IRL: Brian Barnhart, Tony Kanaan press conference

K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, July 8th. With the IndyCara Series having reached the midpoint of it's 16-race schedule, today's call will focus on a review of the first half of the season...

K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, July 8th. With the IndyCara Series having reached the midpoint of it's 16-race schedule, today's call will focus on a review of the first half of the season as well as providing a glimpse of what we might expect over the season's second half. And, in doing so, we will visit with the IRL Senior Vice President for Racing Operations, Brian Barnhart, and joining us a little later in the call will be IndyCar Series driver and current points leader, Tony Kanaan of Andretti Green Racing. But first up, Brian Barnhart. Brian, welcome and thanks for joining us today.

B. Barnhart: Thanks, Kent. It's good to be with you.

K. Johnson: As we look back on the first eight races of the 2003 IRL IndyCar series season, we have seen, for really the first time in league history, two engine manufacturers, Toyota and Honda, engaged in a very tight battle.

B. Barnhart: Yeah, one of the most pleasing aspects of the season thus far is that our new partners, Toyota and Honda, have really raised our competition, and we've never had two more equally and evenly matched engine manufacturers competing for the championship than we have currently right now with Toyota and Honda. I've been very, very pleased with that, and it's been good. We've had two Honda victories and a Honda car is leading the points championship, and Toyota has five victories and is close on their heels in the championship, as well. So it is going to make for a real interesting second half of the season.

K. Johnson: And you have a very similar situation existing regarding our two chassis suppliers, Dallara and Panoz G Force.

B. Barnhart: Right. Actually, the same thing applies on the chassis side. So we've again never had better competition, which is a great reflection on the work that has been done by Phil Casey and Les Mactaggart on our new chassis and engine package for 2003. When you consider it's a new generation and a new design, coupled with new manufacturers coming on board on the engine side, there was a lot of potential there to upset the balance that we had created from a competitive-nature standpoint on the racetrack, and we haven't done that. We've still had four races this year with a margin of victory of less than one second, and like I said, between Honda and Toyota challenging for the win. Every weekend we have G Force and Dallara equally competing, as well. I've made a note, I saw Casey at Kansas and at the end of the second session on Friday. We alternated G Force-Dallara, G Force-Dallara, G Force-Dallara through the top six, and we alternated Toyota-Honda, Toyota-Honda, Toyota-Honda through the top six, and I jokingly looked at Casey and said, 'Work on that and try and make that a little closer, would you?' because that's a tremendous compliment to him and the guys in the technical staff. Our rules philosophy is in place. It works, and our technical staff does a good job of enforcing the rules and that is about as level a playing field as you can have.

K. Johnson: Now, you take those chassis and engine combinations which you just referred to, you take the existing teams from a year ago which returned to the series this year, toss in some of the new teams that have joined the circuit, and we've seen some incredible on-track competition with six winners over the first eight events. Scott Dixon has been the only multiple winner.

B. Barnhart: Right, and that's just -- you are so happy that the quality of teams and drivers that you have participating in the series this year, along with an increase in manufacturer support, we've increased the quality of teams and drivers that are here. There are just really good teams. We are real happy to have them participating. You know, Andretti Green brings with them, this year, an unbelievably first-class operation, with 7-Eleven and Motorola and Archipelago sponsorship, Jim Beam and Klein Tools, and you look at the class of their operation that has come on board, and of course Tony is leading the points, and I know he is having a lot of fun racing in this series and he is just a pleasure to have with us. He has won at Phoenix, and Bryan Herta is our most recent winner at Kansas, so to have that operation to come on board and win 25 percent of our races in their first year of participation is a real reflection of the quality of team that they are. Hot on their heels are, you know, the Chip Ganassi Target team is doing a great job. As you mentioned, Scott is our only multiple winner this year. And so he is really contending for the championship, as well, in adapting to this new environment for him. Of course, you have Marlboro Team Penske, which is always strong with Helio and Gil and, as you mentioned, you throw that in with all the guys that have been participating here and continue to run with the new teams that are coming on, you just keep getting stronger and stronger and that level of competition is as good as we've ever seen it.

K. Johnson: You mentioned and referred to some of the new sponsors that have come on board, and over the past two events we have actually seen special paint schemes on the course. The sponsor activation this year seems to be at a new level for the Indy Racing League.

B. Barnhart: I would agree, and that is what those teams and their sponsors have brought with them. You know, again mentioning Tony's car from Richmond, it had the Incredible Hulk paint scheme on it and, you know, we've never seen that in IndyCar Series racing, where they'll do one-off paint schemes, as you mentioned. The sponsor activation to help cross-promote and do more things to raise the awareness of not only the IndyCar Series and our race series, but also to interact with our sponsors and their affiliated partners as well. And, I thought Tony's car with the Hulk on it was really neat at Richmond and, of course, Sam Hornish and the Pennzoil Panther Team ran a Terminator 3-Arnold Schwarzenegger paint scheme at Kansas. And that's the first two times that I can ever remember seeing that type of activity done in IndyCar Series racing, which again, is a sign of the growth and the more activation and involvement we have with our sponsors. So, I would like to see more of those things in the future. I think they are really neat.

Q: Thank you very much. Brian, looking at the evolution of the IndyCar Series, the IRL, when it was all created, you know, the one thing that everybody stressed and everybody was positive about was the open avenue for young American drivers. Yet, if we look at your top five, actually, if we look at top five in both of the open-wheel series, we see foreign-born drivers. Is this just the evolution of the sport or are American drivers, young drivers, having trouble in today's economy trying to get sponsorships?

B. Barnhart: I think that it's a little bit of both. I mean, the evolution of the sport, since Tony founded the IRL, our main goal and philosophy has been to create opportunities. And you know, those opportunities exist for Americans as well as for foreign-born drivers, and we've been very successful at creating those opportunities. The hard part that I see is that we still had, in the Indy 500, over 60 percent of our field was an American-born field. I think one of the troubles we have is that the perception and where people want to draw the line as to how many opportunities do you need to create to be successful at your original concept? And you know, we've got a guy who has won our championship the last two years, in Sam Hornish, who is the absolute epitome of what Tony created the Indy Racing League for. Sam wouldn't be in an open-wheel IndyCar Series car if it weren't for Tony's Indy Racing League. And, if you go down that list and, you know, we've got Americans like Bryan Herta that has won a race, and Al Unser Jr. that has won a race, and Scott Sharp has won a race this year. So, half of our race winners this year, we've got six race winners, half of them are American-born. I mentioned those guys, you've got Sam Hornish, who is our two-time defending champion, and you've got Buddy Rice, you've got Greg Ray and Robbie Buhl and Sarah Fisher and Buddy Lazier. And A.J. Foyt IV, you know, there is another young American talent that is getting an opportunity to run. So, I think Tony has achieved his goal and we have created an opportunity for young Americans. We've also created an opportunity for any driver, American or not, and we've got a great mix of international talent, and we have very strong ties with the Indianapolis 500, and the Indianapolis 500 has had multiple foreign-born drivers win ever since it's inception. And I think our race makeup, our field is a very representative demographic of the American makeup of what constitutes our population. It's interesting when you start talking about that, and I don't want to ramble too long about it, but you know, if you look at all the other major sports out there, it's interesting that racing seems to be the only one where people have a hard time accepting foreign-born drivers. I think there were 17 foreign players drafted in the NBA draft the other day, Yao Ming and all these guys are now heroes. Sammy Sosa in baseball, and hockey is filled with foreign-born players, and baseball is filled with it. Now the NBA, whether it's Peja Stojakovic or Yao Ming, as I mentioned, these guys are worshipped, and fans idolize them as heroes. Why is it any different in racing? I mean these guys, if you watch Tony Kanaan and Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves and Kenny Brack, these guys just have infectious personalities. They are fun to be around. We've got a great mix of American drivers that we have given opportunities to, and we have got foreign-born drivers that have bought in to what we are doing, and we put on great shows. You know, I watched Gil last night sing the seventh-inning stretch song from Chicago's Wrigley Field during the Cubs' game, and he was very well received. He was, I am not saying he was the best singer in the world, but he seemed to have a lot of fun with it. We just have a great group of guys, and we are happy with the makeup of what we have that makes our field what it is every weekend.

Q: Yes, as a matter of fact I just finished talking with Gil about that, and he agreed with you on the fact that he has a lack of voice. In that same vein, and I didn't present the question, you know, in a negative way because I think the same. That when you mention guys like Gil and Tony Kanaan and Helio, they bring a different, and you meant personality, but there's a whole bunch of them bound to the series, it seems.

B. Barnhart: Absolutely. I mean, they are, like I say, their attitude is infectious. They are very passionate people about what they do on and off the racetrack, and they are great additions. I get a little defensive because, and I wasn't criticizing the way you asked it, I get a little defensive about it because a lot of people do look at it from a negative, and maybe from a Series standpoint, we need to do a better job promoting the fact that we have achieved Tony's goals of creating opportunities. Because, like I mentioned, there's a half ... there's a dozen guys in our field that wouldn't be in IndyCar Series racing if it weren't for Tony's series, and most of them are Americans. Yet, we also have great personalities and great talent that are foreign-born drivers, as well, and I just think the makeup of our field, right now, is something we should be very proud of and promote, and not apologize for it. We have the best drivers in the world. We've created opportunities and we're putting on some great races, and everybody is having a lot of fun driving their race cars. So, maybe we need to do a better job of getting our message out there.

Q: I appreciate.

B. Barnhart: Thank you.

Q: Brian, I want to ask about, you know, you had Sam Hornish come in at 21 or 22 and compete with and his compatriots. Now, you've got a Scott Dixon at 22 that's doing the same thing. Does it kind of amaze you, the ability of these young kids today?

B. Barnhart: Well, I think that's a reflection of kind of the sporting rule, in general, because I think that when you watch some of these young tennis players and the young hockey, look at the NBA. I mentioned them a while ago, and now they're drafting kids straight out of high school and you're getting 17, 18 and 19 year-olds. Now Kobe Bryant is only about 22 or 24 years old, somewhere in that range, and he's been in the NBA for six years, or whatever. So, I think that's a reflection of society in general, and yes, it is amazing. The athletes are just getting better and bigger and stronger and faster, and they're doing it at younger ages, and that's just the way things are today. But, you mentioned those guys and we've got a lot of strong, fast, young talent out there.

Q: Yes. Now, earlier today you were talking about the engines. Can you give us kind of an update of what Chevrolet is doing for the second half of the season?

B. Barnhart: Well, I don't have a whole lot that I can add to that. I mean, GM Racing and Chevrolet are investigating all their opportunities to improve their performance and they are exploring opportunities with non-GM partners. They are exploring, developing their own. They are keeping us posted on what their work is including, but at this point in time they are still exploring other options, and we are waiting to see when they are ready to submit and request any changes, which they've not done yet. They are going to make sure they've looked at everything that's available to them, and whatever they decide to do is going to be tested and made sure it's reliable and competitive before they introduce it to us, and then the League will have to determine, make sure when it can be introduced to the field.

Q: Right. One other question. What so far has been the highlight for you this first half of the season, and what's kind of been the disappointment or low point?

B. Barnhart: Well, I'd say the highlight, it's always the highlight for me, the Indianapolis 500. And one of the things that I was extremely pleased with is that we had really an outstanding Indianapolis 500. We had the third-closest finish in history, the closest top five in history, you know, and those guys just put on a great show in the Indy 500. And then, when you start seeing the articles and the headlines, one thing that you've been working so hard to achieve is when you see a lot of the headlines in the magazines talking about 'Indy is back,' and you know, that made me feel really good. And I was extremely happy for Gil, because he is a very deserving and he is a great champion for the Speedway and for the Indy Racing League. So, the highlight is definitely the Indianapolis 500 and everything associated with it, because we had a really deep field and a great race. Lowlight, probably, just out of the way things have worked out, is that we've had, I think we've had three races this year finish under caution, and I don't really like that. I don't know that I've got a good solution for that at this point in time. That's a little disappointing that we haven't been able to show the fans a good finish at three of those venues. And, if that wouldn't have happened, I think we'd been better off, but sometimes those are out of your control.

Q: Good morning, Brian. I'm just wondering, in terms of the schedule formation, apparently, there's some uncertainty about the future of the Fontana CART race event for 2004. Would there ever be a possibility -- I know you guys have a tremendous relationship with Texas Motor Speedway, but can you ever envision, possibly, a spring visit, as well as a fall visit to Fontana? I know Phoenix is also interested in some of the other tracks and are planning for second day, which, of course, is pretty flattering to you guys. But I'm just curious of your thought about that possibility of coming to the L.A. market twice in one year.

B. Barnhart: Well, the L.A. market is an important market for us, and we were very pleased to add Fontana to our schedule last year when we ran our first race there in March and as we've continued. And, we've added Honda and Toyota as partners. It's even more an important market for us, and I think we've got to really work hard at improving our attendance as well as making our one existing event out there as big as it can be before we ever looked at a second event out there. I don't know, you've got to look at all the other factors with all our promoters, and Ken Ungar is our senior vice president of business affairs, he is the one responsible for our schedule and working with the promoters and the dates, and he looks at an awful lot of things like when Winston Cup runs there, and the weather and the climate and that type of deal. You know, we just ran Kansas. We've been there a couple of times now, and it's been pretty warm, and a lot of people have looked and said we need to change dates. But, when you look at when other series run, and other venues, and what the weather situations are, when you have TV windows and you can get clearance to be on TV, it's a big, very difficult jigsaw puzzle that he is trying to put together out there. As I mentioned, it's a beautiful racetrack and a great market for us, but it might be difficult for us to get in there. So, we ought to focus on making the one we have as big as it can be.

Q: Hopefully, Brian, this one will be nearly as exciting as last year. Those were pretty amazing finishes. I guess, one of the points, just in terms of your schedule formation, I've heard some discussion about possibly adding road courses. I know Gil and some of the other drivers are tremendous fans of those. Is there any -- is that dynamic being included now as you look into the future schedule for the Indy Racing League?

B. Barnhart: We've always wanted to look that direction, but we've never had real good opportunities present themselves, and that's the most important thing. An aspect of it to keep in mind is, I think even if you go back to the original press release from when Tony founded the IRL, you can go back and look at that historically. It said in the '96 press release, or the '96 season, that there would be road courses included. There weren't, and there still have not been, simply because we haven't had a good enough business opportunity present itself to us. And so, your answer to that from a car standpoint, we're doing everything we can to make these cars which have evolved, optimized to all the tracks we race. We're doing what we can to make them prepared and capable and ready to road race, and if and when the right business opportunity comes along to road race, we'll definitely take a look at it. And, I think we're starting to get a few more of those opportunities presenting themselves to us. I don't know that you'll see them as early as 2004 or not, but it's definitely one we'll take a look at, and when the right opportunity presents itself, we'll do it.

Q: Homestead has just announced that they're going to be putting up SAFER Barriers when they do the reconfiguration of the track. And, I know you guys have had a few injuries this year, a couple of scares. What's your feeling on them? Obviously, you've raced at Indy where they have them, as well.

B. Barnhart: Well, I just think it's an outstanding move. I mean, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League started development of the SAFER Barrier in 1998 and we've been working awfully hard to put that in place. As you mentioned, it's been up at Indy for the last two Indianapolis 500s which, with the work we've been doing on it, it has been optimized and designed for use at Indianapolis first. After we got it installed at Indy, it's done so well between the two Indy 500s, one Brickyard 400 and one United States Grand Prix. You know, I think it's been impacted over 20 times, which has increased the development and design of it. Other race tracks are now taking a look at it, from what needs to be done with different turn radius and geometry and banking, and if it's able to be used at other race tracks. I just think it's going to increase, again, our pace of development. It is something that we're very proud of, and I'm glad to hear that they are taking a look at it down there and other venues are doing it as well, because it's definitely a step in the right direction, in terms of safety.

Q: And I have one follow-up on that. I know that NASCAR has been doing a lot of testing on it, you know, for the stock cars. Do you think there would be much difference, you know, if they put up some tracks that you guys both race at, in terms of the difference of the kinds of cars and the safety that they both provide?

B. Barnhart: No. That was one of the main concepts that we took into consideration when we started the development of the barrier in the first place. So, you got to keep in mind, Tony George and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are very similar to most other promoters out there, and that he is a racetrack owner and a promoter that runs both open-wheel cars and the heavier, fendered stock cars. And, one of the goals that we set in 1998 when we started to design the barrier was that it needed to be something that is suitable and usable for all types of race cars and speeds, velocities, masses, all of those things. And, I think that is one of the things we are most proud of in the development of the barrier. I think it is a multi-use barrier for different types of cars as well as different types of tracks. We just finished Kansas and we run with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. That barrier would be in place for both events, the truck race on Saturday and the IndyCar Series race in Sunday, and it would be a huge safety improvement for both series' when they are on track, and there wouldn't be anything the promoter would have to do to change the barrier. It is very versatile, and that's was one of the things we worked very hard on the design in the first place.

K. Johnson: Well, Brian, we'll move on to Tony Kanaan now. But we certainly again appreciate you taking time to join us today.

B. Barnhart: You got it. My pleasure, and tell Tony that I thought Gil was a very good singer last night at Wrigley Field, and he is next.

T. Kanaan: Thanks, Brian. I'll try my best.

B. Barnhart: OK. Thanks, Tony. I'll see you.

T. Kanaan: See you.

K. Johnson: With that, we'd like to welcome IndyCar Series driver, Tony Kanaan. Tony is the driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone and has earned one victory and seven top-five finishes over the first eight events of the 2003 IndyCar Series season. With 279 points to his credit this year, he currently holds a 31-point advantage over second place Scott Dixon in the IndyCar Series standings. Tony, good morning and thanks for joining us.

T. Kanaan: Good morning. It's a pleasure. I've always enjoyed doing the teleconference.

K. Johnson: Looking back over the first eight races of the season, from your standpoint, you have shown amazing consistency. You have seven top-fives over eight events, and your only DNF occurred while you were battling for the lead at Motegi. Give us your thoughts on how the first half of the season transpired.

T. Kanaan: Well, I think it's been very good to us. We've been very consistent, in team terms, myself and engine-wise. I mean, thank God the only DNF we had was an unfortunate accident between me and Scott, but that's racing, and I think we definitely need to step up our game a little bit and try to win another race, because Scott's catching us. But I think I'm happy so far. I mean, last weekend was another good weekend for us. So, let's try to keep doing that.

K. Johnson: Last weekend was an indication of how well you and the Andretti Green team have come together. I mean, you weren't overly pleased following qualifying, yet you still managed to field a car that battled for the lead throughout the race.

T. Kanaan: Yes. I mean, we knew we didn't have the speed to qualify, and somehow we missed that, but I was 100-percent sure that I had a good race car, and that showed in the race. We were battling for the lead, and we couldn't afford to take the same strategy as Bryan, because it was a lot for me to lose in terms of championship points. So, we had to take a conservative decision, and I was happy for Bryan and for the whole team. That team has been struggling with (indiscernible) accidents. So, those guys deserve that and my 7-Eleven team did a great job to put me in the, you know, good pit stops and put me in the top five again.

K. Johnson: Now, as you move into the second half of the season, you have a lead in the standings, not a big lead, but a lead. What is the focus? Is it the same as it's been throughout the first part of the season? Are you looking to gain points, are you looking to win races? How do you balance?

T. Kanaan: Well, I'm looking to win races. If I win races, I gain points and I extend the lead. You know, that's the main thing. It's winning races. If you get the most points out of the race, that's how you extend your lead and you grow your advantage. So, right now we're concentrating on winning racing, but being smart to evaluate the situations that we have and to make the best of it if you can't win.

Q: When you look at what has occurred over the last three or four races, and you see Scott just knocking one off right after the other and gaining on you, what does that do to your mentality going into a race?

T. Kanaan: Nothing. It's just a matter of us working to get as consistent as him. I think we're being consistent running in the top five. He has been consistent running in the top two, so it just makes me stronger. I mean, I've been battling for championships for years, and I won my Indy Lights championship in '97 in the last two races of the season. I'm used to the pressure. It doesn't change my attitude. It doesn't change the way I go to the track. My decisions that I make inside the car is just, you know, we need to find the speed that he has right now and we will. I think that we have a very good race every race, and we just need to take advantage of the opportunities.

Q: Would it be fair to say then that, at least mentally, you race without rearview mirrors?

T. Kanaan: Absolutely. I don't have mirrors in my mind. So, I don't. I'm just worrying about winning races and winning the championship. Whoever that is going to be, right now the guys you should take into consideration are Helio, as well, and Gil. I mean, it's not just quite out there. And, those two Penske guys, they're strong, and they're going to be up there. So, it's wide open. You know, Kenny is coming, as well. He is in the championship. He's finished every single race this year. The guy is consistent. Not one guy, it's a very open championship right now.

Q: And let's look ahead at Nashville next weekend. What do you know about that track and how do you approach it?

T. Kanaan: I know it's a country series. I know that Dario and Ashley Judd live there, because I've never been to Nashville. So, it's going to be my first time there tomorrow. I'm testing there tomorrow. So, probably after tomorrow I'll have a better idea. But I watched the race last year and, you know, it's a concrete track, and as far as I could see on TV, a little bumpier that what we are used to. So, we just need to get a good balance and we're going to the test with the same mind that we're going to the race. We have a good race car, and a fast car for qualifying, and make the best out of it.

Q: Has Dario explained to you all of the places to eat?

T. Kanaan: Yes. Actually, I told him I'm going to stay in his home. He is not there. He is in England right now. So, I asked him, and I told him the food that I like so they can cook for me over there.

Q: When you were going like you were last Sunday, and you're out in front and you can almost smell the victory and see the flag, and then you have to pull in for fuel. How do you feel inside when you know you've got, you're just a head away from winning that race?

T. Kanaan: We knew we had to pit, so it wasn't something that came by surprise. After my last stop, I knew that if it wasn't going to be in the yellows, I had to pit. So, I had my mind set already. But obviously, believe me, pitting four laps to go, leading the race it wasn't -- I was like, 'Oh, should I stay out?' You know, it's just a little bit frustrating, but that's racing. Everybody had to do that besides Bryan. He took that strategy early on, and it was too late for me to make that decision, and then I don't think I would, because I didn't from the beginning with the team. We didn't want to take the risk. So, it is frustrating, but that's racing. And then, I mean, one or two laps of yellow will give me the race win. We didn't have any, so that's racing and then that's how people win and that's how people lose, and I think in the big picture, it was good for me to extend the lead. It could be better, yes. Could be because if I had won, I would be extending the lead a more, but it could be a lot worse. So, it was a good effort for the whole Andretti Green team, as well, but it's tough, definitely. It's tough to come in with four laps to go, especially when you are leading.

Q: Right. I don't know whether you were listening to all of Brian's interview earlier. There was a question about, you know, Americans and people like yourself from Brazil racing here. How has the American fan accepted you and, you know, the other Brazilians?

T. Kanaan: Honestly, I don't feel any -- I don't know. People took it really well. I don't think they treated us bad or just think, 'Oh, those Brazilian guys are taking away points from Americans,' but I think obviously, if I was American, I would pull for an American guy, and then that's what makes racing exciting. That's competition, and I think it doesn't matter. But teams are looking for good drivers, drivers that can win races. If you're a Brazilian, American, Japanese, they just want to win and the fans come to the racetrack to cheer up, to see good racing and then if we can't provide that, obviously, if an American guy can win, it's going to be even better. But they are there for the excitement. They are there to see, wheel-to-wheel, and that's what we're providing right now. But, the fans are treating me really well. I can't complain at all about that, and maybe, I have a green card. I'll become an American citizen in a couple of years so we can put an American flag on my car.

Q: All right. Would you like to see the Indy Racing League go to Brazil for a race?

T. Kanaan: Yes, that would be awesome, I think. You know, the series is growing. We have a nice oval there. I mean, if we can call that an oval, because it's more like an oval-type road course. It is downshift twice or three times, but I remember my old days back there racing in the CART series, and it was awesome with the Brazilian fans, especially with the success that we had in the last five years. We've been winning a lot of things, from CART championships, from IRL championships, Indy 500's, and the fans are very excited right now because of it, and it will great to come back.

Q: And how did you come to America, where they have such a variety of major sports? Is it a little different in Brazil in regards to, you know, you have soccer and basketball?

T. Kanaan: Definitely. I mean, we have soccer and we have all kinds of sports, but the biggest ones are soccer and tennis. And then, obviously, racing, because we go back to Piquet, Senna, and all the guys. And, right now, especially with the latest top three in Indy, people just went crazy over there. I can see that I haven't had a chance to go back there, but Gil went back there and he was treated like a king, you know, like a superstar, and then we get feedback from people. We get e-mails to the Web site, and it's just awesome. I think racing is growing over there, which was already big. But we're just having many people who started to look for F1 only. Now, the kids now are talking about 'I want to be an IRL driver.' You know, 'I want to race in Indy,' and that was always a big thing. But right now, I think we have more influence on them and we're just bringing that on and on and more, more, you know, being on TV and interviews.

Q: Good morning, Tony. I can imagine that you hate to see anybody get hurt, but I know you and Felipe Giaffone worked together at Indianapolis last year, and I know you must be feeling terrible today about what happened on Sunday.

T. Kanaan: Yes, definitely. Especially, it happened right behind me, and I feel sorry for him. After the race, I spent a couple of hours at the hospital with him. I left late that night to come back home and be on the phone with Alice, his wife, and his manager, basically every day. I spoke to Terry Trammell and Scheid yesterday after the surgery, and now he is doing fine. Thank God. I kind of tried to help him. He was in the hospital with me at Detroit in 2000 when I had my accident. He spent two nights with me there, and in Japan when I had my latest one this year. So, he is a good friend, a dear friend, and I kind of just told him what to expect. You know, I said, 'Hey, you're going to feel this; you're going to feel that,' and then he was getting more calm because he said, 'Yes, I'm feeling.' And like, he was in the hospital, and I said, 'Hey, you're going to feel thirsty, and they're not going to give you water.' He said, 'Oh, I'm already thirsty.' And so, going through with him through the whole rehab and, you know, it's going to be tough. But he will survive.

Q: You know, I just watched that wreck. To see you guys go wheel-to-wheel at 220 miles an hour, so much for those in-car cameras, Tony. I mean, to watch it on television is electrifying. Knowing that, potentially, what happened with Felipe and Dan Wheldon can happen when you guys touch, what's it like to be in that situation? I mean, racing wheel-to-wheel, as you have so much this season and at that speed?

T. Kanaan: Well, it's exciting. We just need to trust the person you're racing with. Accidents can happen. I mean, that you can't avoid it because we are racing so close, but that's what make racing exciting, makes us excited, and you know, unfortunately, everything has a price, and it's really fun. I love doing it. We just need to take care of each other a little bit more, I think. But, sometimes there's nothing you can do. You are running so close, and we rely a lot on the wings, and sometimes a car is going to step over and then it can happen. We hope that it will not happen, but there's the chance, you know, it can happen any time.

Q: Just couple of things, Tony. The fact that Bryan Herta could come into it, is this what happened Sunday? To me, it says an awful lot about you and the organization you are a part of. That you have a new driver come in, you guys can click, a guy can make a big call in the pits on fuel strategy, and Andretti Green is in winner's circle again.

T. Kanaan: Yes, I mean, hey, the way we run our cars right now, especially after Dario got hurt. I mean, Bryan doesn't have a lot of chance in the championship, and then with the couple of races that he had. So, we are in three different cars, setup-wise, to try to get the best of it before the weekend comes. And, we put the best for the race and as a theme standpoint, they need to take different strategies. I mean, I take the most conservative one, for sure, and those two take the most aggressive ones, and then I think that's what they did. Dan was out literally, early on in the race, but he had a good car, and Bryan took advantage of the strategy, and I think that's what makes people win races. People don't care, you know, if you win and then you had no fuel in the cool-down lap, but you won. So, I think it's great. It's a great team effort. We have a very good organization, and we're really tied together. And, like I said before, I think that team deserved to win.

Q: Hey, Tony, I hope you're still getting some good clamor from that rally monkey you gave in Phoenix. I know some of the Angels people told me that when you get in there for the second-to-last race of the season, they're hoping to (indiscernible) first pictures on that. But you have that rally monkey cooking for you by the time that race comes at Fontana in September.

T. Kanaan: Yes, OK. I mean, yes, I too have one in my locker there. He is hanging on there. So, the guys are all laughing at me and think I'm a nut or something. That I have all of this stuffed monkeys in my locker, but they bringing me luck, and I'll get another one, hopefully, from you guys, for sure.

Q: One more quick question. Did you listen to Gil sing last night at Chicago?

T. Kanaan: It was terrible, wasn't it? I mean, Brian was so polite. I mean, Gil, thank God that he is a racecar driver, because I don't what else Gil can do besides driving well, and being a good father.

Q: It was pretty ugly, was it?

T. Kanaan: It was ugly. I mean, hopefully, you know, like Brian said that he wants me to do it. I will never do that because I won't do that to people's ears. I mean, you know, it's not nice.

Q: Now that you and da Matta were real close, what do you hear from him?

T. Kanaan: I mean, we talked every week. I hear that he is bored in Monaco because he is alone. Which is why I'm bored in Miami, because he is not here, as well. But he is having, I would say, an OK year. I mean, he is still getting used to car and stuff, and tracks that he has never been. And without testing much on those tracks, it's tough. But, he has been bringing points. I mean, he had a couple of races that he was winning the points, and, you know, they had the mechanical. So, they are happy with him. They just called him for the extension that they would pick up the option, and he is enjoying that, obviously, as the race car driver that he is. He wants to win, and he knows that's a little far off right now, but they're working on it and, you know, he is enjoying his new role as a F1 driver.

K. Johnson: Well, Tony, that appears to be all of our questions for today, and we certainly appreciate you joining us. Congratulations on a very solid first half of the season and best of luck in the remaining eight races.

T. Kanaan: Thank you, and I'll see you guys in Nashville.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Tony George , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske