An interview with Tony Kanaan Part 1 of 2 INDIANAPOLIS (August 20, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Tony Kanaan and Barber Dodge Pro ...
An interview with Tony Kanaan
Part 1 of 2
INDIANAPOLIS (August 20, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Tony Kanaan and Barber Dodge Pro Series driver Leonardo Maia.
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We're happy to welcome on the call this afternoon two of the drivers that performed so well on the track this past weekend at Road America. In just a few minutes we'll be joined by Leonardo Maia of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Leonardo captured his first professional win last weekend at Road America.
But first up today on the teleconference is Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola Bridgestone for Mo Nunn Racing. Thanks for joining us today.
Tony Kanaan: You're welcome.
Merrill Cain: Tony is coming off a fourth place effort in Sunday's Grand Prix at Road America Featuring the Motorola 220, and with this weekend's performance Tony has posted top-four finishes in two of the last three events and finished in the top eight in four of the last six races in the CART FedEx Championship Series.
Congratulations on a good run Sunday. Even though you had a rush of bad luck early in the season, you've obviously been coming up with better results as of late. Do you feel at this point that you and the Mo Nunn team are really starting to find your rhythm?
Tony Kanaan: Well, I think we found our rhythm since the beginning of the championship. We just couldn't get a break. Even if you look at last weekend, it was pretty terrible for us until we got to the race. I think it was great. I mean, I did as much as I could. I won a bet from my mechanics. They told me I couldn't pass more than five cars at the start. I passed six. They had to buy me dinner.
I think we're getting in there. It's been tough, so I don't want to get excited or make any predictions, but we've been very consistent, up in the front. We had six finishes in the top five this year. With all those results, if we could actually collect those, I would be in a much better place in the championship. But, hey, we're moving forward. I'm excited about the next part of the season right now.
Merrill Cain: How do you handle that? It's got to be frustrating for you. The team has been quick on weekends, and at Mid-Ohio you were within a hair of another podium finish when things started to go sideways. How do you keep your focus, remain positive and look to the next week and try to do your best?
Tony Kanaan: Well, definitely, we're going to keep everybody together to help each other. We can never give up. As a team, we have a very good relationship, all of us. We try to pull each other up all the time. We have lot of patience. Believe me, I think God is trying. He wants to see how much patience I have left.
It's not easy. It's very frustrating, especially when you have a result in your hand and it slips out like Mid-Ohio did, and Japan as well. We were leading. That's the way it is. That's racing. You know, it can happen to anybody.
Last weekend it didn't happen to me, but it happened to a few of the guys. That's racing. We just take it easy and are positive and don't give up.
Merrill Cain: We hope those breaks come around your way. I think you're right, because if you keep being positive, you'll get your way. Let's open it up for questions for Tony.
Q: Do you have some sense of how much pride there is back home of the success of Brazilian drivers? You have a chance to sweep all the open-wheel series.
Tony Kanaan: Well, it's been great. I mean, back home it's a party all the time. Brazil won the World Cup this year. We have had Cristiano win six races, Bruno won [Japan], and is always on the podium. Obviously, I'm a little behind those two guys.
And with [Brazilian] Rubens [Barrichello] winning the F1 race last week, it's been a big party, I tell you. Cristiano is very famous right now down there. He can barely walk on the streets anymore. That's good, because it takes a lot of the load off my back.
Besides Christian, I'm the oldest driver in the series right now, so people know me quite a bit. They want Cristiano's autograph more than mine. So that's pretty good.
Q: Another of your countrymen, Felipe Giaffone, in Indianapolis, there was an awful lot of teamwork in the Mo Nunn garage.
Tony Kanaan: Oh, yeah. Felipe is a very good teammate, if I can call him that, because obviously we don't race in the same series. But I definitely hope he can do well there because he deserves the best. He's giving a lot of effort to that team, as well. Felipe is a good friend. It's up to him. It's in his hands right now. I can't help him on that one.
Q: Going to Montreal this weekend, these road courses, can you get some sense because of the close quarters of the excitement of the fans? Do the drivers feel that energy racing on the streets?
Tony Kanaan: Oh, definitely. I think when you have a big crowd, it's always a pleasure. You put a lot of pressure on yourself, believe me. I have been to some Formula 1 races to Montreal, and in Europe, and you can't believe how many people they have. Our races like Mexico, Long Beach, and in places like Vancouver, we can see so many people around, so it gives you extra pleasure to race. You feel really important and think "Okay, everybody is watching me." It's awesome. I love it.
I have no idea how many people are going to be there. After talking to [Canadian CART driver, Alex] Tagliani and those guys, they say, "You guys aren't going to believe it." I can't wait. If I could, I would be there already.
Q: There's been a lot of talk about what people are doing next year. Do you have any idea what you're doing next year?
Tony Kanaan: I knew that was coming (laughter). No, not really. My contract, it's up. I'm talking to [Team owner] Morris [Nunn], obviously. It's a team that I've been with for three years. We have good relationships. But I'm also talking to some other people. I don't know what's going to happen, honestly, in the future. I know where my heart is. I know what I want to do.
Before you ask me where my heart is, I think I'm going to answer. I want to stay, if I can, in CART. Like I said, I'm a professional race car driver. I'm looking always for the best. Whoever can give me a competitive car in a competitive series, I'm going to take the job. I think that's pretty much what I have to say. I need to look for the opportunities.
I can really choose what I want to do right now. That's very fortunate. In my position right now, especially with the tough season that I've been having, people obviously know what's going on, so I have options. I'm going to try to evaluate those and see what's best for me and for the team I'm going to race with. I'm going to decide.
But right now I have no idea. Right now the only idea I have is that I want to win a race and I'm going to try hard this weekend.
Q: Some of us on the outside may not realize what a tight community you drivers have there at CART. In Vancouver apparently you bought some gloves at an auction that belonged to [the late CART driver] Greg Moore, then you gave those gloves to [Champ Car driver] Dario Franchitti. Talk about what the camaraderie is more or the friendships that you have in the CART series.
Tony Kanaan: Well, obviously we don't do those kinds of things and tell people that we did. I just did it because the whole story was I wanted the gloves and Dario wanted the gloves. We kept battling each other trying to get the gloves in that auction. Those were the only gloves that they were going to auction. Greg never auctioned any gloves. They would never get auctioned again. Dario has Greg's uniform, his shoes and helmet. I know he wanted the gloves. So I ended up buying the gloves and giving them to him.
He's a very good friend. He's a great person. He's a very good driver. We're close. We're closer than people think. They cannot believe how close some of the drivers are. We have friendships, you know. We race against each other, yes, but at the end of the day, after Sunday at 5:00 in the afternoon, that race is gone, and the friendships take place.
I learned a lot of that with my past friends, including Greg, [former Champ Car driver, Alex] Zanardi, all these guys. [Champ Car driver] Jimmy [Vasser] used to say that, "It's just a race, man." Friendship, that's really important. We're not going to be racing forever. It's definitely the most important thing in my life and my career, and I'm trying to get the best out of it.
But inside that, my friends are on a really high scale. I really do care about them a lot. That doesn't mean I'm not going to give them a hard time on the track. If you look, me and Dario, all those guys, we're close friends, and we're racing hard against each other.
There's a place for everything. Friendship is going to last forever. I care a lot about my friends. I worry about them. I don't care what people think. People think it's strange how that can be, they think drivers should be more selfish because it's such a selfish sport, because only one guy wins at the end out of the 20, 30, whatever, how many drivers you have.
If the other people think that's not a good thing, they don't know what they're missing about friendship.
Q: How many monkeys do you have in your collection now? Do you have 300 now?
Tony Kanaan: When I stopped counting it was like 155 or 156, but that was like a year ago. I'm probably up to 200 something right now. They're all over the place. I cannot have them in one place because otherwise it will take too much space. I have some in my race truck, some here, some at home and some in the office. My collection is getting bigger and bigger. I need a real one now. That's my next goal. I want a real one.
Q: And what kind do you want?
Tony Kanaan: The big one. If you go, go big. I want a big gorilla.
Merrill Cain: How did this collection of monkeys get started? How did you ever start on this path?
Tony Kanaan: Since I was a kid, I always loved monkeys. I used to ask my dad to take me to the zoo to give bananas to the monkeys. When I was 13, I made a tattoo, a big gorilla under my arm. I think most of the people that know me saw pictures and saw the monkey under my arm. I just love monkeys.
My dream is to have a real one, take him to the podium with me to celebrate. They say I'm a monkey myself. They say there will be two monkeys on the podium.
Tony Kanaan press conference, part II