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IndyCar Series: Argent Mortgage Indy 300

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Argent Mortgage Indy 300

IndyCar Series: Argent Mortgage Indy 300

Tony Kanaan
Vitor Meira
Bobby Rahal
Buddy Rice
July 4, 2004


KANSAS CITY, KANSAS

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with Vitor Meira and Tony Kanaan. We've been joined by Vitor Meira, who finished second and Tony Kanaan who finished third in today's race. Vitor, congratulations. Awesome finish. Talk about those last 10 laps when you were neck and neck with your teammate, Buddy Rice.

VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, seems like it was hundred laps or something. Again, it's your teammate. I mean, if one mistake, would cost a lot, would cost the whole race. I mean, I respect a lot him, and he respects a lot me. And that's what it's all about. It's just the teamwork. So he won, I was second. Doesn't really matter for the team if I won or he come second or if he wons or if I come second. I mean, it's the team effort, everybody's happy. We had a great weekend. Started a little bit off with some problems, catch up, were leading. Because a mistake, I lost the lead, and I had to recover. So we finished second. It's the teamwork again. Thanks Team Rahal/Letterman, Centrix and Bob Sutton that just signed with Team Rahal Letterman for the whole year. We couldn't be in better shape going to the next race.

THE MODERATOR: Vitor mentioned not wanting to make a mistake. In third place, you're either wanting them to make a mistake or thinking your battle is going to help you take the lead. Comment on what you're watching in front of you.

TONY KANAAN: I knew they wouldn't make a mistake. I think the right way to win it's passing those guys, it's not expecting them to make any mistakes. They did a great job. They had a fast car, I tell you, it was tough. We had a few problems in the car, which I don't think I should go through it. But the cap was a little bit behind. In the last 10 laps, I think they did a great job. They kept controlling the pace. Buddy was lifting to keep Vitor on the outside. I was trying to stick my nose in it, which is the biggest part of my body (laughter), try to find a hole there. It didn't work out, they did a great job. I'm happy. I think it's championship points. Some weekends you have a car to win, some you don't. When you don't, you need to maximize your efforts. I think we did great job for Honda. Top six. That pays off. I think the guys in Japan and HPD here in California are pretty happy about it. Another day on the racetrack. Another Superspeedway, everybody together. Let's go to Nashville.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.

Q. (Inaudible)?

VITOR MEIRA: No, I didn't. Before doing anything stupid, I just talked to the team and asked who won. Even then didn't really know like 10 seconds afterwards. Think Buddy won .005. That's nothing. I don't even know how to measure that. That's it, 1-2 for Team Rahal Letterman. Centrix car I guess was the quickest, again because of a mistake, and the failure. We didn't did the best result up there. But, again, just 1-2, we couldn't ask for more.

THE MODERATOR: The 5/1000th margin of victory is the second smallest in league history. The first was 2/1000th at Chicagoland in 2002.

Q. Vitor, what happened on the pit stop?

VITOR MEIRA: I don't know yet. I don't know. I felt my clutch real soft, real rubbery. The reason for that, I don't know. As soon as I put it first gear, the clutch was kind of half engaged, and the car just died. So we had to do something to keep going. I mean, I really don't know what happened. I just know what caused it, but I don't know what the problem was.

Q. You said all the right things. You kind of look like a guy that just lost his dog. Do you feel like this is a big disappointment?

VITOR MEIRA: No, I'm telling you, the last 10 laps was like a hundred. Of course, I wanted to win. Of course, I was going to be happier if I won. But, like Tony said, I mean, this is just the way it goes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you do mistakes, sometimes you don't. Buddy did everything right. From our part, we did not do everything perfectly. Anyway, I'll take it anytime. Winning, it's always better. But it's a 1-2 for the team. Everybody must be pretty happy. I'm really happy.

Q. Vitor, would you say the last 10 laps were more physically or emotionally exhausting?

VITOR MEIRA: No, just more concentration, everything. I was coming from behind and everything. Even you do way more effort to kind of just hang on to it. You do way more effort on steering wheel and everything else than you should. Just that's the reason you become tired. That's all. More mentally, way more mentally.

Q. Would you go through the list of what you and your spotter were talking about both in front of you and behind you?

TONY KANAAN: I don't know if you guys listened, but it started very funny because before the green flag, I asked where was the fourth-place car. You know, we're getting ready to go. He goes, "The fourth-place car is behind Hornish." I'm like, "Marv, I'm behind Hornish." He goes, "Oh, wrong green." Anyway, we go green, we just start talking. I just say, "Look, just tell Hornish and then to maybe work with me because they're a lap down and they're between me and these guys." I would say Hornish was very fair. As soon as the restart, he moved up, left me on the bottom. Made it easy for me. I caught those guys up. But then we started to run side by side. You know, I had Hornish. But I think they didn't want to get involved in the middle of our thing. It was busy. It was definitely busy. Same way I was trying to find a hole to pass those guys, I had to be careful because I had people around me. One time I got three-wide. Even Dixon, and Dixon backed off because he was on the inside of me. They didn't want to get involved with the battle. I think that's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way I had done, if I was there. But it was pretty busy. For sure for them was busy trying to keep up with each other, but for me I had to try to worry about try to pass them. I had all the action behind them. So the spotter, he was busy. He was very busy. He was going everywhere - inside, outside, be careful. He usually is pretty good about telling me where to go. He goes, "TK, nowhere to go. Just go."

Q. Talk about your season from March till now, and Centrix which has signed on for the rest of the season.

VITOR MEIRA: That's just how things happen. You have to put your position sometimes to be lucky. Yeah, they did not have a ride for the first two races. Then suddenly Bobby Rahal and Scott Roembke came to me and said, "We're going to make another car to Japan. Let's go month by month. That's a monthly deal. I don't promise you anything." I for sure accepted without even thinking much. We did good in Japan. We had some problems. We did good in Indy. We did really good in Texas. Then Richmond and afterwards, Centrix, Bob Sutton, signed for us with us for the rest of the year. Sometimes you have to be lucky. Honda helped a lot, letting me run their engine and anything. Again, everything came our way. G Force is the chassis to have. Honda is the engine to have. As Tony said, we were top six, and we were clearly the quicker ones. We are the quickest engine. You have to thank God and put yourself in position to be lucky sometimes.

Q. Did you want that caution, given how much you were gaining?

VITOR MEIRA: I wanted that caution after the pit stop problem I had. I really wanted the caution. Actually, I wasn't even thinking much about that. I was just trying to go and find the quickest line outside, trying not to do any mistake with Buddy there. That would be a disaster. I wasn't really worried about the yellows or anything like that. I was just focused on going quick and don't do any mistake.

Q. How difficult is it to concentrate during long green flag stretches, which I think 169 laps is the most green flag stretches in league history?

VITOR MEIRA: I was pretty surprised how much green-flag time we had. We were there first to focus to stay out of trouble, save fuel until a certain part of the race, then you focus and go quick, find the quickest line, take care of each other up there. Just I was really surprised, too, for the amount of green flag, which is good for everybody. Everybody wants to go fast, not having accident, staying under yellow, which is good for everybody.

Q. Can you talk about the first part of the race? What do you feel you and your team were doing right to set the pace? Were you surprised at all the way it went back and forth later on?

TONY KANAAN: Honestly, I wasn't expecting to lead. If we had to start the race, not having that yellow, I was going to be third, because Vitor already had the run on me. But all of a sudden I think Buddy was running different gears than I, for sure. As soon as we restart, he pulled fourth gear. His fourth gear was very long. I just had a run on him. I see a Texas one again, I'm going to control the pace here. Basically that's what I did. It looked like I was dominating the race, but I wasn't really. I was saving as much fuel as I could, so was Buddy, so was Vitor, so was everybody else. It looked good, but I was just controlling the fuel. I knew they were not going to pass me because they all wanted to save fuel. I said, "Well, if I need lost laps, it's going to be an extra point, so I might as well do it." I kept it on, and I think we didn't do anything different from the first stint to the last one. Obviously, when was time to go, they went, and we stay in the same speed. Like I say, we had a few problems. I could only run sixth gear. I mean, there was many, many problems. I couldn't run my fifth gear. I had to run six. My six was too tall to run by myself. When I got locked up with these guys, it was okay. Being such a long stretch, the green flag, sometimes you lose the pack, you lose the draft, especially after the stops. We got going. We didn't change anything. I think the team did the right thing. We just didn't have the right car to win today.

Q. Lapped cars trying to race with you, were they a problem today, for either of you?

TONY KANAAN: I would say it was a problem, but I think -- it wasn't a single lap car, it was three lap cars fighting for a position. We came up on them. It's frustrating at the time. But they're there for position, too. The guy in front of me is trying to pass the guy in front of him, which is for fourth position. So I think I didn't have a lot of problems. I had a couple I was complaining about, as a typical race car driver, we all do. But, yeah, I think a couple guys, I don't think it's worth it to mention the name. They could make it easier. But they did. What goes around comes around, so one day they going to find me.

VITOR MEIRA: I think what shows, at least with me everybody was pretty clear and pretty clean. I mean, I had not much trouble actually. I think what shows that is the amount of green flag we had. People were respecting each other, more than Richmond and more than Texas. I didn't have much problems. As Tony mentioned, always you have a couple of situations or events. But it wasn't anything really drastic. Was only a couple of problems. And what show that, everybody was respecting each other again with the amount of green-flag laps.

Q. How formidable do you think Buddy Rice is going to be in the chase for the title?

TONY KANAAN: I think he's the guy to beat. If you look at his starting positions, he's been pretty strong. He probably -- I mean, if you go back all the way to Homestead, he wasn't so strong there. But then Japan, he had a problem, because he was right with me. I think he could have won that race. Indy, then we go. He's on fire. He has the team. He has the car. They are very good organization. They know how to win. They have the engine, which is unfortunately the same as mine (laughter). Different chassis, we can always, you know, debate on that, what's better, what's not. But the bottom line is, they're hooked up and we're going to keep chasing them to try to start in front of them. They're going to keep chasing us to pass us in the championship. It's been a great fight. I think that's what we need. We need each other to pull and to push actually to be better. They're pushing me and I'm pushing them. The great thing is it's all going to stay in the house at Honda. It makes me happy, for sure.

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to Bobby Rahal and Buddy Rice, our winners today.

Q. Talk about passing on the outside today.

VITOR MEIRA: That seems like that's the line I always choose on the one-and-a-half-mile oval. I always work better the outside line. You have more space. It's a bit more difficult, but you have more space. I feel safer and more comfortable on the outside line to pass. To protect, always the inside line is the one to have. But the car was hooked up. I couldn't -- I mean, I was flat even on the outside line, behind people, by myself. So the car was just great.

Q. (Inaudible)?

VITOR MEIRA: It's tough. I mean, it's a joke. But at the end of the day, is the truth. We have the Rule No. 2, which is "don't crash each other." That's a pretty strong rule. As long as we respect each other, I mean, Buddy, I respect a lot him. I pretty sure he respects me. That's what is all about. We race hard; we race fast; but we respect each other. That's what it matters. And that's why we are working so good, even outside of the track and also inside of the track. We work together as a team. We work as one. That's why it's giving fruits right now.

Q. First of all, what is Rule No. 1?

TONY KANAAN: I'm not going to go there, I'm sorry.

Q. Did you look over at your teammate at all or did you stay focused in front of you?

VITOR MEIRA: Actually, you can't see much. You can't see much. I mean, I was just focused knowing that he was inside. I was just focusing, do the quickest outside line I could. I think it worked. I mean, the Rahal/Letterman racing couldn't ask for better, and Honda either. Top six, pretty amazing.

Q. (Inaudible)?

VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, it's not big problem. The outside line is not the quickest one. Might be the one to overtake people, but you have to have a really hooked-up car and really fast car to do it. I had it. I did a couple of laps. But it's difficult to stay up there. The car had no problems. I mean, the car was perfect the whole weekend. We had a bit of trouble in one of the pit stops, but we came around that. That's one thing that goes to the book, is pit stops, and work better on that.

THE MODERATOR: Tony and Vitor, thank you. Congratulations.

VITOR MEIRA: Thank you.

TONY KANAAN: Thank you, everybody.

THE MODERATOR: Buddy Rice, our winner just joined us. Buddy and Bobby, congratulations. The finish today was 5/1000ths of a second. The second closest. Take us through those final 10 laps and tell us what you're thinking about.

BUDDY RICE: I mean, we knew we had good cars. Our cars are set up almost identical. We tried some different things. In the final practice. When it was all said and done, we ended up coming back and putting a little bit of each car on both of our cars. We knew when that restart was going to happen, I knew what Vitor had. Sometimes you run against other people, you're not exactly sure what their strong points are just yet. But Vitor, it was going to be the same. I also feel that when the yellow came out, we were in a good position. We were happy with where we were at. But obviously, when you have a restart like that, you have a 12-lap shoot-out, you're going to have to be on your toes and take everything you can out of the car. To have a close 1-2 finish, it's just great to be able to get a 1-2 finish for not only the Rahal Letterman team, but also for Vitor, for his finish in second place in as many races. It's a huge boost for him, and for our team. To win your sponsor's sponsored race is huge. To keep everything in the Honda family, as both Tony and Vitor said, it's important for everyone to work together. That's what finally happened. That's why we were able to finish 1-2 with our group.

THE MODERATOR: Bobby, your drivers are racing neck and neck all that time. What are you thinking and what did you say to them after the race?

BUDDY RICE: You might not want to answer that (laughter).

BOBBY RAHAL: I didn't get a chance to get to them after the race. We were celebrating. As I said, you work to be in that position, to be 1-2. That's the whole idea. You know, I was in Vitor's pit, and Scott Roembke, my right hand guy, really the guy who makes Team Rahal, or Rahal/Letterman really tick, he's over in Buddy's. I think we're going to have to keep it in that way, every time I'm in Buddy's pit, he hasn't finished, when I'm in Vitor's pit, he wins. In all seriousness, that's what we work for. These guys, the success that we're having as a team is, in my mind, absolutely because of the cooperation and the real teamwork that Buddy and Vitor exhibit. Whether it was at Indy, now we're seeing it at each of the races we go to. I think the work they're carrying out is being honestly done. Nobody's playing games. It's truly a team. I think that's why we're running as strong as we are. Those last 10 laps or 12 laps, whatever it was, you know, to me it was just going to be a matter of which line was going to be the quickest. Several times I thought Vitor had actually beaten Buddy across the line. But Buddy made the right call being where he was, down low, and the car worked there. Vitor tried his best. As I say, boy, 1-2, what more can you ask for?

THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.

Q. The first American to win the Indy 500 since '98, how big a deal is it to win a race on Independence Day?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. It depends on how everybody perceives it. I think it's great for us to be able to come in here and win on 4th of July weekend, being an American, knowing what it means. I think it's doubly nice or even triply nice because we finished 1-2 in the race with our team and also it was one of our main sponsor's sponsored race. I think overall, you couldn't ask for a better weekend right now. I mean, outside of what happened at the Speedway, this is huge for everyone on the team and all of our sponsors, including myself. I think everybody will look at it differently obviously depending on how you see the 4th of July.

Q. Vitor said he didn't know which driver had won. Both of your perspectives for a first couple seconds, did you know?

BUDDY RICE: Actually, I did. If I could actually see him alongside me, at that point that means I would be behind. When I didn't see him when we went past the start/finish line a little ways, I was assuming, but I felt more than likely I had won the race. If I would have been able to see his car, that means I would have won. I was checking that, not only on the back straightaway, I was watching him down the front chute, as well.

BOBBY RAHAL: We were at such a bad angle. Christ, I don't know, we were 500 yards from the start/finish line. But for the previous laps, I thought Vitor had beaten Buddy across the line, as I said earlier. From where I sat, I thought Vitor had done it. You couldn't really tell because, as I say, we were so far away. All I know is we were 1-2. All credit to Tony for doing a great job today. But, you know, as I went over to Todd Boland before the restart, I said, "Make sure those guys don't mess with each other enough that Tony gets a look in." "No, no, we've talked about that. We're sure they won't." I said, "Yeah, but Vitor has never been in a position to win a race like this." We joked. He goes, "Yeah, you got a point there." But, you know, those laps, it just came down to who had the right line, as I said. And I thought, from where we stood, Vitor had won it. But I was happy either way. I didn't care. All I know is we were 1-2. For Buddy's championship hopes, obviously it's very important that he would have won. I'm pleased to see Vitor's 10th in the series now after only doing a few races. Keep it going.

THE MODERATOR: Bobby, the last time Team Rahal finished 1-2 was in Germany at a Champ Car event in September 2001 with Kenny Brack and Max Papis. Can you comment on that?

BOBBY RAHAL: Somebody said, you know, I guess you had one or a couple. We joke about the Golden Rule No. 2 is don't hit each other. At Michigan in 2001, I think it was, Max and Kenny were the clear dominant team in the race, and they took each other out about 8 or 10 laps to go. I never took anything for granted. As I say, these guys, I thought today as a whole, to hear Vitor talk a little bit about it, the respect level seemed to go up a notch today amongst all those guys out there, from what I could see. I wasn't in a car, so maybe I didn't see it all. But I think that's why we were able to run so many laps under green. That's just a testament to these guys, to the job they did. If those 10 laps are side by side, I really wasn't too worried about them getting into one another.

Q. Buddy, can you talk about how mentally exhausting those last 10 laps were? How did they feel for you?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, no, not for me. It was okay. I mean, as you come up to the lower ranks from go-karting to the other open-wheel formulas and stuff, you're constantly getting prepared for that and groomed for that. It's no different than, you know, other professional sports where they have minor leagues and stuff like that. For me, no. I mean, I think everybody in this day and age right now, they have so much experience coming up here. But for me, no, it wasn't a big issue.

Q. Would this have been possible if you hadn't decided to bring both teams over to the IRL?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, first, about Tony, I appreciate Tony's comments, but I don't believe anything he says (laughter). We've got to earn this. The Andretti Green team is an extremely good team. You know, Tony has been tough to beat on a lot of occasions this year. I think he was right. I think both our teams now are kind of pushing each other. Maybe the champion will come from one of these two teams. But there's a lot of racing yet to go. We've got our heads down and we'll see who's there at the end of the year. To answer the other part of the question, there is no doubt in my mind, and I think this is just vindication for the decision that Scott and I made, and David, you know, which was to consolidate our resources. There is no way we would have won Indy with one car. This series is too difficult, it's too close, and you have to have two guys like Buddy and Vitor working very, very hard in order to maximize the potentials out there. So absolutely making the move was the right move for our team. As I say, I think the success we're having is a reflection of that.

Q. Talk about how your confidence has grown. You used to be the fill-in driver.

BUDDY RICE: I think -- I mean, yeah, when I was brought to fill in for Kenny, it was some pretty big shoes to fill. It was going to be something I made sure I stepped on. But also I think the biggest thing is I was finally able to come to a team that was competitive and to give me a chance to win and to run up front. I think that's what's been one of the big differences. You come to a top-rated team, a powerhouse team like that, now all of a sudden you're competitive. It's just been a huge boost for everyone. You know, I think that's the biggest thing that's happened. I haven't changed my approach since the start of the season, and it's not going to change any time soon. It's been the same for the past couple years. I don't ever change that. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. We'll keep trudging along. We are here for the long haul, we are here for the championship, and we are in points contention.

Q. Buddy, has your life changed since you've won the 500?

BUDDY RICE: Obviously, my media appearances and my face is plush everywhere, so that's definitely been a change (laughter). I probably get a couple more little perks and stuff. Other than that for myself, no I haven't changed. I don't plan on changing. I didn't go home and sell my truck, I didn't go home and --

BOBBY RAHAL: He's in a higher tax bracket now, though (laughter).

BUDDY RICE: But, I mean, I think -- obviously, there's some obvious things that you can't control. Yeah, it is different. I guess when I said that it's not going to change my life, I meant personally I'm not going to change my approach, how I go about things or the way I dress or what I do.

BOBBY RAHAL: After Indy, he turned into a Republican (laughter).

BUDDY RICE: I mean, for that stuff, it's never changed, and it's not going to change. That's the way my old man brought me up. That's the way we were raised. It's not going to happen.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I waved to him one time down the back straightaway. (Laughter). No, I mean, doesn't matter who's running beside you, you're going to be able to see the guy running next to me. You're glancing at him to see where he's going, where he's stronger, what he's doing, where he's weaker at. What I think it does do is it makes it a little easier when it's your teammate because you don't have to worry about something freaky happening or anything like that. I think, like Bob had said, I believe before I showed up, Tony had said it, the race was green for so long. There was so much -- everyone paid such good attention. I think also what helped is this is a lot of a handling track, everyone is kind of spread out. I do feel when teammates are beside you, it's definitely a little easier or a little more relaxing because you know of the person that is beside you. It was good.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I could see him through the visor.

Q. What from the inside line gave your car the advantage?

BUDDY RICE: Basically it's the shortest distance around the track. No different than when you see us qualifying. The same, no one goes out to the wall, down to the bottom side and back out like we used to. The way the rules are, the tracks are designed, the way the cars are, the shortest distance around is usually the fastest. It just happened to be that way today. Sometimes there were times in the past when you could get a run on the outside, and to make the run on the outside would be quicker. But I think with some of the rule changes, it's making the bottom on a lot of these circuits more of a premium than it was in the past. I know from two years ago and also a little bit last year, Hornish used to use the high line all the time to get by and make his final pass. But I think there's been a rules change this year. Also with the three liter engine it's made a bit of a difference that the bottom line is much more of a premium line to have.

Q. What was it like to drive in such a clean race?

BUDDY RICE: I think it was actually -- it's to our benefit at Rahal/Letterman because of how strong our cars were. It allowed us to do our own things. Even when I was running third or fourth with Scheckter, Vitor had a good run, he got hooked up there for a little bit, got in front, was driving away. It was good to see him be able to break free of Tony and make a run on his own. I think sometimes it's a bit easier, instead of getting blocked in and pinning you on somewhere you didn't want to be. It played into our hands for sure. Even though, I mean, this wasn't maybe necessarily such a fuel-strategy race, I think it also helped us on that, as well, especially to have the Honda power.

Q. Does this mean another appearance on Letterman?

BUDDY RICE: We'll have to see. Dave's schedule is pretty busy. We'll leave that up to him.

Q. Bobby, as a former driver, winner, champion, is there a lot of satisfaction owning a team and you've put together a winning, championship team?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think what makes this year so satisfying is, you know, the kind of year we had last year. I don't mean just what happened at the end of the year with Kenny, which obviously kind of put an exclamation mark on a very bad season, I felt, very dissatisfying season. Thankfully Kenny has come back. But at the end of last year, there was a lot of soul searching because we've won championships, we've won a lot of races, the CART series over the years on ovals and road courses. To have the kind of year we had last year was very, very disappointing for me. So we made a lot of changes - the chassis, moved some people around, consolidated our efforts into one series in the Indy Racing League. Right now we look pretty smart, I guess. More than anything, it makes me proud to see that the people that we put in new positions - whether it was Buddy coming on board or engineers moving, Vitor coming in - that's it's all working. So for me the satisfaction is to see the turnaround. It's obviously great to win races. I mean, that's easy to say. Who doesn't enjoy that? But for me personally, it's how the team has, in this restructuring, how it's come together and has the kind of success it's having. That's the very satisfying part for me. Of course, you know, I take special pleasure with my friend here next to me, who I always felt could do it. We never really had the opportunity for him. Then it came up. You know, a lot of guys get opportunities and don't take advantage of them. This guy came in, hit the ground running. There was no question that much of the success at Rahal/Letterman this year is due to Buddy being on board. With Vitor coming in, I think it adds a one-two punch. Really, we got two great young guys as I said earlier who work very, very closely together. The results are a reflection of that. That's where I derive my satisfaction from. It's not the same as winning a race personally, to be sure, but it's just as rewarding, but in a different sort of way.

Q. Tony basically said you and Vitor both had him covered, but he was complaining about going through traffic early in the race. In the lead as much as you were, did you have any problems going through the field?

BUDDY RICE: Definitely when Tony was out in front. Probably a little bit of the problem he had, he was struggling a little bit. He definitely got hosed a couple times with back markers. I did late in the race. One time I was leading, there were two guys side by side for I don't know how many laps in front of me. Basically they kept proceeding to run side by side the whole time. It's the same thing I got at Indy. I had a little bit of a break because I got through it a little bit cleaner than what Tony did, and it gave me a distance. That's when I had that one big gap there. Tony, too. I got through it, and he ended up -- I forget who I passed, but he ended up getting chopped a little bit. It broke us apart finally. He was only five to eight car lengths back. He was close. I could see him in the mirrors. You're going to run into those problems. Not all the time is it the driver that you're lapping's fault. Sometimes it's because the car is not set up right and you're struggling. He's doing everything we can, harder than we are, to drive. It just happens. It's definitely a timing issue. The stronger your car is, the easier it is for you to get through traffic, as well.

Q. Bobby, what was it like for you to travel side by side in the last laps?

BOBBY RAHAL: I wasn't nervous about them. I just wanted to make sure the things ran till the end. I felt like if things kept running, one of them was going to win. You know, I never like it when people come up and say, "Oh, you're looking good." "Wow, there's a long way to go yet. We're not going to celebrate at all." Yeah, I mean, then there's Tony lurking in the background. I mean, I don't think you can ever count him out. But, as I say, we could tell he was struggling in traffic a little bit. With Vitor and Buddy running side by side, that didn't give him much of a chance really. But, no, I mean, I just wanted to make sure everything ran till the end. That was my only concern.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Congratulations.



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