IRL: Tony Kanaan press conference, part III

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript June 3, 2003 Tony Kanaan Part 3 of 3 Q: Helio has won championships. He is a good friend, and Michael has won championships. He is a friend and a car owner. Does any of that rub off from ...

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

Part 3 of 3

Q: Helio has won championships. He is a good friend, and Michael has won championships. He is a friend and a car owner. Does any of that rub off from them? Does that come from them or is it something that you learned within yourself?

Kanaan: No, no, definitely comes from them. I won a championship in '97 battling with Helio at Indy Lights, which was like that. Helio won three races in the championship. I won two, and I ended up winning the championship because I finished in the top three eight times. I learned that and as soon as I got with Mike, Mario (Andretti) actually told me a lot of things in Indianapolis that made me think. Definitely, I learn a lot from those guys, and Indy is the perfect example. You do not see the guy there fast the whole month and then sometimes you don't count on the guy, and all of sudden the guy is right there. They are pretty smart drivers, and they know what they are doing, so I am trying to learn from them, because when you are young you have a tendency to be a little stupid.

Q: Hi, Tony. You have a new teammate again this weekend in Bryan Herta. How has he been working out with the AGR folks?

Kanaan: Bryan was my official sub-driver, because when I got hurt in 2000 he replaced me, and here we are again together. We had a great relationship before, and he is a good friend and a good driver and he just fit well with the team. I have not had a chance to work with Bryan a lot because I was busy in Indianapolis last month, and he was testing in Texas and in Pikes Peak. So, relationship-wise, we are great. So we will see. It will be our first race together in Texas. We will see what is going to happen.

Q: Well, I hope it is successful for all of you.

Kanaan: It will. It is always good to be on the tracks, no matter what happens.

K. Johnson: Tony, thus far the IndyCar Series schedule has kind of built up a little bit of momentum, going through May with the "500," in that we have only had four events over the first three months of the season. But now, starting this weekend, we get into a string of, I believe it is nine races over the next 12 weeks. From a driver's mindset, how do you prepare for that? Do you approach it differently than you did the first couple months of the season?

Kanaan: Not really. I always love when you have back-to-back races like that because if something happens one weekend you forget about the next one because you are already racing again. So it is good to get a momentum going. I love to be in the car every week because you just get more excited. I think it is going to be great. The way I prepare myself, I just go event by event. I do not think about what is going to happen in Michigan in a month. I just think about Texas, and I go race by race and try to relax during the week and in the couple days that we have to relax and just enjoy myself at home and just have a clear mind to go to the next event.

Q: Tony, going back to Michael Andretti, racing for a guy you used to race against. Was that concept strange to you at first when you started the season?

Kanaan: Not really. We all knew that he was going to retire, but also if you look at the first race, we sat in the front row and we started racing and he made a great pass on the outside of me. Obviously, I have a little bit more respect, but as I have a respect for Dario and then my other teammates. It wasn't weird, actually. I think I enjoyed it a lot because of the way Michael is and the way that he approached things. It was a pleasant thing. It wasn't like: 'Oh my God, there is my boss. I need to be careful.' He is a racer. I am a racer. Obviously, we will not do anything silly to hurt the team, but we had good battles.

Q: Is this the first time you have a car owner who has been somebody you have competed against?

Kanaan: Yes.

Q: Is that preferable to having a car owner who hasn't been in the car before, somebody who knows kind of what you are going through?

Kanaan: No. I think, obviously, having a car owner that was a driver before, he understands more what is going on with you, so he will, like I said, he will not blame you for everything. I think when you understand about racing you know what a driver goes through, so you have a different picture.

Q: Tony, I imagine you have been asked to comment on this a lot recently, so I apologize. I was hoping to ask you to talk a bit about the feeling that apparently so many young Brazilian youngsters have about auto racing to kind of help me understand why Brazilian drivers are enjoying so much success?

Kanaan: Why we are so fast?

Q: Thank you. Yes.

Kanaan: They say it is the water, but, I do not know. The only explanation I have is that I think we don't have many options in Brazil. Motor racing is a very famous sport out there, and in America you have so many options. I mean, you have football, you have baseball, you have hockey, you name it. We have don't have a lot of options. I mean, we have what? Tennis? We have soccer, and then we have racing. And a lot of people, with the tradition that Brazilians in the past did so well, a lot of kids want to be race car drivers. And, I think in America you get that sometimes, you know, in NASCAR. Any single kid you eye, and they all like cars. Kids like miniature cars. And in Brazil this is huge, so people just put their kids to race. I was 8 years old when I started. I barely knew what to do, and I was already driving a race car. So I think we start very early, and I do not know. That is the only explanation. We start early and then go forward, and then obviously it is a tradition. I do not know why. We came out as great race car drivers in the past. It is a tradition. Like they say in basketball, sometimes white men cannot jump. So I do not know. We cannot play basketball at all, so it is just a sport that they gave it to us as a gift, and then we succeed.

Q: And then, thank you so much. But I am wondering also, when you were growing up did you have any particular heroes?

Kanaan: Yes, I had (Ayrton) Senna, who was a big F1 driver and Mario (Andretti), for sure. Mario was a guy that I enjoyed watching.

Q: Oh, really?

Kanaan: And then came Michael, but I would say Senna and Mario and obviously Emerson (Fittipaldi) when he was here, I used to enjoy a lot, but just because he was Brazilian and was winning a lot for Brazil.

Q: And I apologize for my ignorance, but do you recall how old you were when Senna died and do you recall the impact that had on you?

Kanaan: Actually I was at that race with him because I was --

Q: You were?

Kanaan: Yes, I used to live in Italy, and he was my friend, so it was actually 10 years ago, almost 10 years, nine years ago, so I was 21. Twenty years old, and I was racing Formula 3 in Italy, and he invited me to go to the race, and unfortunately the accident happened. That was the only time in my life that I thought about quitting racing.

Q: Really?

Kanaan: And I said: "You know what? I do not think you will enjoy that." My dad passed away when I was 14, and I did not decide to quit, so I said, "Why now?" I said: "You know, I will keep going. I will try to keep the tradition that he (Senna) was building."

Q: If we can talk a little bit more about the Brazilian aspect. You mentioned that you and Helio go way back. Did he start racing around the same time you did? Did you guys come up, like, through go-karts?

Kanaan: Yes, I started a littler earlier than Helio. I started in '85, and Helio started at '87, no '88. But we raced together in go-karts for like five years and then we moved to cars and then we went different directions. But we fought for a lot of championships together, and he went to do F3 in England, and I went in Italy, and then we went back to Indy Lights as teammates and here we are together ever since, so I know the guy. He was my best friend since I was little. He used to sleep in my house because he wasn't from the city, from Sao Paulo, so he used to go race there and then stay over. We used to spend New Year's together and Christmas. We grew up together, basically. I could be here telling all about Helio because I have a lot of good stories about him, but I will not put him in the spot. But we are good friends.

Q: How did you guys stay so close competing against each other for such a long time?

Kanaan: I think, like I said, I want to beat him and he wants to beat me, and we both know we are good. On the racetrack, it is whoever can win will win but play clean with each other, always clean. We enjoy ourselves. We get along pretty well, so why hurt the relationship when you are racing? When you are racing, you are racing. Out of the track we are friends. Perfect example, we had the accident and we flew back right beside each other in the plane, and we talked about all the other things besides the accident. You wouldn't see that very often.

Q: Thanks.

Kanaan: You are welcome.

K. Johnson: Well, Tony, we appreciate you taking time to join us today. We look forward to seeing you this weekend down in Fort Worth and wish you the best of luck, not only this weekend but throughout the remainder of the season.

Kanaan: It was a pleasure. Thank you very much. Now I can go to lunch.

K. Johnson: Enjoy.

Kanaan: Thank you.

Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta