Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript Jan. 20, 2004 Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon Part 1 of 3 MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome three Indy Racing League IndyCar Series drivers to today's teleconference. All three of...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
Jan. 20, 2004
Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon
Part 1 of 3
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome three Indy Racing League IndyCar Series drivers to today's teleconference. All three of these drivers were in the hunt for the IndyCar Series Championship going into the 16th and final race of the season at Texas Motor Speedway in October of last year. Joining us in the first half hour of the call is 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who won the series title by 18 points over Gil de Ferran. Also joining us in the first 30 minutes is Tony Kanaan, who led the points championship for much of the season last year before finishing fourth behind Dixon, de Ferran and Helio Castroneves. Scott, let us start with you. Obviously, as you enter the 2004 season, you must feel a certain amount of pressure as you get set to defend your title. Is the pressure you feel this year different than it felt 12 months ago?
SCOTT DIXON: I think you always have a certain amount of pressure just to perform and make sure you do well. Even being with such a good team like Team Target, I kind of like the pressure. It pushes you. I think even this year with Darren (Manning), I think it will be good to have a good teammate to do that as well. But I wouldn't say there's any more this year to defend. I think we set the same goals this year as we did for last year and that's to try and win the championship again, and obviously the big one now is the Indianapolis 500. So I can't really say that for myself that there's more pressure.
MODERATOR: You talked about the Indianapolis 500. Is your goal more focused on defending your title this year or perhaps a shot at winning Indy?
SCOTT DIXON: I think short term it's definitely Indianapolis. We had a very good car there last year. Team was very strong. We both sort of came up short and obviously I had fuel problems, things like that, and also didn't finish the race because of hitting the wall or whatever at the end of the race. But I think for the first part of season that's going to be our main goal for myself and probably for the team.
MODERATOR: Do you feel, pardon the pun, that you have a target on your car this year with guys gunning for you each weekend now that you are the champ?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it was the same last year. We set a very high standard in how fast we were at every circuit. I think as the season progresses you pick up sort of four, five guys that you need to watch and try and beat. So I think it's the same. It's not going to be just one person that everybody is going to try and beat. It is going to be a good four, five people that they have to watch out for.
MODERATOR: Let's hear from Andretti Green Racing driver Tony Kanaan. Going into that final race at Texas last year, you had as much a shot at winning the title as anyone. Was it frustrating being essentially tied with four other guys going into that final race knowing that you had led for such a large chunk of the season?
TONY KANAAN: Well, we got there knowing we had a chance to win the championship. I wasn't frustrated. I would say we got there in the last race and everybody had a shot. I took a shot. Unfortunately, you know, I was hit, we lost the championship there, went from first to fourth, so that was the worst that it could be. And I got the worst. Now, I would say we need to keep working to do a better job than what we did last year. We should have won more races. We need to prepare each other to do that. We only won one race. I think it was a good season for the whole 7-Eleven team. We had a lot of ups and downs the first year in the series, and I would say it wasn't as good as what we expected, but you know, there's always a time to make it better.
MODERATOR: Andretti Green will be running a four-car team with Bryan Herta, Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti along with you. Tell us the benefits of running a four-car team for the entire season this year.
TONY KANAAN: Definitely a big help because, as you guys know, they limit the tests and we don't have a lot of testing days. We cannot test privately. So with four cars we have a lot more information. We can try a lot different things at the same time, which a two-car team has a little bit of disadvantage. So we have four cars to do that. I would say it is a big help. I would say between the four of us, we can come up with a very strong team.
MODERATOR: Let us open it up for questions.
Q: Scott, after winning a championship and you talked about pressure earlier, but does it take some of the pressure off knowing that you have already done it once; that if you win the second time it is almost like gravy?
SCOTT DIXON: I am not sure. Obviously, I think with the championship it's a big accomplishment. You get that from a race weekend on a smaller level just basically because if you win the race, there's four days, three days that you have been working towards that. You have finally come out with the best possible sort of answer or place that you could have. I think with the championship it's the same sort of thing. That's the biggest thing I noticed was the weight lifted off my shoulders after the championship and probably the same for most people just because we knew it was there and there was so much pressure coming in on the last race and quite a bit of time off. But I don't know if it will be any less this year or any more. I think we just want to go out there and do the same thing, and do what everybody is going to try to do -- and that's to try and win races. I think that's the easiest way to win a championship is to win races, and so I don't think there will be any added pressure or less pressure.
Q: You are going to be running in the IROC Series this year. Talk about that for a moment.
SCOTT DIXON: I haven't really looked into that too much yet. I think the first test is coming up after the Daytona 24 hours that we're doing with Ganassi as well. I think it will be very interesting and definitely a different style, with sort of a stock car. So I will be going in with an open mind that's for sure.
Q: Tony, over the years we have gotten to know the fact that you and monkeys had that good luck charm going. Some might say you got a bit of a monkey on your back, to try to get that off to win the championship.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, we're going to stop the monkey stuff, I think. I can take the monkey -- the gorilla that I have tattooed on my arm -- but we'll stop the monkey stuff this year and we'll see if we can find something else to bring us luck. Maybe a lot of hard work. That's the best way to accomplish it.
Q: When you look at 2004 and knowing how close you got last year, are you just anxious to get the season started and get it underway and try to put together those finishing touches of the championship?
TONY KANAAN: Definitely. I mean I can't wait to be back in the car. Since Texas last year I haven't sat in a race car, so it has been a long, long time and I miss that and I can't wait. I think we have a strong year ahead of us. The series is going to be very competitive. I mean, Scott, Dario, Sam (Hornish), a lot of people that can surprise us, and it's going to be as tough as last year. So definitely my goal is to try and win more races, which I didn't do last year, only did one, and be as consistent as I was. I can't wait to get started.
Q: Scott, do you have a favorite racetrack, maybe one that you think you got a handle on better than some of the others?
SCOTT DIXON: I think for me throughout the season I struggled on the bigger ovals, mile and a half and more, but I really enjoyed the circuit car -- the short ones, mile or less. I think after those meets, I always look forward to go into those as opposed to the other ones. You sort of cruise around and wait for the last 10 laps, where I think on the other circuit you can work on the car a lot, get advantages and things like that. So definitely the shorter circuits.
Q: Have you worked any with the newer cars, the newer set-ups or is that when can you test?
SCOTT DIXON: We have actually done a few days now with the new car. We did one right before Christmas. Actually, we did two days right before Christmas. We did another with the new car early on this month. So we have had a few days.
Q: Everybody is going to kind of go into it with kind of a cold turkey this year?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's going to be interesting. I think with Homestead and Phoenix coming up, those are going to be the times that I think with us we need to do a fair amount of work on our car to get to where we need it. It's hard to say what the others are going through with the Dallara, but I think it's only fair for everybody. You get a couple of days at each circuit. That should be pretty much enough to get yourself sorted.
Q: Tony, with the four-car set-up, that's probably pretty much a distinct advantage than like a one-car team, and how much will the four of you go back and forth on your set-ups?
TONY KANAAN: In my point of view it's a big advantage to have a four-car team as I said before. We work very well together. This team is known from last year that drivers and engineers work really tight, and we got a pretty good connection between each other that's going to help us. We're going to keep exchanging information. Hopefully, it will give us an advantage. At the end of the day I would say the series is so competitive that everybody is trying to do different things to be able to have an advantage, but we're still going to see as tight championship as we saw last year.
Q: Tony, you covered a lot of my stuff, but I have a question about your win at Phoenix. It came early. What do you recall about that? What does it do for you personally? For the team? What do you see about that track now, the configuration and the new car?
TONY KANAAN: Well, that win was very important for me because it was awhile that I hadn't won a race and you know, being new to the team and it being Honda's first year in IRL, I wanted to give the team and Honda their first win because of all the credibility they had on me after I had a tough year and the year before. So it meant a lot, to be honest, it meant a lot to me. I think for the team to put my name in the history of the team and Honda itself giving them their first win, so everybody is going to remember that. The track configuration, I haven't been in Phoenix since they changed it. For what I heard, they didn't change a lot. And the new car configuration, I haven't drove it yet either. I am being off, got married, and got a lot of time off, so I am anxious to get back. But I would say every year they make changes to slow down the cars, which I think it's really important that we have plenty of good engineers on the engine side and the car side and the tire side. Maybe it's going to make the car as fast as we went last year. So I think that all the changes are positive. I have to try them, you know, but I would say we're heading in the right direction.
Q: How hard is it to run for a championship when you are in a four-car team or any multiple-car team? What are the minuses of that and how hard is it to run for a championship in a situation like that?
TONY KANAAN: I think as long as you get along with all your teammates and then it's clear that at the end of the day only one guy is going to win the race, only one guy is going to win the championship. So if you have your teammates working with you, maybe helping you if you need, that's a big advantage. The disadvantage is if you don't have them working with you, they know everything you are doing so they have the same possibility and they can take a place in the racetrack from you. But I think nobody wants to be given a championship, so I wouldn't accept that and I don't think anybody would. So I would say it's more advantage on the point of we can work together and especially in the big tracks where you are drafting so you have people that you know that care about you and you are in the same team. So I would say the minuses, you know, basically having more cars that know exactly what you are doing, all the set-ups and all the changes.
Q: Dan Wheldon now will be in his second year. You guys had a lot of fun with him last year. What is your role with him this year and what do you see him doing this year? What do you expect from him?
TONY KANAAN: Dan is still a rookie until Japan because he only started from Japan last year, so we can still call him as a rookie. After Japan, we're going to take his stripes off, but until then he's still a rookie for us. I think Dan is a very good driver. Everybody gets better in their second year. I remember my first year - and Scott can say it as well - I am expecting him to be very fast and a lot more mature, and maybe be there playing for the championship with us.