IRL: Michigan: Top-three finishers press conference (part 2)

Continued from part 1 Q: Did you run through any of the debris when Manning lost his wing on the last two laps coming out of four? TONY KANAAN: I didn't even see debris. People asked me about it. I think I was busy following Buddy. DAN ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Did you run through any of the debris when Manning lost his wing on the last two laps coming out of four?

TONY KANAAN: I didn't even see debris. People asked me about it. I think I was busy following Buddy.

DAN WHELDON: It was off the track.

Q: Maybe when you went by, just air turbulence.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, might have been just some small stuff. From a driver's standpoint, it was well off the track.

TONY KANAAN: I didn't even see it.

DAN WHELDON: You were going too fast.

TONY KANAAN: I would be pissed. Now that you tell me, I'm mad (laughter). It was a big one, then. Should go yellow.

Q: How much fuel did you have left?

TONY KANAAN: I wish I would know. If I knew this, I think I would have won the race. I don't know. The car went to tech, so we will know probably tonight. But I don't think we're going to be allowed to say it.

DAN WHELDON: I don't think anybody finished with much, though.

TONY KANAAN: Let me put it this way. I made it back to the pits. So if I was really close, I would run out in the racetrack.

Q: Talk about the Honda dominance.

TONY KANAAN: Pretty impressive. What can I say? I mean, Honda again, one, two, three. I need to thank them for the great job. They make it tough on me because the guy that's second and third in the championship, they all have the same engine. So it's making my life a lot harder.

But, you know, I'm always proud of those guys. They were a big part of my decision when I came to this series. Heads up for them.

Q: You were battling with Tomas Scheckter for a while there.

TONY KANAAN: He was challenging. But I tell you, I was saving fuel. I was in the mixture that I probably run under the yellow. But I have to say he was strong, he was bugging a lot of people back there, being a lap down, including myself.

It was a shame, I don't know which problem he had, probably twice, because I saw him stop afterwards. But he looked pretty strong. I would say, you know, everybody's stepping up. I think that's the way it was going to be really. We never expect to dominate. As a team standpoint, I think Honda also expecting is everybody to step up.

You know, it was good to see him back here, and I think he was strong all weekend, too. Unfortunately, didn't go his way.

Q: Is that the fastest car you've ever had?

TONY KANAAN: I had some pretty good cars this year. But, yeah. I mean, if you look the races that I won, apart from Nashville, I dominated. Yeah, for sure.

The race ended up a fuel-mileage race, which I'm really not happy about it. If I had won the race, I would be happy. It is the way it is. But racing shouldn't be about fuel mileage; racing should be racing. It should be about racing. You should be able to race to the end.

But I don't think it's anybody's fault. You know, we kept it green for so long. Everybody stayed out of trouble, which was awesome, I think. It was just one of those days.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

TONY KANAAN: Sorry about my bad mood.

MODERATOR: We're joined by race winner Buddy Rice. Again, those that were here earlier heard this, but this was the fourth fastest race in history at 182.123 mph. It is the ninth straight Honda victory. Six of those have been a 1-2 finish or better.

Buddy, tell us about your day.

BUDDY RICE: I think that for what we were going for, we knew it was going to be a long race, it was going to be a mental race. You know, we had worked on a lot on full tanks. We didn't concentrate nearly as hard on our qualifying setup as we have in the past because we knew how long we were going to be in big packs. So we wanted to make sure we were super strong as we were at Indy and some of these other places we have been. We weren't overly concerned with qualifying.

But I think for everything, it worked out. Scott Roembke, Todd Boland, the whole engineering staff, for their fuel strategy and setup and everything they were able to do, it just all played out to exactly what we were looking for.

I mean, we knew Tony was going to be strong. He'd been strong all weekend. We were just going to have to wait and see how it was going to play out in the last 20 laps. Obviously, it came down to a bit of a fuel race. We obviously had saved more than he had. When it came down to it and we needed to run full rich, we were able to go and run up front and drive away.

Q: He (Kanaan) said his crew had a pretty good fight before you finally got by him.

BUDDY RICE: I have no idea what was said in their pits or what their strategy was. You could tell he was on more or less the same thought process as me. I mean, I could watch him back up a little bit at times.

You can see, I think we've all ran together long enough, can you see what somebody else is doing pretty obviously when they start to try to save fuel. We've done that. We've seen in it in the past.

So I was definitely looking for it. No, I have no idea if they told him to move over or whatever. Obviously, they felt they had the car that could beat us, so they wanted to run behind us. I don't know. That's just the way it plays out.

Q: Were there were times when he was leading so many laps that you were content with letting him lead?

BUDDY RICE: I wasn't concerned one bit with where I was sitting at. It's not like I couldn't run and do what I wanted to. I just needed to stay right where I was at.

Q: Was this a little bit like Indy? After that one pit stop, you had to come back in the field forward. You weren't saving fuel there, were you? You did have to put the hammer down in the middle of the race?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah. But we knew the car was so good, I was still actually saving fuel. We weren't even running full tilt on anything. That's why when we got up there, it wasn't going to be an issue. I think that's what (someone) was asking about earlier, if I could run full rich, I could run all the way up. We didn't do that. We needed to save fuel and still climb to the front. So I went to the high side, sat up against the wall, and drove around everyone on the high side.

There were obviously some cars that were quite strong on fresh tires. But as tires wore on, they started to back up a little bit.

Q: Clearly Andretti Green doesn't like you guys being short on fuel. Didn't even look like it was close. You guys had plenty. Did you cut it close at all on that last stint?

SCOTT ROEMBKE: No. I don't know why they think we were going to be out of fuel because they had the same motor we have. We gave Buddy the numbers he needed to work with. Our whole deal was we were going to save fuel until the lap we could give him full rich until the end of the race. You know, that lap came. We went to full rich. A half lap later, we were P1.

I think it's obviously harder for Tony. Tony had a tougher job because he's leading the thing. He's not going to get as good of mileage as we are being right behind him. That's probably the difference. I mean, it's tough to save fuel and lead the race. I'm sure there were several times he was trying to get out of the lead this morning, but there were no takers.

But we had plenty of fuel in the end.

Q: Buddy, the IRL doesn't have a triple crown. If they did, you're already two legs up on it. How does it feel to win Indy, then win here?

BUDDY RICE: Well, I guess if there is a triple crown, I guess that's good.

SCOTT ROEMBKE: Just want to win them all.

BUDDY RICE: Scott just said, "All we want to do is win everything." That's what we're here to do. The whole goal right now is to make sure we bring this championship to Rahal Letterman and the manufacturers' championship to Honda. With the other cars in the Honda family, we're definitely on our way to making sure that Honda gets the manufacturers' award right now.

We have another manufacturer we need to be concentrating on and that's for (Panoz) G Force.

Without all the help of everybody involved, it wouldn't be happening right now. I think that's what's making not only the Indy and the big tracks where we're at so fast, it's just everything has kind of come together.

I think also there's nothing short of saying that the weather also helped us. If it had stayed overcast and cloudy, definitely it would have been a little bit more difficult, I believe, for us with the way our body is set up. But it played out today. The sun came out. It levelled the playing field once again back to where we think it was at.

But, I mean, I think when we go to Fontana, it's going to be a whole 'nother track again. It's tighter in the turns, it has less banking, it's also a lot bumpier. So it's going to play out completely different once again.

I think all three big speedways are completely different even though they're big speedways.

Q: In the '80s, Indy and Michigan were the two big races on the schedule. You're probably the first Indy winner to come back and win these in a long time. Montoya 2000. Four years.

BUDDY RICE: I don't keep up with the history numbers as much as Mr. Roembke does. He can probably rattle a whole bunch off to us.

We're going to go to Kentucky and plan on winning. We're going to go the next couple rounds after that. We'll still show up at Fontana looking for the same thing. We need to do what we came here to do: keep our head down, just keep winning races, keep running up front. It will all shake out as it needs to in the end.

Q: On 198, (Scott) Dixon and Manning got together behind you guys. Some pieces flew off of Manning's car there in Turn 4. Helio talked about having to drive around it, having to go way up on the track. Tony said he didn't see them. Did you see the debris on the track?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I saw it. But there was no yellow flag. Tony was behind me. I'm not about to lift or do anything like that. Obviously, everyone is going to run till the end. That's unfortunate for those guys to get together being teammates.

I wasn't going to change anything I was doing. Yeah, I did see it. I didn't think it was an issue. Cars got hit on the backside, we went two laps still green with debris out there, as well. Coming down to the white flag, there was no way I was going to lift.

Q: What is it about this place that lends itself to good, tight racing with your kind of cars? Is it just the number of grooves, layout, a combination? What might it be?

BUDDY RICE: What does it is this place is so big, it's wide, the rules package and the competition of the IRL, it's the whole complete package is what makes it so competitive here all the time.

I think the other series, when they ran, until they put these big parachutes behind them, they mostly ran in single-file procession. They would get big runs and pass each other. They couldn't run in packs like.

I think what IRL has done with the rules package, made it competitive for everybody, is what is key here. Obviously, the lanes. As you go up, the banking makes transitions. Obviously, some cars are so trimmed out that when you did cross the transitions, the cars got loose.

I think the biggest thing is just how wide and how long the arcs are, how long the track is with the rules package.

Q: Is this sending a message mid-season? A little bit of a message?

BUDDY RICE: I don't need to send a message. We're just here to do one thing, and that's win. That's what I was brought in to do from the start - whether I was part-time or full-time.

MODERATOR: Buddy, thank you very much. Thank you, Scott.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Buddy Rice