FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 TOP THREE SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Dillon Battistini, Richard Antinucci, Wade Cunningham
Q: Tell us what it was like from your cockpit today.
WADE CUNNINGHAM: We didn't really know what was going to happen going into the event today because it has been so cold in testing, and we only got oneg ood session on Thursday. We thought we did the right thing. Looking back now, we probably ran too much downforce, a little too low and also the gears with the cross wind. In the draft today we ran behind Dillon, who was keeping a nice pace up front. I got to lead two or three times, and Dillon was passing well. I was sitting in second, trying to wait for a good time to get around before the checkered flag. I am disappointed with the yellow flag with 15 laps to go. I didn't get to do exactly what I wanted to. Again, he encountered similar problems with the gearing. He is just a great, fast Panther car.
Q: What was your strategy the last two laps?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: Similar to what Wade was saying, it was a good position to be in on the last lap for anyone a part from Dillon. We seemed to have a little less top speed, Wade and I, when we were pulling in the draft getting along side him and trying to get a run, whether it be when we were coming out (Turn) 2 or out of (Turn) 4. Those two straights helped us get alongside him and then once we get alongside him, we just die in the open wind.It was a bit frustrating not getting another half of a car link on him and boxing in between 3 and 4, and that what I was trying to do the last lap.Congratulations to him and his team; he was so quick. And I think perhaps maybe running a little different gear or less downforce, but I had trouble on the straights and jumping and pushing didn't help.
Q: Did the yellow flag help you out? If you run full force the whole way on green would your tires have lasted?
CUNNINGHAM: We have found with these tires, especially cold air doesn't like them very much. And with the warm weather today, it definitely seemed to open up the tire a bit and get a longer shelf life. I'm sure the yellows couldn't have hurt. I encountered on the first long yellow we had, I had a lot of build up on my fronts. But tire wear wasn't an issue. I was talking with my engineer, and there was some concern with there was the J.R.Hildebrand yellow that he had a tire problem, but it was due to contact. So all in all there were little worries.
ANTINUCCI: We cut him, we were there. We would go alongside him and struggle, but he didn't seem to drop off on tires. I was very concerned as it warmed up today. We ran a lot more downforce, and were a little more conservative. We didn't know what was going to happen. I was hoping the other cars were going to drop off. We had the corners beat, we just didn't have the overall outrights beat to pass him on the straight.
Q: Most of the passes you made were on the outside. Could you just not get to the inside or was Dillon hugging the inside and protecting it to much?
ANTINUCCI: It wasn't Dillon. Actually, Dillon would leave a little bit of space. It was very generous of him because that means the guy behind himc ould run right down the line the same way Wade would do most of the race.So anyone behind him, Davison, Beatriz and myself, meant that we would have to fan out. I had people fanning out right, left, and I just went wider. My car was very stable. I had a very good car in the corners.
Q: Do you hope to be in IndyCar Series next year?
CUNNINGHAM: Definitely. I think most drivers in the Indy Lights, the goal isto get to the IndyCar Series. I would have liked to have been there by now. This is my fourth year here at the Speedway in Indy Lights, but the Series is treating me well. It is just waiting for the right opportunity. I haven't had any at this stage. I was able to test with Andretti Green, which was fantastic, but I am going to be waiting here until I get that chance.
Q: What do you two think about the wheel bumping?
CUNNINGHAM: I started third, so generally a lot of time the drivers up front respect each other sometimes more than the people at the back of the field, who think they have to get to the front as soon as possible. It was a really conservative start at the front. James Davison, he looked like he had to get to the front, so I was glad to get around him. Once the first through fourth spread out, I could see that there was a lot of shuffling of people in the fifth through eighth spot. There was three- or four-wide at points, so I was glad to be at the front and just wait until the end. Its not surprising. Weare all here for racing, and I think that is the name of the game.
ANTINUCCI: I saw Donoso fly through the field on the yellow, and he actually kept that position on the restart. It was good to get rid of him in a hurry.My teammate Davison seemed to be moving to the corners in a dangerous way during that stage of the race. Even the last couple of laps, Wade and I weres ide by side, and that is professional, clean racing. You want to win races, but you don't want to be one big Dallara in the wall.
Q: I noticed when the cars are running down the main straight, they are running up against the wall. I've never noticed that before.
I think this year, with the panels on the side of the car and maybe some difference in the tires, I think the whole field may have been running more downforce than we have in the past. I have been here four yearsnow, and I think I can make a call on that. I think a lot of it was overgrip, in the past, we haven't really seen cars run too wide into (Turn) 1and stay flat. Both Richard and I did that today, which was surprising, andI wasn't sure how I was going to end up. We both gave each other room and obviously the cars are capable of doing it. Dillon nearly ran the white line the last three laps. So it was probably the cars and running more grip than we have in the past.
Q: What is your next step in your career?
ANTINUCCI: Indy without Lights. CUNNINGHAM: It is IndyCar or I would take a monster truck ride, if it was available.
Q: Tell us what this win here at Indianapolis means to you.
DILLON BATTISTINI: It means a lot. It's the best place to come and win. Thisis the race everyone wants to come and win. It's massive, I'm just glad I managed to pull it off today.
Q: We were just talking about how great a race it was. In your mirrors, how much of that did you see and was your goal to stay in front as much as you could?
BATTISTINI: Well, really, I was just focusing on going as fast as I could.You can't help but look in the mirror a bit when you go through the corners. All I could see was lots of cars moving around behind me. They seemed to be taking turns at me every now and then, but I could tell that I had very good pace because they seemed to have to use the tow to be able to close on me.
Q: Do you have an explanation - you come to America and run the ovals, why are you so dominating and so quick? This kind of racing doesn't exist in Europe. What is the secret?
BATTISTINI: It is a slightly different skill. A lot of it comes down to setting up the car well. I can't really explain for sure, really, it should carry over, if you're good on the street circuit then you're going to begood on an oval, as well. What I can say is it must be a good car/driver combination.
Q: Talk about that, Panther does have a good reputation for setting a car up well on ovals. What does that do for the driver, when you're sitting in a car well prepared?
BATTISTINI: It really helps your confidence a lot. I knew I really had a really good car on every oval I've been to this year. It still takes a driver to capitalize on that, and obviously work with the engineer to get the most from the car. So, it's not straight forward, but it's a very good platform for me to utilize.
Q: Early in the race it seemed like most of the passes on you were in Turn 1, and you'd retake back in Turn 3. Was Turn 1 a little weak for you?
BATTISTINI: I don't think so. Most of the passing's done at the end of the straights, because you use the slipstream to get a run up, and the pass just happens at the end of the straight. It's probably just coincidence that I was passed in Turn 1 and I could judge it right and get momentum to pass in (Turn) 3 and use the same trick.
Q: Richard (Antinucci) and Wade (Cunningham) were battling for the lead with you all day and took lead a couple times. How were you able to battle back and hold them off throughout the whole race?
BATTISTINI: I'm not sure how to answer that one, actually. It's just how the race unfolded. We were trying our hardest, and part of it was just working to make sure the car was going to be good at the end of the race, not overworking the tires, and that's just the way the race unfolded, I think.
Q: Dillon, your car seemed to be running well mid- to high line. Was that aplanned thing or was that just how the car was? BATTISTINI: It was working quite well on any line. When I was going for speed, I was quite high on the entry to the corners, but there are more carsthat are capable of running a low line, as well, so when I had to, I did.
Q: How will you celebrate tonight?
BATTISTINI: With my friends and my backers. A lot of people came to watch me this weekend. My guess is that we're going to be doing some partying.