IRL: Nazareth: Top 3 finishers trancript (part 2)

Continued from part 1 Q: Must have some special memories about Nazareth Speedway through the years. MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I do. I mean, winning the first one here was obviously a big thing for me because the odds of winning this race in ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Must have some special memories about Nazareth Speedway through the years.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I do. I mean, winning the first one here was obviously a big thing for me because the odds of winning this race in your hometown, then winning the very first one in your hometown, highly against me. Now to win it here, the last race, it's big. Actually back in '96, that was a big win because I was just put on probation. There were a bunch of people saying I was over the hill, all that crap. To come back and shut them up was pretty nice.

Q: I wanted to ask you about your emotions out there.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I was so happy. I'm so happy for the guys. I was a nervous wreck the last 30 laps because I felt Buddy coming on. Dario did a hell of a job holding off Buddy. I mean, he really did a good job. That's what I was nervous about. Really I felt pretty comfortable where Dan was. I just loved the way Dario protected Tony. It was a perfect team win.

Q: Michael, you've been a champion in Indy car racing. You know what it's like to eventually get to that point. Now as a car owner, what are the feelings that you're going through as you're getting closer to a possible title this year?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Pretty special, you know. To do it in our second year would be great. We haven't done it yet, but we're getting closer. This was obviously a huge step to move closer to it. It will be big. I mean, it's the second chapter of my life, my career, starting a new career, my second career. You know, to be doing it the way we're doing it, to have fun the way we're doing it, to have four great drivers, a hundred great employees, you know. We're out there having fun. There's no acting going on, I can assure you. We're all genuinely that way. That's what makes it great.

Q: I know this is projecting, but tonight I'm sure you'll have some reflection.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I thought you were going to say we were going to have a big party (laughter).

Q: When you look back, when you have some reflection about the track, what is your feeling about the track personally, and for your family?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm not sure it's even just the track, per se. It's just having a track here in Nazareth. I mean, this is where my dad started. You know, a legend started here with him. You know, it's sad that it may be over because Nazareth has always been known for a great racetrack. It's definitely sad, you know. But unfortunately that's life, that's the way things go.

Q: Michael, do you still get the urge?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No. I don't get the urge. That's what makes me feel good that I did make the right decision.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the winner of the Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway, the one-hundredth event for the IRL (IndyCar Series), Dan Wheldon. Congratulations. Looks like had you a good car today. Tell us about your day.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, no, I think obviously it's a fantastic team achievement. I just keep hearing a lot of grumbling. Obviously they said Andretti Green are certainly dominant on the one-mile oval. Perhaps it looks like that on paper, but it's certainly not the case. I think Penske was very strong today. I think Rahal was very strong. Our guys, they did an absolutely fantastic job. To have three cars on the podium in the Indy Racing League today is an exceptional achievement. I think my guys got me out of the pits very, very quickly on the final pit stop, and that's what won me the race. Once out front, the car was very, very good.

MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q: Dan, could you talk about that last pit stop? Was that a gas-and-go sort of thing?

DAN WHELDON: No. I think it was a regular pit stop. I mean, as I expected, we took tires, as well. This is not the kind of place you can get away without taking tires. They got in as much fuel as they needed. It was very tight actually. I had trouble getting around Fernandez. I would have been a little bit more comfortable had I had a bit more room. Fortunately, I just got out in front of Tony. I think obviously, when you've got two teammates behind you, not to say that they're not going to have a go, because I can guarantee you, those two are two of the quickest racing drivers not only in America, but in the world. If you give a gap, they're going to go for it. Obviously, we have a lot of respect for one another. We're going to certainly give each other room. The car at the end of the race was absolutely exceptional. A lot of credit goes to Eddie Jones because I've struggled around this track. For the boys to put up with me when I'm getting frustrated at tests here, it's quite an accomplishment. If anybody has ever seen me frustrated, I think you'll understand how I am.

Q: Dan, how much did you realize a win here would mean to your team owner?

DAN WHELDON: Have you seen the parties he's had at his house each night? That's a good indication.

Obviously, I think to Michael, this is his back garden, so to speak. He's obviously known very well around here. To win the last one for him as a team owner, I knew it would be something special. But to have each one of his drivers on the podium, and obviously Bryan is always very strong. I think he (Herta) just must have been a little bit unlucky today. I guarantee you we can get him in victory seriously these next few races. The party is going to be good tonight, but when BH wins, it's going to be very big.

Q: Dan, there's been so much talk recently about the big battle for the points lead between Buddy and Tony. You guys kind of flew underneath the radar screen for a while, not a lot of focus on it. Did that help your team in any way prepare or get ready and put you in this position now to move into second place?

DAN WHELDON: I don't think so. I think both Andretti Green Racing and Rahal Letterman have done an exceptional job of not getting tied into what the media are saying. I think they're both very, very good teams. But I think with as competitive as it is, you can't plan and strategize too much. You just got to do the best job you can weekend in, weekend out, particularly these last three races. There's not too much planning you can do when you've got 20 cars running side by side in a train of 10, going over 200 miles an hour. Strategy kind of goes out the window. I think what we've got to do is just focus on what we've been doing all season long. Certainly the four of us always take care of one another when we're out there, so it's nice to be racing when we're together because we understand one another perhaps better than when we're with other people. Like I said, we're just going to keep striving to bring home victories for the team and see where that pans out at the end of the season. Our focus as four drivers is to win Andretti Green Racing its first title, driver's title.

Q: Was fuel ever an issue? You had plenty?

DAN WHELDON: Yeah. Not with the amount of yellows towards the end. I don't think fuel was an issue for anybody.

Q: The championship will be determined over three tracks that are pretty similar in terms of style of racing. Talk about how the handling tracks, that part of the season is over, now it's the high banks that are going to decide it.

DAN WHELDON: Well, let me tell you, when you go to these tracks, your car's got to handle, but it's handling in a different way. It's got to handle very well in the draft, which is obviously different from this track. You're never in the draft, or it's very difficult to run in the draft. You've got to be good amongst a pack of four or five cars. I think, obviously, our cars always perform reasonably well on these kinds of tracks. I think Buddy has been particularly quick this year. So we're going to have to work hard on making sure that we can perhaps improve our car for the superspeedways. We've done a lot of these races. I think the good thing is that people know how to race on these tracks. People know what they want from the cars. From not just my driving standpoint, but from all the others out there, I think we've got to make sure we remain driving with the care for one another that we started the season. Because I think it does get a little crazy towards the end. You've got to keep that same focus and respect for everybody out there.

Q: Michael, did you talk to your dad after the win?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I haven't.

Q: Dan, usually in this league they've been having a lot of close finishes. How does did it feel to have some breathing room between you and second place?

DAN WHELDON: It was very nice. That was actually a plan of mine. They were telling me to slow down because my pace was too quick about 35 to go or 50, whichever one. But my intention was to get as much room as I possibly could so I could make a little more time in traffic. When you came up to two or three cars, it was very, very difficult. The cars were sliding around a lot. Some of the people that were struggling with their cars were a little bit unpredictable. I wanted to get as much room as I could. It just gave me a bit more time to judge, where I could pass and perhaps not lose as much time.

Q: Michael, in the last two months, we've had pit road problems. These are good teams involved. Are big changes necessary?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. I think it comes down to more pressure, the pressure of pit stops. Obviously, you see who won the race today. We came out 1, 2, 3. I think we came in 2, 3, 4, or 5, came out 1, 2, 3. Shows you how important pit stops are. So it's pressure. Do I have an answer to fix it? I don't know how you can fix it. I think the speed we're already running in the pits is very slow. I don't know what to do. I think pit road has always been one of the most dangerous places on a racetrack. I think the reason you're seeing maybe a little more action, especially as the year has gone on, the pressure is building, building, building. Pit stops are when things happen.

Q: Maybe a car shouldn't leave until everybody is back over the wall.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Who is going to wave them? Who is going to tell them a car is coming? I mean, I don't think that will work.

Q: On the pit stops, in CART there were problems a few years ago. Absolutely laying rules down, disqualifying people if anything happened seemed to work. Do you think something like that could work here?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't think so, no. I think when the guys are doing their jobs, they're just trying to do their job. Part of the reason, too, is pit lanes. Some of them are a little tight. But, no, I think you're seeing -- I think probably you're not seeing new problems. I think they've always been there. Ever since I've been racing, there have been problems in the pits. Yeah, all right, we had three races where we had some problems, but we also had 10 races where we had no problems. It's just the way the ball is falling. Plus the pressure. That's when guys make more mistakes.

Q: Michael, next year you're going to be on three road courses.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: How many?

Q: Three. St. Petersburg in April, Watkins Glen.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You made an announcement?

Q: It's been out. Looking at the car today, how much would you have to change on the cars for road courses?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think this formula on the road course is going to be great. You know, everybody is saying they're going to be slower, they're going to be slower. That's good because if you remember when these cars -- when we were running CART cars back in the early '90s, we had about the same horsepower we have now, that's when you had some good racing. The reason is, because if you have too much horsepower, momentum is how you're going to pass a car. When a guy makes a mistake, that guy loses momentum, the guy behind gets a run, that's how he passes him. If you have a whole lot of horsepower, make a mistake, you put your right foot down, you can recover from that. I think with the power that we have, I think it's going to make for great racing, I really do.

Q: How long do you think it will be until the community feels the loss of this place?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Probably after they read how much money the community's made from this race today. I think they're going to say, "Oh, we're not going to have that income next year, are we? What are we going to do now?"

Q: Looking at it from a pride standpoint for the community, which put a small town in Pennsylvania on the map a couple times a year.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I agree. When are they going to realize it? I don't know. Maybe come next year. People forget. When you say Nazareth, people will start remembering, "I used to remember that name. What's that for?"

MODERATOR: Thank you.

-irl-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dan Wheldon