IRL: Michael Andretti, Tony Kanaan press conference, part I

Indy Racing League Press Conference Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan Jan. 14, 2002 Part 1 of 3 Kimberly Miller (IRL): Thank you very much, and thank you to all the journalists who have joined us today for the first teleconference of the 2003...

Indy Racing League Press Conference Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan
Jan. 14, 2002

Part 1 of 3

Kimberly Miller (IRL): Thank you very much, and thank you to all the journalists who have joined us today for the first teleconference of the 2003 season. We would like to welcome today two drivers from the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan. Late last year the team announced the formation of Andretti Green Racing, which would field three cars full time in the IndyCar Series in 2003. The three drivers, Michael Andretti, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. Today we have Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan with us, because they just completed their first test in the new IndyCar Series equipment for 2003. They completed the test late last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway where we will also have the season opener for the IndyCar Series. Michael, let's start with you. First of all, thank you for taking the time to join us and welcome.

Michael Andretti: My pleasure. Thank you for having us.

Miller: Talk to us a little bit about the 2003 equipment. This was your first time back in an Indy Racing League car since the Indy 500 last year, but it is a completely different car for you, different engine, different chassis, so tell us how it felt.

Andretti: Extremely good, really happy with the changes that the IRL made. Comparing the old car to the new car it is a big difference. You know with the new gearbox that they have along with having the engine, the Honda engine being lower in the car, gave the care a lot better feel. It feels more like a race car is supposed to whereas the old IRL car had a bit of wallowy feeling in it where now I would compare the 2003 IRL car to say a CART car of the mid '90s the way the car is felt. And to me that was when the formula of CART was the best for racing. So I think that bodes well for what it is going to happen this year I think in the series. I think it is going to be a really good package for racing.

Miller: Your team will be competing with the Dallara chassis and the Honda engines. Tony, this was your first time in a Dallara chassis. In the past you have ran with the G Force. Talk to us a little bit about your feelings on the chassis and engine.

Tony Kanaan: Well, it was a very good pleasure to be here and to be part of your first teleconference. So that tells us something. But that (inaudible) is obviously Michael in the first day and then set up the car as good as could be. So for me it was much easier to just get in and drive around. It definitely has a lot more down force than I felt last year with the G Force, but obviously we are expecting every year they are improving the car. The engine felt great. The Honda guys, I think, are doing a pretty good job for the amount of time that they have had. So feels good. I think obviously we still have a lot of work to do, but the first impression went actually really well. It was good. The car felt great.

Miller: And Michael, this was your first time to test as a team owner and driver. Talk to us of how that felt and what kind of thoughts go through your head as an owner and how that is different from as a driver?

Andretti: It is quite different, I have to say. Now when you go down there, your responsibilities are much different. When you are a driver, all you just really have to worry about is driving, and that is it. But now with so many other things that occupy your time, and you are concerned with things a lot differently than you normally, are and it was unique experience, but a good experience. I was very happy with it. I really enjoyed the way it went. It was fun even sitting around and watching Tony run the next day and things. So I am looking forward to it, looking forward to a new challenge. It was a good experience.

Miller: Well I think we must be having some technical difficulty. While we are waiting, Tony, let's go back to you for a minute. Having a chance to test at Miami with numerous other teams, well actually for Michael and Tony both, there were a lot of teams testing there. Does that give you a good opportunity to kind of see what other people are running and get a feel for what the competition is going to be like next year?

Kanaan: Well definitely, but again, it is still pretty early to say anything with everybody's almost first test ever with the new car. So a lot of people are still getting used to the cars and still getting, just running around to see if everything works. So it is hard to say, "Oh, yes, we are the quickest all the time, so we are going to be the best when we get back there." You know we still have several months before the season starts, and people have a lot of time to work on the cars. But definitely it is always good to have people with you and is running with you so you can gauge yourself. And obviously I guess between me and Mike that we decided to stop the test early because in comparison to everybody else we look pretty decent. And if there wasn't anybody there we will never know if that was a good lap time or not. So definitely, it is, you know, users improved and then it cost them to say, "OK, we have a good starting point, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Miller: Michael, what are your thoughts on the competition in 2003?

Andretti: Oh, I think it is going to be so, so tough. It could be the most competitive season in my career. You look at the teams and the level of professionalism in each team and the drivers, I think it is going to be a really competitive year, along with I think it is going to be a fun year. I think the cars are going to be fun to drive, and I think there is going to be a lot of passing and a lot of side-by-side racing, and I just think it is going to be a banner year for IndyCar (Series) racing.

Miller: I see on my computer screen here we may have the technical difficulties worked out. Operator, are you with us now?

Andretti: Maybe not.

IRL: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session.

Q: Looking forward to seeing you on track this year. Can you talk a little bit about, you said you like the idea of being an owner/driver. It felt like a unique experience. In the past some guys who have been owner/drivers have had problems with it in terms of trying to spread themselves too thin. How are you going to handle that and make sure that doesn't happen to you so you can still concentrate on your race driving?

Andretti: I think that is a real challenge. And to be honest with you, I do not know yet. I was asked right after the test how I felt and at that point I felt like it is going to work OK. But then there is all the follow-up work that has to go into it and everything, and then you start seeing that is a lot of work, and it is taking away from my commitment of the driving. So that is something I have to weigh, and right now I am having problem with it in my mind, but I am working with it. And so I really have not made a decision yet what I am going to do the rest of the year from Indianapolis on because there is the rumor out there that I may retire after that. It is a possibility, but I still have not made a decision yet. But it is tough. It is different. I do not want to be out there driving if I cannot give it 110 percent. And that is what I have to weigh right now on whether I can do both, and I have not really decided yet if I can yet.

Q: As a follow-up; what is going to make the decision whether you retire or continue as a driver?

Andretti: What is going to make the decision really is if I really feel I can do both effectively. I cannot have anything take away from my driving in any way. And if I feel like it is that is when I have to really look at it. So right now I am currently thinking through all those things, and I have to make a decision soon for the team. We are just weighing all those things right now.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Yes, for Michael. Michael, along the same lines I was wondering if you were committed to racing at Texas Motor Speedway, the race after Indy? That seems to be the cut-off point, unfortunately. You did not race there back in the CART days. You could not race there. I just wondered if you felt you had unfinished business there.

Andretti: Yes, well I think if I were to do the whole season obviously that would be the first race that I will do after Indy. But I really have not made a decision yet. I think the racing at Texas is great. I mean you looked at that last race the end of the year last year was just incredible, and I think the track makes for some great racing. And it is just a shame what happened there a couple years ago with CART because it was just one of those deals where technology was a little too far ahead with the speeds, and I think we found (Inaudible) driver. But I think the IRL is on it that they are not going to let the speeds get out of hand and it is going to be OK for us to have a good race there. So if I continue, obviously I will be down there. I would like to. I think the fans in Texas were great. They had a tough time there. But they were out there really supporting the event, and I know they come down there and really support the Indy cars as well. I am looking forward to getting down there. Whether I will be a driver or not, I do not know. I think in any way it is going to be a good event for me.

Q: Thanks much.

Q: Good morning. Sort of two parts. First of all, Michael, can you tell me if you, the IRL, is as strong now as CART was just before the split? And second of all, how much is racing at Indy and perhaps finally winning your first Indy 500? How much does that play into the switch from CART?

Andretti: To answer your question, I think IRL is getting there. I do not think open-wheel racing is still at the health that it was before the split. But I believe it is all going in the right direction in the IRL side. I really feel that that momentum's there for this series to (Inaudible) to moon. I think you look at the level of competition now, you look at the racing that they have been putting on, and you can see the fan base is increasing, getting better and better. So I am hoping that we will get to the point where we were before the split and go beyond that because that is the goal, I think. And so that is what we are all going to work toward. As for me, is that the reason why I switched because I want to win Indy? Well, I want to win Indy, and if I would not have done the switch, I still would have done Indy. I want to win Indy real bad. I mean that is one of the things that we have not been able to achieve in my career, and so we have a lot of desire to do it. But that was not the main reason for the switch. The main switch was for one is that is where we feel the momentum of open-wheel racing is going along with that is where our sponsors wanted to be, along with that is where the manufacturers are going, our great partner of Honda. So in other words, many factors there and (Inaudible) decision.

Q: When I mentioned the IRL just before the split or CART just before the split, I should say, IRL now has pretty much all the star power that CART used to have just before that. Is that your assessment?

Andretti: Yes. That is absolutely my assessment along with one thing: They also have Indianapolis still. I think if you look at that, that is where a lot of momentum is as well as a lot of the sponsors have gone that way, along with manufacturer support. So there are so many things that are positive right now for the IRL.

Q: Thank you very much. Good luck.

Q: Michael, you do now want your ownership responsibilities to interfere with your driving responsibilities. Would you consider backing off your ownership responsibilities to continue driving or is--?

Andretti: My future in racing is ownership. So that is where my real commitment is going to be because I want to make this team one of the best teams out there, if not the best, and that is my goal. So that is where I am going to put my real effort. So if I cannot do that and drive at the same time, then that is where I am going to have a problem, and at that moment, the driving is the thing that I will probably give up only because I know that I am getting to the end there anyway. So that is where I am at.

Q: And one more thing. Do you have a test at Phoenix later on this month?

Andretti: Yes, we will be there February 7th and 8th, I believe.

Q: Oh, for the Open Test.

Andretti: For the Open Test.

Q: No private test before then?

Andretti: Nope.

Q: Thanks, Michael.

Andretti: Yes.

Part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan