IRL: Michigan: Top-three finishers press conference (part 1)

IRL IndyCar Series Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway Aug. 1, 2004 Buddy Rice Scott Roembke Tony Kanaan Dan Wheldon MODERATOR: Dan, why don't you tell us about your day. DAN WHELDON: That's my intro? MODERATOR: ...

IRL IndyCar Series
Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 1, 2004

Buddy Rice
Scott Roembke
Tony Kanaan
Dan Wheldon

MODERATOR: Dan, why don't you tell us about your day.

DAN WHELDON: That's my intro?

MODERATOR: Third-place finisher. Latest David Beckham look-alike.

DAN WHELDON: I think obviously anybody that says the Indy Racing League is not the best championship in the world is a complete idiot in my book. I think that race was very, very fast. I think from a driver's standpoint, it was intense. There was a lot of side by side. Actually, there was a lot of racing three-abreast.

I think for the most part, it was pretty clean. Obviously, when you get other cars in front disturbing the air, it can upset and perhaps move a guy up into somebody else's airstream and perhaps they get pissed a little.

I think from our standpoint, I was just a little bit off Tony (Kanaan) and Buddy's (Rice) pace, so it made it difficult for me. But nonetheless, I think it was a good result from the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car.

Obviously, one of my guys got knocked down. I was amazed. The poor guy gets knocked down and only loses me two spots. I think that's pretty amazing. I'm glad Mike (Horvath) is OK.

I think a reasonable result. Obviously, the two that I needed to beat finished in front of me, so from that standpoint it's kind of disappointing. But I'm more disappointed that the team didn't secure another win.

I think Buddy and Rahal Letterman Racing are doing a very good job. You've got to give them a lot of credit for that because they're beating a strong operation.

It was an OK weekend.

Q: Did you have a third-place car or was it just a matter of skillful driving or a little bit of luck that got you up there?

DAN WHELDON: It was all driving (laughter).

No, I think, honestly, if I had a good race, the best was going to be third with the speed of certainly Tony and Buddy. So it's good from that standpoint to salvage a third-place finish.

I think from a championship standpoint, any podium finish is going to bode you well for the remaining part of the season. But just a little bit off I think maybe from a setup standpoint. I thought Honda did an excellent job again. Obviously, their cars are running up front.

I don't think we have a big advantage. I think obviously it's their perseverance in development that's really helping our team.

I mean, like I said, it was probably the best I was going to get today. I'm disappointed, though, because Buddy has three wins, so does Tony. I'm the one with two. I feel kind of left out.

Q: What is it about this place that just makes the racing seem to be right on the edge of the seat, hair trigger, real close? Is it configuration, car setup, or is it a combination of all of that?

DAN WHELDON: I think it's a combination of a lot of things. I think, obviously, the league right now, the rules package is making it, for this kind of racing on this particular track. Obviously, I think all the drivers like coming to Michigan. I think it's a great superspeedway.

But I think because it's got a lot of different grooves - I sound American when I say "grooves" (laughter). It's got a lot of different racing lines. There's probably four or five lines.

I definitely found my car better up high, so I was able to run very high. But when you can do that comfortably, you do get this side-by-side racing. I think Brian Barnhart has done a good job with the rules package. The cars are on edge but you are able to run flat out around this place. It's kind of a combination of things.

I think the competition is very tight right now so there's not much of a gap from that standpoint, so that makes it close.

It's great fun to be part of, I must say. I think if you could see everybody's face under their helmet, I think everybody would have beaming smiles - Jim Beam smiles (laughter) - some big smiles because it's very, very fun.

MODERATOR: I'm told it's the fourth fastest race in IndyCar Series history at 182.123 mph.

Q: Dan, how big of a part did the haircut in finishing in the top three today?

DAN WHELDON: It's definitely less drag, I know that much. Hey, with teammates like Kanaan, (Dario) Franchitti and (Bryan) Herta, you never know what to expect. So I'm sure they'll do something to it while I'm sleeping tonight.

But, no, I don't like the look, I have to say. I thought I used to be quite hip, but I don't feel very hip anymore.

Q: With two to go, there was contact out there, and (Darren) Manning lost his wing. Did you run through much debris on those final two laps?

DAN WHELDON: No. I saw the debris and fortunately missed it. I didn't know who it was.

But, no, we were able to stay -- it was certainly safe enough because it was actually just below the white line, so it didn't really affect the outcome of the race or put us in any danger because it was well out of the way.

Q: You didn't have contact with Manning?

DAN WHELDON: Definitely not me. I had people bouncing off me in the pit lane, but not on the track. You can tell I'm older now because I move out of the way if they get close. I must be aging. Before, I didn't mind running so close, but now I move real quick (laughter).

Q: What do you attribute to some of the stuff that happened today in pit lane?

DAN WHELDON: I've just been asked that question, actually. I think coming off the track at Turn 4, and you don't really have to slow down too much until you actually come off of the track, and consequently it's a braking zone, but I think it just opens up for people to come into the pit lane speed area side by side.

Personally, I think that's the nature of the track. I think, yeah, sure, maybe -- I don't honestly -- I think the drivers are obviously so competitive, it's so tight, that you want to make up time anywhere. I mean, I don't think the drivers can perhaps help it as much. I think what would perhaps be better is pitting off of Turn 3 with a narrow pit lane opening.

You know, I'm sure, Brian (Barnhart), he's always working on safety, and he'll try and improve that for next year.

MODERATOR: We're now joined by second-place finisher Tony Kanaan. Tony, your thoughts on today's event.

TONY KANAAN: Well, we had a strong car.

DAN WHELDON: You need a shoulder to cry on.

TONY KANAAN: I was doing my job, I did what I was told to do. Somebody asked me to let him (Rice) by. I did. So that's what happens.

Q: Does this one hurt?

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, of course, it does. I mean, right now, yes. By the time I go back home and I see I finished second, it won't. But, I mean, leading - I don't know how many laps I led, probably 180 something, and having to let somebody by because somebody's telling you on the radio that he's not going to make it, then I see the guy make it, doesn't make me very happy.

But I'm not going to point fingers at anybody. I'm a team player. I think I'm part of that, too.

Today I don't think we were very smart. I think the other team was smarter than us, so... It is what it is.

DAN WHELDON: I thought he drove a bloody good race, myself.

Q: Tony, it seemed to me in the past here that sometimes you don't want to be leading on the last lap coming out of the last corner. I don't know if you were close enough to Buddy. You were doing everything you could have done to pass him. Do you think you should have been able to get by him coming out of Turn 4?

TONY KANAAN: I tried, but couldn't make it. The outside line was slower than the inside. Reality is, I shouldn't be behind him, basically. I should be ahead, like I was the whole race.

Q: I know you don't want to point fingers, but are you going to have a discussion with team management to say, "This strategy kind of blew up in our face today"?

TONY KANAAN: I don't have to say anything. They know. And, like I said, I'm a team player. I'm not there to say, "It's your fault, it's my fault." It's our fault. I'm part of this team. I don't think I'm going to do any good to the team getting in there and say, "Hey, you guys did a bad job."

I think they did a great job. I mean, we stay in the front. We had the faster car. We led most laps. We had great pit stops.

It happens; it's racing. But definitely we need to talk about it to make sure it doesn't happen again. But, I mean, I feel as bad as them. I'm pretty sure they're not happy right now.

Q: Tony, your win here, you kind of stole one from somebody else. Today you got one stolen from you. Is it one of those, "We're even now"?

TONY KANAAN: I need to call Max Papis and tell him I know exactly the way he feels (laughter).

Yeah, I mean, this is racing. I would love to see races that every time, the best car wins. But if you go back to Nashville, I didn't have the best car, and I ended up winning. Probably Buddy felt the same way, and Dan that day, when I won.

You know, it's one of those things. It's just frustrating right now. I will get over it in a couple hours and we move on.

DAN WHELDON: He'll use his prize money to buy me dinner.

TONY KANAAN: Of course, and cut your hair again.

Q: Was this something that was discussed over the matter of a few laps or were you just told to let him by and you did it? Did it go on and on?

TONY KANAAN: They gave me a few numbers. I was making the few numbers. Buddy was putting the pressure on me. At one point they said, "They're going to turn him up, but don't worry about it." I said, "OK." So he turned up, pulls right beside me. I fight with him for a couple laps. People kept screaming in my ears not to fight with him. All right, I let him go. Here he went. That was it.

So, yeah, it was discussed in the last laps. On the back straightaway, they go, "Go full mixture as fast as you can." I'm like, "Might be too late, but I'll try."

Q: For the casual fan and observer, you still enjoy what appears to be a fairly sizable points lead for the season. Can you fall back and be satisfied with that and or do you feel this is a glitch in an otherwise successful season?

TONY KANAAN: It could be 70 points advantage right now. Right now it's, I don't know, 50 something. We feel so-so. But at the end of the day, I still think we can fight. That's the beauty of this series. You know, what looks like was an easy race for me, pretty boring probably for you guys watching me, not the guys behind, and ended up seeing how things is.

So I think it makes it pretty exciting for the fans and for the series, too. I think, you know, even myself, obviously I would love to win this championship, I would love to win as many races to go as I could.

But at the end of the day, when I watch F1 races and some other races, the drivers win championships before the end of the season. Doesn't make me feel very happy. Obviously, when you're in that position, you want to do it.

No, let's keep digging. I think that's the only way to win. You have to be there. So today was Buddy's day. We'll make sure next week and two weeks from tomorrow it's our day.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Brian Barnhart , Jim Beam