Dixon, Ganassi, Hull
PAT SULLIVAN: We are delighted to bring to the Economaki Press Conference Center the winning team, the winning owner, a gentleman who also is involved in making these plans and executing them and giving the driver the opportunity to be in a position to win. It doesn't always happen when you have the best car and I think everyone is coming here to acknowledge the best car won the race. Chip, I can't imagine, it's got to be a deep feeling of satisfaction to win the Indianapolis 500. Congratulations.
CHIP GANASSI: I tell you, I don't know what to say. I can tell you this, I'm very fortunate to work with the people that I get to work with in this industry and, you know, from obviously Scott and Dan and Mike Hull and the team of people that he puts together, and I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. I can't tell you how many times, you know, I talk to Mike every day on the phone or I see him and our emotions are up, down, sideways, left and right, and he's the guy that keeps it all steady and moving in the proper direction. I'm just lucky to have him.
SULLIVAN: Mike, you know as well as anybody that you can have the best car, no question on Race Day. But particularly in today's race with so many at times bizarre things happened and some contenders had problems, you know, it's just not easy to get to Victory Lane. Talk about your emotions and how they went during the day.
MIKE HULL: You're right about the question. We come here to the Indy 500, and we've been lucky enough to win and we've been lucky enough to finish at the front. This year we had speed, and speed was the denominator that we had this year with both Dan and Scott. When you have speed as your ally, then it makes what we did today enormously easier. Because, you know, my heart goes out in a way to Vitor and Marco at the end of the race because you know what? We've been in that position. We know how hard it is to pass the guy that's leading the race. And those guys, they hung in there to the end, and they had a legitimate chance to win. We've been in that position here.
So as Chip spoke a couple of weeks ago in this room when we talked about the pole, somebody asked the question and it's all about the people that prepare the cars to give Dan and Scott the opportunity to win big races. We dedicate ourselves as a team to win big races, and we're thankful we did it today.
SULLIVAN: It's a pretty big one.
Q: If both of you could kind of talk about the quiet confidence that Scott portrays in his craft. He always approaches his job as a driver with a lot of quiet confidence. That kind of sets him apart from some people.
GANASSI: He's been like that, you know, forever since I've known him. I think, you know, he at first, quite frankly, at first I didn't think he was that excited about racing when you first meet him because he -- he had won so early in IndyCars in his career. You know, that quietness, people confuse that with caring about things. You know, it's a relief to know that really wasn't what it is; it was a quiet confidence that sort of is his trademark. That's a powerful tool.
SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, let's indeed welcome the winner of the Indianapolis 500, Scott Dixon. Scott, congratulations. (Applause)
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you. Thank you. It sounds pretty good, doesn't it? It sounds very good.
Q: Chip, Scott was up there tossing the milk around and going -- you were off to the side and I saw you taking a swig of milk. Just how good did that taste?
GANASSI: You know, it tasted pretty good. You know, that's something -- in this business there are few things, you know, when you've been in this business as long as Mike and I have, there's a few things you get out of the business. One of them is trophies, one of them is rings and one is a sip of milk. You know, outside of that, you don't walk away from this business with much else. So that's what's special about that.
Q: Scott, you should have gotten married earlier. Man, this deal is agreeing with you. (Laughter)
We can give them some of the credit. But to all three of you, you all sat there the same spot two weeks ago talking about being aggressive coming here for Pole Day, being aggressive this year. Was the approach the same for Race Day here today?
DIXON: Yeah, the whole month has, but it's tough to be aggressive when you don't have the equipment. You know, this year I think with everybody at the workshop, people that stay back at the workshop and don't come to the races, a lot of people that work out on these cars to try and make them fast. But this month for me was a month where you could be aggressive because you had the tools to do it, and I think that was what it came down to. Everybody's hard work in the offseason and coming into the season. I think the team has been unstoppable almost, I think, with over the first five races. It's nice to be aggressive, nice to have the confidence level and even better to come away with a win like this.
Q: Scott, I know you were a little reluctant even this week to hang on that favorite. You said I don't want to jinx us, we've been so fast and we shouldn't be looked at like that. When the race went down, did you feel pretty good that you were comfortable with the way things went or was there ever a time you were a little worried or how did it kind of turn out?
DIXON: I think I was worried going into the race just because we had had such a smooth month. It was one of those things where you're sort of waiting for something to go wrong. We only had it coming down to the Race Day, and it's the last day you want something to go wrong. But going in you always have high expectations, but in the back of the mind you're like, 'What if we have a bad pit stop or we have a problem of some sort mechanically that's going to take you out of it?' That's out of your hands.
I think there was no point in the race where I knew we were over-confident or could win this thing easy. Especially toward the end with maybe with 20 or 40 laps to go when you have sleepers come like Meira come out, and he was super-fast. He was super-fast. So there's definitely guys like that. You could see Helio was coming up; Marco we knew all day was fast. I think he had a problem in the pits at some point. But at no point did I think we had this in the bag and was almost waiting for something to go wrong.
Q: Scott, that kind of goes into my next question. You didn't think you had it in the bag, you're leading, you had some really good cars trying to chase you down the last 20 laps or so. What was going through your mind?
DIXON: The corner in front, man, that's what I was looking at each time, the corner in front. With about four or five laps to go, the traffic was definitely going through my mind. We started to catch at least four or five cars, and I didn't want it to play out that way, get stuck behind one of them. Because as soon as you lose momentum around here, those guys, you know, breathing down your neck are going to blow by you with a couple laps to go. I think for me was just, you know, I started going stiffer on the rear bar, putting the weight all the way to the left to try and make the car as fast as possible for those last few laps. But I think for me it was just always concentrating on the corner and trying to make a perfect lap every lap.
Q: Scott, what were your emotions when you pulled in Victory Lane? You kind of looked a little almost maybe shocked at first.
DIXON: I was shocked. I think just almost dumbfounded. It's such a strange feeling, and for me, I don't show emotions too much. I don't know, it's almost like you're in a dreamland. It was quite crazy. It's something that you sort of expect somebody to maybe pinch you, and you wake up and you're sleeping in your bed back home. It still hasn't sunk in yet, and it feels so special. I think the parade lap and seeing everybody still out there and driving around such a magnificent circuit with three other people with you and everybody sort of yelling your name was something that I wish I had witnessed previous to now, but it makes you want to go and win this race once again.
Q: Chip, you made a lot of great news out of Indianapolis this month and not a lot of great news out of Concord this month. Was there ever a time -- two-part question, was there ever a time because of the kind of confusion down in Concord where you maybe questioned yourself, "Am I doing this right?"
And then how much does something like this where you have a dominating car that actually delivers you this dominating win say to you, 'OK, I am doing this right,' and, you know, whatever craziness is going on on the other side there is craziness that's going to work itself out?
GANASSI: I feel like we have the right strategy, and I'm staying with that strategy. That strategy works in this company. (Laughter)
OK? So I don't, you know, that didn't faze me. I'm in this business to win races, period, and every car we get into every week. End of story.
Q: Scott, at any time on that cool-down lap did you allow yourself any emotion? Did you have some that you can admit to doing? I know, as you said, it's probably too early to tell, but I mean, you talked about always wanting to win this race. Just how big is it?
DIXON: I was definitely yelling a lot on the radio and punching my fist in the air. I think I took out nearly three cars on the cool-down lap that were trying to go around me because I was going so slow. But no, everybody is different to how they throw their emotions out there. It's such a special moment, but all you're wanting to do is get back to the pits and see everybody that helped you get there. It's not just me, it's tons of people that worked on the team, it's Mike, it's Chip, it filters down. And my wife, Emma, for cooking me pancakes this morning kind of thing. (Laughter)
So you feel on the last 30 laps, you feel quite alone out there. You're like, 'Oh, shit, it's actually down to me on this, I better not mess up because everybody has given me the tools to do it and it does fall on you a little bit there.' But when you do win it, you do want to get back and see everybody.
Q: Scott, how much of this early-season dominance you have, especially at Kansas and here today, how much of this can you trace back to the disappointment of the last lap last year?
DIXON: I think it even goes back further than that. We had the dominance of winning three races in a row and going for four and trying to chase down Dario for the championship. I think that's when it started, you know. We had a great, you know, everything that everybody was doing was just falling into, you know, the right place. Everybody was working well together, and we've carried on that confidence level and the success we had at the end of last year even we didn't come away with the championship. But yes, I think that combination, with more determination after what happened, has been what's helped us this season, I think. So it's a combination of a lot of things.
Q: Scott, I'd love to claim your Australian heritage but I'm sure you're very much a New Zealander.
DIXON: How did I know you were going to start with that?
Q: I had to get a little Aussie out in me. This is a great sport achievement by a New Zealander or New Zealander team. How does that make you feel?
DIXON: Pretty special. I think it's so hard to see that part. Definitely a lot of support from New Zealand today, which I've never seen before. So winning the pole I think got a few people out here. I don't know, I think until I go home, because you're so far away over here. You just talk to people on the phone and do the occasional interview with TVNZ over here. It's hard to really feel what people have done for me back in New Zealand, and definitely the support I've had and the amount of people that have helped me get to where I've been. But it feels really special to be part of something that's going to go down in history books and more so in New Zealand.
Q: Of course you'll not only be famous down there, but you're going to be become a lot more well known, probably more famous here in the United States and for a pretty quiet guy, it's going to be a big change for your life, isn't it?
DIXON: Sure will. But as long as I keep winning races, that's what's important for me.
Q: Chip, you have a lot of good drivers through your IndyCar stable over the years. How good is Scott? Where does he rank?
GANASSI: You have to say he's right up there, if not there. I've been blessed in this industry to work with great drivers, like I said earlier, and great people. You know, today he's the one, it's that simple. You know, the first two guys that call me, the first two guys in Victory Lane to call were Montoya and Franchitti. They said, "Hey, great job," and they asked me why I was drinking the milk before he was. (Laughter) I said I didn't notice that.
Q: Scott, if could you shed a little light. You said you had pancakes. Were they blueberry, chocolate chip? Also, did you sleep well last night? Could you just tell us a little bit about what your night was like last night and also this morning?
DIXON: Yeah, I did sleep well, actually. I went to bed early and got woken up by that God-awful cannon that goes off at 6 in the morning, dogs in the motor home, and they were barking after that. So I was up quite early. My wife, Emma, made me just plain pancakes, American pancakes. Put a bit of butter on it, bit of hot syrup, and that's about all I had actually before the race. That was my morning. A bit of running around, but it was pretty simple today. That's a nice way to start.
Q: We kind of touched on it already, Scott, but second place last year and the mixed emotion that comes along with that. How much of the disappointment being so close to winning and not winning linger through this past year and even up into today?
DIXON: The race last year, you know, I think if you're sort of pushing on to the '500' last year was kind of a strange day. To be honest, when I finished second, I still didn't feel like I had done anything because it was a day of strategies. Not taking anything away from Dario, he was definitely fast and one of the guys to beat that day. But for me personally it was just kind of one those blah days, nothing really came out of it for me. So I don't -- coming close in that circumstance didn't really play much on me. I think you're disappointed no matter what unless you come away from this place winning it. But for me, the thing that I was more angry at was losing a championship so close and running out of fuel with a turn to go, that lingered definitely over the offseason, but by that time, I had forgotten about the '500' and where we finished.
Q: Scott, I wondered, you've won the championship, you've won the '500,' what do you set your sights on now, what's the next goal?
DIXON: Championship, man. We have another championship to win this year. That is something we get on next week in Milwaukee. Having won a championship in 2003, that was a long time ago. So I need to get on my game and try and capture another championship for the team and everybody involved. That's exactly what they want to do. It's nice to -- we're going to have great memories from this day, and we're going to treasure those for sure, but Thursday, Friday of next week we're back on the game for the championship.
Q: How does this compare to winning the championship in 2003?
DIXON: Much more sweeter. This is much more sweeter. Because you work three weeks solidly, and it comes down to one day to get it and have everything to fall into place. It's quite special. There's not many people that have this happen.
For me, a championship is different. I think especially in 2003 for all us guys, it was a bit of a shock, you know. We came in as the first year, not a shock for Chip and his team because they're great at winning championships, but for me one for probably not liking ovals too much at that point, and not having done extremely well at that point either, and coming in with cars that maybe people didn't think were the ones to have and things like that, but that year was definitely a shock, I think. So this is much sweeter. You know now what goes into winning this race and how much effort everybody puts into it. Makes it much sweeter.
Q: Scott, the reunification story is so big, this is the year that open-wheel racing got its act together, everybody got together, and I'm sure in the future people will look back and say this was the year, the marking of the new era, the significance of winning the first Indy 500 of that new era.
DIXON: It's nice. That's about all I'd say about it. You've got to understand that these teams have not had much time. They're at a disadvantage. This race every year is very difficult to win, no matter who's in it. The depth of the field I would say was much stronger this year. Definitely a lot of talent with these new teams and drivers. But, you know, it's hard to sort of say, yeah, we beat all the guys that came in kind of thing because they haven't had much time. I think next year is going to be just as tough to win, but that's the real year I think that everybody is going to be up to the level that they're going to be. So it is nice to, especially to win the first race at Homestead that way and then to win the first '500' of unification. But you can't take too much away from those guys.
Q: Chip, Wheldon was pretty vague about what happened to his car.
GANASSI: Yeah, I think we got a broken shock or something. We got something broken in it. It's something -- I mean something is wrong with that car, I can tell you. You know, the thing just lost its speed all at once. First we thought we got rubber on the tires and that wasn't it. And he kept complaining about the right rear of the car, the right rear corner. So I'll be interested to see there. We might have a broken shock or something.
Q: Chip, now that you have four of the last eight Indy 500 winners in your stable, does it make up for maybe some lost opportunities you had in the latter part of last decade when you had such dominant teams?
GANASSI: You don't think about that kind of thing. Like I said, I'm lucky to have all the drivers that drive for us. I'm lucky to have all of them. I'm lucky to be in the business that, you know, when I got started in this business or when I was -- I was telling someone yesterday, the first time I came to Indianapolis, the Indianapolis 500, I was 13 years old or something. The first time I came, I came the year before I drove here in 1981, I think that was, you know, I don't know how many years ago, 26, 27 years ago or something and you know, racing in those days was not -- you almost were embarrassed to tell people that -- they say what do you do for a living? You say, 'I race cars,' and they look at you a little crooked back in those days. There were so few people in those days that it was not a respected industry or a respected sport. So I'm just, like I said, I'm, you know, here I am all these years later, and it's become what it's become and it's special to be able to work with all those guys. I just, like I said, we're in this business for one reason, and it's to win races and win championships and give back something to our sponsors. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet about the sponsors that I have and the people I get to work with.
SULLIVAN: Just four or five minutes.
Q: Having spent my share of time around the Team New Zealand sailing people, I was wondering when you guys were going to do the Hackamore war dance up there.
DIXON: If I still knew it, mate, that would be the forum. But I think there were some boys out here that just did it, did you see that?
Q: It doesn't count, doesn't get you off the hook. (Laughter)
DIXON: I forgot that about 20 years ago, man. I knew it in school, but that was about it.
Q: That would have been a photo op.
Q: This is for Chip and for Mike. On a day when the Indy 500 celebrated unity, you guys came here in 2000, and I'm sure that was a pretty gutsy move here to come here and break ranks and you guys were the first major team to come back here. If you guys could talk about having done that and now being here with the unified series and how satisfied both of you feel about that.
HULL: Winning the Indy 500, it's the biggest race in the world to win. And whether it's this year when we've had, what we're calling unification or whether it was in 2000 when we came here when we were still in another series, to us we feel this is the most important race in the world to win. To be blessed in this way to win it again is why we come here every year. Excited about this.
GANASSI: Yeah, Bruce, we all, I said this a few weeks ago, we all lived and died a lot in those years of the split. Thank God -- can we please all put this behind us, you know? Put a period on that thing, and let's move forward. You know, we lived during that time, but we died, too. So I'd just as soon forget about everything that's behind us in that respect. I'm happy that we're back together. I'm happy there's one IndyCar Series. Unification is great but, you know, it's IndyCar racing again, OK? And those -- there's nothing older than yesterday's news.
HULL: One of the greatest things about the Indy 500 this year outside of what we did today, is the fact that the people are back on Georgetown Road. You know, that's the barometer really when you think about it, and it always has been. When you have what goes on on Georgetown Road happen on Saturday night, you know that people are -- you know, the people are here. It's awesome. And unification, if that's what you want to call it, is giving us what we need to make this the best thing in the world.
Q: Scott, ultimately you work back around but the pass that Vitor made, sort of three-wide thing, how aware of that were you? What did you notice or did you just all of a sudden see him ahead?
DIXON: Sorry, I missed the last part.
Q: What did you notice? How aware of what he was doing were you?
DIXON: Yeah, I was aware what Vitor was up to the whole time. The cars you can see out of very well, they have mirrors and things like that. Definitely people telling you on the radio exactly what he's up to. I think that was when we were passing him, is that what you were talking about; is that right? I think Ed was on older tires and didn't have the speed we did on new tires. He definitely came from a long way back. They were a lot more trimmed out than us, I think. The last, you know, 20, 30 laps of the race you could tell he was definitely very quick out front by himself. I tried a few runs at him, I was in a air mixture, and I was pretty confident we could get past him when we needed to. But I wanted to sit back and see sort of how his car was over a longer stint, see if it went off because he had less downforce than us. But no, anytime you're out there you know what's going on. There's plenty of people yelling down the radios to let you know who's where and especially on a day like this. I think it's better for us. We probably could have stayed in front of him at that point, but there was no point to squeeze a guy and have a chance of him maybe taking us out.
SULLIVAN: Well, on Pole Day, Helio Castroneves came in here and told the assembled media, 'We're not going back out because we don't have anything for them,' and that was the statement of the month. Congratulations, guys.
DIXON: Thank you. (Applause)