CHAMPCAR/CART: Michael Andretti press conference, part II

CART Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom Tuesday, April 16, 2002 An Interview with Michael Andretti Part 2 of 2 -- Pitstops win the race Q: You looked pretty emotional at the finish there, more emotional than I normally have ever...

CART Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom
Tuesday, April 16, 2002

An Interview with Michael Andretti
Part 2 of 2 -- Pitstops win the race

Q: You looked pretty emotional at the finish there, more emotional than I normally have ever seen you in a race win or loss or anything. What was going through your head at that point?

Michael Andretti: It was a big win for us. I knew how important this race was to Honda because they wanted to keep the streak going. This is almost like their home race. I really wanted to do well for them there.

Also Long Beach is just a very special track to me because that's where I won my first race. I've had such hard luck there since then. It was great to finally break the ice there and get another win. It felt really good.

It's funny, I watched the telecast last night, they said I was crying.  I
was not crying.  I did not pull a (Roberto) Moreno.  I can tell you
that.  I was wiping the sweat from my face.

Q: Were you thinking not to blow another tire?

Michael Andretti: Thinking all that stuff. All I was really trying to do was focus on the laps, continue to hit every point, hit every apex, brake at the same point. I was trying not to think about anything else, just wait to see the checkered flag.

I tried to do that so I didn't distract myself. It seemed to work.

Q: I would like to see you race into your 50s.

Michael Andretti: Ain't going to happen (laughter).

Q: Are you going to be home this weekend?

Michael Andretti: No. We're heading off to Japan on Saturday. We have to leave, have to do some stuff for Honda in Japan.

Q: Your feelings about the Indy Racing League coming into Nazareth Speedway?

Michael Andretti:  I'm glad there's a race here.  If there isn't a CART
race, I'm glad there is a race here.  I'm hoping that our community
supports the race.  We'll have to wait and see.  They didn't do a good
job supporting the CART race.  We'll see how they do with the IRL race.
Q: Talk about your off sequence pit stops?  Was that the way
things worked out?  Did you have that in mind to begin with?

Michael Andretti: No, we pretty much discussed it beforehand. If the yellows came out at a certain point, the leaders did one thing, that we would do the opposite. We were in the no-lose situation at that point. Even though it was a gamble, it really wasn't a gamble. If it didn't work, all we would have done is ended up back where we started.

You know, we had nothing to lose at that point. When that one yellow came out, all the leaders took it, we stayed out. We had like another 12 laps to go before we had to pit, so we really cranked out some strong lap times at that point and were able to get a gap. Then when we went back out again, we were not as far behind. Then we caught another yellow at another good spot. That gave us the track position. That's how we ended up winning.

Q: I'm sure you're going to look at pit strategy throughout the year. Do you think this was a unique situation at this race?

Michael Andretti: Yeah, it was unique. It can happen again. It may probably happen again during the year. But it's a lot of just luck, the way all the things fell. It was definitely luck to get that track position.

But I've got to say, though, once we were able to get the track position, we had a car good enough of keeping that track position, so that was important.

Q:   Looking ahead, moving to Indy in May, how have you guys been
preparing if at all for that race?  How much is on your mind right now?

Michael Andretti: The other two cars of Paul and Dario have been testing at Indy because they haven't run an IRL car, so they needed to get some miles in it.

I myself am waiting till the month of May. When you test at this time of year, it's a total waste of time because the track conditions are so good. We're just going to wait and start to go to work in May. The team is already preparing the cars, obviously. They're working hard at it. We've hired a few extra guys as well to help prepare them.

But myself, I'll start really focusing on it after Motegi.

Q: Did the weather on Sunday make any difference after you had been practicing and qualifying under different conditions?

Michael Andretti: No, no, it really didn't. For us it was good because it was cooler from a driver's standpoint, in terms of the handling and things like that. The only thing it did, on cold tires, it took a couple extra laps to get up to speed. That's the same for everybody. It didn't really affect the handling in any way.

Q: We saw you up in Toronto last year come from the back. Is this going to be an ongoing thing?

Michael Andretti: No, I don't want it to be that way. It was unfortunate circumstances we were in the back. In the end I'm probably happy we were in the back because we probably wouldn't have won because we did something different than the leaders.

I think our car was actually capable of top six qualifying. I never got a clear lap. Then I had on my last lap, I ended up crashing. We never got the optimum out of the car to show what it had. We are not planning on being in the back like that all the time.

Merrill Cain: Michael, one question before we let you go. We have Michael Valiante from the Toyota Atlantic series set to joint us. You're a graduate of the Atlantic program. Can you talk a bit about the importance of the CART ladder system, driver development, how it can help open wheel car drivers to reach the competition level in the FedEx Championship Series.

Michael Andretti: It's important. If you look at the way racing is structured in Europe, for instance, they're getting talent at a very early age where guys are going through the ladder system, just like you do, say, football, or whatever, any other sport. It's good to see that CART is taking that role in trying to get young talent because that's the future of the series.

I've got to say that the Indy Lights program and things like that, also the Atlantics have put out some great talent. You look at the guys, probably 80% of the field I'm racing against now came out of all that.

It's so important. It's what the future is all about for us. They have to continue to support the series, otherwise the future won't be as good.

But I think they're doing a good job in doing that.  A shame to see the
Indy Lights series go away.  It was good to see a full field of
Atlantics.  Ton of cars there this year.

Merrill Cain: You obviously have been brought up in racing yourself, your son Marco has moved up through the ranks. Is that somewhere you see him going down the line?

Michael Andretti: Yeah, I would definitely see that a few years down the road, for sure. I think it's such a great training ground. The Atlantics, it was actually in my opinion, my favorite car to ever drive. It was just a fun car to drive. I'm hoping if Marco continues to go up the ladder, he will be able to experience that soon.

Merrill Cain: Love to see another Andretti in the field.

Michael Andretti: Thanks.

Merrill Cain: Michael, thank you very much for spending some time with us this afternoon. We wish you best of luck in round three of the CART FedEx Championship Series Bridgestone Potenza 500 in Motegi, Japan a little over a week away. Wish you the best of look. See you in Japan.

Michael Andretti: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

-cart-

Andretti, part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Michael Valiante