Indy 500: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, top rookie press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Dan and Danica, the last restart you got the great run, and then you had to hold her off instead of making a run on Helio. Did either of you have anything, if the circumstances didn't arise, if one of you had a clean...

Continued from part 1

Q: Dan and Danica, the last restart you got the great run, and then you had to hold her off instead of making a run on Helio. Did either of you have anything, if the circumstances didn't arise, if one of you had a clean line?

PATRICK: I don't know what Helio was doing. What speeds was he doing out front, does anybody know?

Q: 220s.

PATRICK: Oh, no. (Laughter)

I was doing 218 and a half, and I'm like, "Yeah, this is pretty good, flat-out without lifting." If he was doing 220 in the lead, I have a feeling I would have had the same thing to, say Dan did; he was pretty fast.

So, obviously, I felt like I had a pretty good run on Dan, and he went low, and I wish I would have went low before he got low because if it was side by side going into the corner with me on the inside, it would have worked, probably. But when you're side by side going into (Turn) 1 here, it's not likely because I wasn't sure if they had a chance to clean the top line into one. It's just got a good idea. It's not a two-lane track, really. Paul Tracy makes it a two-lane track out there, obviously. (Laughter)

I had the excitement of seeing him on many restarts at the beginning. The guy was amazing, passed three or four cars. So anyway, I don't know if he was doing 220s on his own, that's pretty stout.

Q: Yeah, up here. No. 1, congratulations, all of you, great, great race this afternoon. To all of you on the panel, just one quick question: What does the meaning of the 100-year anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway mean to you? If I could get a quick answer from three of you because this is extra special. Thank you.

WHELDON: Yeah, I think that's a nice question to ask. I think the value of what this race means to everybody is I think primarily based on the number of fans, but also the history and tradition. There's, I don't think, any greater -- I'm biased obviously, but there's no greater sporting event because of that. I think it makes it truly very special. I think when you consider the great names who have won this race, certainly coming second, third, fourth, fifth, whatever, it's a very, very tough event. Like I said, there's so much that goes into it that, you know, it makes it very special. But I think primarily, it's the fans that make this race. I really do when you consider how many there were today. I haven't seen it this busy since I've been an IndyCar driver. So I think that's a great kind of thing that's happening for the IndyCar Series, in general, right now. But it's an event that I'm very proud to be part of. I love it. I can't wait to come back next year.

PATRICK: You know, I think it's obviously pretty amazing, you know. I saw the book that a couple hundred people got at the event that happened a few months ago and just the people that helped create this and their successes both with this and so many other things. Obviously some brilliant minds had a part in this. And to keep, like Dan said, to keep to tradition, I just love the fact that the Pagoda still looks like it did in 1911. It still has the same sort of look. Just being run around the track all the time and being in the golf cart and seeing everything. I had my first chance to go on the golf course itself, and it's just spectacular. It's manicured so well. It's just a beautiful event. You know, when you look at how this has been around compared to like Daytona, the Daytona 500 is half the time, it's only about 50 years. So, I mean, double that, it's very -- what a success. Over all the years and transitions that culture makes, it still has stood there. Also, I would like to read the original bricks are still mostly underneath the track, so that's kind of cool.

TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, Indianapolis is truly a special place. Mr. George told me one time that he felt that his responsibility was really as a steward, as a caretaker for the track going forward, that it was just sort of his turn to watch over this great place. That's how I feel. I think that the fact that the bricks reared its head this month during practice is kind of cool in a way. It's sort of barking out to us. When that happened, we walked out on the front straightaway because my teammate was one of the guys that hit the loose bricks. And you stand there and think, wow, these guys were super brave back in the day to be running around the Brickyard. To think what an absolutely beautifully smooth, well manicured, well maintained facility it is today is so cool. I'm always -- I feel so privileged to be part of this event every year.

Q: Dan, I know throughout the month the car wasn't necessarily ideal, that you worked, worked, worked toward it. Compare maybe even to your win, was what you did today the amount of work, the extra whatever you had to do because the car perhaps didn't start out, you know, exactly in the ideal position, if you could just talk about your drive.

WHELDON: Yeah, it was relatively non-eventful. I didn't get into too many close calls. Like I say, I thought the guys did an absolute phenomenal job in the pits. It's so important even with, you know, we didn't qualify as well as we would have liked, and that puts you in a difficult position in terms of your pit position. You know, with that said, they were still able to make me up a lot of spots each time. Actually to be fair to Townsend, I think he must have overtaken me about five times this race, but every time I came into the pits the guys put me back in front of him.

But I would have to say we did, I think there's nothing more that we could have done in this race. I was, you know, still fighting a little bit of an imbalance in the race car, but I think everybody was. It was difficult conditions out there. Actually one of the races that I think we did execute perfectly on was back in 2005 and, you know, I would say this is exactly the same. It's just unfortunately the result wasn't there, but I'm going to be -- I'm not going to give up on this place until I win again, that's for sure.

SULLIVAN: Here's what we've got, we've got one back here and two here, four more questions.

Q: Dan, can you just talk a little bit about how other drivers' views of Danica have kind of changed from 2005 until now as she continues to do top ten and things like that? (Laughter)

WHELDON: Can we do it when she's not here? (Laughter)

PATRICK: You have to be nice now.

WHELDON: It's funny, actually, because everybody thinks we don't get along. I would say we've always got along very well other than Milwaukee, and we cleared that up pretty quickly. She can get feisty every now and then, but so can I.

But I obviously was starting my career in Europe, and I know Danica went over there and, you know, from the time she was over there she's driven for people that I've driven for before, and I'm not just saying it because she's here, she's always been somebody that I've respected. There's actually a very big race in England called the Formula Ford Festival, which is kind of like a young, crazy version of the Indianapolis 500, and she did very well there, and that's an incredibly tough event. But I've always thought that she can do the job, that she's certainly -- I don't treat her like, you know, a female on the racetrack. She's just a formidable competitor that doesn't give up. I wish she perhaps would have today because I was sweating with how loose I was because I didn't turn the car. But she's an IndyCar winner and, you know, to win IndyCar races nowadays is incredibly difficult, and anybody that's an IndyCar winner in my book, it doesn't matter what they look like, what their gender is, they're somebody I'll respect immensely.

Q: Dan, we talked last Sunday and we asked what your chances were, and you didn't think very highly of your chances, so what changed?

WHELDON: No, that's not true. I didn't think, you know, that my car at the time was good enough to win. You know, I have to say that the team just worked incredibly hard. I was able to give a clear and concise rundown of what the car was doing; it was just a matter of being able to fix it. From the other teams that I've been to, they've got some different programs that can perhaps give you answers a little bit more quickly. We're getting to that point, but I would have to say we're still a little bit behind.

But with all the guys at Panther Racing, they really don't give up. I think, obviously, my association with the National Guard, I can see where John Barnes gets it because a lot of the soldiers that we meet, they're phenomenal people. Male or female, they've got that never-say-die attitude. It certainly humbles me and inspires me and I think has actually matured me, believe it or not. It was one of those things where we kept working very, very hard and came up with something on Carburetion Day and we just kind of evolved that.

But to answer your question simply, it was just never giving up and being controlled with the changes and disciplined with the changes that we make to get an avenue that's worth pursuing.

Q: Danica, you said that having Paul Tracy around is always very exciting. Can you get a little more into that, please.

PATRICK: I can't get into what's going through his head, that's for sure. But no, he's very good out there. He's very good out there, he makes things happen, you know. He doesn't wait around for things to happen. He makes them happen. He had amazing restarts, and he was passing guys. He was going on the outside around a lot of cars, and he did it to me. And I went into (Turn) 1 and side by side and side by side through (Turn) 2. He was hanging it out there. So, you know, a guy like that, you know, another tough competitor, you're glad he's not around all the time because he's really good.

But I respect PT, he's a driver that I used to watch when I was younger and coming up the ranks and always used to think, "Wow, my God, if I'm ever that fast, you know." So, you know, to be out there running with people like that is really cool for me.

SULLIVAN: Listen, folks, we've got one more question, and then I conned Townsend into sticking around because I believe we should talk to Townsend about the incredible run we've had, as well.

Q: That's my question to Townsend. Townsend, I think in the very early part and after your first pit stop you lost a lot of positions, eight or nine very early, 20, 22 laps, and then you stormed back with this great result. Do you think that it's maybe a restart for your career in open-wheel racing or you've become hungry to do more races?

BELL: My career seems to have been a series of starts and restarts for six years. But doesn't matter, this was a great day for us. We did have some problems, I don't know what happened on the first pit stop. The fuel wasn't going in, or something, so we had to go to the back. We had a good start, stayed out of trouble, got up to 12th or something, I think, before the first pit stop and then had to go to the back and fight our way back up. It was fun. This was a great race team. This KV Team deserves to be in the top five at the Indy 500. They worked tremendously hard. We've got a great sponsor in Herbalife. Those guys are pretty fired up, as you can imagine. I had a blast out there. It seems, strangely enough, that the diciest racing I had was with Paul Tracy. Twice I kind of bobbled it a bit on a restart, and I would just go straight for the inside because I wasn't going to give him an inch there. And he went to the outside and, man, we went through (Turn) 1 side by side. I didn't lift; he didn't lift. I know we're teammates, but we've become such good friends the last year or so that it's like playing a video game with your buddy. You're just like no way am I going to give up.

Happened going into (Turn) 3, also. I kind of knew where his setup was on his car, was a little different than what I was running, I thought I would be a little quicker on longer runs and I didn't want to get caught behind him. I'm glad I stuck with it. We left each other room, but there were good times.

SULLIVAN: Questions for Townsend?

Q: Townsend, with this good finish, do you feel that maybe you do have a shot to run, even if it's the road courses, maybe a lot more races a season because it would be great to see you back in the series?

BELL: You're only as good as your last race, that's what they say, right? So we'll see. I've been doing it long enough to not plan or feel like I deserve anything, you just work hard and hope that things turn out. It was fun, you know. There at the end I'm running, Dan Wheldon and I raced in Indy Lights, and Scott Dixon I think was behind me, and Danica I've known for a while, and these are people I know I can compete with in equal equipment. I'm just thrilled that I had the chance to do that today.

Q: Townsend, follow up on that on the equal equipment side of that. How do you feel, you and Paul pretty much shared crews to get qualified and you guys both wound up in the top 10?

BELL: We definitely get the trophy for making the most of what we had. Paul qualified the first weekend and I took his crew for the second week to get into the show and then, you know, we cobbled together the crew for the stops. I've got to thank my engineer, Gerald Tyler, who, by the way, I won the Indy Lights championship with Gerald. Been trying to figure out a way for years to work with him again and he came in the last minute to help out.

What happened, after Mario, I don't know what happened to him at the start, but obviously he hit something big, what they did was actually took his crew, which are the full-time, full-season KV guys that work together all the time and they moved some or most of those guys to my car. I haven't even had a chance to ask. But that made a big difference. The only bummer for us was because we qualified second week, we were way down at the end of the pit lane. I mean, damn near the end. So what happens, of course, is we had great stops but I pop out, I've got to go all the way down pit lane and give everybody in front of me a chance to pull out and block. Danica, bless her, but her rear was a little wide on pit lane, and I mean that in the nicest way. (Laughter)

They know what they're doing and when they throw their car out of the pits and you swing your right rear out into the high line, Wheldon did the same thing. I have to lift. I'm either going to punt them, which is not good for anybody, and when you lift, that's it: You're going to lose a spot.

As Dan said, it was a little frustrating at the end to know you were ahead of a couple of cars, but hey, all in all, it was a great month for us.

SULLIVAN: Other questions?

Q: Let me follow up on the KV part of it. They're a new team to the series. They made huge strides. How did you come to be racing with them, and what do you think of doing that much that quickly?

BELL: Well, my first race in the big cars as I say when I was a CART rookie, was 2001. It was Lausitzring, and it was kind of a last-second deal, crazy circumstances. Another story for another time. But I showed up as a third driver with Patrick Racing. My teammate was Jimmy Vasser. And I signed a contract to race in 2002 thinking Jimmy was going to be my teammate. It didn't happen. I ended up as a rookie on a one-car team. The bummer was Jimmy had a great reputation as an excellent teammate. He helped Juan (Pablo Montoya), and he helped (Alex) Zanardi. I was really looking forward to that. So to finally have an opportunity eight, nine years later to work with Jimmy is just awesome. Also Kevin Kalkhoven, I cold-called Kevin Kalkhoven eight years ago and asked him to help me get in Formula One. He's an incredible guy. I've known him since then. So to have a chance to race with those guys is just great.

SULLIVAN: Townsend, thank you for coming in. Congratulations on a great run.

BELL: Thanks. Appreciate it.

-credit: ims

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Kevin Kalkhoven
Teams Panther Racing