IRL: Texas II: AGR championship press conference

IRL IndyCar Series Championship Press Conference Tony Kanaan , driver Michael Andretti , co-team owner Kim Green , co-team owner Kevin Savoree , co-team owner MODERATOR: We are joined by the Indy Racing League championship team here; champion...

IRL IndyCar Series Championship Press Conference

Tony Kanaan , driver
Michael Andretti , co-team owner
Kim Green , co-team owner
Kevin Savoree , co-team owner

MODERATOR: We are joined by the Indy Racing League championship team here; champion Tony Kanaan and the champion owning team of Kim Green, Michael Andretti and Kevin Savoree. Just some very brief statistics: of course Tony completing every lap of the 2004 season, 3,305 laps; three victories at Phoenix, Texas and Nashville; 15 top-fives, 16 top-10s and finishing second today by 18/10,000s of a second over teammate Dan Wheldon.

First of all just talk about the race today, Tony. Solid run, you were running up towards the front, good run right at the end just to nip Dan. Talk about the final laps.

TONY KANAAN: Well, the final lap, there was so many yellows on the end that I only had one shot. And at the end, I was trying to just keep up on the first lap behind Dan first to catch Helio (Castroneves), and that was impossible. So I set myself up to pass Dan on the last corner, and it worked pretty well and we got him.

You know, it's a good way to finish - a great team effort, the whole team, and we finished every lap of every race. I think we set ourselves up now because it's going to be hard to match this.

So we're always trying to make it better for next year, so we're going to have to work very hard to make it as good as this one. But, work is not a problem for us, and it was a great season.

MODERATOR: The team had tremendous intensity all year long from the crew owner and everything. Talk about just how they were able to draw everything together to put together such a magical season.

TONY KANAAN: Well, organization comes from the top, and I had the three guys up here. Each of them have a specific and a special role on the team, and they transferred that from the top down. And then it goes to the drivers who are very, very close together. We're good friends, and we want to make this team successful. It was all about this team since day one. It wasn't about one guy. So that transfers to everybody else, from the sponsors to the mechanics to the engineers and everyone. It's very unique, and it's hard to make 90 people happy. When you work like that, that's what we have on the team, and everybody works together and they are very happy. So that's the -- I don't know if it's a secret because we are telling, but it's hard to make it work, and we did it and we're going to keep doing it.

Q: Tony, I will cut to the chase. It looked like Helio's restart was all the way -- when he got on the gas, talk about it from your view.

TONY KANAAN: We have restart cones, and he definitely didn't restart on the cone, but I'm not going to complain. I think we have officials for that, and it makes me think it was the right move. I would support them. If they think it's wrong, they should do something about it.

But the guy had a strong car today, and I don't know, I'm not going to keep saying, yeah, if he had not -- but basically, he didn't start on the restart cone. If that's right or wrong, it's not my call.

Q: Did you lose a position there?

TONY KANAAN: On the pit stop, I just think it was a normal stop. We had to make a change on the car, and I had a very tight entry and a tight exit. I think that's what you're talking about, because I don't recall anything else that we lost one position there. I mean, the guys did a great job on the stops. I mean, I can't complain at all.

And on the grass, I mean, we're racing three-wide and I was in the middle. I had -- I was the meat and I had two breads, so I felt like a hamburger at the time. I said, 'You know what, let me get out of here.' At one time I got out and the next time, you know, Adrian (Fernandez) washed up going out of Turn 4, I go to the inside and I knew he didn't see me, but I was there already. So, the only way I had to go was to the grass, otherwise, I was going to make a big mess. Hopefully my dirt track days brought me something and I held it up.

But yeah, it wasn't pretty. I wasn't very, very happy about it, what happened and I actually was very hard on the radio with Kim. Adrian apologized. I don't think he saw me really, because if he did that on purpose, I would be really surprised.

Q: Would you have been happier if the red flag had been put out?

TONY KANAAN: I'm here to race. The only way we can race each other is green, so I like to see green. Red is no good. It's no good for the fans. I don't think it's fair for people to buy tickets to see a checkered flag, and especially the way we finished, especially the way we have finished this year in Texas. I would say maybe, yeah, they should red-flag more laps, yeah, but maybe not. We don't use that here a lot.

So at least we got a shot at it at the end, and we've still got two laps. If you don't get it on the first two laps, I don't think you're going to get anybody, but I don't think the way the race was going, I don't think you're going to with 15 or 20 or 30 or one lap, so I think it would be the same. I don't think it would have changed really.

Q: For Michael, given that this restart has taken on its own life, have you considered filing a protest? Are you upset with the way this thing played out to the point where you're going to go to the IRL?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Obviously we are going to talk to (IRL Senior Vice President of Racing Operations) Brian (Barnhart) to see what his view on it was. Are we going to protest? I highly doubt it. I think we just have to hear his explanation. (Helio) took off before the cone, and we just want to hear what Brian has to say. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to talk with him yet.

Q: Kim, on the championship, most of your guys were around in '99 -- having a dominating year, what does that mean to you now and in the future?

KIM GREEN: Well, I think that in every season that most of us were at Team Green and Andretti Green Racing, we always learn something. We always learn from our mistakes or from our shortcomings, and we set ourselves some pretty lofty goals to improve every year. And as ownership with Kevin and Michael, we have invested in the areas we felt we needed to improve on, specifically in expanding our engineering department and making sure we had all of the right people in place. There's a lot of ingredients that it takes to I think win a championship in any type of racing series. And it goes from having the right crew members, the right drivers, the right chassis, the right engines. And you know, the only thing that's a common denominator really, and in a lot of cases with all of us, is the tires. We don't worry about those because they are always very, very good.

But just the people we have are very special. There are no egos in our company, and everybody understands that they all work together, they all are successful.

Q: Tony, the definition of perfection would be to win every race, but you probably have to consider what you did this year is as close to perfection as you could probably have by three wins for the championship and finishing every lap.

TONY KANAAN: I mean, I think we'd love to win seven races or eight races out of the 16, but I think what we did, it's remarkable. This car never stopped. I mean, from the engine from the tires, it's 3,000 and some laps, and you have how many million pieces that could fail on this car or how many positions I put myself in that I could be out of the race, and it's just, again, it's a combination of everything; myself, the team, great people working at Honda, making sure that the car is -- that the engine is in one piece all the time. The mechanics putting the car together, and that, I strongly believe that it's just them doing the job, it's just them doing what they love to. And when you put so much effort, that's why we make the difference. We make the difference because we're together, and I see my guys when we wake up in the morning to go to work, they want to do this. They want to go to work, they want to be there, they want to make the race car. My race car is immaculate all the time, and I see these guys, too. That's the way you build a race team and that's how you make an unbreakable car.

You definitely create your own luck sometimes. So we didn't finish every lap because we're just lucky. We finished because we have people that love what they do in any single place, from the guy that changes the tires and the sponsors that are here with us today. And that's the secret I think.

Q: You've won championships now as both a driver and an owner, talk about the difference.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It is different. You know, I think when you're a driver you're a little more selfish about it, but this one is special in such a way that I'm just so happy. I think I'm happier for everybody around me the whole team, everybody, Tony, all of the hard work these guys have done and to see that it all paid off and it's a special feeling, you know. I enjoyed both of them, I'll tell you that.

But right now I'm really enjoying this, and I'm just so happy for everybody involved on this team.

Q Kevin, a quick comment on being part of this championship effort, what it means to you?

KEVIN SAVOREE: I think for me, and we talked about it a lot this last week, we really created the Andretti Green family, and it's just so special to be a part of it. I mean, for me, you know, to come from where I've come from, a small Midwestern town to a championship team owner is pretty special. And to have partners like Mike and Kim, they are just world-class guys. And, you know, we've got a lot of great guys back in the shop and obviously a lot of fun with Tony, Dan, Dario and Bryan, so it's just been so, so special.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Kim Green