IRL: Texas: Top-3 Finishers press conference transcript, part 2

IRL IndyCar Series Bombardier 500k June 12, 2004 Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Alex Barron Part 2 of 2 THE MODERATOR: Talk about late race strategy. Dario was right behind you. What was your goal to make sure you stayed ...

IRL IndyCar Series
Bombardier 500k
June 12, 2004

Tony Kanaan, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Alex Barron

Part 2 of 2

THE MODERATOR: Talk about late race strategy. Dario was right behind you. What was your goal to make sure you stayed in front?

TONY KANAAN: Well, I raced with Dario in the beginning of the race, and I knew his car was good on the bottom. Actually, he asked me for some room on the bottom at the beginning of the race because he couldn't run the high line. I was giving him that room.

Obviously, 10 laps to go, I was not giving him that room, I was giving him the outside. I knew he couldn't pass me. I think he knew it, as well, because the way he was playing, he was just trying to get away from the guys behind us. It worked out perfect because we pulled away big time. I wasn't blocking him. I gave him enough space on the outside if he wanted to have the run. But the inside line was quicker. I just took it.

We pretty much knew what we had to do. I think Dario realized he had a second-place car and stayed behind me.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to some questions.

Q: You talked about getting up front to get away from silly moves. This track has been known in the past for some of those crazy moves. Did you see anything different in the race tonight because of the changes of the engine?

TONY KANAAN: No, I think it was a better race this time from my racing standpoint. People could pull away and stay a little bit more spread out for a little while.

But it's just every year, it's like that. I mean, there's always going to be guys that don't take care of each other. Those guys, I don't want to be in the middle of them. Unfortunately, sometimes, you're going to find them around. That's up to them, really, because the IRL is doing a great job keeping the safety. Texas Motor Speedway put the soft wall there.

But, guys, we can make it as safe as possible, we can make rubber cars that won't break, but if we don't take care of each other, it's not going to happen. We're still travelling at 210 miles an hour. That's all up to the drivers.

Basically, I don't think the race was any worse than the past. I think it was better. It's just guys are going crazy again.

Q: If you could both address the approach the IRL has taken to speed here, 209, 210 (mph). First time both of you came here, you were going about 25 miles an hour faster than this. Just comment on the approach the series has taken to the speed at this track and how much better it's made it for the drivers.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, hats off to them, I believe. If you look at what they've done, the research they've done, everything, I think they've come up with a really good package.

I think, obviously, this isn't the safest place in the world, but I think they've done as good a job as you can to make it that way. Hats off to the track, as well, making the soft walls.

But the best part about it is I think the racing was good. You know, I think a good-handling car still meant something. That's what's really unique about what they did. You know, they not only slowed the cars down, they didn't make them any easier to drive. That's the beauty of it.

Hats off to everybody there in the IRL that did all the work to come up with this configuration. I think they did a really good job.

Q: Tony.

TONY KANAAN: Well, I would say, you know, speed, it helped a lot, with the aero package. Like Michael said, it became a lot harder to drive the car around, so you really have to have some setup into the car, which before, with the downforce that we had, it was just jump in. My mother would be out of the pits flat. Anybody could drive it. Right now, it's all about handling, you know.

Obviously, we reduced a lot the speeds, which creates, you know, closer racing maybe, but when you crash, you crash 15 miles an hour, 25 miles an hour slower, as well. That helps a lot.

I definitely think it was a great move from the IRL. You just go back to the month of May when we went the whole month with nobody getting hurt. You are always going to have crashes, but nobody got hurt. Tonight I saw some nasty crashes out there, and I guess everybody walked out.

Very good job from both IRL and Texas Motor Speedway.

Q: Tony, how concerned were you with Buddy Rice? He was giving you a pretty good run with 20 laps to go. Kind of took himself out of it. Beating him here, does that ease the disappointment of the Indianapolis 500?

TONY KANAAN: No, doesn't make it any easier.

But, well, I was running my leanest mixture at the time, so I was in control. If he wanted to lead at that time, I was going to let him, because I knew I could pass him at the end. It was all about yellows. I was not going to make it to the end, and I believe he was not going to make it either. So I was setting the pace.

The times that he got alongside of me, it was just because I was playing with him, trying to just ease it off, see how much fuel I could save without him passing me. Because when he got alongside me, I just pressed my mixture button, went to the full mixture again, just passed him again. It was just a matter of getting my measurements for what I needed the last lap.

I guess he did his own thing. I didn't see it. I can guess. I saw in my mirror cars everywhere. Too bad for him.

Q: Michael, you seem to get more excited with each successive win. Is it getting more and more fun coming to the racetrack?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, yeah, it's getting to be more and more fun. It's great. I think winning is great, no matter what. I'm so happy for Tony and all the guys when they win. A lot of hard work goes into it.

This was a big one for us, as well, because this is 7-Eleven's hometown here in Dallas. To come here and win in their hometown was huge for us. As a team, we're so happy we were able to do it, Tony was able to do it.

Q: Tony, could you elaborate on the crazy things Buddy Rice was doing.

TONY KANAAN: I didn't say Buddy was crazy. I said they are all going crazy.

No, I mean, it's just -- I don't think he was doing it on purpose, but he was trying to race me and Dario. When he got me, I was racing with Dario. We agreed in the drivers' meeting to keep one line going into the corner and one line coming off the corner. If you go all the way to the inside, you keep the inside entry, mid corner, and exit.

He was going high on the entry, then keeping it low, mid corner on exit. What he was doing, he was trying to prevent me to go on the outside of him on the entry to have a run on him. On his defense, when I got the run on him, and he saw me, he dived down big time. So I don't think he was doing it on purpose.

You know, it's really tough when you have two, three cars in front of you, just trying to position yourself, as well, to keep looking in your mirrors.

But when I said he was getting crazy, it was just he was trying to pass Dario, and he was moving up and down trying to find a gap to pass Dario, and I had no room to go because Dario was on the outside, he was on the inside going up and down, he was taking a lot of wind out of my front wing. I lost it a couple times big time out of (Turn) 2.

I said, 'You know what, I don't want to be in this position because it's going to wear my tires, I have a risk to crash.' I went ahead and made the move on them.

It's not a criticism, then you guys are going to say I'm blaming Buddy, this and that, which is not true. He was racing, but he was racing hard 30 laps into the race. I don't think we didn't have to do that. Towards the end, for sure.

So that's what happened.

Q: Michael, you got out of the car last year, the Honda wasn't what the Toyota was running. This year you are the dominant team. Any inkling to get back in one of these cars again?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I'm perfectly happy where I'm at, living it through these guys now and enjoying it. Nope, I haven't looked back.

TONY KANAAN: I saw him in a driver's suit this morning, and I thought I was fired. I said to him, "Did I qualify the car third for you today?'

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Should have been first (laughter).

TONY KANAAN: You could take Dario's car.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: True.

Q: You and your partners have a lot invested in this program. To come here with this type of following that you get at this track, how much would you like to see that continue at the other tracks?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, obviously, that's what we're all working towards, aren't we? I think it's going to get better and better. I feel confident that what the IRL is doing, the programs they have set, just the product we have on the racetrack, that, you know, we're going to get there. One day we're going to be filling this place, I'm sure of it. It's going to maybe take a couple years, but we're getting better and better everywhere we go. We've just got to all keep continuing doing what we're doing. We'll be there, because we've got a great product.

Q: Tony, your margin of victory was 11-hundredths of a second. Do you feel like it was that close or that you really dominated?

TONY KANAAN: No, I mean, I was thinking to myself, I was like, 'God, come on.' I didn't know how many laps I had left, but I knew I had laps too many. I said, 'The best car won in Indy. Let the best car win today.' I was just asking that.

But in this place, you can never relax. That's why my fastest lap of the race was my last lap because I said, 'You know what, I'm not going to lose this race.' Even if I was going to lose for a really good guy, I wanted to win. Today I wanted to win really bad.

It was close, but I never felt that I was dominating. I just felt that I had a good car, and I had to keep my concentration because not always you have the best car you end up winning the race. Sometimes it's too easy, then you end up losing concentration. That's when you make more mistakes.

So I just kept my head down. It was definitely that I had a superior car than some of the other guys, so I could do things that they probably couldn't. But, no, I mean, I didn't felt comfortable until I crossed the finish line, actually until I did my donuts. My team owner was screaming at me not to hit the wall.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron , Buddy Rice