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Interview With Firestone 550 Winner – Helio Castroneves

Q. Talk about your evening tonight. You showed a lot of emotion in victory lane.

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, the AAA boys did a hell of a job. The car was absolutely on rails, and picking up on what Roger said at the end, we discussed ‑‑ Jonathan, my engineer this year, he did a hell of a job putting everything what I was looking for. We started the race, the car was already ‑‑ and then we just try to understand what the track was doing.

Most of the managing of the tires during the race ‑‑ any time Roger was telling me, save fuel, go fast; honestly we were running lights‑out. Everything was smooth.

And in the end of the day for us, a little bit of an issue with the lights that we had on the pits when we come in, some of the lights wasn’t on because it was daylight. And I wouldn’t see my pit very well, so I had to put my hand up coming in, and on my end coming in was a little bit slow ‑‑ but we were able to have a flawless everything. It was great.

And towards the end, to be honest, we had a long ‑‑ Roger telling around 10, 11 seconds and I’m like, okay, I’m just going to manage the tires now, 40 laps to go. So ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ I didn’t know, I saw Tony, I could keep going, but I was thinking more about the long term and not in the short term.

So it was saving, it was about five seconds that I understand Hunter‑Reay was behind me and I got a good chance to go and I did it and we opened up a gap and it was just great.


            Q. Inaudible.

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  In the winner’s circle right now but I thought, we had to drive the car and it’s not about ‑‑ and you said it, sometimes it changed the track. But I think with my spotter, we were able to be ahead of the car and he was giving me some tips while I was driving to be honest and it was paying off.

So everything we were managing most of the times, the tire and ‑‑ the setup was fantastic. So when you have both this combination and it feels like that …


            Q. Yesterday in final practice, you came in and hopped out of the car very, very quickly, and spent some time with a member of your crew really, really looking at the right front tire, a pockmark; could you tell us about that conversation and if that had anything to do with your setup tonight and your miraculous win?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Very good observation. Yes, we finished the practice yesterday, we were having some handling problems unfortunately and everybody went back to the truck and ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ that’s why it seems big. Things doesn’t happen like a miracle. You have to work hard, you’ve got to look for details and ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑


            Q. The last five laps, what’s going through your mind?

ROGER PENSKE:  Well, I’ve been around this a long time and been leading with five laps to go, so I never count our chickens. In the end Helio, I just wanted to give him the cars he’s coming up on, and said, let him go by, we just didn’t need to get trapped and get ourselves in trouble.

I was just waiting with ten to go and then five to go, and to me, the big move was when he went back by Franchitti, because we let Franchitti go by, there’s no reason wearing the tires out trying to stay ahead of him. I think that was good, and I think his line, he ran high; he could run high, he could run low.

One thing, he running ten miles an hour slower, so he came up high speed, he had to be careful. His oval skills, what you saw win at Indy three, times you saw it here tonight. I just wait until the end before I celebrate, and that’s what I did tonight.


            Q. So much is made about past races and guys going flat out, how different for you was this win tonight?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Very, very different. It was nothing like in the previous years. It was tough. Hardly going flat, only when I took the lead for the first time on the restarts was I able to go flat.

Other than that, the entire race was very, very different from the past. As you guys mentioned and as you could see, a lot of cars were going forwards and a lot of cars were going backwards. Because of that, it just changed and you had to be ahead of the game.

Setup is important and is a big part of it and very fortunate to have great guys in my crew and to be able to do what I wanted. So that’s one of the reason we were able to be in victory circle today.


            Q. You talked earlier this week about how you would take seconds and thirds all year long if it meant winning the championship. Do you think that took some pressure off yourself?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  No. Absolutely not. We can’t stop right now, because the championship is still wide open.

Like I said, we’ve got to be consistent, but when you have opportunities, and good opportunities like I had in St. Pete, and unfortunately I miss it, you know, you can’t do something like that. But at this point, just got to keep moving on and today we had a phenomenal opportunity, extremely excited and to be in victory circle.

Right now, maybe tomorrow still going to celebrate a little bit, but Monday, got to turn the page and focus on the next race.


            Q. One of the story lines of the whole season is that the ability ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ how much of a relief is it for you to check that box and get that win?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Well, for us, we want to win races. It doesn’t matter at this point who is who. I know the press itself ‑‑ has to write stories and it’s over now, but I don’t feel any pressure.

I feel pressure to go out there and perform the best, and when you have the opportunity, you have to go for it. And today, we keep pushing the same button about this, but it’s true, the car was just fantastic, and we were able to do that.


            Q. Toward the end of the race, yellow came out and TK seemed like he had the fastest lap at that point.

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  At the beginning, I saw Marco taking away a little bit when I was fourth or third I think, and I thought, well ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ and I was just taking it easy, when traffic is going to come up ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ race early and seeing Marco running up there. We had, probably we were similar at that point.

But I was adjusting the car and the car actually wasn’t bad. I was just waiting for a little bit of an adjustment inside the cockpit trying to make something different there. As soon as I took the lead, I thought, you know, just try to keep going.

So next stop, put new tires ‑‑ I didn’t know about Tony to be honest. I saw Tony as soon as I came out of the pits, and he was passing on the outside. And I was about actually to go with him but I decided, just take it easy, because the team told me ‑‑ the lead, and I’m, wow.

So I decided not to be involved in that traffic scenario, because there’s still 40 laps to go, so just take it ease‑and see what happens. In the end, it was very good.


            Q. Inaudible.

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Just got to trust in what your car is telling you to do.


            Q. Do you like the bump in turn two?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  The bump, yes, it’s a little bump. If we can have Eddie to resurface that area it would be fantastic. But if not, it’s just another challenge that we have to face.


            Q. I watched you last night in practice ‑‑

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  It was difficult, when you go ‑‑ people don’t understand. When you go high, the car changes a little bit of the setup. It change the feeling, and when you go low, you have another one.

And that’s where it was very difficult, even for me. But we set up the car that when I do some adjusent, I was able to go high, and then I can move back when I have a low line. It was an interesting scenario.

But the car was great. When you have a car like that, running high and low, man, it’s a dream. So, I love it. I just love it.


            Q. Seemed like Marco got it right when the sun was out and you nailed it when the sun went down. Were you surprised more people didn’t nail the setup?  When you both were hooked up, you were considerably quicker than the rest of the field.

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, at the beginning, it was different, because remember, when we practice, we never practice at night. We always practice in the day, so it becomes very difficult to predict. But the car, I think because the temperature of the car cools down, you don’t have any more downforce with that, the car was just much, much better.

And what happens is if you don’t have that kind of dial down, it’s becoming a little push or it’s becoming loose. It’s a very difficult place, there’s no question, it’s a very difficult place. That’s why it’s exciting. Maybe it’s terrible in the beginning but it’s great in the end.


            Q. After qualifying when your teammates ‑‑ you made a comment about the setup and how ‑‑ did you go get that set up?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yes. I was a little bit disappointed because I let my engineer decide it, and when I went back, I saw a two and a half mile, one‑and‑a‑half‑mile an hour difference, and I’m like, dude, what did you do. And I found something and I’m like ‑‑ we found something, and I’m like, come on, man, can’t miss this opportunity. But in the end, we use a lot of the information and we applied it.

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Posted by on June 10, 2013. Filed under Breaking News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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