2006 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE Marco Andretti, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan Saturday, May 13, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway MODERATOR: We're happy to welcome Andretti Green Racing, Tony Kanaan, Bryan...
2006 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Marco Andretti, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan
Saturday, May 13, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
MODERATOR: We're happy to welcome Andretti Green Racing, Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti.
BRYAN HERTA: Marco has it tough. He's 19. Moved out on his own. Living here in Indianapolis. He only has about a 2,300 square-foot apartment. He's feeling pretty cramped right now. Couple of cars. Went watch shopping yesterday. Things are tough. We're trying to ease him through it.
MODERATOR: Marco, these guys treating you well?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, yeah, of course. Especially on the track, just in the pit lane and stuff, that's where I learn most of their good habits.
MODERATOR: Maybe later on we'll hear about some of their bad habits.
Tony, welcome back to Indianapolis. You know among the number of folks here who have certainly been in position to win this race, you're one of them. Of course, a former series champion. I know you're rearing to go. Tell us about the rain and all the pestering you've done of Marco.
TONY KANAAN: I haven't done anything yet. We wear the same size of shoes, I might like some of the stuff he wears. I'll take it.
It's been an on-and-off week for everybody. It's been crazy, this waiting, this rain. We're definitely not up to the speeds that we wanted to be, but we're working hard for that. We'll see. I don't think the game is over yet. I think we have pretty decent race cars. I believe for the stuff we try this week, we'll see where we can qualify. We can win this race from 16th place, as we know really well. We'll see.
MODERATOR: Dario, you surely ended the year strong with a victory at California, big win at Nashville. Talk about your week thus far as we battle the weather.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's been a difficult week just trying to find the speed necessary for qualifying. I think what TK said is very true. The car, I think, has got a good race balance, I believe, but maybe just not quite quick enough for qualifying yet. We've obviously been frustrated with the rain, like everybody else. You can always deal with those extra laps of practice to make those final tweaks. If we do get the half-hour before qualifying, I think it will be a very busy half hour for all of us.
MODERATOR: If, for example, things got washed out today, that would be something you'd welcome with extra practice time?
FRANCHITTI: Absolutely. We have a reasonably short list of things we'd like to try before we make our qualifying attempt.
MODERATOR: Questions. We know Michael will be coming in soon.
Q</I>: Last years you had an advantage over Penske, Ganassi. Now they have the same stuff. Are they something you're shooting at now or is it business as usual?
HERTA: I think there's been a little bit of a shift the last two seasons; they've been chasing us. Obviously, they worked very hard on aspects of their car. Now we all have the same engine. I think there's a couple things they're doing a little better than us now.
Again, it's also normal in racing. It's the ebb and flow of it. For us, I think it's not going -- it's not an overnight change. We're not going to do one shock adjustment and suddenly be back right where they are. By the same token, I think certainly Dario showed at St. Pete really he should have won that race going away. We've been nipping at their heels. We're not too far away. But we're also not content to be nipping at anybody's heels.
There's a big push from all four of us on the team to keep moving forward, to get back to a more dominant position.
Q</I>: Marco, could you talk about being here. Are you here to have fun? Do you feel a need to prove that you deserve to have a ride? What is your overall feeling about being here?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I'm definitely excited to, I say, finally be here. I'm only 19. I'm definitely happy and ready to get going. I'm not really worried about trying to fulfill anybody's expectations toward me because I think mine are pretty high for myself.
I think we have a decent shot. The good thing it's a long month, but a lot of it's been rained out so far. I'm definitely looking forward to qualifying. Hopefully we have the speed that we're looking for; then we go to the race.
Q</I>: Bryan, could you give us an assessment of what you've seen from Marco. I think you're the one I'll get the serious answer from.
HERTA: Really (laughter)? I thought you knew me a little better, but OK. I'll give it a shot.
Well, it's been interesting and fun to have Marco come into the team this year, for me especially, just because it brought back a lot of memories for me. Especially him being here reminded me a lot of my first year here with A.J. (Foyt). Just seeing things through his eyes, maybe some of the things you can become blase about after you do this for several years. When you see somebody coming in experiencing it for the first time, you remember how neat it is.
I think Marco has acquainted himself very, very well so far. I think he had two DNFs with failures in the drive shafts which prevented him from getting really any decent mileage. He finally got to the finish in Japan, which I know he wasn't particularly happy finishing 12th in Japan, nor would I expect him to be. I reminded him, you finished an IndyCar race now, and that's the first thing to winning one, is to finish one.
I think he's done a very good job this month. He's shown good speed. I think he's run the most laps of anybody in practice. He's doing it without making mistakes. I mean, the guy hasn't put a wheel wrong. You really can't say much more about it than that. He's doing a very, very good job.
The parts that you guys can't see are that even though he's the least experienced guy on the team, he's been able to get in there, in our engineering debriefs, talk about setup changes he's made, contribute to the setup of the whole team. It's no secret how we work. We all work together on setup of our cars. It's an open-book policy. We don't keep anything from each other. Marco has been able already to provide some good insight and setup in some of the setup changes he's done which have helped push direction in the team.
I think he's doing all the things that you'd expect of a guy with that last name to do.
Q</I>: Marco, you talked about what it would be like here for the month. What did you find on the track that was different, that you didn't expect, that surprised you?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. That's a tough question to answer. I mean, the good thing is a lot of it was expected, there were no surprises. I'm very fortunate for that. But, you know, I'm sure I have a couple headed my way in the month, especially come green flag for the race. It's going to be a lot different when everybody's out there.
Hopefully we get a good enough car underneath us to be able to make something happen.
Q</I>: Dario, Bryan, Tony, this race usually has attracted the best drivers in the world. Now because of racing schedules, some of the best drivers in the world may be in Formula One. A comment from each one of you on why you feel it's important to have an Indy 500 on your driver resume.
FRANCHITTI: I think when I first came here, I wasn't -- I was kind of underwhelmed by the whole thing. I had a very good idea of the history of the race with Jim Clark, certainly in the '60s, all the great drivers from the '70s, '80s, '90s, but really I didn't feel too strongly about it.
Going on through 2004, 2005, especially 2005, I really started to get a strong sense of what it means to try and win this race, to be a part of this race. Quite surprised by it. I think just personally it means a hell of a lot to come here for the whole month, battle against the track, 32 good other drivers.
To be part of it is one thing. To try and win it and to accomplish that, I think, would be an entirely different thing.
HERTA: There's so much history and tradition about this event, I think more than any other, it's probably the only single-race victory that means as much or more than a championship. I think still bigger than winning a Daytona 500, bigger than winning Monaco in F1. If you were going to win one race in your entire career, I think most drivers, if you were honest, this would be the one you'd want to win. You could walk into any paddock, any room, pretty much anywhere in the world, get introduced as an Indy 500 winner, people know what the significance of that is and what it means.
KANAAN: For me, Brazilians have had pretty good success here in the past. I know myself watching even Emerson win, he won back in the days, it was a big thing. Like Dario said, until I came here for the first time, first time I was in Indianapolis Motor Speedway was when I was driving. I never had been in this track before; then I understood exactly what it was.
Basically as a foreigner, when I'm going through customs trying to get into the country, they ask me what I do here. I say, IndyCars. Then you go Indianapolis. They realize what it is. That tells you how big this place is.
To win here for sure ... Obviously, I have a championship under my belt, so this is the next target, for sure.
MODERATOR: Let's introduce Michael. Thank you for joining us and bringing your very talented team. A gentleman whose legacy is secure.
The question is, what does it really mean to have an Indianapolis 500 win on your resume? Here is a guy who has a great resume that stands on its own.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Obviously, I think it would be huge. I think anybody that wins the race and has done everything else, dad, for example, the first thing they say is 1969 Indy 500 winner. That tells you something because dad has won everything there is to win in racing. That's the first thing he's known for. I think that answers it all.
MODERATOR: You've been able to put together a successful race team in an ownership capacity. What is it like to bring these different personalities and drivers together?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's been great. It's been fun. I think you said it. I think it's about the personalities, getting the right personalities into the mix, the chemistry that we've always talked about with this team since day one.
It's a very fragile thing. You have to make sure when you add somebody to it that it's going to complement it. I think that's what we've been doing; we've been able to do it over the last three years. When that happens, it's a lot of fun.
MODERATOR: We did a Q&A at Nazareth a couple years ago. You said something to me about Marco. You thought in his stage of his career, age, he was a more talented driver than you were. You also said there was a time when he stepped away, he decided to return, you would only do that under the condition that he was having fun.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Having fun and also doing it for himself.
MODERATOR: Is he having fun and doing it for himself?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think he is. I think he definitely he's. He's doing it for himself. I think his three big brothers are making sure of that, as well. I think he's been doing a fantastic job with the pressure that's been on him. He's been performing. You see him; he's right up there with all of us in times. So far, so good.
Q</I>: A bit ago Wheldon was asked, and I thought it was a smart-aleck at first --
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Do you think?
Q</I>: The question was, is Michael ready to be a challenger to win this race. Dan said, "I don't know that I've seen enough of his speed and consistency, laps yet, to know that." Most of the days you've not been quicker than Marco, but do you feel you're ready yet or do you still need more time before you're ready to win this race?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I'm ready. I think I'm real happy with the car. The car has been really good. Maybe not the fastest car out there. I think it's been one of the more consistent cars.
I know the feel you need to have a good car here, and I think we have it. If you look in my history here, I'm never been the quickest during the month of May ever. But it's race time I'm worried about. That's what I've been working on.
I'm ready. I think we need a couple more days of full-tank running. I think our car is that close. I think we're going to be a contender for the win, I really do.
Q</I>: Michael, it's one thing to hire people who are actively involved. What did it take to get Barry and Tony (Cicale) back?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: To be honest with you, Barry (Green) asked to be involved. When he heard the story that I was thinking about doing it, he asked, called Kevin Savoree, asked if he could be involved in it. That tells you something right there. I was very excited to hear him say that, wanting to be a part of it.
Tony, it only took a day to convince him. That's huge if you know Tony. That's a record. Normally it takes about two weeks.
When we were able to go that nucleus of the three of us together, I'm like, "We have a real challenger here." Then it was just to get the rest. We've been able to take a lot of people from the team, we had to add three more, I think we put together a real strong team, I really do.
Q</I>: Are you kind of curious to see how this new format works for qualifying?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: When are we ever going to do that? It's a shame. I think it will be a great format. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to get a chance to get the most out of it again. It's a bummer because I think it would be pretty exciting for the fans, for sure. I know for us, we hate to think there's a chance we'd have to go out three times in a day with these cars on the edge. It's not fun. For the fans, I think it would be good.
Q</I>: Michael, do you have questions about getting back in the car in terms of things that you need to do? Do you need to do things to remind yourself you can still do them?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No. I think the questions were maybe at the start of the month on Sunday first few laps. How is it going to be? After the first run, I was like, "OK, I feel just the way I did when I left."
No, I have no questions. I know that I myself can get the job done. We just got to try to get the rest of the combination together. I think we have a good shot, like I said before.
Q</I>: Marco, Rick Mears was in here yesterday talking about his opinion that qualifying here was the most pressure-packed thing he ever did. Waiting out these rain delays, you've never gone through it before, do you think it may work to your advantage that you don't know what you're in for, it's easier for you to wait, or is it harder?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, I don't know. I think everybody just wants to get going, sort of get it done. I mean, even in Japan I didn't get a lot of track time. We pretty much went right to the race. I don't know, it's definitely going to be a nerve-wracking four laps for me. Hopefully I only have to do it once. I've actually, to be honest, been running more on the edge in practice than I'm hopefully going to be in qualifying because dad is right there with me in the times, and his car is comfortable, so that tells me I can do it comfortably. That's what we're going to try to be able to do, sort of less on the edge than I've been running.
MODERATOR: Michael, you were nodding on that comment with the nerve-wracking.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Qualifying is the worst. As a driver, there's nothing more pressure-filled than qualifying day. To put four laps together, have it right on the edge, they're the hairiest laps you're probably going to run all month. It's just a huge relief once you get the car in the field. The race is downhill, the rest is downhill. That's the way it's been for me, anyway.
Q</I>: Would you like to see a second race each year here on the road circuit?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. I think one of the beauties of Indianapolis is the tradition that it carries. I don't know if we need to do anything to taint that in any way.
MODERATOR: Dario, are you in agreement with that?
FRANCHITTI: I would love to see more road courses in the series, for sure. But I totally agree with Michael on that. I think this race, Bryan actually said it earlier, it's bigger than the whole rest of the season put together. We've got to keep that.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming in. We appreciate it.