CHAMPCAR/CART: Michael Andretti interview transcript, part I

T.E. McHale: Thank you and good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for being with us today. Our guest this afternoon is Michael Andretti of Team Motorola who drove to a spectacular last to ...

T.E. McHale: Thank you and good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for being with us today.

Our guest this afternoon is Michael Andretti of Team Motorola who drove to a spectacular last to first victory in last Sunday's Molson Indy in Toronto Ontario Canada.

Good afternoon, Michael. Congratulations on your latest win.

Michael Andretti: Thank you.

T.E. McHale: Thanks for being with us today.

Michael Andretti: My pleasure.

T.E. McHale: Michael, driver of the No. 39 Motorola Honda Reynard stalled in the third turn of the first green flag lap Sunday and did not get restarted until he had fallen to last place in the 26-car field.

But he gradually fought his way back into contention; took the lead on the 71st of 95 laps, and went on to the record 41st victory of his CART career.

The win was his 7th at Toronto giving him more victories at a single venue than any other driver in FedEx Championship Series history. His other Toronto triumphs came in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 2000. He also posted his 12th finish of fifth or better in 15 career starts at Toronto.

The 25 laps Michael led improved his CART career leading laps led total to 6,509; nearly doubled the total of second place Rick Mears who has 3,286 laps during his storied career.

Michael also extended his CART records by scoring at least one victory in his 14th different FedEx Championship Series season and by making his 279th CART career start.

Perhaps most importantly Michael's victory moved him from 6th to second place in the FedEx Championship Series Championship.

Heading into Round 11 this weekend's Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan International Speedway, Michael has 73 points; 11 fewer than Championship leader Kenny Brack f team Rahal who has 84.

The Michigan 500, presented by Toyota, Round 11 of the FedEx Championship Series will be televised live by ABC tV this Sunday July 22nd beginning at 1:30 P.M. eastern time.

With that we will open it up to questions for Michael.

Michigan obviously kind of a bitter-sweet for a lot of us who enjoyed the race this week being the last CART event here. You talked about Michigan as being a race that, hey, you are just happy if you and your car can go home in one piece. You have got to have some good memories about this place. Share a memory or two about Michigan.

Michael Andretti: Well, yeah, I have a couple of good memories and that would be 1987 and 1989, those were two pretty big races for me because they are the only 500-mile races I have ever won. So they were definitely pretty special.

And last year's race was fairly special too. We put on pretty good show there with Juan. That was one for the highlights. I have mixed feelings about it. I think from a fans' standpoint it's going to be a loss for TV. But from the drivers' standpoint and everything, I am just -- I am relieved that we won't be going back there because the way the rules are and everything, the way the racing is -- we all go in there and hold our breath for the three days that we were there hoping and praying that nobody gets hurt. I don't think that's right.

Congratulations, Michael. I was wondering you said you don't think that's right. Have you ever -- have you voiced your concerns with CART? Have you been able to say maybe these rule changes are great for the show but not great for the drivers?

Michael Andretti: Oh, yeah, I think all the drivers have voiced their opinions on it. The problem is we voice our opinion but we really don't have an answer. There is no answer to slow the cars down, that's the problem with the tracks like Michigan. The way technology is today it sounds easy but it's not that simple to just say we are going to slow the cars down. That's the problem we have.

So yeah, we voiced our opinions on it and you know, and CART has heard us. I think that's one of the reasons why we are not going back there.

Is the show worth the risk though?

Michael Andretti: Well, maybe for you, but when it is my legs and my life, probably not.

Two questions. How much will you miss not running at Nazareth, first of all? And second of all, has anybody ever contacted you about driving in Winston Cup?

Michael Andretti: Well, you know, there again, we have mixed feelings on not going to Nazareth. It is my hometown race and I am disappointed that we are not going to be there. I am disappointed that we are not going to have the race -- at the moment we don't have a race in the northeast. But on the other side of it is, you know, it is a track that's a little small for our cars, and it's hard for passing, and also you know, living here and everything, I am just a little disappointed that the fans didn't come out and support it more. Obviously if we would have filled the stands the last race that we were there, I think there was a shot at getting this race to stay on the schedule. But it was a beautiful day in May and nobody showed up for the race. That sort of made it too easy for CART to say it's not going to come back.

How about the Winston Cup?

Michael Andretti: Well, I have had in the past, yeah, I have had offers to do it. I really have no desire. I don't feel like starting -- for me it would be like starting over in a way because I have never driven those cars and I am not willing to give up a year or so of learning to do it. Especially this time in my career, and also the schedule is very grueling. It's a huge commitment and I am very happy with where I am at the moment.

There has been a three-year tentative agreement with -- to keep the CART race in Vancouver going. Given your affinity for Toronto your thoughts about racing in Canada and keeping the Vancouver event going?

Michael Andretti: I think it's exciting because the people in Vancouver and the fans and the city really supported that race as well. And it's a big event there and it would have been a real shame to lose that off our schedule, so I am really happy that CART chose to keep that race on. From the business standpoint, it's really good.

From a personal standpoint I am happy because I love the races in Canada. I love going to Vancouver, and I am looking forward to, from what I am hearing, there's sounds of another race coming in Monteal. So I think that will be really exciting for our series because the Canadian fans have been fantastic at supporting our series.

Let's face it, it gives you another venue to conquer up here.

Michael Andretti: There you go.

Talk a little bit about the championship and the race for the season, what is it going to take in your mind to feel that, hey, I am back on track to go at this thing? In terms of podium finishes and wins and losses, is there a comfort zone you'd like to be at within the next two or three races, three or four races?

Michael Andretti: Yeah, and I think that is just finishing in the Top-5 I think is going to be so crucial between now and the end of season and I think the guys that does that the most times is going to be the one that wins the Championship. That's what we need to focus on is just finishing those races and hopefully winning another one or two along the way. But the main focus has got to be we have got to finish them.

With the new Hanford device that is going to be used this coming weekend have you had any discussions with anyone who has tested it, with a bigger vertical flap on it?

Michael Andretti: I am just wearing the same one that I have worn.

I am sorry the Hanford device, not the HANS device.

Michael Andretti: Yeah, the Hanford device, I don't know, I am just, you know, I think it's going to be wheel-to-wheel racing. Unfortunately I think the test they had in Michigan wasn't real great for that because the test was scheduled right after the NASCAR race there and I think all the NASCAR rubber was still on the track, I think it made the track very slippery so the guys weren't really able to run close to each other like they think -- like I think it is going to happen. I thinks once we get out there, everybody together, it is going to be very similar to the way the racing has been. Now it is going to be maybe a couple of mile an hour slower, but that's about it. But it is still about going to make a bigger hole in the air and if it is going to do that it is going to make it easier to draft so you are going to have pretty much what we have had the last couple years.

Possibly even better?

Michael Andretti: I don't know. Depends which way you look at it. Maybe better from your standpoint.

part II


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Kenny Brack , Rick Mears