Good afternoon. Hope you're looking forward to the first race this weekend!
Hi Dario - What is your biggest concern in the race at St Pete? Brake durability, engine durability, rain (has anyone tested in the wet)?
All of the above! Everything right now is a concern until proven otherwise.
I'm glad I'm with the Target team and Honda. I think those guys will figure out anything that needs to be figured out.
How does the DW12 compare to the last ChampCar you drove ?
In terms of pure performance, it's probably halfway between the old ChampCar and the last generation IndyCar.
Dario! I can't wait for this season to kick off. I've gotta ask how fast are you going to be speeding around the IMS? Can we expect of 230 finally?
I'm not sure this year. I don't think this year we'll be at 230. It seems every time we got close to 230 in the old car, the insurance assessors had a heart attack.
With all of the changes and variables coming into IndyCar this season, does this appear to be one of the most competitive seasons in your open-wheel career? Overall what has changed/improved the most since you came back to the series in 2009?
There's been a lot of open seasons, and this one will be right up there too. I just think there are so many variables -- not just performance but reliability -- that it'll make for a very open championship. For me, the biggest change is that it's just one championship. There's no split anymore -- one championship with the best drivers and teams. That's what I'd been hoping for for the previous decade.
How much has racing in NASCAR has helped you the las couple of years in INDYCAR?
I think driving the cars in NASCAR got me out of my comfort zone a little bit, I would say.
What track are you most looking forward to?
Most looking forward to -- I think I'll start at St. Pete and go from there. I drive the St. Pete track a lot, and I'm looking forward to racing there. After that, you've got to treat them all with an open mind. I like most of them, but even the ones I don't like, you've got to go in there with an open mind.
What do you do to stay in racing shape and is it getting harder as you get older?
It's getting a little tougher! But I just work harder. I've really just upped the intensity and the amount I work out. The toughest part is dealing with old injuries.
If you could change one thing on the new car, what would you change?
I would make it better-looking, which I'm hoping is going to happen next year with the body kits anyways.
After that, probably hundreds of little detail things that the team and I would change if we were allowed.
What's your opinion on the road/street vs oval split? Would you prefer one vs the other?
I would really like to be more of a 50-50 split as we had last year. Unfortunately, with certain circumstances this year, we took the split that we have. I'm hopeful it'll be more balanced next year.
Is driving the DW12 going to be a festival of understeer?
I don't think it is. I think the car can be balanced. It seems right now if you balance for understeer at one point, it oversteers at another point. There's still a lot of work to be done.
Do you enjoy the off season or are you the type o driver that would race 365 days a year if you could?
I like a little bit of time off. I think it makes you appreciate being in the car more. I think if you do anything every day, then it becomes normal and not special. I kind of like the break, although this offseason, we've certainly tested much much more than we had in any past offseason, just with the new car.
I've read that you're one of the few drivers that has resisted a switch to left foot breaking. Do you feel there is any advantage to left foot vs right foot breaking?
I think each has its positives and negatives. I don't wanna give too many details away, but I feel more comfortable in most corners right foot braking, though I do left foot sometimes as well.
How different of a feel do the new engines (and turbos) have in terms of power? What will that do to lap times on road courses?
Lap times on road courses are significantly quicker already. Some of that is due to more power, less weight with the DW12, more downforce, and Firestone have brought a stickier tire too. It looks like it's gonna be quicker on all of the road and street courses. The V6 definitely sounds a lot different and delivers the power in a different way. There's definitely more of it.
What track would you most like to see put on the schedule next year?
Road America. I'd like to see some of the ovals and short ovals brought back, but if I had to pick one track, that would be it. New Hampshire and Richmond and Phoenix as well.
Other than yourself, Will Power and your teammate Scott Dixon, give us three other drivers you believe will be in the competion for this year's title.
Graham Rahal, Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan, Rubens, Hench, Ray -- for me the field is incredibly deep. I think it would be easier to say the guys who wouldn't contend, and that's more down to equipment rather than driver skill. Driver skill is very high right now.
How different are the reds and blacks going to be this year?
Don't know the answer to that -- I haven't driven back to back, but I do know that Firestone's base tire is softer. I'm looking forward to finding out. I'm hoping there's a big gap.
Thanks to everybody for tuning in. It's good to answer some questions. Thanks for your interest!