Chevy Racing–INDYCAR–Auto Club Speedway– Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves

AUGUST 30, 2014


THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by our race winner Tony Kanaan. This is Tony’s first win of the season, his 17th career win. Last win was at the 2013 Indianapolis 500. His six podium, six top 5 and 12 top 10 finishes of the season. Also the sixth race he has led laps this season. Five of those were on ovals.

Tony, the final race of the season, able to get a big win for yourself personally and for your team. How rewarding is this for you after a fairly long season?

TONY KANAAN: Big time. It was a long time coming. Obviously the good thing about winning the last race, you get seven months to brag about that. Nobody’s going to beat me into St. Pete.

Extremely happy. I think the team we struggled in the beginning of the year and we showed mid‑season how strong we were. We won the last three races between me and Dixon.

So extremely happy. Long time coming for me again, and it’s a big pressure in that 10 car to give Chip and Target the win. It’s a car that has won a lot of races in the past. We finally did it.

Q Take us through the race. What were some of the challenges that you guys faced throughout the race?

TONY KANAAN: Obviously the temperature changing, the track was changing a lot. It’s a very difficult track between the seams and the dust that comes from the mountains. It makes it extremely difficult.

So it’s a 500‑mile race. I wasn’t really trying to ride in the beginning of the race. We were running between fifth and seventh. And I was just hanging in there, waiting for 70, 50 laps to go to just make a move.

The guys had a great stop. When they put me in the lead it was a little earlier than I expected, which was good. And we just went for it.

Q When is Lauren due?

TONY KANAAN: January 23rd, hopefully we’ll have a baby.

Do we know whether it’s a boy or girl yet?

TONY KANAAN: No. We’re not going to find out, I think.

Q You had a tense battle with Hunter‑Reay. He ended up spinning right behind you. Can you talk about that a little bit?

TONY KANAAN: I actually don’t know what happened. Because I was actually holding my line. But it was a racing battle. We’re both here to win the race.

I feel bad for him. I really don’t know what happened, to be honest. I think he spun behind me. He was trying to go to the bottom which was extremely slippery. I wasn’t trying to run there because of that.

So I think that’s what caught him by surprise.

Q You and Dario had a moment in victory lane. Can you share with us a little bit about what that was?

TONY KANAAN: I was just thanking him for being my biggest supporter on the team. He helped me adapt to the team really quick.

I actually dedicated this victory to him. He went through a tough time. He’s a guy that’s extremely healthy, extremely capable to still drive a race car and he was forced to retire. I was grateful for what he’s done for me this year, being with the time we spent. And I said I hope you feel proud of this. I know you’re not driving it, but you won the race as well.

Q Yesterday on pit lane after qualifying you seemed very quiet and confident. What was it about going into this weekend why you felt like this was your chance to win?

TONY KANAAN: I knew I had a car. I took a very conservative qualifying run. I wanted to stop in the top 6. Didn’t work out quite that much. We were seventh.

But I wasn’t just quiet. I was just really confident. And I kept it to myself that I knew how many things had to go right from end‑to‑end to win it. So I was really focused.

Q Now having had a full year with Ganassi where you’re fully integrated with the team. You have a handle on the Chevrolet engineering, et cetera, how much more comfortable and kind of focused are you going into the offseason and heading into ’15?

TONY KANAAN: I’m extremely confident. I think the team showed the potential when we’re struggling how quick we can turn situations around. Next year is a whole new ballgame.

We have new aero kits coming up. We have a lot of work to do. But it’s really good to win the season on a high note, the whole team spirit is going to be good through the winter.

But honestly we’ll celebrate today, tomorrow at the banquet, and Monday we’ll go back to work. We have six months to figure out how we’re going to win the championship, Indy 500 next year.

Q You’ve won now. You’ve got this off your back. Was your car performing flawlessly and how do you feel about this race with so many cars on the lead lap when it finished? It was quite a safe race. Why do you think it was so successful?

TONY KANAAN: My car wasn’t like perfect. I mean, race car drivers are never happy with the race cars, but I remember at one point I was complaining on the radio. They said I was as fast as everybody else.

So your perception sometimes it’s not what it seems. So the car was okay. I think the quality of the drivers and the quality of the equipment that we have, it’s making the racing seem extremely tight.

Compared to last year, we had five cars in the lead lap and nine cars that finished the race, I think. So I think the quality of the field is much higher. So it’s really hard.

Nowadays you have to finish a race before you could afford to make a little mistake, still finish in the top 10. Nowadays if you don’t finish the race like you’re not on the top of your game you’re going to finish 22nd.

Q It’s weird to say that Ganassi was flying under the radar this week with all the stuff, the Penske stuff. Was that an advantage for you guys going into this race?

TONY KANAAN: You get to the end of the season, honestly I’m the last to be the center of the attention, fighting for the championship. But when we were not, we take advantage of that.

We had nothing to lose. All we did when we realized, me and Scott, we couldn’t win the championship. We sat down in the team meeting and said what’s the best we can do. And I think it was Scott to finish third and me to finish sixth in the championship. But the best thing to do is winning races.

And yeah, I mean, they got the attention that they deserved because they were going for the championship.

Why are people going to worry about me or Scott? Obviously that was the big news, but they had a lot of pressure on their plate. They have a lot of pressure on their hands. And we just surprised everybody and won the race. We’ll still get to celebrate the championship. So really it is the way it is.


An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We’ll begin with the second place finisher in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, Helio Castroneves. Another second place finish coming off last year. Talk about your night.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was an interesting night. The AAA Shell car was actually pretty good. Not stellar, maybe the fastest guy out there, but we were able to manage pretty well, stay in the top five, top three, I think.

Pit stops, we were doing great. And I think the biggest, not only on the tire change, but also on the in and out lap, my first one was really bad. And I made myself improve here and we made huge improvement on the in and out.

In fact, one point they put us in the lead and I was just cruising. The yellow came in, did not want to do that because then when we had the pit stop for the lead, went up to third and it was just chaotic.

After that pit stop, my car changed a little bit ‑‑ I was getting a lot of understeer. And the last pit stop, I thought the only chance for me to get it is to do another mega in and out.

And unfortunately I believe people confused think I speed, that I crossed speed limit. I didn’t go fast on the speed on the pits.

I actually went over the line on the apron in between turn 3 and 4. So that’s a penalty. If they say it’s in the pit lane, it’s not because I was not fast on the pit lane.

And then if you cross over, that’s the right to penalty. Unfortunately, like I said, with the spinout, and I tried to control it. Unfortunately, when you touch the wheel, the line, the car pulls away and I was two wheels over actually.

So that’s what put us one lap down. And after that it was just bring it home. And another great successful season for Team Penske.

This time at least we have two chances to win a championship. And one finally we got it.

Will did hell of a job. He’s the champion. Congratulations. Hope when I sleep in his house, now the rate not in his house, the hotel, doesn’t go up. Hope it keeps the same rate.

I’m proud of the team. I’m happy. I’m tired. And, well, it’s another second place we collect in our trophy collection.

Q In all the years of watching this, I’ve never seen that particular pit road penalty. Were you aware of that before you got run through for it?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, they said that would be a penalty drive through if you go over the line. Unfortunately, all the drivers ‑‑ I mean, we’re all trying to make sure that we pit on turn 4 and we end up ‑‑ the decision was to pit on turn 3 and so that we did not have a situation like maybe last year end up having cars going down to the pit and cars on the fast lane.

So it was a decision that the series took. We all knew it. All the drivers knew it including myself. And it just, it was a mistake.

Q Did you feel that you still had a car capable of winning the race and does this get a little bit more difficult to take considering Will’s last pit stop, the handling on his car went away from him and he was struggling to keep it up in the top five?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, our chance to pass people, no. But once you’re in the lead, I think the way the tire degradation, we had a chance to do it.

Like I said, you could ‑‑ the good news the car was able to give me an opportunity to take some chances in different lanes.

And that’s why, when Tony took the lead and he was ‑‑ he was really fast in the end. So maybe he’ll be really hard to be between the two Ganassis. I’m sure third place, it was not a problem because that’s where we were most of the day.

And but, yes, that’s why the only chance for me to be in the lead, it would be through the pit stops. That’s what we were doing, we were doing great pit stops this last race, and it’s a shame I made a mistake.

Q Given everything and how long you’ve been at this, is this the worst one, worst second place finish?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Stings a little bit. But that’s what motivates me. Because it’s good. It’s good to be upset when you finish second in a championship, which gives me another reason to come back stronger next year and fix it, what we can fix to win a championship. So I do believe all three drivers work extremely well together.

We put ourselves to being in this condition. And at the end of the day, two races that we had that probably cost us, and it put us in this position.

But I’m happy that we’re still pushing as hard as we can. And certainly stings a little bit.

Q This race is at night. The other two during the day. Seems like this was a physical, exhausting, demanding race. Is it harder than the other ones that were even at night?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, first of all, it’s always very difficult. And especially when the tires were ‑‑ there was a difference on new tires versus old tires. Which actually is challenging. To us, you have one lane to run. Sometimes you could take a chance on the middle lane high.

That was kind of like difficult to adjust. But I think it was fun. I don’t know from a viewer perspective, my view was actually ‑‑ I had to focus big time in finding little details on the racetrack so that I can fix the car while we were running and changing. And so I think that’s part of the veteran, going that direction. And very happy that we were able to find that kind of condition. But it was very tough on everyone.