Kentucky 100 Post-Race Transcript Saturday, August 1, 2009 An interview with Wade Cunningham, Ana Beatriz and Sebastian Saavedra THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our second- and third-place finishers today's Firestone Indy Lights race.
Kentucky 100 Post-Race Transcript
Saturday, August 1, 2009
An interview with Wade Cunningham, Ana Beatriz and Sebastian Saavedra
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our second- and third-place finishers today's Firestone Indy Lights race. The 100th race for the Firestone Indy Lights under the Indy Racing League sanction. Second place, Sebastian Saavedra. He has two wins this year. This is his third straight top-three finish. He has seven top-five finishes in 2009.
Sebastian, tell us about your run out there today.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It was a very hard race. I would say quite long from my point of view. You know, I think it's a shame what happened to J.R. (Hildebrand). We had a great strategy to help each other and try to have a run to the Lucas Oil guys. It didn't work.
I was in the middle of complete Sam Schmidt Racing. They were helping each other and that's what made it a very hard race for me. I was trying to defend, but at the same time trying to stay in course, but having some tow. It was just unbelievably hard thing.
The Firestone Firehawks maintained themselves through the race. It was a complete war for me, a lot of touching, (James) Hinchcliffe, we had some wiggles.
But I'm very happy. Good points for the championship. That's what matters.
THE MODERATOR: Also joining us, our third-place finisher, Ana Beatriz. Her fifth top-five finish of the year. Ana, how about your run?
ANA BEATRIZ: Pretty good. We didn't have qualifying, so I had to start 10th position. I was just getting myself up to position, passing people. It was great. Moving up, starting to fight with Saavedra and Hinch but couldn't help Hinch enough. I just got a great (indiscernible) to both of them, put it inside and got the lead.
I don't know, I don't think my car was good enough to stay up front. The guys were just getting so much better exiting than me.
At the end it was just like four cars running, fighting really hard. At the end hopefully I could go to the podium. That's very important for me, and for the position, the standings. I think it was a great race. I'm very thankful for my team today.
THE MODERATOR: Any comments about getting out there late to practice and then somewhat rushing into the race?
ANA BEATRIZ: Well, I know Kentucky. Of course, they change a little bit with the pavement. It's better this year. But it's hard, you know. We had such a boring day yesterday spending all the day doing nothing. This afternoon, hopefully we could run a little bit. The track didn't have any water, so we could do our job. The league did a good job to put the race in, and it was a good race.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastian, any thoughts on that?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think for sure it was a challenge to put everything together so fast and being able to set up the car for race mode in such a short time.
We almost couldn't test many things. We came almost blind to the race. But always having some help from the big guys, we already know more or less how it is going to turn out to be the racetrack.
It was very interesting, but at the same time, as Bea said, it was quite boring. A shame we couldn't have the complete schedule as we were expecting. Yesterday was such an amazing day.
I'm very happy. It was a great battle. Hopefully we'll keep the same for Mid-Ohio. That's the most important thing.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q: Sebastian, were you waiting to make your move on Wade, any more laps?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: You know, since the beginning, I was saving tires, my priority. I didn't have JR to be able to work with. Saving the tires was going be the most important thing for the end of the race. I was not expecting any yellows. I was just keeping and trying to push Wade so we could battle alongside, just us two.
When I heard 'five laps to go,' I was getting ready, just getting the measurements right. When I was going for my move, I knew I was not going to pass him, but I knew I had the car to be able to go maybe a little bit more in front. At start/finish, I was making my move at that moment when I heard 'yellow flag.' I was really disappointed because I knew I had the car, I knew I had the tires saved.
But, you know, this is racing, things happen. I'm still very happy for those good points. Now, again, the battle for the championship, it's back. Three races to go. Anything can happen.
Q: Ana, you said you ran here before. How much has the track changed this year from last year? Did it affect the cars that much, that you're aware of?
ANA BEATRIZ: Well, I think just the bottoming in Turn 1 and 2, is better. You don't have that many bumps. A little bit better when you go a little bit higher. Turn two, you can get a lot of bumps. But on the inside, that was the biggest problem last year. They fixed it. I think that was it really.
Q: Ana, you had some challenges this year. You missed the Milwaukee race after your crash at Indianapolis. Battling this close with other drivers wheel-to-wheel, does that at all factor into your thinking? The challenges you had after your accident, does that factor into your driving, taking care more of the car than you normally would?
ANA BEATRIZ: Not really. Usually I always try to take care. Of course, today was really tight. Some things you can't control. But the most important thing is, like, my thinking about winning races, not think about crashing at all.
Of course, it was really bad for us losing Milwaukee, losing a day of testing at road courses. But it's good to fight for winning again and be at the podium today.
Q: Do you feel, Sebastian, had the race gone completely to the end you would have had a shot, that you could have got enough to get your nose in front of him at the start/finish?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: As I said, I had the car, I had the tires. I think I had the strategy. Fifty laps to go I had it planned. But if it had happened, I don't know. You know, I think I made a couple of moves to Hinchcliffe that did not work as I was expecting. But other two, three moves worked when I was side-by-side with Wade. I could only know if I had happened. It was a shame, but I'm very happy how it turned out to be.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let our second- and third-place drivers head out of here. We'll get started with Wade Cunningham.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Thank you.
ANA BEATRIZ: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our race winner, Wade Cunningham. Wade, tell us about your day out there.
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Well, I was actually anxious to get the race going. We'd been sitting around the paddock for two days. I'm sure I'm not the only one just bored out of my mind. I feel really bad for the people that bought tickets to the event and have been sitting there waiting for the track to dry. We all had the same feeling. We had the same feeling as the fans. We just couldn't wait to get out there and race for ourselves and race for them.
But I think the fans got a better race because of the weather. The way they ground the track, just the lack of rubber on it, because they did that, we really had to race with a lot of downforce today, more so than I think we've ever done in the past. That created the close racing we had today.
It was very, very tight. I don't think we've really ever seen, apart from Chicago, cars in rows pushing each other, trying to minimize the aerodynamic effect of the wings. That was tough. That was 15 laps of trying to control your car in turbulent air with a guy next to you, a guy in front of you, a guy on your diagonal, and a guy behind you.
It was my goal, once I realized that was going nowhere, we were going to be in a stalemate for the next 67 laps, so I pulled out of line, let the outside line actually go. That's when Sebastian got passed and James got to the lead. I think that's really what then generated the rest of the race.
At that point we were kind of more running single file. You could work the line in traffic, hope that someone pulled the wrong gear at the wrong time, had to lift at the wrong time.
So it was just a case of waiting for those kinds of things to happen. I think we had a great balance in our car today. We were so, so quick late turn one, into turn two, we were able to run so much lower than the other guys, I was able to pull the next gear, stay low, complete the pass actually on the straight. I did that to Bea and then to James (Davison) -- sorry to Sebastian and then James.
It was very, very close between Sebastian and myself. I'm sure he got me at the stripe a few laps when we ran side-by-side for about 10 or 12 laps. But I think his fronts went away at the end. He seemed to struggle to hold his line in three and four. You know, he could never get more than halfway up beside me.
So I'm very pleased with the result. Didn't quite know what was going on with the yellow at the end. I saw tire marks across the track, a bit of smoke, but they never put the safety car out. I was told we might be going the next lap, so I just went for it, and no one else did. We went another lap. So I did the same thing again, and that was the checkered flag.
A strange end to the race, but I'm 95% confident that we would have won had we completed the green laps, and just very, very pleased to deliver the hundredth win to myself and the team, and to give Sam his 30th win as an owner in the series.
THE MODERATOR: With what we went through yesterday, having the day off, squeezing everything in one day, does that change your mindset or does that play tricks with your head or is it you're a racecar driver and you do what you have to do?
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Well, you do what you do. But this morning, that limited practice we did, the track was so green, it was comparable going to Indy for the first time in April. They diamond ground the track. There wasn't a lick of rubber on, and we destroyed a set of tires in the first 40 minutes, and really just struggled with car balance.
So I actually tried to just ignore practice. I assumed that the track would be better because of the IndyCars had run, they do a good job of putting down rubber for us. That was the mindset I had to go into the race with, otherwise I wouldn't have been very quick. I did struggle with oversteer the first few laps, but we dialed it out of the car, and the car was magic.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q: Seems to me they took a little bit out of the (indiscernible) out of the car? Did that have an effect? Were you able to pass from behind and have a little cleaner air to work with?
WADE CUNNINGHAM: I'm not really sure. It definitely made the lap speeds come down. We were probably in race trim a 10th or so quicker. But I think it just allowed the car in front to be not so much into the right gear. So the guys running out of the gearing after the start/finish line, that's always where the next car could get a run.
I think it improved the racing from that aspect. Maybe it didn't create so much turbulent air and you could see the cars were running very close this race to the outside and actually even behind. You could run very, very close in third place to the leader.
So if that's the kind of racing they're after, and it's exciting, then so be it. But it was very close, very tough today. You know, James, Bea, James Davison, and Sebastian, everyone did a pretty good job of keeping their cars off each other for the most part. When you're running that close, if the wind changes, you're going to move six inches, and that could be a disaster.
It was definitely an exciting race. But I was much happier being out front.
Q: Driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, AFS and you have been running nose-to-tail, but today was your race. Driving for Sam, that's got to be pretty slick. You have a good battle going. Does Sam line you up and give you a talk before the green flag drops?
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Sam is pretty good. He might do it with the other drivers. But occasionally Sam and I get together, and we might talk about what to expect on the first lap. But he generally leaves me to it. I think he brought me onboard because he knew what I was capable of on the ovals. I'm glad that I'm delivering.
I gave him Indy. I gave us Indy, or we won it together as a team. That was the first goal. And then that really turned the year around for us. We went to Milwaukee. We did well after missing a practice. Then we went to Iowa. As a team, we destroyed the rest of the field. To come here to the next oval and do it again, it quite could have easily been a Sam Schmidt 1-2-3 again. We were 1-3-4 at one stage. Our team has a great package. I'm thrilled to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Wade.
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.