IRL: Nashville: Top-three finishers press conference

IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our second-place finisher, Sam Hornish Jr., from Marlboro Team Penske. You had a great day out...

IRL IndyCar Series
Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway
Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our second-place finisher, Sam Hornish Jr., from Marlboro Team Penske. You had a great day out there today.

SAM HORNISH JR.: Yeah, not too bad. Really been trying to get things turned around, get back up there and start getting some good finishes. The Marlboro Team Penske guys gave me awesome pit stops today, which helped us out quite a bit. The car handled really well. Just bided our time and tried to make it to end of the race, which is the key to these. Tried to stay up toward the front, stay out of the trouble. Did those things. Just didn't have enough at the end.

Really gives us a lot of momentum going into Milwaukee, come off a second-place finish here. When we went there for the IndyCar (Series) Open Test, I was first and (teammate) Helio (Castroneves) was second for the top speeds for the weekend. That gives us a lot of confidence.

THE MODERATOR: Really exciting race.

SAM HORNISH JR.: A little too exciting (laughter). I wish I would have been able to lead it down there at the end and pull away. But, you know, it was dramatic enough. Hopefully, next year, come back and maybe get a win. I've been looking for that guitar for a couple years now. Got pretty close a couple times, just haven't got there.

Q: Talk about that last lap attempt you made on (Tony) Kanaan.

SAM HORNISH JR.: Basically, with the new 3.0-liter engine, if you get in there and try to get your nose in, don't get the pass done, have to lift way out of it, it's really hard to get your momentum built back up. I knew I wanted to wait until the last lap to get up there, try to get a run on him, and hopefully, it would work. Didn't have quite enough to get all the way up beside him.

THE MODERATOR: We also have Helio Castroneves, also Marlboro Team Penske. Helio, can you talk to us about the day.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it was a great race. I think I just have to give credit to my team. I mean, my Marlboro Team Penske, my guys put me all the time, Tim Cindric puts me all the time up to the front. Unfortunately, we always had a little trouble in the restart, unbelievable. I mean, every time. First it was (Tomas) Scheckter. I think he had trouble. Then we almost touched the wall. Second was Bryan Herta, then it was Scott Sharp. Then the leaders were almost crashing. So much trouble. Finally, when I had a clean shot, I was able to make a good move on (Darren) Manning. Unfortunately, you can barely fit two cars on the corner here. Obviously, Sam (Hornish Jr.) and Tony (Kanaan) were fighting really hard. It would be too risky to try something, you know, even though we're so close, but it was a great race. I was very happy because my team definitely showed how to never give up, and I'm proud of them.

Q: Helio, you guys come here to stock-car country and start driving like moonshine runners. What brings out the beatin' and bangin' you have here?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I mean, you just saw. Couldn't be more spectacular. I mean, could be a little bit better if I finished first. But obviously, it was a great show to the audience. I mean, you have such a lot of aggressiveness. But thank God, I mean, nobody got hurt. Obviously, towards the end, it's racing. You just want to go for it. You want to take a chance.

I guess Nashville people, they are starting to enjoy IRL open-wheel races. It's phenomenal. Yesterday a lot of crowds stayed until 9 p.m. to have an autograph. You saw the grandstands full. What else can you ask? We've been accepted pretty well in NASCAR country. I guess they start understanding a little bit better now our type of racing. As long as you're welcomed, you definitely want to keep coming back.

SAM HORNISH JR.: Definitely, this racetrack is different than anything else you run on because it's concrete. Another thing that happens is you get a little more tire wear because of the abrasiveness of the concrete. It gets marblely out there on the top line. About one-and-a-half lines stay clean during racing because people are inside or outside of the car in front of them to keep the front end stuck. You get two guys going in there two-wide, they're fighting, trying to put two cars a car width-and-a-half distance. That's why you get a lot of that bumping. But it was really an exciting race, I think, for the fans. It's a pretty good day for us to be able to, you know, we've either been on the opposite sides of the spectrum it seems this year, either Helio has done good. It's good to be able to go out there and know we're going out there and starting up front at Milwaukee where track position is going to be key, also.

Q: (Inaudible)?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, we've having pretty much this year. Texas was kind of about that. Richmond was pretty much like that, too. I mean, probably because of the 3.0-liter (engine), you know, the momentum. If you lose a little momentum, it takes a little while to go back. Obviously, when the guys have, like, three cars different position, he comes with the good momentum, he wants to make a good move. Obviously, it starts like that. It's just the way that the racing is right now. I guess the difference between a little bit of power also creates that. But so far, people being a little bit knowledgeable, we are very lucky not to have a big crash out there. But the good news is, I mean, it's been fantastic races. We need to keep working hard.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations.

We have Tony Kanaan, winner of our Firestone Indy 200. Joining him is his team owner, Michael Andretti. Obviously, you had a great car. In the end it got exciting with Marlboro Team Penske coming on. Did that make you a little nervous?

TONY KANAAN: Well, you know, I knew I had a pretty good car. In the middle of the race, we got caught in a restart. I fell back. It was pretty tough to bring myself back to the race. At that point, I decided to race to the finish and just try to finish in the top three. The boys did a great job in the pit stops. Obviously, we capitalized from people's mistakes. Vitor (Meira) was the first one. Buddy (Rice) took Dan (Wheldon) out. You know, we just capitalized on that. Towards the end, I think Sam (Hornish Jr.) had a pretty strong car. I knew that because Sam was the guy I raced the whole race. I was trying to protect myself. Everybody raced hard. It's a tough place to pass. We kind of touched and banged wheels a little bit. I'm here to win. I'm not supposed to give up on the last lap. I saw Hornish putting so many moves on so many people in the last corner in the last lap, so I didn't want to be one more. I tried to avoid that. We did a good job.

Q: Talk about your view of the whole Dan Wheldon/Buddy Rice touching and everything.

TONY KANAAN: Well, it's tough to say because you guys are probably going to think just because I'm good friends of Dan. But for what I saw, Buddy just tried to fit his car where there was not place to be. He had no place to go. He forced his way in. Dan was already into the corner. Cold tires, Buddy pushed in, they touched. I think, I mean, you have to race aggressively, but sometimes not too aggressively. You take each other out. My point of view was Buddy tried to put a move -- his car didn't fit where he tried to be.

Q: Tony, what happened when you did get past Dan and take the lead for good?

TONY KANAAN: What happened?

Q: Did you see him just slowing up?

TONY KANAAN: Well, no. Under the yellow, I tried to pull right beside him to see what was wrong with his car so I could tell him or the team, so the team could tell him. I pulled alongside him. I looked. His sidepod looked pretty marked. But the left suspension, when actually Buddy hit him, there was no problem. I couldn't see any damage. Then I went on the other side, and it looked OK for a while. During the yellow flag, I saw his tire going down. I said, ‘Guys, he has a flat. Tell him to be careful because he can crash on the restart.’ That tire was going down pretty quick. I just stayed calm. I told the team what was going on. I just took an advantage on him with the restart. With a flat tire, it's pretty hard to drive around here. I just passed him. I feel sorry for him because he had a good race car, probably better than me. He raced so well. His strategy was perfect. He made a decision on the setup that I didn't believe was going to work. It definitely worked pretty well. I think at the beginning of the race I thought I should have gone that way. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't go your way. I think tonight wasn't his fault, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Q: Anything about this track in particular that brings out the aggressive kind of driving that we've seen here in a lot of these races?

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I mean, it's a one-line racetrack, very abrasive. When we use the tires, they have a tendency to build up on the outside lane, the marbles. It becomes a one-lane race. It's pretty hard to pass. A track that is hard to pass, people are going to try as hard as they can every time they have an opportunity. It's different than a superspeedway that if you don't get it in one lap, you get it in the next lap. Here, either you get it when you have a chance, or you might not have a chance again. That's why you see so many banging and touching wheels. I mean, it's racing. We're here to win. Everybody's here to win. Everybody is trying as hard as they can.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thank you.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske