Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript Jan. 20, 2004 Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon Part 2 of 3 Q: Scott, at Indy last year you were really not there near the front. What did you learn from the experiences you had ...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
Jan. 20, 2004
Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon
Part 2 of 3
Q: Scott, at Indy last year you were really not there near the front. What did you learn from the experiences you had toward the end of the race?
SCOTT DIXON: I think Indy in itself, even for the person that goes there the first time; it is a huge experience, learning curve, just with the whole format of the whole month and coming down to one day. But I don't know. The race was fairly good. I think we were fairly happy because we had a good car, but we just had a frustrating day with, you know, only getting down to 12 gallons and the car running out of fuel. I think I learned a lot, which is going to make a big difference for myself and probably the team this year just because you know what to expect. The race, in general, it is fairly similar to most of the races throughout the year, I think, but it's obviously a different circuit than the others, but just to pace yourself is the key there.
Q: What about the change -- going down to a 3-liter engine for that race. That race would be the first one to, you know, to use that engine?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's going to be very interesting. I think to make sure that they take enough downforce out of the car so they are not so easy to drive and that's going to be the key to how Indy is going to play out. It's obviously a lot of changes coming for that one race, and there's no way they are going to get the horsepower back to 2 or 3 liters by just shortening the stroke and things like that. So I don't know. I am not really sure what to expect when that comes up, but I just hope they do a good job of getting the downforce levels right so the cars are still very difficult to drive.
Q: Tony, last year you had the pole stolen away by Helio; then the race, you chased those two Penske cars across the finish line. How frustrating does it get always battling the Penskes and trying to beat them?
TONY KANAAN: It's no different than trying to beat Scott all year, so it's not frustrating. I would say, you know, what was frustrating last year in that race, the last 25 laps of the race we had a yellow flag every three, four laps, so I never had a chance to get going and try to pass them. That's the way the races are. If I was in the front I would be laughing that we had a lot of yellow flags and the race was going away. That's the way racing is. Obviously, Penske has a reputation in Indy that they won a lot of times and it's up to us to try to beat them. Getting frustrated is not going to help. We just need to put our heads down and go to work.
Q: You are talking about being with a four-driver team. Always in the past it seemed it was tough to -- for somebody to -- always should be in No. 1, and so forth. Do you have a pecking list, so to speak?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. I would say it's for the best interest of the team to make all the cars do well and the No. 1 guy, it's going to be the guy that dictates the results and be ahead in the championship. That's how you can say, ‛OK, he will be the No. 1.' I mean, we start the year, everybody is No. 1. As you go and you start fighting for the championship and one guy has more chance than the other, maybe at the end of the year only one guy is going to have a chance to win like it was last year on my team. Then, obviously, a little bit of priority is going to come to you. But in the series that you can't make any aero changes or any new pieces to go with the car, there's not a big advantage being the No. 1 because you don't get anything more than your teammates like they do in other series. So I would say you are the guy that dictate, you know, just trying to be ahead of your teammates in the points. That's how you make yourself the No. 1.
Q: Give me your own ideas about the dropping of the engine size for Indy, and what will it mean to you and the other drivers?
TONY KANAAN: Well, like Scott says, I don't know what to expect. I am not an engineer. I am just there to drive the car. Hopefully, the changes that they made are good for the speed and it is going to slow down the cars and hopefully it will be good. I think the people that did it are capable to predict that. And my job it's to sit and drive, and that's what I am going to do. I am expecting, you know, the best out of it.
Q: Since you have driven the new cars, what differences might you see from last year's cars?
SCOTT DIXON: Most of the time it's just small improvements to help the car up. I think the problem with this year is with the aerodynamics changing sort of after three races; it is sort of hard to know which way to go to try and predict what you need for most of the season. It is hard to know what gains the engine manufacturers and things like that are going to make. I think the cars will be a little better, just from the point of view of less drag and maybe a little more downforce. It depends on what sort of strategy they are going for because it is hard to know whether losing all this horsepower is going to make the cars way too grippy and you might need to lose a lot of downforce. At the moment, I think we're still trying to determine on what we sort of really need.
Q: Tony, could you talk a little bit about what racing was like when you raced for half the season through the Indianapolis 500 with Michael Andretti your team owner on the track with you, preparing with you and afterwards how is it different?
TONY KANAAN: I would say Mike was a lot more stressed after he got out of the car just by watching. But it was great. That's something that I will keep for the rest of my life, because it was a pleasure to race against a guy for a long time and then racing with the guy in the same team. Some of the moves that he used to make I couldn't understand, so finally I got all the answers when I got on the team with him. And I understood how you can get it done. So it was a pleasure and it's still a pleasure to have him as a team owner. We have a very, very good relationship between the races and we're good friends as well, and I just extended my deal for five more years on the team. So hopefully I am planning to stay here for as long as they want me, and maybe, one day retire and do my farewell season here. And then Mike outside the car is still a race car driver, so he understands a lot, what we're saying. So sometimes having him as a team owner, but being a driver before, it's a big advantage because team owners sometimes, if they are not drivers, they have a tendency to blame the drivers all the time. Having him around, he knows that sometimes it's not the drivers. Sometimes it's the car. Sometimes it's a lack of something that people get used to blame on the drivers. That's a big advantage for me, and I would say Michael was a very good driver, but now he has a pretty good organization. He's trying to calm down because definitely it's a very stressful season. All your cars racing and you are standing out on the outside.
MODERATOR: Tony, are your sights set more on winning the IndyCar Series Championship this year or perhaps winning Indianapolis?
TONY KANAAN: Both. Obviously it's two different things. But to me, honestly, if you can get both it will be great. If you can get one of them, it will be great. So I would say my focus is to win a championship and win Indy. But I know it's going to be very, very hard. That's the focus. I have also Japan. For me, it is very important as well because for Honda - it's a Honda track - so I will take the season as it goes and I will take every race as a championship race. If you win all of them, if you win most of them, you will be the champion. But, no, I don't differentiate the championship with Indianapolis. They are both very important.
Q: Scott, talk about going back to New Zealand during the off-season. Was your reception there, obviously, it was warm, but are you recognized in New Zealand? Was it big when you got back home?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, we have always had a lot of good support from New Zealand. They get the races live any race weekend. It's a very sports-oriented country, so we have got a lot of good coverage down there this year. And, definitely, when I got down there, it was a little crazy. It was all good. It was a good busy. The difference this year I think normally in CART I can do most of my media stuff on the way down to Surfer's in October. Then have mostly Christmas off; whereas this year it was a lot different because I had to try and cram it into a couple of weeks. It was good to see. The support down there was huge. Hopefully, we can keep that going.
Q: Back to the trip back home, what was it like standing eye-to-eye with a race horse named after you?
SCOTT DIXON: It was kind of funny actually. That horse has been around for about a year now, I think, when we first found out they wanted to call it Scott Dixon. But it was kind of cool to finally meet the horse and get back there. I think next year we're going to ride on it or something.
Q: How did it come about that they wanted to name the horse after you? What was the process for them being able to borrow your name to name a horse?
SCOTT DIXON: I am not really sure what the process was, but I think the tie there was the guy that actually bred it or breeds a lot of horses in New Zealand and over the world was a bit of a racing nut as well and he had raced in Formula 4 when I was younger, so that was the tie there. But I am not sure what sort of things they had to go through to do it.
Q: Tony, since the end of the season, you had a big race down there in Brazil, and you got married the same weekend. How hectic has this off-season been for you compared to other off-seasons?
TONY KANAAN: I can tell you, if I need to give anybody advice, don't get married on Friday and race on Saturday. That's not a good mix. It was busy. I would say it was a good busy. Obviously, we had a very good season so all my PR stuff I had to do it. Then I have to organize all the wedding and having all my friends coming from, you know, different parts of the world to the wedding and to the race was an extra thing. But it was a good busy. We had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we didn't win the race for the fifth time in a row. People that I really cared about all showed up at the wedding and ended up doing the race. After that I had a pretty good honeymoon, so I could relax for 15 days. And like I said before, I am bored already. I want to be back in the race car. But it was a very different off-season for me in terms of, you know, every year it's kind of been the same. You go home and you do PR and you relax, and then you come back. This year was much different, but it was very good.
MODERATOR: We appreciate you joining us today. Team Penske driver Sam Hornish joins us now. He finished fifth in the IndyCar Series Championship in 2003, which was actually a remarkable feat considering the slow start the team had at the start of the season. Sam, now that you have had a few months to reflect upon it, tell us about how you were able to battle back in the points championship hunt last year.
SAM HORNISH JR: We got pretty lucky, I guess. We had a pretty rough beginning to the season. Everything that we did, we were trying to make up for a little bit of lack of horsepower and we just were lucky enough that it was one of those things where we got the opportunity to get back into it and keep ourselves in the points championship until we had the opportunity to be able to go out there and win some more races. To be where we were at the end of the year was great. Midseason, early season was not what we expected that we were going to be. We really wanted that third championship in row, so we were going to try everything we could do to get back there. Just sooner or later, you know, we got ourselves in there and it was great for the team. Everybody worked real hard. I wish we would have been able to cap it off with another championship, but I was pretty happy where we were at compare to the beginning of the season.