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Infiniti Pro Series: Sonoma 100

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Sonoma 100

Infiniti Pro Series: Sonoma 100

Marco Andretti
Michael Andretti
Wade Cunningham
Jeff Simmons
August 27, 2005


SONOMA, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Wade Cunningham and Jeff Simmons, who finished second in today's Menards Infiniti Pro Series event. Wade finished second for the seventh time in 11 races this season. He has finished in the top five in each of his starts in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. Jeff Simmons finished third, which was his fifth consecutive top five finish so far this year. Why don't we start with Jeff Simmons. Jeff, tell us about your race today and your experience out on Infineon Raceway.

JEFF SIMMONS: Well, yeah, on the start, the original start, you know, the motor kind of backed up again. I don't know what's going on with it. It happened in Milwaukee earlier this year. It happened at Kentucky again and now here. On the original start, you know, it kind of cost us a spot, but in a way it might have kept us out of the incident that happened up there on turn two. After that, Marco was starting to gap us. My car took a really long time to come in, but then we got that second yellow, the motor kind of backed up again. Wade was able to get around. They both kind of set off. Once again, it was just taking a while for my car to come in. Once we did, we were really fast and closed that gap. In hindsight, I think if we didn't get that second yellow, even though Marco had drawn away from us, I think my car was going to come in and we might have been able to chase him down. But didn't work out that way. We closed that gap later in the race, and it was just really hard to pass here. There were some places where I was a little quicker and there were other places where I think Wade just had enough to keep far enough away where I couldn't really take any risks anywhere to try to pass. It was a good run. But still a little disappointing. We wanted to be on the top of the podium.

THE MODERATOR: Wade, you finished second. Maybe you can talk about racing on road courses, how it went for you today.

WADE CUNNINGHAM: It was a pretty similar race to what Jeff had, except he got a bad start for whatever reason. I went straight up. I was going to try to follow Bobby through and Marco. Bobby got in the grey, looped it, went across the gravel. Gravel was all over the track. I went through the gravel, over the curb. You know, I was right in the middle of it all. I went backwards, I think fifth or sixth. My car was very good to start with. I started passing. I got myself back up to third before the first caution. Then I gained past Jeff again on the caution. The next 20 something laps, I just followed Marco. He was too strong out of the slow corners today. Second gear was definitely a bit long. It killed us. He always had the gap that was always closing up under brakes, but I could never keep the gap under acceleration. I was praying for him to make a mistake. He didn't make any. That's why I came home second again.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Can you talk about this incident when Marco was passing a lapped car here, comment on that, what you saw, what happened, what could have happened.

WADE CUNNINGHAM: Are you talking about the chicane?

Q. Last turn.

WADE CUNNINGHAM: Marco was going under. He locked up his wheel. I'm not sure whether the lapped car knew Jeff and I were that close. We were two car lengths behind. He was sort of coming across back behind, so I locked up a little bit. But I was already midway through the corner, so it was a case of getting on the power for the exit.

Q. Talk about what you saw. Did you think you had a chance?

WADE CUNNINGHAM: No, because he was already on the acceleration phase of the corner by the time all that happened. He just had to straighten the wheel and stomp on the gas. Not much there going for the win.

Q. Jeff?

JEFF SIMMONS: That's exactly what I saw. He locked up the wheels there and then Wade and I had to basically pass the lapped car in the corner. Wade kind of got him in the corner, and I kind of got him at the exit of the corner. Yeah, that was about it. Wade had probably a better view than I did because he was kind of right in it as they were entering there.

Q. Did that pretty much end the race?

JEFF SIMMONS: Not for me. I was still right on Wade, you know, just trying to find a place where I could stay close enough and try to get him in a braking zone. There were just certain areas where we couldn't stay with him. Like he said, you know, we were kind of lugging the motor coming out of some of the corners. But I don't think we could have done too much with the gearing to fix that. It's a lot of compromises around here. Going into turn three, the complex up there, I would be really close to Wade, then I'd be hitting the rev limiter there. He would pull out a few car lengths when I did that. That kind of negated any possibility of passing him going down into turn seven because he would get that little bit of a gap and I would spend the rest of the time making up that gap. Just could never stay close enough to get to that brake zone. That's basically the first real passing area that you have on the track.

Q. Everybody talks about this is a one-lane track. If you get up in front, you have a tremendous advantage. Is there any place you can really pass?

WADE CUNNINGHAM: After the start, I went back after the first corner because Bobby spun out and I sort of followed him off the track. I passed three cars down into the bus stop chicane. I was much quicker, I out-qualified them all. I guess it's difficult to pass strong cars. But when you're coming through the middle of the pack, it wasn't as difficult as it was on Marco.

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, as he said, if it's another strong car, when we were going through the S's, I could start -- I got close to Wade, then we'd come to the S's, lose the air off the front, I'd pick up too much of a push to make a run down into the bus stop. It's possible to pass, but you've got to hope for a mistake. I think the best place probably would be someplace like turn seven. You can run a little different line through the carrousel there, then get a good run down there and try to pass into seven.

Q. How did you get the jump on the pass that you made?

WADE CUNNINGHAM: Jeff got a bad start. I think he ran into a false limiter or something like that. It was kind of easy. He was just standing still and I just drove around him at the start/finish line. There wasn't much to it.

JEFF SIMMONS: Like I said, it was just like Milwaukee. I mean, the engine backs up and won't run over seven thousand rpm. On the original start, it didn't clear out till I got through the carrousel. It was just like starving for fuel for half a lap there. You know, we've got to figure out what that problem is. It should have been sorted out. We had that problem two years ago in Indianapolis even. It should have been solved by now. Unfortunately, it hasn't been. I'm just really happy with all the guys on my team, Team ISI, that we got taken out in that first session, put us a session behind. Fortunately, the guys were able to get the car back together in a short period of time so we were able to get back on the track for that short session on Friday. That was good, because I'd never been here before.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. We are now joined by Marco and Michael Andretti. This is Marco's third win of the season and the third of his Menards Infiniti Pro Series career. Both of his previous wins came on the temporary street course at St. Petersburg and on the road course of Indianapolis. Michael, your thoughts about Marco's win here?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: (Inaudible.)

Q. Could you talk about similarities and differences between how your father guided you and you're guiding Marco through his career.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: (Inaudible.)

Q. How does Marco remind you of yourself at that age?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: (Inaudible.)

Q. Do you see Marco's future being more on road and street courses than on an oval?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: (Inaudible.)

THE MODERATOR: This is Marco's third victory, and each of those wins have come from the pole so far this season. Marco, can you talk about your first race here at Infineon Raceway and your thoughts on the weekend.

MARCO ANDRETTI: The weekend actually was unbelievable. I never had a weekend like this. Quickest every session out. That's definitely a first for me. The odds were against me going into the race there. It was too good to be true. We actually were battling brake problems three laps into the race because earlier in the weekend we were having problems getting temperature in the brakes, so we taped the ducts for the race. They were overheated by lap three. I knew it was going to be a long day. I was locking brakes in all the slow corners. That's where they were catching me. I was looking forward to using those Firestones in the faster corners where I didn't need brakes. I was trying to stay off them as much as possible. We got lucky.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Go over what happened in the last turn, the hairpin, the lapped car. How close was that? What did you do? What did you think?

MARCO ANDRETTI: My spotter saved me. He got on the radio. I saw the dust, but I didn't know if he was inside, outside. He just said, "Stay wide." We got around him.

Q. Was there any time in there that you thought you might lose it?

MARCO ANDRETTI: The last three to the checkered, I was almost losing it.

Q. I mean in that particular incident, was it that close?

MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, no. All I needed to know was where to go. Like I said, my spotter saved me on that one. And also he saved me at the top of the hill when there was dirt coming around the second lap. I was coming in there. He said, "Dirt, dirt, dirt." I got out of it. I still almost crashed. It would have been a big one. He saved me there, too.

Q. Talk about the track conditions today.

MARCO ANDRETTI: Just lap two from actually my incident where I think me and Bobby touched, you know, that was a close one for me, going into one, because I was actually looking up the hill. I had no idea he was still outside of me. I felt it, so I had to correct. I guess he went on the inside and just had dust on the track. You know, started clearing it out. Once you know it's there, it's no problem.

Q. What are your feelings about stepping up to the IndyCar Series?

MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. I think I'd be right there on the road courses. You know, it's primarily oval city, so that's where I need my experience. Maybe I'd hang for the first 30 laps. I don't know about 80 (laughter).

Q. It was a lot hotter yesterday. Can you talk about the conditions today?

MARCO ANDRETTI: It was a little bit better this morning just because when it's cooler out, you know. Yesterday afternoon was hotter ambient temperature. The track gets a little greasy. You don't really feel it in the car. It's just the times aren't there. There's really no difference.

Q. Any special meaning to your family racing here, the winery, father, grandfather racing?

MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, it's definitely special when they're both present because you don't get that that often. It's pretty rare that they're both here. It's good to win in front of them, too. Not just calling home and saying, "We won." It's good when they're here to witness.

Q. How much time did you spend at the track before you actually started driving? Did you always know that's what you wanted to do?

MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah. I never really thought of doing anything else other than racing. I wouldn't know what to do if it wasn't for this sport. No, to be honest, I never thought of doing anything else. Since nine years old, I've been in a go-kart. Since three years old I've been on a motorized vehicle.

Q. What's the next race in this series?

MARCO ANDRETTI: Watkins Glen. We were talking about Chicago, but I don't know if we can put something together. Definitely Watkins Glen.

Q. Your dad said you're not anything like you or your grandfather. Any other driver you may have studied before getting into the sport?

MARCO ANDRETTI: It's just the ones that I'm really close to, lie Tony Kanaan, Rubens Barrichello, all my dad's drivers, Dario, Bryan, Dan. They're great guys. I'm like their brother. You know, Juan Pablo. Just the ones that I know and that I've seen. A lot of racers I haven't even been around enough to really realize how good they are.

Q. Talk more about the brakes throughout the race, how you managed them.

MARCO ANDRETTI: I wasn't thinking of 27 to go, because then I don't think I would have made it. You just got to take it one lap at a time and nurse them, stay off them as much as possible, even though there's 300 braking zones here. Like I said, I was looking forward to the high-speed parts of the track where I could just use the Firestones to bail me out. You know, if you lay off them for a lap, they were going for a lap, then Wade would catch me a lap. Actually, when I saw Jeff catching Wade is when I actually thought, "Okay, this could be okay." Wade is under pressure, as well. It's not just like Wade's trying to beat me. He's trying to save second place, as well.

Q. When you see the success (inaudible), Formula One, does that motivate you to move toward that direction?

MARCO ANDRETTI: Definitely motivates me. But definitely more power to him. He's doing a fantastic job so far. Actually, I'm not that aware with everything that's going on over there. Definitely still one of my ultimate goals, will always remain one of my ultimate goals, a Formula One road championship. Definitely got a lot of work ahead of me. I also got an awesome IRL team that's looking forward to having me, and I'm looking forward to driving for them as well. It would be an awesome opportunity.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.



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