IRL: Tony Kanaan press conference, part II

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript June 3, 2003 Tony Kanaan Part 2 of 3 Q: With all of that said, are you surprised at all that so far into this season you are the points leader? Kanaan: Yes, I am. I mean, when you come to...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
June 3, 2003
Tony Kanaan

Part 2 of 3

Q: With all of that said, are you surprised at all that so far into this season you are the points leader?

Kanaan: Yes, I am. I mean, when you come to a new team you don't know what to expect and what to have and then sometimes you say, "It is too good to be true." The team was perfect from the beginning, relationship-wise. We said, "OK, now we need to be competitive." And so we are competitive, and it is all working together, and I am a little bit surprised, definitely, as I am leading the championship right now. But also, I know how hard we worked and especially myself after I got hurt, how hard I worked to come back. So I guess we all deserve that right now. But like I said before, it is a long year, so we cannot celebrate anything right now because it is a still a long ways to go.

Q: And finally, as the test crash unfolded, and of course you coming back from the injury with your wrist, was there a part of you, and a lot of drivers tell me that in those situations everything tends to slow down going, 'Oh, no, I do not need this again.'

Kanaan: No, no, no. I mean, actually it was the opposite. I need this to live happy, to be a happy person right now. Obviously, I have priorities in my life, and racing is my priority and I need to be in the race car to be a happy person right now. Racing is my life. It has been part of my life since I was 8 years old, and it is going to be forever. Actually, I couldn't wait to go back in the car. So no, I couldn't wait to be back, actually.

Q: Well, I was talking about with the crash of the possibility of having another injury.

Kanaan: No, you don't think about it. I mean, injuries will happen. I do not even notice the injury. I think that way. But if it happens, it is going to happen. I know the risk I am putting myself in every time. So yes, I do not need another injury, for sure. That is the risk I have to take.

Q: Tony, I wanted to ask about racing at Richmond. What is your opinion on whether it is a good idea to race open-wheel cars on an oval track that is so small.

Kanaan: Well, that was my first time there last week. It is really fast. I think it is the nature of the series. You have to have different tracks to go racing, otherwise it will be really boring. I liked it. We go fast for what it is, honestly. I think sometimes it is too fast, but it is exciting racetrack. I had a lot of fun actually, because it reminds me of my times in the road courses and the go-kart tracks because it is so small and you get to the corner so quick that from one corner to the other that makes it really exciting and makes you drive the car, like I was saying before. I don't think it is more dangerous or less dangerous. It will be dangerous anyway. After you go above 60 miles an hour, anywhere, it is dangerous, so doesn't matter where you go. Obviously, we don't have many, many tracks like that so I think its good to have one, to have one to change, to break the ice, you know, have a little bit of excitement in a different racetrack. So, I like it.

Q: Do you think it is about as small as you would want to go?

Kanaan: Oh yes, for sure. I do not want to go any smaller than that. I barely had the time to breathe between one corner to the other. That is called the minimum.

Q: And then finally, I think that you do a lap there in about 16 seconds. I could be wrong, but however long it takes to do one lap there, can you describe at all the mental process? I mean how many decisions do you have to make in that 16 seconds?

Kanaan: Like I said, it is a lot different than a normal oval because the decisions over there happen much quicker than anywhere else because you don't have a straightaway to rest, to think about it, so you are cornering all the time. So it is like a go-kart thing. You basically don't think a lot. You know what you have and then you just have to have your reflexes and then your skills ready because the car can step out on you anytime because the corners are so tight and the cars you have to brake a lot. So you are changing the reaction of the car a lot when you go around there. So I would say your reflexes really need to be sharp because to be able to drive fast over there because things happen unexpectedly and you respect the other ovals. You kind of know on the other ovals when the car is going to step away or something like that. You can kind of predict. In Richmond, you cannot.

Q: Hi, Tony. I mainly wanted to ask you about the CART race here two years ago, when you were part of that and did not race. What do you remember about that day? If they had said, "OK guys, you have to race," would you have gone out there? Were you totally against racing? How did you feel about that whole situation?

Kanaan: It was a tough deal for all of us. When the driver is on the racetrack and has the car, I want to race, and I bet everybody would. I felt that-- I mean I did a long run on Saturday, and I felt really dizzy and I didn't understand what it was. Honestly, I felt that it was just me having a bad day, and obviously it wasn't. So I went to talk to the doctors. And I guess if we had to race, I probably would because I am a professional race car driver, and we have commitments with teams and sponsors. But I wouldn't do anything that was going to be unsafe. And I think they made the right decision. I love the racetrack, especially. I was going pretty fast. I mean, I was in the top two every session so I was enjoying it a lot. I cannot wait to go back. It is a great track. I heard they repaved and it is much smoother. I was talking to Christian Fittipaldi, and he went there with the NASCAR and he said: "You are going to love it. It is much different." So I cannot wait. It is going to be my first night race at 7-Eleven's hometown, so a lot of excitement is going to happen for me over there.

Q: How is your arm now? Are you still wearing like a small cast or do you still pretty much drive with one hand? How is it now?

Kanaan: I have a brace, the same brace that I had in Indianapolis, I am going to be racing with in Texas. The brace is going to retire after the Texas race. The arm is not 100 percent. It is fully recovered, but the bones take seven to eight weeks to heal completely and then you start physical therapy. I start physical therapy in two weeks. Actually, today has been seven weeks from surgery, so I will race Texas with the brace and then after that I will start some therapy, like getting the muscles back because I lost a lot of muscle. I am driving with both arms, but obviously the left arm is weaker than the right so I am making less effort. I have not been able to twist my hand. My left arm, I have restricted movements that I cannot do, so after Texas I will start to do some physical therapy to get all the motion and the movements back.

Q: And your hip is it pretty much healed up?

Kanaan: It is healed up. Today, actually, was the first day that I went back to working out, and I cycled for an hour and probably did like 20 miles. It is sore, but I am not limping anymore. Some people say I still limp, but I don't think so. It doesn't bug me a lot. The soreness is there, but it is a lot less than what it was.

Q: At Indy, Michael said one of the reasons he hired you was that you are a guy that immediately gets on the gas. Do you think that has made it a lot easier for you to melt in with these guys at Andretti Green? You said you were not big buddies, but obviously you share the same way to drive a car.

Kanaan: Probably. I think Michael didn't hire me because I was a nice guy. He thought I was going to be able to deliver what he wants. When you go fast, people respect you a lot. So I gained a lot of respect on the team, as well, and obviously that helped the relationship. I know what I can do and probably Michael knew, as well, so we joined together and we all gassed and we are all happy. So I think we just put the pieces of the puzzle together, and then we made a great one.

Q: Tony, how disappointing was it for you to not to be able to deliver for Honda the Indy 500 victory? I know Toyota's whooping it up, but as the number-one Honda team, that must have been a little bit disconcerting.

Kanaan: Well, believe me, I was upset in Japan because I wanted to give the Japan race for them, as well. But this is racing. We all know, you know. And we are all working hard, but it can work one way or the other, and I think Indianapolis was an example. I was disappointed in myself to not give those guys what they deserved because they definitely worked so hard to get that win, and we couldn't. But hey, this is racing. I mean, one day you win, one day you lose. We lead in the championship, and hopefully they didn't get Indy but they will get their championship in their first year here in the IRL with their engines. So, I will go for that one right now.

Q: I would like to ask you what advice would you give to a young driver who just finished driving school say at a Skip Barber or Panoz?

Kanaan: Well it depends. First of all, he needs to put his in mind to what he wants to do. You have so many choices today. You can go to the IRL. You can go to doing the Infiniti Pro Series or he can go to CART. It depends on where you want to go, that is the direction you take. And I think the best advice is, first of all, never give up. Second of all, have clear ideas what you want, but also have an open mind if you have to change them, because it is not always going to be the series that you want to race that you get to race. Sometimes you have to do things that you might not be too excited to do and racing someplace or some type of cars that you don't want to do, but that can take you and lead you to what you later on. So just have that open mind to be able to drive a car and just dedicate yourself 100 percent and drive fast, step on the gas, because that is the best way and the quickest way to go up.

Q: Tony, it is very early in the season but you are leading the points right now and I wondered, in NASCAR they call it points racing. I wonder if it is still too early to start mapping out important positions in order to gain points instead of just going for the win each week?

Kanaan: Not really. I think you are right and if you look, my Indianapolis race was exactly like that. The last two restarts, we had like four yellows in a row and the last two I said: "You know what? I cannot pass this guy." I was waiting for traffic to try to pass them. I knew in the normal condition, having a clear track ahead of them I couldn't pass them so I said: "Hey, Dixon is out. Giaffone is out. Brack is out. People that are playing with the championship with me, I know if I finish third, I will be leading the championship. I will take that." It is not that I gave up the race, but I understand my possibilities and right now that is what it is. If I have a car to win the race, to be in first place, I am going to try to win the race. But if I have a third-place car, I am going to finish third. I think points are always important, and the situation is so competitive. Any point that you can get is going to be so important later on. So yes, I am thinking on the championship, and you are going to see me racing. I will not be cautious. I mean, I will not be like afraid of making a pass, but definitely I want to try to take most of the points out of every event.

Q: That is tough isn't it? As a driver who likes to stand on the gas, it is tough to maybe pick a spot and say, "I have a third-place car so third place is all I am going to try for today."

Kanaan: Well, it is tough, especially when you want to win every race. That is how we differentiate fast drivers and smart drivers and fast drivers and then people that are not too smart. And then, yes, they win four or five races in a year and the guy that won two races in the year ended up winning the championship. You have to make your own choices if you want to have the most victories in series and second-place in the championship or you want to be the champion. And I want to be a champion, so I do not care if I only win one race or two or no matter. I mean, I can make the most out of my car and win the championship, so I think you have to be smart, and if you want to win the championship you have to make points.

Part III


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Kanaan , Skip Barber