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IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

Michael Andretti
Tony Kanaan
May 25, 2003


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

MODERATOR: We are delighted to have Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan in for our first press conference. Helio Castroneves is on his way. Obviously, a couple of big stories here. Michael, you led laps. You were strong. You made this comment on the public address, "I will turn my attention now to being a car owner." This guy, Tony Kanaan, who had an incredibly strong car last year, crashed, ran a great race today, finished in the third position. It's got to be an incredible range of emotions for you right now, Michael.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Really, it is to the point where I am pretty numb at this point. It was a day that could have been great and yet pretty good -- ended up pretty good. I think we had a race car to win the race, I really do. I was really quite surprised I was able to lead the race with the setup that I had on at the moment. We still had a lot more speed left in the car to dial into by trimming it. The handling was very good. I fell actually back behind the two Penske cars saving fuel. Everything was going great. Then I come out -- I think I was lapping somebody, I downshifted, went back on the throttle and all of a sudden, I just didn't have any power again. It ended up being a freak deal, another freak deal for me. It was the throttle linkage that broke inside the engine, one of the butterflies broke and that was it. It's a shame, but then I had to change my focus. First thing I did, came in the pits, I looked up at the pylon to see where the other guys were and started cheering and really felt bad for Tony because he was very quick. I think he was the quickest car in the racetrack, but he lost his track position early in the race when he made that pitstop and got caught. I was lucky. I just saved my lap but he lost his lap, and so the rest of the day was catchup for him. Because of that, I think that's what cost him the race because I think if he had track position at the end of the race, he would have run away. It was a shame that happened to him. But other than that, the whole team did a great job. I feel real sorry for Dan. He was doing an awesome job and made a little bit of a mistake there. Robby had some problems in the pit and ended up with the gearbox breaking. At least Tony brought it home again for us. I am proud of him. Proud of the whole 7 Eleven crew. The other thing is, as Tony said, he was looking at the big picture; looking at Championship and he's back in the lead in the Championship, so that's awesome.

Q. Tony, obviously this is a better finish than last year. Any driver who gets a third place finish, from our end, has had a great day. You've become such a popular driver here because you are always so upbeat and friendly with everyone. I look at you now, I don't know if it's a questions of exhaustion for --

TONY KANAAN: I am just tired. I have been driving with my right arm for 500 miles, so I was trying to save my left arm. I have a big pain in my shoulders right now, but no I am not upset at all. I think if you look back a month ago, I was looking for just to get in the car and get in the race. So finishing third, it's not third. Like Michael said, at one point in the race, at the last restart, I saw Scott Sharp out, I saw Felipe out. I saw a lot of people, they were fighting for the Championship with me. Kenny was out. And I saw the opportunity and I said, look, third is better than nothing. I don't think I could pass those guys. It was unfortunate we had that situation in the pitstop but it wasn't my fault, it wasn't the team's fault. It was just a matter of -- we need to be lucky to win and I think at that time it didn't work for us. I had to work really hard to pass everybody back, and once I got there in the Top-5 guys, it was really tough. So I took advantage on the restart, I made a wired move on Dan and Takagi on the outside going into Turn 1 and I guess I passed like three cars in one corner. I just closed my eyes. When I opened I was in the middle of Turn 1. Today is my lucky day. I closed my eyes just for a second. When he was in the lead I knew his setup when I knew what he had. I said, well, this race, if he's going to be there at the end, he's going to be unbeatable because he still had a lot of downforce in his car. I didn't. So I was trying to keep up with him and I couldn't, so I feel bad for him, really. After he dropped off, I say, hey, it's up to me now to get it. And I did my best. My guys did a great job. I think I can't forget the people that put me back in the car. I will get it for you. I promise.

Q. Michael, as you shift as team owner here, how fortunate do you feel that you had two cars go airborne and neither driver got hurt?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's really, that was a freak deal again. There's something -- maybe there's something we have to look at. Seems like when the front end gets a little bit of lift, it just catches the air and flips them. I am sure it's something that Bryan and everybody is going to look at. It was a scary one again. Obviously, not as bad as dad's, but it did go over. I am sure Bryan is going to try to address it.

Q. How many times have you, Gil and Helio run this race when you were kids in Brazil?

TONY KANAAN: How many times we ran together? Me and Helio all the time. Gil, he's a much older guy. (Laughs) He is way in front of us. Me and Helio, probably, I don't know, we go back 20 years. Long time he has been kicking my butt. I am trying to keep up with him. When we run together in the race I keep thinking about all those days that we had in go-karts that we used -- it was a long story, but we used to polish our helmets together and dream about being a race car driver one day. And Helio's father picking us up in the car going to the go-kart track. We can be here all day telling stories. It's a great feeling.

Q. From what Michael seems to be saying that he is looking to you for leadership with the team on the track from now on. Is that a big responsibility and how do you think you will stand up to that?

TONY KANAAN: I don't think he meant that way. Obviously, I am in the position to, but we are a team and my teammates, they are very quick and they can do as good as I can. Then it's still learning a lot. Dario will be back in the car. I think obviously when you put yourself in a position that you are able to stand out and we were fighting for the Championship, you get more attention, but that doesn't mean we're always -- we're getting the same treatment and the same cars, actually if you think about it, we got three cars between the two of us this month, and the other guys got two cars each. So it was like if you had to think about, okay, there was any preference, I should get the car, because I was second in the Championship and that didn't happen because as a team, we work together. But obviously I am proud to be -- of everybody, basically and in the Championship and try to give the team a win. If it is going to be my teammates as well, we're going to try to help them out.

Q. Michael, No. 1, what do you think is your legacy as a driver at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway right now; and do you look at it now that the Indy 500 is a big tease for you?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Most laps led by a non-winner. I guess that's what is going to be -- somebody told me I am only 3 laps shy of passing Rick Mears for laps led. How many times did he win here? (Laughs) I don't know. What can I say? It's meant to happen. It's meant to happen. Never did. For whatever reason, it wasn't supposed to happen. Having said that, I have no regrets about anything. I am proud of what I have been able to do. I know I could have won this race many times I just wasn't supposed to.

Q. Hopefully the legacy will retire you with you, too?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Exactly. My new legacy is going to be to win 20 of these as an owner.

Q. Tony, describe how much pain you were in, in terms of throughout the course of the race, and could you maybe relate at all to maybe the pain that Gil was driving with in terms -- maybe for Helio, if you can also add to this, I mean, how much pain did you see him during the course of the month?

TONY KANAAN: Gil was in a pain, I don't know, maybe. I don't think Gil was in any pain. For me, honestly, my leg was the biggest problem and it was by the time we got to here today it was 100%. My arm wasn't in any pain, but I obviously always have this concern. It is much weaker than my right arm so obviously when you exercise you have a tendency to get sore and if you look at my arm it's much thinner so was trying to save that because I don't know -- didn't know what to expect and what happened, basically I wore my right shoulder off trying to hold the steering wheel with one hand and just having this hands-on the steering, but to look okay -- towards the end of the race I start to get a huge pain on my right shoulder and what I had to do, drive with my left arm, so basically it's okay. It's a little swell, but we have a couple of weeks to rest. I know I am not going to be given any rest - probably going to be working tomorrow. I can't say that was because of not me fighting with those guys at all.

Q. Michael and Tony, talk about the competitive nature of the race. There was periods there when the top 7 cars were virtually running knows to tail and the equipment seemed to last pretty well all day?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, it was really tough. We knew it going in we knew there was a lot of cars that could win this race, so it was everything they expected. It is just came down to the Penske guys again, stole another one away from me. How many times it was Roger taking wins from me? If Roger wouldn't have been around, I probably would have won three or four; one as an owner now. But other than that, the race was very competitive and I am very proud that we were able to have cars right up front running with the best of them.

TONY KANAAN: Well, I tell you, it was a long day out there. Definitely. When you have a good car and you go a lap down or go to the back of the pack you say, oh, now I am going to have fun and when they put me back there I am like, my, God what am I going to do now because I can't pass anybody. Even the slowest car out there you can't pass, I mean, it's so competitive that it's -- I like that because I think you have to drive more. Now you take advantage and opportunities that people make mistakes or restarts or you have to make an outside move or inside move that a lot of people don't do it, few people do. I know this guys up here, they would definitely do. It's now up to us a lot. So I think it's the best year. It's only my first year here, but definitely I am having a tough time, tougher than I have had for sure.

Q. Michael, what were you thinking when you got out of the race car?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Like I said before it was a numb feeling, I think I was feeling like a bunch of things then I went numb, I just start -- first thing I thought about well, we still have 3 cars in the race. How are they doing. Let us start watching them and focusing on that. I don't think it will really sink in until probably tomorrow, like, wow, that was my last race. I was disappointed for the team. We had a car that could have won the race today, I believe, so it was disappointing, but yet I was happy because that's the way I wanted to retire, always -- I wanted to retire knowing that I can win that last race and I had myself in the position that I could win that last race. From that standpoint, I am happy.

MODERATOR: First of all, Tony, we go back a year ago when you were so gracious in what could have been incredibly frustrating time for you, congratulations on a great run here and the way that you conduct yourself each and every day here at the Motor Speedway. Michael, there's a lot of great race drivers who made a great contribution to American Motor Sports without having won this race and that list has you very firmly at the top. Congratulations on a great career and thank you very much for coming in in what we know is a very disappointing time:



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