IRL: Tony Kanaan press conference, part II

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript September 23, 2003 Tony Kanaan Part 2 of 2 Q: And, one last question, which is on a different subject. Are you surprised at all by Paul Tracy's success this season? T. Kanaan: Not...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
September 23, 2003

Tony Kanaan

Part 2 of 2

Q: And, one last question, which is on a different subject. Are you surprised at all by Paul Tracy's success this season?

T. Kanaan: Not really. I think Tracy has always shown that he was very capable. I do not know, obviously, I would say from my point of view, the competition level is a little worse than last year. I am not taking any credit out of him. I think Paul is a superb driver, and when he changed teams he probably found himself in a better position and better chemistry and he is doing his job. I am not surprised, basically, and I think he has been. As much as I would like Bruno (Junqueira) to win this championship for Brazil, I think PT has the control in that one.

Q: This weekend, with the points being the way they are, you may need some help. Even if you win the race, you may need some help to get the championship. So, does that mean you are just going to go, you race the guys, or do you race for the win?

T. Kanaan: I race for the win. I mean, if I win, I bring the possibilities to myself to win the championship, I mean, by 80 percent and I cannot control what people do, you know, what they are doing in the race. So, where they are going to finish, it is going to be up to them. So, I am going to worry about winning and what is happening behind me. If it is going to fall down for me to win the championship, it is going to be, but the way I approach it is to win, win, win, that is it.

Q: And, I do not know how much detail you want to give, but do you have any bonus if you win the championship in your contract? Do you get a little extra in your pay envelope at the end of the week?

T. Kanaan: Yes, we do. I mean, we all have bonus even from the prize money of the race or the championship fund, but that, to me, is the least of my worries right now. Obviously, we all need to survive, but the biggest bonus is to get the trophy as mine. So, that for me means everything.

Q: It is like the ring, isn't it? In some of the stick and ball sports, some of the guys, the money is not as important as having the ring and being able to show it to guys like Helio and have a one up on him for the whole year.

T. Kanaan: Exactly. I mean, money, obviously, like I said, it is sometimes you have to have it, you need it to survive. But, things like that, like the ring, like a trophy, they are going to last forever and then it has a lot of meaning for you. You work all year and then you have that and then it is yours. It is only your name there, not everybody has one, only a few drivers, that is what it is all about. If I wanted the money, I mean, I probably would be doing something else, something safer, or working on an investment and things. Obviously, we want to make money, but that is not my goal, my goal is to get that trophy.

K. Johnson: Tony, a few minutes ago, you were commenting about the success that Dan Wheldon was having in his pursuit of the Rookie of the Year title. He enters the last race just four points shy of the top spot in that. Tell us a little bit about the focus of Andretti Green Racing. I mean, they have one car that can win the Series title, and then they have another car that is right there for the Rookie of the Year honors. You, obviously, cannot focus more on one than the other one.

T. Kanaan: Well, I mean that is why we work together. Everything that I have, Dan has, and so there is no, you know, a single advantage for me in that team. And, I think that is the way it should be. If you look at the last four races, two cars out of the three finished in the top five. Bryan had three top-threes and I just got another top-three, so one car, at least, was in the top three in the last four races, and that is amazing. I mean, that tells you that we all have the same thing, there is no advantage there for one driver or the other, and we are all very capable and we work together all the time, every day, all day, communicating, exchanging setups, and then that is the secret of this team. That is why we are being, I think, so successful so quick, is just taking care of each other and helping each other to do well. So, we are going to keep doing that, and, I think, this is the best team I ever drove in terms of consistency and people treating each other as human beings and working together to achieve one goal without being selfish, just looking at the team, not just one driver, the team.

Q: Hey, Tony, first off, good to see that there is a great fight in the IRL this year for the championship. The second thing, out of the guys that are in the top five that have a chance to win, you are the lowest of the top five in laps led. How does that concern you as a driver?

T. Kanaan: It does not concern me, to be honest, because the only lap I want to lead is the last one. So, look at Scott and then look at Scheckter. I mean, he led probably more laps than anybody in the series, and he has not won a race, yet. So, it is all a matter of where you position yourself, and I think out of the 15 races we did, I led at least 13 of them at least one lap or so. I was looking at that the other day, but really, it does not matter, because I don't think that doesn't tell me that I was not strong enough because, sometimes, you position yourself not to lead. For instance, the last race I did not want to lead any single lap besides the last one, because we could save fuel. We could, you know, judge what all the other guys around you were doing and so that does not concern me at all.

Q: Now, Bryan was originally scheduled, obviously, to be here and you were not. What was the team's decision in having you to come to Texas this Thursday to test, and how important is this test going to be to setting you up for the finale on the 12th?

T. Kanaan: Well, the idea was just bring Bryan because, you know, testing on the superspeedway, if something happened, you have an engine problem or an oil leak or anything like that, you can hurt yourself. Then talking to Kyle Moyer, my team manager, I said 'Look Kyle, I want to test. I think it is important for me.' And he goes 'Are you sure? I mean, let's not take any risks.' And I said, 'Look, right now it is not about, it is all about taking risks.' And so, that is why I decided to go test. We had a good car in the beginning of the year there. I finished second in the race, so let's see. I wanted to give it a try. Once I get in Texas, I don't want to say that weekend 'oh my God, I could be here,' and so, right now I go there, I test and when I come back and I say that was the last track I drove, I know what I did and so I am just taking one last pressure out of my mind.

Q: And, final question for you, obviously we have had pretty clean racing this year. How aggressive do you think people are going to be the last twenty laps at Texas?

T. Kanaan: I think you are going to see the same. Nobody is going to get crazy just because they are fighting for the championship. We all race, believe me. Every race we did, we fought like we are playing for this championship, because look, although if we had fought harder we could be ahead, so I do not think that anybody ever, ever took it easy in the last twenty laps for any race. So, you saw Sam in Nazareth, you saw them in the last race the way they finished, so everybody is racing very, very hard and we respect each other and I think Brian Barnhart (Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, IRL) has a lot of control on that side. I mean, you need to win clean. I mean, I would hate to win a championship taking somebody out, that is not the way to do it. So, we are going to race hard, but as hard as we did all the time.

Q: Tony, you remember a couple of years ago at Texas where they had to cancel a race because you guys were getting those nasty g-force effects on the high banks and everything, and you just were part of the fastest open-wheel race ever, over 200 miles an hour, on Sunday. Did you feel any effects from that? I know it was incredibly hot at Fontana, too, and smoggy and everything, but how did you feel, physically, when you got out of the car Sunday?

T. Kanaan: I felt fine. I mean, obviously, I put myself in that position working out every day and working out hard, but, I would say our cars are well made in a sense of it will not get as, I mean, that deal over there that year was just a bad decision from somebody that they didn't think about what the consequences could be. But, these cars are made to race on ovals, they are made to race in a banked track like that, and Fontana was just very hot. I was just a little bit dehydrated because we have a drink bottle in the car, but my water got extremely hot, so I told my guys that I had hot tea on. So, I could not drink a lot, but that was the only affect. But, after the race I had a couple gallons of water and I was fine.

Q: You know, at 200 miles, at 207 miles an hour and there was one caution flag, what does that say about the respect you guys all have for each other? Obviously, the driving skills of the guys, because you were in a situation at that speed, Tony, where if, God forbid, something happened, it would happen fast?

T. Kanaan: Exactly. I mean, we need to give a credit not just to the drivers, but to the teams as well and to the engine manufacturers, because nobody blew an engine, no bolt fell off of any car and the drivers respect each other. So, I think it is a combination of a good thing happening everywhere. It is a good series with good drivers, with very good teams and good engine manufacturers, and a good guy controlling the drivers, which is a big key. I give Brian all of the credit for that. He is the best guy I ever saw in the way of talking, and he has this approach that everybody respects him a lot, and not a lot of people have that around their series. So, it is a combination of a lot of things that made this successful. So, everybody is waiting for us to fail and then we are always succeeding. The way to do that is respecting each other and working together, everybody as a big, big group and that is what IRL has.

Q: Tony, just a last thing. To have the final race in the place where it is probably the best-attended IRL facility, you know the place is going to be packed, it was last year, it was when you guys were there in June. What does that add to the experience when you have a full house like that?

T. Kanaan: Wow, it is going to be like Indianapolis, and for me it is even better because it is 7-Eleven's hometown. I am going to have a lot of fans cheering for me and it just makes it more exciting. You know, we race for the fans, we race for them to watch us, we race for them to get excited with what we do. So, we are going to try to put on a good show, and for me, I mean, it is going to be the little butterfly in the stomach before the start when I see this place whole packed like Indianapolis, and you cannot see an empty seat on the grandstand, and when they announce your name the fans cheer you up. It is just, I mean, I cannot describe it, it is just, it is going to be awesome.

K. Johnson: Well Tony, again, we certainly appreciate you taking time out of your day to be with us and we wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of the championship.

T. Kanaan: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure and I am going to go grab lunch at 7-Eleven, now.

K. Johnson: Absolutely, thanks again.

T. Kanaan: Thank you.

Part I

Sam Hornish Jr press conference

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornis