IRL: Milwaukee: Top-three finishers press conference (part 2)

Continued from part 1. MODERATOR: We are joined by winning owner Michael Andretti, who has five career victories behind the wheel himself here at the Milwaukee Mile. Also we're joined by first time Indy Racing League IndyCar Series winner Dario...

Continued from part 1.

MODERATOR: We are joined by winning owner Michael Andretti, who has five career victories behind the wheel himself here at the Milwaukee Mile. Also we're joined by first time Indy Racing League IndyCar Series winner Dario Franchitti. Congratulations on the win today. Talk about that thrilling run you had to the championship stripe winning this race today.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I've got to try and remember it all first (laughter).

Yeah, it wasn't the best start, let's put it that way, best start I ever made, but it was clean. I can't even remember if I made up any places in the first stint. I think we lost one, made up one. We were pretty happy at that point.

When we put new tires on, new stickers on, the car really came to life at that point, and I started moving through the field, passing Hornish and those guys, TK (Tony Kanaan). At that point, the car was working really, really well. I was able to get through traffic nicely. A little bit of a problem with the backmarkers. Some of the backmarkers were excellent today, actually just a couple of problems.

On the last pit stop, I think Hornish beat us out on that last one, and I don't know what he was doing on the restart, but he was -- there's a certain speed you're supposed to go, he was doing like 50 miles an hour or something, checking everybody up, and there's a no-start. The second start, he just kept coming down, trying to squeeze me.

I was lucky the car was as good as it was. I was able to accelerate hard on the inside, get past him. We were able to pull away, get in a nice lead.

I got into traffic. Alex Barron, he was racing me every corner, he was a lap down. Then the yellow came out, and that allowed Buddy (Rice) to get behind me. From that point, I was -- I thought we had the car today to beat him. I just wanted to make sure I got that last restart right, and we did.

The car was fantastic all day. It went off a bit as the run went on, but not as much as other people. I think the engineers got it right. Nothing went wrong today. Here we are.

MODERATOR: Aside from traffic, how much did your line vary or differ throughout the day?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was quite happy with the condition of the track today. I was able to use two, maybe three lines. There was obviously one optimum line, but I was quite happy moving up and down the track.

I think that's the sign of a good car. Something Michael and I have talked about. He's won five here as a driver. You know, we talked about that, the car's ability to be able to do that. We got it right.

MODERATOR: In six starts, you have had four straight top-10 finishes in the Champ Car series. In '97 he finished 16th, 1998 he finished fourth, 1999 he finished seventh, 2000 he finished sixth, 2001 finished ninth, 2002 finished 12th. How much has that experience played for you because you've had some decent runs here in another series?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's a track I think we've done well at before. Again, it's something -- something seemed to go wrong every time. I remember finishing fifth here with no brakes one time. One of the brake lines got cut, so there was absolutely no brakes. That made it interesting.

Again, you learn things. It was nice to come to a track this weekend that I had the same amount of experience as everybody else, I guess. Last year, we missed a lot of these with the back operation. It was nice to get back and start on a level playing field this weekend.

Q: This is the second racetrack you've won at that your close friend Greg Moore also won at. How important was that to you?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I was thinking about that actually last night. I think he won his first race here, didn't he?

MODERATOR: At the time he was the youngest ever winner in '97.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: '97. You know, that was definitely on my mind today. There's a lot of good people that have won here, Jim Clark, Greg, a bunch of great guys. It's a driver's track. It's nice to win.

Q: You and your teammates struggled in the Open Test here last month. What changed for this race?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I mean, that test, we were running round all four AGR cars. We didn't have it right. We were fundamentally wrong with the setup. The engineers went back. Pete Gibbons, Tino Belli, Allen McDonald, the other engineers went back and really thought about it, came back here with a completely different approach. You see the results of it. It's a lot easier to drive the cars today. I mean, we were doing lap times in the race I couldn't have dreamed of doing in the test. It felt it wasn't as difficult.

That's one of the things that (team owners) Michael (Andretti), Kim (Green) and Kevin (Savoree) have put together. It's that kind of strength you need to challenge for championships and race wins.

Q: When did the setup improve?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: When we came back here, they completely turned the setup upside down. From the first runs, we kind of knew we were looking for small things, not for miracles.

Q: A lot of doubters have said that maybe you didn't have your heart in it anymore and didn't want to race in the IRL.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I remember, I think I had an accident in 2000, and a lot of people were saying at that point, "Gee, he's done, he's done." At the time, I hardly knew Michael. Michael said to someone in the paper, "I've been written off more times."

It happens. When you're successful, it's difficult to stay -- to win all the time. When you're not winning... Last year was difficult, people made up a lot of stuff. I've made no secret of my love of road racing. I'm going to go road racing next year. I'm having a great time here, having a great time with these guys having some fun. And I wanted to come back for that reason.

I've still got a lot left to do. These guys stood by me. Hopefully, we'll be able to do some more of these and pay these guys back.

MODERATOR: If you could comment, Michael, seemed like you were ready to jump in, about the thoughts about Dario, is he ready for this, does he want to do the IRL.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's funny. Like Dario said, I went through it a lot in my career. It's just so funny to listen to people. Never once did we ever think that Dario's heart wasn't in it. I mean, this guy has been giving everything since he got back in the car. He's contributed so much for the team.

There were so many races that nobody knew that he had a winning car, but he just didn't get the luck to get it done. You know, I'm so happy that he was actually able to finally get it done. To do it here in Milwaukee was special, as well.

MODERATOR: You've had five wins here, but also 13 top-five finishes as a driver in 18 starts. There's something about this racetrack. Did it apply for your team today?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I really love this track, you know. As Dario said, it's a driver's track. There's something about getting the car to handle. Dario knows what it takes to get a good race car. Because of that, it paid off at a place like this. This place is all about handling.

Q: All four of your drivers have now won an IndyCar Series race. How does that make you feel?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That makes you feel good. You know, as a team owner, now this year we have three different winners. We have one more to get in Victory Lane before the end of year, but Bryan (Herta) has won for the team last year. This makes you feel good. This shows it's a strong unit, it's not behind just one car or whatever. All four of these guys have an equal shot every race to win, and it shows.

You know, that makes you feel good. I know they all feel good for each other that it is that way. And I think that's why this team works the way it does, because all four of them have the confidence in themselves and their teams that they can win on any given day.

Q: Were you worried when that last yellow came out?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I had a pretty nice lead at that point, but I was being held up pretty badly by Barron. That was concerning me. When I actually got the caution, I was relieved in a way because it got him back round out of my way.

On the flipside of that, I was a bit concerned about the restart with Buddy. But I thought once we got up to speed, we had the car. As it turned out, the restart was fine, and it wasn't an issue.

They've been strong all year, so it was nice to get one over on them, I guess.

MODERATOR: Dario's best finish at this point had been a second at Texas in June.

Q: All the AGR drivers seem to be very supportive of one another.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it just shows, as Michael said, what a strong team we are. It was nice to see them. I have been in Victory Lane with Dan (Wheldon), with Tony (Kanaan). At some point, I hope to be in there with Bryan (Herta), too. Dan was on the radio. He got on our frequency on the cool-down lap. He was yelling all sorts of things. He was pretty happy for me.

Next time we get to go and have a party, he's buying (laughter).

MODERATOR: There was a special moment in Victory Lane when one of your crew members finally got there. You gave him a special hug. Tell us who it was?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I got to see my guys. They all came over after my extremely lame effort at a doughnut. I mean, Alex Zanardi is going to be at home, if he's watching this, shaking his head, wondering how I ever managed to beat him at a race. That was pathetic. If you're actually watching this, Alex, sorry. That was terrible.

They came out. But Kyle Moyer, who is the general manager, that's his official title, he used to be my crew chief, then he was crew manager, now he's general manager. He's a big cheese now. He's been with me since the end of '97. He kind of hides away after the races and stuff. It's very special to win with him.

Last year, he was a huge support to me with my surgery. I talked to him a lot. He's my friend. He's the guy that's there all the time. When things aren't going right, he's the first one to give me a hard time, but he's unbelievably supportive. Allen McDonald, my engineer, again is a terrific guy, very nice to work with and smart. Gave me a great car today. So it was nice to see those two.

Q: Are you more excited or relieved to have won a race?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: A bit of both really (laughter). Yeah, we've come pretty close this year. As Michael said, we've had cars to win races you guys probably don't even know about. It was nice to finally get it all done. Very, very excited to have done it.

Q: Rahal Letterman Racing is putting up a strong fight for the championship.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, they're going to be there. I mean, we're not counting anybody out. We just got to go out and keep doing our job.

I think Tony (Kanaan) drove a championship-winning race today. He was hanging on for dear life there. To come home fourth was a big effort. He didn't lose too much in the championship. Dario stealing points for him by beating Buddy, those are things that are hopefully going to win it for us.

We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. We feel like we're improving. We're still getting better and better. We still have a long way to go. Hopefully, we'll pull this thing off.

Q: Last year, Chevrolet came on strong at the end of the season. Could they still be a factor?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, you don't know what they have. You don't know what the other guys are going to have. Michigan is going to be an interesting race. You hear rumors of the other manufacturers coming out with stuff. We know they're pushing hard.

But you've got to know that Honda is pushing just as hard to improve what they have. But, you know, it's definitely not over. You know, we're all pushing. You know, to have Buddy there in a Honda, as well, is making it difficult.

Q: Talk about heading to Michigan next week.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm looking forward to Michigan. In the past, any race I've been involved with there has been tremendous. It's a fun place to go racing. It will be a learning weekend, for sure. There will be a couple of things we have to learn on Friday. Hopefully, by the time qualifying and the race come about, we've got it all right. Thank God it's not a two-day race weekend.

Q: Talk about racing at Nazareth Speedway.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I mean, you're better asking Michael that one. He's driven a lot more laps at those places than I have. But completely different. Nazareth, it's a completely different way of racing. Turn 2 is so different from Turn 3. It's a lot narrower track. It requires different things from the car, different things from the drivers. Things seem to come at you a bit quicker at Nazareth. It's a quick lap there. When you come barreling down to Turn 3, just have a small lift to get through there, it opens your eyes, let's put it that way.

MODERATOR: How are you going to celebrate the win? I see you have family members here.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah. Mom and dad and (wife) Ashley (Judd), they're heading off tonight in one direction. My other family, Michael, Tony, Dan and Bryan and I are all headed over to Nazareth for tests on Tuesday. Tuesday night could get quite interesting.

MODERATOR: Looking for faster times Tuesday?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Oh, yeah. Wednesday I'm going to go watch my football team. Glasgow Celtics are playing Manchester United in Philadelphia. It will be a busy week.

Congratulations to Lance Armstrong on winning the Tour (de France). That was quite amazing.

MODERATOR: Congratulations.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron , Jim Clark , Greg Moore