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IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Michael Andretti
Dario Franchitti
Tony Kanaan
Dan Wheldon
April 3, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our second and third place finishers. Tony finished second. It is his 18th consecutive Top 5 finish, 19th consecutive Top 10 finish, and he has completed every lap in 19 consecutive races. Tony, talk about your day.

TONY KANAAN: Long day. I'm very excited. Obviously, I wasn't expecting to have the problems that we had on the stops. But these kind of things happen. You know, there is nothing we can do. So we got a little greedy in the first one, got put in the back. Got a little problem with one of my guys, hopefully he's okay. He bust his knee when he was running to change the tires. So it was very unfortunate. Other than that, very exciting. People trying to put me in the wall every time I tried to pass them. I guess they got what they deserved.

THE MODERATOR: Dario, for you, your second straight Top 5 finish. Talk about your day.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, from the start, I thought we had a pretty good car. We were running I believe at one point, when Helio got taken out with the back marker, running one, two, three. Even before that, we were quite happy just holding position there. Didn't have quite enough to pass the guys at that time, a bit too much understeer. Came in for the first stop. At that point we knew we had a problem with the refueling system, the tank. We weren't getting a full load of fuel. It happened once. We thought we fixed it. We came in, it happened again. Did we do three or four stops? I don't even know. Four stops. So that really ruined any chance we had. We came out from our last stop P-12. It was a case of just battling my way back to the front. I got to P- 3 with these guys. It was one, two, three, four. By that point, I think we didn't quite have it actually. I didn't want to be putting too much pressure on these guys in case we did something stupid with a one, two, three, four finish going. I think I might be looking for a job tomorrow if I did that. But I was disappointed because through the race, we passed Dan reasonably easily. But, as I say, we had this refueling problem that meant we had to fight our way back through. Disappointed from the RKX side of the team. But a one, two, three, four for Honda and Andretti Green is pretty cool. I agree with Tony, Briscoe got what he deserved because we had a drivers' meeting actually in here this morning, and the usual rules apply. You hold your line on the straight. Briscoe did it to me a couple times, he did it to Tony. He got what he deserves.

THE MODERATOR: The one, two, three, four finish was the first car in IndyCar Series history that teammates have done that. Seems like it's been a stated goal of the team to try and accomplish that goal. If one or both of you would maybe touch on that, talk a little about that.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: It means a lot for the team. The amount of effort that obviously goes in week in, week out with a four-car team. We saw in Phoenix, you know, sometimes it's not always a bed of roses. Dan and I had our problems there. The four of us sat down, put it behind us, and you see the results. On Friday night, Dan came over, basically stuck my setup on his car, he's been doing a great job with it ever since. That's the way a team should work. We saw the results of that today. I think also the fact that they were promoting the race with Andretti Green Promotions is pretty cool as well. They've done a tremendous job as well. St. Petersburg is a pretty cool place to host a race. The track was a lot of fun, a big challenge. I think we proved you can pass.

TONY KANAAN: Sometimes.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Sometimes, yeah. So it was cool.

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

Q. Tony, if you could elaborate a little bit. Ryan claimed that he had braked and was holding his line. Of course, that's his side of the story. We would like a little bit more your side of the story.

TONY KANAAN: My side of the story is I don't want to say because I'm going to get too much press out of it and I don't want to do that. But if he has a problem, he can come talk to me. Because, in my point of view, when you are ahead of the car that you are passing, you're ahead. I was ahead of him, and he turned, first. Second of all, before that, three corners before that, he put me in the wall. So basically if I was smart enough, I should have to weight because I think they were going to black flag him anyway. But when you're young and stupid, you do things likes that. I guess he's going to get old and wise.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Like Tony.

Q. I think we covered Briscoe, but I think Manning may have had a bigger beef. Did you agree with that? Do you think you were past Manning and do you have some apologizes there? I'm not asking you to, I'm just saying do you have any?

TONY KANAAN: Not really. I was on the inside, guys. It's a tough place to pass. But you got to be smart. I pass a lot of cars, and I didn't touch anybody. I came from 17. All of a sudden, you know, you have these guys trying to out-brake you on the outside. I brake on the inside, I hit the curb, and I was all the way in. The guy is turning in on me, so I don't think I should apologize to anybody. When Sam, Enge, they all pass me in the same way. Then when they are right alongside me, why I'm going to turn just to hit the guy? I want to finish the race. I really disagree. I think, you know, in the heat of the moment maybe you saw something that I haven't. But I'll look into it. I don't think, to be honest with you -- I think I could out-brake a lot of people and brake deeper than a lot of people, and I was taking the advantage of it. If he saw me or not, I don't know. But, you know, when you're driving a race car and you have somebody on your butt the whole race, you expect at one point that be side by side. We obviously drove into the corner together. Who is in the outside always going to be jeopardized.

Q. You thought you were clearly (inaudible) Manning?

TONY KANAAN: Yes.

Q. Tony, just a little more on the Briscoe thing. Actually, more about your teammate getting by you at that point. Talk us through, if you could, Briscoe and you, then Wheldon going by.

TONY KANAAN: Well, we got together. Obviously, we kept banging wheels for like three, four seconds. Dan was back there, and he took the advantage of me. I saw Dan coming. I didn't block him. I could have just move over. He was going to have to lift. But I don't think it's the right thing to do. Even though, if I believe, you know, I think I deserve to win the race with the things I done, but I haven't. It's not because of that I'm going to make a stupid move and close the door on my teammate and we going to have a big mess. I played fair and I lost the race. But the team won, and I'm happy about that. It's the first one, two, three, four. Couldn't be in a better place.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Apart from Indy.

TONY KANAAN: Apart from Indy, yeah. I think we proved that road course races, street course races attract a lot of people and make a lot of people go wild and excited. The public, they just attend a lot more, so I would suggest to have some more of those.

Q. Tony, about your car, these cars are not meant to bang. At any point, did you think, "Am I at risk? Is there going to be anything left to finish?"

TONY KANAAN: Well, I was completely worried about it. Since I hit -- since we hit with Manning, nothing happened. I mean, we had hit one side first, then we hit the other side. I'm like, "Guys, this thing is going to break at one point." We hit one side, the steering wheel went one way, and we fix it on the other side. Is like okay. Then the last one was a pretty big one. My steering wheel was a bit like the ovals, so it brought me back some memories. I was amazed how strong the car was, I tell you. I mean, remind me when we used to race with Paul Tracy (laughter).

Q. It's the first time you've run a full race with the IRL package. How did everything work out with the gearbox, brakes, engine, et cetera?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Really good. No problems at all. I could run a hundred percent from start to finish. I had to run a hundred percent from start to finish. But, yeah, no problem at all. It was a lot of fun. Yeah, really cool. I think, like we said about it before, I think the straights -- the way the cars are, the straight is a little bit longer because they're just that bit slower in the straight. It means you can get up to the guy, get alongside, it's really quite nice.

Q. Dario, can you talk about your situation with Sharp? Did you feel like a racing deal? Either one of you in the wrong spot?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it was a similar deal with some of Tony's. I got down inside, and he kept coming down and down. I went over the curb to try to avoid him, but I caught the tub on the bottom of the curb and that jumped me up into him. Again, thanks to Dallara, the car, there was absolutely no ill effects from it at all. I feel sorry for Scott. But when somebody is past you, they're past you, you can't hang along the outside like that and continue to squeeze down. That was the point, you know.

Q. Is the most amazing thing about this race the hits these cars took and both of you are on the podium? You had the hit with Sharp, he had several hits, and you guys are sitting up here on the podium.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think the fact we passed 30 or 40 cars today. I think that's probably the most amazing thing and the most exciting thing. We shouldn't be focusing on three maneuvers here. There's a lot more to it than that, I would say.

TONY KANAAN: You got to be lucky. And I think we're lucky, as well.

Q. Were you both surprised there was this much passing?

TONY KANAAN: I wasn't. We talked about it before the race started. We pretty much knew where the passing places were. You know, there was only three, and pretty tough ones. So I would say I wasn't surprised. I think it was a very exciting race.

Q. Tony, you went from fourth --

TONY KANAAN: 17th.

Q. I was talking about the last two caution flags, two last restarts. You were fourth. You moved up to second.

TONY KANAAN: Then to second again.

Q. Exactly. What was your thinking at that point? Were you just determined? Did you have a little bit of fire in your eye? What was going on there?

TONY KANAAN: Nothing. I was driving hard. When I got behind Briscoe, it was Briscoe, Manning, Dan and myself. Kim came in the race and said, "Dan is complaining about his handling a little bit, so he's not so sure he can go for it." I said, "Well, Kim, just tell Dan that if he sees me, I'm going for it because I have the car." I got a message from my good friend Dario here that Briscoe was struggling in turn two and three. I got by Dan. I got by Manning. I knew Briscoe hadn't changed tires, so I had better tires and my car was better. I could out-brake them pretty easily into the corners. You know, he kind of play a little bit of games under the yellow, which I really didn't like. Kind of brake test me a couple times. I don't know if they do that in Europe. It's been a long time that I left there. So whatever he's doing, I don't think it was fair. After that, I was just trying to set him up. And I set him up exactly in the place that Dario told me. But, unfortunately, he run me into the wall, otherwise the pass would have been made right there. And then after that I wasn't really happy about it. So I said, "Well, you going to play that game, we'll play it." I knew I had my three teammates behind me. I said, "Well, in the worst-case scenario, it's going to be one, two, three." That point I really didn't think about anything besides winning this race or getting the win for my team. He wanted to play as hard as he wanted. You know, I was right alongside him and we hit, and you guys know what happened.

Q. Both of you, I was in the first turn in the grandstands, it was pretty amazing. Dario, you seemed to brake the latest of anybody going into the first turn. I'm sure Tony can do that.

TONY KANAAN: He does it better.

Q. In the end there with Wheldon leading, would either of you have had the ability to pass him or were you being good teammates? Did he have to make a mistake to set you up to pass?

TONY KANAAN: We all had exactly the same setup. Dario found a pretty good setup on Sebring on Tuesday and came out on Friday and had gave us the lead, so we all had similar cars. So when Dan got by me, I knew it was going to be really hard to pass. When you're leading a race, you pull any strength that you can possibly have to not let anybody by. Your car can be the worst car and all of a sudden it can become the best one. He was driving very hard. I figured out how hard it was to pass the last two guys I made the pass. I said, "You know what, let's think about this. It's a long championship. I don't want to jeopardize a one, two, three, four." You know, I gave him as much pressure as I could until two laps to go. And I figure out that I couldn't do it. And I just kept the pressure just in case that he was going to make a mistake, but I really didn't want him to make a mistake, because I wanted the one, two, three, four. That's basically what happened.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I had a similar deal. I passed Dan earlier in the race. And when Tony -- I wonder, were you leading? Briscoe was leading. I felt I could have passed Dan at that point, but it might have been a risky maneuver, and I wasn't prepared to do that. As Tony said, it's a long championship. With hindsight, it might have been the thing to do. But I felt Dan was closer in that part of the track, braking performance, than anybody else. I could brake a lot later than other guys, but Dan, you know what I mean, he was pretty close to where I could brake, so it would have been a reasonably risky maneuver. When Tony and Dan went out ahead, I started picking up too much understeer on other parts of the track and from then on I really couldn't get close enough to even make a move, so at that point I just settled for third.

Q. It's a long way off, but the next one of these type of races will be at Sonoma in August, then you go to Watkins Glen. Completely different courses than this. What will you do in the meantime to try to better the package or prepare yourself for that type of race? Sonoma has a lot of elevation changes.

TONY KANAAN: We got a test there I think.

THE MODERATOR: Two weeks.

TONY KANAAN: Two weeks from now.

THE MODERATOR: The 18th and 19th.

TONY KANAAN: That's the beginning right there. After that, it's going to be up to the engineers to figure out until August what we can do. My hand, I don't think I have to do anything different. We were talking before the race, me and Dario. We felt we still a little bit rust from a street/road course type of circuit. I don't feel, and he didn't feel either, that he was at a hundred percent like we were three years ago. But that's normal. I mean, we will get used to it. But, I mean, I felt great. I finished the race and I could have done another one. I look at Dario, and he was the same. So physically I had no problem. And my car, seems like he was working out as well, because he was really strong taking hits today.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Like Tony said, we're going to test at Sonoma. We're going to test after the Glen. I ran the Infineon November time, I think I ran out there. I did a small test there for the IRL. It's completely different, as you say. It requires completely different things from the car. We'll just continue to get in the gym, work hard, try and keep that level of fitness up. I think probably our necks will take a harder pounding at those two tracks, the Infineon and the Glen, because of the higher g-forces. As Tony said, I'm pretty happy. I was surprised. After the race, I felt great. Felt like I could have done another one, so it was good.

Q. You guys won so many races in big box NASCAR stadiums. The racing is great, but the atmosphere is often lacking. How refreshing was it to see full grandstands, generally have some excitement?

TONY KANAAN: It was fun. I had the opportunity, not because Dario is here, but we rode in the truck together for the parade lap. We look at each other, say, "How many years we haven't done this?" It was three years almost. It felt great. I mean, the people, when we're walking to the pit area for the drivers intro, you know, screaming, saying your name, telling you, "Go." Since Friday, since Thursday really, it's been amazing. I mean, we felt we're back in the old days. So I think the IRL realized that, too. So hopefully will be more events like that. I have to say that it was very well-promoted, as well. It's not just because Barry did it.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Good job, guys.

TONY KANAAN: I know I was here December 9th, came straight back from Brazil to do an appearance for Barry. He was working really hard already. I think it proved again a lot of teamwork. He was very fair to us. We did a lot of stuff for them, and they did it for us. Look what happened. We had a successful event. I think he shouldn't be more proud than his people and the whole thing. I mean, it was just perfect. I mean, you can see the crowd happy. You can see the people, you know. The race was awesome. The passing zones. (Kirk/Curt?) did a great job putting this track together. A lot of areas that in the old days it wasn't good, they improved, and that's why you saw more passing, as well. I don't know. We set the standard pretty high for a street course race, so we're going to keep up now.

Q. Could you comment on how the stars really aligned for your team. You finished the Top 4, Andretti Green promoted, Michael's son gets his first win today, your other team owner, it's on his birthday. It's really just phenomenal.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Like a NASCAR race, huh?

Q. I didn't say that.

TONY KANAAN: I think we all need to go to church tonight and really light some candles over there because it's been amazing. It's really good, but in the other hand I think a lot of people hate us right now. So I don't know what's going to happen. In Brazil what we do, when you get home --

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Those people hated you anyway.

TONY KANAAN: I know, exactly. But when you get a lot of attention like this, when you do so well, you get water with salt and you throw all over your body, so you say you take all the bad stuff away.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Strange.

TONY KANAAN: I'm going to jump in the sea tonight to get all the stuff out. But it was great. I think if you can call it perfect weekend, this was the one.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think Marco did a pretty tremendous job this morning. He was under a lot of pressure, first of all, because his second name is Andretti. It's his first race in the series. We're all there. The crowd are all expecting a lot. His grandfather is there. His dad is there. Everybody's watching him. And then this tragedy that happened yesterday, with his best friend, can one guy be put under any more pressure or strain? He goes out there today, takes a lead, makes a mistake, comes back to second, does a great job. He kind of set the standard, put us under a bit of pressure. I think he's now the fifth member of the team.

TONY KANAAN: Yeah. We were talking about that before. What's going to happen is the guy that qualifies the worst out of the four of us, Marco will jump in one of the cars, and we will jump in the IPS car. We'll go like that. But just to add on top of everything, I always said that, but good things happen to good people, and I think we had good people promoting this race and we have good people with the good mentality in our team as well, and that's why we keep having all this great success as well.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you very much. We'll have Dan in here in about five minutes.

TONY KANAAN: I'll buy Ryan Briscoe dinner tonight. Don't worry, guys.

THE MODERATOR: Again, we'll have Dan in about five minutes. He'll be joined by Michael Andretti.

(Pause in press conference.)

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our race winner, Dan Wheldon, and team owner Michael Andretti. For Dan, this is his second win of the season, his fifth career win, and he now moves into the IndyCar Series points lead after three races of the season. Dan, if you would talk about your day.

DAN WHELDON: Well, I think certainly I felt some pressure going into the day after Michael's son Marco won the Infiniti Pro Series race. I know maybe in the not too distant future I'm going to be fighting for my seat with him, so I had to make sure I put on a good performance. I felt this whole week leading into the race that, well, all the team owners had been working very hard on this race. Barry Green especially. It was important that we did well. I completely messed up qualifying, so I had to do well, especially as my other three teammates did a fantastic job and were all starting at the front. I just managed to pick a few places off here and there. With a little bit of strategy, I was able to run somewhat close to the front. I had a little bit of difficulty with the brakes. I wasn't using them because I thought I might wear them out under the yellows. But it turned out I needed to keep heat in them. That's how I was able to stay in touch with Tony at the end. Then when he had the incident with Briscoe, which was not his fault, I was able to capitalize on that and then stay in front of him. For the whole team, it's fantastic. I mean, forget my victory, but just to have me and my three other teammates, who are all very, very close friends, as a one, two, three, four is exceptional. It would be very difficult in this series for it to happen again. As Bryan said when we were up there, we've got to remember this moment, because it's very, very special.

THE MODERATOR: Michael, if you would, talk about that one, two, three, four finishing, what it means to you as the team owner.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just everything that happened this weekend has been incredible. Incredible amount of emotions for me personally, and our family, you know, with the tragedy of our good friend William. Especially for Marco, who it was his best friend, to go out, qualify pole, then win the race. With that, it was just incredible. And then these guys. First Bryan putting it on the pole yesterday, then them putting on the show they did. I got to say, Tony, I mean, he drove a very good race there in the end. He did everything right. When Briscoe did what he did, Briscoe got what he deserved, and that was to end up in the wall. I was happy to see that, and to see Tony keep going straight. He helped the whole team. As it ends up, it's a team effort. He's the one that got us this one, two, three, four. Actually, Bryan having some problems with his car in the end, still hung on to carry it to four, it was incredible for me to watch. And then the people in the stands, everybody that's come out to support it. Honda with sponsoring the race, all the other sponsors. It's been a fairytale event, fairytale for me, for sure, personally.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Dan, just take us through how you got past Tony at the end.

DAN WHELDON: Well, I believe I was in --

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Third.

DAN WHELDON: Actually I was in fourth -- third, and then TK got by me and I was behind Briscoe, Manning, TK, and then it was myself.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Right.

DAN WHELDON: You know, TK, he was exceptional on the restarts. That's where I really struggled. He made up a lot of places there. He actually I think surprised Manning by how late he braked and was able to get -- he was definitely alongside. You know, I'd stick up for him even if he was wrong, but in this case I'm sticking up for him, and he definitely was right. He was alongside Manning when Manning turned in. Manning tried to do the same thing to me through the far section. I think after having seen what happened with him and TK, I think he thought twice about doing it to me. Briscoe was the same. Briscoe was defending pretty vigorously. Both of them, I don't think they meant any harm by it, but I think they just were surprised as to how late he braked. Then he kind of committed to turn in, but TK was there. It's not like he could have backed out. With those two incidents, it was able to put me in the lead. When I was able to take the lead, TK was still on my gearbox. My car would get better as the run went on. I think actually at the end, my car was better than his. But for those first three or four laps, you know, that's an extremely determined individual and an extremely talented individual. You know if he has half an opportunity, especially into turn one or turn four, he's going to go down the inside. I'm going to give myself a pat on the back. To hold him off is pretty special because I rate him very, very highly, as I do Dario and Bryan. Like I say, for me, I still feel pretty young. To be able to see Bryan's reaction to this result really, really means something. I think it's going to be a pretty good evening tonight, I have to say. Watch out. St. Pete is my hometown. I think anybody that's in the area needs to watch out tonight because the four Andretti Green boys and the owners are going to be on the rampage.

Q. What do you think the series proved this weekend, Michael? There were a lot of people out there. The other side predicted the series was going to fall on its face when they go street and road course racing. It was probably one of the best street races in quite a while. What do you think the IRL really proved with this weekend?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think you just said it. The people that were speaking that were ignorant to what we really have as a product here. You know, if they knew anything about it, and they'd been following it, they'd have been seeing that the cars were good right away when we tested them for the first time at Homestead. After that test, I think we knew for sure that we had a great product for the road courses and street circuits. You know, it's just people that were saying it are just people that want to say something negative about the IRL. But I think definitely now they're shut up. I think you can see that the show was as good as I've ever seen on a street race. There was passing, there was excitement, there was everything. We had everything this weekend. So I think we probably shut up a lot of our critics today.

Q. How close to the track do you actually live? You've really been literally the face of this race. You're everywhere.

DAN WHELDON: That's the only bad part about the whole thing. Other than that, it was good. You're not trying to ask me out on a date or anything, are you? Are you going to stalk me (laughter)? I'm just kidding.

Q. (No microphone.)

DAN WHELDON: It won't be at my house, that's for sure, because things are going to get trashed tonight so it's not going to be there, but I'm probably a three-minute drive from the track.

Q. (No microphone.)

DAN WHELDON: It's amazing what Photo Shop can do, I know that much. You know, yeah, it's good to have my face on it this year because I know it's probably going to be Marco's next year (laughter). I certainly enjoyed the extra publicity while I could get it. No, it's nice. Obviously, I just moved back here after living here in 1999. I to really enjoy the city. I've got a lot of close friends here. We still travel a lot. We spend a little bit of time in The Palms, in Las Vegas, a few other places. This is just a good place to relax and unwind. If you manage to come one, two, three, four with your teammates, it's a good place to rock'n roll later on.

Q. Just a little bit more about when you were able to get the lead. It just kind of seemed to be that it was a perfect timing situation. If that scenario had not played itself out, it would have been difficult to get up there. Did you feel that was your one and only chance at that point?

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think it's always going to be difficult to pass TK, to tell you the truth. It's a difficult track to overtake. But I honestly had a little bit of an inkling that something was going to happen, just because with what happened with Darren. I'm pretty sure I know what Chip was saying on the radio to Briscoe. It wasn't going to be, "Let them by real easy." I knew something could happen. I had to be close enough to take up that opportunity if it arose, which it did. But, you know, it slowed TK up enough where I was able to just sneak down the inside. You know, he ran me very close. But, you know, he gave me enough room to get through the next fast right/left section. Then it was a case, I mean, honestly, he was very good under braking, and I was struggling a little bit with the brake. So I had to make the most of the areas where I was quicker than him, and most importantly onto the straight out of turn 12, leading into turn one, then down into turn four, because he was very good there. That was a place that he actually overtook me on a restart. I knew what he was going to try and do. I know he's pretty desperate to get down inside of you at any point. I just had to make sure I got good exits leading into those corners.

Q. We saw Dario and Tony hit and collide. Can you take us through the contact you had today.

DAN WHELDON: Fortunately, I didn't have any. It was as simple as that. No, I can't remember -- I was very loose a couple of times. But other than that, I didn't come into contact with anybody. It was one of those races where you -- the restarts were going to be the problems. You know, fortunately each time I had a restart, I was able to get the guy behind me, or it was one of my teammates, so I felt pretty comfortable.

THE MODERATOR: Dan, we'll let you go. Thank you.

DAN WHELDON: You need to be asking questions about Marco now.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Michael now.

Q. You obviously know the feeling of winning a race as a driver. On a day like today, you're a winner as a businessman, as a team owner, as a promotor and a father. Can you reflect on the feelings a day like today brings you.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I got to say, probably professionally, I don't remember a day where I was happier, even for myself, I think, you know, when I was driving myself. Just the way everything -- the way the whole scenario played itself out. You know, first when you wake up in the morning, you see the sky, it was beautiful, you knew it was going to be a beautiful day for the race. Then when you start seeing all the fans coming in. Then Marco to go out and do what he did with the pressure that he had, with the unfortunate tragedy of Will's death, and then those guys to go out and do what they did in the race. They just drove their wheels off, especially Tony, to help make this happen. It was just unbelievable. I don't remember being that happy after a race, I must say.

Q. Marco wins, your team finishes one through four, the race is a success, you're promoting the race, it's Kim Green's birthday.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It looks like the fix is on, I guess (laughter). It's like, God, I'm starting to believe maybe it was. Like I said, there's not one thing that I -- except for Will, obviously, that's the only thing that was a major problem for the weekend. But that's a personal thing. But professionally, it couldn't have gone any better. I mean, there's nothing. I mean, we qualified pole. Marco qualified pole, won the race. We won one, two, three. Every seat was filled in the stands. There was a big line still to get in. I mean, I don't know. Where else could you have made it any better?

Q. How important was having your dad here to see you? You raced against him, beat him. He saw you here as an owner, a dominant owner.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, that was great. Dad being here this weekend was nice. He was able to get a little look at what this is all about. I think he's starting to get a little more impressed with it. So that was nice having him here. It was definitely nice for Marco to have him here.

Q. With your past history at the Indianapolis 500, I know you can never allow yourself to get overconfident entering that. You have to feel right now Dan Wheldon would have to probably be considered, entering the month of May, the favorite?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You know, I want to say yes. But I can't say yes to that. I think all four guys are going to be there going for it. I think Dan's got a very good shot. But I don't think it's any more of a shot than the other three, I really don't. He has the momentum going for him, I guess that's the good thing, but other than that, all four cars have run very well this year. I mean, Bryan led a lot of laps in the race today. He qualified pole the last two races. Dario had the best car last race, probably the best car this race, except for his fueling problem. Tony, my gosh, he finished third two years ago, second last year. Maybe he's the guy to win it this year.

Q. Can you talk about the atmosphere you saw out there today. Do you go now and say to Tony, "Maybe we need to do some more street courses"?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm hoping I don't have to say that. I would hope this event would show that this is where the direction that this series needs to go. I think he's sold on it. I think he knows we need to be at more places like here in St. Petersburg. I'm sure you're going to see some in the future. That's why I thought it was so important to be here and to show everybody what we can do. The City, City Council, the Mayor just opened their doors here and just did a perfect job to show we could do a perfect show. It just couldn't have been any better for what we needed for this series right now.

Q. Were you ever concerned about the durability of the cars with all the contact?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I was a little worried about Tony's car especially because he had two contacts. So I was a little worried about his. But then, you know, he didn't complain. He said the handling was still there. These cars are pretty strong. They're built very strong, which is good. So once I saw him go a few laps, I felt a lot better, felt that we were looking okay.

THE MODERATOR: Michael, congratulations. Thank you very much for joining us.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you, guys.



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