IRL: Texas: Top-3 Finishers press conference transcript, part 1

IRL IndyCar Series Bombardier 500k June 12, 2004 Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Alex Barron Part 1 of 2 THE MODERATOR: We have Alex Barron. A season-best finish for you and the Cheever team. Wrap up your evening. Started ...

IRL IndyCar Series
Bombardier 500k
June 12, 2004

Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Alex Barron

Part 1 of 2

THE MODERATOR: We have Alex Barron. A season-best finish for you and the Cheever team. Wrap up your evening. Started last, up to third. Quite a run.

ALEX BARRON: Yeah, it was. I think, you know, this year was a little bit different than last year. We knew we could move up, we just didn't know how far. We were at the right place at the right time, able to overtake a lot of cars on the outside of the track. A lot of cars that got checked up were on the inside, and we were able to take advantage of it. There at the end, the team did just a tremendous job in the pits and got me out in I think it was fourth or fifth position. Tony (Kanaan) and I, we were able to get by. Dario (Franchitti) got by at the same time. At that point we were in third. You know, we just stayed there, played defense a little bit, rode around in third until the end. I had a couple of runs. Sam (Hornish Jr.) got on me off of Turn 4. We were able to hold him off. Overall, Chevrolet, Red Bull, everybody's been working real hard. Happy to give them their first podium.

THE MODERATOR: Talk about the Chevrolet powerplant. Obviously some great strides being made with it, giving you power to be up front tonight.

ALEX BARRON: Yeah, they're working extremely hard. You know, they had a few things they tried this weekend, definitely put us in the right direction. We knew they could do it. We're working really hard beside them, you know, to do everything we can to help them as a team. And that's what it takes, it takes teamwork. They're a tremendously established company that can make power, I know. We've just got to keep working on it and move forward.

THE MODERATOR: We're being joined by Dario Franchitti, runner-up for the Bombardier 500. Dario, tremendous run tonight. Almost there. Starting on the pole, finished second. Tremendous debut here at Texas Motor Speedway.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it was a great night. We led early on. We were quite comfortable leading, but we were definitely worried about the fuel consumption. Didn't seem to matter how much we leaned the car out, the guys behind us were getting better fuel consumption, which is one of the advantages of having three teammates, you tend to find these things out. We let ourselves get shuffled to the back of the pack a bit. That was fine. But we lost some ground, I think it was on the second stop. Made one mistake in Turn 4. For some reason I lost the front end, had to back out of it. We got further back in the pack than they would have liked. From that point, the last pit stop, the guys did a great job, did a splash and go. We made up some ground there. The last restart, it was time to go. We did go. We almost got around Tony (Kanaan) going three-wide through (Turns) 1 and 2. Pretty loose up there on the marbles. As I say, almost got Tony, but when I knew I couldn't, I then thought the best thing to do was to run single file, try to get away from this man here, Alex. From there on, you know, we got away a bit, got a bit of a gap. From that point, I didn't have anything for Tony, unfortunately. It was too equal. He was on the inside. I didn't have enough to get right around the outside of him. Great result for the team. Nice to finally get a result. Good job by Honda, the old engine produces some horsepower at the moment.

THE MODERATOR: Good result for the team. Set you up for a good run during the busy part of the summer.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm hoping so. I'm hoping this result will give us some momentum. We've been pretty quick all season, but we haven't had any results for one reason or another. It's nice to get some results. If I'm going to finish second, I want it to be to one of my teammates. Pretty happy team tonight.

THE MODERATOR: Alex, does this set the Red Bull team for a solid run all the way through the summer?

ALEX BARRON: I think the IRL is so competitive now, everybody's fighting so hard, you have to keep after it every weekend. I just think, you know, like any team, we seem to be making strides towards the right direction. We've just got to keep focused and try to do the best we can. Like I said, it's so competitive in the IRL now, you know, if you're not working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you get behind.

THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to some questions.

Q: Alex, how does this make you feel about the Chevrolet power? It wasn't considered to be great earlier in the year. You finished third here today.

ALEX BARRON: I think Chevrolet is doing a lot of things right now to point us in the right direction. You know, we were quick. Especially my teammate, Ed (Carpenter), he was very quick throughout the whole weekend, so we knew we had the speed. It was just a matter of knowing, you know, if we were able to get in the lead, if we were able to lead in traffic. We were able to have our car very balanced up high and down low. You know, that makes up a lot in the race. At the end, I was able to make the car have more power. We were able to run in the lead group real easy. So overall, I think that we've made a gain in the right direction.

Q: First time you ran Texas. How do you feel about the track now you that you finally got on it?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: There were times tonight I was having a great time. It was a lot of fun. There were other times it was really terrifying. It really depended who you were racing with. I think Alex would agree. There are some guys out there, they need to have a word with themselves. Some pretty scary drivers. There are other guys who are great fun to race with. I loved it. I didn't even notice it going dark, I was focusing that hard on what was going on. It kept me pretty busy.

Q: Alex, can you talk about the problem you had in qualifying, how that changes your mindset? Go into detail about the gearbox problem.

ALEX BARRON: I think somebody from the other team put a stick of dynamite in my gearbox going down the backstraight, blew about an eight-inch hole in the bottom of it (laughter). For whatever reason, that doesn't normally happen. We have one of the best gearbox guys in the business. I think it was a ring gear or something that let go. I'm not sure quite what. It was unfortunate. Happened right after I took the green flag for qualifying. Other than that, like I said, my teammate Ed Carpenter had speed all weekend. We had a good balance with traffic. I knew I could move up. And, again, it was just being at the right place at the right time to make up position.

Q: Dario, AGR clearly looks like the dominant team this year. After the things that happened last year with you getting injured, Michael retiring, now it seems like you guys are just doing everything right, is it just that there's not the transition you had last year? Why is it the team is doing so much better this year and has been so dominant?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'd like to say it's because I'm back driving in the car, but that probably wouldn't be the truth (laughter). I just think everybody's stepped up a bit. Honda certainly have stepped up their program tremendously. The engineering side of our team has been strengthened again and is working so well together. The four cars, the engineers work well together as a group. The drivers work very well together. And I think that's helped, as well. You know, we work pretty hard. The drivers work hard at sort of trying to guide the engineers, as well. But just a lot of effort from a lot of people. I think if you ask all the guys on the team, all the guys at Honda's wives, they'll tell you exactly how much time they're putting, how much time they're spending away from home. It's tough.

Q: Did you just feel you had nothing for Tony because of the engine, reduced engine, or was it a matter he was better than you tonight?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it was -- the problem was that we were very similar in speed, I think. When you get that close, to make a gain, he had the favored inside line, which is the shorter distance round here. I didn't have the advantage on him to run outside of him and pass him. You know, I think it's a testament to the team to putting cars out that are so equal and Honda giving us an engine that puts us on a level playing field.

Q: I know this is an IRL race, but it resembled a NASCAR race with all the bumping of tires and everything. You talked about how it was a little terrifying. I counted at least 10 times that people hit tires. Fortunately, most of those did not end up in accidents. Is that because we're slower that those cars didn't end up in the wall?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it's luck. I think it's luck. One guy came alongside of me on the outside on the backstraight, turned left. I don't know what he was trying to play. I think he was trying to get the draft from the car in front, but it's kind of a stupid game to be playing. I'm not sure who it was, but I'll look at the tape and find out. I'll be going to have a word with him. But, as I say, some guys were pretty out of control. There were a lot of guys doing an excellent drive. I thought (Adrian) Fernandez, for his first time out on the high-banked ovals, as well, did a really good job. He seemed to be keeping his nose clean. I don't think it has to do with the speed. I think slowing the cars down was definitely a good idea. I don't think it's hurt the racing at all. They're every bit as difficult to drive in a pack as they were, even more so. Alex has more experience than I do. He'll tell you.

ALEX BARRON: I just think some of the teams don't tighten the steering wheels tight enough (laughter). I don't know. It's usually the same guys that do it. The last two years I've been running, some of the guys I come up beside, you give extra room, and the room gets used up. I mean, I don't know what to say. Sometimes it can be very costly, some of the drivers. I just wish it would stop. Unfortunately, it goes on. Like I was saying in some of the broadcasts, I'm just really happy nobody got hurt tonight. It was a very exciting race. We were just fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.

Q: Dario, it seemed the momentum was more important tonight than it was at Indy because it was very difficult to pass. Can you talk about the drawbacks with this package, the fact you can't get off the gas, because if you do, you're going to go back six spots?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was able to lift when I was in the draft. I was lifting a bit sometimes. When I got in a position that the car was a bit unstable, I could have a little breather on the throttle. There was one time, I don't know if there was oil down or what, I got way up. I was on the inside. The car understeered right up into the outside lane just once. Then I did lose a couple of places, yeah. But I don't know about the momentum thing. Definitely a bit slower on the restarts. If it slows the cars down, definitely a price worth paying on that one. I think the thing is my car was a lot better here than it was at Indy. We were passing people rather than the other way around.

THE MODERATOR: We'll let you go. Dario, congratulations, great run in second. Alex, tremendous run for third place.

We're joined by Tony Kanaan and Michael Andretti. Tony, second victory of the year, you won at Phoenix International Raceway, are the points leader. Third career Indy Racing League triumph. First victory on a high-bank superspeedway.

You seemed to be kind of the rabbit tonight. You were out front most of the time. Was that by design or were just things going so well that you wanted to be out front and lead?

TONY KANAAN: In the beginning of the race, racing Dario and Buddy (Rice), I saw Buddy starting to get a little crazy. I said, 'You know what, I have a car to win this race, I don't want to be in trouble.' At one point, I really got mad, and I just blew by them on the outside, and I said, 'From now on, I'll set the pace.' Dario was setting the pace, for sure. I was just saving a lot of fuel behind him.

So once I got in the front, I knew everybody was going to try to save fuel, so I dictated the pace that I want. I was saving as much fuel as everybody else, just dictating the lap time myself.

It was funny, because I would slow down. I would do a 207 (mph) lap, then the next lap I would do a 203, which is 4 miles an hour slower, and nobody would pass me. I figured out that they're playing the same game that I was. I said, 'I'll try to stay out of trouble and just keep it in the front.'

We had a great car. I would hate to get involved in some silly moves that some people were putting out there today. That's what I did.

THE MODERATOR: The fastest race lap was your final lap of the race, lap 200. Saved the best for right at the end.

TONY KANAAN: That's when it counts, isn't it? You have to lead the last lap. I made sure I saved everything for the last lap. The whole 7-Eleven team did a great job. AGR first and second. Every time this year an AGR car started on the pole, we ended up winning the race and finishing second as well. Great team effort. I have great teammates.

What we have around this team, it's unique. I think, you know, we have to make it last as long as we can because it's going to be very successful.

THE MODERATOR: Michael, talk about that. The success has been spread around through the entire team, hasn't been just one driver or two drivers. Each race, somebody else is up there sticking their nose in, running well. Talk about the whole team concept, how you created it, how you're carrying it out.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, we have a unique situation, like Tony said. Each driver can win each race that we're in. I don't think there's any one guy that has an advantage over another. You know, just a couple of guys have been having a little less luck than the others, but they've been running competitive.

You know, I think it all comes down to what we talked about all along, it's the chemistry, I think. It starts with these guys. They've got to get along. And they all get along. It's genuine. You may think they're acting, but they're not. They're really friends. They root for each other. They know that if they all work together as one, each one is going to be better off for it.

I think everybody in the team has bought into that. That starts with the drivers, and it trickles down through the rest of each team. Now you'll see if one of the guys has a problem, you'll see the other guys from the other team jumping on it, trying to help it. That's the uniqueness of this team.

I've never experienced it in my whole career, so it's a special time for these guys. I keep telling them, 'This is very special, enjoy it.'

It's been a lot of fun for me. I love these guys. I love hanging with them. They're more than -- they're not employees, they're friends. That's the way everybody is on this team.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, talk about that briefly. Multi-car teams traditionally, something along the way gums it up. I think Michael touched on it. From your perspective, why does it all work?

TONY KANAAN: Well, there is no pride, and there are no insecure drivers in our team because what makes the rivalry inside a race team is your teammate is going to be the first guy you want to beat. Why? Because he has the same equipment and the same information. That doesn't happen with us. I mean, we know we're four very good drivers. What's happening is if I won this race, it's not because Dan (Wheldon) is a worse driver or Dario. It's just a situation that I put myself in at that time, at the right place and at the right time. That's what we have there.

When you see, like I was the first car to qualify here, I made a little mistake myself on my qualifying lap. I don't think it could have beat my teammate, but definitely I would be in the first row with him. I jump out of the car. We put a headphone on and a radio. I was telling my teammates what to do. I'm not saying Dario made the pole because of me, but definitely to help them, tell them, 'Dario, third time by is better than second. Fifth gear is better than fourth.' Here he is. He goes and puts the car on the pole. And I was happy.

Sometimes people don't believe that. But really, I mean, that's the way it is. When we win, we all party together. When we lose, we hang out together. That's the beauty of that. I never experienced that either. I had good teammates like (Alex) Zanardi in the past, but here, it's very unique. Every one of my teammates went to Victory Circle to say congratulations to me. That means a lot. Any time I can help them, I'll be proud of it.

I'm part of a very good team, and I want the team to win. If I can bring them the championship, it will be neat. If I can help some of my teammates to do it, I will do it in a heartbeat, and I won't be jealous. Michael knows what we have. We know how capable we are. That's basically it.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron