Surprise winner of the Toyota GP of Long Beach Mike Conway and team owner Michael Andretti, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti meet the media.
Q: Mike, congratulations. It's got to feel good to get that first win. Could you talk about that last restart and then that pass on Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead?
MIKE CONWAY: "Yeah, I mean, initially I was just kind of following Will [Power] and Ryan. The car was good, kind of just saving fuel, just keeping the gap the same and not pushing too hard, trying to save a little bit of the tires just in case. If they pitted early I still had some tires left to push.
"And we came in for that pit stop, and things kind of went a little bit wrong from there. A little bit my fault, I think, just coming in just locked the tire in. There was a problem with the left front. From there it was kind of a case of trying to pass as many cars as I could. But, at the same time, it wasn't easy; it was tough.
"But as soon as we came out on the reds and kind of jumped a few people in the pits, the car kind of came to life again, and yeah, on the restarts the car was awesome. Everyone else was kind of struggling for grip and we were just kind of charging through.
"Yeah, great we won, and Dario and Ryan I passed later, so it was nice to really fight for the lead there and a nice clean pass, and from there it was kind of just head down and try and pull away."
Q. Were you surprised at how big a gap you were able to open up once you were in the lead? You just drove away from them...
MIKE CONWAY: "Yeah, I mean, as I said, the car was good on the restarts and I was kind of just pushing the car to its limits, as always, and yeah, they just kind of dropped away from my mirrors, so it sort of made my day a little bit easier not having to fight with Ryan all the way through to the end there. The car just was good, and we were just able to pull away.
"I think the gap that we pulled so quickly was great, and I would just keep it from there. So yeah. I don't know – a little bit surprised maybe, but the car felt hooked up, so I thought I could do it."
Q: Michael, What made you take a chance on Mike and his comeback this year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "First of all, I don't think it was a chance. I think Mike showed a lot of signs of brilliance last year at the beginning of the season and then, unfortunately, had his accident. Coming back, I had no question in my mind. I personally felt like he was going to be hungrier than ever coming back, and that's exactly the way it came about. The first time he got in a racecar for us, he was literally up in speed in about four or five laps after being out of a car that long.
"I never felt like it was taking a chance. I was so happy that we were able to put a deal together with Mike because I was really wanting him all the way from the end of last year, and the deal came together really late and I was very happy because I felt like he was going to be a great addition to the team not only as a great talent, but he just fits in with the other three drivers, which is quite important to have that chemistry. And I think we have a great chemistry right now between the drivers, and because of that, I feel really good about the rest of this year. I think we're going to be strong."
Q. You won last year with Ryan Hunter‑Reay; your father Mario had a lot of success here; you had a lot of success here. Is this one of your favorite tracks?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "It's a special place, for sure. For me personally, like you said, winning my first and my last race here, my career, and there's something about Long Beach. When you come here, you just feel the energy. It's different than anywhere we go. The fans are just so great, and the track is great, promoters are great. It's a fun part of the year.
"You know, it seems like when I go to places like that, you feel like you do better, and I think maybe that's one of the things that really has always affected me in that way and that's why I've had good luck here."
Q. Mike, considering what happened last year, how much does this victory mean to you, and did you at any point after last year's accident think that your career might be over?
MIKE CONWAY: "Well, yeah. I mean, initially I saw the injuries I had, and I just wasn't sure when I'd get back. Yeah, things like that can definitely stop your career. But I was just determined to not let it, determined to get back, back to fitness and back in a car. As soon as we were kind of talking to Michael, it was really exciting times knowing that we could possibly be with such a good team like Andretti Autosport. Yeah, for it to finally come together was awesome.
"This year just full of energy and just all ready for the fight ahead. A long season. To get a win in the third race in, third race back, is awesome, and I can't thank Michael enough for believing in me and the team for doing such a great job."
Q: Ryan, After really a tough first two races of the year, you've got to be happy with the second-place finish?
RYAN BRISCOE: "It's amazing. What a weekend. We came out of the box really strong and led a couple of the practice sessions and then qualifying just was a mess. It was a combination of things, didn't really get a clear lap together, and we went the wrong direction on setup and I ended up in 12th. It's crazy how competitive the IZOD IndyCar Series is right now. Just by a fine mistune of the setup we're sitting 12th on the grid when I thought I was going to be going for pole.
"To be able to be back up on the podium fighting for the win today, absolutely amazing. Roger Penske, he made the master call again, and it worked. We pitted before that full-course caution came out. We started on the hard tire, which we were the first car on the grid actually on hard tires, so when we got back out, we were on the soft tire, able to make a gap over Hunter‑Reay and Will and stay ahead of them after the next pit stop. So that was key to at least giving us a shot at winning.
"Unfortunately, at the end, Mike Conway, he was just a bullet. I don't think he got pickup on the tires and just drove around Dario and myself like we were standing still and drove into the distance. But it was a great race. Really want to thank Penske Truck Rental and IZOD. Without them I wouldn't be here. And obviously Roger Penske, he's just a legend to race for."
Q: Dario, could you can walk us through your race today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: "Absolutely delighted with a podium finish. A lot of Target guests today. They always come to the Long Beach Grand Prix, so we had a lot of guests.
"Yeah, qualifying wasn't great yesterday, wasn't what we hoped for. I was a little surprised at the start. It was more spaced out than I thought it would be. On the one hand, I was disappointed not to have a chance to pass the guys ahead. On the other hand, I was just happy we made it through the first corner unscathed.
"First run the car was very good actually, inconsistent all day, though. It was very quick from sort of Turn 1 right through to Turn 10, but just out of the hairpin, I don't think I did a good enough job relaying to my engineers what I needed there this weekend so we would get gapped out of the hairpin by about one or two car lengths and I couldn't make it up on the rest of the straightaways so it was very difficult to make a pass, and that was consistent all day. But the car was good on reds, good on blacks in that second spin.
"I lost the radio. I could hear them; they couldn't hear me, actually. I could hear them intermittently, I guess, after the first stop. Second stop, really struggled to get up to speed. I don't know if we tried something different with tire pressures or what, but I struggled to get up to speed out of the pits, lost a bunch of positions and, after the restart, I thought we were doing OK, we were kind of sliding around and trying to clean the tires up, and here comes the Conway Express. He was hooked up and blew by both of us in two coughs.
"I spent a lot of the day stuck under the wing of a Penske, whether it was Helio [Castroneves] or Ryan at the end there. I felt I was a little quicker through a lot of the track, but just out of that hairpin was getting gapped all day. I'll have to think about how to fix that for next year.
"At one point we'd made some places up, and then with my slow lap it got us back in traffic again to I think T7, so when the guys got together in Turn 1, that was definitely a lucky break for me and got me back on the podium. So very happy with that."
Q. Ryan, once Conway got past you, it looked like he was pulling out about a half second a lap. Was his car that good or were you just struggling a little bit on the restart?
RYAN BRISCOE: "Well, you know, I was thinking about it, and I just really think it came down to the fact that Dario and I on that restart were right down the inside of the track and drove through about, you know, 600 feet of marbles into Turn 1, and I think we just coated our tires with a lot of rubbish. I'm not positive because I haven't seen it, but I'd be guessing that Conway probably kept his tires clean and was more on the racing line. It took us six, seven laps until it started feeling good.
I think our lap times at the end were pretty competitive and just as good as his, if not quicker, but just him keeping his tires clean, it made all the difference. I thought I was doing a good job, and I'd be trying to get the power down and he'd just drive by me. You know, kudos to him. It's a pretty special place for him to get his first ever IZOD IndyCar win, and he drove well, so good job."
DARIO FRANCHITTI: "Yeah, I never thought about that. You're probably right (about the marbles). I thought they were supposed to sweep. There was no sweeping all day, and I was behind Ryan on the last restart, and I got in the marbles trying to draft him and pass him, and I was completely sideways on the straight, because for some reason we talk about sweeping the inside of the first corner or the outside so we can actually run side by side, and I guess they just forgot today."
Q: Were either of you involved or near any of the accidents today, and if so, how did you respond with your car?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: "I was pretty close to that last one in Turn 1. I locked up the fronts going in, and I was just able to get around – I think Scott [Dixon] had to hit some of the debris. Scott was an innocent bystander there and he was coming through and there was all kinds of crap lying on the track, and I just managed to get a tighter lane than Scott and miss it, so I was pretty lucky there."
RYAN BRISCOE: "I started 12th, but we were so spread out, I was actually quite happy that we were spread out – I couldn't sleep last night because I just wanted to get through Turn 1 today, and I was like, 'Perfect, I've got no one around me, let's just get this race going.' After that the next restart I was leading, and it was definitely a nice place to be on restarts.
Q. Ryan, after Barber you talked about how big a hole you were in. Just how badly did you need this today?
RYAN BRISCOE: "Yeah, real bad. I mean, points, confidence, you know, the team, everybody. It means a lot. We've been performing well, and I really think the 6 car in general from myself, my engineer, everybody, we're really motivated this year. I think we've picked up the game. We're stronger as a team, and it's just been real heartbreak not to get the results in the first few races because we've been up in the front and we've been strong.
"So coming here, you know, we didn't qualify very well. To get this result means a lot more than just points. I think it's just going to strengthen us as a team moving forward."
Q. You had kind of gapped when you got out in front, you put a little bit of space between you and the others, but when Conway got by you later on, was he just that much better or had your car changed from the earlier point in time?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: "Well, I think when I'd really gapped the field, I was on soft tires, they were on hard tires, so that was the real difference. We started on hard tires, whereas everybody else in front of me had started on the soft, so I had that advantage in the second stint. For me it was going to be important to gap because I didn't have as much fuel in the car, and I was going to have to pit at least two laps before Hunter‑Reay and Power, who were behind me. So I knew that with the slow out‑lap before they were going to have to make their out‑lap I was going to have to make a gap. I think we got it up a bit over four seconds or so, and it was just enough. Both of them, I came down the straight and they were both braking to come out of the pits and come out in front of me, so we just got in front of them, and that was key. At the end of the race, Conway had a fast car. Again, I think it was just a case of having cleaned the tires.
"Just one other thing: The crowd was amazing, just want to say that. On the parade laps they were so enthusiastic. There was a massive crowd, has been all weekend, and then on that truck right after the finish the enthusiasm and just the number of people, it was good to see. It's been a long time since I've seen that kind of vibe at Long Beach, and it was cool."
Q. For Michael, talk about how quickly your emotions changed from when Ryan had his issue and then all of a sudden you look up and there's Mike in the lead?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "It was crazy and I've got to admit, unexpected. It's so difficult to pass here, so I was really happy to see Mike up in the top six, and I thought, 'That's not bad considering what he had to go through,' and at that point we were feeling good about where Ryan was and then all of a sudden Ryan has this problem and I felt really bad for him and the whole DHL Sun Drop team, and I was like, 'Oh, man, this is over.' And then all of a sudden everybody starts cheering, and I'm like, 'What are they cheering about?' and Mike is like, boom, going past Dario, and next thing you know he's past Briscoe. Unbelievable. And then he just walked it. I was so happy and proud.
"But like you say, mixed emotions. That's the only downside about it when you have a four‑car team, that not everybody is going to be happy leaving here. I feel bad for the other three, but so excited for Mike, and I know what he's gone through and how hard it's been, and to come here and do it that way was – it wasn't given to him. He had to fight back hard, and it just shows he doesn't give up, and that's what he did. He drove like a champion today.
Q. Mike, you made it sound like it was an easy drive today. Did you have any difficulties at all during the race?
MIKE CONWAY: "Yeah, maybe I'm making it sound too easy! No, it was not
an easy day. I mean, at the beginning it was just kind of controlling it, the gap between me and Ryan and Will and saving fuel, and from there, once we dropped back in the pack, it was a fight, really, a fight to stay where we were and to try and move forward on the restarts and to keep us in the game. Restarts worked out for us, the strategy worked well, and yeah, the car was just on fire, really, at the end. We were just able to push by the guys and make some good moves, and before I knew it I was in the lead and went for kind of a few laps. Yeah, just a great job from the guys made my day that little bit easier, I suppose."