Q. James, before today, you had led 99 laps total; today, 226. Talk about today’s race and the win.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty incredible. In St. Pete, I led the last 20; in Brazil, like the last hundred feet, and here, today, to do what we did, we got Will on lap one there and really never looked back. The car was solid.
Yesterday, we knew we didn’t have the car to win yesterday in the heat races, so I sat with Craig and the engineers and we decided to kind of take a swing at it and put a little aggressive setup on it.
There was obviously a lot of unknowns with the weather. It was cooler than we thought it was going to be. Obviously the rain throws a wrench into it, but when we needed it, the car was awesome. We were fast out front by ourselves. We were good in traffic. We didn’t have a whole lot of yellows to contend with, which I think was really good for us.
Obviously we had the one restart with Graham, which was the biggest moment of the race but had fun racing with him there and just so proud of these guys. They have got such a good track record here, Marco in ’11 and Ryan and ’12, and me now; and its Go Daddy’s hometown, where they started so to get a win here is extra special and it’s just nice to keep our season getting back on track.
Q. What is it specifically about the short oval package that has allowed four different Andretti Autosport drivers in four straight years to win here?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you, and none of us want that; there’s too much paperwork.
It’s funny, because obviously the team was good here before the new car came out, before the W12, and to be able to continue that kind of success with a new car; and a lot of the success the team had at night and track conditions are very, very different at night.
So to come here during a day race and still be able to have a strong showing. I mean, look at Ryan. That’s probably the more impressive drive of the race was from where he started to finish second. There’s clearly a philosophy on the team that works well, and having four guys that work so well together makes races like this where we have so little practice time, just one session before qualifying, it makes it a huge advantage for us. And the chemistry between us and the ability to work well together, it shows on track on Sunday.
Q. Describe what that dynamic is going to be like, not only are you battling for the championship, but you’re going to be doing it with your teammates.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I mean, that’s obviously going to be a more complicated question in five or six races. We still have nine to go, and there’s still a lot to play for.
But certainly, when you’re coming to the home stretch of the season and you have teammates running together, you know, I would like to think that we are all going to run each other fair and we are going to continue to work as well together as we can, because what you have to remember, it’s not just us in this championship.
And if we start battling each other internally off track, then the other guys are going to catch up and pass us, and then we are fighting over second, third and fourth. That’s not what we want to do. We want to back up Ryan’s championship last year and bring another one home for Andretti Autosport, and I think we all know that the team is greater than one guy and we all have to work together to try and achieve that.
Q: No rest for you, I believe you’re off testing?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I have to catch a plane now and head to Pennsylvania. We are testing at Pocono which everybody is excited for. Yeah, we are excited for a weekend off. It’s been about two straight months on the road between Brazil, Indy and this five race stretch.
So to go you say we have a break now, but we are straight testing on Tuesday and then we finally get a weekend off. New track for us, obviously everybody is very excited about that. We had strong cars at Indy and this is another Super Speedway and hopefully that translates, but there’s a lot to learn there.
So I’m glad we are getting the chance to go somewhere new. We always like a new challenge.
Q. You entered the season trying to get your first career victory and now you have three; is it a matter of kicking the door in and you just come charging through.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, it’s funny, you know because people, all last year and the off season, people say things like: Oh, you know, once you get your first one, they all just kind of come; it becomes way easier after that. And they clearly haven’t tried running an IndyCar race, because it’s not easy under any circumstances, no matter how many you’ve won.
I remember after St. Pete people were saying: Oh, yeah, they will just come now. And I’m thinking, race two at Barber, we completed all three laps and watched the rest of it from the side of the track. I’m like, well, that didn’t quite go as everybody says it was gonna.
It was incredible to be here now, three wins in and that first one is so hard to get. But if you look at the record books, there are a lot of guys that have one win, and a pretty big factor, smaller that have won, two, smaller factor again that have won three, then it kind of goes up exponentially from there of guys that have had more than that. It’s nice to be chalking a few up.
But at the same time, these races are so hard to win. You’ve got to be with a good crew, good car, good put pits, call it right, drive smart and have some luck. That’s all part of it. And you can’t take anything to are granted. You can’t assume you’re in a good position, because there are legitimately 12 guys any weekend that can win a race, and you just never know if you’ll ever win another one.
Will used to tell me that and I used to laugh at him, because that’s when he was winning six races a year; it’s just so true, and in an environment this competitive, you just never know.
We are enjoying what we have got now and the success we’ve had, but we have got to keep our heads down and work harder than ever if we want to get back up here.
Q. After having won three races, nobody else having performed that well this season but still running fourth in the points, how does that set up your plan for the remainder of the season?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: We obviously kick it off with a bang, had two DNFs and another win and then had a couple bad races in Indy and Detroit. After Detroit, we really just said, all right, look, guys, we have to get our momentum back and we have to get that MoJo going again. At Texas, solid top 10; Milwaukee, solid top 5 and obviously here back at the top step. I think that’s just the momentum shift that we needed.
We are not going to be in a position to win every race, we know that but I think that we have found our way into finishing where we have to on the day you’ve got a ninth place car, finish ninth. It’s a lot better than wrecking and going for eight.
I think the team has got a lot of confidence in each other and themselves and now we can just try and rip off some consistent results because you look at Marco and you look at Helio, I’ve got more wins than anybody, but those guys are ahead of me because they have been more consistent.
Q. You said at St. Pete trying for that first victory, you were dreaming up scenario, how am I going to lose this; how is it different today after you’ve had a couple wins and you’re out in front for so much of the race?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It was even worse because that much longer in the lead and more time to think of things that would go wrong.
Obviously the first stint went pretty well for us and getting the lead early I think was important for us, because clean air is king, and we were able to get through traffic. When we first came up on traffic, that was going to be the first big test, the first 20, 30 laps, whatever it was, didn’t really mean much, because anybody running by themselves up front was going to be good. It’s when we got into lap traffic that was going to make a difference.
And every time I came up on a lap car that was going to be the car that was going to screw it up for us. Luckily we didn’t have many cautions. When you are leading and have a good pace, you don’t want to see those, but every time we did, it was, oh, well, this is the restart that’s going to do us in; or every pit stop, I’m going to spit coming off turn two, get back up to speed or something.
We did have a couple close calls. Like I said we went aggressive with the setup and the car was very loose at certain parts of that race, and then the last ten laps picked up this freak understeer, I thought the tire was going down and I was on the radio asking if the pressure was all right how far is Ryan, and I’m thinking, ten to go, really? You’re going to let me lead 200 laps to take it away now.
But luckily the gap was enough and I made sure I just controlled the lap at the end. I didn’t want to catch that group because as soon as you’re in dirty air with old tires, the car falls apart a little bit, and luckily we had the gas to run we needed.
Q. In all your years of racing, have you ever dominated as well as you have today?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I mean, I can’t think of a race. A few races of Lights that I led from pole but either a third of the distance or there’s no pit stops, restarts are a much different deal, they were not double file back then.
So, no, I watched guy win races like this on TV and my whole career, I thought, I just don’t get it, like how do they do that. I’ve never been in that position. And now, I know: You have to have a hell of a good car, a hell of a good crew and just hit your marks all afternoon long.
I’m just so pleased that we are able to do everybody performed. If it was the guys in the pits, the setup, me and my spotter making good decisions out on the racetrack, and, man, it feels good to do it like that.