CHAMPCAR/CART: Tony Kanaan press conference, part II

An interview with Tony Kanaan Part 2 of 2 Merrill Cain: CART's new qualifying procedures start this weekend where hopefully it will be a better show for the fans. We won't have as much downtime when the qualifying starts, with a short practice...

An interview with Tony Kanaan
Part 2 of 2

Merrill Cain: CART's new qualifying procedures start this weekend where hopefully it will be a better show for the fans. We won't have as much downtime when the qualifying starts, with a short practice session followed by a break, then a more condensed and more intense qualifying session of 35 minutes. Do you think it's going to be a better show for the fans this weekend?

Tony Kanaan: Definitely. Obviously, you know, I'm obligated to run those 15 minutes. Some will just do a shakedown. It will be more exciting for the fans. CART is going in the right direction. [CART President and CEO] Chris Pook is really pushing, trying to improve everything. Whatever they do, I support a hundred percent. If that's the best thing for the fans it's important because that's who we're racing for. I'll be happy. Let's try it. Let's see how it's going to happen. I think it's going to be really exciting.

Merrill Cain: We talked about the closeness, the tight bonds that are formed on the racetrack with drivers. One of your best friends in the series, Cristiano da Matta, is having the season of his life. He's really taken the reins of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Talk to us about what it's like, your relationship with Cristiano and how happy you are for him on the racetrack.

Tony Kanaan: We're like brothers. Just 20 minutes ago we had lunch together. I came to the teleconference, he went to the bicycle shop to buy some new things to try to beat me on the bicycle this afternoon when we're going to go work out.

We have a very close friendship. Like I said, I don't like to keep talking about it because it's something that we have for us. We want to share with people if they want to know, but it's not something that we really care what people are going to say.

We spend a lot of time together. We work out every day together. He won six out of the 12 races this year. He should have won a couple more. I'm just happy for him, you know. I think he deserves it. He's a very good driver. He's on a very good team. He's putting himself in the position. He's very confident right now. He's carrying on the momentum through each race. Everything seems to be working fine for him. I'm really pleased. I think he deserves it. I know what he's been going through in the past with some problems. I said, "Hey, man, your time has arrived." I'm happy for him.

If somebody besides me is going to go win the race, I prefer that my friend wins over the other guys that I don't have maybe a close friendship with or something. I wish him the best. I told him, I said, "It's a good thing and a bad thing because you're winning too much, so people are going to start booing you. When I beat you, I'll have more pleasure."

No, we're like brothers. I mean, we spend a lot of time together. We're going to spend New Year's together. We talk on the phone every day. People start to wonder times, "Hey, you guys, what's going on?" We're good friends. We get along really well, believe it or not, because we're very different personality-wise. He's a very patient man and I'm completely the opposite way. They say that's how it works sometimes.

I just wish him the best. Not too much because I still want to beat the hell out of him. But, you know, he's a good guy.

Merrill Cain: You were sharing the same house. Are you still living together?

Tony Kanaan: Sharing the same house? He was living in my house, let's make that clear. I was paying the rent. No, he moved out two months ago. We lived together for a year. He had a room in my house. That's what friends are for. It was good company to have him around. He moved a couple minutes away from my house. He's making enough money that he can live on his own. If I don't find a job next year, I am moving in. I told him, "I'm moving into your house, it's my turn."

Merrill Cain: You have a close-knit crew that lives in Miami, with Max Papis and Christian Fittipaldi. Talk about how that bond developed. You still ride bikes together every day. The guy next on the call, Leonardo Maia, lives in Miami as well. You actually take him out go-karting. It's a tight-knit group, isn't it?

Tony Kanaan: Leo, by the way, congratulations to him. I think it's great. The first one, you're never going to forget. Christian, Cristiano and I live close together. We work out every day. I have to put up with those guys and they put up with me. We work out every day twice a day. And we see Leo on the racetrack now. He keeps buying these new engines and things. He's beating the hell out of me and Cristiano. I don't like that. I just bought a new engine for my go-kart that's coming next week. I'm getting ready with some good tires to beat his lap time over there. He's been pretty fast.

He's a good guy, a guy that knows how to do the right things. When he's not in the Barber Dodge race, he's in the go-kart racetrack trying to improve his skills. I think that's the best way to do it. That's what he should do. I wish him the best. Whatever we can do to help him, I think he can use us.

Q: You mentioned how you overcame your struggles earlier in the season. How about during the race weekend? Last weekend had to be a very difficult weekend with all the problems leading up to the race and actually even in the early part of the race. How do you put that behind you while you're racing and recover to such a good result?

Tony Kanaan: I think you learn from it that you can never give up. Every time I jump in the car, I say, "Okay, this time it's going to work, I'm going to do my best."

I guess those kinds of situations kind of help you. I get not angry, but you get like, "Come on, it has to be right." You try harder and harder and harder. It shouldn't be that way. Honestly, you should try harder all the time. I'm not saying we do, but sometimes human beings take away some power that you don't ever believe you could have. I think that's what happened last weekend.

I kept calm inside myself. I was really calm. I was upset, obviously - obviously. I think anybody in my shoes would be. But, like I said, we're talking about friends. I went out to dinner with Christian, Max, Bruno [Junqeira], Cristiano and they're all supporting me saying, "Come on, every time you're on the track, you're fast. This weekend, your car was good." That helps. You listen from the people that understand about racing. You keep trying to keep yourself up, which is not easy sometimes. You kind of let yourself down.

But working with my mechanics closely, we had so many problems. We never ran a single session last weekend. We never changed anything in the car until the race. Everybody was trying harder, with a lot of hard work. That worked out and paid off. I mean, I said, "Guys, just give me a car that can run the whole race and I'll do the rest." It worked out pretty well.

Q: I get the impression from some of what you say that some people have criticized you for having close friendships. I'm wondering if those are perhaps somebody in racing or outside racing. Is it drivers from previous generations where they were brought up that you don't have friendships with your rivals?

Tony Kanaan: I don't want to point fingers at anybody. People wonder if that's a marketing thing. Sometimes people put it that way. "Oh, yeah, they're acting, they're not really good friends. How can they like each other like that?" I mean, in motor racing or any kind of sport, it's very selfish, like I said. You want to beat everybody. But that doesn't mean it has to be unhealthy.

Some people don't take it that way. They say, "Come on, I can't believe it. How can you guys be such good friends like that?"

But, no, there's no criticism from anybody. I never got anybody in particular saying, "Oh." But you can see people, the way they look at you and they're like, "Come on."

I think they go back with the battles, I don't know, [Nigel] Mansell and [Ayrton] Senna, Senna and [Alain] Prost in Formula 1. In CART, if you go back to the best, I remember [Emerson] Fittipaldi and Al [Unser Jr.], they banged wheels, Al got out of the car clapping. He wasn't mad. That's what's racing is all about.

Q: I think he was mad.

Tony Kanaan: Definitely he was mad because he lost the [Indianapolis] 500. I don't think Emerson tried to hit Al. He just said, "Good job." Obviously, you get upset with each other, but there's nothing better than for example, Sunday night. We flew back home together, me, Cristiano, Christian, [Champ Car driver] Oriol [Servia]. We were giving Cristiano a hard time. Oriol and I had a battle in the middle of the race. "Remember that? We were so close." You trust the people you are racing with because the guy is not going to pull a dirty move on you.

I'm not trying to send any message to anybody. I'm just saying the people that don't believe we can be such good friends, they should take a look and see what life is all about. Like I said, friendship is more important than anything for me.

Q: Life is supposed to be fun.

Tony Kanaan: That's always my saying: If you don't have fun in anything you're doing, you better try to find something that makes you excited and have fun. I'm having fun just being alive and healthy. Problems, we all have. That's life. My dad used to say before he passed away, "The longer you live, the more problems you're going to have to solve." It's a consistent thing, solving these problems. That's how I get my motivation to keep going. I'm having fun racing right now. I hope I can keep that as long as I can. But the day I don't have any more fun racing, I'm going to try to find something else.

Q: Hope to see a monkey move soon.

Tony Kanaan: If I win Montreal, you'll see me do my monkey move on the podium.

Merrill Cain: Thanks for joining us on the call.

Tony Kanaan: Thank you. It's been a pleasure. It's been a long time since I've showed up for a conference. Obviously the winners get to do the teleconferences all the time. I told Cristiano I would do it this time because he's going to do his sixth teleconference today. I said, "Cristiano, you have nothing to talk about. Let me do it this time." I wish Leo good luck and congratulations on his victory. It was a pleasure.

Remember, any race till the end of the year, if I go to the podium, don't laugh because I'm going to do my monkey move.

Merrill Cain: Looking forward to it. Thanks, Tony.

Tony Kanaan: Thanks.

-CART-

Tony Kanaan press conference, part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi , Tony Kanaan , Chris Pook , Cristiano da Matta