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IndyCar Series: Michigan Indy 400

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Michigan Indy 400

IndyCar Series: Michigan Indy 400

Tony Kanaan
Buddy Rice
Scott Roembke
Dan Wheldon
August 1, 2004


THE MODERATOR: Dan, why don't you tell us about your day.

DAN WHELDON: That's my intro?

THE MODERATOR: Third-place finisher. Latest David Beckham look alike.

DAN WHELDON: No. I think obviously anybody that says the Indy Racing League is not the best championship in the world is a complete idiot in my book. I think that race was very, very fast. I think from a driver's standpoint, it was intense. There was a lot of side-by-side. Actually, there was a lot of racing three abreast. I think for the most part, it was pretty clean. Obviously when you get other cars in front disturbing the air, it can upset and perhaps move a guy up into somebody else's airstream and perhaps they get pissed a little. I think from our standpoint, I was just a little bit off Tony and Buddy's pace, so it made it difficult for me. But nonetheless, I think it was a good result from the Klein Tools Jim Beam car. Obviously, one of my guys got knocked down. I was amazed. The poor guy gets knocked down and only loses me two spots. I think that's pretty amazing. I'm glad Mike is okay. I think a reasonable result. Obviously, the two that I needed to beat finished in front of me, so from that standpoint it's kind of disappointing. But I'm more disappointed that the team didn't secure another win. I think Buddy and Rahal Letterman racing are doing a very good job. You've got to give them a lot of credit for that because they're beating a strong operation. It was an okay weekend.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.

Q. Did you have a third-place car or was it just a matter of skillful driving or a little bit of luck that got you up there?

DAN WHELDON: It was all driving (laughter). No, I think, honestly, if I had a good race, the best was going to be third with the speed of certainly Tony and Buddy. So it's good from that standpoint to salvage a third-place finish. I think from a championship standpoint, any podium finish is going to bode you well for the remaining part of the season. But just a little bit off I think maybe from a setup standpoint. I thought Honda did an excellent job again. Obviously, their cars are running up front. I don't think we have a big advantage. I think obviously it's their perseverance in development that's really helping our team. I mean, like I said, it was probably the best I was going to get today. I'm disappointed, though, because Buddy has three wins, so does Tony. I'm the one with two. I feel kind of left out.

Q. What is it about this place that just makes the racing seem to be right on the edge of the seat, hair trigger, real close? Is it configuration, car setup, or is it a combination of all of that?

DAN WHELDON: I think it's a combination of a lot of things. I think, obviously, the league right now, the rules package is making it, for this kind of racing on this particular track. Obviously, I think all the drivers like coming to Michigan. I think it's a great superspeedway. But I think because it's got a lot of different grooves - I sound American when I say "grooves" (laughter). It's got a lot of different racing lines. There's probably four or five lines. I definitely found my car better up high, so I was able to run very high. But when you can do that comfortably, you do get this side-by-side racing. I think Brian Barnhart has done a good job with the rules package. The cars are on edge but you are able to run flat out around this place. It's kind of a combination of things. I think the competition is very tight right now so there's not much of a gap from that standpoint, so that makes it close. It's great fun to be part of, I must say. I think if you could see everybody's face under their helmet, I think everybody would have beaming smiles - Jim Beam smiles (laughter) - some big smiles because it's very, very fun.

THE MODERATOR: I'm told it's the fourth fastest race in IndyCar Series history at 182.123.

Q. Dan, how big of a part did the haircut in finishing in the Top 3 today?

DAN WHELDON: It's definitely less drag, I know that much. Hey, with teammates like Kanaan, Franchitti and Herta, you never know what to expect. So I'm sure they'll do something to it while I'm sleeping tonight. But, no, I don't like the look, I have to say. I thought I used to be quite hip, but I don't feel very hip anymore.

Q. With two to go, there was contact out there, and Manning lost his wing. Did you run through much debris on those final two laps?

DAN WHELDON: No. I saw the debris and fortunately missed it. I didn't know who it was. But, no, we were able to stay -- it was certainly safe enough because it was actually just below the white line, so it didn't really affect the outcome of the race or put us in any danger because it was well out of the way.

Q. You didn't have contact with Manning?

DAN WHELDON: Definitely not me. I had people bouncing off me in the pit lane, but not on the track. You can tell I'm older now because I move out of the way if they get close. I must be aging. Before, I didn't mind running so close, but now I move real quick (laughter).

Q. What do you attribute to some of the stuff that happened today in pit lane?

DAN WHELDON: I've just been asked that question actually. I think coming off the track at turn four, and you don't really have to slow down too much until you actually come off of the track, and consequently it's a braking zone, but I think it just opens up for people to come into the pit lane speed area side by side. Personally, I think that's the nature of the track. I think, yeah, sure, maybe -- I don't honestly -- I think the drivers are obviously so competitive, it's so tight, that you want to make up time anywhere. I mean, I don't think the drivers can perhaps help it as much. I think what would perhaps be better is pitting off of turn three with a narrow pit lane opening. You know, I'm sure, Brian, he's always working on safety, and he'll try and improve that for next year.

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by second-place finisher Tony Kanaan. Tony, your thoughts on today's event?

TONY KANAAN: Well, we had a strong car.

DAN WHELDON: You need a shoulder to cry on.

TONY KANAAN: I was doing my job, I did what I was told to do. Somebody asked me to let him by. I did. So that's what happens.

Q. Does this one hurt?

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, of course, it does. I mean, right now, yes. By the time I go back home and I see I finished second, it won't. But, I mean, leading - I don't know how many laps I led, probably 180 something, and letting to have somebody by because somebody's telling you on the radio that he's not going to make it, then I see the guy make it, doesn't make me very happy. But I'm not going to point fingers at anybody. I'm a team player. I think I'm part of that, too. Today I don't think we were very smart. I think the other team was smarter than us, so... It is what it is.

DAN WHELDON: I thought he drove a bloody good race myself.

Q. Tony, it seemed to me in the past here that sometimes you don't want to be leading on the last lap coming out of the last corner. I don't know if you were close enough to Buddy. You were doing everything you could have done to pass him. Do you think you should have been able to get by him coming out of four?

TONY KANAAN: I tried, but couldn't make it. The outside line was slower than the inside. Reality is, I shouldn't be behind him basically. I should be ahead, like I was the whole race.

Q. I know you don't want to point fingers, but are you going to have a discussion with team management to say, "This strategy kind of blew up in our face today"?

TONY KANAAN: I don't have to say anything. They know. And, like I said, I'm a team player. I'm not there to say, "It's your fault, it's my fault." It's our fault. I'm part of this team. I don't think I'm going to do any good to the team getting in there and say, "Hey, you guys did a bad job." I think they did a great job. I mean, we stay in the front. We had the faster car. We led most laps. We had great pit stops. It happens; it's racing. But definitely we need to talk about to make sure it doesn't happen again. But, I mean, I feel as bad as them. I'm pretty sure they're not happy right now.

Q. Tony, your win here, you kind of stole one from somebody else. Today you got one stolen from you. Is it one of those, "We're even now"?

TONY KANAAN: I need to call Max Papis and tell him I know exactly the way he feels (laughter). Yeah, I mean, this is racing. I would love to see races that every time the best car wins. But if you go back to Nashville, I didn't have the best car and I ended up winning. Probably Buddy felt the same way, and Dan that day, when I won. You know, it's one of those things. It's just frustrating right now. I will get over it in a couple hours and we move on.

DAN WHELDON: He'll use his prize money to buy me dinner.

TONY KANAAN: Of course, and cut your hair again.

Q. Was this something that was discussed over the matter of a few laps or were you just told to let him by and you did it? Did it go on and on?

TONY KANAAN: They gave me a few numbers. I was making the few numbers. Buddy was putting the pressure on me. At one point they said, "They're going to turn him up, but don't worry about it." I said, "Okay." So he turned up, pulls right beside me. I fight with him for a couple laps. People kept screaming in my ears not to fight with him. All right, I let him go. Here he went. That was it. So, yeah, it was discussed in the last laps. On the back straightaway, they go, "Go full mixture as fast as you can." I'm like, "Might be too late, but I'll try."

Q. For the casual fan and observer, you still enjoy what appears to be a fairly sizable points lead for the season. Can you fall back and be satisfied with that and the continue success or do you feel this is a glitch in an otherwise successful season?

TONY KANAAN: It could be 70 points advantage right now. Right now it's, I don't know, 50 something. We feel so-so. But at the end of the day, I still think we can fight. That's the beauty of this series. You know, what looks like was an easy race for me, pretty boring probably for you guys watching me, not the guys behind, and ended up seeing how things is. So I think it makes pretty exciting for the fans and for the series, too. I think, you know, even myself, obviously I would love to win this championship, I would love to win as many races to go as I could. But at the end of the day, when I watch F1 races and some other races, the drivers win championships before the end of the season. Doesn't make me feel very happy. Obviously, when you're in that position, you want to do it. No, lets keep digging. I think that's the only way to win. You have to be there. So today was Buddy's day. We'll make sure next week and two weeks from tomorrow it's our day.

Q. Did you run through any of the debris when Manning lost his wing on the last two laps coming out of four?

TONY KANAAN: I didn't even see debris. People asked me about it. I think I was busy following Buddy.

DAN WHELDON: It was off the track.

Q. Maybe when you went by, just air turbulence.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, might have been just some small stuff. From a driver's standpoint, it was well off the track.

TONY KANAAN: I didn't even see it.

DAN WHELDON: You were going too fast.

TONY KANAAN: I would be pissed. Now that you tell me, I'm mad (laughter). It was a big one, then. Should go yellow.

Q. How much fuel did you have left?

TONY KANAAN: I wish I would know. If I knew this, I think I would had won the race. I don't know. The car went to tech, so we will know probably tonight. But I don't think we're going to be allowed to say it.

DAN WHELDON: I don't think anybody finished with much, though.

TONY KANAAN: Let me put it this way. I made it back to the pits. So if I was really close, I would run out in the racetrack.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TONY KANAAN: Pretty impressive. What can I say? I mean, Honda again, one, two, three. I need to thank them for the great job. They make it tough on me because the guy that's second and third in the championship, they all have the same engine. So it's making my life a lot harder. But, you know, I'm always proud of those guys. They were big part of my decision when I came to this series. Heads up for them.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TONY KANAAN: He was challenging. But I tell you, I was saving fuel. I was in the mixture that I probably run under the yellow. But I have to say he was strong, he was bugging a lot of people back there, being a lap down, including myself. It was a shame, I don't know which problem he had, probably twice, because I saw him stop afterwards. But he looked pretty strong. I would say, you know, everybody's stepping up. I think that's the way it was going to be really. We never expect to dominate. As a team standpoint I think Honda also expecting everybody to step up. You know, it was good to see him back here, and I think he was strong all weekend, too. Unfortunately, didn't go his way.

Q. Is that the fastest car you've ever had?

TONY KANAAN: I had some pretty good cars this year. But, yeah. I mean, if you look the races that I won, apart from Nashville, I dominated. Yeah, for sure. The race ended up a fuel mileage race, which I'm really not happy about it. If I had won the race, I would be happy. It is the way it is. But racing shouldn't be about fuel mileage; racing should be racing. It should be about racing. You should be able to race to the end. But I don't think it's anybody's fault. You know, we kept it green for so long. Everybody stay out of trouble, which was awesome, I think. It was just one of those days.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

TONY KANAAN: Sorry about my bad mood.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by race winner Buddy Rice. Again, for those that were here earlier heard this, but this was the fourth fastest race in history at 182.123. It is the ninth straight Honda victory. Six of those have been a 1-2 finish or better. Buddy, tell us about your day.

BUDDY RICE: I think that for what we were going for, we knew it was going to be a long race, it was going to be a mental race. You know, we had worked on a lot of full tanks. We didn't concentrate nearly as hard on our qualifying setup as we have in the past because we knew how long we were going to be in big packs. So we wanted to make sure we were super strong as we were at Indy and some of these other places we have been. We weren't overly concerned with qualifying. But I think for everything, it worked out. Scott Roembke, Todd Bolen, the whole engineering staff, for their fuel strategy and setup and everything they were able to do, it just all played out to exactly what we were looking for. I mean, we knew Tony was going to be strong. He'd been strong all weekend. We were just going to have to wait and see how it was going to play out in the last 20 laps. Obviously, it came down to a bit of a fuel race. We obviously had saved more than he had. When it came down to it and we needed to run full rich, we were able to go and run up front and drive away.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for buddy.

Q. He said his crew (inaudible) pretty good fight before you finally got by him.

BUDDY RICE: I have no idea what was said in their pits or what their strategy was. You could tell he was on more or less the same thought process as me. I mean, I could watch him back up a little bit at times. You can see, I think we've all ran together long enough, can you see what somebody else is doing pretty obviously when they start to try to save fuel. We've done that. We've seen in it in the past. So I was definitely looking for it. No, I have no idea if they told him to move over or whatever. Obviously, they felt they had the car that could beat us, so they wanted to run behind us. I don't know. That's just the way it plays out.

Q. Were there were times when he was leading so many laps that you were content with letting him lead?

BUDDY RICE: I wasn't concerned one bit with where I was sitting at. It's not like I couldn't run and do what I wanted to. I just needed to stay right where I was at.

Q. Was this a little bit like Indy? After that one pit stop, you had to come back in the field forward. You weren't saving fuel there, were you? You did have to put the hammer down in the middle of the race?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah. But we knew the car was so good, I was still actually saving fuel. We weren't even running full tilt on anything. That's why when we got up there, it wasn't going to be an issue. I think that's what Marlow was asking about earlier, if I could run full rich, I could run all the way up. We didn't do that. We needed to save fuel and still climb to the front. So I went to the high side, sat up against the wall, and drove around everyone on the high side. There were obviously some cars that were quite strong on fresh tires. But as tires wore on, they started to back up a little bit.

Q. Clearly Andretti Green don't like you guys being short on fuel. Didn't even look like it was close. You guys had plenty. Did you cut it close at all on that last stint?

SCOTT ROEMBKE: No. I don't know why they think we were going to be out of fuel because they had the same motor we have. We gave Buddy the numbers he needed to work with. Our whole deal was we were going to save fuel until the lap we could give him full rich until the end of the race. You know, that lap came. We went to full rich. A half lap later, we were P1. I think it's obviously harder for Tony. Tony had a tougher job because he's leading the thing. He's not going to get as good of mileage as we are being right behind him. That's probably the difference. I mean, it's tough to save fuel and lead the race. I'm sure there were several times he was trying to get out of the lead this morning, but there were no takers. But we had plenty of fuel in the end.

Q. Buddy, the IRL doesn't have a triple crown. If they did, you're already two legs up on it. How does it feel to win Indy, then win here?

BUDDY RICE: Well, I guess if there is a triple crown, I guess that's good.

SCOTT ROEMBKE: Just want to win them all.

BUDDY RICE: Scott just said, "All we want to do is win everything." That's what we're here to do. The whole goal right now is to make sure we bring this championship to Rahal Letterman and the manufacturers championship to Honda. With the other cars in the Honda family, we're definitely on our way to making sure that Honda gets the manufacturers award right now. We have another manufacturer we need to be concentrating on and that's for G Force. Without all the help of everybody involved, it wouldn't be happening right now. I think that's what's making not only the Indy and the big tracks where we're at so fast, it's just everything has kind of come together. I think also there's nothing short of saying that the weather also helped us. If it had stayed overcast and cloudy, definitely it would have been a little bit more difficult, I believe, for us with the way our body is set up. But it played out today. The sun came out. It leveled the playing field once again back to where we think it was at. But, I mean, I think when we go to Fontana, it's going to be a whole 'nother track again. It's tighter in the turns, it has less banking, it's also a lot bumpier. So it's going to play out completely different once again. I think all three big speedways are completely different even though they're big speedways.

Q. In the '80s, Indy and Michigan were the two big races on the schedule. You're probably the first Indy winner to come back and win these in a long time. Montoya 2000. Four years.

BUDDY RICE: I don't keep up with the history numbers as much as Mr. Roembke does. He can probably rattle a whole bunch off to us. We're going to go to Kentucky and plan on winning. We're going to go the next couple rounds after that. We'll still show up at Fontana looking for the same thing. We need to do what we came here to do: keep our head down, just keep winning races, keep running up front. It will all shake out as it needs to in the end.

Q. On 198, Dixon and Manning got together behind you guys. Some pieces flew off of Manning's car there in turn four. Helio talked about having to drive around it, having to go way up on the track. Tony said he didn't see them. Did you see the debris on the track?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I saw it. But there was no yellow flag. Tony was behind me. I'm not about to lift or do anything like that. Obviously, everyone is going to run till the end. That's unfortunate for those guys to get together being teammates. I wasn't going to change anything I was doing. Yeah, I did see it. I didn't think it was an issue. Cars got hit on the backside, we went two laps still green with debris out there, as well. Coming down to the white flag, there was no way I was going to lift.

Q. What is it about this place that lends itself to good, tight racing with your kind of cars? Is it just the number of grooves, layout, a combination? What might it be?

BUDDY RICE: What does it is this place is so big, it's wide, the rules package and the competition of the IRL, it's the whole complete package is what makes it so competitive here all the time. I think the other series, when they ran, until they put these big parachutes behind them, they mostly ran in single-file procession. They would get big runs and pass each other. They couldn't run in packs like. I think what IRL has done with the rules package, made it competitive for everybody, is what is key here. Obviously, the lanes. As you go up, the banking makes transitions. Obviously, some cars are so trimmed out that when you did cross the transitions, the cars got loose. I think the biggest thing is just how wide and how long the arcs are, how long the track is with the rules package.

Q. Is this sending a message mid-season (inaudible)? A little bit of a message?

BUDDY RICE: I don't need to send a message. We're just here to do one thing, and that's win. That's what I was brought in to do from the start - whether I was part-time or full-time.

THE MODERATOR: Buddy, thank you very much. Thank you, Scott.

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