IRL: Phoenix: Race winning team press conference

IRL IndyCar Series - Purex Dial Indy 200 March 23, 2003, Phoenix International Raceway Winners' press conference Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti Moderator: Our winner today, the pole sitter, Tony Kanaan. He's being joined by team owner, as well...

IRL IndyCar Series - Purex Dial Indy 200
March 23, 2003, Phoenix International Raceway
Winners' press conference

Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti

Moderator: Our winner today, the pole sitter, Tony Kanaan. He's being joined by team owner, as well as teammate Michael Andretti. Tony, just start with a comment. Your second race in the IndyCarTM Series in 2003 on the pole. This time you brought it home.

Tony Kanaan: Well, first of all, it was a matter of teamwork, I think. The whole Team 7-Eleven, it's working together. Since day one, since I joined this team, they've been great to me. They've been trying to give my confidence back what I lost a little bit last year. We got caught in Homestead a little bit being our first race. We didn't have a very good race setup. We went off in the race a little bit. We put our heads together after that and say: "OK, what we need to do to win now? We have a good car, we have competitive drivers." What we did, we work on our race setup really well, myself, Michael and Dario. We came up with very good setups. If you look at one point in the race, we're all in the top six. It was unfortunate that they both drop out of the race. But, again, I need to thank everybody in the team, especially Mike (Andretti), that he's been supporting me since day one, since he had this idea to buy this team. He came to talk to me about it. I'm very grateful for the opportunity. I'm going to keep doing 102 percent all the time to put his team at the top level. I think a guy like him, my guys, the way they act, the way we get along well, they deserve the best, and the best is a win. So every time I jump in my car, I'm going to try to put that 11 car in the front.

Moderator: Michael, as a co-owner, your first trip to Victory Lane as an owner.

Michael Andretti: I got to say, it was like I won the race. Tony saved the day for me, obviously, with what happened. First thing I was doing, I was looking at the damage thinking, "Oh, man, this is going to cost a lot of money." Tony ends up bringing home some good prize money that will pay for it. I appreciate that, Tony (laughter). It was a tough day for us, but I'm so happy for the whole Team 7-Eleven. You know, as Tony said, we're working as a team. Dario, Tony, myself, and also the engineers, it's just the most pleasurable experience that I've ever had in my career. I'm glad I've experienced this before I retire. It's been a lot of fun. It seems like when you have fun, that's when you get the results. That's what's happening right now for the team.

Q: Tony, you started from pole, but kind of fell back through the field. At one point you were out of the Top 10. The second hundred laps, you got pretty racy.

Kanaan: The car was competitive all day. We got a little bit of mix on the start. I mean, actually, my spotter told me it was going to go yellow, it wasn't going to start. All of a sudden they threw the green flag out. I dropped back two positions. I kept myself calm. I knew I had a good car. Obviously, track changed a little bit so I was working my car into the pit stops. Again, we had a problem in the pits. I stall the engine again. Completely my fault. I was mad to myself, but I never lost concentration. You know, when you know you have a good car, maybe you can pass people. Team Green and Chris Simmons, they played a strategy so well. They called me in, and they knew I could pass people. We came in, I went back, I was 11, went back to 13, put myself back in seventh position in one lap. I passed four cars in one lap. That was great. I mean, went yellow right after that. I say, "Hey, I'm enjoying racing. I will put myself behind and try to do it again." It was so much fun. Obviously, some of the yellows helped me out with the fuel strategy - not Mike's yellow. I was concerned about him. When I saw the damage, I thought a lot about him, too. I was like, "Oh, it's going to cost him." Deep to my heart I thought, "Thank God it wasn't me so I don't get yelled about it. He crashed his own car, it's his car." (Laughter). After that I just kept myself calm. I knew the guys I was fighting with, a guy that we've been playing for a long time, since '86 we battle together back and forth, bang wheels. I won championships; he won races. So I knew who I was dealing with. I kind of used my experience knowing the guy. I play him a little bit. I let him think that he could pass me. After that, I was gone.

Moderator: We'd like to field questions for either Tony or Michael.

Q: Was that about as hard a hit as you've taken in an Indy car during your career?

Andretti: No, I've taken harder hits. You know, I've been in the hospital already knocked out. But it was a hard hit. The angle, I thought, "Oh, this is going to hurt." When it hit, it was not too bad. You know, I knew I was going to be bruised. But it says something about the safety of these cars, the Indy cars, I think they've done a great job. I really did hit hard with my head. With all the padding we have and everything, it kept me from losing consciousness, so it was good.

Q: Were you concerned about Gil?

Andretti: Yeah, I really was. I knew he hit hard, as well. It was just a bad deal.

Q: The beginning of the race when you fell back, what happened?

Andretti: Well, first I got boggled on the start, just like Tony did, because it stopped, then went green, and I fell back. But it was on a restart that Scheckter came across my nose and banged my right front. I think he broke my front wing. I lost momentum. And then Jaques Lazier came on the outside of me, came right across my nose coming into Turn 3, bent it even more, bent my wing even more. From that moment on I knew I couldn't win the race. Up till that point, I thought I was going to win the race. The car was unbelievable. It was so good. All I needed was track position, and we were going to be able to definitely fight Tony. But I knew my race was done after that because it was all bent up.

Q: Michael, from your perspective, what happened in the incident?

Andretti: I knew I was a sitting duck because I had the broken front end, so I had a big understeer in (Turns) 3 and 4. It was only a matter of time for Gil to get by me. I saw him coming. I just gave him plenty of room. I drove almost straight into the corner to give him room. I don't know if he misjudged or what, came up high, he came right up into me before we even went into the turn. Next thing you know, we were both flying. I assume he just misjudged the corner.

Q: Of all drivers, are you surprised that he would misjudge?

Andretti: Yeah. I don't know what happened. I was really disappointed because I know I gave him a lot of room. I saw him coming. It wasn't a surprise to me. I drove it in deep, but I drove it in straight knowing he had over a full lane and a half on the inside. I don't know what happened to him.

Q: Michael, these cars suit your driving style. If you were doing well by the month of May, will you continue in your career?

Kanaan: I hope not (laughter).

Andretti: I mean, I guess you could say it suits my driving style, but it suits his pretty good. He's been blowing my doors off, doing a great job. No, I mean, my decision's made. I do enjoy driving these cars. I mean, they are fun to drive. I like the formula that they have. I think it's really good for racing. But I made up my mind that Indianapolis will be my last race. Whether I win, lose or whatever, that's it.

Q: Tony, when this series started, the star driver was named Tony. Seems the star driver is still named Tony. Hasn't come far from that standpoint. Talk about how well you've adapted to the IndyCar Series?

Kanaan: Well, feels good to know I make myself comparison to Tony Stewart, some of the guys that been to the series. I think, like Michael said before, it's not just the car that's suiting me, it's the whole thing. The team is helping me, the guys are supporting me from the back, working together. I mean, that's the key. I mean, obviously, I've been on teams before, and I didn't do half as good as I'm doing right now. It's not because it was a matter of a lack of work or a lack of people capable to do the job. It was just because of the timing of the whole thing. Looks like good things come all together, like the bad things come all together at the same time. We just have this good thing going on this team. I'm kind of anxious when he retires because it's like a marriage, you know it's going to end. No, no, no (laughter). But it's not going to cost me any money for that! We connected so good, all of us. So he helps me out a lot. You know, his drive style, it's really close to mine. We can exchange ideas that I don't know when he's going to step out of the car how much he's going to be able to help me, but that's the way it is. I'm having a lot of fun. Again, I think to answer your question, I do like to drive loose cars, and this car goes fast if you drive a little bit loose. That's probably the key. But I haven't found out what exactly it is. I would say it's the whole teamwork.

Q: You pitted at 120, 80 to go. How many yellows did you think you needed? Did you think you had one more stop left in you?

Kanaan: Not really. At that time I gave 100-percent clear decisions to my team, said, "Kim, tell me the fuel number you need, I'll try to make it." He said, "I need this fuel number." I was getting even better. It was hard to hold Sarah behind me. She was in a light load of fuel; she was pushing me to get her lap back. I didn't want to let her by. Was afraid that she could, actually.

Q: She was running for the lead.

Kanaan: Thanks for telling me now (laughter). Even if it was for the lead, she had to pit it. I was just saving a lot of fuel. Obviously, the yellows helped me out a lot. But I didn't ask the team if I had to pit another time. I didn't want to worry about that. I let them worry about it. They gave me the number, and I was matching the number. I knew the number they told me was going to be good till the end, so that's what I did.

Q: Scott Dixon admitted he was a little reluctant to come to an all-oval series. You seem to be more gung-ho about it. When you first knew you weren't going to be running street or road courses, were you skeptical?

Kanaan: Not really. My only win in the other series was in an oval. I knew from my past I had very good results in ovals. I was always in a position to have a good one, and something happened. I wasn't concerned at all. When I made my decision to come to IRL, was priority of competition, having the team that's going to give me a car to win races, because that's why I race, and people that love what they do and give me the best all the time. Yes, I knew we had to work really hard because sometimes in some of the ovals, not like here, but a superspeedway, there's not a lot you can do from a driver's standpoint in your driving style, drive the car. It's flat all the way around. It's more like the car. But here, Miami and this track, it was tough, believe me. If anybody has a doubt, take it. I'll give my car. Can I give my car for them to try, Michael?

Andretti: They can have my car now (laughter).

Q: Michael, can you go over what went on? They took you to the care center.

Andretti: Yeah, it was an odd experience. I got through easily. They just check your blood pressure, all that. It was a little high, actually. Then I saw the final two laps in the medical room. I was so excited. I mean, it just made up, covered up all the bad stuff that happened to me. I was so happy, actually a little choked up. Never been that way before. So it was a big moment. It's a special moment for this whole team. I know how hard we worked. To do it in our second race, to win, is pretty remarkable if you ask me. It just felt like an awesome accomplishment for all of us.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Jaques Lazier