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IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

Tony Kanaan
Dan Wheldon
May 30, 2004


THE MODERATOR: We have two gentlemen who have put together an outstanding month. I suspect both felt were in position to win the event but a great day for Andretti Green Racing when you look at that scorecard, a second, third and a fourth. Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon, both of you, congratulations, I know you were here last year, Tony, and you mentioned fact that you were going to do everything you can to get Michael a victory, and you did that, as did Dan. Talk about your day.

TONY KANAAN: Well, long day, for everybody. Fun race. I never had so much fun in my life with a teammate that I had with Dan today. I tell you, you know, winning races is important, and winning championships, but the relationship and when you get out on the track and you can fight that hard between each other and still get out of the car and be able to laugh about it, that's, for me, it's priceless. This guy is going to give me too much work, so I'm going to try to win the championship very soon because he is a nightmare. (Laughter.) Great effort. Not great enough. I don't think -- in my point of view, this race needs to be won by the best car and the best driver, and I think it happened today. I don't think we had the car to win the race. I'm not going to sit here and say, "Yeah, I wish it was going to go green." I don't think the result would have changed even if it wasn't raining, because he was so much stronger than me and Dan. Great job from Honda. I mean, top four, it's a big effort. I'm happy for them. Thanks to 7-11 and the whole team. Great battle with my teammates.

DAN WHELDON: He teaches me everything. Between him Bryan and Dario, I have three of the best teachers out there.

TONY KANAAN: Unfortunately, the battle wasn't for the lead, it wasn't for the race win. It was a pleasure.

THE MODERATOR: In terms of your emotions, you were up front there, is this -- it's probably secondary, you've had another great race and you came in as points leader and you haven't hurt yourself there obviously. Talk about your emotions, and I want you to also comment, because you two went just wheel-to-wheel out there, lap after lap. We had a couple of shots of Michael and it looked like he needed a little antacid.

DAN WHELDON: It's like Tony said. I had -- probably that was my most enjoyable race ever from driving -- from a driving standpoint. We went into it -- into one a couple of times really hard with one another, but left each other, I think, enough room so that we could do that. It was a lot of fun, but like Tony said, I think that we did an absolutely fantastic job, with three of the top four speaks volumes of Andretti Green Racing. The crew worked very hard all month. I'm very happy. You know, Honda, they won Motegi and now they have won the Indianapolis 500. They are two of the biggest races of the year for them, so for them -- we're going to have to slug it out between the two of us hopefully. You know, I have to say, the Indianapolis 500 kicks ass. It is the best race in the world by miles. And when you can race -- and I think throughout the grid, there's people that respect each other a lot and can really race one another real hard. I certain learned from last year because I actually raced Sam Hornish real hard. Overall, I had a lot of fun.

Q. -- inaudible -- do you think it would have been closer ?

TONY KANAAN: I don't think so. I think it was as competitive or maybe even more competitive than last year. It's a combination of downforce and the engine power that they cut, obviously trying to make it safer. My point of view is if it's for safety, it's good. It's harder for us, I would say, with less power, because when you get together in traffic, sometimes the engine takes a while to pick back up. But it was a clean race, I think, for the weather conditions and all of the battles they had. There was a lot of crashes, thank God nobody was hurt. So I guess the change did work. We never got anybody hurt through the whole month. A couple crashes, that's always going to happen, but everybody is in one piece and that's a big accomplishment for IRL. If anybody -- people like to blast us here in Indianapolis, but like Dan said, you know, people that they are criticizing, it's because they want to be here, and they are not able to. So they can come here any time.

THE MODERATOR: Did you get an opportunity to speak before you came in, I'm sure you did with Michael; tell us about what his reactions are.

DAN WHELDON: Well, I haven't seen all of his races here, but I'm sure he's gutted to have three of the top four and not win the race. The poor guy has tried so hard to win the race, but in the future Andretti Green is going to be able to win the Indianapolis 500. It is just a tad disappointing, because we were so competitive. I don't exactly know how many, but I'm sure TK and I led a lot of laps between us. To come up a little bit short, its make you want the Indianapolis 500 to start again in June.

TONY KANAAN: To me, at the end of the race and he said, "Hey, we didn't have enough speed, do we." I said, "Yeah, I know." So I guess -- and that's all us. I think we did a great job during the month, but we weren't fast enough today.

Q. Was there any debate to make a final pit stop and how close were you on fuel at the end of the race?

TONY KANAAN: I think me and Dan we were all pretty close. I had enough fuel to finish the race. I had to save a lot of fuel to be able to finish on the green. But could we gamble? The best gamble, if you can predict the weather, you are going to win every race. Yeah, we could have gambled, put half a tank on get out in the lead and try to be lighter than Buddy, but what about if it didn't rain? I'm going to have to come in on the green. It's those kind of decisions that you always think afterwards; yeah, I could have done different. But, you know, when the pressure is on, you have to do the most sensible thing, and the most sensible thing was put full tires and full tank, and it still wasn't good enough to finish the race without any yellow flag. That was my case.

DAN WHELDON: Mine was pretty similar. I think -- I think from what they -- I don't know if they told me the exact choice; I think they tell me what I want to hear. (Laughter). I honestly think though that the guy that caused my race is Tony Kanaan. Personally, I thank him and Mr. Penske, they are absolutely fantastic. Some of the things he dreams up, I am amazed with. He's certainly very good. He told me that we could make it till the end. But I did have to say, I couldn't go crazy, which tends to frustrate me a little bit. But, hey, it's basically wearing that green card, you can see him racing Buddy. The only thing that I would have liked is if I could have helped him maybe get past. But like I said, Buddy, Buddy was stellar all month. I couldn't think of a nicer kid out of this team to win the race, and I think he'll make the IRL proud as an Indianapolis 500 champion.

Q. Did the rain break allow your team to re-tweak or did you lose momentum?

DAN WHELDON: It gave me enough time to eat pasta, drink water, check the data and change my suit.

TONY KANAAN: The guy changed his suit between 30 laps and the end of race. I don't understand it. Actually he has plenty of suits. I only had one; I was sweating and I had to keep my own. The rain, it's definitely more distraction. You want to get it done. You wait the whole month. But once you are in the car -- you probably get anxious out of the car. Once you put your helmet on, you're ready to race. No matter you interrupt ten times the race, you put us back and we are ready to continue racing. Now we feel exhausted. We wanted to go party. I don't know if --

DAN WHELDON: You can buy me dinner tonight.

TONY KANAAN: No, you can buy dinner.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, Dario can buy us dinner.


DAN WHELDON: Yeah, Bryan's rich.

Q. A number of restarts had real aggressive driving and four-wides, was that because you weren't sure it was going to end or because it's the Indianapolis 500?

DAN WHELDON: A lot of people said that. We didn't go four-wide through the corner but certainly

we felt it down the straight, a four-wide. It's obviously the Indianapolis 500, everybody wants to get to the front, and they know it's critical to be right around the front all the time. I think with the length of the straight, and with the way the restarts are, it tends to allow you to suck up to the cars in front. So, it happened to me when I -- when I was leading him, because I left -- I looked in my mirror at turn four and thought, yes, I got him before turn one, and then he came blasting by. You know what, I just had a ton of fun. I could race like that every day of the week, I really could, for 365 days a year.

THE MODERATOR: Guys, you brought a lot of color into the Speedway, your entire team, and have been delightful in these sessions as well. Congratulations on your effort and we'll see you at Texas.

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