IRL: Pikes Peak: Top three finishers transcript

IRL IndyCar Series Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway Aug. 22, 2004 An Interview with Dario Franchitti - Race Winner Michael Andretti - Winning team owner Adrian Fernandez - Second Dan Wheldon - Third DAN WHELDON: Especially ...

IRL IndyCar Series
Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway
Aug. 22, 2004

An Interview with
Dario Franchitti - Race Winner
Michael Andretti - Winning team owner
Adrian Fernandez - Second
Dan Wheldon - Third

DAN WHELDON: Especially following last week, it was one of the most challenging races of the year. The flag was just changing completely the whole day. I was very balanced at the beginning of the run. I needed to adjust to the outside line.

They were moving around so much, it got close because of that. Nonetheless, I made sure -- inaudible -- and try and catch the people in front of me.

Q. Inaudible?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: To be able to win the race, I needed to be aggressive, so I had the most front wind on the last two. I was very good at the beginning. It was very hard the first two laps, but then I just couldn't get it. My car started getting on the push side, and that was the end. It was push, loose, and then I was watching Dan and I was -- and that's because -- if I would have managed to get around Dario -- and I knew it would be critical at the end of those laps but we held them on the line.

Q. Do you know what happened to Buddy Rice?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I heard that he was -- the car was loose on the middle of traffic, that's something that's a problem.

DAN WHELDON: Apparently, they didn't expect to check. In our case, I was still not too concerned because it was early in the race. They passed me at the beginning of the race. They were strong. We passed them, and they were more consistent. They managed to have -- but toward the end, they were not that good, and we managed to get my car better.

I just think, honestly, at different stages of the race, different people's cars were working well for them. We just kind of trucked and changed. It would seem at one point, particularly, Adrian pulled about a straight on me, and I was just coming out of (Turn) 4, and at the end, I was right on the heels. It just depended exactly at what point of the race your car was -- they were obviously very strong.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: You use a lot of downforce. It's really elevated. Sometimes there is wind coming into the track, and that really affects the car, but the cars are not really solid on the racetrack.

DAN WHELDON: I feel the same way. I think it's certainly a deceiving track to go out and in qualifying, it's flat out. It's a very difficult flat out. I think you can tell that you're trimmed out, and I think it's similar to Indy from that standpoint. You can really feel the lack of aerodynamic grip, but certainly in the race, I think with the thin air and the temperature, and the way that the track changes, from the marbles, it just makes it greasy, and consequently, if your car has a little bit of understeer at the end of the run, it's a big understeer. If you're loose at the beginning, it's really big at the beginning.

I think just what this track does, is it accentuates any of the problems that you have. It's good from that standpoint. That's what makes Pikes Peak a good track to be at. I think all credit to Dario. He's very, very good at setting a car up for these kind of races.

Q. With Buddy Rice going out early, is the championship between the two of you now?

DAN WHELDON: It really doesn't bother me, the championship. Obviously, I want to win it as much as anybody, but maybe I'm getting older or something. I just feel that if it's meant to be, it's meant to be and just take one race at a time, then we'll see what happens. That would certainly mean a lot, to win a championship.

Q. When do you start thinking about it, the last race?

DAN WHELDON: Probably at the banquet.

Q. Inaudible?

DAN WHELDON: Three and four down the straight -- you don't know Pikes Peak too well. I hope none of you were transmitting my radio conversation because it would be interesting. It's a difficult place. I think I've aged about 25 years.

THE MODERATOR: Dario, second win of the season here, it's your fourth top five. Last year was your first run at PPIR, you finished fourth in that event, so congratulations and talk about your win a little bit.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you. What can I say? We had a very strong car at the start. I probably went a little bit too strong at the start, went a little quicker, and by the end of the stint, I suffered for that, the car got pretty loose. I learned my lesson on that. From then on, I had to sort of count things down a bit on the opening of the stints.

I just clipped my vent guy, Mike Miller, and he hurt his knee, tore some ligaments in his knee. We were delayed, so that led -- whoever was leading, I let him get ahead a bit. Luckily, it eventually bunched up again under yellow, we came into the pits. On the restart, managed on the two laps to get back into the lead.

At that point, I was really cautious about not going too far ahead, not putting too much on the first part of the stint, after the end, and then we had that yellow with, what was it, 50-something laps to go. We came in, my guys did a great job. And on the last restart, Adrian was pretty close, but after that, I could see him inching away. We got traffic, and I was able to really stretch it.

>From then on, it was just keeping the gap, keeping the rhythm going. I'm lucky, the guys, the engineers at Andretti Green gave me a great car today. Honda, obviously, some serious horsepower. These low-grip situations definitely suit my driving style, and we took advantage of it. I'm pretty happy today. That's an understatement, I would say.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Another big day for the team, for sure. Dario doing what he did again in the ArcaEx car and Dan getting another podium, drove a good race, and Tony (Kanaan) finishing fifth, extending his points lead over Buddy (Rice), it was a good day for that. We were able to take care of Buddy's misfortunes, and these are some great days.

Q. Dario, it looks like you're getting the hang of this IRL thing. I think you've pretty much quieted all of the rumors that had happened about your fervor for coming over here.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: There was only, how do I put this, there's only (certain) people that matter. I think the people that know what's going on, these guys, the bosses, the guys on the team, the guys at Honda, they knew the way I felt. You know, why would I do this if I didn't want to, you know what I mean? I'm enjoying my racing. Next year's schedule is going to be even better for me, and great teammates, so, things are pretty good right now.

Q. Take us through the part where you take the lead, four-wide in traffic.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Oh, gosh, I forgot that. I'm getting senile dementia at 31. I could see Tony (Kanaan) was maybe starting to struggle a bit at that point. There was some pretty slow cars up ahead that were really loose, so I managed to get down inside. Dave, my spotter at the back, he said, ^ÑTony,^Ò ^Ñthree-wide^Ò and ^Ñclear^Ò, and that was it.

Today, I think this style of driving, the backmarkers, when Adrian and I were racing for the lead at the end, I came on (Kosuke) Matsuura and worried what he was going to do. He got out of the gap and let Adrian and I get after it, so it was great sportsmanship, I thought.

Q. Last year at this time you hurt your back, and you had come back at this race and you finished fourth and then you had to shut down because the back pain was so bad. Do you feel like you've come full circle with the back problems last year and now winning races here?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: There's no doubt it was a difficult year. To qualify, I wasn't in pain, just the way that the spine was sitting. If I wanted to safely continue racing, I should probably get that seen to. But yeah, there's a lot that happened.

I said earlier and I said it before, these guys stood by me. Honda and the guys at AGR and the whole team kept supporting me. So, it was payback for them, and I guess two fingers up to all of those guys saying, ^ÑOh, he's not coming back, this is wrong, that's wrong.^Ò

Q. You talk about having a handle on the low-downforce tracks, so do you feel like you could go back-to-back next week, because Nazareth is the ultimate flat track?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: You always hope so, but it's difficult. It's so, with the setup, it's so small between getting it right and getting it wrong. You never take anything for granted. We'll look forward to next week, and I know the guys have been doing good work on the simulations, and we've had good tests there. We'll just see what everybody else comes up with is all. We will be doing our best, put it that way. Back-to-back would be nice. Especially the race at Nazareth, where I guess Mike's whole family racing career started. It would be nice to give the boss a hometown win.

Q. Can you talk about just in general keeping track of four cars in the race?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It isn't easy, I tell you that. I watch them all. It's still difficult sometimes. At times, you start focusing on one, and then you wonder and look back, well, how did that one get back there. But it's fun. Plus, sometimes it's a little bit of a challenge.

Q. How physically challenging was this race today? The other guys said it was a grueling event.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I didn't have any problem. Last year, I definitely had some issues with the strength because I had not trained for 10 weeks because of the back problems. This year was really not physical at all.

Q. Before the race, I noticed that there was some discussion about your tires that you were starting on. How did you come to a conclusion that you were allowed to keep your starting position?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know. We went out this morning and scuffed them as we were asked to. They wanted us to scuff them, and we went out, as I said and came back in -- inaudible -- I'm not sure.

Q. I asked two of your teammates this yesterday, so I have to get your take on it. With a three-day cruise for the IRL awards ceremony, what have you got planned for Wheldon?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Hmmm. I think what we should do -- we should find a desert island, deserted little spot with a palm tree and leave him there. Perfect. (Laughter). Without his cell phone. If he can't talk to Tony (Kanaan), he's going to be in all sorts of trouble.

Q. Is your wife here?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: She was yesterday. She went away. She went on a yoga retreat for a week. It starts today, I guess.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Mike Miller