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ST. PETERSBURG (March 30, 2014) – Will Power, No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, won today’s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – the series’ season-opening race. It is the third consecutive year that a driver powered by the Chevrolet IndyCar V6 engine has started the season on the Streets of St. Petersburg with a win.
“Congratulations to Will Power and the entire No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet team on their win in today’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Helio Castroneves’ podium finish in the No. 3 Hitachi Chevy and Scott Dixon’s fourth place finish in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car resulted in three Chevrolet powered Indy cars in the top four finishing positions. It is a great start to the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season”.
Today’s victory marked the 22nd career for Power who led three times for 74 of the 110-lap race. It is his third consecutive Series’ victory (Race Two at Houston and season-ending race at Auto Club Speedway preceded today’s win), and the second time he has won the St. Petersburg race.
Joining Power on the podium was Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet. Last year’s runner-up in the title chase finished third.
Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Scott Dixon, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet finished fourth. His teammates Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Target Chevrolet and Ryan Briscoe, No. 8 NTT Data Chevrolet gave Team Chevy five of the top-10 finishers with sixth and 10th place finishing positions respectively.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda) was second to complete the podium.
Today’s victory was the third win for Chevrolet in a the three major U.S. motorsports series in which it competes. Action Express Motorsports with drivers Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais put the No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype in Victory Lane for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the
Daytona 500 behind the wheel of the No. 88 National Guard Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS.
The next race for Chevrolet in the Verizon IndyCar Series will be the Grand Beach of Long Beach (Calif) on April 13, 2014.
An interview with Will Power and Helio Castroneves
THE MODERATOR: We’ll begin our post-race press conference and welcome our third-place finisher Helio Castroneves.
Helio, it was a good day for Penske Racing and for you to continue your quest to capture the championship.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Correct. I’m extremely happy about it. Yesterday qualifying I heard Ryan saying great conditions for qualifying. I didn’t think so. Well, it was a great opportunity to show how fast our car was, and I knew that since we started here.
I was very confident that 10th place wasn’t our fair spot. But I knew I had to make the move right away in the beginning, and that’s what I did. It put us in a great position here to battle for the win
Q. How does having Verizon as title sponsor feel?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Just adding to that, certainly Verizon being with us for four years, they saw the potential. They actually perfect for the IndyCar Series. We’re about technology and speed, and they’re about technology and speed. Like I said, I’ve been part of the Verizon team for four years. Now the entire IndyCar Series is part of their team.
We’re talking about exciting people. We’re not talking about people, Let’s just put our name there. I’m very, very happy that they’re onboard.
Q. Talk a little bit about a home-field advantage coming from South Florida.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It’s funny you say that because I had to ask for a lot of credentials to have my friends come over here. I know you did, too. For us is very difficult. The first race of the season, in Florida, it’s great to be honest. I wish we actually had a doubleheader here.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions for Helio.
Q. The two Penske cars went first and third. Is it an advantage New York Yankees?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I hope so. Certainly we don’t want to give any inch this year. We don’t want to give any opportunity, whether it’s going to be myself, Will or Juan Pablo. I’ve been saying that in the pre-season interviews. We want to give the championship to Roger no matter what it takes.
Q. Have you had a chance to see the restart or talk to Will about it yet?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don’t have to see the restart. I know what happened. When I say wanker, he calls everybody a wanker.
Q. No microphone.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: He did play. You got to understand, Will and I know each other for a long time. He know my tricks. I didn’t quite know that trick from him, and he got me, which is good. I’m not saying that in a bad way. When you’re battling for the win… He knew where I was going, so he did something that I was not expecting and it caught me a surprise. That does not take away anything from the win he did today. Cindric and himself did a very good strategy with the tires, better tires in the end. They were able to pull away. For me, I use everything I got in the beginning because I started from behind and pushed as much as I could. Obviously it will be a very good problem to have if this is going to be the entire season like this, myself and Will battling. That’s what we want. Hopefully Long Beach will be the same, except a different end.
Q. So is that a move he should have made? You talk about it being a trick.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Should have made? Now I know when I’m restart behind him, I know what I need to do. If he should have made or not, I was not expecting.
One thing for sure, brake check, I did that in the past when I was young. But he did what he had to do, but I was not expect. I always expect a little constant speed, and we did not have that. But the problem is — well, it’s not a problem, it’s competition. You just have to keep learning from your competitors. Today I learned my lesson.
Q. Maybe the back of the field did.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, that’s the problem for me when you have that kind of scenarios. I’m glad I was in the front because that probably could have caught me as well if I would be in the back. I didn’t see the back, to be honest. I saw what happened in front of me. I just had to be careful to not knock him out of the race. But he was very fast in the end. Like I said, this little trick move didn’t take anything away. In fact, good job.
Q. You didn’t see Juan in the race. How would you sum up his first race weekend in years?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I did speak with him on my way here. He had a blast. He learned about the red tires. He made some changes during the warm-up to the race quite dramatic. But it was good because he learned what to handle. When he was in front of us, I saw that he was running pretty good lap times. That shows he got the hang of it. Trust me, Long Beach, he knows the place, not sure if he won there, but I believe he did. It’s going to be a different picture of himself. Another bullet for Team Penske.
Q. The New York Yankees versus the Florida Marlins, Dario (Franchitti) earlier in the weekend said that Tim (Cindric’s) comments were classless. Would you like to speak to Cindric’s character in rebuttal?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I know Tim for a long time. Obviously he has his own opinion. To be honest, so many things is said before from competitors. It’s just blowing out of proportion when somebody speaks a little bit louder. I don’t see all the fuss about it. Again, everybody is entitled for your own opinion. It’s too much power for me to comment, so I prefer to stay out of it. Certainly I think everybody is entitled for your own opinion.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your tire strategy. You said Tim and Will had the tire strategy exactly right at the end. You made some spots up early. Did it work out in your favor?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, starting fourth place and starting tenth place, I had to make up some spots. I put the new tires in the beginning so I could pass a lot of people. It worked pretty good. Roger (Penske) decided to put the black tires on the second stint. I asked for no but he said yes. I got to say, ‘Yes, no problem.’ I got to obey the order.
In the end of the day towards the end they saved him and I think Hunter-Reay, they saved the best for last. I pushed as hard as I could the entire race and my tires just gave up in the end about 15 laps. I had a huge moment in turn 10, and I said, Guys, that’s it, I’m not making any progress here. I thought it was a very good strategy. We saved fuel when we had to, we pushed when we had to. Coming from 10th, passing a lot of cars, I’m very proud of the boys.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, we’ll see you in Long Beach. We’ll continue with our race winner, Will Power. This is Will Power’s 22nd career Indy car win. He started the race fourth. He won this race in 2010. Will, you’ve won three consecutive races, finishing out last year with wins in Houston and Fontana. How great is it to start out the year with a win?
WILL POWER: Obviously the perfect way to start. Kind of struggled a little bit during the weekend with the setup. Definitely made a good race car. Obviously qualifying was very mixed up. I don’t think anyone had anything for Sato, he was so fast. For sure we worked hard over the winter. I did personally, as well, on my fitness. As a team I think we worked very well together to get the most out of our cars. It’s been a real team effort. Real happy to get the Verizon car in Victory Lane again.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions for Will.
Q. Seems to be one place where you really are the Yankees versus the Marlins. Why do you suppose the Penske cars are so dialed in at this track?
WILL POWER: Honestly, I think a lot of people have good, dialed-in cars. I wasn’t expecting to be that competitive in the race actually as the weekend was unfolding. Just good team strategy, good pit stops, mistake-free driving, and obviously a good car. It’s just hard work basically.
Q. Did you even know who the Marlins were before Thursday?
WILL POWER: I’ve only heard a little bit of that story, so I haven’t paid much attention to it, to be honest. Are the Marlins good? Do they win?
Q. Take me through the first segment when you eventually tracked down Sato to get the lead the first time.
WILL POWER: Cindric pitted me early. It was actually a very good call. I was able to pump out some good lap times. Sato came out on blacks, I think, just like I was. I felt our car was definitely stronger on blacks and was able to hunt him down and pull the move on him that I’ve had pulled on me two years in a row. I learned my lesson and finally pulled it off myself.
Q. I heard what you said on TV about the restart, where people got stacked up. Helio is convinced you were playing with the field there. Can you take us through that.
WILL POWER: Basically the pace car pulls off and you can set the pace you want. I wasn’t even in the zone. We weren’t even in the zone that you have, the 200 yards or whatever it is, to decide for the leader to go when he wants. They actually threw the green before I was even in the zone, so it was confusing to me. So the next restart I just went because I figured, They’re going to throw the green anyway. To me, the only problem people would have had would have been if they gassed back to get a big run. That’s the only problem they should have had. I didn’t touch the brakes, did not touch the brakes.
Q. You talked at the end of last season about how good it was for yourself personally to just stop thinking about points and to just race and have fun. Now that you’re starting a new season, are you still able to do that?
WILL POWER: Yeah, in a way. I just got to keep reminding myself, It doesn’t matter if you lose. You just got to keep reminding yourself that it’s a race, and you race hard to win a race. Sometime years I’ve started here and been so conservative. I just race now, race hard. I just want to race, race hard, and I want to win. That’s the only way to think of it, not think of points. I want to win a championship, but I like winning races. Hopefully the two come together and it happens.
Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: Can you have fun not winning? Do I have fun? No. You know what, you come here to win. Good, hard racing is fun. You start at the back of the grid, you finish up third, that’s fun. There’s nothing worse than just struggling, though, not having the car or equipment to do well. That gives you a good hit, your self-confidence, you start to question yourself. I just remind myself that everyone is human, you’re capable of doing everything everyone else is if you work hard.
Q. What gear were you in?
WILL POWER: First gear.
Q. Helio said letting off the throttle there would be a brake effect.
WILL POWER: The thing to me was Helio was getting out of line. That’s when I lifted off the throttle. Why are you getting out of line? Are you going to go like you did last year and jump-start completely and get the lead that way? I wasn’t going to let that happen. I wasn’t even in the zone, so it did not matter. He got out here, he’s going to do his thing, jump the start, he was getting out of line, I was going to make it obvious by lifting a little. Then I just went.
Q. With an offseason as long as the INDYCAR offseason was this past year, it would probably be pretty easy to lose the momentum you finished the 2013 season with. Apparently you have the same momentum you ended the year with. How important is it to continue that momentum into 2014?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it’s amazing all the development and hard work you do in the off-season. I’m sure everyone else does too. It’s interesting to turn up to the first race and see where you stack up. During practice, it became obvious that the filed had once again even closed up more. You had 21 cars in less than in a second in practice. To me it’s like, ‘OK, no one is going to stick out here, it’s going to be competitive and tough racing.’
At the end of the day the hard work we did to get a good race car, good strategy, good pit stops, all the boxes were ticked that you need to win a race, and that’s just a good team effort basically.
Q. The TV commentators alluded to the fact that the whole off-season the talk has been about Juan coming to INDYCAR, can (Scott) Dixon repeat, everything except Will Power. Have you felt overlooked at all?
WILL POWER: I love it. I hate attention. I just loved last year, too. No one paid attention. I could just do my thing. Yup, I hope it continues. I don’t want people to talk about me. I like to be low-key. I don’t like to be in the limelight. I just like to do my job, enjoy it, race hard, and that’s it.
Q. You should try not winning.
WILL POWER: It happened last year. I didn’t have to do appearances. It was great. No one cared. It was awesome. If I could get wins and not be hassled both, I’d be stoked.
Q. How important was it for Verizon and yourself to win the first Verizon Series race in that car?
WILL POWER: It wasn’t something that I was thinking of, that I was going to think because it’s the Verizon Series. It’s pretty fitting. It’s great to win the first race of a Verizon-backed series. I think everyone is excited to have them onboard. I think the next five years, the series, we got to make good decisions and go in the right direction.
I think with Mark Miles, he’s employed some very good people. Mark Miles, I think he’s doing a very good job. He’s a very good leader. I think Derrick Walker on the technical side is the same. You have good people in the right positions. I can see it going in the right direction.
Q. There was a period of time where it could almost be taken for granted by others and you that Will Power was going to win frequently. After the drought from last year, did you have a rethink about the frequency with which you were winning and consider thinking differently about wins going forward?
WILL POWER: You definitely start to look pretty hard when you have a long period of not winning. You just can’t get complacent. You’ve got to keep working hard, especially in this series. There’s so many good teams, good drivers. It’s just a good thing. It’s a good kick in the ass to have some bad runs. Not actually lack of pace, but just to have some bad runs, be in the back of the field. You just reset, just realize that you can’t leave anything on the table. You just can’t. It’s funny. I was speaking to Mark Webber at some point, Did you lose a little bit of motivation in your 30s? He said, Yeah.
He said to me, You can’t kid yourself. You’ve got to work hard. It’s just the way it is. If you’re not, someone else is. That’s true. You got to get everything right in this business or you won’t win.
Q. You’ve long championed having more horsepower. Are we getting close to the numbers where the cars have that difficulty of driving?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it actually is getting to the Champ Car level now where you’re starting to shift a gear and it still spins. Definitely getting harder to drive. Got good horsepower. They’re definitely getting up there where they used to be.
Q. So how did Dale Jr. get your Vegas car?
WILL POWER: I think Tim Cindric gave it to him. I think he was looking for something to put in his whatever it is down there. I’ve seen a few people tweet that, my Vegas-crashed car sitting up in a tree. Sort of fitting for the way it came down. That’s about where it landed.
THE MODERATOR: Give us a little preview of what we can expect in Long Beach.
WILL POWER: Once again, it’s going to be very tight, great racing. It’s a great track for racing. Hopefully we can repeat. It’s another awesome place to go race.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll see you there. Thank you.
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