IndyCar - Indianapolis 500 Conference; Podium Winners, Owner, Top Rookie
An interview with:
DARIO FRANCHITTI CHIP GANASSI MIKE HULL SCOTT DIXON TONY KANAAN RUBENS BARRICHELLOAn interview with: DARIO FRANCHITTI, CHIP GANASSI, MIKE HULL, SCOTT DIXON, TONY KANAAN, RUBENS BARRICHELLO THE MODERATOR: We have Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.
TONY KANAAN: It was a great race. I think toward the end there, the three of us were all a little bit comfortable with each other, apart from Sato was a little bit wild, typical guy that wants to win this race so bad. It was an awesome race. A lot of passing for the fans. We have to thank them. It was so hot.
But at the end I thought it was going to be between me and Scott. Dario comes back and won the race. Dan, his three best friends in the top three, I don't think it could have been any better. Well, it could have been if I won (laughter). It is what it is so I'll keep trying.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, talk about your day.
SCOTT DIXON: It was a tough race. A caution that late, it's going to be chaotic. I kind of agree with Tony. Sato, all day he was just throwing it in there no matter what.
But Dario did a fantastic job. There's no doubt about it. He got caught up with Viso early on in the day, went to the back of the field, got ultimately back up front.
Fuel mileage was fantastic today, which I think was a big key to be able to move up to the front. Also Target, celebrating their 50th anniversary, it was big. You couldn't do it a better way having it 1-2. It would have been nicer the other way around, though.
But it was a tough one. I didn't expect Sato to come through on me on that second to last lap. He threw it in, I had to move up a little bit. But I thought we were in a pretty good situation. I think maybe we could have gotten one of them on the backstretch and one of the others on the front straight. It could have been anybody's I think at that point. It was such a tough race. I think all four of our cars were so equal in speed, drivability and stuff, and traffic, too. Yeah, it was a good overall race. I hope everybody enjoyed it.
THE MODERATOR: Rubens, we can bring you up, as well.
TONY KANAAN: Rookie (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: It's hard to think about Rubens as a rookie, but here he is. Rubens, you just had a steady race that produced a real quality finish. Congratulations on that in your first trip to Indianapolis.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Thank you so very much. First of all, I want to say that, yes, I did race a lot, but nothing like this. It's impressive. The first 180 laps, it's all OK. A lot of respect on the last 20 laps, man. That's when the race starts.
Unfortunately for that last 20 laps, I had a little bit too much downforce in the car because then you could see people were not on the same level. Maybe they dropped the downforce or something.
I was OK. I could overtake people. I had fun all afternoon. But right at the end, even though all the way flat, trying to stay on the draft, they were too much for me. I'm glad I was able to still finish 'cause running inside, outside. T.K., Servia, these guys know how to race on the outside. But I'll be back. My next May I will try outside, outside, outside. THE MODERATOR: After having completed a race, are you glad that you came here and did it? RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, it's a lot of mixed emotions. This thing, I think I drove quite well for the whole month. I was safe. The team played safe with me. There are points in the race that you wish that you could compete because the car is too loose, too pushy. It's a very long race. For my first experience, at the beginning I had to play safe. Right at the end I was eager to go. If you think on the penultimate start, if T.K. was able to carry a little bit longer into (Turn) 1, because he was able to run on the outside, and I think that's when you got the lead there, I was right behind him, but unfortunately I had to lift.
TONY KANAAN: Let me know next time.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: When I saw you P1, I said, Ask him when he's going to start with his throttle because I want to know (laughter).
It was much more positive than anything else. I want to thank, again, the whole team. I want to thank T.K. for the help. It was a good month for my birthday. It was a good everything. So I'm really pleased.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Scott, I think during practice or qualifying I remember you said something, that you were not happy with the speed. Did you find for the race improvement in the engine? And the second question, what we have seen today in the race, do you think it's characteristic for the forthcoming oval racing or was it just special because it's Indianapolis?
SCOTT DIXON: I think we were in a bit of a tough situation come qualifying. I think the 140 kPa boost wasn't to our advantage. We saw the margin slip away. We had engines that was mileaged out, pretty much to maximum, come qualifying day. I think our engine probably didn't have the best power at that point.
The new engine was definitely better. Fuel mileage was vastly improved. The speed even from Carb Day seemed to be improved on the car.
I think we were able to run a little more trim than some of the other teams, so I think that added to it, as well. But our cars mechanically were fantastic throughout the race. Even in traffic it was pretty decent. Three, four cars back, I didn't have to fight it too much all day.
Yeah, I think Honda did a fantastic job to improve the power and fuel economy.
Q. Tony and Scott, what did you see when Takuma tried to make that move? Was that incredibly brave or irresponsible?
TONY KANAAN: Looking at the outcome, I think it was totally responsible. We were talking on the elevator. It's easy for us to make a comment.
What I saw there, what Scott says, we saw during the entire race, a guy that wants to get antsy on the last lap. He was going to get Dario, but he waited a little too long. You do not play Dario like that. He should know better than that.
I think it was a young driver mistake. That's going to haunt him a little bit.
But, you know, the last lap of the race, it is what it is. He tried. It could have worked for him. It could have worked for Scott or for myself. But it's easy to make a comment now I would have done different.
When I saw the move, I thought to myself, This doesn't look good. Then I thought secondly,
Maybe it's looking really good for me (laughter).
SCOTT DIXON: No, very similar. I think what sort of got our momentum a little crossed up, two to go, when he dove under me, Dario definitely had a good run. Sato came a little late. I think it put us in a pretty decent situation. We had good speed to come back and maybe pick them off on the last lap. It was brave. Dario gave him room. He was so close to pulling that off. I think if he didn't pinch it as much and maybe moved up on Dario a little bit more, it would have been OK.
But Dario did a great job to save it. Sato, I don't know why he didn't wait a little longer. I really don't.
Q. Rubens, talk about that first lap for you, what it was like. What was it like taking the lead?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: I tell you, I had a problem with the fuel pressure as soon as I went out. There was alarms for my fuel pressure. That in a way kept me out of the (indiscernible), what T.K. said about the turbulence, I was a little bit worried about that. In actual fact, when the race started, when I pushed the throttle, I had a big cutoff. When I changed gears again, it was people going bang, bang, bang. I was dealing with that the whole race.
The first start, I had really to be careful. I saw people trying here and there. I also tried on the outside. But the restart, so many other occasions, it depended who was leading. They started in a different way. I was in between like P5 and P15 all the time. I started accelerating in different areas. That's the question.
By the time we got to the line, it was four-abreast. That for me was more impressive than the actual start of the race.
Q. Scott and Tony, obviously Dario is probably going to be buying the next round of beer.
TONY KANAAN: Buying the party. I mean that, too (laughter).
Q. What does this win mean for you guys and your relationship with Dario? Does this put him on a pedestal as one of the legends of this place or is he the same old Dario to you guys now?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I think he's the same old Dario. But three victories, he's now up there with Helio. I think if they win one more, there's four four-time winners. He's already in an illustrious group.
The thing with Dario, he's always there. Earlier in the day, a lot of guys wouldn't come back from that, mentally be strong enough to get back from that.
I think he's the same old Dario. He may have a few more accolades than some of us. He's getting on, too. Actually, T.K., you might be, too. How old are you?
TONY KANAAN: He's older. I'm 37. He's much older than all of us (laughter). Shut up, old man.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: I'm a rookie (laughter). I'm sitting here because I'm a rookie. I have 'Rubens Barrichello, Rookie'.
TONY KANAAN: The oldest rookie we've ever seen.
SCOTT DIXON: So, no, I think nothing will change.
TONY KANAAN: I agree. I think this is the beauty of Dario, he will never change. He's always been picky. He always has his own ways to do things. As a personal friend of mine, it doesn't matter. It's the same Dario that has won zero championships, zero 500s till today. He's a guy that appreciates life, friends and family. Thank God nothing got on top of his head about all the winnings he's had. That's why we're good friends.
Q. You and Dario had a ton of back-and-forth lead laps.
SCOTT DIXON: Once we went back to green with, what, 34 or 32 to go, nobody really wanted to lead because it was right on the margin there for fuel mileage. You get much better fuel mileage at least one spot back. We went back and forth to try to help each other instead of having to drop back too far and mix it up with people maybe we didn't want to. We definitely talked before the restarts to try to see if we could do that. With this car, I think it really pulls up. Toward the end, with the grip level, it was easy to stay close, easy to pull past. You know, that was mostly just to save fuel.
Q. Tony, being a good friend of Dan Wheldon, race car drivers get so focused when they put the helmet on and get into the car. Did thoughts of Dan ever come through your head during the race or were you totally focused on the 500 miles?
TONY KANAAN: No. I mean, obviously you can't look at the board every time you drive. Lap 76 and lap 77, I definitely thought about it. But I could not lose my focus for that. Not just me, but I know Scott and his family have done a lot for Dan's family in the past few months. They were good friends, too. So was Dario.
I don't think it could have been a better result for Dan. Wherever he is right now, he's definitely making fun of Sato, I can tell you that, and he's giving Dario a tap on the back for sure, and he was going to call me a wanker that I didn't win this thing (laughter). I'm glad this is over. I'm glad that now I hope we can all move on and just remember Dan the way Dan was: a happy guy, a wonderful friend.
Q. Tony, I know you and Dario were very close with Dan. My question to you is, you were leading there toward the end, it was going to be you or Dario. Were you thinking that if you won this race, it would be for Dan?
TONY KANAAN: At that time I didn't want to think about it. But, I mean, honestly I would include Scott on that, too. When I saw the three of us there, I said, Well, Mr. Wheldon would be happy today because I was pretty sure one of us was not going to go out. I said all along that obviously I wanted to win this race for myself, as bad as I've been trying. But this year will be obviously special, to put my face right beside his on the trophy, with Susie and Holly here, all the things we've done for him.
You know, I try not to think about it. I said, You know what, I don't anticipate things. I don't plan how I'm going to celebrate because it's not done until the checkered flag is out. I don't know. I'll save it for another time.
Q. Rubens, you've driven this car and Formula One cars. What is the difference in the approach that you had and which one do you like better and which one from a professional standpoint do you have more fun in?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: In my life, whatever I do, whatever is right or wrong, I have fun. I have fun. If I am sitting on this car, it's because I'm having fun. I've already proved to many people that I could have quitted. I have a wonderful wife and kids. I could stay home in Brazil. But I still love this too much. I honestly do this because I was made to do this.
On the cars, they so different. They so different. That's why I think I'm still not there competitive-wise. I think I'm doing OK, but I'm not a hundred percent just yet because the car has more boost. Being almost 200 kilos heavier, the car is more difficult for brake for me. I'm kind of a smooth driver with the way I drive. With this car, you just have to be tougher because the steering wheel is heavy.
I tell you, I think that my experience here on the oval will help me have at least more feedback from the cars. You run on such a light downforce that I think it will help me.
So I look forward for Detroit next week. Actually, I'm testing Milwaukee on Tuesday. It's everything happening so fast. But I'm a pretty fast learner, as well, and I'm enjoying my time.
Q. Tony, when you took the lead on the restart, did it fall your way or were you thinking that you had to make something happen? Secondly, when you came back around, could you tell the reaction from the crowd? They went absolutely bonkers when you went to the lead.
TONY KANAAN: I'm not going to say 'plan to go to the lead.' But I'm tailing Dario all day. I could see where Dario was going to try to restart. I just looked at him. By the time he accelerated, I was already pulling through my gears. I was six cars behind. With the draft on those cars, I timed it perfectly.
I didn't know where I was going to end up. But from the start, I already gained four positions on the first start of the race, I knew I could pull it out.
He didn't let me lead that lap anyway. He passed me back right away. But, you know, I saw the crowd, yes. I mean, I was leading. You can see because they wave. Obviously I couldn't hear them, but I'm pretty sure they went bonkers. I can't thank them enough. They make me feel so wanted here.
The other day somebody made a comment that might be true, I tried to change it. But I think people like me here because I haven't won yet. I became more famous for not winning this thing than actually winning, so I'll keep trying.
We can see old people do well here - Dario - so I think I still have a shot (laughter).
Q. When Dario left for NASCAR, since he came back, he's been pretty much unbeatable. Was he a different kind of driver when he came back?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think so. Obviously the NASCAR turn he had there didn't go the way he wanted to. He was in pretty bad cars. It didn't last too long. Yeah, I think he was back home. He was back to something that he was really comfortable with and around the people that he knew really well. I think he was actually hungry after that, too, because he wanted to prove when he came back that he was still the driver that he was. You know, he's definitely done that - maybe a little too much.
Q. Rubens, how many ovals have you driven on?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: This is the very first one. I like it. I think that it couldn't have been better because the whole month, you might think, OK, this place changes a lot, everybody told me it changes a lot. One day the car is good, the next day with the same setup the car is not good. The wind changes. I've seen that many times in my life. This place is really special. But I had the whole week in the car, whole week, trying to get different lines, some friends, Scott, T.K., Dario: Man, get out of that white line.
TONY KANAAN: Tell them what we told you.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: I can't tell you what they told me (laughter). Get out of the white lines, that's NASCAR, that's not for you. That's something that I appreciated so much. Everyone that play with me this month, they play me safe. At the end of the day, those 20 laps, there's no friends there. I can see that. But at least people have a lot of respect before.
We had fun this whole month, I'm pretty sure that tomorrow when I leave this place, I'm going to miss it.
Q. Scott, how badly did you want to have your face next to Dan's on the trophy?
SCOTT DIXON: Aside from the Dan factor, I think everybody, whoever comes here, it's the marquee event, the big event, you're going to do anything to put your face on the Borg-Warner. I think a lot of us that were close to Dan, you know, you wanted it that little bit more. I guess maybe in the back of your mind you figured he would probably help you out today, too. I think in that situation, seeing how it lined up with the top three, three of Dan's friends, it was a tough one. But, you know, it was a great race. But I think tragedy aside, we would come here the same way, same mindset. It just added a lot to it. I think it would probably feel a little bit more special having won right after Dan.
Q. Scott, with Tony's reputation for the restarts, do you get a heads up from your team or spotters of what Tony is doing coming up to the restart?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, that restart I think it was jumped by quite a bit (laughter). We were like sitting ducks, man. We were 1-2. I think by the time we got to the start/finish line, we were seventh.
That was definitely unexpected. It hadn't been like that all day. I think they timed it perfectly. I'm pretty sure T.K. was in fourth gear by the time we were trying to get out of second gear. They came by quickly. It definitely woke us up. We had to get back after it. With the new car, when you're out front, you're definitely a sitting duck. We were a couple of sitting ducks that time and I got passed by quite a few.
Q. Tony, is that the greatest restart of your career or greatest restart in Indy 500 history?
TONY KANAAN: I can't vote for that. I mean, it was a good one. I would put my 2010 better than that. There were 12 cars, two corners, I was dead last. I had more fun on that one.
Like Scott said, I timed it perfectly. But 10 to go, I have this thing, whoever leads with 10 to go never wins. I'll let Dario go. It goes yellow. I'm leading this thing. I knew I was going to be a sitting duck again.
Yeah, it was a good one. I hope the crowd liked it, but I'll still vote for my 2010.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great day. Well, Chip, I have two different thoughts to lead into. One is, it can't get much better to have two drivers perform and have a finish like this? The other is the acid reflux that goes with two competitive guys vying for the final of the Indianapolis 500.
CHIP GANASSI: We've been 1-2 at Lap 185 before in the past 10 years a couple times. I've been to that point many times. With those yellows that came after 175, 165, I guess, a little too early. Then with what happened afterward, it was a race at the end.
The thing I have to comment about is we've gone through now, new cars, new engines. There were a lot of unknowns going into today's race. It turned out to be what I thought, it was a great race. There was a helluva lot of passing going on. At the end there wasn't anybody saving fuel there. Mid race we were saving fuel on the 100-lap mark, coming up with some strategy of how we're going to get to the finish. At the end it was as fast as anybody could go, I can assure you.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, I reflect back on Dario's birthday, in here on Pole Day. He was very professional. Wasn't particularly a happy guy. He was a little frustrated. He wanted to have more speed. Felt he had a good race car. Did anything change in the interim or it was a good race car and that's what proved at the end of the day?
MIKE HULL: I think what happened is it's a blessing in the way we qualified so miserably. I hate to say that like that because we're not used to starting that far back. The turbulence is not what we've done at Indianapolis for quite a long time.
It makes you work really, really hard on your race car. We had a really good Thursday before the qualifying weekend with Dario and Scott - really, really good. Found a good mechanical balance. We carried that into Sunday after qualifying. I think our guys did half a race those two days apiece. We learned an awful lot about how to be ready mechanically to race here.
Honda certainly jumped their game up a bit with the race engines we received and also the mileage and the mapping and all the things they work on. I would also say that, unlike some people, our tires were really good all the way through a run mechanically. You notice we did those long green runs, and we didn't give anything up all the way through. I'd say not qualifying well contributed most probably to what we did today.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions.
Q. Dario just has this unbelievable ability to be a master of the moment. What is it about him that he's able to do that? Also the fact he came from the back of the pack after the incident on pit road.
CHIP GANASSI: I remember Dario, when I first met him I think was at Toronto in 1996, 1997, and he was driving for Carl Hogan. I remember meeting him. You have to remember, these guys have been in a lot of races since then, seen a lot of things. He's been through a lot of the changes in the sport, different cars, different tires, different engines, different series, different this, different that. He's the kind of guy you'd like to have because he's sort of been there, done that.
When it comes to a day like today and we were last after the first pit stop, there was never one word about that. It wasn't like, Oh, man. Nobody on the team said anything. Came in, changed the front wing. He went out. He said, All right. Before you know it, he was 23rd, next thing he was 16th, next thing he was 10th, yeah.
That's the kind of guy you want in your car.
MIKE HULL: I'd only say that because of Chip and his ability to be able to as a race driver he was a race driver before he was an owner. Race drivers understand race drivers. I think that's an advantage for us. He understands the difference between one driver that has talent and another one that has talent. It's that extra ingredient that's really important. So when it comes time to fill a slot, we fill a slot.
In Dario's case, we have a guy that hasn't reached his midlife crisis yet, that drives with the experience of his age, but he comes to work every day with the enthusiasm and the intent of an 18-year-old. That's a pretty tough combination to beat.
Then what he does, he's absolutely unselfish. In motor racing around the world with two-driver teams, how many teams can say that? I don't think there's one, except this team. Of course, I have a biased opinion.
The two drivers that we have that work together as one got us to the front today. That's made a big difference over time.
Q. This team today just seemed so perfectly orchestrated. Also it became very clear early on that you were getting two or three laps better fuel mileage than the Chevrolets. Did you know going in you were going to have that advantage or did it emerge in the race?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, we don't anything about the Chevrolets. I don't know. We noticed that after the first pit stop. That enables you to look at some other strategies maybe. But we had no idea where we were going to be, where we were going to run. Believe me, I mean, we came in here with more unknowns this year than any other year. In our race meeting, all we talked about were unknowns. We had to be prepared for a lot of different scenarios.
Q. As the race started and wore on, if you had to guess, it looked like you were going in there with everything known better than any other team.
CHIP GANASSI: I can tell you this, you weren't in our race shop the Monday after qualifying or with the chairman of Target in the Monday after qualifying and the meeting with Honda soon after that. Let's just say, it wasn't our finest moment (laughter).
Q. You guys think a lot. You've always said on the radio, Don't take each other out. We're going with 10 laps left to go. What did you think when you saw on the TV that Sato was going to come up past Dario?
CHIP GANASSI: It didn't really have me worried because going into Turn 1, I thought we'd have a shot at him on the back straightaway or coming to the start/finish line. I wasn't overly concerned. It was a good thing Dario raced him down into the corner. Maybe he knew something different, I don't know.
I was all set up for another Hornish/Marco finish it was kind of looking like at the end. Remember when they passed from Turn 4?
What was the question (laughter)?
Q. What was in your mind when you saw Sato coming up?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I knew he had a good car, a good engine. He's a formidable competitor. I knew he had the right engine, so... I mean, I wasn't worried. I got to tell you, I wasn't overly concerned because I thought we could get him on the back straightaway again or coming to the start/finish line.
MIKE HULL: Well, as you said, we do have not a written rule but a rule that if you do hit each other, you better make sure that the ride you get in that afterwards is in the Air-Vac ambulance. What's really good about the two guys we have is they respect each other on the racetrack. Dario is overwhelmed by winning and Scott Dixon is overwhelmed by losing, but they still pull for each other all the way to the end.
If it would have been those two and not Sato, it would have been a clean finish at the end. Not that it wasn't a clean finish as it happened.
You know what, it's great that what we saw today was a motor race. We didn't see a fuel economy race for the last 15 laps of the race. I think that's really important for IndyCar racing. You can't always have a solar system program where that happens at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway because you have this lap you try to get to so you can be full to finish.
I think the race today was fantastic. If you could pull the strings every time so everybody had full fuel for the last 10 or 15 laps, we would have seen that. Everyone is looking around saying, Does that guy have enough? Why is he going 202 miles an hour? Why is that guy going 218? The announcers can't keep up with it. The people in the grandstands can't keep up with it. We just need to see a motor race like we saw at the end. You would almost be better off with Beaux Barfield saying, Everybody in the pits for fuel with 10 laps to go.
CHIP GANASSI: Careful.
MIKE HULL: At 400 miles, we saw a trophy dash. That was really good. It shows what the quality is all the way through the field for what you saw today.
Q. Chip, speaking of the fuel strategy, a year ago Scott Dixon felt he could have won the race if things had played out differently with fuel. When Newgarden stalled out, were there concerns about the fuel? At one point you were 1-2-3-4 with all your drivers. Could you imagine or envision that actually happening in this race?
CHIP GANASSI: It doesn't matter how big the fuel tank is or what mileage you get, when you have a full fuel tank, pick the number, you'll go 30 laps, 25 laps, 35 laps. We've been all over the board. Doesn't matter what number it is, three laps before you get to that number, there seems to be a yellow. I can assure you Newgarden didn't do that on purpose because he's a fellow Honda team. I can assure you that wasn't any skullduggery there. To have it happen on 163 or whatever that happened, 162, 165.
MIKE HULL: With what happened there, it was too early.
CHIP GANASSI: It was too early. We needed to go about five more laps.
MIKE HULL: The problem was the window was opening up for us. What happened at that point is we took a full fuel load. We needed 12 gallons of fuel.
CHIP GANASSI: Right.
MIKE HULL: If he would have done it on purpose for us 10 laps later, it would have been awesome. But we kind of pounded the desk there when that happened.
CHIP GANASSI: Sure did.
Q. You had those meetings. You only had one practice session before the race after that. What did you find out in that one short practice that changed things?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, we're in this business every day. With Mike and the group of people he's put together here at Indianapolis, the continuity of the people, you do build up sort of an information library, if you will, over the years of being here. It's a real advantage to have consistency in your people, consistency in your MO, how you do things, the way you go about it.
We worked throughout the first week there. We were on track a lot working on our car. It paid off. When we eliminated some variables, there were lots and lots of variables this year, again, with new cars, new engines, new manufacturers. There were lots of unknowns. Mike and his group of people went through a list of things they had to try. It wasn't very exciting. We weren't at the top of the speed charts every day. We were just going through and working our way through our normal list.
There were some other exciting things going on that we weren't involved in. Believe me, last Saturday after qualifying, during the Fast Nine, I was on my way to Charlotte to the stock-car race. We weren't in it. I was sort of depressed a little bit. I wanted to get out of here.
This brought me back today.
Q. Chip, do you ever look back, Dario went to NASCAR, find the irony that things didn't work out there, how he kind of came back to IndyCar and has been the most dominant driver?
CHIP GANASSI: No. I know what went on there when he was there CHIP GANASSI: Well, we. We weren't capable of giving him the right car then. He was doing fine till he broke his ankle there. That's all.
Q. Very early in the press conference you were talking about teammates, how well they work together, how unselfish they are. I know any win for Ganassi, whoever the driver is, is a win for everybody. Does your heart ever break at all for Scott Dixon? Is there anything you can say to him who now is on his run of sort of second fiddle?
CHIP GANASSI: That's Mike's car. Mike runs his car. You'll have to ask him (laughter).
MIKE HULL: I appreciate where you're going there. I've worked for Chip for 20 years. That might be one of the reasons. Chip gets to win all the big races; every once in a while I get to win a race.
CHIP GANASSI: That's bullshit. That's bullshit. I don't even pick the teams. He picks 'em. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.
MIKE HULL: I've been really lucky.
CHIP GANASSI: I get a phone call every spring: This is what you're doing.
MIKE HULL: I started with Scott in 2003. That's when we came to the IRL at the very beginning. We had Scheckter and Dixon. Chip had Scheckter, and I had Dixon (laughter). We raced really well.
CHIP GANASSI: I remember that call.
MIKE HULL: You know what, I'm very fortunate to work with Scott Dixon 'cause he's an enormously talented race driver. Over time he's proved that over and over and over again. He's matured a lot as a person, which has helped him in the car as a race driver.
He's the guy that will need the depression medicine tonight because he didn't win the race. We did everything today for him to win the race. Didn't happen. But if he were sitting here next, he would congratulate his team and teammate for helping him to win the race. I'm sure, conversely, that's what's going to happen.
Q. Mike, your cars today were good in traffic, seemed to be good at the front. You had to concentrate on being able to get through traffic. Put in a lot of practice. How much of a compromise did you have to make in terms of making the cars work?
MIKE HULL: I think to answer your question we worked right from the first day we were here to work on the race. What you always do is you try to match the mechanical grip level of the race car for a full run. So in this case it was approximately 30 plus laps on the racetrack, then you match the aero load to that. If you can get your tires to be really good when they come off on that full green-run stop, that's our goal.
When we started here, we weren't in that position. It took us several days to be in that position. We were very fortunate with the weather for two reasons. One was it got warmer and warmer all the way to race day. That helped us. And there was no rain. So we ran every day. I think it's more that.
We had really good race cars. We knew that by Thursday of the qualifying week. It allowed us then to work extremely hard then again on Sunday with, as Chip said, a huge menu of items to create grip. I think we matched the balance of the car to the tires and the engine today better than anybody else did.
Q. You said earlier you work as one team, Scott and Dario. How identical are the cars set up? And, Chip, you said with this race you end up with a lot of unknowns. After this race, you have no answers for technical problems for future races?
MIKE HULL: Their drive styles are different. We can certainly compare the grip level of the racetrack between the two drivers. What we try to work on extremely hard is to understand what each of the drivers are doing. It helps the other driver. Alex Zanardi, when he raced with Vasser, said, I keep a little bit close to my vest. Our guys don't do that. It's not that Alex didn't share. These guys sit down across the table from each other with their engineers, and there is nothing left that isn't on the top of the table. That makes a huge difference for us.
CHIP GANASSI: We still have unknowns. I don't think by any stretch we think we're there yet. I mean, obviously I wish we were going back to a superspeedway next week instead of Detroit. I want the rest of the season to be super, high-speed speedways. We're by no means there yet.
Yeah, we won the Indy 500. That's great.
We'll be at it on Tuesday getting back to trying to win the championship. We're still way back in that.
Q. Mike, were you a bit surprised last Sunday when it seemed like some of the front-running Chevy teams took a victory lap after qualifying, some other teams chose to put in a lot of work on Sunday?
MIKE HULL: I don't know if we were surprised. Maybe the surprise was today because oftentimes when teams don't run, it means they're in pretty good shape. I think it's more that, to answer your question very directly. The surprise was today. I know the question was asked a few minutes ago about mileage. We had no idea what Chevrolet was getting there either until, as Chip said, the first stop. Our guys jumped through hoops to make it happen.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I thought of Emerson and Al in the fight to the finish. It was a crazy race long before that, getting spun in the first pit stop there, having to fight our way from the back to the front. That was tough, but it also gave me a lot of confidence because I knew how good the Target car was at that point. That last yellow, the last pit stop, came out, like 35 to go, they said, "You need to save fuel." I came on the radio said, "Been here before." Off we went. Scott and I were fighting back and forward. Takuma was in there. Tony came and got in the lead. I'm like, "Damn, where did you come from?" Kind of like old times, the three of us back and forward. I thought, Dan is laughing at us right now going at it. But then coming down to after that last restart, swapping back and forward. Takuma came into the last lap, got a good run on the inside. I moved over a bit, I saw him coming. I said, No, I'm too late. This is well before the corner. I moved back up. We turned into the corner, I gave him a load of room, with the tight line, he lost the rear. Turn 1 was the trickiest corner. If you went in with a tight line, it tended to get a bit loose. He lost the rear, came around and hit us. I managed to catch it. That was it. But it was a helluva finish.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. This race had a record for most lead changes. Where does this rank for you among your races here and victories here?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's very difficult to choose one. They're all special to me. Today, I think obviously coming from the back, the crazy last laps, that was the highlight. The thing that really got me was the love that the fans showed for Dan and the tribute that we were all able to pay him on lap 26, lap 98, doing that. Susie came around the car afterwards, to see the reaction of how much he was loved. To me, that was a great thing to see. Yeah, made me happy.
As I said on TV, I dedicated it to Dan and Michael Wanser, who we lost within days of each other, at the end of last season.
Q. From the time you got hit on pit road, spun around, came back, to Sato going inside you there, it seems that you have become just about unperturbable on this racetrack. Is there a certain confidence in having done so well here? Your wife, right after the race was over, mentioned the two greatest Scottish drivers ever. She said Jackie Stewart brought him up right, and Jim Clark is looking down on him. Can you talk about sort of your place among the Scottish drivers.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I'll start with Jackie and Jimmy. I don't know if my mom brought me up right. When I misbehaved, if any of you have met my mom, you'll know what I'm talking about. But Jackie was a great person for me to meet at that stage of my life, the education he gave me. Continues to do so. Still now I phone him up, Jackie, what do I do here? He'll give me some advice. He has such an unusual way of thinking about things sometimes. He's got such a great brain. I'm always grateful to Jackie. Jimmy Clark, he's the guy, between him and Jackie, the guys I wanted to emulate, to drive like, I guess. I don't have their talent, so I try and work hard. I'm lucky I'm with a great team. I don't come in here with any expectations for the race. I work on my car during practice. Scott and I work together very tightly with the Target team. We try to get the fastest, best car we can to go racing. I don't have any expectations. I just go out and do the best job I can. I don't go into it thinking, I'm going to win this one. You've got to let the race come to you. That's what I do. Whether I get spun in the pits, we didn't get back up, that's what it was going to give me today. The key was timing my passes. A good car, but I was able to time the passes coming up. One of the reasons I love driving for the Target team, it's the same thing the Andretti guys have, there's no giving up. It's like, OK, great, here we go. This is the situation we find ourselves in.
How are we going to get out of it?
We did today. To finish 1-2 with Scott, have T.K. third, that was a cool result.
Q. Dario, can you take us through the moment when Takuma came up inside you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I heard my spotter say, He's got a run on you, he's coming up. I was moving over. I look in the mirror. I see exactly where he was. I started moving back. We're allowed to - what did they say - move over to the wall and leave the car behind a car width and an inch. I wanted to make sure I left more than that. My plan from that point was, deep gulp, I knew I had to go around the outside of one wide open up toward the gray to stand a chance of winning. Takuma, he lost the rear. I watched the replay on the TV. He lost the rear on the way in. I felt the hit. The car got sideways. I kept my foot in, and that was it.
Q. About that move, were you surprised to see Takuma come there? Scott was saying he thought he should have waited.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: He's very aggressive. I think he thought that was his chance. I mean, why not? I think he did everything right up until he lost the rear end of the car. You know what I mean? That was the problem. I guess the car was too oversteery. He lost the rear. He made a good move. I wasn't very happy about it. But, yeah, I didn't touch him. I didn't squeeze him down. He just lost the rear of the car.
Q. Dario, I know you don't like to talk about yourself. Really you've become a master of the moment, especially since returning here in '09. How can you even begin to put into words? When there's a big moment that can happen, you are the guy that delivers.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's a team sport. I'm very aware of the fact that the team wins it, myself and all the other members of the team. That includes Honda. We all win it together. I couldn't just jump in any car here. This group of people I get to work with, I know how lucky I am, and I don't take it for granted.
Q. It is a team sport. What do you say to Dixon, who obviously wanted it also? You end up with the victory.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's tough because when it's going on, I want to beat Scott. I know he wants to beat me. I don't think I've met maybe a more competitive individual, except maybe Dan in the early years. Scott continues to be like that.
We're out there, I'm going to race him as hard as I can. Chip and Mike are on their timing stands, I'm going to win this one. We were racing each other hard. It's all over. He comes up in Victory Lane. He's my buddy. Out on the track, he's competition, but a teammate, and then afterwards he's my friend. I see the disappointment in his face. I see the disappointment in T.K.'s face.
I think both those guys will get more championships and Indy wins. They're just too good not to. When you beat guys like that, I take that as a big accomplishment because, God, they're not easy to beat.
Q. I ask you this all the time, you refuse to ever answer it. You have four championships and three Indy 500s now. You have 31 victories. There's one more spot, then it's Andretti, Unser and A.J. in front of you. Where do you start looking at where you stack up in the world of open-wheel racing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Maybe when I retire. I think then. I don't know. I don't know. I'm very proud - and I've said this before - of the achievements, whether it's Indy wins, championships, every one of the race wins. Sometimes I look back, but generally I'm trying to look forward. When I retire, that's the time to look back and hang out with my friends here, hang over the fence, shout abuse at Dixie, Will, Tony, all the guys that are still racing.
Today I was lucky enough to be in the green room. T.K. and I were sitting together in a quiet corner. Parnelli, Unser, Rutherford came up. This is cool. T.K. and I were getting our pictures taken. We were like a couple of kids. We were with the legends of the sport. I guess the time to look back is when I'm retired.
Q. When you had Susie get in the car and ride with you, was that a spontaneous situation?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Susie came over to say, Well done. Got to have a wee chat. I tell you what, she's a stronger person than I am to come here. She knows better than anybody how much Dan loved Indy and how much Indy loved Dan. But to be here, go through all those emotions...
When we saw her, it would be cool for Susie to come. Last year, my favorite memory of the race last year was Dan was going out of the on his parade lap afterward. I had this crazy notion in my head I was going to carjack him. I'm standing in pit lane, I'm disappointed, but at the same time I'm happy for my friend. I see him coming toward me. This is going to be good. I see his face. He was just sobbing. It meant so much to him. Everything that had happened to him with not having a regular drive, all the stuff with his mum, Alzheimer's. I couldn't do it. I just gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him.
It meant a lot that Susie was able to come around with us today.
Q. Could you speak about allowing yourself to feel really happy and pleased. Some people would say after Las Vegas you accomplished so much in the sport, just if you could talk about the range of emotion from that to a rough start to the season, you might say, to getting to where you are today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think racing is emotion. Life is, as well. But racing I think really exemplifies that, if that's the right word. And Vegas was the lowest of the low. Fontana '99 and Vegas last year were the lowest of the low.
I think the reason we all got back in the cars, the reasons all the mechanics got back in pit lane, the fans came back to the races, is days like today, the emotion of something like today. That's certainly why I got back in the car.
There's not a feeling like standing in Victory Lane there. There isn't.
Q. How do you describe Sato's move. Brave? Rash? Just plain foolish?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: None of those. As I said, I thought it was a good move until the mistake he made, I guess, he got loose. He was relying on the balance of the car as he turns in the corner. The car was obviously too loose.
Last lap of the Indianapolis 500. I wouldn't expect him to lift at that point. He was sort of getting alongside. I don't think the exact thing. I think his front wheels and my rear wheels were alongside. He put me in a position that I had to go wide.
As I said, the only mistake was when the car got loose. Maybe that's experience. Maybe the car was just bloody oversteering. I don't know. But that was it.
Q. Dario, in your TV interview you mentioned all your IndyCar wins have been achieved with Honda power. Can you talk about the effort that the Honda guys put in after your struggles with qualifying.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely, good point. I mean, you know how upset I was on qualifying day. I was angry. You come here. As I said, I had no expectations for the race, but I thought we'd be quick, and we weren't.
I think I was fairly honest and clear about being upset with it. The Honda guys were working hard, have worked hard, since before the start of the season. But they've been playing catch-up. Made the turnaround from Sunday to Carb Day, it was very impressive. Just look to those guys out there, I thanked every one of them. We've been in battle together a few times before. They continue to amaze me. When we're up against Chevy, who are smart people, what they did today, beating them, but the turnaround from last week is something very special, I think.
Q. Do you think this kind of win can support plan to extend the IndyCar championship to Europe again, like Rockingham or Germany? Do you think there's any real chance in the near future?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think we have a good fan base in Europe, and it's growing. But it's a tough one. If you look at a lot of the sponsors on the cars, Target, for instance, they're in business in Canada, mainly in the U.S. A lot of the other team sponsors are the same. We have to be careful not to put a lot of races in places where we can't provide our sponsors with value. So that's a difficult one.
I think also the fan base in America, as well, we've got to strengthen the fan base in the U.S., strengthen the TV package first, then we can go from there.
IndyCar has obviously a multi-national driver lineup, engine manufacturers, all that. But IndyCar is a U.S.-based series. Obviously we go to Canada and have a great time, China and Brazil this year. But let's not forget our core. As much as I would love to race in Europe.
Q. We spoke earlier in the month about predictions. Sitting where you are today, is it something you had an inkling might happen earlier in the month?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No. Like I said earlier, I don't have any expectations for the race. Dixie and I, we get on with it. We show up with the best car that we can. The engineering brains, they work so bloody hard. We all try to work together to try to come up with the best cars, go racing, see what the race will give us.
I didn't know. I really didn't. I tend to find it works better here for me to keep a very open mind and not expect too much, just drive the car. Whatever is in front of you, deal with it. Look at the crew today, the way they dealt with that front wing problem. They just got on with it. It was pretty impressive.
Q. One of the things you had to deal with today was the heat. How much of a factor was it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, I'll say it wasn't as much of a factor for the drivers as it was for the people in pit lane and the people in the stands. I was getting pretty hot in there, but I had 220 miles-an-hour air-conditioning. I was thinking, How hot is it in the stands? How hot are the pit crew?
I've been hydrating all week. Days like today, we spend so much time working out. It was a hot one, though? Did we break the record?
Q. One degree short.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Certainly didn't feel like it. But the track got very slippery. We were lucky the Firestone tires were unbelievably consistent from the first lap of a stint right through to the end.
Q. The new chassis gave us a lot of drafting and passing today, tremendous race. Last summer when the car was being developed, did Dan give you any feedback as to what they were working on?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Dan had to sign an agreement saying he wouldn't talk to anybody about anything to do with it. We sweated him with it. He was like, D Frank, I can't talk to you about it. He gave me that look. Dan had a certain look. Joking around, but a certain look when he wanted to get a point across. A very steely look. His youngest son Oliver can do it, which freaks me out a bit. He just wouldn't talk about it. He worked bloody hard on it. I know that. He was the right man for the job.