. It's been a strange year. I think we've had lots of ups and downs. And, I think we could have tied it up quite easily if we didn't have small, nagging little problems with the DNS when we were leading races. Championships are made to be very difficult to win and that's the way it played out. I'm extremely happy that it went our way this time.
Moderator: Joining Chip up here with the winner, let's get some comments from you on championship season and how tough it is with the competition level that it is.
Chip Ganassi: I said to Scott up on the podium the win in my Miami seems like 10 years ago. It's a long, difficult season. It was a new challenge for us to understand the competitive nature of the series, what really week in and week out ?? you go to a test and you're fast and you're faster than someone else at a test and you feel pretty good about it. And, then you go back there for the race and you find out that that little .1 (of a second) or 2 doesn't mean anything when it comes to getting back to the race. My hat is off to all the competitors in the series. It was a good, safe, year. And I got the word that Kenny (Brack) is okay. He's alert and awake.
Moderator: And been transported. Yeah, he was awake.
Chip Ganassi: It says a lot for the series. It was an adjustment for us, the point system. I know one or two times ?? I know one time for sure I called Mike (Hull) on the phone one day and said, "Hey, it looks like we're out of this thing". And, sure enough, we weren't. It's a damn competitive series. You can see out there just today, I think the championship changed leaders during the race four or five times at least. I can tell you that my stomach was doing flip- flops. I think my hat's off to these two guys on my right. They race week in, week out during the year, they just constantly were in it. I feel fortunate that Scott came with us when he did a year and a half ago or so. I'm glad that we're able to give him good cars to win with. I've always thought that ?? I've always wanted to give guys good cars to win with. I'd like to think that any time we need something around the team, we go get it. And I gave everybody the tools they need to do well. We've got great management in Indianapolis. We've got great engineers. And to top it all off we've got great drivers.
Q: I'm curious, as you went through the race, what was the most important thing as you came up to the final? Were you disappointed that the race ended the way it was, that you didn't have a chance to go for the victory even though the championship was locked up?
Scott Dixon: You know, it's always disappointing to end on a yellow. The worst part of the race for myself was I was putting a lot of emphasis on that last pit stop. The guys did a great job, and I was just dog shit on my outlet. I was a little pissed. I don't know. We started slowly catching up and things like that, but I was ?? that was probably the biggest disappointment in the race was myself. At least we came out the right way, but I think Gil had a very dominant car actually. It was kind of hard to pass on the high line, and he did a great job all day. He always can be very difficult to pass. It's always a shame when it ends on a yellow. For the circumstances it's just great to see that Tomas and Kenny are both fine.
Q: You had said earlier, I guess it was last week, that you weren't going to concern yourself with the other contenders so much until the very late stages of the race when the guys might start telling you where you needed to be. What went through your head when in the space of I guess it was 10 laps Sam went out, Helio went out, cut a tire, and so did Tony. What was the conversation like between you and Mike when that happened in such a short period of time?
Scott Dixon: We didn't talk too much, but I was pretty happy, I can tell you that. I saw the incident when Tony and Helio touched, and I knew Tony had a problem straight away, but I thought Helio was still going to be quite a problem and quite hard to pass even if those guys followed each other in line. It was going to be very difficult to pass. Yeah, I was pretty happy, sad to say, but I was ecstatic.
Q: Chip for you, the talent you've had over the last decade. Where does this guy rank with some of the great drivers that have driven for you over the last 10 or 12 years?
Chip Ganassi: Certainly you would say right at the top. The thing I like about Scott as a driver, I think I've said this before, he's got a great sense of humor, but at the same time he's all business, he's all business when he's out at the track and in the car. And he's the kind of guy that ?? let's face it. We've had flamboyant drivers, and I don't think flamboyant is a word you would use for Scott. But at the end of the day he's all business when it's time to get in the car like the other champions we've had. I would rank him right up there at the top whether it was with Montoya, Zanardi or whoever, Jimmy. These race drivers today are -- I can't tell you. They have a lot of people tugging at their arms and spinning in their ears. It takes quite a person to keep all that in its proper perspective and do the job when they get behind the wheel. And Scott is that guy.
Q: Mike and Chip, just the range of emotions that you had there toward the end. Your driver's going to win the championship, but your other driver and the driver who drove for you last year were involved in the horrific crash that happened back there. Just talk a little bit about the range of emotions you were feeling.
Mike Hull: I was lucky enough to work with Julian Robinson last year with Kenny Brack. I don't think you'll find a more consummate race driver anywhere in the world than that guy. He taught us a lot. That was a bit of a problem for me. It's great to hear he's OK. The reason that we won the championship ?? a great part of why we won the championship is because of Tomas Scheckter. So for him to go -- we were hoping that he was going to be there to push Scott along at the end of the race because of how important he's been to our team this year. When you have a guy like Tomas that goes out there and runs full speed when you test, and you don't have to try to get him up to speed, and the same with Scott. We did a lot of tests this year where we used the same car on the same day and all we did was change the seat and the pedals. Because of that we learned a lot. So to answer your question, to see what happened with those two guys today emotionally means a lot to us, and it's a very personal thing.
Chip Ganassi: I think one of the -- every driver that's driven for this team can take some stock in this championship. It's that simple. I'd like to think it's a building block thing over the years that started in 1992 or whenever, 1990. Sure, our hearts are with Kenny. I can tell you that part of the success that Scott enjoys today is because of the Kenny's and the Scheckter's and the Montoya's and Zanardi's and all those guys. They can all take stock in this championship as if they were each a part of it in some small way.
Q: Chip, talk about how big this championship is for the State of Pennsylvania. There was only one guy that could have taken you out, and he broke pretty early in the race.
Chip Ganassi: I don't know how to answer that. I just think that it's big for -- it's certainly big for all states, not the least of which is my home state. I'm very happy to bring another championship to Pennsylvania, to the City of Pittsburgh. It makes me feel very good.