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Firestone Freedom 100 Top Three Press Conference

FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 TOP THREE PRESS CONFERENCE
Esteban Guerrieri, Carlos Munoz, Tristan Vautier
Friday, May 25, 2012

MODERATOR: Carlos Munoz joins us. Carlos, you had a fight at Long Beach, so your season best run here, a dramatic race for us to watch. You look hot. I would think that would have been pretty exhausting overall.
   
CARLOS MUNOZ: Yeah, for me I've been racing since I was eight years old, I think it was the funniest race I have raced here, first race on oval. Just incredible, always overtaking, going to the back, to the front. At the last lap, OK, before last lap it was pretty fun. I did really good to overtake. I was low, and then came out the yellow flag. I'm really happy, first podium of the season. I had the speed in qualifying in Barber, in the race I was third and I had the problem. But I think it's the start of a season. I hope to continue on like this.

MODERATOR: Did you say that was fun?

MUNOZ: Pretty fun.

MODERATOR: That's why you're a race driver. Questions for Carlos?

Q: First oval, what are your thoughts on oval and how did you prepare coming from Europe? You had a test day here but you haven't had a lot of time on the ovals.

MUNOZ: Here the oval to me is quite -- when I seen the TV when I was in Europe, it seems really easy. But when you come here, especially in a race that's really difficult, no, you have to understand how the cars behave. And when you are behind a car, when you're first, you have to think a lot over the race to save the tires. Also, I'm pretty lucky do have Sebastian (Saavedra) as my teammate. He helps me a lot. Yesterday before qualifying he said something before qualifying that was really good qualifying. Also, it's important to have a teammate with a lot of experience that he can tell you what to do.

MODERATOR: Tristan Vautier comes and joins us after a good run. You were up front much of it. You have been in Victory Lane this year at St. Petersburg. Looked for a moment like there would be two in the cards for you.

TRISTAN VAUTIER: We were so close. What a day. It was so much fun. It was just great racing here with the crowds, and the track is awesome. Running in a pack like this was so much fun. I'm still frustrated because I led for so long that I could almost see it. But it's only the last lap you have to lead to win a race, so we didn't. Great job from my team. We started ninth and I finished third, so I think I cannot be unhappy with that. It was my first race on an oval in an Indy Lights car, so I think it went well. I'm proud of my team. I had a great car to run in traffic. And I want to give a big thanks to Mazda as well for putting me here today because I would not be in that seat without them. I had so much fun and I was watching the big cars and Indy Lights watching the last two years, and I hope one day it would be my turn. So I couldn't be happier today unless I had won.

MODERATOR: You talked a little bit about the Road to Indy ladder system and you're a driver who's been a beneficiary of the opportunity to come up through the ranks.

VAUTIER: Exactly. I started racing in Europe, and the reason I actually came over to the U.S.A. is because of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. I knew if I won the championship, I would have something beyond, and I would have the opportunity to step up, which I didn't have in Europe with the other formulas, or at least no guarantee. So it was the goal when I came over to U.S.A. in 2010 to win this prize and so here I am. I am really happy to be with Sam Schmidt Motorsports this year, a top team. And I just have to focus on driving and all the races taken care of. It is really exciting, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season.

MODERATOR: Any questions for Tristan or Carlos?

Q: Tristan, last year you got your first opportunity to do some oval racing thanks to the Mazda Series. How important was that experience in learning how to race side by side, particularly on a short oval versus a big oval?

VAUTIER: It was, but I have to say the experience we got last year was a good initiation. But once you get to the big ovals, it is a totally different story. The speed is way higher, the cars are different. So it was great to learn racing on the ovals, but you've got to be in Indy Lights to realize what it's like. It's really different.

Q: One question for both of you. You're driving for teams which has also operation in IndyCar. How close is the corporation your Indy Lights team with the IndyCar team and is there any driver coach from the IndyCar drivers to help you with oval racing?
 

VAUTIER: It's pretty much two separate units. The Indy Lights engineers are helping out with the second car for the Indy 500, which it's really good for us because we can go out in the garages and the debrief rooms and learn from these guys. I like to have a French teammate in Simon Pagenaud, so it's good to communicate and get some tips. So, for sure, it's really good because you can get a real view from the inside of an IndyCar team to get ready for one day you have the opportunity to get in.

MUNOZ: I'm lucky to be in Andretti Autosport; it's a great team. Same thing with the IndyCar and Indy Lights, they work together in the same shop. All the mechanics are in the same place, they try to help each other to find out from one another to pass to the other. It's like a big family. It's important to have a team IndyCar for the next step, you can have contacts and stuff. Also, one of my engineers and mechanics, they are running in IndyCar for this race. It's important, also I'm lucky to have Sebastian. He's running also Indy Lights, so we are from the same country and we help each other. We have a really pretty good relationship and it's also nice.

MODERATOR: Any questions for second and third? Hearing none. Congratulations, guys, and thanks very much for coming in.

Esteban Guerrieri wins the Freedom 100 in a dramatic from the back victory. Esteban was also winner at Long Beach. You're on a pretty good roll, Esteban. Take your time with the water and then tell us all about it.

ESTEBAN GUERRIERI: Thank you. Sorry, I was a bit thirsty. It was quite long out there, the sun was also quite hot. So well, what do you want to hear about the race? The start, it was a fantastic race. That's why I'm trying to remember it all, you know. I had a very good start. Obviously the first start was not good, so we did one more lap. We got some more speed into the start. So I got a run on the outside. I think I overtook like four cars already into Turn 1, and I just tried to be smart, you know, not to get too greedy, even if I make up positions really quickly. I just tried to use my head, as my engineer was telling me. So I definitely went step by step. Then I was in P7 and there was a red flag, so everybody cooled down the tires and everything. Then on the restart I already was feeling the car a bit loose. So, you know, last year it was different to this year because last year was a little cooler, and we didn't make so many laps in a row on high speed. So I didn't know what was this going to, you know, this was going to come in 10 laps from there. So I just tried to stay where I was. I was in P5, I think, I stayed where I was, took it easy, tried not to kill the tires as my engineer told me, the last five laps are the ones that are important. So I just went from there on, and the last five laps was when I attack. The car was better. I think the front tires were out a bit more. Everybody was struggling I guess as much as I was, but I was comfortable overtaking around on the outside. It was a great day. I was very aggressive on the last two or three laps. We got the win from the back; it doesn't happen every day. I think the last time it happened for me was in go-kart. I repeat it this time and it's Indianapolis, the Speedway, which is the history of motorsports. So I can't tell you how happy I am because the team as well, the Sam Schmidt guys, which they are my friends after a year and a half working with them. They are basically my friends and my family. I'm so pleased that we could achieve this. You know, I think we are on a good way for a championship but we really wanted to get this one, and I was confident from the back I could do it. So I'm really, really pleased.

MODERATOR: Very good. Questions for Esteban.

Q: Honestly, you changed an engine, that's why you started at the back. What was the process of changing it? Was it something you had to do or something you thought we should do so you had a chance to win?

GUERRIERI: No, the only time we had like to really analyze how we were on the speed, it was qualifying. Otherwise you are in drafts in practice, you are in the draft. You never have a real comparison. So we realized we were not good, but we then on the last day, tell the engineers, last day we could see there was probably not, we couldn't pull the speed around the corner, even if I was driving really clean. The engineers, they have plenty of experience here and we couldn't pull the speed very good, so we decided it was worth the  penalize, to get a penalty, sorry, and to start last. But to get a fresh one, even if we, we knew we were going to be quick with one engine or with the other one because when you're in the draft it gets quite equal. But we definitely wanted something that probably was a bit better. I guess it was because I could really get around some of the guys, and in the end when I kept my first position with nobody in front of me, I had a good run. It's not only the engine, it's also the good car we had, the balance we put in the car, how we strategize the race, not killing the tires too early, and yeah, all this package came together and that's why we win. It's not only because of the engine, of course.
 

Q: Esteban, one question. With your success in Indy Lights, sooner or later you will step up into IndyCar. Do you think one day we will see an Indy race in your country in Argentina?

GUERRIERI: Yeah, it's an ex-team owner, and he's helping me out here a lot. Together with Sam, we put this deal together and with my sponsors, Pistas Argentinas, and plus the others, plus from Sam put this deal together. But obviously we want to work for further future here in the U.S. and grow up. But now we are focused on trying to win the championship. We won the 100, which is good, and then obviously it's going to be a lot of work to try to get a deal in the IndyCar for next year. But I'm sure with the help of everybody, and I say again, John Della Penna, he's a guy helping me a lot. I get the contacts; I'm getting used to know these people here in the IndyCar paddock. Hopefully they know me a bit more with this victory. So it's good to get the relationship, you know, getting stronger and hopefully one day it will be in IndyCar. Hopefully not too long, next year, I guess.

Q: Take us step by step through that three wide into into Turn 1 that wound up being the pass before the pass you did to take the lead.

GUERRIERI: That was the pass before the lead, yeah, Turn 1. To be honest, I did it so many overtaking that it's hard to remember all of them. But I remember that one. In the middle was Tristan, right, then Munoz on the inside. Yeah, I had a very good run, Turn 3 I just smooth off the throttle a little bit, went flat in Turn 4 to get the run on them. I pulled sixth gear, and I said it was three laps to go, so I thought it's now or never. When I went off the draft from Tristan, my car kept pulling, and I just kept it flat. I gave him room, but for the one in the middle it's really hard to keep it together, you know, because you normally get two cars coming quicker, and you know what they're going to do. It's like instinct that you normally back off a little bit. So I was on the outside. I gave him plenty of space, but then in the exit of the corner I was side by side with Munoz, and I kept flat around the exit. I was having better momentum than him, I guess, coming from the outside using the banking. When I went off into the back straight I was, I think, just in front of him. I could pull little by little, I think I went down to fifth gear in the short chute, which helped me and down the back straight that helped me, and I could make my final move.

MODERATOR: Further questions for Esteban?

GUERRIERI: I want to dedicate this race, if everybody can write, to Chris Griffis, which was our team manager and, you know, he passed away last year. He loved to win this one. So please if you could write that in the newspapers, that would be good.
 

MODERATOR: Very good. Congratulations, Esteban.

…FF100-2012…
 

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