Honda Indy Toronto winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and his car owner Michael Andretti meet the media after their third straight IZOD IndyCar Series win.
What can I say, I love Toronto. I think everybody knows that. It's been a great track to me as a driver. We struggled here a little bit from the owner's standpoint. It was great to finally get to Victory Lane.
Ryan did a fantastic drive. The team did great pit stops. The whole DHL team, couldn't ask for a better team for them.
Q: Michael, in 1989, your first win here, tremendous feeling. Is there any similarity at all to today, your first win as an owner? And are there six more to come?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I hope so! I don't know. It's always different as an owner and a driver. They're both really special in their way. As a driver there's more of that self-satisfaction. As an owner it's a great feeling, too. More the camaraderie of the people.
I feel happy for everybody on the team that has worked so hard. But it's great. I do hope there's more than six, because hopefully I can be an owner a lot longer than I was a driver.
Q: Three weeks ago Ryan wins at Milwaukee, then he wins at Iowa; he's great on the short tracks. Now it's three in a row. How formidable do you see him being in the championship?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think he's a real factor in the championship. He's really strong on these types of [street] tracks as well. He doesn't have a weakness when he's driving. That's what you need to have as a driver. As a team owner, to have a driver like that, that's something we liked about Ryan, that we could be competitive on all types of tracks.
We're looking forward to the next how many races we have. I don't think there's a weak track for him.
Q: James Hinchcliffe came into this weekend with a lot of expectation locally. He had a disappointing weekend. Can you talk about that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I feel bad for him because he was doing a helluva job. He was going to be a factor for the win watching the times he was running. They did a good strategy as well, and then his engine had a problem which was a shame.
It wasn't anything Ryan did wrong. I think he was driving a helluva race. The whole Go Daddy team is doing a good job with their strategy. I thought we were looking at a really strong contender there. I was hoping for a shot at the 1-2. I mean, he just had bad luck, plain and simple.
Q: Michael, as a driver and as an owner you've seen streaks. What do you advise your driver who is probably on the hottest streak of his career how to handle it going into the next few races?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Don't do anything different than you've been doing the last three races. He's been late every Thursday for his engineering meeting, so he's got to plan on being late for the next one in Edmonton.
I don't think Ryan should do anything different. I don't think the team should do anything different. We should just continue to do our job. If everybody does their job, we should be OK. If there's no mistakes made the rest of the year, I think we have a good shot at winning the championship.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's great to be sitting here. Toronto is one of my favorite races, so this is a special one for sure. Three in a row is awesome. We're just concentrating on doing well, doing what we've been doing.
We've been good on street circuits in the past. It's nice to go from the ovals to a street course and be able to win on both. It shows that this team is capable of a lot. It's all about them. It's all about the car they give me and the job they do in the pits. Just how the whole team is working together, it's a real pleasure to be a part of.
Q: At what point did you know this was yours?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Right from the get-go when we slotted in. We were fifth or sixth. I knew I had a pretty good car. I was content with staying there for a little bit, saving fuel, waiting for the track to rubber-in a little bit.
We pit. All of a sudden the track started coming to us. We were going quicker than we were in the first stint by a lot. When we put on the Firestone reds at the end, we were really fast.
It's been nice. The last few times we led at the right times, at the end. Like the guys said, it sounds cliché, to jump into pit lane and have a flawless pit stop each time is instrumental to winning. Those guys just did an awesome job. The car was great. To win here in Canada with Chevrolet, it's great.
Certainly we're on a streak, but I see it more that we're reaching our capability in what we can do. I certainly hope there's a lot more to come. We just need to have a real strong end to the season like we did last year.
Q: You had a comfortable lead going into the final five laps, and all of a sudden the yellow comes out. You know there's going to be the restart. How antsy were you knowing what this course can do, knowing that the comfortable lead you had was going to be done?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Was a strange feeling. I'm eight laps in the lead and I couldn't see anybody ahead of me, nobody behind me. You're sitting there leading the race. It's a weird feeling because you're all by yourself, but you still have to push 110%.
I'm thinking 20 laps, 10 laps, still no yellow. There's no way this thing can go green the whole thing. Then, boom, the yellow comes out.
The worst thing about a restart when you're leading is getting the rubber accumulation, the marbles on the tires. That is the worst part. You're just trying to tiptoe around, keep the tires clean, and hope you don't step wrong on the first corner, because that's when the tires are at their worst and you could easily go offline picking up marbles. That could take you another lap to clean off tires.
We got through it and had a great restart. It was unfortunate to finish under yellow. I would have liked the fans to have seen a green finish, but that's Toronto. Turn 3 is Mayhem Corner, so...
Q: Hard to believe that just a few days after the 4th of July there's only five races left to the season and here you are in the lead. This is like the stretch drive here for the title. How do you prepare yourself for that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think, like Michael said, we keep doing what we're doing. We just won two races in a row. We came here and didn't do anything else. People weren't acting any different. We were having fun doing what we do.
Like I said, the team is really clicking together. We're all good friends. It's the right environment. We just keep doing that. The only nerve-wracking part about the points bit, the championship chase, is that you don't want to come under anybody else's mistake. It's not so bad if you, yourself, take yourself out of the race. That's your own fault. If somebody just cleans you out, that's what you worry about most. But that's natural.
We're just going to keep doing what we're doing, nothing overcomplicated, and really enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it, you're not going to win, that's for sure.
Q: This three-race stretch is on very diverse tracks. To have won on all three, that's pretty impressive. Can you talk more about that, the personal satisfaction?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It is. You know, to win three races in a row is very special. It's a dream of mine. This is what I've always wanted since I was little, to be competing in the IndyCar Series, top-level team, winning back-to-back races, and being in a place for the championship. This is incredibly special for me. I'm appreciative of every lap that I get in this series because I love it.
You know, looking forward, with five races to go, like I said, we just need to really enjoy it. It's nice to have realized that we're in this position. And this is what I've always wanted, but now we have to take hold of it and go get it done. To beat Will, Dario, Dixon – you know, a lot of these guys, it's just going to be really tough week in and week out to do it. It's going to take something special from us – maybe something even more special than we've already done.
The Milwaukee flat oval, Iowa oval, you come to a street circuit, and couldn't be any different. That's a testament to the team. We're versatile. Not only myself, but the team. You're only as good as your car. They have to give me the car to do it.
It is very satisfying for me to know that, boom, oval, oval. Last week people were starting to say, "Isn't it weird that your past three races are wins on oval and you're supposed to be a road course guy?" Then to get it at Toronto, it's nice, for sure.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not getting ahead of myself. The whole thing could change next weekend and we could be struggling. Will Power said something before the season that he goes into every year feeling like he could possibly never win another race again. That's how I felt after the last win: "Man, we really have to dig deep here to get another one of these." It is difficult to wind it all up.
Q: This race is known for cautions. You build up a big lead. How did you determine your fuel strategy? Did you fight with your engineer?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Usually at Toronto you are arguing. Today was smooth. Saved fuel in the beginning stint. Track wasn't quite rubbered-in. Had a little imbalance. We pit. The yellow came out. That was definitely nice. They closed the pits after that. That got Dario and Will, I believe. Then we restarted third. We got (Ryan) Briscoe for second on the restart, and then settled in behind Simon (Pagenaud). He pits, and I'm not sure what happened to him from there.
But I put my head down and I was just putting qualifying laps in. We stretched out a lead. From there, all good. It was a pretty docile Toronto event from my perspective.
Q: A few years ago people were wondering Ryan Hunter-Reay, a talented American driver who can't find a ride in open-wheel racing. You're here now. Does that bring a different dimension to being the championship leader?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, absolutely. I struggled to find a home really. I've been saying it in some interviews today. This is a team sport, it really is, in every way, as much as football, soccer, anything. It's a team sport. And to find continuity, to find a home, to work with the guys around you for two, three years in a row makes a massive difference.
I can see it now. That's why Dixon has been with Ganassi for so long; for Franchitti; Helio (Castroneves) has been with Penske for so long. It makes a difference. I'm enjoying that part of it now.
That makes me that much more appreciative to be in this position, to have a solid ride, and hopefully it will be for many more years to come. I don't know, but you have to drive like it's your last race, and I still do that way.
Q: You made comments in Victory Lane about finally finding a family atmosphere where you could let the talent come out. When you talk about it, you put a lot of credit on the team. How much of this success do you think is your chemistry with the team and how much is the car and engine they put under you?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's everything. To win one of these races, everything has to come together. You have to be firing on all cylinders. Everything has to go right. You might even need a little luck along the way.
I have to give the engineering department a lot of credit at Andretti Autosport. They are given the opportunity from Michael to do what they're doing. Here we are making the results happen on track from their hard work.
It's really nice to see all that paying off. Hopefully we have more of that to come. That's why I keep saying about the team, the atmosphere within the team is the best I've seen it since I've been here.