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IndyCar Series: Bombardier 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Bombardier 500

IndyCar Series: Bombardier 500

Michael Andretti
Alex Barron
Dario Franchitti
Tony Kanaan
June 12, 2004


FORT WORTH, TEXAS

THE MODERATOR: We have Alex Barron. A season-best finish for you and the Cheever team. Wrap-up your evening. Started last, up to third. Quite a run.

ALEX BARRON: Yeah, it was. I think, you know, this year was a little bit different than last year. We knew we could move up, we just didn't know how far. We were at the right place at the right time, able to overtake a lot of cars on the outside of the track. A lot of cars that got checked up were on the inside and we were able to take advantage of it. There at the end the team did just a tremendous job in the pits and got me out in I think it was fourth or fifth position. Tony and I, we were able to get by. Dario got by at the same time. At that point we were in third. You know, we just stayed there, played defense a little bit, rode around in third till the end. I had a couple of runs. Sam got on me off of turn four. We were able to hold him off. Overall, Chevrolet, Red Bull, everybody's been working real hard. Happy to give them their first podium.

THE MODERATOR: Talk about the Chevrolet powerplant. Obviously some great strides being made with it, giving you power to be up front tonight.

ALEX BARRON: Yeah, they're working extremely hard. You know, they had a few things they tried this weekend, definitely put us in the right direction. We knew they could do it. We're working really hard beside them, you know, to do everything we can to help them as a team. And that's what it takes, it takes teamwork. They're a tremendously established company that can make power, I know. We just got to keep working on it and move forward.

THE MODERATOR: We're being joined by Dario Franchitti, runner-up for the Bombardier 500. Dario, tremendous run tonight. Almost there. Standing on the pole, finished second. Tremendous debut here at Texas Motor Speedway.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it was a great night. We led early on. We were quite comfortable leading, but we were definitely worried about the fuel consumption. Didn't seem to matter how much we leaned the car out, the guys behind us were getting better fuel consumption, which is one of the advantages of having three teammates, you tend to find these things out. We let ourselves get shuffled back of the pack a bit. That was fine. But we lost some ground I think it was on the second stop. Made one mistake in turn four. For some reason I lost the front end, had to back out of it. We got further back in the pack than they would have liked. From that point, the last pit stop, the guys did a great, did a splash and go. We made up some ground there. The last restart, it was time to go. We did go. We almost got around Tony going three-wide through one and two. Pretty loose up there on the marbles. As I say, almost got Tony, but when I knew I couldn't, I then thought the best thing to do was to run single file, try to get away from this man here, Alex. From there on, you know, we got away a bit, got a bit of a gap. From that point, I didn't have anything for Tony, unfortunately. It was too equal. He was on the inside. I didn't have enough to get right around the outside of him. Great result for the team. Great result for the (inaudible) side of things, as well. Nice to finally get a result. Good job by Honda, the old engine produces some horsepower at the moment.

THE MODERATOR: Good result for the team. Set you up for a good run during the busy part of the summer.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm hoping so. I'm hoping this result will give us some momentum. We've been pretty quick all season, but we haven't had any results for one reason or another. It's nice to get some results. If I'm going to finish second, I want it to be one of my teammates. Pretty happy team tonight.

THE MODERATOR: Alex, does this set the Red Bull team for a solid run all the way through the summer?

ALEX BARRON: I think the IRL is so competitive now, everybody's fighting so hard, you have to keep after it every weekend. I just think, you know, like any team, we seem to be making strides towards the right direction. We just got to keep focused and try to do the best we can. Like I said, it's so competitive in the IRL now, you know, if you're not working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you get behind.

THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to some questions.

Q. Alex, how does this make you feel about the Chevrolet power? It wasn't considered to be great earlier in the year. You finished third here today.

ALEX BARRON: I think Chevrolet is doing a lot of things right now to point us in the right direction. You know, we were quick. Especially my teammate, Ed, he was very quick throughout the whole weekend, so we knew we had the speed. It was just a matter of knowing, you know, if we were able to get in the lead, if we were able to lead in traffic, we were able to have our car very balanced up high and down low. You know, that makes up a lot in the race. At the end, I was able to make the car have more power. We were able to run in the lead group real easy. So overall, I think that we've made a gain in the right direction.

Q. First time you ran Texas. How do you feel about the track no you that you finally got on it?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: There were times tonight I was having the great time, it was a lot of fun. There were other times it was really terrifying. It really depended who you were racing with. I think Alex would agree there are some guys out there, they need to have a word with themselves. Sine pretty scary drivers. There are other guys who are great fun to race with. I loved it. I didn't even notice it going dark, I was focusing that hard on what was going on, kept me pretty busy.

Q. Alex, can you talk about the problem you had in qualifying, how that changes your mindset? Go into detail about the gearbox problem.

ALEX BARRON: I think somebody from the other team put a stick of dynamite in my gearbox going down the backstraight, blew about an eight-inch hole in the bottom of it (laughter). For whatever reason, that doesn't normally happen. We have one of the best gearbox guys in the business. I think it was a ring gear or something that let go. I'm not sure quite what. It was unfortunate. Happened right after I took the green flag for qualifying. Other than that, like I said, my teammate Ed Carpenter had speed all weekend. We had a good balance with traffic. I knew I could move up. And, again, it was just being at the right place at the right time to make up position.

Q. Dario, AGR clearly looks like the dominant team this year. After the things that happened last year with you getting injured, Michael retiring, now it seems like you guys are just doing everything right, is it just that there's not the transition you had last year? Why is it the team is doing so much better this year and has been so dominant?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'd like to say it's because I'm back driving in the car, but that probably wouldn't be the truth (laughter). I just think everybody's stepped up a bit. Honda certainly have stepped up their program tremendously. The engineering side of our team has been strengthened again and is working so well together. The four cars, the engineers work well together as a group. The drivers work very well together. And I think that's helped, as well. You know, we work pretty hard. The drivers work hard at sort of trying to guide the engineers, as well. But just a lot of effort from a lot of people. I think if you ask all the guys on the team, all the guys at Honda's wives, they'll tell you exactly how much time they're putting, how much time they're spending away from home. It's tough.

Q. Did you just feel you had nothing for Tony because of the engine, reduced engine, or was it a matter he was better than you tonight?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it was -- the problem was that we were very similar in speed, I think. When you get that close, to make a gain, he had the favored inside line, which is the shorter distance round here. I didn't have the advantage on him to run outside of him and pass him. You know, I think it's a testament to the team to putting cars out that are so equal and Honda giving us an engine that puts us on a level playing field.

Q. I know this is an IRL race, but it resembled a NASCAR race with all the bumping of tires and everything. You talked about how it was a little terrifying. I counted at least 10 times that people hit tires. Fortunately, most of those did not end up in accidents. The reason is because we've slowed the speeds down or is that because we're slower, those cars didn't end up in the wall?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it's luck. I think it's luck. One guy came alongside of me on the outside on the backstraight, turned left. I don't know what he was trying to play. I think he was trying to get the draft from the car in front. But it's kind of a stupid game to be playing. I'm not sure who it was, but I'll look at the tape and find out. I'll be going to have a word with him. But, as I say, some guys were pretty out of control. There were a lot of guys doing an excellent drive. I thought Fernandez for his first time out on the high-banked ovals as well did a really good job. He seemed to be keeping his nose clean. I don't think it has to do with the speed. I think slowing the cars down was definitely a good idea. I don't think it's hurt the racing at all. They're every bit as difficult to drive in a pack as they were, even more so. Alex has more experience than I do. He'll tell you.

ALEX BARRON: I just think some of the teams don't tighten the steering wheels tight enough (laughter). I don't know. It's usually the same guys that do it. The last two years I've been running, some of the guys I come up beside, you give extra room, and the room gets used up. I mean, I don't know what to say. Sometimes it can be very costly, some of the drivers. I just wish it would stop. Unfortunately, it goes on. Like I was saying in some of the broadcasts, I'm just really happy nobody got hurt tonight. It was a very exciting race. We were just fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.

Q. Dario, it seemed the momentum was more important tonight than it was at Indy because it was very difficult to pass. Can you talk about the drawbacks with this package, the fact you can't get off the gas, because if you do, you're going to go back six spots?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was able to lift when I was in the draft. I was lifting a bit sometimes. When I got in a position that the car was a bit unstable, I could have a little breather on the throttle. There was one time, I don't know if there was oil down or what, I got way up. I was on the inside. The car understeered right up into the outside lane just once. Then I did lose a couple of places, yeah. But I don't know about the momentum thing. Definitely a bit slower on the restarts. If it slows the cars down, definitely a price worth paying on that one. I think the thing is my car was a lot better here than it was at Indy. We were passing people rather than the other way around.

THE MODERATOR: We'll let you go. Dario, congratulations, great run in second. Alex, tremendous run for third place. We're joined by Tony Kanaan and Micheal Andretti. Tony, second victory of the year, you won at Phoenix International Raceway, points leader. Third career Indy Racing League triumph. First victory on a high-bank Superspeedway. You seemed to be kind of the rabbit tonight. You were out front most of the time. Was that by design or just things going so well that you wanted to be out front and lead?

TONY KANAAN: In the beginning of the race, racing Dario and Buddy, I saw Buddy starting to get a little crazy. I said, "You know what, I have a car to win this race, I don't want to be in trouble." At one point I really got mad and I just blew by them on the outside and I said, "From now on, I'll set the pace." Dario was setting the pace, for sure. I was just saving a lot of fuel behind him. So once I got in the front, I knew everybody was going to try to save fuel, so I dictated the pace that I want. I was saving as much fuel as everybody else, just dictating the lap time myself. It was funny, because I would slow down. I would do a 207 lap, then the next lap I would do a 203, which is 4 miles an hour slower, and nobody would pass me. I figured out that they're playing the same game that I was. I said, "I'll try to stay out of trouble and just keep it in the front." We had a great car. I would hate to get involved in some silly moves that some people were putting out there today. That's what I did.

THE MODERATOR: The fastest race lap was your final lap of the race, lap 200. Saved the best for right at the end.

TONY KANAAN: That's when it counts, isn't it? You have to lead the last lap. I made sure I saved everything for the last lap. The whole 7-Eleven team did a great job. AGR, first and second. Every time this year an AGR car started on the pole, we ended up winning the race and finishing second as well. Great team effort. I have great teammates. What we have around this team, it's unique. I think, you know, we have to make it last as long as we can because it's going to be very successful.

THE MODERATOR: Michael, talk about that, the success has been spread around through the entire team, hasn't been just one driver or two drivers, each race somebody else is up there sticking their nose in, running well. Talk about the whole team concept, how you created it, how you're carrying it out.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, we have a unique situation, like Tony said. Each driver can win each race that we're in. I don't think there's any one guy that has an advantage over another. You know, just a couple of guys have been having a little less luck than the others, but they've been running competitive. You know, I think it all comes down to what we talked about all along, it's the chemistry I think. It starts with these guys. They got to get along. And they all get along. It's genuine. You may think they're acting, but they're not. They're really friends. They root for each other. They know that if they all work together as one, each one is going to be better off for it. I think everybody in the team has bought into that. That starts with the drivers and it trickles down through the rest of each team. Now you'll see if one of the guys has a problem, you'll see the other guys from the other team jumping on it trying to help it. That's the uniqueness of this team. I've never experienced it in my whole career, so it's a special time for these guys. I keep telling them, "This is very special, enjoy it." It's been a lot of fun for me. I love these guys. I love hanging with them. They're more than -- they're not employees, they're friends. That's the way everybody is on this team.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, talk about that briefly. Multi-car teams traditionally, something along the way gums it up. I think Michael touched on it. From your perspective, why does it all work?

TONY KANAAN: Well, there is no pride, and there is no insecure drivers in our team because what makes the rivalry inside a race team is your teammate is going to be the first guy you want to beat. Why? Because he has the same equipment and the same information. That doesn't happen with us. I mean, we know we're four very good drivers. What's happening is if I won this race, it's not because Dan is a worse driver or Dario. It's just a situation that I put myself in at that time, at the right place and at the right time. That's what we have there. When you see, like I was the first car to qualify here, I made a little mistake myself on my qualifying lap. I don't think it could have beat my teammate, but definitely I would be in the first row with him. I jump out of the car. We put a headphone on and a radio. I was telling my teammates what to do. I'm not saying Dario made the pole because of me, but definitely to help them, tell them, "Dario, third time by is better than second. Fifth gear is better than four." Here he is. He goes and puts the car on the pole. And I was happy. Sometimes people don't believe that. But really, I mean, that's the way it is. When we win, we all party together. When we lose, we hang out together. That's the beauty of that. I never experienced that either. I had good teammates like Zanardi in the past, but here it's very unique. Every one of my teammates went to Victory Circle to say congratulations to me. That means a lot. Any time I can help them, I'll be proud of it. I'm part of a very good team, and I want the team to win. If I can bring them the championship, it will be neat. If I can help some of my teammates to do it, I will do it in a heartbeat, and I won't be jealous. Michael knows what we have. We know how capable we are. That's basically it.

THE MODERATOR: Talk about late race strategy. Dario was right behind you. What was your goal to make sure you stayed in front?

TONY KANAAN: Well, I raced with Dario in the beginning of the race, and I knew his car was good on the bottom. Actually, he asked me for some room on the bottom at the beginning of the race because he couldn't run the high line. I was giving him that room. Obviously, 10 laps to go, I was not giving him that room, I was giving him the outside. I knew he couldn't pass me. I think he knew it, as well, because the way he was playing, he was just trying to get away from the guys behind us. It worked out perfect because we pulled away big time. I wasn't blocking him. I gave him enough space on the outside if he wanted to have the run. But the inside line was quicker. I just took it. We pretty much knew what we had to do. I think Dario realized he had a second place car and stayed behind me.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to some questions.

Q. You talked about getting up front to get away from silly moves. This track has been known in the past for some of those crazy moves. Did you see anything different in the race tonight because of the changes of the engine?

TONY KANAAN: No, I think it was a better race this time from my racing standpoint. Like people could pull away and stay a little bit more spread out for a little while. But it's just every year it's like that. I mean, there's always going to be guys that don't take care of each other. Those guys, I don't want to be in the middle of them. Unfortunately, sometimes, you're going to find them around. That's up to them really because IRL is doing a great job keep the safety. Texas Motor Speedway put the soft wall there. But, guys, we can make as safe as possible, we can make rubber cars that won't break, but if we don't take care of each other, it's not going to happen. We're still traveling at 210 miles an hour. That's all up to the drivers. Basically, I don't think the race was any worse than the past. I think it was better. It's just guys are going crazy again.

Q. If you could both address the approach the IRL has taken to speed here, 209, 210. First time both of you came here, you were going about 25 miles an hour faster than this. Just comment on the approach the series has taken to the speed at this track and how much better it's made it for the drivers.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, hats off to them, I believe. If you look at what they've done, the research they've done, everything, I think they've come up with a really good package. I think obviously this isn't the safest place in the world, but I think they've done as good a job as you can to make it that way. Hats off to the track, as well, making the soft walls. But the best part about it is I think the racing was good. You know, I think a good-handling car still meant something. That's what's really unique about what they did. You know, they not only slowed the cars down, they didn't make them any easier to drive. That's the beauty of it. Hats off to everybody there in the IRL that did all the work to come up with this configuration. I think they did a really good job.

Q. Tony.

TONY KANAAN: Well, I would say, you know, speed, it helped a lot, with the aero package. Like Michael said, it became a lot harder to drive the car around, so you really have to have some setup into the car, which before, with the downforce that we had, it was just jump in. My mother would be out of the pits flat. Anybody could drive it. Right now, it's all about handling, you know. Obviously, we reduce a lot the speeds, which creates, you know, closer racing maybe, but when you crash, you crash 15 miles an hour, 25 miles an hour slower, as well. That helps a lot. I definitely think it was a great move from the IRL. You just go back the month of May when we went the whole month with nobody getting hurt. You always going to have crashes, but nobody got hurt. Tonight I saw some nasty crashes out there, and I guess everybody walked out. Very good job from both IRL and Texas Motor Speedway.

Q. Tony, how concerned were you with Buddy Rice? He was giving you a pretty good run with 20 laps to go. Kind of took himself out of it. Beating him here, does that ease the disappointment of the Indianapolis 500?

TONY KANAAN: No, doesn't make it any easier. But, well, I was running my leanest mixture at the time, so I was in control. If he wanted to lead at that time, I was going to let him, because I knew I could pass him at the end. It was all about yellows. I was not going to make it to the end, and I believe he was not going to make it either. So I was setting the pace. The times that he got alongside of me, it was just because I was playing with him, trying to just ease it off, see how much fuel I could save without him to passing me. Because when he got alongside me, I just pressed my mixture button, went to the full mixture again, just pass him again. It was just a matter of getting my measurements for what I needed the last lap. I guess he did his own thing. I didn't see it. I can guess. I saw in my mirror cars everywhere. Too bad for him.

Q. Michael, you seem to get more excited with each successive win. Is it getting more and more fun coming to the racetrack?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, yeah, it's getting to be more and more fun. It's great. I think winning is great, no matter what. I'm so happy for Tony and all the guys when they win. A lot of hard work goes into it. This was a big one for us, as well, because this is 7-Eleven's hometown here in Dallas. To come here and win in their hometown was huge for us. As a team, we're so happy we were able to do it, Tony was able to do it.

Q. Tony, could you elaborate on the crazy things Buddy Rice was doing.

TONY KANAAN: I didn't say Buddy was crazy. I said they are all going crazy. No, I mean, it's just -- I don't think he was doing on purpose, but he was trying to race me and Dario. When he got me, I was racing with Dario, we agree in the drivers' meeting to keep one line going into the corner and one line coming off the corner. If you go all the way to the inside, you keep the inside entry, mid corner, and exit. He was going high on the entry, then keeping it low, mid corner on exit. What he was doing, he was trying to prevent me to go on the outside of him on the entry to have a run on him. On his defense, when I got the run on him, and he saw me, he dived down big time. So I don't think he was doing on purpose. You know, it's really tough when you have two, three cars in front of you, just trying to position yourself, as well, to keep looking in your mirrors. But when I said he was getting crazy, it was just he was trying to pass Dario, and he was moving up and down trying to find a gap to pass Dario, and I had no room to go because Dario was on the outside, he was on the inside going up and down, he was taking a lot of wind out of my front wing. I lost it a couple times big time out of two. I said, "You know what, I don't want to be in this position because it's going to wear my tires, I have a risk to crash." I went ahead and made the move on them. It's not a criticism, then you guys going to say I'm blaming Buddy, this, and that, which is not true. He was racing, but he was racing hard on a 30 lap, 30 laps into the race. I don't think we didn't have to do that. Towards the end, for sure. So that's what happened.

Q. Michael, you got out of the car last year, the Honda wasn't what the Toyota was running. This year you are the dominant team. Any inkling to get back in one of these cars again?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I'm perfectly happy where I'm at, living it through these guys now and enjoying it. Nope, I haven't looked back.

TONY KANAAN: I saw him in a driver's suit this morning, and I thought I was fired. "7-Eleven, did I qualify the car third for you today?"

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Should have been first (laughter).

TONY KANAAN: You could take Dario's car.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: True.

Q. You and your partners have a lot invested in this program. To come here with this type of following that you get at this track, how much would you like to see that continue at the other tracks?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, obviously that's what we're all working towards, aren't we? I think it's going to get better and better. I feel confident that what the IRL is doing, the programs they have set, just the product we have on the racetrack, that, you know, we're going to get there. One day we're going to be filling this place, I'm sure of it. It's going to maybe take a couple years, but we're getting better and better everywhere we go. We just got to all keep continuing doing what we're doing. We'll be there, because we got a great product.

Q. Tony, your margin of victory was 11-hundredths of a second. Do you feel like it was that close or that you really dominated?

TONY KANAAN: No, I mean, I was thinking to myself, I was like, "God, come on." I didn't know how many laps I had left, but I knew I had laps too many. I said, "The best car won in Indy. Let the best car win today." I was just asking that. But in this place, you can never relax. That's why my fastest lap of the race was my last lap because I said, "You know what, I'm not going to lose this race." Even if I was going to lose for a really good guy I wanted to win, today I wanted to win really bad. It was close, but I never felt that I was dominating. I just felt that I had a good car and I had to keep my concentration because not always you have the best car you end up winning the race. Sometimes it's too easy, then you end up losing concentration. That's when you make more mistakes. So just kept my head down. It was definitely I had a superior car than some of the other guys, so I could do things that they probably couldn't. But, no, I mean, I didn't felt comfortable till I crossed the finish line, actually till I did my donuts. My team owner was screaming at me not to hit the wall.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys.

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