IRL: Phoenix: Top three finishers transcript, part 2

Indy Racing League Copper World Indy 200 March 21, 2004 Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Michael Andretti Part 2 of 2 THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. We have with us the race winner, Tony Kanaan, now the current points leader. Tony ...

Indy Racing League
Copper World Indy 200
March 21, 2004

Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Michael Andretti

Part 2 of 2

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. We have with us the race winner, Tony Kanaan, now the current points leader. Tony started second. This marks his second IndyCar Series win, both at Phoenix. A rather dominating performance today, having led 191 out of the 200 laps. The last time there was a performance that good at Phoenix was Bobby Rahal back in 1992, just to give you an idea of things.

Tell us how the day was. The car looked pretty flawless, didn't seem like you had many issues out there.

TONY KANAAN: Well, it's a great team effort, I have to say. The whole 7-Eleven team, with the other guys, they did a great job. We had a long, long conversation after Homestead. When we came here to test, I wasn't happy with the car at all. They did a lot of work in the shop. I gave that back to them.

I think I came here confident that I knew I could do the job because I did it before. With the help of my teammates, Michael (Andretti) and engineers working together, I knew we had a good car.

We had a good qualifying run yesterday. I think I was happy for Dan to get his first pole. I was so close. This morning I felt that I had the car to do it. It was just going to be a matter of taking the right opportunities at the right time, use the traffic at my advantage. I think we did that.

It was a tough day out there, very hot. The car would start to go off after 50 laps. So the last 15 laps were hard for everybody. I worked my way to the traffic. It looked easy, but it wasn't at all. I think we had great pit stops. Honda worked so hard on the engine, to make that better for us, some of the aspects that we complained about when we came here in the winter.

It's great. We had a big crowd from 7-Eleven here, all our co-sponsors, as well. I promised them last night I was going to win. I promised my boss that he needed a winning helmet to put in his collection. I think he got it.

It's just a great team effort. Definitely I'm extremely happy. Bringing the momentum up for Japan. We've been so close there for so many years. Let's see. It's a good start.

THE MODERATOR: Michael, from a team perspective, it was a very strong performance as well. Most of the race, your four cars were in the top six or seven positions. Tell us what today's performance means to you and the team

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was huge. I think Tony said it best. It was a total team effort. Tony did an awesome job. The Team 7-Eleven did a great job. The last pit stop is what kept the track position for Tony. I think that's what helped win it. He drove the wheels off in the end.

At one point I think we had four cars in the top six. That was pretty exciting. I was hoping it would hold there. I just feel bad for Dario. You know, Dan did a great job, hung in there, had some problems mid race, but hung in there and brought it back, brought it back in third, right up there in the championship.

Bryan hung in there, too. I could see his car wasn't working quite as well as the others. He kept driving it, held off Helio there in the end. It was good. A really fun race to watch. A little nerve-wracking in Turn 1 a few times. But it was good.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, tell us about your thoughts during the last yellow. It was within about 20 laps from the end that you seemed to have a pretty strong car up until then. Did you want to see that yellow come out?

TONY KANAAN: Doesn't matter. It's a race condition. It came, I took it. I think it was on my advantage, for sure, because it was a hard race, like I said. Probably I would have to use all my tires up to that point. So I needed probably -- my car needed a little break.

First I was worried about Dario. I saw him walking out of the car, he was OK. After that, I kept myself calm. I mean, I said, "Come on. I led the whole freaking race. I'm not going to lose it in the last six laps." I kept myself concentrated to do a good restart. That was my win right there. I took it easy, cruised around. I took the victory.

Q: Dan Wheldon said they should take this race off the calendar, that the IRL should take the race off the calendar. What do you say to that?

TONY KANAAN: So far it's the only possibility I have to win, so I would say no, keep it on.

No, Dan did a great job. He was really concerned I was going to get him on the outside in the first corner, like I always do - as I learned from my boss here. No, I love this place.

Q: Did you ever have a race like this in your career? Any point before the last yellow, did you think Scott was going to make a run on you?

TONY KANAAN: I did a long time ago, in go-karting when I used to be good. Definitely when you move up to higher levels, you never have an easy race. Today looked easy, but it was just a momentum that I kept going.

About Scott, I mean, we've been racing together. We've been crashing together. I know him very well. I knew he had the car.

But you don't worry about people behind you too much. What I try to do is say, "You know what, I'll set my pace. If he's going to be strong, he's going to have to find his way to pass me." I'm not the kind of guy that is going to block him. If he's strong, he needs to find a way to pass me. I tried not to look in my mirrors so much. I just looked in front, taking advantage of the traffic I had, saving my tires and working with my car.

The worse thing you can do is worry about somebody else. You have plenty of problems between yourself and your car, why do you have to worry about somebody else. I just said, "Hey, if he's going to pass me, he's going to have to find a way to do it."

Q: Were you surprised to see the 6 car spin by himself?

TONY KANAAN: Not really. I mean, I don't know what he did. It's his problem, not mine.

Q: It's often said this track is a setup track for the Indianapolis 500. Is it?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Who said that (laughter)? Back in 1956, they said that. No, totally different. The aerodynamic package is totally different. It's a mile oval. It's like apples to oranges, really. It's not, I don't think.

TONY KANAAN: I think my boss said everything.

Q: How did Dario get into that wreck?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think what happened -- I have a feeling it was a miscommunication from the spotter. I don't think he knew that the yellow was out. Then he got caught. He was so focused on (Tomas) Scheckter that he didn't see the yellow. The spotter didn't call it. He drilled him.

Q: Michael, so many times in your career you ran away with races only to have something happen at the end. Tell us what was going through your mind?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Exactly what would be going through my mind if I was in the car with him. I was in the car with him, really. You just never know. You hang on all the way until you know you can beat the guy by coasting or whatever across the finish line.

In fact, I heard him scream in the radio before he got across the finish line.

TONY KANAAN: I knew even if I went backwards or upside down, I was going to cross that finish line first (laughter).

Q: Do you feel like your team is almost like Animal House, with all the different characters and personalities you have?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I never thought of it that way. But, yeah, I would say in a lot of ways. I know we have fun just like they did in Animal House. Every now and then the principal has to come over and talk to us. I guess that would be Brian. Not Bryan Herta, but Brian Barnhart.

Q: Tony, were you making many in-car adjustments yourself?

TONY KANAAN: Not really. I mean, the way I like to race is, when I work on my car, I like the car to be really consistent and make as little change as I possibly can. I mean, I just leave it up to my engineers to work on the tire pressures and something that we can do, front wing or something.

But today I worked out with my weight jacker a little bit. Did help me a lot in the beginning. I had set my car to be an easy car to drive because I knew it was going to be a difficult race. We have a big asset in the team between Michael and Peter Gibbons that we just brought in a couple months ago. They won so many races together, and Peter was working with (Cristiano) da Matta. I remember the way they used to set their cars. I think it worked really well for me today. No big changes in the car at all.

Q: Did you know you had enough fuel to last until the end after the last pit stop?

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I did. Obviously, we knew a stint would do like 65 laps. I looked, it was like 60 laps to go. Obviously, I have Kim (Green) talking to me on the radio. He says, "Go to full mixture." If he tells me that, it means we're good to go until the end. Thank God I didn't have to make those calculations. It's up to the engineers. They just tell me what to do, I'll do it.

Towards the end, Kim wants it to be a little safe, so we kept saving a little bit of fuel under the yellow flag, in case something happened, like Michael's days. They gave that extra gallon in the car for us to finish the race.

Q: Michael, Dario has to be feeling bad. What did you say or what will you say?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I just feel so bad for him because he was driving the wheels off that car. I mean, he was all over Scheckter. He had in his mind he was going to pass him. I know he was going to before the end of the race. I just feel so bad it happened. As it ends up, you know, I think it appears that it is his fault, but I think there were circumstances to it that it really wasn't his fault.

TONY KANAAN: Dario is a strong guy. He's not going to take a hit like being down. That actually makes me worry for Japan because he's going to come back real strong.

Q: Dan said whatever you did to him last night was ugly, but he wouldn't elaborate.

TONY KANAAN: I didn't do anything. I saw his girlfriend came over, flew over last night, so maybe that's the point. I had dinner with my boss. I was away from that. It wasn't me. It was Bryan Herta and Dario. I don't know.

Q: You're saying Bryan is the wolf in sheep's clothing?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No way.

TONY KANAAN: We work together. It's three against one. You figure out who is the one we always pick on.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Peter Gibbons , Brian Barnhart