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CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Montreal

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Molson Indy Montreal

CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Montreal

Cristiano da Matta
Dario Franchitti
Tony Kanaan
August 25, 2002


MERRILL CAIN: We are joined by Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Pioneer WorldCom Honda/Lola Bridgestone. He places third in today's event, and for the second time this season, and continues his turn around. After failing to score in the first four races of the year, Tony's year has certainly turned around well. His podium is the sixth of his career and marks his third top four in the last four events here in the CART FedEx Championship Series. Tony, I guess you had a few situations to thank for finishing third, but things seemed to go right and you had some bad breaks in the earlier in the year. So getting a good one is not a bad thing.

TONY KANAAN: No, really, I'm happy, to be struggling in qualifying, apparently the last two weekends -- last weekend, we had so many problems and we had a good race, so we tried to carry on the momentum here. This weekend we had a clean weekend and we could not figure out the setup from the course from like, Jesus, again, another terrible weekend. Obviously, I was not that confident going into the race. I knew what I could do, but we changed the car completely. The car that we ran in the race was a car that I never ran all weekend: The setups, the shocks, the springs, suspension, but I told Morris and Ian, I said, "Look, guys, I'm not here to be 13th, and to be 13th or be 18th, to me doesn't matter, so let's try to go the front." And obviously, we're not -- just threw a setup in the car. We thought about it, and Morris gave his input. Ian worked out the springs, I worked out what I needed to be -- to have a consistent car, and we knew that we are not going to have the fastest car out there, but we wanted a consistent one. And we had one. The strategy paid off. But definitely, we had a fast car. I had to push really hard the whole race. I mean, I qualify in basically every lap because we went out of sequence. Obviously, if the car was not fast, I wouldn't be finishing third. We had a problem in the middle of the race. We broke a header and I could hear in the engine, and I'm like, "My God, again, what's going to happen." And I started to burn the whole side pot, I lost the clutch 15 laps to go, and I did a one-die yellow (ph). I was afraid to get overheated, but actually, that was my thought. And my team said, no, Tony, actually running slower is going to cool down a little bit so you can push the last six laps. We crossed the finish line, the car started to burn. We came in burning, so -- (Laughter) -- yeah, I guess I was on fire, not myself, but my car.

MERRILL CAIN: Hottest driver in the circuit. That's right.

TONY KANAAN: It looks like luck played on my side today, finally. We've been really strong since Mid-Ohio. Mid-Ohio was another third place, it was easy. We've had ups and downs. We ran the first part of the season, the first six races, I had five DMaps (ph) in the top four. I never gave up, and here I am. I'm pretty happy. It was unbelievable. I mean, people should think about doing a championship in Canada, I think.

Q. You made a comment on the track that it's new and I think it's a little difficult, too.

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, the track, it's really simple, but it's really fast and it takes a lot on the car. I mean, gear box and brakes are a big problem here. My brakes were going down on the race a lot, and then gear box, you need to save the car. You need to save the car a lot. The track is fun. It looks like Australia, kind of Australia, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't having any fun until the race. You know, as soon as we got the setup together, it was fun. I like it. I think being able to race the same tracks that F-1 does. People talk about we have problems in our racetracks and stuff, and I don't see how we have good racetrack as good as Montreal, and we just need to bring the crowd the way they do.

MERRILL CAIN: We have Cristiano da Matta, who, of course, finished second. Driver of the #6 Havoline Toyota/Lola Bridgestone, he earned his seventh podium of the year and it is his fourth of his career. He widens his point lead in the series to 55 points over Dario Franchitti. Talk about a good run for you today. Obviously second is probably one off from where you wanted to finish but got to share of the wealth, I guess, a little bit. Talk about what threw off your pit strategy; you took an early pit stop.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, yes, it was -- we were thinking a lot about that before the race, but it was a very similar situation from those few races that we had last year, when you have a yellow that is half-speed or half-tank, usually you pit and it's better for you because then after -- if we have any yellow during the race apart from the last ten laps, we would be ahead, because everybody is going to basically have to stop, and we had already done that stop. So, it didn't work. We didn't have the yellow in the position we wanted to. Fortunately, we have a fast enough car that I was able to make up positions. I think the strategy I was at and the strategy Tony, which is inside, Tony, we just have to drive. Not that the other guys didn't, but we had to drive extremely hard to make up the positions, because I'm not 100% sure if it was the best strategy today. But it was definitely the one that had the biggest percent chance of working, but today, it didn't. The position we are at, thinking a lot about the championship and trying to make everything more conservative as we can. We have always to bet on the most safe or most likely to be the right one to happen. But I think, also, when you open such a gap on the first couple of laps, I'm pretty sure everybody started thinking that the only way to beat us was going to be to do the reverse of what we were doing. So I'm pretty sure if we had not stopped, everybody else was going to stop because I'm sure that's what they were thinking of. So I'm not sure if we are going to have a way to defend ourselves from that or not. But I'm very happy with the second place. Sometimes second place is even -- (Laughter) -- thanks for the help, Tony. A day like today was extremely important for me. Especially that I had two points for pole, for pole Friday and pole Saturday, somebody told me, I'm not sure, but I led most laps, so I made a 19th place second place so it's not too bad. It's almost like a win.

MERRILL CAIN: We are joined by Dario Franchitti, the champion of today's Molson Indy Montreal, driving #27 KOOL Honda/Lola Bridgestone, he takes the second win of the season and the ninth of his CART career -- here in the championship points, for leading the most laps. Sorry about putting that down on you, Cristiano, but that was going to dario. It gives him 106 points on the season and moves him into a second place in the series points standing, which marks the first year that Dario has won multiple races since 1999. He finished second in the championship that year. Each of his nine wins have come on road courses; four of them have come in the country of Canada. So I guess there's something about Canada Dario likes a little bit. All of those statistics mean a lot the win means a lot, but something else we have to point out, this is the first win I think that your mom has seen in the CART FedEx Championship.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's not true. She was there in 1984 when I won my first Scottish championship.

MERRILL CAIN: Your mom disagrees with that. First CART win let's put it that way.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Oh, definitely. Yeah, banned her, actually, a couple years ago. She was so bad luck, every time she came to the race, we crashed. (Laughter).

MERRILL CAIN: Just talk about the effort today. It's a great win for you.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, you know, races like today are always fun because of Cristiano and I were on different parts of the track all day because of strategy, but yet we were sort of fighting towards the end. We knew, you know, I didn't know ever if Cristiano was going to come out of the pits in front of me or behind me; so you just have to attack everybody lap. I was attacking him for every lap for every tenth of a second I could find, and for me, that's what the racing is all about. I know when Cristiano went into the pits, that give me a clear track and I could push, and I knew that -- I think we were going to have a bit of help; I thought our strategy was better than his. But in situations like that where it's yellow at the wrong time, it was right back in Cristiano's hands again. Luckily, all went our way. Like I said, it was all going well until that last yellow and bunched us all back up. Cristiano was struck in traffic, gave me a chance to get a gap and I just ran as hard as could I until the end. But, yeah, it was pretty cool.

MERRILL CAIN: Quickly, let's go over the top five standings after 13 rounds of the CART FedEx Championship Series unofficially. Cristiano da Matta, with 161 points still leads the championship. Dario Franchitti moves into second place with 106 points. Patrick Carpentier and Bruno Junqueira are tied for third with 101 points, Christian Fittipaldi and Michel Jourdain are tied for fourth with 88 points.

Q. A question to all three of you. At different points in the race, you all came out with full fuel loads and cold tires and often in the midst of a pack of other drivers. And obviously, track position is very important. Can you talk about just how critical those out laps are under less than -- when the car isn't really working 100% and just how critical those were today?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, you can probably gain or lose more because this is a bit more unknown, so you can take more of a risk and gain a couple of seconds, as much as that, or you can either take it easy and let somebody else gain that on you. So there's definitely advantages to be made. I think we were pretty good on our laps today. But as you say, sometimes you come out in a pack of cars, again nobody is running the same pace. You pull up behind Nakano and he's running almost the same pace as we were. So it's very difficult to pass people, even if you are first in there, almost a lap down.

TONY KANAAN: I think it's up to you to judge -- when I came out of the pits, I had a situation with PT, with Tracy and Jimmy. Tracy, I tried to come out of the pits, I tried to stop him and I knew he had to pit so I let him go because I knew I could keep -- he would gain a couple of seconds in the first lap because my tires were cold. I didn't try to hold Jimmy. We had a good battle going on. We almost missed -- we both missed the chicane and after that, Tracy had the gap and I just pushed so I could get the lap. If I was trying to fight with them, I probably would lose a lot more time. So just need to be smart and say, okay, this guy is going to pit in five laps. Why I am going to fight with them right now and lose all of the good time of my tires? So I think it's really important to judge and then, you know, your pits to tell you what's going to happen. I think a situation, like Cristiano said, for me and him was so different because we were out of sequence, so we could not afford to lose any time.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, one situation that it happens sometimes, for example, today after the first stop, we came out of the pits, full tanks, everybody is probably a half-tank so you cannot really pass anybody because everybody is half-tank, the car is that much faster than yours down the stretch and it just can do anything. Also, it can happen the other way around. If you are on full tanks and there is a guy behind you or vice versa, you know, just half-tanks, it can work the other way, and then you have a bigger opportunity to pass the guy, and definitely you can in a track like today. I was, actually, very fortunate that I didn't have any situation like that in my old laps or anything. My laps, though, I always had some little bit of traffic here or there. But I don't think it change anything in the course of the race. I think it's just everybody start remembering every little detail here. There's many things that could have happened better during the race. Out laps and in laps are always very important. That is because of the unknown situation. The car is not similar as before it was when you did the stop. So you have to push for something, you don't know exactly what the limit is.

Q. Dario, when Cristiano ducked into the pits on this first yellow, what were you thinking and did you have any conversation with Kyle at that time?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: No. There was no conversation. I trust him to make the right call. I just knew I had, at that point, a clear track in front of me and I had to just attack and make as much of a gap as I could to Cristiano, because I felt even though he was -- he had made a stop already, he was going to be the main competition still. At that point, I think the PLAYERS car -- which PLAYERS car was it? Yeah, he was still very much in the hunt as well. He's done a pretty good job. It didn't dawn on me on top of the podium, and Barry Green and I were talk about it, #27, winning in Montreal. It's quite interesting, yeah. Felt pretty good when I thought about that.

Q. You've now been the first CART driver to win the Canadian version of the Triple Crown. Drivers talked all weekend about the big crowds here, the super turnout, the big crowds in Vancouver. Is there any added pressure to win in Canada? You've won four times now in Canadian races and all have been well attended. Do the drivers feed off the big crowds?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Maybe we can get a free dinner later.

TONY KANAAN: No, you'll buy dinner. You won.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Is there any pressure? No. But the crowd on the parade lap, you can see the reaction of the crowd straightaway, and I think this is one of most enthusiastic crowds I've ever been in front of before. They are up on their feet and they are cheering. On the in lap after the race was over, I stopped in the hairpin and put my engine on idol so I could hear the crowd and they were cheering. That was a pretty cool feeling. It's a great feeling to race in front of full stands and fans that really enjoy what's going on.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: It's almost the crowd put a little bit of a show for us inside the car, too. It works both ways.

Q. Cristiano, at the end after the restart, a lot of the people were expecting you to challenge Dario for the lead. But Kanaan was there, how much of a problem was it for you just to overtake him?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: After a lap and a half, he eventually let me by, but I wasn't expecting him to let me by on the first lap. I didn't even get mad because he has same engine as Dario. It was a very similar situation that happened in Monterrey back in March when I was leading and I had the last car, which was Takagi (ph), the same engine as mine and Dario was running second. I knew that was going to happen. Also, I wasn't in a position to attack so much, because now, six races left, I wasn't in a position to try to throw away any points. It was very important for me to finish the race today. And of course, if I had the chance, I was going to try to do something, but I was pretty pleased with the second place, at that time, something very difficult for me to do inside the car, because your heart, once you attack and you want to race, you have to keep yourself with a nice behavior and then don't do anything bad. Dario was very quick on the restarts, too. I tried it put a couple of fast laps after, actually, I got clear -- had a good advantage and I settled down after two laps.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was hoping he was going to hold up. I still definitely remember Monterrey.

TONY KANAAN: I was hoping, too.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was kind of glad when that happened. I met him earlier in the race and I got stuck behind him for a little while, so, I was kind of glad of that. It was nice to have an insurance policy.

Q. Wonder if you can go through the first pit stop scenario again. I still can't see the logic of pitting from the lead, unless the yellow had lasted until lap 17, because it guaranteed that you'd have to make an extra pit stop regardless of what anyone else, you'd have to make four stops.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, the logic of it because half-tanks, you make your windows for all of the next pit stops that much bigger. Everybody still had four-lap window for all of the other pit stops. If any other yellow happened apart from the last ten laps actually happened during the race, the race was going to come back to us. Percentage-wise, it something that was very, very possible to happen, especially having two yellows already by lap 11. So, for us, we felt like it was the safest thing to do, but didn't work. It's very common thing to do. I think everybody -- expected everybody to stay out. I think some people were going to follow us in, but it was just different today.

Q. Dario, I also saw the first #27 win, the first race on this circuit back in 1978. What do you think about when they go back in the record books and your name is going to be with his, yours is the first CART winner here on this circuit?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: There's no comparison, is there, really? I mean, he's a legend, one of the greatest drivers ever. Just a guy who I think any driver looks up to for his heart and the passion he had for driving, as much as anything else. So I'm very proud and to be on the same piece of paper, I guess as him because he was -- as I said, one of the all time great.

Q. There was a lot of talk about brakes and gear boxes. How close on brakes were you?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Probably after 20 laps, I had to start taking a little bit more -- it a little bit easier, change my style a little bit because of the pedal. I right-foot brake, and the pedal was starting to get really long. So I started to catch the throttle pedal on the way through and it was starting messing up my rhythm. We had a similar situation in Toronto in '98 when I had a 14-second lead with 11 laps to go, and I went for the brake pedal and nothing happened; it went to the floor. So I didn't want to that to happen today. I started to back off a little bit and change my style a little bit. But, gear box and engine, problems all day.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: For me, also my pedal got a little long, but nothing that was more than normal. Actually we thought it was going to be even harder. But Christian, my teammate, had a lot of problems in the morning warmup, so we were very conservative on this side, on the cooling and everything. So I had no problems, basically. Same with engine and gear box. It was no problems the whole day.

TONY KANAAN: I got some brake issues like Dario in my right foot brake as well. What I was doing was just tapping the brakes. When you hit the curbs, the pads, the rotors, the oscillate a little bit, so they have a tendency to bring the pads away from the rotors. So what you do is just tap with the left foot a little bit and you bring them back, and I was just doing that on every straightaway, so you and make sure you have to good brakes.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Oscillate? Did you say oscillate?

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I'm learning new English. I'm going to classes. (Laughter.)

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Tony's studying the dictionary.

TONY KANAAN: It's a good one -- being polite. Morris is teaching me how to be polite. I learn how to speak English with my mechanics, so you can imagine talking about the car here. Obviously, you slow down a little bit. So, basically, that's what we did. That's what I did.

MERRILL CAIN: Congratulations.

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