Grand Prix of Long Beach – Podium Press Conference

Carlos Munoz, Will Power, and Mike Conway participate in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Podium Press Conference.  Press the “Continue Reading” button to see the whole transcript.

THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport, who finished third. It is Carlos’s second podium finish of his career in five starts.  His other podium finish was second at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Indy 500 last May. Carlos, just give us a brief statement on how your race went today.

CARLOS MUÑOZ:  It went pretty well.  It’s not the way I’d like to earn my third place with so many accidents, but this is racing.  Anything can happen, especially on this track, especially in INDYCAR, anything can happen.  But I’m really happy.  It was a really nice race.  In the first turn we were struggling a lot with the rear tires.  I was fighting with the car trying to maintain the position.  After that my guys, my crew guys did an awesome job on the pit stops and everything.  I just pushed pretty hard on the last two laps to try to overtake Will, but it was really difficult.  Even though I had some push to pass.  But I’m happy, second podium in INDYCAR, and first podium this year.  So I’m going to keep pushing.

THE MODERATOR:  We’re pleased to be joined by Will Power, who finished second in this race.  His second podium finish of 2014, and his sixth podium finish in nine starts at Long Beach.  Will has now finished first or second in his last four Verizon IndyCar Series races and is the current leader with 93 points.  Will, you seem to be on quite a roll dating to 2013.


WILL POWER:  I was definitely thinking after qualifying we might have been in a bit of trouble, but we know this track well and IndyCar racing well.  There is always a lot of action, so definitely a good day. Mike (Conway) was very strong.  I kind of regret not using the push to pass on the restart where he got me.  I knew he had one and I had one, and I thought I’m going to try to save it and he used it on that restart.  But definitely take second from 14th. Good for the championship, not that I want to think about that crap anymore.  I just want to race.  I’m just going to race to win every time.

Q. Will, after finishing first and second, I know you don’t want to look at the points.  You’re the leader.  If you guys could talk a little bit about it seemed for a while it was Ryan Hunter‑Reay’s race, and all of a sudden, one thing completely turned the nature of this race around.  Just talk about how big an impact that had, and Will, you were able to get through that carnage without hitting anything?


CARLOS MUÑOZ:  And me, I was really close to being in it.

WILL POWER:  I saw it unfold.  I mean, those two came out of the pits in front of me on cold, black tires, I was on reds and down a lap or two.  You know, then all of a sudden I saw (Josef) Newgarden come out and I’m thinking this is going to be really interesting because all these guys know that that is for the win.  It became even more interesting in Turn 4 when they all ‑‑ thank you.  Yeah, unbelievable.  I saw Hunter‑Reay go inside, and me going, ‘Oh, this will be interesting if he turns and there they go together.’  Then (James Hinchcliffe) piles into him, and I got through. You don’t get those gifts often in racing, so I’ll take it.

CARLOS MUÑOZ:  Yeah, but as I said, it’s not the way to win, but this is racing.  Anything can happen, especially in INDYCAR.  It’s not always the fastest guy wins the race.  Almost I was really close to hit also James and instead Takuma hit him or hit Ryan, I don’t know.  He was just behind me.  So it was close.  It’s a shame for Andretti because Ryan was really dominant until that point of the race.


Q.  Carlos, you won here last year in Indy Lights, and now you get on a podium here in INDYCAR. What is it that suits you well on this course, and what do you like best about it?  How did that Indy Lights win last year prepare you for the race here today?

CARLOS MUÑOZ:  The cars are really different from each other, from IndyCar, Indy Lights.  It helps me to know the track, to know the lines because the lines are exactly 100 percent the same, but how you drive it is completely different because the tires are different.  Indy Lights just spring race to push the whole race.  This one you have to think a little bit more of the tires and everything. I knew my first time and my team said, ‘You have to be brave and to try to maintain the position,’ and that’s what I did.  After that, I passed really good at the end of the laps.  I love this track here.  From the inside and outside and the fans here also.


Q. Will, talk about the final laps and the temptation to overtake Mike Conway in the last few laps?

WILL POWER:  None of us had a push to pass, so, yeah, I did everything I could when I saw (Dixon) Dixon pull in with only two to go.  I was like ‘Oh, man, that restart got me.’  But like I said, it was 14th, and we’re going to be happy with a Top 5.  So second is OK. Once Dixon peeled off, Mike was very quick anyway.  If I had one push to pass, I’m pretty sure I would have had a good shot.  It would have been interesting, maybe he would have ended up winning because Mike and I would have crashed into Turn 1 or something. It was a good day.  Definitely a good day.

Q. Two quick questions, first one, Simon Pagenaud and you got hooked up there a little bit.  Obviously, he’s upset with you.  He said you guys aren’t going on vacation anytime soon together.  Do you guys two weeks, six weeks, eight weeks down the road, I know you are good friends, how do you mend that fence?  Second question is a lot of really young drivers are showing real strength this year.  What do you put that towards?


WILL POWER:  Simon, it’s on him.  It depends what he wants to do.  He’ll probably pay me back at some point on the track.  If I got a penalty, he probably wouldn’t have, but he told me he’s going to get me back.  I thought he had a flat tire.  He was so slow on the restart.  He went from second back to he was in front of me.  I thought, oh, he’s going to brake early, and I brake, went up the inside and realized he was going to turn.  I tried to get out and just touched his back tire. I hate to ruin someone’s race like that.  I do.  But I think if he looked in the mirror, he could have prevented that incident.  We talked about in the driver meeting that there’s got to be a bit of give and take there.  But still I hit his back tire with my front wheel, so it’s on me.

Q. And the question about the young drivers?

WILL POWER:  Yeah, I mean, man, these guys are definitely putting the pressure on it.  They’re quick, really quick.  They’re not making mistakes either.  Carlos was super quick and very good in the Indy 500 last year.  He’s just backing it up this year and showing everyone how to do it on road courses as well.  So definitely got a long future in the series, and so is Jack Hawksworth also.

Q. Will, when Ed Carpenter decided to split the driving duties on his team, I was wondering what your thought.  Now it may pay off very big in points later in the year.  How do you feel about that kind of strategy?


WILL POWER:  I thought when they told me that, I thought championship contenders as far as team championship, you know, and they will be because Mike was coming at St. Pete.  He was probably going to finish second or third there too.  Obviously it was a bit of a blunder in the pits, but those guys were on it every week.  Then Ed is definitely capable of winning pretty much in all the ovals too, so it’s a pretty strong combination they’ve got right there on that team.

Q. Describe the standing start because you’re kind of both in the middle of the pack for the start.  So describe what happened for you all.

CARLOS MUÑOZ:  I loved it.  I passed a lot of cars on the standing start.  We were thinking to go on blacks or reds, my new blacks I thought was going to be too much wheel spin so I decided to go on reds because of that.  It was a great start.  I like it.  I raced in Europe for a long time, so I’m used to it.  I thought it was great.

WILL POWER: I thought it was pretty good.  We all got a good start.  I think it’s definitely better for the fans.  It looks cooler for all the people sitting in the grandstands for everyone to have a standing start.  See on the lights going out.  And no one stalled so that was good.  Unless there was someone behind me, I don’t know.  But it was good, a good first lap.


Q. Will, you talked about them coming out of the pits on black tires, and you were on reds.  What was your strategy on tires with the constant temperature change here in Long Beach?


WILL POWER:  Well, I was surprised that those guys went on blacks, unless they used up their new blacks from the start.  I don’t know ‑‑ or new reds from the start.  Because reds to me, I had a good chance to get a couple of those guys coming out of the pits on cold tires.  They took care of it themselves.  But, yeah, our strategy was start on blacks.  Hopefully the reds would go off and go red‑red because the reds were definitely quicker.

THE MODERATOR:  Will, you’re the points leader heading into Barber Motorsports Park, a track that’s been historically very good for you.  Talk about a preview of two weeks from now what we’ll be expecting at Barber?

WILL POWER: I mean, to me I’ve got to qualify a bit better for sure.  Definitely aiming to be pole because that track is very difficult to pass.  Everyone’s tested there.  Everyone’s run a lot of miles there, so there are a lot of good guys with good cars, so it’s definitely going to make it an interesting weekend.

THE MODERATOR:  Carlos, same question.  What can we expect from Barber?


CARLOS MUÑOZ:  Yeah, I was in the position test, I was not 100 percent that time with the car.  So there are high‑speed corners, so I was struggling there because the Indy Lights is not as much downforce as the IndyCar.  But I think for the weekend I’m going to be great.  My teammates were fast, and we have a good history there at Barber with Ryan winning there last year.  So for sure we’re going to have a good base car to start with, and as Will said, it’s a hard track to pass, so the qualifying is going to be key for that race.

Q. You seem to be quite a significant performance difference in you and qualifying and the race performance today.  Can you comment on that at all?  Any major changes that went into the car or the set‑up or to any of the mechanicals?

WILL POWER:  Well, actually, this is the worst qualifying in my career.  I just didn’t get it right.  It’s just one of those laps that I had a couple of laps to do it in, and I just didn’t get it right.  Because in the practice session before that, we were quickest.  We had a very good car, so it’s just one of those things, you know.  We didn’t change anything.  The car was the same in the race.  That sucks, but we had a good day anyway.

Q. Carlos, what does this podium finish do for your team and your confidence level the rest of the season?


CARLOS MUÑOZ:  I think it means more for the team, and a lot of confidence for me that I know I can fight with the top guys.  Will has a lot of wins here, a lot of poles also.  Conway he’s also won one in the past year, so it gives me confidence I know I can be also really fast on tracks and on the road courses.  Also it’s good for the team, second podium in a row.  Right now I think we aren’t really happy with what happened with Ryan and James, but for sure we’re going to be ready for Barber.

THE MODERATOR:  We’ll get started with the remainder of our post-race Verizon IndyCar Series press conference.  We’re pleased to be joined by the winner of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Mike Conway.  This is Mike Conway’s first win of 2014, and the third win of his IndyCar career.  His first one came here in Long Beach in 2011; he also won at Belle Isle in Detroit in 2013.  This is Ed Carpenter Racing’s second win in the Verizon IndyCar Series.  It previously won with Ed Carpenter at Auto Club Speedway in 2012.  Mike, congratulations and tell us about the race today.


MIKE CONWAY:  Thank you.  Yeah, I was really ‑‑ started back in 17th, and we really had to fight for every position.  The guys made a good call on strategy.  We were able to bump past some people, and on race restarts we gained some positions as well.  So great job by all the team.  I know on that last restart I had to get by Will, because I knew he had one push to pass left, and I knew that Munoz behind me had four, and Munoz was very good all day, so it was hard ‑‑ it was going to be hard to keep him behind.  So managed to get by Will and then was kind of all over the back of Justin and Scott and they were battling it out as well.  And they touched going into Turn 8, and it got close to me and Scott.  Then Scott was kind of all over them, but when the safety car came out again, I thought maybe I’ll have a chance to get by him here, but I knew at the same time he may not have enough fuel to get to the end.  So I wasn’t sure, because I could see he wasn’t saving much fuel, and the guys are saying he’s saving fuel because he can’t make it.  I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe he saved enough.’


I was like, you know, this is it now.  We can make this two times winning at Long Beach.  Yeah, awesome.  I can’t believe it really.  It’s been a really tough day to be here.  After, yeah, just a fantastic job by the team, and thanks to Long Beach again for putting on such a good show.


THE MODERATOR:  A unique situation for you this year.  You’re only racing the road and street courses while your team owner Ed Carpenter races the ovals.  How gratifying is it for you personally and also for the team to see the results of that strategy pay off in the second race of the season?

MIKE CONWAY:  I’ve got to say a big thanks to Ed for making it happen, and all the guys at Fuzzy’s Racing to put me in this position.  Yeah, I think it’s a great combination.  I think everyone’s quite excited about it.  It’s great to repay them this soon with a win.  I think Ed’s going to be awesome on the ovals, and he’s really looking forward to the Texas test next week and Indy in May.  So, yeah, it’s great to be part of it.

Q. There are a lot of great drivers that haven’t won this race.  You’ve won it twice.  The satisfaction of being able to be a two‑time Long Beach Grand Prix winner?


MIKE CONWAY:  It still hasn’t sunk in yet.  I mean, as I went over the land, I got that same feeling, that feeling in my stomach and not being able to get any words out because it kind of just meant so much.  Probably the same as the first time.  You know, it’s always tough the first time as well.  So, yeah, it’s just a really special place.  It’s so hard to win around here, and to do it twice, I’ve not done that on many tracks, so to do it here is really cool.

Q. It’s hard enough for drivers to get a full‑time ride.  I was wondering what did you think of your chances were of getting a road course only ride when the season started?  What do you have to say to people who were skeptical?

MIKE CONWAY:  Slim, definitely slim.  Yeah, I wasn’t sure obviously at the end of 2012 too, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back.  But managed to pick up some rides last year and kind of showed that I’ve still got a lot of speed, and we won in Detroit as well.  I still wasn’t sure at the end of last year what was going to happen.  Yeah, to be able to pick this up is a dream come true.  It couldn’t have worked out any better between me and Ed.  So, yeah, I’m very thankful for the position I’m in and trying to make the most of it.

Q. A little while ago Will was saying you don’t get many gifts in racing, and he was talking about the big pileup that allowed you guys to do what you did.  How do you look at that?


MIKE CONWAY:  I didn’t really see what happened.  So you know, I saw the last part of it as I was approaching the corner, and I thought someone was going to go around there, and I heard over the radio call there was an incident in the corner, be very careful and stay right.  I’m thankful for that call because they really kept me out of trouble through there.  It was tight just to get through with the speed we have.  I really had to dive around people.  Yeah, I mean, luckily obviously that that happened and advanced us a good four positions.  I think we were still within the hunt to get a good result today.  But, yeah, obviously, unlucky for those guys and made it fortunate for us.  But it’s always like that on street courses.  It gets really close, but I don’t know what really happened.  I’ll have to look at that.

Q. Great finish.  You didn’t start very well.  Describe the start and how that worked snout also heard there was damage to the front wing, and did that affect you at all during the race?

MIKE CONWAY:  Yeah, the start wasn’t great.  The revs really dropped, and I thought I was maybe going to stall and I had to quickly pull the clutch again and go again and obviously two cars got around me at that point.  Managed to get by Ryan and pick that position back up.  But all the way through the race it was hard to know where we were going to end up.  There were lots of cars around you, and when you got within a second of a car, you’d lose half a second in pace, and it was really hard to make your way by.  But we did manage to pick some people off as the race was going on and made some good passes.  But, yeah, it was a real unknown until that last kind of restart where we were going to be.  So had to fight all day.  Yeah, kind of had the car to do it, so big thanks to the guys for that.


Q. During the race while you were battling, did you notice a major difference between the power characteristics of the Honda and Chevy?  Because in qualifying it looked very dominant for Honda.  I think they had nine of the top 12 qualifying positions, but we ended up with a Chevy 1, 2 at least.  Did you notice any difference coming out of the final hairpin?

MIKE CONWAY:  I don’t know.  It was really how you get around the hair‑pin.  It was hard to tell sometimes on how you get off.  But I mean I was behind Munoz for a good few laps.  It felt similar to be honest.  I mean, he was on the blacks to that point and his car was really turning well through that last corner, so he could get off well just with traction.  So it was really close to be honest.  And we did trim out a little bit for the race so I think we had better speed than some people down the strait.  But I forgot to answer your question about the front wing.  That did feel like it slowed us down a little bit because it was flapping around.  That top element definitely some drag there.  But I think we did have some good top end speed because of the downforce level we had, but it felt close.


Q. You mentioned being told over the radio about the accident.  Are you one of the few drivers that has a spotter?

MIKE CONWAY:  Well, just lucky they saw it.  I mean, they were there at the time.  I thought he said he was going to be down in turn one, but he must have seen it on the big screen or from where he was standing in one.  Normally he doesn’t have to say too much, but obviously if there are any incidents anywhere and he’s there at that point he’ll let me know, otherwise the team will let me know on the TV.  But, yeah, kind of lucky he was down there.

Q. The spotters were on Turn 1, and I think there were only six or seven spotters because it’s not required on a road course?

MIKE CONWAY:  He’s out there making sure we’re making the most of every corner.  He watches what all the other cars are doing.  Yeah, he’s obviously in the race.  He can’t do so much of that, but he can also definitely help me if there are any incidents, and that definitely helped today.


Q. Regarding the accident, it seemed like it went on for quite some time.  I think Takuma Sato came into it five or six seconds afterwards.  Were the course marshals signaling adequately that there was a blockage of the track around the corner which I assume you couldn’t see coming through?

MIKE CONWAY:  Well, as I said, when I got there it just happened.  So, yeah, I mean, I didn’t see any yellows at that point.  I don’t recall.  But it’s hard to tell because I was so focused on looking for what was around the corner.  You know, you kind of miss sometimes what’s on the entry with the marshals. But, yeah, there were a lot of cars behind me at that point, and some made it through, some didn’t.  I suppose it was a bit of luck, I suppose.  Yeah, it was definitely not the yellows, but if you didn’t know where the cars were, it was still tricky.  You had to slow down a lot to miss it all.  There was really one line, and it took a long time to clear up.  There were a lot of cars involved.

Q. This is a smaller team in the series, but yet it really seems like they can take on the power teams and whip them at their own game.  What is it about Ed Carpenter racing that they seem to do so well particularly at certain tracks in?


MIKE CONWAY:  Yeah, I think we’ve got a really good group of people.  Some great engineers on board and everyone’s working really hard and they’re always pushing between St. Pete and this weekend, they were nonstop in the shop trying to develop some parts and make things better.  You know, I think if you’ve got that drive and that hunger within the team you can definitely achieve anything.  It does make it harder, a one‑car team, but I think with all the help and all the people we have on the team, we can definitely make some waves.

Q. What do you think about the hairpin?  The tightest one in all of IndyCar racing.


MIKE CONWAY:  I mean, it’s Long Beach, it’s been here since the start, I presume.  It does make it tricky.  Obviously the restarts, first lap of the race it does get quite choked up in there.  But I think everyone’s smart enough to stay out of trouble, but I’m not sure.  Obviously I saw Graham was spun down around there.  I mean, it’s easy enough to hit someone’s back side going in there because if you don’t choke up a little bit and you’re not aware of it can catch you up.  But I don’t know.  It’s just part of the course, I suppose.


Q. You mentioned that you started 17th, but you didn’t qualify well.  Someone asked Will Power how come he was so far down in the field, and he said well, the car was great, he just didn’t hit it during qualification.  How come you were like 17th, because after all, you’re past champion here?

MIKE CONWAY:  Yeah, it’s very close, the series.  As years go on it gets closer and closer.  If you’re behind a little bit it can really show up in qualifying.  When everyone’s on that ultimate limit putting in really quick times.  We felt like we needed a couple more laps to get the tires in.  It was taking a little bit longer, and before we knew it, the session was finished.  Yeah, that’s all it takes.  If you don’t quite get it together, you’ll just miss that advance.  Any slight mistake on a lap, and you really risk not making it through.  It was a shame.  Obviously, we didn’t want that to happen around here.  We thought we had a good car for top eight, maybe more.  Yeah, obviously the race we knew made it difficult for us, but we had some good speed and got into the run.

Q. You avoided the carnage in Turn 4.  You finished very strong.  What was the biggest challenge you faced in the final laps of the race?

MIKE CONWAY:  Having Will behind me and Scott in front, two wily cats.  I knew I had my work cut out.  I just couldn’t make any mistakes.  I had to really push them all the way.  Will was very good through the last sector, so I had to be strong through there, and make sure I went through the last hair‑pin well.  I knew he didn’t have many overtakes left, if any, at that point.  I didn’t have any either.  So I really just had to get as good as I could through that sector and clean down the straight.  But Scott was very good off that last corner, and it was hard to get close to him.  I could get close to him on the infield, but he was pretty good out there.


Yeah, it was tricky.  I didn’t know whether he had the fuel to finish or not.  The guys were telling me he was saving fuel and they weren’t sure that he could make it, but at the same time, you don’t want to rely on that.  I don’t know.  I was kind of trying to make things happen and maybe get by him.  But when I saw pull in I was like, okay, the guys are right, and just have to bring it home.


THE MODERATOR:  Before we let you go.  In two weeks you’ll be continuing your deal with Ed Carpenter Racing at Barber Motorsports Park.  Give us a preview of what we can expect at that track?


MIKE CONWAY:  I like Barber a lot.  It’s a cool track, very fast flowing.  The test was okay for us there.  We’ve made some progress since then.  So hopefully we’ll come back stronger.  Obviously, we have two weeks in between and we’re going to keep pushing and make sure the car is quick for me to ride there.  But always a good race.  Qualifying is really cool around there.  It is harder to pass, however, it’s still possible.  Yeah, hopefully, we’ll have a good showing.

Q. How much fuel did you have left?

MIKE CONWAY:  Loads, loads.  I don’t actually know the numbers, but maybe we can let you know after.

(4/14/14) – Parker Hall

Transcript Courtesy of INDYCAR