Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
September 6, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have numerous guests involved in the championship battle joining us today. Our championship drivers will join us in a few minutes, as will team manager for Andretti Green Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Joining us now are the owners of the two teams, Michael Andretti and Chip Ganassi. Thanks for taking some time to join us.
A couple questions for each of you, then we'll let the media can ask you some things.
Michael, AGR has two IndyCar Series championships, 2004 with Tony, 2005 with Dan Wheldon. No team has won three. What would it mean to you to be the first team with three titles?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Honestly, I didn't know that statistic. It would be special, for sure. You know, this one would be really extra special. I think after coming off a year like we had last year, be able to turn the team around the way we've been able to, if we could come away with the championship this year, it would mean a lot to each and every person on this team. Each and every person on this team put something toward it to get us to this point.
You know, hopefully we'll come away with it.
THE MODERATOR: The guy that has the best chance of coming away with it for you is Dario. He's been a key member of your team for a long time but hasn't gotten a championship to this point. What would it mean to you to see him finally get a championship?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It means so much because he's a big reason why we've won two championships in the past. The Indy 500s, all that stuff, all the other races we've won, Dario is a big part of it. He's just so good as a team leader in terms of technically keeping this team going in the right direction.
He's put in so much hard work. Just finally reaping the benefits from that hard work. I'm so happy for him. I'm hoping that we can get him a championship because he's never had one, as well, so it would be big.
THE MODERATOR: Chip, you've had two cars in the thick of the championship race last year. You've been involved in other close championship battles, as well. Anything you take away from previous experiences that help you prepare for the game plan for this weekend?
CHIP GANASSI: I think the one thing you try to do is not do anything too different. We still have to go into a race this weekend. We still have to go the distance in the race. We have to be in front of the bulk of the field. Our preparation doesn't change any. Certainly both teams involved in the championship chase have experienced this before, so I don't think it's anything new in terms of what we can expect.
THE MODERATOR: You won the title with Scott in 2003, and then with some equipment deficiencies there were a couple of lean years. You've rebounded. How gratifying has it been to be back at the top? I suppose the championship would be icing on the cake for that.
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, last year we tied in points with Sam there in Chicago at the last race. Obviously he wins the tiebreak. It was a little bittersweet to lose the championship by one point, I will say.
But it's very gratifying to be back in the hunt. Like you said, for a couple years, we were off the pace for whatever reason, but we got back with it. Yes, it is very gratifying to be back at the front.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for both Michael and Chip.
Q. Michael, going into this final race you have two drivers, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti, with a chance to win. With so many cars on the field, are there any team orders to help these two cars win the championship?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: There's no team orders. I think the relationship that the drivers have is really special, all four of them. If there's a way that one can help the other in some way, I'm sure they will. But there are no orders. I think that's pretty evident in the race where Dario and Marco got together. They were both going for the win.
We have no orders to take any wins away from anybody. Actually at this point what we need to do with Dario in particular is just if we can finish in front of Scott, then we win the championship. I think that's just the goal. So in that way I don't see there's much where the teammates can really help out that much.
Q. Chip, do you feel as though with Scott out there fighting against Michael's team that instead of fighting one driver or two drivers you're fighting four?
CHIP GANASSI: Not really. I guess in some sense it could be viewed that way. But, you know, I haven't seen that per se. At any one time we've maybe been challenged by maybe one of them besides -- maybe if you take the fact we're racing with Dario the last few races, we've been challenged by maybe one of Michael's cars.
You know, I'm not sure that I wouldn't -- I don't think there's anything wrong with that. You know, like Michael said, these guys are teammates. Teammates have sort of an unspoken alliance, if you will, that no team orders are going to impede.
I don't really -- in other words, at one time or another we've been challenged by one of the Andretti cars but not by all four of them at once per se, anything like that, I don't think.
Q. What has this week been like leading up to the race?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's been hectic. Not necessarily because of the championship, it's more getting stuff ready for next year. Believe it or not, we're already working on it.
For the team, it's been -- I guess the biggest thing is we have three races in a row right at the end of the season. With the pressure that's been on, there's just a lot of things that you just have to try to keep everybody calm. As chip said earlier, getting into the race, you can't treat this thing any different than the way you have all year.
You have to go in there just treating it like another race, be prepared the way you would at any other race, try not to out-trick yourselves. I think that's the message we try to put to everybody.
CHIP GANASSI: I would echo Michael's comments also. I would say also that, you know, in preparing for this week it's kind of like, Hey, wait a minute, this is what our team -- this is where we want to be. This is the situation we want to be in. This is what we work hard for, is to be in this position.
I mean, obviously we'd like to have a 50-point lead as opposed to a three-point deficit going into the final race, but this is why we race. This is why we're in the business we're in. We want to be in a position like this with our team. We want to be one of the contenders. So this is what you work hard to do.
Q. Michael, isn't the fact this is on an oval take the team order concept really out of it? Pretty wide track. It would seem you could pass darn near wherever you want, can't hold somebody up.
CHIP GANASSI: I mean, team orders, if driver wants to insert himself in the championship chase, I don't think it's difficult to do at any one point. You have to understand you're driving these cars at 200 miles an hour and you're -- if you want to affect the outcome of a particular lap, I don't think it's that difficult to do.
A lot of times it's unseen to an untrained eye or without looking at the throttle trace or the steering wheel position. I mean, you really have to look. These cars have quite a lot of data on them. Oftentimes not till after a race do you hear the real story from the guys that were in the seats when they were actually in a particular situation.
It's kind of hard to see, like I said, to the naked eye when you're sort of looking at cars side by side what guys are doing.
Q. Do you worry at all that could happen Sunday?
CHIP GANASSI: I guess you worry about it. To some degree you worry about it. On the other hand I don't think -- you know, I don't think any driver wants to be saddled with being a third party in two- or three-car championship run. I don't think any of the drivers want to be -- want anybody to point the finger at them all winter, saying they changed the outcome of the championship. I would think that would be something that would be pretty heavy on the driver's shoulders.
THE MODERATOR: Looks like we've lost Michael Andretti. We're hoping to have him back. But we'll proceed with a couple more questions for Chip.
Q. Obviously a lot of attention on Danica over the course of her career, considerable anticipation for a first victory. Is her progress typical for a third-year driver? How do you think she benefits from being with your team?
CHIP GANASSI: That's Michael's question because she doesn't benefit at all from being with our team.
She's doing a good job. It's hard for me to answer that question. Not knowing what she's -- I mean, I know this. She has three good teammates that have all won races, so she's capable. She certainly has the equipment to win. I'm sure a win's just around the corner.
I mean, it's hard for me to gauge her progress not having worked closely with her. But obviously she's on a championship team now, championship-winning organization from the past. Seems to me her best chances would be someplace like Chicago.
Q. If this is to be the last race of Sam Hornish's IRL career, pending an Indy 500, do you have any thoughts? Overshadowed here a little bit. Do you have a sense for, some perspective on how good he's been?
CHIP GANASSI: You know, Sam's a great driver. I'm kind of unprepared to answer that. I thought we were going to talk about the championship today. I don't know.
I don't understand the question.
Q. This does appear this could be Hornish's last race in the IRL. That's overshadowed. I understand the championship talk. Didn't know if you had any thoughts on that.
CHIP GANASSI: Sam is a great driver. Great drivers can drive any kind of car. If he goes to another race series, you know, wishes to do that, I wish him well. I'm sure he'll be fine. I'm sure IndyCar racing will be fine.
THE MODERATOR: Chip, those are all the questions we have for you this afternoon. We appreciate you calling in, taking some time to talk about all kinds of things with us. Good luck this weekend.
CHIP GANASSI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Kyle Moyer and Mike Hull. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Kyle is the general manager of Andretti Green Racing, Mike is the managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Both of you have tremendous responsibilities with your teams. Obviously not only overseeing multiple-car events in the IndyCar Series, but you also have efforts in the Indy Pro Series and other racing series.
I'd like to get both of you to talk about what it takes to not only run cars in all those series, but to do it well enough to compete for championships. Kyle?
KYLE MOYER: It's our first endeavor into ALMS. Our first year into that. I think it just makes it so our team is stronger, different opportunities present different things.
The best thing is, I mean, it covers us in different bases to keep the flow going. We can move people around to keep people from getting stagnant. I think our Pro Series has helped us a lot. I think Mike will agree that, you know, the extra benefits from Pro Series, whatever we get from there, definitely is put over to our IndyCar program to help it.
If you look at the places they've tested and we've tested, we pretty much have covered both of them.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, your thoughts?
MIKE HULL: I think, like almost everything else, it seems to have evolved. In the world today, if you're not -- if you don't have a room full of multitaskers, as Kyle said, you're very stagnant. Our program is run with people. We have good people in all areas, and the people do move around from program to program if they need to, but they draw from each other. It's a massive resource to be able to utilize.
With the IndyCar Series, with the Indy Pro Series, with the Rolex Sports Car Series, we have a broad base of operation, and it constantly draws one from the other.
I think that's what you have to do today to retain good people and have them know that, your organization has longevity. It makes a big difference.
THE MODERATOR: Also from each of your standpoints, what do you do to get the team ready to race on a weekly basis? We've had the points flip-flop a couple times the last couple weeks. Does the perspective change, the preparation, when one week you're in first, the next week you're in second, chasing the guy?
MIKE HULL: I'd say probably what you try to retain week in and week out through a race season is consistency, because with consistency you learn what your weaknesses are quickly. Oftentimes as you go through a season you can make small tweaks and adjustments to your program to retain the consistency you need for the end of the year.
I think Chip said a few minutes ago, I think he's absolutely right, you work to get yourself in this position all year long, but the way that you do that is to turn up at each event through an IndyCar season and have everything flow the same way week in and week out throughout the year. I think consistency is the number one thing.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, anything you'd like to add to that?
KYLE MOYER: Well, mainly I agree with Mike, you know. If you look at the two guys that are really top of the championship right now, mistakes are limited compared to everybody else. I don't think being ahead or being behind really for preparation changes anything.
Yeah, you want to be the guy that's leading going in every single weekend, but I don't think it really changes your mindset. You're trying to do the best job you can that weekend.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Tim referred to the twists and turns of the season for both these championship contenders. I'm sure Kyle would probably say the Indy 500 was Dario's turn. My question for Mike, is there one spot in the season that maybe you just thought things aren't going the way we'd like, one kind of key moment for this championship run for Scott?
MIKE HULL: Actually I think the Indy 500 for Scott Dixon was probably the same as -- with the exception of drinking the milk, winning the race, was exactly the same because with Scott, as it turns out, the strategy that we chose helped us to finish second in that race. The people that everybody assumed, the lead pack guys, if you recall, Dario came in the pit lane after the red flag for a rear tire to change a cut tire, and we came in because we were off sequence for fuel. Everybody else, they looked like they were ready to go to the end with a couple of stops and run at the front. Dario would have finished seventh and we would have finished eighth.
I think by finishing second, with the racetracks that team up after Indianapolis, that gave Dixon quite a bit of momentum. So I'd say Indy was a big opportunity for Dixon to create momentum.
Q. Is there a different day for you, Kyle, that comes to mind?
KYLE MOYER: Well, for Dario, yeah, probably Indy. I mean, any time anybody comes to Indy, you win Indy, it's something special, makes you confident. But to be honest, really the big turning point for us was Kansas. It was really the first time we finally had our act together on superspeedways. We felt comfortable we were finally running up front and could compete. Really I think that was probably our turning point to say, okay, we got tracks covered now. Up to that point, our superspeedway looked like it was going to be our downfall.
Q. Basically this championship chase has had a lot of intensity, passion. Mike, I know back in '99 when Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario were involved, it also ended in a tie. Went at it pretty hard. It just seems like over the last month, the intensity level has really increased dramatically. That shows the passion involved, that has come to the IndyCar Series to win this championship.
KYLE MOYER: I would have to say, yeah, it is getting more intense because you're getting now to races to do anything. It will be even more intense this weekend because it's like, you know, it's the seventh game of the World Series. Whoever walks out of here in front of the other guy wins. That's the way we look at it.
That's what you want, the challenge. I still would have rather had it a long time ago. At the same time this is the way you want to win these things.
But intensity-wise, I think it's been there all year. It mainly got going when all of a sudden things started getting closer and closer. Scott and Dario don't make mistakes. If you really look at it, they both made one mistake all year and that's it. That's what's put us in the position to be this close.
MIKE HULL: You know, it's great to be in this position, to perhaps feel that intensity. Racing against Dario and Andretti Green is something that we've done for a long time, and it's been really a lot of fun, to be honest about it, because of the intensity that they supply, I guess it's point-counterpoint, we supply it back. Vice versa all the way through.
Dixon and Dario on the racetrack are certainly representative of two, if not two of the best, certainly two of the best in the world at racing open-wheel cars. You have two of the best teams that run open-wheel cars fighting it out at Chicago now with a three-point deficit.
Somebody called me on the phone the other day and said, Man, that's terrible that you're three points behind Dario now. Maybe a normal person that had never been in this position before would say, Hey, that's right. But it's gonna be fun I think more than intense to watch those two guys race each other on Sunday.
Q. A lot of people have always kind of said the reason NASCAR is so popular is because of all this compelling soap opera that goes along with it. This year seems like the soap opera has been better in IndyCar racing.
MIKE HULL: The thing is, IndyCar is a fantastic place to race. We do need people to watch us race. We need more people to watch us race. I don't think we need to turn into the WWF to make happen, but at the same time the popularity of sports, including NASCAR, including IndyCar, are motivated by small things that happen as time goes on.
If the intensity of Andretti Green Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing together can create the intensity that people want to see in action on Sunday, then we're all for it.
Q. Kyle, Andretti Green, given perspective and history of being in the IndyCar Series, is not new, but fairly new when you look at everything that this team has accomplished in all forms of racing with the exception of NASCAR and even to the point of promoting a race. How has this happened and been able to stay competitive? A lot of times teams will bite off more than they can chew.
KYLE MOYER: Well, I mean, good question. The big thing is I guess the challenge. It is great. It's got great people that we feel can do the job. When we went to IRL, everybody thought we were a little crazy. We won in that. Then we went to three cars, everybody thought we were stupid. We won at that. We go to four cars, people wonder, What are you doing? We won at that. We added a 19-year-old kid, let him win, and now we have Danica, which everybody questions. Now all of a sudden she's running up front, poised to win at any second.
I think it's the challenge that makes it worth the reward. I don't think there's many teams out there that could do a four-car team and be where they're at if it wasn't for the people behind them. Fortunately, Kim, Kevin, Michael have gone out and found some really, really good people to run the programs. I think that's what it's done. Same thing with promoting the St. Pete race. It was a challenge. We wanted to show people what street racing was like, and the best way to do it is to put our finger into the bowl, stir it around, make something happen.
Q. Off the championship talk, you mentioned Danica. Is it fair or unfair for us in the media to question when she's going to win?
MIKE HULL: I don't think it's unfair at all. Every driver until they get their first win is questioned. Look at Phil Mickelson. How long before he won one of the big ones?
I think it's fair. The best thing is, I think she will. I mean, she's got the complete package. I think once she wins, I think the dam will break. I think more will come easy. They always say the first one is the hardest, and then after that it's easy. I think she works harder than anybody I've ever seen this year trying to get stuff happening. We're welcome to have her here because if she's going to put that effort forward, we're going to put that effort forward for her.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, Mike, thanks for taking some time to join us this afternoon. We appreciate that. Best of luck as you continue to get ready for this weekend.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by two of our three championship-contending drivers, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan. Welcome to the call.
Obviously Dario leads the points race, but Scott is just three points behind. He's got four victories this season, 12 top-five finishes, has led 250 laps. Tony is 39 points out of the lead. Leads all drivers with five victories. Has 12 top fives and has led 348 laps.
Scott, a question for you to start off with. You've been in some tight points battles before. Obviously in 2003 when you won the championship you went into the last race, there were five drivers within 30 points, you were tied for first, ended up with the championship. Last year you were in the group of four that were really in the thick of things, 21 points out. Is there anything you can take from those past experiences that can help you as you approach this weekend?
SCOTT DIXON: It is hard to sort of say. Every championship that you're involved in, typically it's the same people we're racing for for the championship, same teams at least, same guys.
I think '03 was pretty exceptional having five of us coming down to the last race that still had a mathematical chance, the way that turned out for us, which was definitely fantastic.
Last year I think going into the last race we were about 14 points out. I think the biggest thing that I've learnt in those championship battles, you have to treat it as a normal race weekend. I think any time you start overemphasizing or looking into things a little too much, it just puts a drain on you, maybe adds a little more stress, may pushes you into mistakes.
I think the biggest thing for me is just to keep it as a normal race weekend. All is going to play out after the last lap. There's not too much you can do about it.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, you have kind of flown under the radar this season. We started the year, and Dan Wheldon was really hot, had a couple wins. Then Dario and Scott put together their winning streaks, took the points lead. Really you've been second or third most of the year, and now you're coming off of three wins in the last four races, right in the thick of the championship battle. It will probably take another victory this weekend to have a shot at the title. Do you have the momentum, do you have things going your way here at the end of the season, peaking at the right time, putting you into position to win another this weekend?
TONY KANAAN: I think I'm in the position. I don't think I need just to win. I'm going to need to win and still try to capitalize on Scott and Dario's mistakes, which I don't think it's gonna happen.
I would say, you know, my chances are there, but it's still pretty slim. I know what it takes to win a championship. So does Scott. I think Dario, too. My '04 season, it proved that it wasn't just about winning races. Although I had won five races this year, I had four DNFs -- two DNFs and two bad races that cost me those 39 points.
I'm not here to talk about if. I remember Scott doing really well in Iowa. He had a mechanical. You know, we can't really say it. I mean, right now, yes, I do think I have momentum to win the race. Do I really think I'm going to win the championship? Like Scott says, we're going to know at the last lap in the Chicago race.
I'm just glad I'm -- although I'm not in a better position in the championship, I'm still in the position of the championship.
Like you said, we kind of flew under the radar the whole year. Since Indy, we're really strong. Scott and Dario felt the same way up until Sunday of the race in Indy. Nobody count on them. Look what happened. They finished first and second.
It's not that bad to fly under the radar sometimes. The pressure's off of you. Although I create a couple of big news during the year, so it was a hectic season for all of us. Looking forward to go to Chicago and see what's going to happen.
THE MODERATOR: You've been friends, teammates with Dario for a long time. If the championship is not meant to be for you, Dario happens to win it, how important would that be? What would that mean to you to see Dario win it?
TONY KANAAN: He's my best friend. He's one of the biggest reasons I drive for the team I'm driving right now. He put me in there.
It would mean a lot. I think Dario hasn't won a championship yet. Tied with Montoya back in '99, but hasn't won. I'll be glad to see that.
Obviously I would love to win, but I'll be happy to see if he wins. Obviously it will be a good thing for us and the team, too.
THE MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and open it up for questions for Scott and Tony.
Q. Scott, you came under a lot of criticism Sunday after that race. Have you had more time to think about it? Can you give us maybe a more insightful talking point from where you were at looking at the end of that race last week?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, my comments are still the same as when I spoke to SPEED after the race. It was a situation where we had to make some quick decisions going into turn 13 with Buddy Rice running out of fuel. As we got beside him, he decided to turn back to try to make the corner. I don't know whether he got some power back, if the fuel had come back on or something. Then he turned so we touched a little. I think my left rear touched with him, then I spun. At that point, you know, all I was trying to do was trying to get the car to go forward.
Any part of that circuit, that was definitely the worst part to do it. Nowhere to go. When you have a car sideways, you're pretty much going to block the traffic no matter what. All that was trying to cross my mind was trying to get the car forward and trying to continue on with the race.
Q. Are you surprised some guys, including Mr. Kanaan here, Michael Andretti, came out quick and accused you of something more orchestrated than that, blocking the track?
SCOTT DIXON: Am I surprised? No, not at all.
Q. None of us can really imagine what it's like to be in your position going into a championship situation like this. We've all had butterflies the first day of school, the day you propose marriage. Can you give me an actual honest feeling about this weekend? Are you nervous? Are you excited?
SCOTT DIXON: Like getting married, T.K., or what?
TONY KANAAN: Trust me, the day you walk into church...
SCOTT DIXON: Looking for some advice.
TONY KANAAN: I remember all those things you said. Probably because we've been doing this for a while, I think we all have -- the three of us are probably a little bit anxious. Once we put the helmet on, I don't think we think about it. We're just there to do a race. It is what it is.
By the time it gets to the green flag, you know what kind of car you have. You're just gonna have to do your best. I think probably I'm not -- I don't have a tendency to get nervous on racing probably because I know that I have most of the control. Getting married for me was definitely -- standing, waiting for my bride to walk down the aisle in church, trust me, Scott, your legs are going to be shaking, all those people looking at you. Now I'm going to another one. In 14 days I'll be a dad. I think that's going to overcome, too.
I would say I'm cool. Obviously I'm probably in a different position than Scott and Dario right now. Might have less chances. Will definitely be a little nervous. It won't be a big deal.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I'm just totally the same as T.K. All of us probably get a little nervous, that's because we're competitive. We want to do as well as possible. There's a lot on the line. You want to win a championship. If you weren't nervous, there would be something a little bit wrong.
No, I'm just looking forward to it. It's the end of the season. It's been a very tough season. It's been quite a few ups and downs, some good positives for all of us. There's a lot of pressure on I think for a season with the kind of teams that we drive for, the pressure that we put on ourselves to do well, to put ourselves into these situations.
I'm just looking forward to this weekend being over. However it plays out, it's going to be the best for one person. They were meant to win.
Q. From a driver perspective, what is it like to have the championship decided in a crapshoot, three-abreast finish, easy to get caught up in somebody else's mistakes, rather than a track where a team and driver can get their car working better than everybody else and that affects the outcome? Thoughts about the venue and the way it plays into the championship.
SCOTT DIXON: It's a good thing that it's coming down to the last race. And, as everybody talked about, whoever finishes (indiscernible), the next guy is going to win the championship. That's great for the series.
As any driver, I think you'd like to have it sewn up before this race, have a decent points margin. Chicago as a track is something that is a little bit iffy. I think it's iffy for both sides. All I can say is I hope maybe AGR doesn't turn up with the engine they had at Kentucky.
TONY KANAAN: Don't worry, just me (laughter).
SCOTT DIXON: Just the speed they had at places like that, or Michigan. They were super fast. You know, for us it would be nice if it came down to a circuit that maybe is a combination that suits our team better
I think it's very fitting it's going to come down to a circuit like Chicago that nobody really knows. It's kind of going to be pretty interesting for everybody watching and also for us three drivers.
TONY KANAAN: I agree with Scott. You know what, it is what it is. That's the championship. We all wish it could be different at any point of the season. If you wanted it to be different, we should have done a better job not to bring the championship to Chicago.
I think it's going to be exciting for the fans. Sometimes to win a championship you got to do the best job than everybody else during the year, but you got to be lucky, too. I guess luck's going to play a lot in this race. It is what it is. We'll take it.
Q. Scott, you were in this last year. Seems to be a lot more tension between the two organizations this year than last year. Is that true? If so, why?
SCOTT DIXON: I guess it is true. There has been a little more hype around it. I don't think there's obvious reasons. Us racing Penske last year was a little different. I think with some of the races, the scenarios that have played out, teams accusing each other of different things, I think is probably what has hyped it up, which is definitely good for media. I think everybody gets into it quite good. It definitely hypes it up. That's what it's all about.
I will say it's different. I'd say a lot of it is probably because people fire at each other from opposite sides of the fence. I'd say that's what's been different. But I think it's positive, to be honest.
Q. I noticed the entry list is expanded over usual IndyCar races at Chicagoland. Can you comment on how you feel about the fact that it's a bigger field than usual and whether these folks could influence the championship?
TONY KANAAN: I would say it's great that we're growing the series. Can they influence the championship? Maybe. But it's a big track. I know we're going from people, some of them have a lot of experience, like P.J., Marty, they've been racing for a little bit. Milka is starting. I don't think it will be a factor in Chicago. I have to say it's so wide that I don't see that they gonna play a key place on deciding who's going to win this championship.
SCOTT DIXON: I'm actually the same. I think it's good that we're seeing newcomers come in. I think it's a good chance for people. I'm not sure who's added, just a couple of names. It's a good chance for them to maybe gear something up for next year, maybe bring a new sponsor in, enlighten them to what kind of racing we have. Any time I think you can make the series bigger, it's going to be a lot better for everybody.
I'm the same as Tony. I don't think it's really going to play much on the championship fight. But saying that, I might have just jinxed it and that could happen. But, no, I think it's good to see all these new people coming on.
Q. Tony, back in '99 Dario tied for a title in terms of points with Juan Pablo Montoya but lost the tiebreaker based on victories. Talk about how much a title would mean to Dario. Seems that's kind of the one thing lacking from his resumé. He won the Indy 500. Been an outstanding driver. Seems like when it comes to championship chases, he lost them by the narrowest of margins.
TONY KANAAN: Wouldn't have lost by a nose, trust me, on that one (laughter).
I would say for sure it would mean a lot to him. You just said it. I think that's what's missing in his career. I'd have to say, to win a championship, it's a lot harder than to win a race. For sure, that's what he's looking for.
I guess I haven't thought about it till you mentioned. If we get a tie, if Scott doesn't win the race, which then I will lose the championship no matter what, I'll win the championship because I have more wins.
I would say for Dario it would mean a lot. For any driver. Even me and Scott have one already, we go back and look at our championships, it seems so far away. He won it in '03. I won it in '04. That's already three, four years ago.
I think it means a lot to a driver because you got to be good in the course of 17 races against everybody else.
Q. Do you expect Dario to be your teammate? Do you think he'll be in IndyCar racing? Do you think he'll be driving sports cars?
TONY KANAAN: I hope he'll be my teammate. I need him in the team. I think from the original lineup, everybody's going. Hopefully he will stay there. I haven't talked to him about it. I think we have big and more important things to worry about right now until this weekend. As far as I knew, obviously we're still trying to keep him in the team.
But we'll see. On my mind I would love to. If I can do anything for him besides paying him his salary, because he's a big boy, he can make his own money, I would love him to stay.
Q. Tony, when you look at the season stats, and you have five wins, yet it will take a number of combinations for you to win the championship, is it frustrating?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. Like I said in the beginning of this interview, we can all go look back and say, Oh, my God, if I hadn't done that, if that hadn't happened. That's the championship. You got to make the best out of it.
I definitely knew going into the championship when I had my two DNFs, I made two mistakes, ended up crashing in the race, it cost me heavily. Not having people making mistakes like Scott and Dario, it's tough. I knew it's going to be tough.
So, no, I'm not frustrated. Like I said, I knew how to do it. I've done it in '04. They did a much better job. Unfortunately it's the way it is. You can talk to any driver at any time, will be talking about what could possibly have happened. We go back to two weeks ago, we go back to last weekend, we all have different points of views and different things we could have done different.
I would say, no, I'm happy. I've done what I could. It wasn't good enough. So I got to get better for next year.
Q. You and Dario are such good friends. Is it tough to be on the same team with your best friend and both of you have chances to win the championship? What is that like?
TONY KANAAN: I think it's better. If you don't like your teammate, you be so mad that he's beating you. Being a friend, we go beyond racing. I think I have to say it's not just me and Dario. Obviously we're very close. I was going back through after all the big talks, teams slamming at teams, drivers slamming at drivers. I was looking at the drivers lined up, the people, we've been racing against each other forever. We go back, me, Scott, the CART days. Me and Dario before that. Helio, let's not even say. Since I was born.
It's not a big deal. To be honest, I enjoy it more. Still if I get beat, at least I like the guy. We share things. That's the way we build our team since day one.
I would say for me actually it's a pleasure. I'll take it better his being my friend than actually if it was a guy I wasn't getting along.
Q. Scott, you have had to fight all season to get to the front. Compare this to other seasons as far as being tough. Is this the toughest battle you have had?
SCOTT DIXON: It's one of them. I think '03 was completely different coming down to a championship battle. We'd only won three races that year. I think we had five or six DNFs. I think with myself, T.K., or Dario, if you looked at your season, you would have come away thinking you would have won the championship quite easily. T.K. has won five races. I've won four. I think Dario has won three or four. That's a pretty stout season.
When people have had seasons like that, I think all of us have had pretty good consistency, yeah, a couple of races here or there, but still pretty strong finishes. The points totals this year are very high. That's a little bit different, for me at least.
So, you know, I can't really compare it to too many seasons that I've been involved in. Last year was pretty close coming down to the wire, but there was definitely a lot of times that I think our team, with Dan and myself that have messed up, and we could have won the championship a lot easier. I know Sam had those same situations.
The only thing that singles this season out for me is the consistency and the race wins between all three of us, is very high.
Q. Let's narrow it down a little bit to the last three or four races when so much has happened. Biggest drama you've been involved in as far as driver against driver, people saying this, that, claims against one another?
SCOTT DIXON: What are you saying? Which race?
Q. Narrowing it down to the last three or four races. Seems like after each race, somebody is saying something about the other team.
SCOTT DIXON: It's definitely been the last two races. There's been a lot of stuff going back and forth. All it brings it down to, it's just competition. All of us want that win as much as the other.
As I said before, I think it's good. It's good for the series. It builds a fan base. It builds the hype between us. Guys are not going to give an inch; they're going to race hard for it. I think it's fantastic. It's definitely been a lot different to many other seasons that have been involved.
I guess, you know, just how good teams are, AGR and Ganassi fought it out, they fought it out really tough.
Q. Scott, you have an oval win this year at Nashville, along with some podium finishes. Are you satisfied heading into the title race in Chicago with your season oval setup?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, I think at some places our team in general has been pretty good. Dan won at Homestead by a landslide. Nobody was going to touch him there. Even Kansas I think both of us were very strong, then I ran out of fuel and had to pit off three or four, which we got the drive-through penalty. We pretty much had the field covered there.
There's been situations where we've been super fast. You look at the backside of the season, and AGR have done the same thing.
You know, coming down to Chicago, it is similar to Kansas. Probably the closest. Our cars were good there. But it's not exactly the same. We know there's going to be differences and what the teams bring to those races is still yet to be unknown.
Definitely uncertainty going into these races on how you're going to fare. With the races we have now, it's hard to change the cars too much. You only have a couple hour sessions, qualifying, then you're in for the race. There's not drastic things or drastic speed differences you're going to find. How you roll off the truck is going to determine a little bit how your weekend's going to roll.
We're confident. I'm sure AGR is confident. But we've done all our research. We've done as much R&D as we can for this race. I'm sure it's the same with AGR. If we haven't done enough, we just fell short.
We'll have to see how it plays out.
Q. Tony, a lot has been written and said about your performance at Sonoma. You needed a win. Passing Dario for third still put you behind Helio and Scott with less than 10 laps to go. As you head into the final race, any last thoughts as you look back on the season?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think, it was I would say a crazy season outside of the track in many ways. Like Scott mentioned before, I think we as teams and we as drivers are trying to play every card. The press talks a lot about what Scott said about me after Sonoma, what I said about Scott after Detroit. What they don't know behind the scenes we still hang out and we still laugh about it, we still respect each other a lot because, like Scott says, it's racing.
Once Sunday comes along, it's going to be one guy who is going to win the championship. You might find out somewhere having a drink everybody together. It's been hectic, I would crazy season on that.
You know, my point of view on the Sonoma race. I think I did what I was supposed to do. I don't think I could have passed Scott for the lead on the last five laps, especially Helio. In Detroit I have to say I got to apologize to Scott. I made a comment without seeing it. I looked at it again. Obviously people can think that I just said it just to make Scott pissed, but not really.
I would say Scott is not that type of a guy. We had our moments together. We both broke our arms and hands in Japan. It was not on purpose. We go back a long way.
In the end, I think it's been healthy. I think competition is healthy. We all pushing each other to the limits. Well all want to win. We just making each other better. It's been a great season in that manner. Although people say we could create a soap opera out of it I people have different opinions about good press, bad press. I think as long as we as drivers, we still respect each other, we understand why we're doing certain things, we'll be cool.
I would say it's been one of my toughest seasons as far as pushing myself to the limit, pushing each other to the limit physically, mentally. Everybody is working hard. Look what happens. We're going to the last race with a beautiful championship like this. So I would say I got to thank Scott, Dario, the people that push us to move forward because that's why we race. We race to beat them. They race to beat us.
Like I said in my interview on Sunday after the Detroit race, it is very important to win the championship. It is competition. But 10 years from now I think we still going to be hanging together somewhere, making fun of each other about things we did and did not do. There's a lot more things more important beyond racing. Although we want to win, I think as long as we keep peace between everybody, working together, or against each other in a healthy way, it's great.
It's been a great year I have to say.
Q. You have both won championships. You could sit there and play what if with this year's Indy 500. You've had good races in the past. Is there an emphasis in winning one over the other, championship versus the 500?
SCOTT DIXON: I think for me, probably similar to Tony, the way he may answer, for me I think having won a championship, I would want the other. It might be the same. I think for Dario, I'd say he would want the championship. To be honest, I think winning both of them in the same year is just a bit greedy.
I think I'd love to win an Indianapolis 500. You also have the backside of that, too, where you speak to people have that won a championship before, myself and T.K., people that have won Indy 500s, before, once you have that feeling, once you get the feeling of winning a championship, the good feeling of that, you just want it that much more again.
For me, both would be fantastic, but I think I'd say I'm leaning towards an Indy 500 win because it's a one-day spectacle, it's fantastic. It would be great to join the long list of great people that have won it.
TONY KANAAN: I mean, I agree with Scott. As drivers, if we had won the 500, we were going to be looking for the championship. Now that we both won a championship, we want to win the 500. Obviously the 500, it's always going to be the 500. Trust me, I know about it just because of this year.
It's very hard to win a championship. I think there is values for both of them. History-wise, like Scott says, it would be good to see your face on the trophy, your name in a museum, all those kind of things about the 500.
I would say right now, yeah, it would be great to win two championships, three, four, five, but I'm looking for the 500 as well.
Q. How soon after Chicago will you be returning to Brazil?
TONY KANAAN: I wanted to go home the Monday after the banquet, but right now I have some commitments with the ALMS team. I'm going to be doing Road Atlanta or being testing in Road Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday. I'll get home on the 18th. The baby is scheduled to be born on the 21st. Hopefully he will wait for me and you guys will pray for me because I'll be very, very busy in the off-season. Although we're not testing, I think it's going to be a pretty crazy off-season for me. On the 18th I'll be home.
Q. Scott, have you set a date for the wedding?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's been the same. February 16th. It will be in London.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, Tony, thanks for taking some time. We kept you for quite a while this afternoon. Good luck this weekend. We look forward to some tight racing at Chicagoland.
TONY KANAAN: If you talk to Dario, tell him we miss him.
SCOTT DIXON: Wake him up.
THE MODERATOR: A couple updates for you. We are expecting Dario to call probably within the next 10 minutes. He was travelling this afternoon already to Chicagoland, had some weather delays. We do expect him by around 3:15 eastern. You're welcome to hold the line or you can dial back in.
A couple other notes. We will have a teleconference next Wednesday, September 12th, at 2:00 eastern. We'll have our two series champions, IndyCar Series and Pro Series champions available.
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