IRL: Indy 500: Andretti Green Racing press conference, part 1

88th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference Wednesday, May 26, 2004 Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon Part 1 of 2 TOM SAVAGE: We have our four drivers here today from Andretti Green Racing, three of which are in the top five...

88th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon

Part 1 of 2

TOM SAVAGE: We have our four drivers here today from Andretti Green Racing, three of which are in the top five positions for the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. Middle of the front row, Dan Wheldon at a 221.524; outside of the front row, Dario Franchitti at a 221.471; middle of the second row, Tony Kanaan 221.200; starting 23rd is Bryan Herta at a 219.871. Guys, let's get your thoughts as Sunday approaches. Dan, let's start with you, middle of the front row, you held the pole there for a little bit. Let's talk about your thoughts heading into Sunday.

DAN WHELDON: Nervous right now with these guys around me. No, I'm looking forward to the race. I think it's going to be really tough with the way the cars are this year. They seem to move around a lot, and they're more difficult to run around in traffic. But at least when I'm strapped in the car, I'll be well away from these louts, I'll be safe. I'm really looking forward to it, but like I said, I think it's gfoing to be very, very difficult.

SAVAGE: Dario, real quick, you missed last year's 500 for some incidents off the racetrack. Welcome you back this year. Your thoughts about Sunday's race.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Again, I'm excited to be on the front row. It's going to be a long and difficult race. We'll go out there and do our best and see what happens. First of all, it isn't as though 500 miles is difficult enough, but the depth of the field and the competition that we're going to have, it's going to make it difficult so we'll see what happens.

SAVAGE: Tony, you're starting fifth, you ran third last year, and you were right there at the end. Your thoughts heading into Sunday.

TONY KANAAN: Well, I think it was a great team effort. We all worked pretty hard toward getting the pole. It was an awkward day in qualifying. Just we tried, we definitely tried. We had the car, and obviously Bryan had to pay the price for us being very greedy trying to get the pole. He was the first car out to have something -- we all agreed to do it, and we all changed it back after what happened. (Laughter) So I guess otherwise we could have all the cars, I think, in the top six for sure. So just a long month. We work together very well. We have a good setup, we just need to see, see what's going to happen on Race Day.

SAVAGE: Finally, Bryan, I think you're 23rd starting position, a little deceiving, you were quick all month. One of the most impressive things I think all month is your qualifying run after you came back after that hard hit in One. Your thoughts after your qualifying run and Race Day this Sunday.

BRYAN HERTA: Yeah, I wish I was starting a little further up. I have, unfortunately, a little experience starting back in the pack here from '95 when I had to start last after I crashed my race car. And I know the first few laps will be difficult with all the turbulence. Really, I have a little different race plan than these guys do going in, at least, is to try and get through the first couple of laps with the turbulence and settle in and try and make up spots and try and get with them so that by the first pit stop -- so that by the first pit stop we'll be in contention or in contact with the lead pack anyways so that we can get on the same strategy as everybody else. Otherwise, we'll have to probably vary our pit strategy or do something different just to try to get back in the hunt with the front guys.

SAVAGE: Very good. Questions for these guys? There's a microphone over here, obviously, and Eric has one.

Q: Bryan, you just talked about what happens if you crash your race car. What is the goal for tomorrow? I assume the goal is not to have anything go wrong tomorrow. What else do you want to try to accomplish tomorrow? And then anybody else who wants to jump in, what do they want to accomplish tomorrow?

HERTA: Well, tomorrow is an important day because we've been off the track now for -- I've been off for nearly a week now, these guys have been off the track for five days. This place changes even from day-to-day, so you can't just sort of do two laps and say the car feels good. You do have to put some miles in tomorrow and really feel the car and get with some traffic. For me, especially, my car has just been rebuilt from the crash on Friday. I just have to double-check and make sure everybody feels right with that.

Q: Bryan, did the Dallara guys ever give you a definitive reason why the wishbone broke?

HERTA: I don't know that I asked.

Q: That has to be a concern.

HERTA: Yeah, it is. But there have been some changes to that part, and we feel confident that that shouldn't be an issue again. So I guess why it broke in the first place doesn't really concern me at this point, it's just making sure it won't break again.

Q: There have been other multiple-car teams here at Speedway, other series, and nobody seems to get along to the extent that you guys do. Can any one of you pick what makes it so easy to work with each other?

WHELDON: Actually, Bryan has a lot of different reasons, and he's going to love to tell you, I'm sure. (Laughter)

HERTA: I don't know, I just think we all -- for whatever reason, we get along. Why do people get along? We have a similar sense of humor. We all like to laugh, and we like to have a good time, but we also know when it's time to get serious, that we can do that. And we can really keep those two things separate. We're all having a great time and that, I think, is good for the team. I think there's a very good atmosphere in the team because they know we're happy and enjoy what we're doing. And that kind of spreads down through the engineers and the crew guys and everybody. I think it's a good place to be right now.

KANAAN: I think it all began back in 2002 when Michael approached me and Dario. Actually Dario first because Dario was already there. We made a decision in August to come over here, and everybody thought we were crazy at first. But I think me and Dario, we knew how good this could become over the years. Obviously, we didn't expect -- we didn't know if Bryan was going to be around or Dan or anybody. But in the beginning, it was like me and him saying, 'Hey, this can be really good.' And having Michael there, I think Michael has changed a lot. I think Dario shares the same opinion when we joined the team. Obviously, he stayed only for three races. But after that, Dario got in an accident, too, and then Bryan showed up. There was nothing planned, really. We can't say we tried to get along or we worked to get up to this point. Nobody did, it was natural. These kind of things you can't really make it work. It's just natural. And we all have something in common. We like picking on Dan all the time, so that makes it very exciting. It's a great feeling. For sure, it's a good thing to have.

Q: How do you think Peter (inaudible) in this? I see him as a serious guy.

FRANCHITTI: He's very serious, no doubt. He's a great guy to have around because he comes up with so many fresh ideas, and he fits very well into the engineering department, and it allows you to think about other things and focus more maybe, so it's taken some of the load off of him. He's got a pretty good sense of humor, which I didn't expect. He's a funny guy. We have a good time in the engineering meetings. The only problem in engineering meetings is we'll say our piece, and then Tony will say his piece, and then we'll speak again, and then Tony will continue to speak and continue to speak and continue for speak some more.

KANAAN: Can I say something? (Laughter)

FRANCHITTI: So apart from that small problem, we're getting along pretty good over there. Pete has definitely strengthened the team. That's what we're all about.

Q: To follow up even more on the team relationship. Michael never was really known as a tremendously practical joking or jocular guy himself. Does he condone all this, A? B, what's the worse thing you guys have done to him? And C, what's the worse things you have done to each other?

HERTA: We're going to take the Fifth on some of those. But Mike is a practical joker, and believe me, he is right in on it. I think public Mike and private Mike are two very different people. The guy that we get to know, trust me, he has no problem taking his lumps or dishing them out. I mean, it's really like five of us, it's not just the four of us. Mike is right in there. I guess there's probably a limit that we won't cross with him because he signs our paychecks that, you know, Tony is not going to fire me if I piss him off. But other than that, no, I would say Michael -- he understands. Because we're responsible enough to not let it become an issue and impede the work we have to do or what we have to do on the track.

Q: This is for Tony Kanaan. There are reports making the rounds, Tony, that you were hired by Andretti Green for aerodynamic reasons, feeling the size and shape of your nose allows you to get through the air better than anyone else on the grounds. Would you care to comment on that?

KANAAN: No, it's a gift from God, so I guess -- the other day somebody told me, a guy approached me and said, 'Look, I have to tell you something,' he was really serious about it, he said, 'You know, when people get old there's a couple things in your body that don't stop growing,' and he goes, 'your ears and your nose.' And I'm like, 'Oh, really.' So I guess my nose is a lot older than me right now. (Laughter) Dario shares the same opinion. But I will tell you, if it's an advantage I'll take it, really. No, I like my nose. It's beautiful.

Q: Tony, you talked a little bit about the chemistry this team has and how it started really with you and Dario. How much did it hurt this team not to have Dario here last year and how much did you miss him? And, Dario, as a follow-up, it seems like you're sitting their scheming. Have you exacted your revenge from the birthday sneak attack?

KANAAN: Well, to answer the first question, I think the team was very well balanced when it was myself, Michael and Dario, and we knew Michael was going to retire and Dan was going to come on board. Obviously, a couple things happened. I missed Dario as a friend a lot, more than anything else. On the team we got Bryan, who was as capable as Dario and the information, they also concentrate on race stuff, and I used to concentrate on qualifying. So I would say it was a big shock just because everything that we had planned, it just went away so quick. Michael retired, then all of a sudden I find myself with two new guys. Obviously, I knew Bryan for a long time. I didn't know Dan. I thought I knew Bryan, yeah, that's a good point. But it didn't take any longer to get to know these guys and to get along. That's why we went from a three-car team to a four-car team. That's why Michael and the whole team saw the strength they could have in four guys. Some people thought we were crazy. They expect us to fail a lot more than actually succeed. We proved that they are wrong. It was a big effect on myself, really, just not having one of my best friends around me and racing with me. Do you want to follow up on the question?

FRANCHITTI: I don't know, you talked for so long I forgot what the question was. Oh, yeah. Well, Dan and I got Bryan the other night, he was on the radio. We got -- it wasn't an original, but there were some cream pies available so we just took advantage of it, and Bryan took it very, very well. Dan here has been the butt of our jokes all season long, so I think he's paid his dues. So that just leaves one person. (Laughter) Did you guys know that Tony is on "SportsCenter" tonight?

KANAAN: No way, I'm not going. I knew it, that wasn't in my schedule today. All right, I'm Brazilian, be careful.

Q: Did you miss Tony as well as a whole?

FRANCHITTI: Yeah. We had some pretty good plans. We talked about it when I signed my deal to come over to IRL with AGR, I knew Paul (Tracy) wasn't coming, and I pushed like hell to get Tony on the team because I felt we were great friends, but I also thought he would be a fantastic teammate. As he said, we had all these plans going, and Michael was thick in the mix there. It finished before it really got started, unfortunately, because of the accident. When these guys were away racing, I was kind of -- I had been in Austria trying to get my fitness back or I'd be somewhere else, I was really kind of out of the loop a bit. So I really only got a chance to see these guys, I came down to Dallas for the last race. And the hospital, yes. When TK busted his arm, I was in there to see about my back. Really at the end of the season, I went down there to Dallas to give him support for winning his race, or for trying to win the championship, which unfortunately didn't happen. It kind of sucks not to be there, as an understatement.


Part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta