Transcript - Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Post-Race Press Conference
MODERATOR: We are joined by Simon Pagenaud from Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. This is a career best finish for Simon, previous best career finish was fourth, which he did three times, Mont Tremblant, Toronto and Edmonton, which is also a best finish for team owner Sam Schmidt in the IZOD IndyCar Series. His previous best finish was with driver Jaques Lazier, which was third in Nashville in 2001. Simon, you certainly put on a show today, reeling in Will there at the end. Walk us through the race in those closing laps.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't really know until I watch the race, to be honest, what happened because it seems like it was a pretty cool race to watch. So I'm glad for the fans. I'm glad to be back in Long Beach. It's a place where I've been pretty lucky in the past with two wins in sports cars, so I love coming back here. The Schmidt/Hamilton racing team is just fantastic at the moment. I think we are a one‑car team, but we need to give a lot of credit to Sam and the whole team for putting such a program together. They're the strongest in Indy Lights with five championship wins, and here we are again with second position today in the IndyCar Series.
A lot of credit to those boys. HP is a big support for us with my new ride Best Buy, so thanks to them for giving us what we need to fight against Penske and Ganassi.
MODERATOR: We've also been joined by James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport, James is also having a career best finish today. His career best finish was fourth, which he did several times at St. Pete, Long Beach, New Hampshire and Kentucky. In three starts this season James has yet to finish outside the top six. First podium. Walk us through today's race if you can.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't know where to start. It was a bit of an eventful race, but man, I know from my seat it was certainly exciting. I bet it was from the outside, too. It's cool to see some exciting racing back in IndyCar.
For us, clean start, didn't have the greatest first stint, kind of got held up behind E.J., he was struggling with the balance you could see, but ultimately it came down to the Andretti guys making the best calls on the pit stand. They've been doing that week in and week out this season. It's cool to have such a great team behind you supporting you and making those right decisions because that's what makes IndyCar racing so cool is you can start 16th and still have a crack at this thing if you play the strategy right. Credit to them. The GoDaddy car was strong right up to the end. I think my fastest lap was the second last lap of the race. Didn't quite have enough to catch Simon and Will, so congrats to them.
I do feel bad for Ryan, because obviously we finished fourth on track but with Ryan's penalty, and I only got there because of Ryan. He was punching holes left, right and center and I was just following him through for a lot of the race, so big thanks to him as well. Hopefully it's not the last time I get a trophy in this series.
THE MODERATOR: What is this we hear about seeing baby-face Hinch in two weeks?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, I may or may not have foolishly made a bet with Wade Cunningham, and the bet was that after my first podium I had to show up to the next race with a completely clean-shaven face, and that's not happened since about 2004. So I guess in Brazil you're going to be seeing baby face Hinch show up, and I'm not thrilled about that.
Q. Simon, in your mind what was the biggest reason for your success today?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Every time he's (Hinchcliffe) around we have a blast. I hope we get to do many podiums together.
I think it's mostly my engineer and all the development they are doing is not by himself. He's got a few other engineers working with him, so Ben Bretzman, Nick Snyder and Brendon Cleave, those guys are really close together, and the fact that we're an one‑car team is actually not a bad thing because they're very focused on just my car and very focused on my feedback. So everything I'm asking, I get it.
So we just – obviously it's taking us a little bit longer than those guys with three cars because we don't have as many data, especially this weekend with less sessions. But when we have a normal weekend, we can actually be with those guys because we have time to catch up.
When we don't unload from the truck really well, it's a little bit harder like it has been this weekend, but still, they make good decisions as you can see, and I think it's all about the right decisions at the right time, and I think that's what they're doing.
Q. Simon, not to pick on E.J. Viso, could have been any back marker, you had to have mixed emotions when you saw Will come upon him and slow down and then you had to realize you've got to get around him. What went through your mind at those two moments?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I really thought I would have a go when E.J. was there. I thought E.J. did a good job. He did his best to get out of the way in the right place. There's not much else he could have done, really. I was hoping we was going to end up a little bit more, so it gave me some time, but I just needed one more lap or a little bit more pace. But to be honest, that's all I had, and I think it's plenty quick.
But it is what it is; sometimes you can make it happen, and sometimes you don't have the opportunity. But he knows we're coming.
Q. Simon, this is along the same lines because I know race control asked the car 5 and 6 to move over for the leaders, and it seems like car 5 took a while, at least a lap before he did so, and I know there aren't too many places around the track, but if he would have done it sooner do you think you could have challenged Will Power?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't know. With a lot of ifs, you could change the world. It is what it is at the end of the day. I'm really happy with second. If I had an opportunity, I would have definitely tried. You can trust me on that. The day I have the opportunity, I will try.
But I didn't have the opportunity, so I don't think I'll go end up (indiscernible) once again badly during the middle of the race, but that's another story. The others I think are doing a pretty good job.
Q. Simon, can you clarify for us, your car appeared to have the best view of the first-lap incident. Did you think Dario (Franchitti) made the contact with (Josef) Newgarden?
SIMON PAGENAUD: That's going to start to be political now. To me it looks like Dario drove him into the wall, but that's just to me. I'm not in his car, I'm not in Josef's car. Again, I need to watch the race and then I could have a clear point of view. I think it's a little bit harsh for me to say what I said.
Q. The tire that you struck, was there somebody on your outside when you hit power's tire?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Actually, you know what happened, is when I got out of the pits I saw somebody coming in my mirror, so I tried to stay as far as I could on the inside to leave him room, but it was actually Will, but I didn't know it was him. So I did my best to stay on the right to avoid a contact with that car, and I touched the tire. Really sorry about any delay I could have caused him. But it's a tight pit lane.
Q. James, you get your first career podium. I'm wondering, are you celebrating it or you sort of got it by something happening in front of you.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: No, you certainly – any competitor wants to earn it. I would have rather have done that pass on the track to get the first podium, to get any podium, to get anything. You don't like being given stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it's a function of racing, and it is what it is. Sometimes those things work for you and sometimes they work against you, so it all sort of balances out, and you just have to take these little things when they come.
Q. How does Long Beach compare to other races on the circuit?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: How does it compare? Long Beach is fantastic. I mean, this is a race that everybody looks forward to coming to every single year because, selfishly from the driver's point of view, the track is a lot of fun to drive. It usually produces really good races. And then from the fan point of view, the atmosphere, the environment, everything about this event is just so cool. It's been around 38 years now and there's a reason for that, still. And yeah, it's a favorite among drivers, it's a favorite among fans, and I love coming back here. It's always treated me pretty well. I wished we raced here three or four times a year selfishly.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it's a great place with a lot of history. It's good to come to California, as well. It changes from Florida where we are all winter long. It's nice to be here, and to me, as well, has been a pretty good track to me. The fans, they show up – it's a pretty big crowd out there. As James said, there's a great atmosphere, great restaurants around, so it's cool for us to come over here.
Q. Simon, as the only Honda among the top seven after the penalty, is that kind of demoralizing to see that?
SIMON PAGENAUD: No, it's not. I think Honda is doing a great job. I think it's very tight with Chevy. But you know, Chevy has got ‑‑ teams like Penske and Andretti with six cars, so it's quite a bit of cars to beat, and they're very strong as a team. I think it's just the consistencies of the race. I think drafting the Chevy, I don't feel like we're doing. I don't feel like anything is better on their side. I just think it is what it is at the moment. But luck turns around, so we'll see.
Q. For both you guys, how did the new rules with keeping the pits open during some of the full-course yellows affect your races?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Honestly, I don't know. I need to watch the race. I just came back to the pit as early as possible when they said pit, pit, pit, and I tried to rush into the pit. I think it makes it better for the strategist. It shuffles everything, and you can – we initially started to think we would do the race on two stops, and because of that we changed our plan. So I think it makes for good racing.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Sort of like Simon said, I don't know exactly – that's a tough question to answer without watching the race. But our strategy seemed to change lap by lap. It was pit in five laps, pit in four laps, pit in two laps, pit now. It's sort of a bit of a bouncing ball for us. I think what is cool about this new rule is that it's not a guarantee. Bo has the right or the prerogative to close the pits under a caution if it's a severe enough accident and he doesn't want people at speed trying to catch up or in pit lane. It just throws another element in there, another unknown, and I just think that's great for the racing, spices things up a bit.
Q. Simon, at what point after your second stop did your team tell you that you would or would not be able to make it, and did they tell you to go for it at that point because you were pulling out enough of a gap and you needed to close back the gap after your third stop?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I asked them at some point where I was because I didn't know what was going on. I was just pushing as hard as I could with what they were saying. At the beginning of the race they said do this fuel mileage and you need to go as fast as you can so I was doing the fuel mileage and once we started thinking about the three‑stop strategy it was clear I had to push and not save fuel. So I pushed as hard as I could at the end when Will was behind me. I realized if he wasn't staying up with me, it's because he was saving fuel, so I knew he was going to the end and I wasn't, so I was trying to open up the gap.
I understood, but when the team is just telling me to go as fast as possible, I just go as fast as possible. I don't think that much.
Q. Have you ever closed on a leader like that before?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I did in 2010 (in ALMS). I thought it was a repeat of what happened in LMP1 in 2010 when I passed Adrian Fernandez in the last lap. I was hoping he was going to make the same mistake, but he didn't.
MODERATOR: We have now been joined by our race winner Will Power of Team Penske. This is the 17th career win for Will Power, his last win was two weekends ago at Barber. Will's last back‑to‑back victories came in Infineon and Baltimore in 2010. This is his second victory at Long Beach. He previously won here at the Champ Car finale in 2008, and this is Penske's first win at Long Beach since 2001. Another great race for you. You said earlier never say never. Talk about overcoming that ten‑grid penalty to win today's race.
WILL POWER: I think it came down to a good call in the beginning there to pit, and then obviously we had to save very good fuel throughout the whole race. So yeah, at the end I was very aware of Simon's strategy, especially after he passed Sato, of the gap and the fuel that I needed to get to the end. We saved enough fuel to be able to push for the last two laps, so I felt we were pretty safe. The only thing was the couple of back markers there on the last. That was the only thing that really concerned me. But apart from that it was just running as hard as I possibly could, getting a good lap time with high fuel mileage, and that was the key to the race.
Q. Two questions: Number one: How far in the field do you have to start before you won't win? And two, if you could talk about when you did come upon Viso, how much of a concern that was and how difficult it was to get around him?
WILL POWER: It was difficult because whoever was in front of him, they almost got together in the hairpin, so when I got a run, it was – I got a very slow run. I mean, yeah, the guy was kind of in the way. I don't think it was deliberate or anything. I'm not sure his team informed him that the leaders were coming.
Yeah, what was your first question?
Q. How far back do you have to be in the field to not win?
WILL POWER: Yeah, pole. If you get on pole you won't win. We've experienced that a number of times here and many other tracks.
Q. Under the circumstances of the 10‑spot penalty, how much sweeter if at all is this victory at Long Beach versus the one you had in the 2008 Champ Car finale?
WILL POWER: This was a very sweet victory because I've been on pole here I think '09, '10 and '11, and it just frustrated me that every year something would happen and I couldn't win. I thought, oh, once again this weekend I'm starting 12th. I felt as though that's impossible to win. I've got another bad year at Long Beach.
I could not believe it. It was just a good race, pushed hard all the time, no mistakes, great strategy, just a great team effort again. Yeah, it is – I go into every season thinking that there's no way I can win another race. I don't know why I feel like that, but I do, and that's always my – I guess I have an insecurity or something or I don't believe in myself enough. Yeah, that's always my feeling
Q. Describe this race for you. We're used to seeing you attack if you have to make up positions, but today seemed to be something where you didn't necessarily attack the whole time and kind of played it smart knowing that you had a long distance to travel.
WILL POWER: I passed when I could. Every time I could get a run, I passed. I think that was the key to the victory was making those moves on (Takuma) Sato, I think James, I can't remember who else. But that was a key. And on those laps you use a lot of fuel, so then you've got to – Tim (Cindric) is on the radio saying, you must save fuel. You have to use fuel to do that but then save extra to make up for the fuel that you used and get the lap time. So it was just a day of pushing as hard as I could while saving fuel. It was a good race like as far as passing and strategy and everything, again, two weeks in a row.
Q. Will, this morning the attitude of your team and yourself going into the race as to what your potential outcome could be, what were your thought processes?
WILL POWER: We were thinking top-five would be a very good day for points. That's what we were thinking. You always believe that it is possible to win or get on the podium, but it was very unlikely, the fact that it was going to be a two‑stop race. But it was just amazing that Simon did three stops and I did two stops, like two different strategies. Obviously he could run hard the whole time and not save fuel, and I saved fuel and did the best lap time I could. And the result was very similar. There was hardly any time between us as we crossed the finish line.
It's just always a surprise in IndyCar, I think. You can never predict – you can never assume going into a race. You just have to be smart as it plays out.
Q. Going into the race, how many laps, green flag laps, did you think you could make on a fuel run?
WILL POWER: Well, we were thinking 28. All I know, all I ask the team before every race is what lap number, if the radios go out, will I have to pit, if possible, and they said 28. What's two times 28? I don't know, whatever it is. On those laps you have to pit. I try to work that out in my head when the radios go out. What's two times 28?
Q. So you got 31 – that's pretty impressive.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think my engineer says it was amazing the lap time and fuel mileage I got. He said it was very good.
Q. What did you think of the pits being open immediately, not from the standpoint of strategy but in terms of what the pit road looked like relative to open spaces? I know you had the problem with Simon, but basically it's a much cleaner entry and exit.
WILL POWER: It is, when you get – but sure enough, there was a guy leaving the pit as we were coming in and they sent him right in front of me and then he hit my tire. I was kind of pissed off after that. I asked the team, did he get a penalty, and they said no. I couldn't believe it because I literally stopped for him as he left the pit, and I just knew that would happen. I just go back to Kentucky when I lost the championship because of that – someone just sends it; a team doesn't care, someone is coming and they just send them into you.
But this time I pre-empted it, so I stopped, let him go, and then he hits my tire, so that screws that part – makes a massively long stop. But I'm aware in pit lane now – I've lost two championships in pit lane because of things like that, so that's why I'm so keen on not getting in an incident.
Q. I believe there was a radio transmission as Simon was catching up to you and Tim Cindric said go faster but a little bit faster. How did you calculate that, and what's the danger of just getting involved in a fast lap and using too much fuel?
WILL POWER: No, I was very aware of – I have a fuel number on my dash, and he gave me a number. I was very good at picking a number and understanding how much – I've got so many different levels of speed and fuel that I can do, and I just slowly picked it up and just used a little bit more fuel, went in a bit deeper everywhere. It's just experience of fuel save, and just driving. That's where it's at, you know.
Q. At Barber, you thought that was one of the better IndyCar races in a long time. How did you think this one stacked up?
WILL POWER: I think just from what I saw there was a lot of passing and some very good passes in front of me. I didn't know what happened to Marco (Andretti). It looked like in front of me there was a big crash. But it looked to me, the cars I passed and the passing that I saw, and even the start, I think (race director) Beaux Barfield did a good job of getting everyone stacked up so it looked like a good start and good restarts, that people weren't going too early. Yes, it was very good racing, again, and I hope it was on TV. I don't know. I can only tell you what I saw.
Q. Both at Barber and here, drivers constantly say the tracks were difficult to pass, but at Barber there was passing like there's never been before, there was times they were three wide going through corners which they've never done before. Do you think this new car is making it possible to do things that you haven't been able to do in the past?
WILL POWER: I think it's the tires, and maybe the new car is quite draggy, so it creates a big hole in the air and allows the car behind to get a good draft. But I think it's Firestone; between new and old there's a big time difference, and I think they can go more with that. That's definitely what it was in Barber, but here maybe just the draft effect made it a bit better, too.
Q. Speaking of the fuel mileage, on the cool-down lap you stopped in the hairpin. Were you out of fuel?
WILL POWER: No, there was just a big stack-up. No one told me to go the back way. Actually, I had enough fuel to get around, no problem.
Q. The last two years you've come close to winning the championship and something happened at the end and you didn't do it. Do you feel like this might be your year?
WILL POWER: After the last two years, I just don't know. But all I know is I'm just going to do my absolute best at every race.
Q. You saved a lot of fuel, which allowed you to go quick at the end, but Simon was really, really closing down. How nervous were you in those closing laps with back markers and such?
WILL POWER: With three to go I had a four‑second gap, or three‑and‑a‑half‑second gap. I wasn't worried because I knew I could at least run under a second from him. I could probably equal his lap time if I pushed really hard. We had saved enough fuel to run really hard for the last two laps if we had to.
You know, I think it was at six to go, I had a six‑second gap, so I was very aware all the time. I knew how fast he was. I thought it was about a second a lap quicker, and I knew that we'd saved fuel, so on the last two laps we could push if it came to him being right on me.
Q. Penske is perfect on the season – three poles, three race wins. Why do you think that is and what's the mood of the organization?
WILL POWER: I think it's just that they've been probably one of the best prepared with the new car. We did a lot of miles. Chevy has worked very hard, and obviously our first hit of the year – the 10‑spot grid penalty was a precautionary thing and didn't affect us too badly, obviously. But yeah, to me it was hard work.
I think whenever you're winning, the whole team feels very good. I think my guys feel very confident no matter where we start now that it's always possible. I think that's good for them. It's good for all of us. So yes, I think the team mood should be good, because if it's not good now, it never will be.