IRL: Indy 500: Pole winning team press conference

89th INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT -- MBNA POLE Sunday, May 15, 2005 Andretti Green Racing: Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti, Kim Green, Kevin Savoree MODERATOR: If you could, Michael, talk about the entire day. You have four ...

89th INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT -- MBNA POLE
Sunday, May 15, 2005

Andretti Green Racing: Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti, Kim Green, Kevin Savoree

MODERATOR: If you could, Michael, talk about the entire day. You have four drivers, all talented. You have to balance the needs of all. Interesting situation.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was an interesting day, for sure. You know, it was just so interesting for us as a team because I think each driver had their own scenario and own problems and own things we had to look at. So, you know, it was jumping from one to the next. Sometimes it was a little confusing. I think in the end we did the right decisions on all four cars. You know, I think it was a pretty good day.

Unfortunately, you know, we didn't get the other three cars quite where we thought we were going to get them. But to get Tony up there, especially after, you know, two years ago when he was knocked off right in the end by Helio, we were feeling a little de'ja vu there for a second. But when we saw Helio's first two laps, it made us feel a lot better and relieved. I was so happy for Tony because it was a long day for him.

MODERATOR: Kim, one of the things that not only Dario said, but it's been a constant theme really all day, some very talented drivers have come in here and said, "We've tried everything we can on this car, and we don't really understand why we can't get it to go quicker." Dario said that sometimes these cars go quick and we're not quite sure why, then it falls away and we don't know why. We're talking about experienced people here. From your end, that's got to be frustrating, as well.

KIM GREEN: I think perhaps more so for the drivers and the engineers, because I certainly don't understand what's going on sometimes out there with the speeds. The race cars are very, very sensitive to the conditions. We're certainly a touch frustrated with both Bryan's and Dan's car at the moment, we seem to have lost our way a little bit with those two race cars at the moment. And Tony really early in the week found a sweet spot for his race car, and we tried not to change it too much.

Nevertheless, it was difficult to get consistent -- a consistent run of four laps together. Very difficult to do that. You know, I think he did a great job putting the run together he did. He perhaps went a little too quick too early. His average could have been a little bit better.

But Dario kept tweaking on his race car and getting it a little bit better, a little bit more consistent. I actually thought he would go a little bit faster. He had a run there at one point that was actually quicker than Tony's when we were practicing. Maybe there was some air movement from some other race cars that influenced it.

But, no, great effort by the team. You know, I think this qualifying system has a lot of merit. If we'd been in the 11-car situation yesterday, it would have been a lot of fun for the fans, a lot of pressure for us, and I think even today with the 22 cars locked in and the fight as well for that front row. Mr. Penske never gives up trying, and he made it very difficult till the end there.

It's been a big challenge for all the teams, and certainly from our perspective, for us, total satisfaction would be four very consistent fast race cars. We've still got some work to do for race car, but really a fast day.

MODERATOR: Kevin, last year your team got Tony Kanaan out front. Tony put together that remarkable string of top-five runs. It looks like your team kind of marshaled their forces around him and said, "This is the guy that has to run at the championship." Dan has been the guy hot to begin this year. I suspect at least from a team perspective, unfinished business begins with this trophy, but it begins with the face on a much bigger one out there. Talk about how you feel as you come into this event. You had all the momentum in the world. Man, they could either go with you or against you in a hurry.

KEVIN SAVOREE: Maybe some of that Boston Red Sox upset is going to rub off on us. Mike was never able to get a pole here, I guess. You know, this is the first time for Andretti Green to get one of those trophies. I know we're so proud of our guys and the job that they did. I mean, we've just got a great organization from top to bottom.

You know, certainly Tony is the reigning champion, but we've got a lot of resources behind all four guys and they're all great efforts. I think a little bit was, you know, just -- today was Tony's day. You know, obviously it's great for him to get the job done.

MODERATOR: Questions.

Q: Michael, Tony put up some pretty impressive laps earlier in the week. But it seemed all anybody was interested in talking about was Danica. Was that a situation you liked, having the spotlight on somebody else?

ANDRETTI: I don't know. We didn't really think about it. We were just doing our own thing. I think having Danica up there is great for the series, you know. I think she's done a fantastic job. I think she's earned a lot of respect from everybody. So I think it was good for the sport in general to have her up there.

But for us, we didn't really think about it. I think we're doing our own program, and that was it. We felt good about what we were doing, and that's all we needed to do.

Q: Michael, as Kevin touched upon, you came here so many times with competitive machinery, led a lot of laps. Now as co-owner of a top team, where does it stand ticking off one of the goals of having a pole? What does that do as an owner?

ANDRETTI: This is a big step, you know. I think winning the pole here is something that's very difficult to do. As you said, I've never been able to do it in my career. And now we got one big goal yet, and that is to win it. You know, I think more people have won this race from the pole position, so hopefully this is a good omen.

You know, we're looking forward to it. I think all four drivers are really looking forward to the race. I can tell you, I think they're all four relieved to get this day over with and now just focus on that. I think we're going to be ready, you know, to go and try to get our face on that trophy, or one of our drivers' faces on that trophy.

Q: This hasn't been the easiest month for Andretti Green Racing because of the accident that occurred in San Francisco, with two of your longest-lived employees. How do you rally around this and how do you overcome these difficulties? Has this been something that's motivated the rest of the crew?

GREEN: Well, I think everybody's -- Tino Belli is our technical director, Scott Graves director of engineering, both had a pretty horrific car accident. There was two other engineers in the accident, as well. Bryan Herta's engineer got a broken collarbone and Brian Page, who is an assistant. But everybody just picked up a little bit of extra work. Both Tino and Scott couldn't go to Japan and have been on sort of partial work since we got back from Japan. They play important roles on our race team, in our engineering department.

Everybody's just tried to pick up a little bit extra and take some of the load from some of those guys. But they've been out here every day, and by the time the end of the day is over, they're pretty worn out. But, you know, I think the strength of our team is the teamwork that goes on. And engineering is a very close-knit group. I think they work very, very well together and help each other where they're needed.

Q: Michael, when you talk about, as others have, about Danica being good for the sport, being up there, good for the series, did that feeling extend to when you saw her car wiggle a little bit on that first lap and saw that it was going to be a flawed lap? Did that feeling extend to being disappointed a little bit for her or a little bit of a thrill of she's going to have a flawed lap?

ANDRETTI: Had she not done that, I mean, I think we could have been in trouble. I think she had a good shot at knocking Tony off. You know, when we saw that, it was a little bit of relief. Then I thought, you know what, they're going to run it again. I really thought they would. I was really quite surprised they didn't, which I was a little relieved.

But from a selfish standpoint, you know, we were sort of happy to see that.

Q: Michael and Kim, this month we've seen a couple of flying cars. Obviously, for you that's pretty close to the heart because you've seen that before. A comment from you about the cars flying. Then also from Kim, if there's anything that can be done. Is it because the cars are so finely balanced now?

ANDRETTI: No, I think it's just been a freak deal. The one with Sam, he just hit a big piece on the racetrack. I mean, that's going to happen. It would have happened any other time. Once you get the front end of any car with that sort of surface, it's going to grab and it's going to flip over. I mean, it's just the way it is. I don't think there's anything you can do with that, I really don't.

You know, as for, who was it, Briscoe's, it was, again, when you're going backward and you have the thing propped up under a tire, it's going to catch air. I don't know how you're going to stop that. That's the nature of the business, unfortunately, I think.

MODERATOR: I want to acknowledge the arrival of the pole winner for this year's Indianapolis 500, Tony Kanaan. Congratulations, Tony.

TONY KANAAN: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Dario reported you spent quite a bit of time with your head in your hands back in the engineering room. So it must have been a long, long, long period.

KANAAN: Yeah, it was. It was a long day. My boss on my left here draw a pretty early number for me, so I had to wait all day. So I think it was -- I mean, it was a long day, but I think was good for the fans and exciting for everybody out there. Obviously, nerve-wracking for us.

But we're here for them. I was excited even if I was concerned that I could probably lose the pole. But that last 45 minutes was really, I mean, I told Kim, I'm probably going to have to check my heart tomorrow morning because it was tough.

Q: Michael, Kim talked about how the car stayed in a pretty good groove. How tough was that to do the last couple of days with the change in weather? And, Tony, kind of pick up on that, as well. What was your feeling when you realized you didn't have to go back on the track, you were able to take your helmet off?

ANDRETTI: To answer the question, I think that's where experience came in. We didn't panic. Tony, especially, he was really good and cool about it. He's like, "I know we're not quick today" on Thursday when it was hot. We're not going to touch the car because we know we have a good one. It was just conditions caught us out. That's basically what they did. When the conditions were like they were today, it came right to his car. You know, I think that was where experience came in, and it was a right move.

Q: Tony?

KANAAN: What was the question?

Q: What was it like when you realized you didn't have to go back out?

KANAAN: I think the team helped me out a lot, including my teammates. We had a problem -- not a problem, but we felt we weren't quick enough on Friday. Then was actually experienced a little bit of problem on Thursday. We didn't panic at all because this place can change so much. I don't have a lot of experience in this place, but I had some that I haven't changed my car from one day to the other. And all of a sudden I'm quick, and all of a sudden I'm slow.

Talking to Michael and Kim and people that been here a lot, we didn't panic. We said, "We're not going to change anything. We'll find out the day that we have to find out," which was going to be this morning. And this morning felt good. We made a couple little adjustments. You know, it was going to be what it was going to be. That's what we did.

On the second part, it was relief, for sure. I had my fingers crossed, and I almost broke both of them inside the race car like that, trying to hide from everybody, right, because I don't want anybody to see. But it was a relief when Kim told me, "OK, you can get out of the car." I still didn't believe because I saw another Penske car in front of me. I didn't know if it was Hornish or if it was Helio's car. I didn't even look at my watch to see if it was 6 o'clock or not. But he asked me to get out. As he's the boss, I said, "OK, I'll get up."

It was a big relief, for sure. I definitely had my heart going as quick as if I was putting the qualifying lap together, just sitting there in the pits waiting for 6 o'clock.

Q: Your resume now has the IRL series championship and an Indy 500 pole. Can you put this in perspective?

KANAAN: Well, yeah, I think there's more than that. When I got hired by this team, I think they had a lot of trust on me. I hadn't come with a good results in my career up until that point. I mean, I wasn't that impressed. I had the one Lights championship. So they put a lot of faith on me.

The best thing I could have done for them, it was what we've been doing. I mean, I have the pleasure of gave them the first pole position. I gave them the first win, the first championship, the first Indianapolis pole. So we're getting pretty short on the list (laughter). Hopefully we get the big one and then we go and try to do the second one and the third one. We're on the way.

I got to thank them to really put up with me because sometimes I'm not an easy guy. Kim can tell you all about that later.

Q: Tony, Bryan Herta said earlier this week that the race -- this is a race where generally the fastest car finds its way to the front and it often wins. The key is to have the fastest car. After today, you've got the fastest car. Talk little bit about the advantage that is to be able to know that.

KANAAN: Well, the fastest car today not necessarily is going to be a fast race car. So we're working on that. I think it's a good baseline, it's a good start. It's a good place to start, for sure. I mean, nobody in front of you, so you can get out of trouble easier.

We got to work. I think we have a great organization between the four of us drivers. We do know what we want. We had collected some information this past week for race setup, as well. Bet you they already back there working on it. Tomorrow morning we start working on the race setup. When we go back on the track on Wednesday, we'll see.

But not necessarily the fast car wins all the time. You know, got to get through traffic, got to get a lot of things right for you. This guy over here, he can tell you all about that, too (referring to Michael Andretti). We're just going to have to work hard because my teammates are going to be really hard to beat, as well.

Q: Tony, do you think things are coming together to the point, being on the pole, with a few years of experience here now, that this could be the year? What gives you the confidence to believe this could be the year?

KANAAN: I don't know. I think with the team having a good momentum since last year, I just think that, you know, every year is the year. I think every year that I come here is the year. I finished third two years ago, second last year. You know, maybe this is the year. Maybe this is not. I think Michael had every year, this was his year, and he never got it. It's so difficult to predict.

I do feel very good. I think we got a great momentum between the four of us. The team is working very well together. So we just got to keep doing. I mean, this team has won four out of the -- three out of the last four races. I have to say, yes, we have a good momentum going, so we try to keep that.

Q: Tony, to ask you what I asked Mike, what were your thoughts when you saw Danica's car wiggle a little bit in the first corner and realized she was going to have a flawed lap? Were you disappointed for her or was there a thrill there?

KANAAN: Sure (laughter). I said, "Oh, they should give her another try."

I guess it was her problem to catch her car, really. What can I say? She is a very strong -- a very good race car driver. She was a very strong contender for the pole. I saw that. I thought she did a really good job of catching it. That's talent. That's nothing else. Once goes that way, man, I mean, you just pray because you don't know what's going to happen.

But to tell you that I felt sorry for her, I mean...

Q: Was it a thrill?

KANAAN: No. I never do that. I never celebrate when people make mistakes or crash or whatever because I think if I want to win, I want to win from the best and beat the best. If I want to be the best guy today, I want to be the best because everybody had a try, and they didn't succeed. I mean, otherwise what fun is that? We still can feel good, but she made a mistake, I didn't, and that's the way you win races, that's the way you win pole positions.

Q: Tony, you were joking you were going to have a beer while you waited. How did you actually kill your time for those five hours?

KANAAN: Bugging Kim and Michael and Kevin and everybody (laughter). Just try to make something up. Walking around. I mean, just try to kill time.

I remember one point I looked at the clock, it was 4. I'm like, "Great, just two hours to go." I'm there. So it felt like 50 minutes later. I looked, it was 4:05. I'm like, "This is going to be a long day."

And then one point, some of my teammates were struggling, so we went back to the engineer room and I tried to see if I could do anything for them. So we talked about it. We share a little bit. That killed a little bit more time, too. I went to cheer for Dario when he went out in qualifying. I wanted to wish him luck. Just really try to get your mind out of it.

Q: How much more intense would this format have been if they had been able to run yesterday, slugging it out with 11 cars instead of down to 22?

KANAAN: I don't know. I think it was pretty exciting today. I would say if I had to choose, I would go 22 cars in the same day because it was very exciting. I can't tell you about if they had done different because we haven't done it.

Q: Michael?

ANDRETTI: I think for Tony, it probably wouldn't have mattered because I think he was in the position he was in. For us, with the four cars, I think it would be a little more nerve-wracking, for sure.

Q: Kim or Michael, after Dario's practice lap this morning, everyone seemed really happy and really excited. I kind of caught the feeling that you thought maybe he'd be the guy on the pole today. After he went out in that first attempt, had to come back in, he told us he had a fuel cell problem, did you feel going into that that he might have been the guy, perhaps not Tony?

GREEN: Well, I think over the last couple days, perhaps Tony's car has been a touch more consistent over a six-lap run. Obviously, today was a seven-lap run. You know, Dario I think was only a tweak or two away from knocking Tony off pole position today because he has been fast all week.

Obviously, a lot of speeds out there are from drafting. The additional little wickers they made us put on our rear wing endplates this month makes a big difference in the draft. They don't become very effective, so therefore you pick up a lot of speed in the draft. A lot of the speed you see out there, obviously if you can see a race car on the straightaway ahead of you, you are getting some help. The sessions today when there are a lot of cars on the track, there is a fair amount of air turbulence that helps you.

But I honestly thought Dario was going to go and knock this guy off the pole in his last qualifying run. I was surprised to see he didn't quite get it done. But really the cars are, again, so sensitive that he was only a small adjustment away from doing that.

Q: Dario said going out three times today was nerve-wracking. During the day, Tony, did you have any desire to go out and practice and see what was missing? Were you bugging anybody on your team about going out and practicing?

KANAAN: Kim can answer that. I was bugging him all the time. At one point I said, "Should we go out just to see?"

He goes, "No."

"OK."

Then I go to Mike, maybe Michael can change Kim's mind. "Mike, what do you think?"

"I don't know." Kevin would see me and just run away (laughter).

I guess, yeah, I definitely wanted to. You know, I wanted to see what I had because we got in a point basically towards the end that I was going to have to go without knowing how my car was. My car was good at 12:00, but I didn't know how it was going to behave at 5:30.

They kept running away from me and I was panicking a bit. They kept me calm, I think. That's the great combination that we have here, you know, when somebody's panicking, the other one is calm, and the other way around, too. It worked pretty well.

Q: Tony, come race day, what is the biggest advantage in your mind starting up front and starting from the pole?

KANAAN: Having clean air, setting up the pace, going into turn one hopefully without anybody in front of you. That's all. Because after that, after the green flag drops, it's all about who has the best car, who gets the clean day in the pits, gets to the end.

So just having the advantage not maybe to get in trouble on the start.

Q: For the owners, obviously you have a situation that we've talked about where you pulled together, it's been so important to your success. In any good organization, internal competition is also good. You have some very talented race car drivers. You appear to have a couple of race drivers, one that is very happy, one that's reasonably happy, and a couple that may not be so happy. How do you deal with that internally? That would strike me as something that is a little bit difficult to juggle.

ANDRETTI: I think it is, but I think they're real, and they know if their teammates are up there, that eventually as a team we're going to find out what their problem is and how we're going to get them up there.

I think it would be even more of a lost feeling if you were the only one on your team and you were lost. At least you know you have information to go by from the other guys to hopefully improve.

I think it's a positive having that, you know, because I think the higher ones help bring up, you know, the low, and then maybe the low brings the other one down to a little more reality, too (laughter). It keeps it at a good balance.

KANAAN: I don't want to go back to the locker room right now, believe me (laughter).

I think Michael is right. Obviously, they're not happy, but they are in a way that I don't feel that they are mad at me. They're not mad. They're just mad of the situation, whatever happened to their car that day. That's why we've been putting this team together the way it is, because every single one of them came to congratulate me. And I know wasn't just a fake congratulations.

You know, right now they get all my data, I get all their data, we put it together, and we'll find out why. You know, it's a 500-mile race. You can win from last. So they're not giving up at all. I mean, now, you know what, they going to chase me all the time because I'm there in the front. But they going to be up there.

GREEN: I think right now, in fact, his three teammates are probably looking for a giant cake that might end up in his face. They're probably not working on their race cars at all. They're probably looking to do something to Mr. Kanaan when he gets back to the garage.

Q: We know nobody has ever picked on anybody else.

ANDRETTI: Never (laughter).

MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys.

-ims-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Kim Green