Notes taken during the NBC Sports Network broadcast of Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Florida) on 3/24/13.
Welcome to St. Petersburg, Florida. Since this race started at the crack of dawn (11:30 a.m. Central, which is 8:30!! Pacific) while I was still in church (in Central time), I'm watching it via DVR and therefore it's time for No-Offense Fast Forward through the pre-race show.
pressdog® DRINK, ye BASTARDS® Beer of the Race is Ranger IPA, one of my go-to beverages. New crew for NBC Sports Network. Brian Till, Jon Beekhuis and Kevin Lee in the pits. Wally Dallenbach Jr., Townsend Bell and Leigh Diffey in the booth.
SP Car Driver Name C/E/T Tire
1 12 Power, Will D/C/F Alternate
2 14 Sato, Takuma D/H/F Alternate
3 78 de Silvestro, Simona D/C/F Alternate
4 27 Hinchcliffe, James D/C/F Alternate
5 3 Castroneves, Helio D/C/F Alternate
6 55 Vautier, Tristan (R) D/H/F Alternate
7 25 Andretti, Marco D/C/F Primary
8 1 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/C/F Primary
9 6 Saavedra, Sebastian D/C/F Alternate
10 10 Franchitti, Dario D/H/F Alternate
11 11 Kanaan, Tony D/C/F Alternate
12 22 Servia, Oriol D/C/F Primary
13 19 Wilson, Justin D/H/F Alternate
14 83 Kimball, Charlie D/H/F Primary
15 15 Rahal, Graham D/H/F Primary
16 67 Newgarden, Josef D/H/F Alternate
17 98 Tagliani, Alex D/H/F Alternate
18 16 Jakes, James D/H/F Primary
19 77 Pagenaud, Simon D/H/F Alternate
20 9 Dixon, Scott D/H/F Primary
21 7 Bourdais, Sebastien D/C/F Primary
22 5 Viso, EJ D/C/F Primary
23 20 Carpenter, Ed D/C/F Alternate
24 4 Hildebrand, JR D/C/F Alternate
25 18 Beatriz, Ana D/H/F Alternate
(R) Rookie (C)hassis: D=Dallara | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)ire: F=Firestone
Power wins his bazillionth pole on road and street courses. First time since 2000 AJ Foyt has had a car start on the front row. Let's light this candle ... We're greeeeeen.
Power mashes the afterburners and is out in front. Clean through turn 1. Simona slots into P5. She's smartly not going to get insane on the start. Being conservative.
Lap 3 -- Wilson inhales Kimball and then Kimball dirt tracks behind him.
Lap 4 -- Marco overtaken by RHR, now TK is all over Marco.
Lap 5 -- Saavedra overtakes Franchitti(!). Festival of Scottish Cursing here.
Lap 8 -- Power has the wings back in the delta. Quickly up by 3.8 seconds on Helio.
Lap 10 -- Power, Sato, Hinch, Helio, Simona, Vautier, TK, Marco, RHR, Saavedra.
Lap 12 -- Replay of Dario getting inhaled by Rahal. Kevin Lee interviews fellow Ball State grad David Letterman. Dave is on fire about all things, including Graham and Bobby together, being at St. Pete on race day.
Lap 14 -- Graham is all over Saavedra. Power is up by 7 seconds, then 9.
Lap 17 -- Pagenaud pits. Not much left on his front tires. Car has been cappy this week. Bia is getting lapped. Dale Coyne Stealth PR will probably confirm Bia and Wilson will drive for the team around about race five.
Lap 18 -- Power, Sato, Helio, Hinch, Simona, Vautier, TK, Marco, RHR, Rahal. Replay of Helio overtaking Hinch. Dixon Pits. Dixon said earlier the car doesn't turn, which is an issue. Chip blames Honda. (Not really. Chip alleged earlier in the week that Honda's engines are pigging out and Honda isn't real concerned about it. HARSH WORDS WERE SPOKEN. USA Today story here. Tip: if Chip talks so frankly with the media, it's because Chip believes doing so will benefit Chip. Because Chip is all about Chip. He must have another engine maker in his back pocket or something to shoot such a shot across Honda's bow).
Dario Pits. Saavedra Pits.
Cue the circus music! Dario spanks the wall coming out of the pits on cold tires. Hit a bump, into the marbles, Spank You Very Much. His car is toast and we're yellow yellow yellow. A tiny golf cart pulls up and 17 clowns jump outand start spanking each other on the butt.
Booth guys talk over Dario's radio. It's OK, because hearing the booth guys randomly speculate about what happens enhances my viewing in a way that actually hearing what Dario was saying to his pit wouldn't.* (*Denotes sarcasm). We'd MUCH rather hear random speculation OR the booth guys talk amongst themsselves than actual pit-to-car radio. And remember, if we start random speculating, my favorite always is: "there might be snipers in the grandstands."
Pits DO NOT CLOSE automatically when there is a yellow. This is a hugely awesome change IndyCar has made. Race Director Beuaxford T. Justice (Beaux Barfield) wants to keep pits open if it's safe to do so.
Hildebrand looked to have passed someone coming off pit lane. Seems untoward since we're under yellow here. Booth guys are perplexed now, but they don't tell us if Hildebrand has to give the spot back later. It's NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Replays of Dario spanking it. Dario tells Jon it was all his brain lock. He was trying to make up for a pig car, out too fast on cold tires, hit a bump, into marbles and just just a passenger.Chip blames Honda for the marbles (still kidding).
Robin Miller with Susie Wheldon who waved the green flag. Susie talks about racing family. Impressive poise.
Lap 26 -- Restart ... ahhhh not exactly double file. Helio outside of Power for the lead into 1. CLEAR. Large attachment move there. Helio into P1.
Cue the circus music! We got a pile up. Four cars. All keep it running, whip around and continue. Except Bia who stalled. We're yellow yellow yellow again. Now JR is into the tires in turn 10. Serbia (Wait, that's a country, I meant SERVIA. I do that all the time) pits for front wing. The two events may be related. Booth guys say the anti-stall technology may need some more work. Replays. Hildebrand into the back of James Jakes. Front wing damage. Replay shows Saavedra spearing JR into the tires. Bell and Wally say Hildebrand's car was wounded and should have given up the spot. Um, NOT. Saavedra was optimistic there. Hildebrand clearly had the corner.
Lap 33 -- Restart ... GREEN. Power and Helio contact into 1! I think Power's car got its nose into Helio's rear. Power slips back to P3 and Hinch dives under and ... CLEAR. Hinch in P2.
Onboard with Simona who is working on Sato. He's stalking him like a BOSS. Onto the start-finish straight Simona dives under, Sato takes an F1-level swerve at her but Simona has STEEL OVARIES and inhales Sato. BAM.
Replay of Power getting into the back of Helio and Hinch saying "thanks very much for the spot."
Lap 36 -- My boy Eddie Carpenter hanging in there in P17 right behind Bourdais. Rahal has issues. Car turning off briefly on him randomly. Pit says do what you can.
Lap 40 -- Helio, Hinch, Power, Simona, Vautier, Sato, TK, Andretti, Wilson, RHR.
Lap 45 -- Yellow yellow yellow. Day-bree. (Debris). Joe New has advanced four spots. Townsend Bell unveils plans to challenge Mike Fratello for title of Czar of the Telestrator.
Joe Barbieri retiring from Firestone after 41 years gets an interview with Robin Miller. Gotta be a career highlight right there.
Lap 49 -- Servia stayed out and leads. Long ass yellow (nine lap). Festival of Track sweepers. I contemplate running out for some take-out steak here.
Cue the circus music! Joe New is dead stick. Something is BLOWN up, SIR! Booth guys take the helpful approach of talking over Joe's radio so we can't hear what he's saying to the pit. Because that is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
We manage to hear something about "won't go into gear" from Joe New during the booth guys random speculation. Electronic cluch/transmission type deal.
Finally. Restart. Lap 54. GREEN.
Lap 56 -- Sato again throws a quasi-block party (not quite illegal) for RHR but RHR is CLEAR.
Dixon is up to P10. Pretty impressive given their piggy state earlier this week. Chip blames Honda for Dixon not being P8 (not really).
Wilson running the D Line (defensive) against RHR. Perfectly legal. Marco also is like Iceman against four MiGs (totally defensive) on Dixon. LAUNCH THE ALERT 5 AIRCRAFT.
Lap 60 -- Servia, Helio, Hinch, Power, Vautier, Simona, TK, Jakes, Marco, Dixon.
Lap 63 -- Servia pits. But stalled. Won't go into gear. Seems DEAD. Something is BLOWN up, SIR!
Lap 64 -- Power is P3. You can tell by the giant Great White Shark dorsal fin sticking up off his car. Has to be in fuel saving mode.
Lap 65 -- RHR has a throttle issue, which is an electronic issue. Chip blames Honda. (Kidding. RHR drives a Chevy. OK, that was the last one.) RHR pits. Gonna be a longer one.
Lap 67 -- RHR finally coming out of the pits, gets out of the way of the leaders. Class move there.
Lap 73 -- Yellow yellow yellow. Saavedra in tires. Replay. Left hander into turn 10 and spears right into the tires. Had some wing damage from earlier.
JR who is a lap down passes Simona in P4 on the track under yellow. WTF? Simona asks if she can pass him back. Pit says "wait up until we check."
Cue the circus music! Hildebrand is crumpled into the wall under yellow. WTF? Guess Simona's peeps can stop checking on if she needs to pass him back under yellow. Replay. The circus clowns are even stunned. Hildebrand -- in P18 and a lap down -- just spaced off and drove right over the back of Power in P3 under yellow. Dude. A tiny dune buggy comes in off the beach and 19 speedo-clad clowns check to make sure JR wasn't texting and driving.
Power's car is wounded. Right rear is rubbing, mirror is missing. He'll have to pit. Race is HOSED. Power had to be all like "I was minding my own business and then suddenly a car was driving over my right side."
Bell interprets what went wrong based on two hand gestures from JR.
JR with Kevin and says he wasn't paying attention and just brain locked when cars ahead of him slowed. Props to him for taking responsibility, but dude.
After another jumbo yellow (TEN laps), we're green (Lap 84). Hinch inside Helio for the lead ... CLEAR. Hinch leads. All of Canada breaks into a remarkably on-tune rendition of their national anthem. Tony inhales Dixon. Replay of Hinch going under Helio into turn 1. Helio went in a little fast, dirt tracked, thereby leaving an opening inside and Hinch dove under.
Lap 90-- Hnch, Helio, Simona, TK, Marco, Dixon, Wilson, Viso, Tag, Ed. Festival of Fuel AND Tire Saving here.
Lap 97 -- Ed gets some love for improving on the twisties.
Holding station ... saving tires mostly. Hinch on back sidewall tires so that's good for him since blacks last longer. Cars behind him on red sidewall tires which are supposedly faster at first, but fall off quicker than blacks. Rules say you have to use at least one set of each kind of tires per race. Tires are different compound to try and encourage strategy AND prevent Festivals of Non-Passing.
Lap 101 -- Sim says something about tires but the booth guys talk over here. Leigh: "You may have heard that radio transmission .." No, Leigh, we didn't, but thanks anyway.
Lap 103 -- Power is in a run off. No yellow. Back to P16. Just trying to overtake and lost it.
Lap 105 -- Marco overtakes TK for P4. Now he's after Simona who's rear tires are a festival of shit. Worn out. Townsend asks if someone on a radio broadcast that they talked over just said "conserve." Good question, Townsend. We missed it due to ... well you know.
Hinch, Helio, Simona, TK, Marco, Dixon, Wilson, Viso, Sato, Tag.
Marco is all over the back of Simona. Popping out on her. Playing head games. Simona trying to get her tires to last.
Lap 107 (of 110) -- Simona's tires are GONE. Only a matter of time. Marco bashes Simona's car in the rear.
Lap 108 -- Hinch is stretching out. Canada is about to cue the National Holiday. Simona gritting her teeth. Marco is relentless. Simona goes wide out of last turn and loses spots to Marco and TK. Drops to P5. I may or may not have yelled some unfortunate words here.
White -- Hinch up by 1 second. Will win barring air strike. Out of the last turn and ... Cue O Canada. Hinch wins. Helio P2. Simona comes off the last corner and totally dirt tracks it on to the front straight since her tires are crap and basically spin when she puts the power down. Dixon lunges forward and gets her at the line.
Victory Lane. Hinch gets sugar from the girlfriend. He's out with the Canadian flag. Hinch thanks GoDaddy's Bob Parson's for the ride and Andretti Autosport. Throws a shout out to Dan Wheldon ... Dan's town, Hinch's ride was to be Wheldon's. "To know my face will be on the memorial with him is special." I got a little misty here.
Simona says awesome to run up front. Red's gave up late. Chevy power was too much for them. In-car of Simona dirt tracking it off the last corner.
Marco says he's worked hard all summer. Good to get results. Give's Simona a shout out. Said he had to muscle her a little "but it's a selfish sport."
That's it from St. Pete. I'll emote on some things a bit later. But for now ...
Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg finishing order.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Results Sunday of the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.8-mile St Petersburg Street Circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
2. (5) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
3. (7) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
5. (20) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
6. (3) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
7. (22) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
8. (2) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
9. (13) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
10. (17) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
11. (21) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
12. (14) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
13. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
14. (23) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
15. (18) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
16. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevrolet, 107, Running
17. (12) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevrolet, 104, Running
18. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevrolet, 79, Mechanical
19. (24) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevrolet, 78, Contact
20. (9) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevrolet, 72, Contact
21. (6) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 69, Mechanical
22. (25) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 55, Mechanical
23. (16) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 50, Mechanical
24. (19) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, Mechanical
25. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 18, Contact
Winners average speed: 83.539
Time of Race: 02:22:12.5502
Margin of victory: 1.0982
Cautions: 4 for 29 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers
Power 1 - 26
Castroneves 27 - 45
Servia 46 - 61
Castroneves 62 - 84
Hinchcliffe 85 - 110
Point Standings: Hinchcliffe 51, Castroneves 43, Andretti 35, Kanaan 32, Dixon 30, de Silvestro 28, Viso 26, Sato, 24, Wilson 22, Tagliani 20
Lap chart and finishing summary courtesy of IndyCar PR. Next race is at Barber, April 7, 3:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network.
BONUS transcript of post race interview with: JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, HELIO CASTRONEVES, MARCO ANDRETTI provided by IndyCar PR
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with today's post-race press conference. We have Marco Andretti, who finished third. This is the first top-five finish for Marco on a road/street course in Toronto 2011. This is also a career-best finish for Marco here at St. Pete.
Marco, this off-season you talked about improving your street racing. Talk about today's race.
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't want to speak too soon. There's still a long way to go in the season. I'm definitely pleased to reap some of the benefits for how hard I've been working, not only physically, but as you say, where I've been lacking.
For me it felt like a win, but we'll take this. I think if we can have days like this all year, we can be in contention for a championship. That's obviously the goal.
Great job to Hinchcliffe and I have to give credit to Simona. She drove a helluva race, as well.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Helio Castroneves, who finished second.
Helio, talk about the restart on lap 84. Looked like you went a little wide for James to get around you.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, I don't want to talk about it (laughter).
All joke aside, great day for Hitachi cars. If you ask me I would finish second place on Friday, I would say yes, I would be happy and okay with that. But not today. Today was an incredible racecar Jonathan and the entire Hitachi team gave me.
Start at the beginning, we start pushing, saving fuel. I mean, the car was actually pretty good waiting for some of the guys wear out a little bit of the tire, just making my move until we were able to get to the lead and never look back.
Unfortunately on the restart, it was a long restart, long yellow. I don't think I warm up the tires enough. I was braking pretty much the same place. Unfortunately because of probably the tires are a little bit cold, it locked the rears. Thank God nobody was in front of me because probably would be a big accident.
But Hinch was able to hold on, pass me. Still had 30 laps to go. I didn't know the red tires would drop off like they did. I was really, really pushing.
We had great exit on the corners, but the front was giving up a little bit, especially when you're behind a guy you do twice the work. It's very difficult to set up.
He was just able to have good exits and not make a single mistake. So compliment for him on that because I was pushing, I was just going for it.
Unfortunately towards the end, the tire was just giving up. I had to finish in second. Second is better than nothing. But great way to start the championship. I feel upset because when you have a good car, it's hard to give up opportunities like that, especially in a series that's so competitive. That's why I'm a little bummed out. But I have to keep moving on and happy for a great start of the season like this.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions.
Q. Marco, you said on TV, I had to muscle Simona, I needed that podium. Can you talk about that final lap and I guess the drive, what is pushing you, the desire to go that hard for that podium.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, I knew her tires were going away. She was braking really early. Yeah, I mean, it's a selfish business. I felt for her but I needed this so bad. Like I said, it feels like a win.
I saw both of their cars, her and T.K., struggling to keep them underneath them. I was able to stay with them while really taking it easy on my rear tires because I knew it was going to come down to the last few laps. My traction was still great with a couple laps to go.
So, you know, it was that whole middle of that stint that kind of got me the podium. I think when they were pushing, I was kind of cruising, holding the gap to Dixon, as well. I think I had more at the end.
Q. Helio, James getting his first victory, the series is looking for a personality, word is he sort of has one. Maybe you can react to what it means for the series to have him in Victory Lane for the first time.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Sure. Hinch is not going to sleep tonight. He'll be over the moon. First win you never forget. Last year he already went really close to win many races. Did he win last year?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Anyway, so he was very close last year. So good for the series, that's for sure. Younger generation is kind of coming over. We saw at the qualifying some of the guys, especially guys from Indy Lights coming over, doing well, which is the case of Hinch.
It's great. The series needs that. Good for him. I'm sure he's going to succeed, continue to succeed in the future, no question about it. He did a helluva job today.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Same thing. He's been knocking on the door, working so hard. It's great to have a personality like him win because he'll have some fun tonight. It's well-deserved.
But I'm happy for my friend. He's a great kid, a lot of fun off the track as well. If it wasn't going to be us, it's cool to see him get his first. Anyone but Helio (laughter).
Q. Do you guys believe in momentum? What do good results like this do for you and your team?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It helps starting the season strong. It helps through the beginning and to the middle. It sets a little tone out there. Again, it helps in the championship, when you start battling for the championship.
So hopefully that's going to be the case. This second place will be worth a lot of points in the end. And as you said, the momentum. It's great to set the momentum for the next race, keep the team's spirit up. Everybody knows what we can do.
In our case, we feel very strong.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I mean, it's all confidence, confidence with your engineers, but also confidence, your guys need to have that in you. Obviously I finished better than wherever the heck I was last year. Hopefully we can be part of this snowball effect that people speak of and we can just keep clicking off a lot of great results.
Obviously I've made my improvements where I need to improve, but sometimes you don't know why they come. You just got to keep working hard and hopefully it can snowball.
Q. Marco, with Ryan coming off of the title, you coming off a great run today, Hinch winning, is this as optimistic as you've been about Andretti Autosport in quite a while?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah. It's a good feeling. It's a tough feeling going home with the defeat I had last year, knowing your teammate beat you and stuff like that.
But you also need to look at the bright side of it. You're driving for the championship team. You know you have the equipment to get the job done.
So that side of it, you need to take that confidence and go. I mean, my mentality changed this year 'cause instead of looking back and saying, Oh, man. If you're thinking about how terrible last year was for me, then we talk about confidence, you're not going to have that confidence.
But we talk about a terrible year last year, but we were one of the cars to compete in our Super Bowl at Indy. We need to definitely show up there strong as well.
Q. Helio, today Hinchcliffe dedicated the win to Dan. Can you talk about something special when you come to Dan's former hometown, is that nice to see?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, for us it's still very difficult every time we talk about it because Dan is special for all the community. He was a friend of everyone and a very special person. All of a sudden when you come to a place where he used to live, and the way it happened in the past, the accident, certainly you can't forget about it.
That's why it's great for us to keep remember him, but remember him in a good way. And the city remembers him as well. He left his kids, the generation that's coming. We hope he will never be forgotten. For sure for us it's tough, but it's great to come over here and to remember how he was.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I'm not sure I really understood the question.
We just have to keep it positive. That's what Dan would want us to do. He'd be the first one to laugh at us for sobbing. That's the way I got over it. I'll never got over it. But that's the way we got through dealing with his passing. We just have to think of the good times we had with him. We had a lot of fun. Have to keep it positive. It's what he would want.
Q. Two title contenders from last year got out of the box slow. 18 more races to go, how important is it for both of you to get off to a fast start in this championship?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It's huge. Same question as before. It's all about momentum. To be right up there close to the top is a great feeling. You want to be No. 1 on the team. Obviously Helio accomplished that, I didn't. We're within striking distance. We need to stay there week in and week out to get the total support of the team.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Pretty much the same. We know in my case, Will is a fast guy. There's no question about it. He would be up there, as well.
When we have the competition like we have in this series, talented drivers, great teams, it's coming down to the wire and one point makes a big difference.
Q. When Will was interviewed after the race on TV, he keeps talking about second place on the restarts. Do you know what he's talking about? Did you go early or something?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I went between the cones where we talk about it. But I understand that he also got to keep the pace. I was looking and I thought he was going for it. He crossed the finish line actually first. So I do not know what the situation is.
I'm not sure if he hit me or not.
Q. (No microphone.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, with Will, when I went outside, I felt a bump. So I'm not sure what happened there.
But I feel that if they have the cones there, they said this is going to be the start of the race, you got to be ready. I was ready. So in this situation, everybody wants to win and go for it. I think I was doing my job.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys, on a great start to the season.
We're glad to be now joined by Michael Andretti. You start this season with Hinchcliffe getting the win and Marco on the podium. Talk about that.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We worked so hard over the winter because we knew it was going to be that much harder to be competitive this year. To come out the way we did, I think all weekend all of our cars were showing they had strength.
For Hinch especially, he just was on it from the first practice on. He just did a heck of a job. He did not put a wheel wrong all weekend. He drove his butt off. Then to bring it home for Go Daddy, his first win, and Go Daddy's first win as a primary sponsor, it was just awesome.
So proud of him. I'm really happy we were able to get Go Daddy their first win as well.
THE MODERATOR: Also missed in the excitement of the top five, outside of that was E.J. Viso finishing in the top 10.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just to set the record straight, we screwed him up on Saturday. We made the mistake with something in the practice, and then also in qualifying it was a mistake on his car. He didn't deserve to be where he was on the grid.
But he kept his head today and drove a really good race. I saw a very smart race. He was very aggressive, but yet there's times where maybe the old Viso would have kept going there, but he was backing off, really used his head and drove a good race.
I'm excited that we were able to get through this race for him. I think he's going to win some races for us before the end of the year.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead with questions.
Q. This race last year is when James kind of showed just how good he really is. What is it about this course that suits his driving style so well?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Honestly, I don't know. I mean, he's good on street circuits in general. So this is our first street race. I think that's part of it.
But, you know, in the end he's really quick everywhere. I don't think he has a weakness. I don't think any of our drivers have a weakness. I think all of them are strong on all disciplines of tracks. That's something I've always looked at when I look at drivers.
Marco struggled on street circuits, but he worked hard over the winter. All that work is paying off for him as well. To come home on the podium after all that hard work, I'm happy for him, as well.
Q. For you to win here at St. Pete in what would have been Dan Wheldon's car...
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That's another special one. That's what James said, as well. It was so fitting for James to get his first win here in Dan's car. It was great.
We miss him so much. It made it even more special.
Q. To see Marco come in third, all the struggles he's had on street circuits, how did you feel?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I mean, all weekend he drove really well. You could see all the work he put into it over the winter. It's paying off. He was on pace all weekend. Really drove a good race. Really conserved his tires there to really nail 'em in the end. He drove a really good race. He was making good fuel mileage. We were watching it.
I'm excited about that for him. He deserves it. He really worked hard. So hopefully this is a sign of good things.
Q. He finishes where he finishes today. He comes in here and is talking about this could be the start toward the championship. James gets his first win. Simona has a breakthrough weekend.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's only positive. This whole field is so full of talent, such great personalities. It's great we have the mix we have. Simona just drove good all weekend long. Yeah, I think it's all just a positive for the series in the future. Vautier, great job.
Yeah, it's exciting.
Q. You have a Toronto connection. Now you have a driver from Toronto. Can you talk a little bit about that.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's great. It's great that he's Canadian. I love Canada. I love Toronto.
But we don't really look at the flags in the end, we just look at the personalities. I think we have great personalities, and James is one of them. He's a great guy, fun to be around, great for the series. To have him up front I think is really great for everybody involved with the series. It's good.
Q. You're talking about a guy who won the series' most popular driver before he even won a race. Can something like this catapult him on to a lot more people's radar and benefit not only him, but the sponsor, team, series?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: All of us. It's good for all of us. He is such a great personality. He's not only a great personality, but he also performs on the racetrack. You got it all. That's a great thing to have. I'm so happy and proud he's part of our team.
I'm excited. I'm glad he finally broke the ice. This isn't going to be his only win I don't think.
Q. Were you surprised at all that Hinch finished on the blacks whereas Marco finished on the reds? What did you make between the two compounds?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: They were different. But it was different strategies. It was interesting the way it worked out. It also worked out how many sets of tires you're using, how many you had. The way it worked out, I think Marco had the sticker of reds, James had the sticker of blacks.
I think in the end it was the right one for James because it was all about the end of the race. I think in the end he had the tires more than Helio.
Helio, he had to make his move early. He wasn't able to. James was able to hold him off. I knew 10 laps to go, I think we're in good shape now because James has got the blacks, so it worked out.
Q. I know things change week-to-week in this series. You come off a year in which you win the championship, you take two of the top three spots today, meanwhile Chip Ganassi isn't happy with his engine manufacturer, and you beat Penske today. How do you feel about all of that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think we have a great team. We have great drivers. But we also have just great people throughout, from engineering down through management to mechanics. It's really, really fun to be around the people we have on the team right now.
In the end, it's all people that make it happen, and they're making it happen for us. I'm very excited about it. I felt really good coming into this year, even better than last year. I think there's so many things we added to the team.
So, yeah, I feel really good right now about where we're at.
Q. You mentioned the characteristics of your drivers that you pick out. Without giving away any trade secrets, can you get specific about James, what qualities and talents you saw in him?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I watched James' career all the way back in Mazda when he was racing Marco in Mazdas. He was always quick. Didn't matter what type of car he was in.
The other thing that really caught my eye the year before when he was with Newman/Haas was how he was able to perform on all different racetracks, as well as having a teammate like Oriol next to you and he's running with him. You knew he had the talent at that point. It was a no-brainer for us to bring him into the family.
Then, like I said, the added bonus on top of his talent is he's just a great guy, a great personality.
Q. All this time we've not heard Ryan Hunter-Reay's name today. What do you think about what I would call the three championship contenders way in the back today?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I've got to say thank goodness. I don't wish bad luck on anybody, but it helped us that Will had his problems as well. Ryan, I know he would have been battling. He would have been right up with Marco.
Something happened with the throttle. We don't actually know why yet, so we have to look into that. It's interesting, I'm wondering if that's what happened to Hildebrand. Looked like the same thing happened to him.
That was the only downside of the weekend I would say is that. But we can't be greedy. I know that we got lucky because the other championship contenders, besides James, who I think will be one, and Marco as well. But, yeah, I think we got lucky in that way with Ryan.
Q. I know you've been a big proponent of this series since you came over here in 2003. For those watching today's race, didn't have all the drama, subplots, story lines, that you would hope to see in an auto race.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, it was actually about the racing. What's that about? It was great. It was an all-out fight. Those guys were running flat out the whole time. That's what racing's all about.
It was fun that Helio was keeping the pressure on there. You didn't know until the last stop what was going to happen, Marco and all that with his tires going off. That's what makes this series so great. The racing product is the best in the world.
Q. Talk about the synergy between James and Craig.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It wasn't by design. We had a change happen right after Christmas, so we had to go to work to try to find a replacement. We had tried to get Craig back in the off-season before that, like right around November, but he couldn't do it because things were happening with Newman/Haas. It's so weird. One door closes and another one opens.
Almost that same day we found out that Craig could leave, so it was like a perfect thing. Adding him to our team is just going to make us that much stronger because we rate him very highly, we always did. We've been trying to get him for a while.
To have him come and slide right in with James worked out perfect.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on today's race. Thank you.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I also want to say great job for Chevy. Top five, that's pretty awesome.
THE MODERATOR: We'll jump into it with James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport. How does it feel to get your first win?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It's awesome. There's been a lot of talk about it in the off-season, when that first one was going to come, what we had to do to get there. My answer was always the same. We had to minimize the mistakes. The team is good, the car is good, the engineers are good. We proved last year the team is capable of winning. It's down to me on any given Sunday to minimize mistakes.
We capitalized on restarts. The last restart was on blacks, everyone around us was on reds. Helio made a mistake. I thought I would lead for a couple laps, but he would catch up. For that many laps on technically the slower tires took everything out of me.
I was so happy to get it done and get Go Daddy its first win in IndyCar, Chevrolet back in Victory Circle, one, two, three on the podium, podium sweep. My teammate on the podium. It's just a helluva day.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions.
Q. Michael was in here a little while ago and he said he knew with 10 laps left he wasn't worried. In those 10 laps, did you think you had it won?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I'm glad he was calm about it (laughter).
It wasn't till about four to go, I opened up a little bit of a gap. All weekend we really struggled out of the last corner. Obviously that leads onto the longest straightaway and best passing opportunity. Those black and white cars were really quick in that part of the track.
For me the focus was getting out of turn 10. I knew no matter what I did I was going to be slow compared to him out of the last corner. It was just being absolutely picture perfect lap after lap. I had a couple more overtakes than he did. With four to go I opened up enough of a gap that I could save the fuel I need to save and not make any mistakes.
Man, it's the realization of a dream, being a winner in IndyCar. Especially for Canada it's really cool.
Q. There's been a lot of discussion after this win about personality, for obvious reasons. Michael Andretti said you're one of the great ones. Where do you see your personality fitting into IndyCar and does this first victory give you a chance to amplify that to the fan base?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: We'll see. I think that fans certainly like a winner. Now we can call ourselves that. Hopefully it's not the last one.
But I've always tried to be myself at the racetrack. I think some people at some points in my career thought that maybe I wasn't taking my job seriously enough or something like that.
But I think when you look at the last three laps of this race, the pressure we were under, I made a couple tiny little errors sort of thing. But to bring it all back, keep our head down, hold off a guy like Helio, hopefully it proves that you can be a joker off the track but still get the job done on the track.
Like I said, we'll see if the fans respond to it. Usually they like a guy that can win. Maybe this will help boost me up a little bit.
Q. Early reports are they're tearing down Young Street right now in the celebration.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't know about that. But if that's the case, probably catch a plane home and join them.
Q. You forged your own identity with Go Daddy. They've invested so much into the sport. How does it feel to be the one that gave Go Daddy their first victory?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I can't tell you how much that means. They obviously took a big gamble on me. I'd only been in the series a year. We won Rookie of the Year, but hadn't done tremendous things. For Andretti and Go Daddy to take that chance on us. We were in shouting distance of a win a few times last year. It was that last piece that was missing.
Today, beginning of the season, first race, to get that out of the way, get the Go Daddy car in Victory Lane for the first time, it's awesome. Thankful for Bob Parsons and everybody at the company. Hopefully it's a match they'll carry on for a number of years to come.
Q. (No microphone.)
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Certainly following Danica was a big ask. I guess we put a lot of effort into making sure it wasn't the guy driving Danica's car. We really wanted to make it our own by playing off her last year, things like that. I hope now, especially after things like this, You're the guy driving Danica's car. Hopefully when we get to the races this year, it will be, That's Hinch's car.
Q. Now that you're a contender, what does a contender need to become a champion?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, it's race one. There's 18 to go. It's early to call anybody a contender or rule anybody out. It's a good place to start.
To be a contender in this series is all about consistency. You cannot make mistakes. It's so competitive, there's so many guys willing to pounce on anything you do wrong, whether it's in the pits, making a bad setup call or a driving error, people are going to take advantage of that.
So I think the guy at the end of the year, or girl, that made the least mistakes as a team on the whole, those are going to be the guys you're going to see hoisting the championship trophy.
Q. Two years ago here you were going through the paddock waiting to make your series debut. Could you have imagined two years ago you'd be right here?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: No chance. No chance. What a difference 24 months can make. Even last year was such a difference in my first race with Go Daddy, Andretti Autosport. We qualified, finished in the top five. That was a good result for us. To come here 12 months later, especially when you think how our season ended, it was not a good end to our season. Fontana was just the worst, longest day of my life. It was so demoralizing going into the longest off-season in history with such a poor record finishing the season.
But we've got such a good group of guys on that car. It's all the same crew we had last year. These guys worked so hard. Chevy did such a good job over the winter to come here and grab that first win for those guys as much as Go Daddy, it's really cool.
Q. Talk about holding up the Canadian flag in Victory Lane, what that meant to you.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: For a small country population-wise, Canada produces some pretty good racing drivers. When you look at the list of guys from Canada that have made it to IndyCar, whether it's Scott Goodyear, Jacques Villeneuve, Greg Moore, Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani, Patrick Carpentier, not only did these guys make it from Canada to IndyCar, every single one of those guys are winners. A lot of guys come from the UK or Brazil and never make it to that win. There was a lot of pressure put on myself, never externally, nobody back home ever said anything, but to continue that tradition of Canadian winners, not just Canadian drivers.
That weighed on my mind a lot ever since I got the chance to get into an IndyCar. So now to add my name to that list means an awful lot for me. I'm just proud to do it for Canada.
Q. What was it that you did that caused Helio to go wide into turn one?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I'd like to say it was some masterful trickery. I think Helio got a little hot in there. It's tough. That late in the race, the inside line gets dirty. I had to restart from both the inside and the outside at different points in the race, and it's tough.
Being on new tires, on the outside, I was able to brake quite late. I saw him make the mistake and go wide. I'll wait a couple laps, he's on reds, I watched him walk away from me in the last stint. I figured he was going by. I was doing my own thing, trying to conserve my fuel and tires to make sure I could make it to the end. It's a long stint at the end of the race there.
10 laps into that stint, he's still there, but he's not attacking. So the big thing for me was just be absolutely inch perfect all the way around the track lap after lap. I knew I had a couple more overtakes, so that was going to help.
Yeah, at the end of the day it was just putting the focus in the right places at the right times. Those last four laps, like I said, we were able to gap it a bit and that's when it kind of became real.
Q. Can you take us back to the day when Michael called you about the job. This was a car that Dan was supposed to drive. Danica had just left. The pressures. How did Michael call you?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Certainly I was shocked to get the call, if I'm honest. It wasn't that long after the end of the 2011. I hadn't even thought about the fact that somebody had to drive that car. I was kind of floored when I got that car, that my name was on the short list. It was quickly established that they wanted me in the car and I very much wanted to be in the car, with essentially having lost my ride at Newman/Haas when they closed.
It hit me because it was a tremendous amount of responsibility I felt to honor Dan and do a good enough job to honor what he would have done in this car.
So to get the first win here in his hometown with his family here, who I've grown quite close to, it means so much more, to be honest. There's nowhere that I would have rather had my first win I don't think in this car than right here in St. Pete.
Q. Where were you when you got that call?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I was sitting at home contemplating life, thinking about what I was going to do in university (laughter).
Q. Did you get a chance to speak to any of the Wheldon family afterwards?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I saw Holly. Holly and I are quite close. My girlfriend and her have become best friends.
It's just so awesome. They've been so nice to me, so accepting of me being in this car. They feel like family now, they really do. It was a huge relief for me because before it was announced I guess someone let the Wheldons know. I got a text from Holly saying, Is it true you're going to be in that car? I was so glad she texted me because I wanted to talk to her about it. She said the Wheldons couldn't think of anybody better and they're fully supportive of you.
I said, My trailer is your trailer, this is your car as much as anything. They've been huge supporters of me.
Q. Last 10 laps in particular, since the race was extended from last year, any extra concerns with you on blacks and him on reds?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah. It was kind of funny because they extended the race trying to eliminate fuel-saving racing. Street courses, cautions, the way it all plays out, we ended up saving fuel for the last stint by a good chunk. If it had been 10 laps shorter, we would have been flat out in the last 10. Ironic the way it unfolded.
I was trying not to focus that they added laps. At the end of the stint I didn't think I would be leading with 10 to go. I didn't think it was going to be an issue.
Q. You had vibration early on in the first stint. What was that?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: We were really rough on the red tires. It was a pretty big factor in the decision to run blacks in the final stint there. Just as the first stint went on, it just sort of developed a vibration, a sign of excessive wear. Nothing wrong with the tire, just the way our car was handling it.
When we did the second stint, the blacks were more consistent, even though they weren't quite as quick. When we figured out how long the last stint was going to be, we had a used set. Obviously other guys did reds, held on with them. I don't think our car could have done that. The decision to throw the blacks on at the end is absolutely what I think gave us the win here today.
Q. What is it about you and Craig?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: He comes with so much experience. He's been in the sport 20 years. He's probably the most decorated engineer on pit lane. What I like about Craig is just how honest he is. Drivers and engineers have a tremendous habit of being completely full of BS and blaming everything on other people. He's the first engineer I've worked with that when it was absolutely his fault, he was the first guy to put up his hand and admit it, and he was harder on himself that anybody else could have been.
That work ethic he brings to a program is just incredible. It motivates everyone around him. I'm working harder than I did last year. I thought I was doing a pretty good job last year. He brings that whole extra level. It's just that last little bit you need to be at the front in this series.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone. Congratulations, James, on the win.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Thank you.