IRL: Kanaan and Andretti press conference, Part III

Indy Racing League March 25, 2003 Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti Part 3 of 3 Q: Tony for you, a lot of guys, drivers make good friends during the course of their professional career, but here you are starting along side a guy you grew up...

Indy Racing League
March 25, 2003

Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti

Part 3 of 3

Q: Tony for you, a lot of guys, drivers make good friends during the course of their professional career, but here you are starting along side a guy you grew up with racing who is a great friend and then on the final restart you have Helio right behind you, another childhood friend. What is like seeing these guys that you literally grew up talking about hoping this would happen to maybe one of you, it has happened to all of you? You are at the top of open-wheel racing here, and you are racing each other. What is that like to have friends like that and to be kind of duking it out in these situations now that you are adults?

Kanaan: It is a good feeling. You definitely know the guys that you are dealing with and knowing Helio, I knew a little bit of his moves, so I probably knew how to get him more, how to try to keep him behind. Obviously, I did know if it was going to work or not. It is nice because we have been fighting since '86 racing against each other and winning championships and then not only for races. I know the guy. The guy wants to win at any cost, but that day was mine, and I wanted to win at any cost, too. It was a nice feeling. Obviously, we had a close call in the middle of the race, actually one of the restarts and we got side-by-side and I knew that the guy was trying to pass me but knowing him and all the experience I knew I could get him. It would not be the first time that I got him and maybe not the last time. Maybe next time he will get me, too, so. It is a nice feeling, basically. It reminds me a lot when we are back in Brazil go-kart racing.

Q: Is it hard to race against good friends, easier to race against good friends or doesn't even come into play?

Kanaan: I think it is easier, not because you can pass anybody easier. A lot of it is just I think that people will respect you more because we know each other. Friends, I mean you have to think about it when you are racing. You do not have that many friends. Even if we get along really well outside the racetrack, I do not think a lot of people are your friend there. I can count on one of my hands how many friends I have on the racetrack. But it was a nice feeling.

Q: Michael, your father retired about 8 or 9 years ago and had a grand tour of his last season. You are going out totally differently, you are younger, of course. But driving these last four races is it kind of tough out there thinking -- well, I want to go hard, but I have only got two races to make it through without injury or anything and has it changed your view of how you drive?

Andretti: I do not think so. I would hope that Sunday shows that. I think it would have been very easy to just say -- "OK, go Gil and not try to fight for the position." That is not the way I want to go out. I want to go out -- I want to retire knowing that I was still competitive, knowing that I could still win races. So that is the way I am going to drive. I am gong to drive as hard, give it everything I have these last two races and hopefully we will come away with a win before, especially it would be nice to win my last race.

Q: You know you have almost a month from the time Motegi or more than a month time Motegi is over 'til the Indy 500; what do you think will go through you mind during all this period?

Andretti: I do not know. I am just going to try to treat it normal. It is easier said than done, obviously, but I have to definitely try to keep my focus. I know there is going to be a lot of distractions, but I am going to do my best to try to make it as a normal Indy now. Indy always is not normal anyway. There is nothing like it in sport because you are there so long, so many things are happening throughout the whole month and the pressures and the highs and the lows and stuff. I think I am just going to try to keep my head and just try to keep the way I have always done it and not focus too much on what is going to happen after I am retired or that it is going to be my last race. Just basically focus on trying to win the race. It is so important for me, and I would love to retire having Indianapolis under my belt.

Q: Tony, question for you. When you were driving against Michael before you became his teammate; what were your thoughts of him as a driver?

Kanaan: I think his results explain themselves. But always a lot of respect for the guy, and I knew that the guy was one of the fastest, for sure, if not the fastest driver out there and late braker when you try to pass him. He will be along side if you do not get the pass well done. We had good battles over the years. I remember a good one was Australia in '98 or '99, I do not remember exactly the year, but we fought through the whole race, and he kept me behind. I had a better car through one section of the track, which was the only part of the track you could actually make a pass, and I was not capable to pass. So I started to call Michael since that day "my nightmare," and obviously woke up out of that nightmare. Right now I am living a dream, so it is kind of funny. But obviously Michael was always very-- I do not know the right word to say but he was good in the sense it was very clear on when you were trying to make a move he was very clear saying -- Give you the room -- It was always a pleasure to actually when I come up behind him, which was not that many times that I had the chance to pass him, but if I put my wheels right along side him he would not move. He will give you the room, and you obviously fight hard, but we will never do a stupid move. We do not have that feeling with a lot of drivers. Again, if you look at his career the results, they will tell you how good he is.

Q: Thanks very much. Guys, I hate hypotheticals, but I am going to ask a hypothetical. We are at Indy, three cars are for battling for the lead on the last lap, and you are probably going to get asked this a thousand times, and they all have the Big Gulp on the side of the car; tell me who wins?

Kanaan: The guy that is in the lead. I think honestly I said that before, but I do not know. It is a scenario in my mind, and there are two scenarios in my mind. Let's say I am leading, and Michael is second, I do not think Michael will enjoy winning Indianapolis 500 if I would let him by because that is not his attitude. That is not Michael. Michael wants to win because he is the best out there, and he wants to beat everybody. But if I can help Mike in anyway to win Indianapolis, achieve his dream, I will try. I think he is helping me to achieve my dream and hopefully I have a long career to go. But I think there is no team orders, will be the best guy, and we all know each other, and the guy leads the last corner will be the winner.

Q: Michael; what were you thinking in listening to Tony say that?

Andretti: Yes, what is he thinking? No. No, exactly what he says. I do not want something like that given to me. I want to be able to earn it. It just would not feel the same if I knew that Tony moved over and let me win or Dario. That is not the way it is going to happen for me. If I am meant to win the race, it is going to happen, and it is not going to be given to me. There are no team orders.

Q: Tony and Michael both, you racing at Motegi next month and as we all know, that is Honda's racetrack, and Honda has never won a race there. What are you going to do? I know you have both driven really, really well there. Is there a special desire to win for Honda at their racetrack because they really want it that badly?

Andretti: Next to Indy, it could be one of the biggest races if I was ever to win it. I mean, it would be so big to be able to win that race for Honda. So it is very special to me, I know that. Honda has been so great for me, and I would love to give them that present or one of us, I think would just be awesome. So we are going to try to very hard to do that for them.

Kanaan: Me, too. I share the same opinion. I think if Andretti Green can do the job, either me, Mike or Dario, believe me one of my two teammates win that race I will be so thrilled and so happy. We know it is important. Honda has been supporting us for a long time, especially myself. They gave me the first opportunity to drive a real race car, if I call it like that. So I am extremely excited to go there. We are trying to keep our heads together and keep doing what we are doing, teamwork. If we work hard, maybe the result will come, and we will try our best as usual.

Johnson: One final question here for Michael. Mike, you just talked about what the race will mean for Honda. You have kind of taken us around the Twin Ring Motegi track; what can you tell us about the atmosphere, just the overall excitement that is present in Japan for these open wheel races?

Andretti: Japanese fans are just, they go crazy over this stuff. So when you get there you just feel that it is such a big event, how enthusiastic they are and all that and the support that they get. I mean to get to the racetrack where we are, it is pretty far away, but yet they come out like crazy. Another thing that says something about the Japanese fans is the year that I won it, it was rain-delayed a day, and those fans, I mean, some of them slept in the stands. It was incredible that they just stay and stay for this race the next day. That shows you the type of commitment that the Japanese fans have. And then throw in the whole thing Honda and Toyota, that they just are fierce competitors against each other, just makes it a huge, huge event.

Johnson: Well, Michael, Tony, we certainly appreciate the both of you for having joined us today and we wish each of you the best of luck April 13th at Twin Ring Motegi.

Andretti: Thank you very much.

Kanaan: Thank you.

Johnson: That concludes today's teleconference. Again, we do a complete transcript of this call. There is also a digital replay available by calling toll free (888) 843-8996, enter the pass code 6674241. Our next teleconference will be same time next week, noon eastern time Tuesday, April 1st when we will again take a look forward to the Indy Japan 300 April 13th at Twin Ring Motegi. We thank you for joining us today and appreciate your coverage.

Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan