Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
July 11, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference, and thank you for your patience as we've delayed ourselves in getting started. We have two guests joining us this afternoon. In a couple minutes we'll hear from IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan and joining us now is Jaime Camara. Good afternoon.
JAIME CAMARA: Hi. How are you?
THE MODERATOR: Jaime is in his third season in the Indy Pro Series driving the No. 11 Osofresh car for Andretti Green AFS Racing. He holds the series record for 36 consecutive starts dating back to his debut at Homestead in 2005, had three career victories, including one at Nashville in 2005 and 23 career Top 10 finishes.
This year he has seven Top 10s in the first ten races, best finish is a third on the oval at Indianapolis and also on the road course at Indianapolis. Let's talk a little bit about this season so far. Five first races you qualified outside of the Top 10, had to drive through the field. The last five you've been able to qualify a little bit better. Tell us a little bit about the season, and do you get the sense that things are starting to get on track?
JAIME CAMARA: Yeah, I mean, we are getting on the right path now, and I do less racing because I didn't have qualifying status, so that's why I qualified a little bit behind in all the races.
It's good because it gave me a lot of experience driving from the back to the front in all those races. But at the same time, I think it cost me the win in some races. I mean, I think I had the car to win the Homestead event in Indy, but starting from the back, you know, you work so hard on your car and on your tires to get there, and you don't have much left. So that's kind of hard and not good.
But the team is making progress every race, and we're fixing the problems and making the car better every race. It's just that it takes time for these things to happen, racing the way it is. And you can never do something from one week to another; it takes seasons to do things. And for them to start doing the things we needed to do, but I think we're going to be there at the end and going to make a lot of progress from now until the end of the season.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously one place you continue you need progress is Nashville where you have a race on Saturday. It's been a good track for you. You won from the pole there in 2005. What is it about that track that brings out the best in you?
JAIME CAMARA: I love the Nashville track. It's kind of hard to drive there, and you need a good car there. I mean, you need a car that's going it be good at the beginning and then at the end if you lose you can't maintain your breathing.
Nashville is kind of a track that I like that we work really hard in setting up the car. It's a different thing from Homestead or ovals like Chicago. We have kind of a setup that doesn't change much from there to the race, from qualifying to the race. Nashville, it's different. You change a lot from qualifying to the race because in qualifying, to be as fast as you can, you're going to have to hold up the car to two laps to do a good race time, and then in the race you need a really good car in traffic, and also fast.
It's just the fact that you've got to work hard, and I like these tracks that you've got to work hard with engineers to make the car better and then drive on tracks that can -- the driver with the most experience there is going to be better right off the bat I think in my opinion because you know the track, you know the car, you just need to push hard as soon as you leave the pits.
THE MODERATOR: We've talked a little bit in the past about the strong relationship you have with Tony Kanaan. What are some of the biggest things that you've learned from him the past couple of years?
JAIME CAMARA: Honestly pretty much everything, like the way he looks at things and the way he talks about things, the way he sets up the car, the way he debriefs and the way he looks at the problem and the way he looks at the solution of the problem. It's just the way he approaches everything. It's kind of different than what I was used to in Brazil.
There was a point I came to the United States, it was a new learning process for me in racing, and with Tony it kind of -- that was quicker, like I would take probably two or three years to learn everything, and with Tony in one or two years I learned a lot more, like participating with him on the debriefs with Andretti Green and talking to him about the problems we were having and the solution that we were doing, solution to the problems and all.
And that was a big thing. You know, like pushing as hard as you can all the time in every way, I mean, working out and working with your crew and your engineer and working with the car. That's the most that I learned from him.
THE MODERATOR: And I kind of take it from what you said in your first question, you've learned so much from starting in the back and driving through the field, you've kind of taken a positive approach from the fact that you've had some struggles this year. Is that type of attitude, that approach, maybe something that's come out of your relationship with Tony?
JAIME CAMARA: Yeah, I mean, every time I had a problem that I'm having trouble to press through, I talk to Tony about it. He helps me find a way to deal with it. In a way I say I learned because you have these years where you're struggling a little bit and things are never going right and luck is not on your side like I had this season, I learned a lot to deal with this and maintain your head up and, like, you know, focusing on the solution of the problems and trying to be positive in every aspect of it.
And sometimes when I couldn't see a solution, I would talk to Tony about it and he would show me something that I wasn't -- that I couldn't see. It's just a different approach to the problem and trying to deal with it.
THE MODERATOR: One last question from me. You've finished up your third season in the Indy Pro Series. Where do you see yourself next year?
JAIME CAMARA: I see myself next year in IndyCars, but that's all I have to say. I don't have anything right now going on. I hope I'm driving IndyCars next year.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for a couple of questions for Jaime.
Q. I want to ask to Jaime how he imagines to go to Indy Racing next year, how he imagines going to work there next year.
JAIME CAMARA: Well, everything is kind of happening right now for next year. We already have something that we are working on for next year. Right now I can't and I'm not going to give any details about it. But I can say that things are looking good for next year, and I think I'm going to be driving IndyCar next year.
Q. I was just curious, the AGR IndyCar stable is looking pretty full. Are you willing to wait for a ride to open up there, or would you consider driving elsewhere?
JAIME CAMARA: I'm in the position that I have to wait for an opportunity, so if something comes up at Andretti Green I'll be happy to take it, and if something comes up on a different team I have to take it. I can't choose right now where to go. I wish I could do that, but I can't. I'm not in a position to do that. Any opportunity that would come up, I would take it for sure.
Q. I wanted to know how the incidents about Watkins Glen, what changes on the team, are you guys going to have a different approach about how to work outside pit lane and with the engineers to avoid these kinds of incidents?
JAIME CAMARA: I don't think anything changes. I mean, it was something that came up unexpectedly. I mean, Tony didn't do anything wrong in my opinion that it would make a situation like that emerge.
So when I go out there and everything was going on already, I just talked to Tony and tried to calm him down because after a race you are emotional, even if nothing happens. I was just talking to Tony, and I don't think he would take any different approaches for the next races. It's just the way things are in racing. It's an emotional sport and things are like that.
THE MODERATOR: Jaime, thanks for taking the time to join us. Appreciate it, and good luck.
We're joined now by Tony Kanaan. Hi, Tony. Thanks for joining us. Tony is in his fifth full season in the IndyCar Series driving the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car for Andretti Green Racing. He won the IndyCar Series championship in 2004, finished second in 2005 and is currently third with seven races remaining in 2007. In 74 career starts he has nine victories and 50 Top 5 finishes.
We just talked with Jaime a little bit. You're obviously very good friends and have a real solid relationship with him. From your perspective tell us a little bit about how you've seen him develop over the last couple of seasons.
TONY KANAAN: Well, I think he came to the United States I would say in -- he was very young, not just in age but on his career, his experience, when I started to talk to him he wasn't there much in cars and even in go-karts. It was basically he came here to learn the hard way.
The first year was really good for him, and I believe that after that we kind of got into situations that was out of his control sometimes, and unfortunately in such a competitive series, sometimes you're not in the right place at the right time. But I have to say this year he's been impressing me very much with the way he's been driving, not having good results to start and then coming from the back.
I mean, I could also brag about that in Iowa and Homestead and some other races he came from the back to the front like I used to do and I could say I teach him. But no, I just try to tell him what to do, and Michael Andretti is always with him, as well. The guy is getting better every day, although the results don't show. He's a great teammate to have on the IndyCar side. He does all the tests for us, and we benefit from it many times. And he kept doing that this year, and we're definitely making progress on our setup because of him.
THE MODERATOR: Let's take a look at your season. You've got two victories, Motegi and Milwaukee. You've led laps in seven of the ten races, you're third in points. But I know how competitive you are. You'd rather be first in points. Tell us about your season. You feel good about how things are going so far and where you are?
TONY KANAAN: I think I have to say yes because as a team we're doing really well. I mean, a lot of things have happened this year. As far as race results, it was totally out of our control. I mean, I can't control the weather in Indianapolis. We had a couple of misfortunes. I had an incident with Danica in the pits.
We could always sit here and talk about the failures that we have. But I think so far we won two races, as a team we won five. So I can't complain. I think we're strong, we're there in the Top 5 every weekend. So it's going to be up to us to try to catch Dario.
THE MODERATOR: When you look at what it takes to win a championship, I mean, you were the guy in 2004 that everything fell into place, you really dominated that season. When you're in that situation, I imagine there's a certain atmosphere around the team that just really -- you know that you're going to win. Do you have a sense of a similar feeling around the AGR team, either for yourself or for Dario? Is everything clicking the way it did in 2004? Do you get a sense of that?
TONY KANAAN: We can't compare seasons, but I have to say we're confident. We're working really hard. We're not giving up because every race it's 50 points that the leader has on Dixon right now. I would say it sounds a lot, but it's not a lot. I would say as a team we're working on keeping doing it. We've got to keep doing what we're doing and minimizing the mistakes, and that's what we've got to do because it's still very -- this championship, it's very open.
So we can't really celebrate or be confident enough saying, hey, it's ours. It's up to us to lose right now, and that's what we're trying to do.
On Dario's side, I would say on Dario's end in 2004 people kept saying, well, he's going to get his turn, like of having a problem or something, and never until the mid season in 2005 that I had my first DNF. So I think it's on the road right now. If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be very hard to beat.
All we can do on my end right now is try to win as many races as I can because I think it will help two things. One, it will help me to get closer to him in the championship. Second of all, we can help Andretti Green win this championship with either one of us.
THE MODERATOR: And finally from me, the IndyCar Series heads to Nashville this weekend. You won there in 2004, you've led laps there every season except for last year. What are some of the keys to a strong race at that unique facility?
TONY KANAAN: Well, it's very abrasive racing, so you've got to have a very good race car. Some people make mistakes having a good car to having a fast car. I think the speeds are going to be important for qualifying, but not in the race. I think balance will be the key. As you said, I won that race before. I have a guitar. The wife is about to have a baby, I'm looking for another guitar so I can play with my son.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up and take some questions for Tony.
Q. Let's talk about something a little bit more fun, Danica's haircut. What are your plans for that? How do you plan on pulling that off? Are you going to do it right at the race? What's the deal on that?
TONY KANAAN: Well, we have a plan but it can always be changed. But I would say the plan is to do it in front of everybody on the podium. But if I say that, obviously she's going to know so she's going to be expecting. But a lot of people are wanting to help me.
I would say I would like to do it as soon as she gets out of the car after the interview for TV. That's the plan. If we're going to have to make it happen that way, we don't know. But I guess we have enough people to hold her, and then I can come with my clipper.
Q. Are you going to shave it just like yours?
TONY KANAAN: Oh, yeah, completely (laughter).
Q. What is her feeling about this?
TONY KANAAN: She doesn't like it at all. She said that I'm not going to do it, I don't have the courage to do it. I said, well, try me.
Q. I apologize that I wasn't in Watkins Glen, didn't get to ask you there and didn't hear your answer, but what happened on the cool-down lap?
TONY KANAAN: Why you didn't call me this week?
Q. Check your phone. I called you four or five times.
TONY KANAAN: What happened there on my view was this: We had an incident at the track, which I would call a race incident, although I'm still not happy about it, what happened on that case.
But on the cool-down lap, I came alongside him and kind of drove close to his car and cut in front of him without hitting him. It was not in pit lane, it was during the racetrack if you look at the in-car camera of Marco. Instead of me getting out of the car and talk to him in front of people, I thought that was going to be a better way to send a message to say, hey, I didn't like what you did but we're even now.
I did not hit his car, I cut in front of him. Was that right? I don't think it was right. I think I have to apologize because, yes, I scared him. But it wasn't like he said, that I was in pit lane. We didn't put anybody's life at risk because it was way before the blend-in line in pit lane, and that's what happened. Then he got out of the car and you know what happened next. That's the answer what happened on the cool-down lap.
Q. I mean, I guess you kind of said you'd like to have it back. I was surprised that Barnhart gave you equal penalties. Were you expecting that? Do you think --
TONY KANAAN: I mean, to be honest, if I hadn't cut in front of him on the cool-down lap, I would say I was going to think it was unfair because I don't think I did anything. He said I blocked him when he was making a move, which you look on TV my car didn't even more. That's not a good place to pass, but we all can make poor judgments sometimes. I've made many of them. He made one, which in my opinion it is, and that's fine.
But I think when you're in an argument with somebody and then you threw the first punch, you always lose the reason of it. I think me coming into the pits, before we come into the pits to chop him, I think it gave Brian a reason to fine us equally.
I give a lot of credit to the IRL people, including Brian Barnhart, and that's what he felt he needed to do. That's the way it is. I mean, we're going to have to agree and we're both under probation and we're going to have to pay the fine that they told us to do, and then we've got to move on.
We definitely learned from our mistakes, and I think -- it's like in my house; when I'm trying to get in an argument with my wife, I always lose it because I raise my voice first, so I guess I've got to learn that.
Q. I've got to bust your chops. When Dan and Danica had their issue, you said it needed to be handled in private later.
TONY KANAAN: Exactly. That's what I said. That's why I told you, it's not an excuse. When I came into the cool-down lap and I kind of chopped him, it was just to send him a message, not to make what they did happen then. He got out of the car and started saying things to me that I did not really like. I wasn't even out of my car yet, and here we go.
I totally agree with you, and again, I'm not saying -- I'm not blaming one person more than the other because I don't think -- I think Sam was hot, I was hot, but they should just let us talk. But more people got involved about it, and here we go with his dad in the middle and that's when everything started.
But I totally agree with you; I think we should handle this totally different next time, and on my end I definitely will.
Q. Do you plan to talk to Sam this weekend?
TONY KANAAN: Yes, I think I should go up to him and apologize for cutting him off, and that's it. I mean, I have all the respect for Sam as a driver. I really don't care if he wants to be my friend or not because I have a bunch of friends. If you look at the video, three of the drivers not even racing with me came to take me out of the fight, and I didn't see anybody holding Sam.
So as a driver to a driver, and a great champion that he is and I have a lot of respect for him, I will apologize to him for the end lap and we'll move on. Whatever anybody else has to say to me they can come and say it and apologize. If he doesn't want to apologize, it's not going to change my life.
Q. I was just curious, I mean, now that you've had a few days to kind of digest what happened, I mean, how do you feel, and do you think that things are settled between you and Sam?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think it was -- I mean, when we're racing we have the adrenaline so high that sometimes you do things that you don't want to do, and again, like I said to Kurt a couple minutes ago on the incident, I got hit, I lost two positions, and I think it was really hard for me to do that, to take that in a race that is so difficult to pass.
So I would say for me it's over. We got the IRL doing what we needed it to do. If I bump into Sam, I won't go out of my way to apologize to him, but I will apologize for him for the end lap if that's what he's complaining about, although it doesn't justify everything else that happened. And we'll move on.
The only fight that I'm interested in right now is the fight for the championship. I don't think people want to fight me. I'm not saying I'm the strongest man out there, but I think I can handle myself pretty well. So I'm not looking for any fights apart from the championship.
Q. Who is this individual Anthony that was involved and had his hard card yanked? What's his connection with the team or you or what have you?
TONY KANAAN: I think he's Michael's friend, Michael Andretti's friend. He's just a friend. He has a hard card because I think as drivers and a team I think we get a certain amount of hard cards that we can give to anybody that we want, and he was Michael's friend.
Q. You mentioned in the post-race interview as I recall something to the effect that fathers should be in the grandstands.
TONY KANAAN: Let me rephrase that. Fathers if they cannot handle themselves properly should be in the grandstands. I'm not trying to send my boss to the grandstand, either. I think sometimes with my poor English I have to rephrase that, but I would say parents that cannot handle themselves properly, they shouldn't be in pit lane.
Q. Well, even still with that, is there too much entourage in racing in general, too many people floating around with hard cards, and is it possible to police that, have more competitors on Pit Road more than others?
TONY KANAAN: We can't blame all of a sudden because of one thing, we can't say to there's a lot of entourage. IndyCar Series right now, you have to have a race badge. Drivers get only two per race if you don't have a hard card. And usually drivers get three or four hard cards a year that we can give it away, so there is not a lot of people, really.
I just think we've just got to handle ourselves better, and that's -- I don't think there is too many people in pit lane I don't think. I just think that the people that are there need to be aware that if something happens between the drivers, we need to sort it out between the drivers.
Q. One last question, competition side, if you could. This year obviously looking at race results, AGR is back strong after last year when it was all Ganassi and Penske all the time. What did the team do in the off-season or what have you done to thrust itself back up onto the podiums?
TONY KANAAN: Well, we worked really hard over the winter on the places that we thought were lacking efficiency, like downforce on the wind tunnel and some stuff in the setup that we put our heads together and we worked really hard to catch the Penske and the Ganassi guys. I think it worked it out really well for us. It's still not the way we wanted it to be, but it's definitely a lot better than last year.
Q. During the race when you did make the contact, it was midway through the race. Is this something where you were seething the rest of the 30 laps?
TONY KANAAN: Well, of course you never forget when you're running ahead of the guy that took you out, that almost took you out, and then all of a sudden you finish behind the guy because of that. Trust me, no drivers would forget that. We don't forget things that easy.
Of course that's how everything started, because of course I knew where he finished and I knew where I could have finished if he hadn't damaged my car and almost taken me out of the race. I would say the answer is yes, I remembered everything.
Q. Now, they didn't say how much you were fined, and --
TONY KANAAN: I'm not telling you, either.
Q. Does that come out of your pocket?
TONY KANAAN: Of course, yes. It was my responsibility, and I have to -- you know, I have to take responsibility of my own act, and I guess the team got fined, as well. We all are a team right now.
Q. I would like to know about commenting about the season and what are your expectations about going on in this race? What are your preparations for the car, try to beat Team Target and diminish the gap between you guys?
TONY KANAAN: Well, the preparation is not different than any other race. We worked on the setup this week with my engineer, and we had good cars there in the past. Last year I was running third up until we had a mechanical problem. I've been in the top three there every year. Jaime went there and tested for us a couple weeks ago, and we found a couple things that we think are going to be strong. The only way to try to get -- close the gap to Dario is finishing ahead of him or ahead of everybody is winning the race. That's the mindset for this race. But if we can't do that, we're going to try to finish as high as possible so we can keep moving forward in the championship.
Q. Michael Andretti's team has so many good drivers. How is the competition between you guys inside the team, and when you look forward to the races what do you think about what the next one is doing? What are the differences in how you feel about that?
TONY KANAAN: The competition is outside the team. We have such a good relationship that we race against each other on the track, but when the team is doing well, I think that's what matters for us. We work really close together, we share setups all the time, we talk about it all the time. We debrief together every race we can.
The atmosphere of the team is very good, which a lot of people don't have on their teams, and I think it kind of makes them jealous a little bit sometimes. But that's what we have there. People like it or not, it works, and it's been working for a long time. There is no jealousy between the drivers there; when one driver is doing good, nobody gets insecure. There's always going to be somebody that's doing a better job than you. That's the way we see it.
Q. What is the main lesson, the main learning you could say you have after the last race and the incident with Sam Hornish, Jr., and how it helps you to the next race?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I would say the only thing that I believe I did wrong was trying to cut in front of him at the last corner before we entered the pits. I learned not to do that. After that it's not me that needs to learn how to do things. I think we all learn from the mistakes that we made, and we're going to move forward from that. Obviously it wasn't a good thing for anybody.
I don't think anybody is happy about what happened. Like Kurt told me and like I told him, I think sometimes things should be handled privately.
And like my teammate, the youngest kid on the team said, "TK, you're better than that." So I have to say I agree, and what I learned, that next time we'll get in closed doors and we'll sort things out.
Q. And what kind of suggestion do you give to Jaime for him to get into Indy Racing League?
TONY KANAAN: There is no suggestion. I think he's doing what he can to move up. He's doing a great job for us as a test driver. I think he needs to -- the team needs to get together and give him a better car so he can finish higher in the points and win some races so he can make a move to IndyCar.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for your time this afternoon. We appreciate that. And good luck the rest of the way.
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