Five quotes from the Fast 6 at Long Beach Grand Prix

The IndyCar drivers who qualified first through sixth at Long Beach on Saturday — Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal — held a smile-filled news conference after the session, cracking jokes and laughing through several exchanges.

Here are five of the best quotes from the Fast 6:

Josef Newgarden, on how impossibly close to the wall the drivers get at Long Beach:

“It’s kind of like when you’re pulling out of a parking spot and it’s tight on both sides and you back up and you start to turn and you’re like, ‘Man, am I going to miss that car in front of me?’ And your nose is like right there.

“Like 50 percent of the time, I’m just like, ‘Well, I think I’m going to make it. If I don’t, I hit him.’ (Shrugs)

“That’s kind of what it feels like. All the time on every lap, you’re just like, ‘Argh, I could hit — or maybe not.’ Most of the time you don’t. That’s what it’s like for me. It’s kind of fun.”

Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud on starting alongside each other Sunday despite their incident at the start of last year’s Long Beach Grand Prix:

Rahal: “(Last year) was like a very minor love tap.”

Pagenaud: (Scoffs in disagreement.)

Rahal: “It’s going to be a lot harder to hit him when he’s next to me. So if I’m going to do it again, I’m going to try really hard to do it.’

Pagenaud: “I think you were next to me…”

Rahal: “No, I was behind you and…”

Alexander Rossi: “It was like a torpedo.”

Pagenaud: “Yeah, a torpedo!”

Rahal: “That’s Power’s issue now, right?”

Will Power: “You behind me?”

Rahal: “Yeah.”

Power: “The difference is I’m from Toowoomba, see, and we fight.”

Rahal: “I’m really not worried about you. I’ve got like 50 pounds on you.”

Pagenaud: “I might not brake in Turn 1 just to make sure I don’t get hit.”

Rahal: “Actually, I would be perfectly fine with that. If you want to do that, that would help. You could like take out everybody and I’ll be good.”

Simon Pagenaud, off to a poor start this season, on proclaiming he was “never gone” after he made the final round of qualifying:

Pagenaud (deadpan): “It’s just my ego coming out. I’m a pretentious person, so I just said these things. Why not say it, right?”

Reporter: “I was wondering if you’re feeling unloved or ignored or if there’s something going on…”

Will Power, his teammate: “I have been ignoring him a little bit.”

Pagenaud: “Actually I have plenty of love, mostly from Will, a lot from Josef (Newgarden), too much sometimes. But no, I feel confident, so I think ego comes out when you’re confident. I think that’s what’s going on maybe.”

Reporter: “Do you have a chip on your shoulder?”

Pagenaud: “A chip? Chips are for dogs, I think. So I don’t have a chip, no. It’s all good. I’m pretty focused, 100 percent. Yeah, might have shown some aggressiveness, fire — and that’s not a bad thing.”

Alexander Rossi, responding to a reporter who said it was tough to pass at Long Beach:

“I don’t know how true that is. I don’t think it’s that hard to pass.”

Graham Rahal on why the drivers seemed so happy after making the Fast Six (final round of qualifying) but not winning the pole:

Rahal: “It’s not even the top six anymore. You feel like if you’re in the top 10, you’ve been solid. Didn’t used to be that way. Obviously, we’d all like to be on pole. It would be even better. But I think you really have to feel a sense of like accomplishment as a team. You can see it across all our mechanics, too; everybody is happy. You make it to the Fast Six, you’ve really done something.

“In my first years in this, if you made it to the Fast Six then you were like decent. And nowadays it’s just like the gap — like this morning, 1.1 seconds across from 1st to 25th over a street course this long (almost two miles) with all the bumps and curves and this and that — nowhere else in the world will you find racing that competitive, period. So I think you should feel proud if you had a good day.”

12 Questions with Will Power (2018)

The series of 12 Questions driver interviews continues this week with Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, who drives for Team Penske.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I do definitely have dreams about racing. I’m trying to think of the last one I had. I’ve had dreams about winning races and that sort of thing. Winning the championship, I think that was my last dream, actually.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize? And I guess in IndyCar, you would never mean to do that.

Yeah, I’m sure it does. It’s good when you hear from someone if they took you out. If they don’t say anything, it’s kind of rude, I suppose. If you take someone out and it’s your mistake, you should talk about it and apologize.

Am I correct in thinking there’s no intentional wrecking in IndyCar?

There isn’t. Guys at the end of the year take more of a risk when you’re in certain situations and you have to beat someone. But you just can’t intentionally wreck someone in this series. It’s too dangerous.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

I think the biggest compliment is that you’re a clean, good, fast racer and a good guy off the track.

4. IndyCar comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

Dave Grohl. That’d be pretty cool to have him. I don’t know if we’d put him in the Penske corporate (suite) — he needs to be in a Snake Pit type scenario. But that would be a celebrity I’d love to host.

5. In an effort to show this is a health conscious sport, IndyCar decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

Yes I would. For a pit spot? No. 1? Absolutely.

Have you ever tried going vegan before?


But you’re a healthy eater, I understand.

I am, yes. But I do eat a lot of protein — meat. But I’d do it because I’d like to try it anyway. And if you get Pit Out, it’s worth it.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the 2014 race at Barber Motorsports Park. Do you remember this race at all?

(Thinks deeply) Did I win that one?

No, I didn’t want to make it too easy.

Yeah. OK. Let’s say fourth place and I was saving a lot of fuel.

You were fifth. I don’t know what the fuel situation was. But you led 15 laps and ultimately Ryan Hunter-Reay won.

I think that might have been that race.

Are you good at remembering races in general?

Not anymore. There’s just so many. Earlier in your career, you could remember every race you’ve done. Now it’s so hard to recall, I couldn’t even remember all my wins.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

Alive? I’m into 90s rap, so Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre. Tupac is obviously gone. Biggie is gone.

Definitely not Jay-Z.

Oh! Not a Jay-Z guy, huh?

Nah. I’m not a big Jay-Z guy. He’s not bad. But I listen to NWA and Public Enemy — No. 1.

I don’t know who it is, but I’d say Snoop Dogg. He’s kind of the guy who comes to mind now. There’s so many good 90s rappers, man. Pete Rock and CL Smooth. Tribe Called Quest.

8. Who has the most punchable face in IndyCar?

Most punchable face. That’s an interesting one. Who would I like most to punch in the head in IndyCar? I don’t know. Let’s go through the field. (Thinks for a moment.)

I don’t know that anyone has a punchable face. That would be very, very mean to punch someone in the face. It happens. I’ve punched people in the face and been punched in the face in my life, but it’s just not a good thing.

Let’s just pick a random person. No. There’s no one there who I’d like to punch in the face.

9. IndyCar enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your chief strategist, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.

I’d have Tom Hanks on strategy. He’s probably a pretty cluey guy in that respect, having to learn lines and memorize well. (Editor’s note: “Cluey” is Australian slang for wise or knowledgeable.)

LeBron would be very good at spotting. He’s always looking to understand what’s going on on the court.

And Taylor Swift is always on a bus traveling, so she’d have some sort of idea of how a motorhome is run.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

Actually, I usually scope it out beforehand. The best ones are when it’s a port-o-potty right on pit lane there. Indianapolis is the worst, like the Indy road course. You have to go searching into a room and try to find one.

11. IndyCar decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?

What, do they have an unlimited budget? You’d take big money, as much as you could go. A million bucks. You could make money off it if they said they’d give anything. Then you’d learn and do the backflip.

Or you don’t learn at all. What is it? If they say, “We’ll give you a million bucks if you backflip,” can you go off and learn? Or do you have to turn up without learning and they’ll say, “Bang?”

You can have time to learn.

OK. Well then the highest amount of money you can get. It’s business.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was with Daniel Suarez. His question for you was: How much do you enjoy road course racing versus oval racing, and would you like to try one of those in NASCAR one day?

I would love to try an oval in NASCAR. And a road course, actually. For me, I really enjoy oval racing a lot more than earlier in my career. It’s almost to the point where I’d much rather do ovals each week. But you’ve got to have both in IndyCar. They’re just such different disciplines for us. Really enjoy ovals though. Really, really enjoy understanding how to get the car working and where to run and running in traffic. It’s just a lot of fun.

Do you have a question I might be able to ask for the next interview? It’s with Rico Abreu, the sprint car driver.

Yeah, I think I would ask him: Would he like to try an IndyCar out on an oval or a road course? That would be interesting to see what he thought.

A NASCAR fan guide to the IndyCar championship race

Guess what race is on Sunday right after the Chicagoland race on the same channel (NBCSN)?

Yep, it’s the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale — a race which will decide the championship from among six eligible drivers.

I’m here at Sonoma and am going to be blowing your timelines up about the race, so you might as well watch with me. If you haven’t followed IndyCar much this year or are just a casual fan, here’s a quick guide to the race to get you caught up:

What’s at stake?

Sonoma Raceway is the 17th and final race of the IndyCar season, and six drivers can still win the title. They are the four Team Penske drivers — rising star Josef Newgarden, defending series champ Simon Pagenaud and veterans Will Power and Helio Castroneves — plus four-time series champion Scott Dixon and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Who has the advantage?

Before answering that, let’s take a look at the current driver point standings.

  1. Josef Newgarden  –Leader–
  2. Scott Dixon -4
  3. Helio Castroneves -23
  4. Simon Pagenaud -35
  5. Will Power -69
  6. Alexander Rossi -85

Those have been updated after Saturday’s qualifying session, because IndyCar awards one bonus point to the pole winner — and Newgarden put down a monster, track-record lap to start from P1.

Still, it’s tough to say who has the edge right now. In Friday’s two practice sessions, Newgarden had the quickest overall time. But in Saturday’s practice, Pagenaud, Dixon and Power all went even faster.

Plus, top five drivers in the point standings were also the top five drivers in final practice (just in a different order). Since they were only separated by 0.44 second, it really could be anyone’s race among the contenders.

So how does the championship race work?

Sonoma is a double points event — one of only two on the schedule, along with the Indy 500. That twist could play a massive role in the outcome of the championship, because the points are soooo close.

At a typical IndyCar race, first place is worth 50 points and second place gets 40. But at Sonoma, it’s 100 for first place and only 80 for second — a 20-point gap between first and second!

That means Newgarden, Dixon and likely Castroneves (depending on bonus points) are all in situations where a Sonoma victory will mean the championship (which has happened the last two years).

And really, Pagenaud isn’t in a bad spot, either (though he could use some help from his competition finishing off the podium). Power and Rossi are much bigger longshots at this point, even if they win.

How did they get to this point?

Newgarden has a series-leading four wins and eight podium finishes this season, but his lead is only four points thanks to a gaffe in the most recent race at Watkins Glen.

After entering the Glen with a 31-point lead over Dixon — thanks to winning three of four races — Newgarden locked up his tires in the pits while avoiding teammate Will Power and slid into the guardrail. That cost him 28 points of his lead, which was whittled to just four.

Dixon has just one win but has made finished on the podium seven times — second in the series. And he’s going up against the entire Penske team, which has been the most consistent this season.

What are they saying?

— Newgarden, who was totally fired up after his track-record lap to get the pole — his first since 2015 — is going into the race with a nothing-to-lose attitude.

“If I drop the ball and totally ball it up this weekend, I’m still going to be pretty happy with this year,” the 26-year-old American said. “That’s not to say I’m going to settle for that or that I’m looking to settle for something like that.

“But the only way I think you can approach this and get the most out of it and try and treat it like any other weekend. The moment you think, ‘Hey, this is championship week — you mess it up, you’re not the champion,’ then I think that can put you in a wrong place mentally.”

— Power, who qualified second, has a fast car but needs some help to pull off his second championship.

“It’s absolutely possible,” he said. “I mean, if Scott and Josef have a bad day, I can be right there. Yeah, see how it all plays out.”

— Pagenaud, who won this race en route to the championship last season, is feeling confident after qualifying third.

“Quite satisfied,” he said after his lap. “Overall it’s awesome for Team Penske, 1-2-3-4 once again here. A testament to the team doing such a good job. Nothing’s lost. Tomorrow is a long race. Lots of tire wear. I’m hoping for a really strong showing.”

— Speculation about Castrovenes’ future has been swirling lately, but it would certainly be nice for him to pull off an improbable title at age 42. He’s in a virtual win-and-clinch situation since there it’s a double points race.

“We wanted this championship as bad as anybody,” he said after qualifying fourth. “We do have a chance. We’re going to obviously try to execute. That’s our goal.”

— Dixon, the best driver of his generation, knows he has his work cut out for him. But it’s not like anyone can dismiss his chances.

“Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there,” he said. “I think in ’15 we started ninth when we won that race. Definitely you’d want to be a little further up. But that’s the way it goes.”