IRL: Texas II: Top three finishers press conference (part 1)

HELIO CASTRONEVES, Winner DAN WHELDON, Third-Place Finisher KOSUKE MATSUURA, Bombardier Rookie of the Year MODERATOR: We are joined by Helio Castroneves. First of all, it's a tremendous accomplishment, you completed all of your laps this ...

DAN WHELDON, Third-Place Finisher
KOSUKE MATSUURA, Bombardier Rookie of the Year

MODERATOR: We are joined by Helio Castroneves. First of all, it's a tremendous accomplishment, you completed all of your laps this season; you were never lower than fifth in the points; you were usually second or third or fourth in the points; second place at Homestead. This is your first win since Nazareth of last year, of course, your first win here in Texas. Your first win in Texas, we give you a cowboy hat, and you don't bring it in with you.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, it's in the car. It's in the car. I brought my dance.

MODERATOR: Did you learn to dance here in America?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I learned it in a movie and for sure it was terrible, so I will probably not try again.

MODERATOR: That's not part of the repertoire.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: But the point is, I'm extremely happy, and for me to be have the cowboy hat and to have the win especially on the last race of the season, certainly brings a lot of momentum for 2005.

Q: Talk about just during the season, a solid run, you were not posting the wins. Were your emotions dipping a little bit or was it always still just concentrating on the next race?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, we always kept patient. Toyota was really, really working hard. You have to look, at least the way I look, the whole season long, it could be much worse.

Yes, I am used to being second and third, challenging for the championship, but for our limits for what we had, I guess we could understand it pretty well. Finishing fourth in the championship just proves that we are not focused on one problem. We are focusing on keeping to improve, and when we got a little bit like in the two last races, it makes a big difference.

So again, I couldn't love more of these guys enough because they are the ones that deserve a lot, and I'm just so glad that it finally came. I never put a pressure on to win, when it's going to come; that's part of racing. The good news is we go into the next year, but I'm really proud of Marlboro Team Penske.

Q: Talk about, as it turned out, what may have been the winning move. The yellow flag came out, talk about the laps in there and some pretty wild racing in there for a couple of laps.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: You're right, since the beginning, (teammate) Sam (Hornish Jr.) and I were working fantastic. It's a shame what happened to Sam. He definitely had also a very good car. It would have been great to finish the way we finished in Homestead, except I was with a different ending. Just want to do the best I can, and the car is very good with new tires, and that's why I pushed to make the pass, and towards the end, I thought the other guys would go faster, but they didn't, you know, and naturally my car was faster. So I was kind of surprised with that. But other than that, we had some very close calls.

But in general, to be honest, Brian Barnhart did a great job the whole season long, trying to warn people. Unfortunately, people were not listening, and it's not learning the hardest way, and if something happened, touching wheels, it's not good. So everybody gave space. When I'm talking about space, it's like a half-inch, which is enough, enough to avoid trouble. So that's why we are very fortunate to not have any problems.

Q: There was conversation in the garage that you may have restarted a tad early, just give us your view on your restart.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, did Brian call? (Laughter). Well, let's see if it was too early. I don't think it was. You know what, this place here, it's one of those things, if you do not pay attention to what you're doing, you might get in trouble, but you know, I did the best I could. I'm extremely happy about it, and that's what I need to do to win the race.

Q: Where exactly are you supposed to restart? It seemed like the flag was close to Turn 4, so where is the restart?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: There are two cones in between Turn 3 -- yeah, between Turn 3 and right there in that area, and that's normally where we started. And I was just getting ready, everybody seemed to be following my lead. I was trying to put the pace a little bit faster to make sure we avoided an accident, because every time you start too slow, that's where things hit the fan, you know. So, I was doing everything I can when I stepped on the throttle. They seemed to follow me and then started backing off, I guess, but I never did.

Q: If you're in second in that position, isn't your mindset kind of, "I'm sticking right with them?"

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Absolutely. I wouldn't give an inch for the leader, and it's -- that's what I'm saying. I mean, you can't just slip or try to make something happen, you know, but honestly, I don't know what happened. I thought they would come right with me, and they didn't. So better for me.

Q: How do you handle not winning since Indy last year?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, let me correct you; since Nazareth last year. Like I said at the beginning, things sometimes happen. Stuff happens outside of your control. I mean, you can't do anything. It's not about (me) not winning. I guess none of the Toyotas were winning, so, and that's why I finally, when everybody starts working together, and they decided to really -- they found something, you know, no doubt about the restart, getting a much better result and being more strong and that's why. I mean, if you looked at the results in the championship, we are very consistent. We finish in the top four, ahead of a lot of the Honda engines. So it's better late than never, let's put it this way. We finally got our win, and hopefully, that was good for the following season. We'll keep working hard and keep getting the results.

Q: Do you think the drivers are going to miss coming here twice a year now?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, you know, I see it in a positive way, this track, yes, because it's such a great finish, such a great race, you guys made a big part of IRL. You guys help us to become much better every year. And yes, it's a miss, a problem, that we are not going to be here twice. But we have to see it in the brightest way, it's awesome that other cities or other places want us, you know, and that just proves that it's such a great organization here that made the IRL look better.

So, yes, it might be a tough one, but at the same time, we are going, as well, to different places that might be awesome, too.

Q: In a year where Honda dominated, Penske Racing was the bookends of the season, you won the first and the last race. Talk about the time in between, how frustrating it was, and how much it helps to go into the off-season on a winning note?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, yeah, definitely we did have tough times with, you know, a black cloud on top of us. We are just trying to be patient and sometimes we made mistakes, trying to go too light on the downforce to make sure that we can keep up on these guys, and those are the times that things might be kind of a little bit tough. I think it was good that we learned a lot, a little bit, to make the car go fast. And that's why we achieved four pole positions in a row.

There is the bad side, yes, we would like to win a championship. But the good side, yes, we made the car better. So hopefully that gives us a much better confidence for next year that we know that we have a great car. So now the combination is to be right there.

Q: We had a Brazilian champion, you finishing fourth this race, 1, 2 and 4, Brazilians, what could you say why we have so many successful Brazilians here?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Maybe it's the water. (Laughter). I guess we fought so hard in Brazil in a different series, and when you come over here, we have to learn different culture, a different language. I cannot speak for the other ones, but I love what I do. But I can feel the other ones feel the same way. They just want to be driving, they don't care what, even if be a motorcycle, tricycle, whatever. They just want to be driving, and that's why we start very young, as well, in the go-karts. I guess some experiences we might have in the beginning, we might use even today. So, maybe that's the -- I mean, I hope I answered that question, but I'm just proud to be a Brazilian.

MODERATOR: We're joined now by third-place finisher Dan Wheldon. Dan, quite a finish, once again, a typical Texas finish. The difference between Tony (Kanaan) and you at the finish line for second place was 18/10,000s of a second, typical Texas finish. Talk about that final lap and Tony and just what you were trying to accomplish there.

DAN WHELDON: Well, obviously the intent for me was to try and win the race. It would have been nice to go out with four wins. But Helio (Castroneves) I think actually went just about when Turn 3 started, which is -- I don't think I would have passed him anyway. His speed was very, very good. And I congratulate Marlboro Team Penske on their first victory of the season. But when you're thrown black flags at Fontana for stuff that clearly doesn't warrant a black flag, you hope to see some action taken towards him. I don't think he deserves a win taken away, but I'd certainly like to see a fine of some sort or something because what he did was wrong.

But it just allowed for him to break away, and basically, Tony and I just ran side-by-side at the end. He drafted after me and obviously because there was -- Helio had just got far enough away where I wasn't picking up as good a draft as I would like. We just ran across the line side-by-side. Very close finish for second and third, but I think an excellent, excellent season for Andretti Green Racing.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Brian Barnhart
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske