IndyCar Series: Chicagoland Indy 300
Topics: Peak Antifreeze Indy 300
September 9, 2007
MODERATOR: We're now joined by Scott Dixon, finishes second in the championship points. I guess, Scott, the easiest question, maybe the hardest one to answer, is talk about that last lap there.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think to start with, actually, the whole day was going pretty well. Our car was good. We were good in traffic. We were working with the Penske guys really well. We were definitely, I think for the championship, the guys to beat.
For me, I think it's extremely frustrating for it to come down to a fuel race. I can honestly take a beating gracefully if you get beaten on even terms. But well, I guess we did, we had the same amount of fuel but we didn't use it wisely.
Tough day. Going into the restart, I knew it was going to be very close. I think we were at 21 or over 21 gallons on the meter. And I knew it was going to take a little bit more than that to do two laps.
And that's what happened. We didn't really have it. So going into 3, it seemed to cut out of fuel and that was it.
Q. Scott, going into those last two laps knowing you had a two-lap sprint, you knew it was going to be close, what were you thinking at that point?
SCOTT DIXON: I think at that point, you know, you always are just hoping that you're going to have the amount of fuel you need to get to the end. When you look at it, we were really only a corner away from it. I think at that stage I was more worried that there wasn't any radio communication. Because when the radio is quiet there's something about to happen.
But I knew it was going to be very tough. So all we were trying to do was have a good restart and maybe try and carry the momentum to the finish.
Q. Scott, you really had a good second half of the season, though, despite the way that this finished for you. You know, today was another example the way things have been running for you the whole second half of the year, wasn't it?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, like I think we had a pretty good start to the year as well. We were consistent. We had a lot of second places. Japan and a couple of places like that, we struggled. And we were lucky to even come up with fourth place finishes there. But if you put Dan and my seasons together, we would be looking pretty strong.
Next year we need to work on that and try to make sure we don't press ourselves in this situation, coming into the last race. So I think you spend most of the season just trying to gain enough points so it doesn't make's difference at the end.
And we had to do it the other way; we had made enough points to start with and we had to really dig deep in the latter part of the season and try and pull it through.
Q. Scott, did Danica's stall make this race a little closer?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't even know what happened there. I saw Dan in front of me running out of fuel. I think our cars the whole day, it was the issue we were struggling with, to get good fuel mileage which was a bit frustrating. Even sitting in behind a couple of cars, we'd still put a lap or two earlier than the 27.
But the Danica stuff, I didn't really know too much about it. I didn't see it.
Q. Scott, had Dan gotten the lead sooner and you were able to draft off of him, would that have possibly been enough to have got two more turns?
SCOTT DIXON: Might have, because he might have run out of fuel before that. So might have helped with having a lap more. I'm going to ask him why he didn't park it on the bloody surface. But I was trying to get out of the throttle. I was running down to 210s, 212s, to let get guys by. Nobody wanted to lead. That was definitely the reason nobody wanted to lead.
Q. You've won a championship before. You were in contention up until actually the last lap for this one. Was this one more difficult than the last time? Are the competitions different now?
SCOTT DIXON: Definitely it's been different. Going into '03, I think there was about five guys with the chance. This weekend, for the past couple, it's really been two people.
I think '03, midway through the race, we were looking pretty happy. I think because T.K. and Helio had touched wheels and I think maybe even lost a lap. And they ended on the yellow midway. In that race we knew we had a very good shot at the championship. Whereas today it was down to the last lap.
Q. You mentioned you seem to have the faster car. Obviously you don't know what the other guys are doing, but is that speed versus fuel mileage, is that maybe the trade-off that you make?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it can be. I definitely -- I don't think Dario was intentionally trying to save fuel. I think his car was the quickest. In regards Penske cars and Dan and myself, and we seemed to hang back there. I don't know. He seemed to struggle a little bit on the first, to be honest that's the only time I saw that his car was a little bit slower. So later on in the race I'm not sure if he was just sitting back and saving. But that's always a compromise to save fuel and go fast.
Q. This series and this schedule is a lot different from when you won your last championship here? Is it harder to win now, and is this the hardest in auto racing to win because of so many different tracks and different kinds of tracks?
SCOTT DIXON: Any championship is tough to win, no matter what formula, no matter what kind of cars. I think this is tougher now for sure. The key things to look at, you've got many different disciplines and road courses, street courses, short ovals, super speedways and in between. And on top of that everybody's got the same car, everybody's got the same engine.
So I think this season is definitely tougher to win a championship. '03, '04, '05 I think '03 was better. '04, '05 the guys that won had a bigger advantage. So I definitely say this is a much tougher championship to win.
Q. Looking at Dario as a competitor, he's had a lot of distractions and everything that he's had to deal with the last month, including the latest one where it appears he's going to join your family in another series. Do you almost sit there and kind of marvel at how he's been able to just stay focus on the goal at hand and not let all the outside stuff, not let all the criticism from Michael Andretti and all that keep him from his task at trying to win a championship?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think Dario is a great competitor. To be honest, if anybody could win the championship out there, I'd like to see him win it, as he's done.
As you touched on, he's had to deal with a lot of stuff. And he has dealt with it very well. I don't know what to say about that. I think he's obviously done a superb job to win a championship and he doesn't let things get to him.
Q. Is there a word or two that sums up how you feel right now: Disappointed, pissed off, madder than hell?
SCOTT DIXON: Any of those and a lot of other choice words.
MODERATOR: Scott, we appreciate your time.
Quick notes for everybody, which will also be part of our DTR, the margin for the championship was 13 points. It's the seventh time in 12 seasons that the IndyCar Series Championship point margin has been 20 points or less.
Dario's 637 total points this season is a record for the series. The previous high was 628 by Dan Wheldon in the 2007 season. This is Dario's first IndyCar Series Championship. He becomes the third consecutive Indianapolis 500 winner to go on to win the IndyCar Series Championship in the same season.
This is the third IndyCar Series Championship for Andretti Green Racing. The team won the title in 2004 with Tony Kanaan, 2005 with Dan Wheldon. Andretti Green Racing becomes the first team to win three IndyCar Series Championships.
Team Menard, A.J. Foyt Racing and Panther Racing have each won two championships.
To give everybody a quick medical update. The CAT scan on Marco Andretti was negative. He's still at the hospital. I think he'll be checked out here in the next 30, 45 minutes. I'll confirm that as soon as I get the word back from the hospital. But the CAT scan to his neck was negative.
Follow-up on my announcement earlier about Marco. His CAT scan was negative and he's been cleared from St. Joseph's Medical Center, has been released from St. Joseph's Medical Center here in Joliet.
We're joined by race winner 2007 Series champion, Dario Franchitti. Dario, take us through your day, if you would.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Was that enough excitement for you? All right. I'll start at the beginning, shall we? We went off at the start, and I don't know, it was like it was -- we weren't as good as yesterday from the start, I felt. On the first start, the Penske guys got by and the Ganassi guys teamed up and got past. I was struggling with the balance of the car. I sat there saving fuel. As the stint went on, the car got quite good. I thought we're okay here.
But then running two-by-two in front of me. I had nowhere to go. So the only sensible thing to do was to save fuel. So I saved fuel and I went longer I think on the second stop. I've been saving fuel all day really. That was the situation. Kind of stuck behind those four cars. I lost the draft at one point. I pedaling as fast as I could and I was gaining slightly, maybe.
Then we stretched the window in I think it was the last stop, the second to last, as it turned out. And the yellow came out just before Vitor's crash. And I hauled to get around him, put Scott down. Then Milka got in the way. I don't know what the heck she was doing but she got in the way, put Scott down. I wasn't too amused at that point.
Then Scott and I were, I guess, at the back of the lane. And so we both pitted to top off. Then everybody got cycled, went off on the restart. And those Penske cars were quick. They came back through. I was trying to make a fuel number. I couldn't make it without going really far back in the pack.
I was stuck with the two Penskes and two Ganassis in front of me. I knew someone was going to have to pit and fuel was critical. John Anderson was telling me on the radio, "Guys, fuel is critical." I was saving as much and hanging on. And Danica in the back, getting alongside trying to help. She was trying to get in as best position as she could to help.
Then eventually that last yellow came out. I saw Dan parked on the turn 3. He ran out of fuel at the start/finish. I saw him park at the turn 3. I thought this is great, this just gives Scott what he needs. I came around the corner, saw Danica spun. I thought okay. So that set up for the finish.
I got a good restart, got a run at Scott. Couldn't make anything happen on the outside. And coming down the last lap I knew what I had to do. I drafted him out, too, as well as I could, just pulled out going into 3. And just as I pulled out I saw his car twitch, and I think with him running out of fuel, with losing the drive, he shot the track. So I had to avoid him, went higher than I would have liked.
Once I corrected that, I knew that the race and the championship were ours. And I kind of went crazy from there to the finish line, and that was it.
MODERATOR: Questions for Dario.
Q. Last five, six weeks you've had basically every possible obstacle, distraction, whatever you want to call it: Issues with Michael. Issues with other things. And it just seems like you were bulletproof and impervious to that. Just how tough was that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Bruce, that wasn't a factor. Honestly, that stuff was not a factor. For me the biggest mental challenge this year was jumping in the car in Kentucky having just flipped the thing five days earlier in Michigan. And I think we were actually the quickest in that first session in Kentucky and were running side by side with Dan again.
To get over that barrier, I thought if I could do that I should be okay with anything that's thrown at me. And it worked out well.
Q. Dario, looked like after the race, when you had it parked down in 3, where they staged you, you walked out to the back of the car. I don't know if you knelt down or whatever. Was it sort of a catch-your-breath, figure-on-what's-going-on moment? What were you doing and what was going on in your head?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: At that point, there was a lot of stuff going on in my head. Thinking of a lot of different things and a lot of different people. And on a lighter note, talking to the safety crew. I said, "Good to see you guys. The car is actually the right way around and has four wheels on it today." They said, "How did you like this car compared to Kentucky or Michigan?" I said, "This is actually the Kentucky car." And they were amazed at that.
But that was just a point to take stock a little bit there and think of what we had achieved. And, as I say, think about a lot of different people and things. And it was nice to have that minute just to compose myself, I think.
Q. People such as?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: A lot of different people. I don't want to get into detail. A lot of personal stuff.
Q. During this race, it wasn't a great race for you, most of the way. You had a lot of problems getting by people. And you had handling problems from what you were saying and so forth. What were you thinking about during the race other than -- did the championship go much through your thoughts during that or were you too busy to think about that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was very calm in the car all day, which sometimes I kind of get a little bit hot under the collar. But today I was calm. And I knew that as hard as I was trying I couldn't really make anything happen because of the way guys in front were positioned and the cars. I knew the one thing I could do was save fuel at that point.
And John Anderson and Al McDonald and Dave were working their magic in the pits. And they did to a certain extent. But I think again it's cool that it came down to just Scott and I. There was something about that. We said all year, even with a 65-point lead, I kept saying it's going to be close. It's going to be close. Comes down to Scott and I last corner, last lap. That pretty much sums up the year.
Q. Scott said it was iffy on fuel, whether he'd, even after the restart, whether he'd make it. How confident were you that you had enough to make it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Here's the thing: They were telling me, "It's close on fuel, close on fuel." But I didn't get a fuel pressure alarm until I drove the thing up onto the podium. I had done an extra lap and burnouts and restarted the thing. So I think we were okay. We certainly were in better condition than Scott was, I think.
Q. This year you win the Indianapolis 500. You win the IndyCar title. Can you now walk away and say I've accomplished everything I've done in my IndyCar career that I wanted to do?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Those are two of the goals I definitely set for myself a long time ago when I came over here. I set my goal to win every race, obviously. And then when I came over to the IndyCar Series, the Indy 500 was a big goal. And the championships, to accomplish both those is massive.
Funny thing, sitting there this morning thinking about what I had to do today. And the most important thing for me was that I drove a good race and I gave 100%, and I kind of did my guys proud. I did the job my guys would want me to do.
That was more important to me than the result. And I think I did that. I tried as hard as I could. But that was more important. So I don't know if that's because I won the 500 and it took some pressure off. But that was the thoughts going into the race.
My guys have worked so hard this year and continue to, and my teammates do. And they helped me so much. And the whole team, I just wanted to go out there and do a good job for them as well as myself.
Q. Do you remember what your exact reaction was when you saw Dixon's car twitch, that quick second, what your reaction was?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah (chuckling). Yes, my first thing was to try to avoid him because he moved quite a way up the track with that twitch. And my first thing was correcting the car. Once I corrected the car, as I said, from then to the finish line, it was a lot of screaming on the radio and fist pumping. My sponsor and Dave and Andrew, we were all talking on the radio at the same time. Probably all anybody heard was a bunch of static.
Q. You also said collecting yourself after the Michigan flip was a big step getting back into the car in Kentucky. Can you talk about what it would have been like after Kentucky, then it happened twice. I saw you after the race. And I still think you were pretty rattled there more so than Michigan.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think the Kentucky one really, again, was like, oh, twice in five days. That was kind of crazy. But I got in the car again at Sonoma, which was nice. It was a test in Sonoma. It was nice. It was a road course. And I went out there and I think within three or four laps we were back on the pace. That is how long it took to get heat in the tires. So that kind of settled me down, and I wouldn't say got my confidence back, but just relaxed me, I guess.
Q. The feeling now, is it one of relief or one of happiness? You waver back and forth?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Definitely both. Relief and happy. Happier than I thought I would. I thought winning the Indy 500, winning that, that was a great feeling. But this is -- it's different. But I think because it's the whole year rolled into one, it means a hell of a lot.
Q. As you look back at this season from the beginning, where do you think this championship season began for you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think at the first race. We were running very well the first race. And then I ran over somebody's drive shaft on the yellow. It was obviously a night race. And we still rolled on to a seventh place finish. And the next week we ran well at St. Pete. Tony and I got together at the first corner. We almost went two laps down. The guys rebuilt the front of the car in that period.
A lot of new guys on the team. A couple of the guys the same. But a lot of new guys on the 27 team. I looked and said these guys don't give up. And we almost went two laps down. We lost our brakes after 50 laps of a 100-lap race. And yet we were able to sit there. That's when I got a lot of confidence in them.
And I thought we could make something happen. And the results kept getting better and better. Obviously culminating with the win in Indy. Then we got the run. And the consistency part took over and the madness of August with the flips and Sonoma and Detroit last week. So it's been quite a year.
Q. How much did it hurt to lose T.K. as your drafting partner early in the race? And can you say what you were thinking when you lost touch and dropped a couple seconds behind the pack there sort of midway through the race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: When they told me T.K. had a flat or something, I thought this is going to be tough now, because I felt yesterday the car, just up front on our own. And I saw today we didn't really, and those guys were really working in pairs. And full marks to the Penske and Ganassi guys. They did an absolute job of working the teammates today. I don't think anybody does it better than maybe Tony and I.
And he wasn't there. And then Danica -- Marco, first of all, tried to come up and do it and had a mighty crash behind me. I hear he's okay, which is good. I thought he was fine because I saw him getting out of the car after a while. But as they say now he's good, which is a big relief.
Danica was there helping me out, too. But in the end it came down to Scott and I.
Q. I understand you don't want to talk about next year, but at least in terms of the Nascar thing, what is it about over there that would make you even consider it at this point?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Again, I'm not going to talk about next year. I'm going to enjoy having won this championship today. I won't think about the decision to be made about next year, next week or the week after. But right now I'm just going to have a good time tonight and celebrate winning this IndyCar championship.
Q. You joined Jim Clark as a Scotsman to win the Indianapolis 500. Now you've gone one up, you're the first Scotsman to win the IndyCar title. Talk about what it means from your homeland and how they've reacted to it and everything, as far as Dan Wheldon from England won two years ago. So talk about that.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't think if I was on this earth for five lifetimes I could never one up Jim Clark. He's my hero. Joey Chitwood came up and gave me a pin from one of the badges to get in the pit lane from 1965. And the numbers, the serial number it was 1127, which I thought was pretty cool.
But I don't know what the reaction will be back home. There was a big reaction to the 500 win. And I hope -- I enjoy when people appreciate when we do a good job. But the main reason I do it is because I enjoy it, not because of what people write or think.
Q. Do you know the term "snakebit"? Do you know what it means? American term, it means that you feel like the world is against you and no matter what you do, it's going to go wrong. Did you ever get to feeling that way with the way things have gone in the last month leading up until now?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, not really. I've had kind of a strange career so far in America because there have been some days, good luck and great luck. And the Indy 500 this year, I think there was definitely some things went our way. And then there's sometimes, if I could sit here and talk about the races that could have, would have, should have won, but this or that went wrong I'll be here a long time.
There was a couple of races recently. You look at Michigan, Kentucky, Sonoma, Detroit last week, I think in all four races we had the fastest car, maybe not Sonoma, but we led the most laps in Sonoma and we didn't get it. We had these things go wrong.
Some of our own making, which Kentucky I believe was of my own making. Some not. So snakebit, no.
Q. Indy and today are big ones. Monday after Indianapolis you said you couldn't wait to get back in the car, get back to racing after that. What about now? What about tomorrow? Is there a hole in you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I could do with a day off right now. It's been a long season. No, as I say I could do with a bit of a rest right now. It's been a tough year. So I'm looking forward to going home with Ashley and hanging out.
Q. Right after Indy I asked you, would you apply any of those funds to buy a new helicopter. You said, no, you've got the one you want. But you've got more funds in the war chest now, is there anything you're thinking about with the money?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: One of my friends put it, "What car are you going to buy now?" at the podium. There are those cars that I think about. But I don't know. We'll see.
Q. Is it more satisfying because the way the summer unfolded with, I think we'll add three weekends off and you went to all the different circuits, did that grind actually make it more satisfying when you accomplish this?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think that's one of the reasons this championship means so much to me is the fact that it was all those different tracks this year. And each one requires something completely different.
To go from Detroit to here, I can't think of two different tracks. And so to do that, that's one of the reasons that it really -- and I think the direction the Series has been taking and going to different types of tracks, short oval, one-and-a-half milers, the big tracks, street courses, road courses, that makes it more difficult to kind of do a good job on all of those. It leaves me and definitely my guys with a sense of satisfaction, a big smile on our faces.
Q. You and Scott obviously have a lot of respect for each other. You both treat each other with a lot of class. Your goal today was to come out on top ahead of him. But can you empathize for how tormenting it may be for him to lose it the way he lost it by running out of fuel like that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: When I lost the championship in 1999, I lost my best friend the same day. So I don't have many thoughts about losing a championship that closely. It doesn't really register with me.
But I appreciate the challenge that Scott and his team gave us all year, and they were tough. They really were tough. And, again, that's another reason, when you beat competition of that nature, when you look at the people, the people that you've had to beat on the way to doing this, that gives me satisfaction knowing I've done a good job, my team has done a good job. But, yes, I have a lot of respect for Scott. We got along really well.
Q. Maybe it will be easier for you to answer this since he's not here. But you talked about Greg there for a second. But you and T.K. have a relationship that I think is difficult for us to understand. You helped him in '04. He helped you this year. Help us understand that relationship.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know if I can, Mike. I've been close to some teammates before. Schneider when I was doing TM, for instance. But the relationship with Tony, we were best friends when we became teammates. Sometimes that can be a recipe for disaster, it really can.
But we just went about things the right way. I want to beat you, you want to beat me, we know that. But let's work together towards that. If you get in a position, I'll help you. Vice versa.
We've done that from the start of this team, when Team Green became Andretti Green. You watched Brian Hearst, it was another example of that. He was on the phone at the podium. He called me. So that was great. And you watch Marco and Danica, they get it. They really get it.
But T.K. and I, I don't know. He's a very, very special person. And I always said about T.K. he can be the most selfish person you've ever met or the most giving person you've ever met. He's a guy of extremes. He's my best friend. And when we're old and retired -- we're old anyway in racing terms -- but when we're retired and sitting home, we'll still be good friends.
MODERATOR: Dario, we appreciate your time. Congratulations.
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