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IndyCar Series: A.J. Foyt Indy 225

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225

IndyCar Series: A.J. Foyt Indy 225

Michael Andretti
Dario Franchitti
Sam Hornish, Jr.
Buddy Rice
July 25, 2004


WEST ALLIS, WISCONSIN

THE MODERATOR: Today's attendance, Sunday, July 25th, 37,821. The inaugural IRL USAC weekend ticket total for the weekend 63,373. Buddy Rice finishes second today. A very strong season, indeed, for the Rahal Letterman team. They scored their fifth pole position coming in today. Buddy qualified well. He finished second in the race today, coming on with two wins this season at Indy and of course the close, close run at Kansas. Buddy, talk about your run today and this tricky one-mile oval, and what changed from when you were here for the two-day test to what you ultimately found today?

BUDDY RICE: I think for the race conditions, they were quite similar to what the test was. I mean, it was still cool out. The only difference is it was a little sunnier. That made it good, there's a lot that overlaid from the test. I think this is a big accomplishment for us at Rahal Letterman, and where we've come from on our short oval setup in such a limited time with this G Force chassis. It was great today. I think with what we did with where we are with the points and what we did out on the track was tremendous for the whole team. I think that's just a combination of the engineers, myself and Vitor just coming to grips with this G Force and making it happen on these small ovals.

THE MODERATOR: You have been fast all weekend. We asked Vitor after he won the MNBA pole about the chemistry going on with the team because you have such a strong, strong run right now, one of the strongest efforts with a two-car team. Let's talk about the critical components of you and your engineers and the chemistry with your owners.

BUDDY RICE: Well, I think with how everything has gone so far right now, with me and Todd, Ray, the rest of the group, I think is been huge. Every day we're learning more and more about this car and we're getting stronger. Vitor started not until Japan. It was on quite possibly a limited basis until we got to Indy and past that. Now he's getting up to speed with his engineer and the whole group has made it all happen. I think with that and the Panos G Force guys, what they've done from the test to here to help us out was huge. Once again, it's Hondas up front like always.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up to questions for Buddy Rice, finishing second today.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: I think the best cars went to the front today, without a doubt. That's the whole place on these handling tracks. I think if it would have stayed green, we might have had a little bit better chance because of the way we were working traffic and the way our cars were on long runs. Whether you take fuel into consideration or not, I think if it would have stayed green for the next 10 or 12 laps or so, I think it would have been a benefit for us. But, you know, Dario was strong today. He ran up front a lot of the day. You know, he's been working hard and their car was good this weekend.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: I would have preferred not to see the caution, yes. But I'm not necessarily sure that changes the outcome at all. I mean, Dario was strong. It was going to take a lot to get by him. I think if I had a choice, I would have liked it to stay green for us.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: I think he was on used tires. We did some stuff. We made sure we had tires. I think he was on used tires. Sooner or later those things were going to go off. I knew it. I don't know. I think just finally got to the end of the life on those tires. He was pushing hard to stay in front of us. We were both, you know, trying to run through traffic as best we could. But I think that's just what happened.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. I think everything has been fine actually the last three races. I mean, yeah, there's been some unfortunate accidents and things have happened. But I think everything was fine. Every once in a while, you got to remember, if someone's car is struggling, which I understand that situation, you can only do so much to get out of the way because the car is so sensitive. So I think sometimes those guys aren't purposely trying to get in the way. They're doing everything they can to get out but their car only lets them do so much. For me, I think it's been fine. Sometimes you get caught up in it, and sometimes you don't. It's just all timing. As far as I'm concerned, I think it's been going okay.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: I think this is like one of the -- almost all the short tracks we go to are very unique. And I think that's what's good. Because sometimes we go to all the mile-and-a-halfs, and it gets to be it's just a chess game, running in big packs. When you go to those small ovals, there's a lot more it takes to be with the driver and the engineer and the whole setup and the package because it's such a handling track. So I think it's good we come to these mile tracks. Sometimes it separates some groups and I think it's good. Coming here with it being such a flat track, once again it's got its own little nuances in the ways you have to set the car up. I think some of the benefit definitely comes from running the Atlantic Series for three years here was also a benefit to me. I knew a little how the track was going to change and what to do for later in the race.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BUDDY RICE: It's looking very good. We just moved to second. We're going to keep marching forward and we're going to make sure we bring the championship home.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Buddy, finishing second today. Congratulations on a fine run. We turn our attention to third-place finisher on the podium, Sam Hornish, Jr., finishing third today. Winner of the season opener in Homestead, two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion. Welcome back to the post-race interview room. How was your run today?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It was pretty good. We had a good car early on, then we kind of got on a seesaw: A little bit push, a little bit loose. Just didn't have quite enough form there. Towards the end, you're trying to conserve fuel because it's a long run to the checkered there. It would have been interesting to see what happened if the yellow hadn't come out. But I think there would have been a lot of guys coasting around. It was a lot of fun out there today. I love these kind of tracks to where you kind of have to sit up and drive the car, really have a good-handling race car. You know, some days it works out for you, sometimes it doesn't.

THE MODERATOR: Talk about the force on your body. During the broadcast we mentioned four and a half Gs of load in the corners here. How strenuous is it on a short oval like this?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It can be quite a bit. We were out there, we were running, the first yellow came out at like lap 40. I looked up at the pylon. I thought we were probably at least at 60 (laughter). It's a fun racetrack, but it really gets kind of -- you know, you got to let the car hang out a little bit and slide. Sometimes that's a little bit nerve-wracking to drive the car. That's about how the last 60 laps were for us. We were on that seesaw and we went to the loose position for the last 75 laps of the race. Just didn't want to push it too hard and give ourselves any problems. We need as many points as we can get.

THE MODERATOR: I understand that your mom and dad have a special tie to this Milwaukee Mile. Your mom grew up here in Milwaukee and I understand they spent one of their first dates in the grandstands at the Bettenhausen event. How did that help or hurt your efforts this weekend?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. Everywhere we go, there's a fair amount of people that are either family or friends from back home or from here. We have a pretty good fan following. I know people from around home that aren't even related that go to 10, 12 races a year. It's great to be able to see those people. I don't think it's ever a hindrance. It's always help.

THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions for Sam Hornish.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think I probably took her to the movies. Probably didn't take long to go to the racetrack.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: We were out there just trying to conserve fuel. We went to that little bit of a loose position. I went into the corner, the back end, stepped just a little bit just on entry. I opened up for, you know, trying to save it a little bit and got up a little bit too high, got in the marbles, had to get out of it to keep the car from turning so I didn't pancake the right side.

THE MODERATOR: Your teammate Helio Castroneves had one of the faster laps of the weekend. He mentioned about this track is suitable for the Toyota powerplant. He says he did not have to have the horsepower of the Honda to do well with your Toyota package that seemed to work better for you guy.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: We had a good run here, we had a good run at Nashville, should have done well at Richmond. We have good-handling race cars. Marlboro Team Penske, the guys engineering have done a great job of getting us better downforce pieces, cars that handle well. Every track that you go to, whether somebody classifies it as a handling or horsepower track, you need a combination of both. It's kind of like a good driver can't win with a bad car, and a bad car can't win with a good driver. You know, we are working away at it, trying to find a little more each time we go out on the racetrack. We're not quite there yet, but we feel comfortable. We finished second last weekend, we wanted to move it up one position. Instead we came down. We'll keep working away at it and see if we get a little bit better.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I thought if we could keep the lead on the restart, that would be a big benefit. The first one we did, but everybody kind of got jumbled up. Then the guys behind me knew what I was going to do. You're kind of a sitting duck if you have to go at it a second time and don't really have that much time to think bit. Plus when that yellow comes out, you don't really know if it's something that you did or if it's something that happened behind you. I seen guys that went down to 50 miles an hour for a restart and guys that are going 150, and they don't green flag it because they're either too slow or too fast. I didn't know if I was too slow or too fast. I don't know, maybe this is something we'll talk about in the future, you know, as far as letting the driver know whether -- the lead driver know whether it was his fault that the race wasn't restarted versus, you know, being somebody trying to jump the start behind him.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, we gain points on certain people some weekends, and lose them to others on other ones (laughter). I mean, you know, at the beginning of our season, I don't want to say that I've given up or anything, but it's definitely going to be very tough with the way that Buddy has been running and the way Tony has been running. He has a bad day, finishes fourth. You know, he's been having a pretty good run at it so far this year. We just need to keep working away at it as far as making sure that we have good-handling race cars, that we're doing everything that we can do to get drag off the car, too. You know, there's a lot stranger things that have happened than people coming back. Each position pays a little bit better, so we'll keep working at it, see if we can get Top 3. If we get there, we'll start looking for the win.

THE MODERATOR: For Penske Racing at the Milwaukee Mile, they had their first race in 1972 with drivers Mark Donahue and Gary Bettenhausen. Between one- and two-car teams, this is the 38th race for Penske Racing, the 40th top five finish for the team. I think that's a pretty good standard to continue with Team Penske. The last race here for Team Penske prior to you coming to the team was 2001. Any of those guys still around?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: The cars are quite a bit different than what they came here with last time, probably about 400 or 300 horsepower less, smaller engine, no turbo charger. So things are a lot different. But, yeah, most of those guys are still around. I started looking around, they have a little sheet that they give you when you come into the organization that tells you who everybody is, what their job is, what day they started. I started looking, there was like five or six guys that started there before I was born. If you want to talk about a team that keeps people around, that's a good place to start.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, we're not even sure we would have made it to the end, but it would have made it awfully exciting. We had a great run there. You know, you never know what would have happened. You know, it happened the way it did, and those guys had enough to make it to the end, so did we. That's all that really matters now. Move on to the next race and see if we can get them next time.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Sam, finishing third today. We are joined by winning owner Michael Andretti, who has five career victories behind the wheel himself here at the Milwaukee Mile. Also we're joined by first time Indy Racing League IndyCar Series winner Dario Franchitti. Congratulations on the win today. Talk about that thrilling run had you to the championship stripe winning this race today.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I got to try and remember it all first (laughter). Yeah, it wasn't the best start, let's put it that way, best start I ever made, but it was clean. I can't even remember if I made up any places in the first stint. I think we lost one, made up one. We were pretty happy at that point. When we put new tires on, new stickers on, the car really came to life at that point and I started moving through the field, passing Hornish and those guys, TK. At that point the car was working really, really well. I was able to get through traffic nicely. A little bit of a problem with the back markers. Some of the back markers were excellent today, actually just a couple of problems. On the last pit stop, I think Hornish beat us out on that last one, and I don't know what he was doing on the restart, but he was -- there's a certain speed you're supposed to go, he was doing like 50 miles an hour or something, checking everybody up. There's a no start. The second start he just kept coming down, trying to squeeze me. I was lucky the car was as good as it was. I was able to accelerate hard on the inside, get past him. We were able to pull away, get in a nice lead. I got into traffic. Alex Barron, he was racing me every corner, he was a lap down. Then the yellow came out, and that allowed Buddy to get behind me. From that point, I was -- I thought we had the car today to beat him. I just wanted to make sure I got that last restart right, and we did. The car was fantastic all day. It went off a bit as the run went on, but not as much as other people. I think the engineers got it right. Nothing went wrong today. Here we are.

THE MODERATOR: Aside from traffic, how much did your line vary or differ throughout the day?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was quite happy with the condition of the track today. I was able to use two, maybe three lines. There was obviously one optimum line, but I was quite happy moving up and down the track. I think that's the sign of a good car. Something Michael and I have talked about. He's won is it five here as a driver. You know, we talked about that, the car's ability to be able to do that. We got it right.

THE MODERATOR: I'd say you've done okay for yourself as well. In six starts, you have had four straight Top 10 finishes in the Champ Car series in '97 he finished 16th, 1998 he finished fourth, 1999 he finished seventh, 2000 he finished sixth, 2001 finished ninth, 2002 finished 12th. How much has that experience played for you because you've had some decent runs here in another series?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's a track I think we've done well at before. Again, it's something -- something seemed to go wrong every time. I remember I think finishing fifth here with no brakes one time. One of the brake lines got cut so there was absolutely no brakes. That made it interesting. Again, you learn things. It was nice to come to a track this weekend that I had the same amount of experience as everybody else, I guess. Last year, we missed a lot of these with the back operation. It was nice to get back and start on a level playing field this weekend.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dario Franchitti.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I was thinking about that actually last night. I think he won his first race here, didn't he?

THE MODERATOR: At the time he was the youngest ever winner in '97.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: '97. You know, that was definitely on my mind today. There's a lot of good people that have won here, Jim Clark, Greg, a bunch of great guys. It's a driver's track. It's nice to win.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I mean, that test, we were running round all four PGR cars. We didn't have it right. We were fundamentally with the setup wrong. The engineers went back. Pete Gibbons, Tino Bailey, Al McDonald, the other engineers went back and really thought about it, came back here with a completely different approach. You see the results of it. It's a lot easier to drive the cars today. I mean, we were doing lap times in the race I couldn't have dreamed of doing in the test. It felt it wasn't as difficult. That's one of the things that Michael, Kim and Kevin have put together. It's that kind of strength you need to challenge for championships and race wins.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: When we came back here. They completely turned the setup upside down. From the first runs, we kind of knew we were looking for small things, not for miracles.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I remember I think I had an accident in 2000, and a lot of people were saying at that point, "Gee, he's done, he's done." At the time I hardly knew Michael. Michael said to someone in the paper, "I've been written off more times." It happens. When you're successful, it's difficult to stay -- to win all the time. When you're not winning... Last year was difficult, people made up a lot of stuff. I've made no secret of my love of road racing. I'm going to go road racing next year. I'm having a great time here, having a great time with these guys having some fun. And I wanted to come back for that reason. I've still got a lot left to do. These guys stood by me. Hopefully we'll be able to do some more of these and pay these guys back.

THE MODERATOR: If you could comment, Michael, seemed like you were ready to jump in, about the thoughts about Dario, is he ready for this, does he want to do the IRL.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's funny. Like Dario said, I went through it a lot in my career. It's just so funny to listen to people. Never once did we ever think that Dario's heart wasn't in it. I mean, this guy has been giving everything since he got back in the car. He's contributed so much for the team. There were so many races that nobody knew that he had a winning car, but he just didn't get the luck to get it done. You know, I'm so happy that it was actually able to finally get it done. To do it here in Milwaukee was special, as well.

THE MODERATOR: You've had five wins here, but also 13 top five finishes as a driver in 18 starts. There's something about this racetrack. Did it apply for your team today?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I really love this track, you know. As Dario said, it's a driver's track. There's something about getting the car to handle. Dario knows what it takes to get a good race car. Because of that, it paid off at a place like this. This place is all about handling.

Q. (Inaudible)?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That makes you feel good. You know, as a team owner, now this year we have three different winners. We have one more to get in Victory Lane before the end of year, but Bryan has won for the team last year. This makes you feel good. This shows it's a strong unit, it's not behind just one car or whatever. All four of these guys have an equal shot every race to win, and it shows. You know, that makes you feel good. I know they all feel good for each other that it is that way. And I think that's why this team works the way it does, because all four of them have the confidence in themselves and their teams that they can win on any given day.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I had a pretty nice lead at that point, but I was being held up pretty badly by Barron. That was concerning me. When I actually got the caution, I was relieved in a way because it got him back round out of my way. On the flipside of that, I was a bit concerned about the restart with Buddy. But I thought once we got up to speed, we had the car. As it turned out, the restart was fine and it wasn't an issue. They've been strong all year, so it was nice to get one over on them, I guess.

THE MODERATOR: Dario's best finish at this point had been a second at Texas in June.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it just shows, as Michael said, what a strong team we are. It was nice to see them. I have been in Victory Lane with Dan, with Tony. At some point I hope to be in there with Bryan, too. Dan was on the radio. He got on our frequency on the cool-down lap. He was yelling all sorts of things. He was pretty happy for me. Next time we get to go and have a party, he's buying (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: There was a special moment in Victory Lane when one of your crew members finally got there. You gave him a special hug. Tell us who it was?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I got to see my guys. They all came over after my extremely lame effort at a doughnut. I mean, Alex Zanardi is going to be at home, if he's watching this, shaking his head, wondering how I ever managed beat him at a race. That was pathetic. If you're actually watching this, Alex, sorry. That was terrible. They came out. But Kyle Moyer, who is the general manager, that's his official title, he used to be my crew chief, then he was crew manager, now he's general manager. He's a big cheese now. He's been with me since the end of '97. He kind of hides away after the races and stuff. It's very special to win with him. Last year he was a huge support to me with my surgery. I talked to him a lot. He's my friend. He's the guy that's there all the time. When things aren't going right, he's the first one to give me a hard time. But he's unbelievably supportive. Al McDonald, my engineer, again is a terrific guy, very nice to work with and smart. Gave me a great car today. So it was nice to see those two.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: A bit of both really (laughter). Yeah, we've come pretty close this year. As Michael said, we've had cars to win races you guys probably don't even know about. It was nice to finally get it all done. Very, very excited to have done it.

Q. (Inaudible)?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, they're going to be there. I mean, we're not counting anybody out. We just got to go out and keep doing our job. I think Tony drove a championship-winning race today. He was hanging on for dear life there. To come home fourth was a big effort. He didn't lose too much in the championship. Dario stealing points for him by beating Buddy, those are things that are hopefully going to win it for us. We just got to keep doing what we're doing. We feel like we're improving. We're still getting better and better. We still have a long way to go. Hopefully we'll pull this thing off.

Q. (Inaudible)?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, you don't know what they have. You don't know what the other guys are going to have. Michigan is going to be an interesting race. You hear rumors of the other manufacturers coming out with stuff. We know they're pushing hard. But you got to know that Honda is pushing just as hard to improve what they have. But, you know, it's definitely not over. You know, we're all pushing. You know, to have Buddy there in a Honda, as well, is making it difficult.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm looking forward to Michigan. In the past, any race I've been involved with there has been tremendous. It's a fun place to go racing. It will be a learning weekend, for sure. There will be a couple of things we have to learn on Friday. Hopefully by the time qualifying and the race come about, we've got it all right. Thank God it's not a two-day race weekend.

Q. (Inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I mean, you're better asking Michael that one. He's driven a lot more laps at those places than I have. But completely different. Nazareth, it's a completely different way of racing. Turn two is so different from turn three. It's a lot narrower track. It requires different things from the car, different things from the drivers. Things seem to come at you a bit quicker at Nazareth. It's a quick lap there. When you come barreling down to turn three, just have a small lift to get through there, it opens your eyes, let's put it that way.

THE MODERATOR: How are you going to celebrate the win? I see you have family members here.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah. Mom and dad and Ashley, they're heading off tonight in one direction. My other family, Michael, Tony, Dan and Bryan and I are all headed over to Nazareth for tests on Tuesday. Tuesday night could get quite interesting.

THE MODERATOR: Looking for faster times Tuesday?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Oh, yeah. Wednesday I'm going to go watch my football team, Glasgow Celtics are playing Manchester United in Philadelphia. It will be a busy week Congratulations to Lance Armstrong on winning the Tour. That was quite amazing.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.

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