IRL: Chicagoland: Top-Three finishers transcript

IRL IndyCar Series Delphi Indy 300 Sept. 12, 2004 Adrian Fernandez Bryan Herta Tony Kanaan MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are joined by our second- and third-place finishers, Bryan Herta finished in second place today,...

IRL IndyCar Series
Delphi Indy 300
Sept. 12, 2004

Adrian Fernandez
Bryan Herta
Tony Kanaan

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are joined by our second- and third-place finishers, Bryan Herta finished in second place today, Tony Kanaan in third. For Bryan Herta, his best finish of the season. His last victory came at Kansas last season. Bryan, why don't you start out and give us an opening statement about your day and great run today.

BRYAN HERTA: Mine was a really--it was interesting. My car, I don't know why, my car went wicked loose on the first stint and so I went all the way back to the back. I was the last car at one point, and I was just hanging on. We kept making changes on the pit stops and making it better and better, and luckily we did make it better. At that point, we decided to get off sequence on our pit stop strategy, try to get our track position back that we had lost when the car was loose, and that worked out really well for us and actually ended up leading. That's probably the critical point in the race. At that time, of course, we didn't know there was going to be a whole bunch of yellow flags, and we were really tight on fuel. The team asked me to let Adrian (Fernandez) by and draft off him. I did that, lifted a little bit and let him by. I don't think he could have passed me otherwise Of course, then we had all of the yellows, and I could never get back around them. So a little better run, but for me, it's just a relief to be up here seeing you guys. I haven't had a top three this year yet, and I really feel good about my day.

MODERATOR: Tony, obviously, another important day for you in the race for the championship. You didn't get the victory but you still picked up a lot of valuable points. Tell us about your day and the points in the championship.

TONY KANAAN: Long day. Very crazy. I started to go -- early on, I tried to lead as much as I could to stay out of trouble because I was expecting it to be messy back there, but I tell you, it was worse than what I thought. Before the first stop, everybody turned up their fuel, and they passed me, and I was hanging back there, and it was just crazy, so I was taking it easy. I wasn't racing for the championship, and I wasn't making crazy stuff, I wanted to finish this race. I was pretty calm. I went back to eighth or 10th at one point and just waited for the right moment because I knew people were going to get together. The way they were driving, we wouldn't finish the race in five cars. Basically, that's what happened I think after the last stop, I tried to move up, and I moved up a little bit, we put Buddy (Rice) behind us, that was our concern, and towards the end it was me -- it was Adrian, Bryan (Herta) and myself, and I was doing everything I could to push Bryan to the front. I think he deserved to win. He's a big part of my success. He's been helping us so much with the setup, and I think his results didn't -- they are not there right now, but they will come. Good things come to good people, I think, and I did everything I could. Unfortunately, I couldn't make him win or he couldn't make himself win either, because I think Adrian had a better car. But everything I had in my power, I was trying to draft him from behind to push him forward. That's all I could do. I wasn't taking easy, I was just trying to say, come on, let's go together, but it was really tough to pass on the outside The run for the championship, I'll think about it at Fontana. It's still a long ways to go. We extend the lead by three points, but still 106 points on the table right now. So, we'll see. Let's keep doing what we're doing. I mean, that's what we have to do.

MODERATOR: On that last caution, Buddy Rice got sideways and went in the air. How close was it to you? It looked like you just squeezed by on the high side.

TONY KANAAN: He was up underneath, almost looked like -- what it looked like to me, but it was pretty close. It was scary. I saw Kenny Brack's accident from the first-class seat, and that picture came back in my mind again because it was the same car and it was exactly the same accident, and Buddy was very lucky I mean, I'm not going to make a comment on his accident. I think you guys can watch the tape and make your own judgments. But just to make a point, we touched wheels on a straightaway before, he hit me on the straightaway before. You know, I don't think it's the right way to drive like that. He has a lot more to lose than I did. I mean, I have 72 points ahead of everybody, so basically, he did it on his own. He made himself a favor, took him out of the championship, and then it's just between me and Dan (Wheldon) now. So I think he should be mad at himself. That's not the way he should be driving for a championship, I believe, but that's just my opinion. And I don't want to create a big thing because people say already we don't like each other and this and that. I have nothing against him. I think he's a great race-car driver, but today he was a little crazy out there Q. Tony, what could be done to discipline drivers that do things that are out of sorts, out of the ordinary? There seems to be a lot of this when you're racing side-by-side lap after lap.

TONY KANAAN: I don't know. The beauty of this series, racing like this, that's what makes the fans stand up in the stands. So I don't think we should prevent anything. People can't keep stressing enough that we have to take care of each other. But, three races to go, a lot of guys want to win the race. A lot of people fighting for the championship. It always has a tendency to get a little crazier Maybe a solution? Put this type of track on the beginning of the year which everybody is relaxed, and they are not fighting for anything. I think it will be a little bit easier. You know, they have their nerves up in the air right now, just trying to make better under pressure because maybe they have to redo their contracts, and they want to show results. We are fighting for championships. People that have never won a race are trying to win races. So let's move them in different ways, because I don't want to take the racing out of it. That's the beauty, so I don't think we should do that.

Q: It appeared as if those last four or five laps that you didn't have enough to catch Fernandez, and then on the last lap down the back straightaway, all of a sudden you were there. Can you kind of take us through that last lap?

BRYAN HERTA: I made a run on the restart. I had a really good restart and made a run and couldn't make it stick there. I had enough that I was just biding my time, and I was actually keeping a little gap there between Adrian and I, because it kind of helps for someone to come on the outside of me because then I can use the draft to pull back up. I was kind of playing my game. I had a little earlier on in the race, I had pulled up on the outside on the backstretch and been able to lead just across the finish line, that was my move. I knew once we got past start/finish, he would pull back ahead again. I just tried to time it again, and he had a good car, and he held it well on the bottom like he needed to, and, you know, I got close, but I couldn't get quite alongside. I would say that I think the difference between last year and this year with the new rules package, I think it's a little harder to pass. I think the car in front has a bigger advantage now than it used to. Just give it everything I had. I had my brother back here pushing, too, and that was just what we had. So that's OK. It's a good result, and that's the kind of thing we need to do. That's what Tony does, a driver like Tony, he's always in the mix. He wins races, but he's always in the mix, and when you're in the mix, you're going to win some.

Q: Ultimately, you did have a couple of crashes there late in the race, but it seemed like you were dodging bullets early on. Can you describe how often there were serious close calls during the course of a race like this?

BRYAN HERTA: There were a lot. It's just the nature of the type of racing. I think some of it is when you're that close together, things happen. And like some of it, like Tony said, some guys weren't being very smart and were not listening to the instructions that Brian Barnhart gave us before the race weekend started. It was kind of a mixture of those things.

TONY KANAAN: Same by me. It was close every lap, every corner I would say, though, the guys in the front, they run in the front every weekend, take care of each other more than the people that run in the back. And then those people from the back, when they come to the front, they mess us up.

Q: Brian Barnhart's meeting this morning detailed some of the points of racing that IRL would have liked to have seen today. Which of those points do you think were not taken care of by the drivers today?

BRYAN HERTA: I'm afraid -- I don't want us to go off in this direction because it was a great race, and it was a very exciting race. I think that the important thing is, you know, by God's good graces or whatever, Buddy is okay. And we had a great race today and an exciting race, and we'll move on, and we'll go to Fontana.

TONY KANAAN: I agree.

Q: I was wondering, your perspective from the finish today, it is a lot different from what you've been used to. You've been used to finishing up in front, watching people watch your taillights run off in the distance. What was it like today from your perspective?

TONY KANAAN: My perspective, you don't have a car to win. So 13 top-fives in a row makes you a champion one day. That's the mentality You have to understand, if you have a car to finish fifth, you finish fifth. If somebody gives you the opportunity to win, you go and win. But that's what I did. I realized where I should be, I know what I need. I'm not very ambitious as a driver when I'm inside the car. I take things pretty well. If I finish second, third, fourth, fifth, whatever, for me, deep inside myself, if I think I did my best for what I had, peace with me, and that's what I did I really wanted to help my teammate to win a race today, because I didn't have a car to win. So, that didn't mean that I was lifting to let him go in front of me. I just didn't have a car to pass him. I had a car to finish third, and I finished third, maybe fourth It was fun watching back there. Sometimes it's good to go back. You go back to reality. It's too good in the front sometimes. You have to go back there and feel the stress.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Congratulations on a great day. We are joined by the winner of the Delphi Indy 300, Adrian Fernandez. Adrian joined the league in Phoenix earlier this year and within a couple of races recorded his first top-10 finish and last month at Kentucky recorded his first victory. Adrian, a long day for you and some rough times in the pits. Talk about overcoming those challenges and your second victory.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you. We are very excited, and I'm happy for everybody on the team. You know, those last four races have been tremendous for the team. We have been working very hard, and the results that the team is getting is tremendous. Especially with adversity today, when the air jacks broke. I came into the pits I believe when I was leading, and they couldn't get the car up. So they had to get the manual air jacks and get the car up and all that. At that point, I knew that we were not going to win the race. I knew I had a car able to win the race, but with the pit stops, there was no way So, we had to be smart and at some stages in the race I was just sitting back, just trying to see how the race was going to develop. Sometimes there's no point when you see the leader, basically ahead of you with a bunch of cars, sometimes it's not worth it just fighting all the time there when you put yourself in a risky situation all the time. So we decided to stay back a little bit and see how everything started progressing After that, some of the yellows came and that's where we decided to stay out and take a chance, because we knew we had a car to win. We knew we needed a yellow, and unfortunately for the drivers that got involved in it, we got the yellow. But then we found out that the drivers were okay and all of the scratches and that was amazing. After that, it was just a matter of getting the lead. In the restart, the key was to pass Bryan Herta because (Ed) Carpenter was left down. I pushed very hard to be able to pass him. I made the pass, of which I'm very proud. With all of the effort the engineers have done, we had a fast car and that's why we won. I didn't see many guys passing on the outside, and we passed on the outside of Bryan to get the lead, and after that we just stayed there.

Q: In your case the "R" in IRL stands for rejuvenation. This series has really rejuvenated your career. Talk a little about this.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, in a way yes. But, you know, I think it's also experience because you know sometimes you see things there, and you see the guys who some of the time do the most things and those are the guys who have the most inexperience There's some times that you have to attack and there's some times that you have to sit back and ride, you know, and think about the race and read your car and change it. I think that has helped us tremendously. Obviously the results we have got in the last few races have put us in a very good situation. I think we are now fifth in the points championship and within one point of getting -- no, sixth, one point or two points from Dario Franchitti and within striking distance of Helio Castroneves. To us, finishing fourth in the championship is right up there with what happened at the beginning of the year. It could not be any better. I give all of this credit to my guys, to the engineers. Fernandez Racing is getting better every day. Obviously we have the best engine, a Honda, but, you know you have a very tough competition on the Honda, also

Q: Was it like Kentucky in that once you got out front, the clean air was pretty important to you?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, it was, because we were again very aggressive. We didn't -- we knew where we were on the points on the table, so we needed to be aggressive for the win. We could not settle for third, fourth, fifth. My car wasn't the best in traffic but also wasn't too bad. When it was in front, it was the best car. That's why I had to push Bryan very hard. That was the key, passing Bryan. Bryan finished second? Yes. That was the key, to pass him, and we managed. It took like two or three laps, that was the point, but we managed to do it. Once we got into clean air the car was fantastic.

Q: When you were in the back of the pack coming through, would you describe the action in front of you as being unnecessarily wild?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: At the beginning of the race it was. At the beginning, you know everybody is very -- the adrenaline, you are waiting, the excitement of getting into the race, so everybody is very aggressive. After the second pit stop everybody sort of calmed down. Everybody was saving fuel and everybody was being smart. Basically you were just dependent on your spotters to tell you where you were But to be honest, I didn't see bad stuff. In general that's why I was surprised that we had those crashes, because in general everybody was behaving very well considering how close we were racing to reach other.

Q: With 63 laps to go, you did your final splash at the back of the pack. If there had not been all of the yellows, could you have gone all the way to the flag?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: No, we couldn't. I don't think anybody could at that point of the race. But then again, you play your cards and you stay ahead, you have a quick car, and that's what we needed to do. We stayed out and the yellow helped us to stay there, and we got a fast car to stay there without getting passed.

Q: Tony Kanaan said this is the worst race he's ever seen in terms of blocking. Were there some situations out there that you thought were uncalled for?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, it's tough. I can't remember one that I say, oh, you know -- no, I don't remember. The problem is that you're running so close to each other, there are a lot of people moving around, and sometimes you get in this big traffic into the corners. And some guys don't have a car and they don't lift and they push up, and there is a guy there, and that guy pushes the guy on the outside and those things. Personally I didn't get any bad stuff. There's some guys that tend to not keep their line. Say you are on the inside and he's clear, but instead of just keeping his line and giving you some air, there's some guys that they tend to close the door there. Like I said, it's the most inexperienced drivers that do that. But, I mean, in general, they drive well and it's just a matter of talking to them and being smart, because at the end of the day that's how you get involved in accidents.

Q: When the air jack fails and you have to go to the manual, what's your frustration level? And did you think that your chance to win the race is done?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, at that stage I said to the guys, there is no way we are going to win the race with pit stops. There is no way. At that time, the only way we can win the race is by coming from the back to the front, because it doesn't matter if we come first into the pits, we are going to lose everything. We were even considering -- you know, the Firestone tires were very, very strong here. We were even considering not changing tires at some point and go to the end because that would keep us on the front Then obviously, you can never plan. Things happen through the race, and all of these yellows put us in a situation where, okay, let's -- I was behind Carpenter there, and that's when we went to the front and passed Bryan for the lead.

Q: You know, overcoming obstacles and this role of yours you're talking about how strong you have been lately, but is it a day where when you look back at this race people are going to remember the Indy 500 winner flipping over on the back stretch, and maybe not so much the winner? Does that trouble you at all, or do you just take pride in what you accomplish and not worry too much about what people think?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: You know, in the past in my career I've been in very bad situations. The first thing that came out to here -- always when I see an accident the first thing that I say is, 'Is everybody okay?' Because I have lost personal friends in situations like this where I have won races and this is difficult. So the main thing for you is to know that the drivers are okay. So to be honest it doesn't matter You know, this is a very exciting time for Fernandez Racing, and this win is a win for us and a win that we worked for it. You know, whatever happened if they take into that, the action -- what was it -- my spin in Michigan, that made a headline, yes. (Laughing). So I took a little bit from the winner there, so we are equal now.

Q: You and your crew were discussing the strategy for a long time, and you kept on the pit and they wanted to leave you out there for a little while. How happy were you when all of a sudden the caution fell perfectly for you and everybody else had to come in and you leapfrogged the line?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: We were discussing a lot of things. I've been working with my engineer for a long time and also with my crew chief, John Ward, Mike Sales, and Matt Huth, that team particularly was a team that we had in Patrick Racing '98, '99 and 2000 when we had fantastic years. We won two races every year. We fought for the championship with Gil de Ferran and finished second in the championship. There's a lot of good communication between us. So if you hear the conversations that we have on the radios, like a little bit funny, because we are sort of thinking the same things. You know, I will think, 'Okay, should we top it off? We are on the back anyway, so let's get a little bit more fuel.' And the other guys, the other guys are going to be slugging and maybe just get a little bit more fuel, but we needed to see what the other leaders were going to do. When we saw that the leaders were going to come into the pits, that was the time for us to do the reverse. We had four laps ahead of Bryan Herta, four laps he came earlier than us, so we knew we had four laps on top of him. If we were going to have a problem, he was going to have a problem You know, sometimes in these races, you have to take some chances and stay there. You know, when I took the lead there, it worked perfectly because I was staying there, when everybody started coming into the pits, I almost went to pit once when everybody pitted. Then I came into the pits and we came out in front. That was perfect. I mean, the car was fantastic. That's when the whole situation changed. We had such a good communication that sometimes you need a little bit of luck, and this time, the luck came in our way and we had a good race car.

MODERATOR: Adrian, thank you very much and congratulations.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice , Brian Barnhart