Firestone Indy 225 Top Three Transcript Sunday, Aug. 29, 2004 Dario Franchitti - Third Tony Kanaan - Second Dan Wheldon - Race Winner Michael Andretti - Team Owner of Top Three MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our second- and third-place ...
Firestone Indy 225 Top Three Transcript
Sunday, Aug. 29, 2004
Dario Franchitti - Third
Tony Kanaan - Second
Dan Wheldon - Race Winner
Michael Andretti - Team Owner of Top Three
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our second- and third-place finishers. Tony Kanaan finished second, Dario Franchitti finished third.
Dario, tell us a little about your day, how it went today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was a typical Nazareth race, exciting at points, frustrating at other points. First stint, I don't think we had a good balance in the car, kind of struggled around there a little bit. We improved each stop, so the car got progressively better. Traffic played a big part. There was one point I went from 5th to 7th back to 4th all in one lap. Some guys you could see were going horribly loose. We had to make places when we could. Pretty glad we got the car good for the end because Buddy was trying hard to pass me. I was trying hard to stay ahead of him. Pretty quick pace at the end there. 1-2-3 (finish) for Andretti Green is pretty special. We're just missing Bryan (Herta) there, but he's a massive part of our success.
MODERATOR: Tony Kanaan, you had a successful day. Sure you would like to be No. 1, but No. 2 has to be pretty good for you. How about your day?
TONY KANAAN: It was a good day. Like Dario said, it was very exciting at one point, very frustrating in the others. When we got to the last stop, I knew, knowing Tony (Cotman), that is Dan's guy in the strategy, I knew they were going to short fuel to put him ahead of everybody. Sure enough, he was ahead. I knew at that point there was no way I could pass him. We had the same car, almost the same setup, the three of us. I had to wait for the traffic to try to pass him. Obviously, we got two yellows between that period, and we never got enough traffic for me to try to get a run on him. I sat there and protected my position. I had my big, big teammate (Franchitti) behind me protecting me for sure. I wasn't worried about that. I knew if he was going to pull a move on me, it wouldn't be reckless. I just tried to control his pace and Buddy's (Rice) pace. I knew Dan was gone. At that point I chose to stay and finish second.
Q: Was there any word from the pits about being careful if you pass for the lead? Just every man for himself at that point?
TONY KANAAN: No, I mean, we talk. We talk every day about that. We had a chat this weekend, the four of us. They just said on the last restart, 'Guys, take care of each other.' That's what we did. We were racing so hard towards the end. If you guys were in the car, you would imagine it. We just need to take care of each other for sure.
1-2-3 is great for the team, great for Michael (Andretti). We just need to bring Dario up to third place in the championship and it will be a good 1-2-3. It's going to be done by the end of the year for sure.
Q: Was there more passing today than usual?
TONY KANAAN: I think it was. But just -- you only saw passing when people caught traffic. I think you saw more passing because people's cars went off more than they used to. You catch traffic more often, and you get bunched up, then you see passing.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The heat, as well. That's the reason guys' cars were going off. Not much grip out there.
Q: Tony, you mentioned that Dan's crew chief sent him out with perhaps a little short fuel. Was there any expectation that perhaps he might run dry in the situation?
TONY KANAAN: They had to save fuel. But the amount of fuel you had to save without a yellow, which rarely you see in the last 70 laps not a single yellow, they probably expect that. Once you put yourself in the front, you can save fuel maybe running two-, three-, four-tenths slower than the guy behind you. I still don't think we could pass him anyway. He could run out of fuel if it was green the whole time. Obviously, they took a big gamble. They can. They need to do that if he wants to win the championship. We're running a little bit more conservatively because we can't afford that. When you put yourself in that position, it's great to lead a championship. Sometimes a gamble pays off. It did for them today. He drove a great race, drove a great car. Can't take that away from him.
Q: Tony and Helio (Castroneves) traded spots in a three- or four-lap stretch. Can you take us through that passing sequence there?
TONY KANAAN: He got traffic, I passed him. I'm like, good, next lap I get traffic, he passes me. Last lap, he got traffic, I passed him back. Same thing, I get traffic he passes me back. Then I pass him back again. So basically it was just traffic situation. It was fun. It was just a position of like where are you going to position yourself. I mean, you never know what the lap car is going to do. At one point he came towards me, and at one point he went towards him. At one point I was lucky enough that I put -- he made the wrong choice in the fastest corner of the track, which was Turn 2, then a bunch of cars passed him. I think it was like three cars. That was it. He gave me a little break.
Q: Dario, could you go over your dicing with Buddy there? He said one thing on TV, but something a little different over the radio. What was going on there? The B word came up.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You should hear my radio (laughter). Did anybody see me blow? Around here, in order to pass somebody, you've got to be a lot quicker. We've seen that all day. Traffic plays into it. Traffic wasn't playing into it. Buddy was getting a run off of (Turn) 2. I was braking in (Turn) 3. At no point was he alongside of me, none of that stuff. I'm sure the adrenaline was running. The championship's up for grabs. When he sits down, he looks at it, he's going to say -- he'll see it for what it was. It was both of us out there racing. He wasn't fast enough to pass. That's the frustration of a track like this. That was it.
Q: Dario, we know track position is extremely critical. This is three races in a row with a pit fire. You had one last week.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Didn't have a pit fire. We had an incident.
Q: What can be done to keep that from happening? Is there anything that the league can do to stop those cars before they leave?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, we stopped last week in time. I moved two feet. It was far enough that it injured my guy, but it didn't stretch the hose. Whatever conclusions, I'm sure that Brian Barnhart, the rest of the guys whose job that is, will be looking at that carefully, coming up with some new stuff. They're always trying to improve safety. They'll just keep doing that, keep looking for something to improve it.
Q: Both of you could talk about what this means to your team owner. He won the first race here as a driver. Bookends it, guys sweeping.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: He's got to be happy. He's a happy guy right now. He's jumping up and down in pit lane. It was a good result today, 1-2-3, almost perfection. You'll see him when he shows up here in a minute or two. He's a pretty happy guy.
Q: How much does it mean to you guys to be able to do it for him?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Michael has been a good team boss to me. He's been a good friend, as well. Whatever you can do, whether it's win a race, give him a 1-2-3 today, he always want to please the boss. We all did that today.
TONY KANAAN: He probably invites you to another party in his house tonight. He's very excited. We worked so hard. The goal was to come here and win the race for him, no matter who it was. I think we did better than that. We finished 1-2-3. We won every single 1-mile oval race this year with this team. That proves that we have a very strong team. It makes the boss happy. It's always good.
Q: Any feeling not coming back here anymore that you wish you could, feelings about this place, memories you might have from prior that makes it more special?
TONY KANAAN: Well, obviously if you make a last time everybody will be very nostalgic about it. I probably saw more fans here than I have ever seen. We should probably tell every place we go that it's the last race of the year. People will show up.
But it's sad. You know, I like this place. I think every driver does. There are people that love it. There are people that hate it just because it's such a difficult place to drive around. That's what makes it challenging for us. Losing a track like this for us it's bad, from a driver's standpoint. If people don't show up, there is no race. I mean, we're here. It's an entertainment business. We're here to race for the people to watch. If they don't come to watch, we have to go places that they want to come watch us. Hopefully we'll find a couple places in the road courses next year. We'll keep bringing people like we do in the other events.
Q: It seemed like something more than just an accident. At 200 laps, you were a second behind. At the finish, you were three-and-a-half seconds behind. Seemed to be pulling away from you one-tenth of a second each lap.
TONY KANAAN: I think he had a better car. That's why he was in the lead. I was trying so hard. Towards the end, like I said, I made a decision 50 laps to go, I knew I couldn't pass him. I said, just in case Buddy gets around Dario and comes towards me, I'll give them a better gap. I'd rather have my teammate winning the race than anybody else. I made that decision. I think I made the decision that I was not going to win that race after two laps at the restart, two laps into the last stint. I knew I couldn't pass him. I said, 'I'll hang in there.' I was pushing hard to give Dario some air so he could run in clean air. After that I made my choice. I'll give them a gap. He was pulling away anyway because he had a better car.
TONY KANAAN: I don't think I would take that risk at that time. We did do that in the back straightaway, the three of us. That was fine with me. It was after the checkered flag.
Q: In the beginning of the race, how hard was it to stay with the Penske cars? Did it look like they had the upper hand at that point?
TONY KANAAN: I think so. I think in the beginning of the race, I was trying to take it easy, feel my car, not to overdo. It could cost me towards the end of the stint. I knew everybody was going to try to take it very easy because of the heat conditions. We had a Silver Crown race. The track was different. The probability to have a yellow, it would be much less in the middle of the race. It could go green for 75 laps and that could wear my tires a lot. But they seemed very, very strong at the beginning. They were able to pull away from me a pretty good gap. But I knew they were going to get traffic, so I didn't even push that hard. As soon as we got traffic, we got bunched up again. I almost passed (Sam) Hornish. We started to play again. In this kind of race, pushing to have a huge lead I don't think is a big advantage because eventually you're going to catch traffic
Q: How did the Silver Crown race affect the track? More slippery or more grip?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We found the same thing in warm-up yesterday directly after the midgets. They use the same tire. It doesn't work well with our Firestone. Basically for the first stint, the track was like an ice rink today. The track definitely improved from then on. But definitely low-grip situation to start with. We kind of expected that. We dialed our car in slowly from that - each progressive pit stop. The one thing we didn't want to do was go horribly loose in that first stint and lose a bunch of places. I think we played it quite safely.
MODERATOR: Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, thank you very much. Congratulations. We'd like to welcome Andretti Green Racing legend Michael Andretti. Congratulations. You have the top three finishers. You won the very first race here, now you won the very last one.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: This is huge, obviously this being the last race. This makes it feel a little bit better to go out like this. You know, for me it's by far the biggest race of my career in terms of team owner and then to do it with a 1-2-3 finish. The only way we could have done any better is 1-2-3-4. Bryan was still up there. He finished eighth. It was just an amazing, amazing day, one that I'm definitely going to remember, I can tell you.
Q: Any advice that you gave any of the top three, top four guys, especially near the end of the race?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: The funny thing is we actually discussed the scenario that happened, what we were going to do if it came down to this. The guys did exactly what they said they were going to do. We were very happy to get those points for Tony. We said we weren't going to take a win from anybody. Now we got Dan in second place in the championship. So that's pretty good.
Continued in part 2