IndyCar Series: Toyota Indy 300
Topics: Toyota Indy 300
THE MODERATOR: We're going to get and get started with Sam Hornish, Jr., who finished second in today's Toyota Indy 300. Sam, you finished in the top two four times in five starts. This is a great track for you. Take us through those last couple of laps.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: You know, we got that last restart, and I knew I had to stay with Dan to be able to hopefully have a chance at second, just the way the car was today. We had a really good-handling car. We could move it wherever we wanted to. But once we got by ourselves, I had a hard time running quickly. I think one of the best parts about today is we did that, then lost him a little bit. Right there towards the end, I was sizing Tony up, trying to get the run on him, and then we had a three-way battle for that second place. It was just a good thing that it worked out. A great finish. Too bad it wasn't for the win.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions for Sam.
Q. Can you give us your perspective of the crash of Lap 159?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: No, the car was -- we were really focusing on getting that restart, being able to stay up there, so I didn't see it. But then when I was actually out on pit lane giving some interviews, I saw the crash up there on the big screen, they were replaying it. These cars, a lot of people think they're overstuck and they have a ton of downforce, and they do compared to, you know, some other forms of racing. But the thing that you got to remember is the way that our cars are set up, as soon as you get behind somebody, right underneath them, you lose all that downforce, and the cars kind of pretty much move all over the place. It was like a thing in there where they really just a bunch of people got in there together, one car loses it, there's nowhere else for everybody to go because everybody is all packed up. It was too bad that it had to happen that way, but it's part of racing.
Q. Did you think you had anything for Dan at the end?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Until I lost him, I thought I might. I knew I had to stay with him on the restart, and I did. Got just a little bit of a push. He just pulled away. I thought, you know, if I could stay with him till the last lap, you know, maybe there might be a chance. But I really doubt it because he was just super strong, and I knew he wasn't going to give up the bottom line. That's where you usually have to get it done. He was pretty quick. Never made a mistake all day. He just kept going around and did what he had to do.
Q. Wheldon seems to get better and better. Do you notice the progression of him getting better?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, he just -- he's been around, he got a couple of races at the end of the '02, and '03, I guess last year was his first full season. He just strikes me as somebody that remains patient. A couple of the races last year, he didn't look like he was anywhere, and then all of a sudden he conserved fuel and he had the pit stops and had the breaks go his way, and he was right there in the lead. That's what you have to do. That's what these races are about. There's strategy and thinking races. You have to put yourself in position at the end of the race to be able to do well. He just seems like a guy that doesn't get caught up in all of the "I have to get in the front on the first lap," that type of stuff.
Q. Did you have any issues with Kanaan the last four or five laps?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: We go out there and we race tight. I had to stay up a little bit higher than the car in front of me most of the time just because of all the downforce that it takes away. You know, I'm not driving the other car, so I don't know what line they need to be. It made it tougher for me to pass, but you got to go through racing and do all those things. I've seen a lot lighter cars, too.
Q. (No microphone.)
SAM HORNISH, JR.: That's what it is.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Tony Kanaan, who finished third in today's event. Tony, take us through the last five laps or so when you were battling with Sam Hornish, Jr.
TONY KANAAN: Well, I don't have the excuse that he had, no left mirror. So I guess he can't say he couldn't see me. Me and Sam, when there's five laps to go, I think we do respect each other a lot. He knew he could run high and I knew I could run low. Then I pass him in the outside one point, and he had to lift, and he let me by. And after that, we all I think during the whole race we stayed together all the time. He would go down in the bottom on entry, and his car would run better. For me, on the high line, so basically I had to lift because I was running good on the bottom. He was not going to give me room all the way around the corner and I was not going to give him room all the way around. I wasn't weaving, I think. I think I was playing as hard as I could. When it was time to go down the line, I kept my line. As you guys saw, he had a run on me. I don't think was anything weird. Maybe we got a little bit aggressive. I got behind Sam. And Sam, again, he came on the bottom on turn three. I was in the bottom, then I wash out. I was washing out, washing out, washing out, yes, on the front straightaway. I came down below. But everybody was going up and down, so I didn't do anything different than everybody else was doing. He's probably not very happy with me, but we'll talk. Even the same time we going to bump into each other. I do have a couple issues that happen between me and him in the middle of the race, so I think we'll sort it out.
Q. (No microphone.)?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I went high. What actually happened was is I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get a run on him. Vitor got up beside me and actually slowed me down on the back straight with two to go. We went across the start/finish line side by side. What happened is I was able to stay right in behind Tony and get the draft up from him. As soon as I broke what Vitor did, I was far enough behind Tony, but I had a good enough draft I could just pull up beside him. Like I pulled ahead, then I could feel some of the air coming off his car start to slow me down. All of a sudden, I slowed down, looked to the other side, here comes Vitor up the outside. It was a heck of a finish. For the fans, I don't think they could have paid to get any better of a show than what they got today.
Q. (No microphone.)
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I was watching to see where Tomas was just because -- to see where Tomas was because I knew he was pretty fast, and my car handled probably the best right behind him of any other car out there. I looked in my mirror and saw he wasn't there. I came around the corner. I saw like the 55 car and the 7 and the 8. I didn't think he was there. I go around the corner, see the 9, the 20, the 24, the 16. It's like, "Wow!" Then we were looking at all this debris. That's how those things get. You get one of those restarts where everybody is bunched up. The fourth or fifth car in line has a problem, and you're going to get a lot of people. You're going to get a lot of people, there's nowhere to go.
Q. Tony, had you a teammate at the beginning with some issues, then another teammate collected in the accident. Talk about your thoughts on that.
TONY KANAAN: My spotter was so freaked out that I was trying to employ my radio at the time because he was yelling at me that they had a lot of cars crashing. We have a rule between the teammates that if we're okay, we'll wait together in the car, the passenger car, until we see each other. I went by. First time I saw they were helping Bryan. So I ask him if he had said something. They say he hadn't said anything. Next time by, he was standing right there and waving at me. I was pretty cool about it. I was obviously concerned about all the other 10 whatever cars were there. Hopefully everybody was fine. But it was a big mess. Definitely a big mess.
Q. Tony, obviously you thought Dan was the guy to beat. Can you talk about the frustration? He got away so well in the middle of the race, then at the end nobody could catch him. Were you surprised?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. You can figure out your weekend, especially when you have somebody in-house like, you know, I knew Dan was stronger than me from day one. We couldn't figure out why. We try a couple different things. So what happened at the end, I came on the radio and said, "Tell Dan to go outside, to give these guys hell, because I know Sam is going to try to pass all of us on the outside on the last lap. Let's try to win the race for the team." I was realistic, I couldn't win this race at all. When I saw, we restart pretty good, me and him. Then I pass him. He blew by me. He went all the way to the front. I say, "Well, it's going to be one of those days. If he doesn't make any mistakes, has a clean race, he's going to win." Basically that's what happened. Dan has a lot of help from his engineer and everybody else in the team. I think it's getting in the point that he doesn't need any help. You know, he's going on his own and he knows what he's doing. He's getting his confidence higher and higher. Again, I said that even before he won this race, I think it's going to be a tough guy to beat.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations and thank you.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined today by our winning team, Michael Andretti, team owner, and Dan Wheldon, winning driver, and John Anderson, the team manager and race strategist, who incidentally this is his very first race working with Dan. Right off, Michael, this is a pretty good hire?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you, I take all the credit. No, we just had a great race. I mean, Dan and everybody on the team, the whole Jim Beam, Klein Tools team did a fantastic job. Pit stops were perfect. The car was perfect. It's just one of those days. It's a great way to kick off the year because I think a lot of people questioned how we were going to come out of the box, if we were going to be sitting back and resting on our laurels or not. I think you can see there's been a lot of hard work going on over the winter to try to keep the advantage or stay up with the competition. All that hard work has definitely paid off to get us here.
THE MODERATOR: A lot of people have picked Dan to win the championship this season. So, Dan, this is a great way to start off 2005.
DAN WHELDON: It's obviously a fantastic way to start the season. I mean, I got to be honest, my passion is the Indianapolis 500. You know, I mean, the championship's great and all, but my focus is that. I'd love to be drinking the milk, and I just hope I can keep maintaining this momentum until the Indy 500 because obviously that's a goal. But, you know, it's a good way to start the season. The boys did a fantastic job. I think we should rename the race the Honda Indy 300 because Honda was very, very dominant today, certainly my car. Proud to be associated with those guys. You know, it's a good way to start. I think the team was very strong. I think obviously Dario and Bryan were a little unfortunate. But I think it was a good race for the fans, too. Very proud right now.
THE MODERATOR: John, explain your role with Dan, how you work with him.
JOHN ANDERSON: I'm on radio to Dan during the race. Obviously I take a lot of direction and help from the guys on the stand with me. Eddie Jones and Al (inaudible) and Michael. It's basically on the mouthpiece, but a lot of the teamwork -- today I didn't have to do very much at all as far as strategy was concerned. The guy in the chair, with those four wheels under him, did an awesome job, but he had a great car, as well. Is not just 26 guys, I've been very impressed with the team, its four drivers, its four sets of engineers who work very well, get on well together. The results obviously show today.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get some questions.
Q. What do you attribute your huge margin of victory today?
DAN WHELDON: Well, I think obviously, you know, around this place, if you have a fast car that handles well, even around other cars, you're able to get to the lead when you need to. Fortunately, it was good enough to be able to break away. But I would say, obviously, the power that I had was exceptional from Honda. And I think that the setup of the car was very good. I mean, Eddie Jones and I, we probably talked till about 10:30, 10:45 last night knowing which way we should go perhaps with the car. Between him and all the other guys, they got their heads together, and I think they came up with a very good setup. It's not just those things. I mean, the guys got me out of the pits quickly. Any time you got a Penske around you, you got to be on your toes. Certainly that last stint, I had Hornish breathing down my neck pretty hard. Then I think as he started to get challenged, I was able to break away. I wasn't a ton quicker than anybody else, but just enough when the others started racing, I could break away. Like everybody says, I mean, we harp on about it and it's probably pretty boring to you guys, but it is a fantastic team effort.
Q. How much in the final five or ten laps were you praying for there not to be a caution?
DAN WHELDON: To be honest, I wasn't really too fast. If it had run its course, I was happy with that. But, you know, I put up with three earlier yellows. You know, didn't seem to have too much of a problem. But, you know, it's always a concern. You know, my biggest concern was Bryan Herta. I kept asking these guys if he was okay, and nobody could get back to me. When I knew he was okay, and my car was quick, I was pretty happy whatever the situation was.
Q. Dan and Michael, talk about your peers picking you as the champions for this season?
DAN WHELDON: I'm proud to have some individuals that have been around motorsport for a long time to be picking me as a potential champion. But there's a long, long way to go, and it's a very competitive series. I think I honestly when I say this believe it's true, that this is going to be the most competitive championship in the world between drivers, between teams, between engine manufacturers. I think we're going to give you guys a real good show. To be honest, I'm proud to have those comments made, but I'm just, like I say, focused on getting to the Indianapolis 500, Indy 500, then we'll worry about that stuff.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: As for my side of it, I think they're valid, though. I think Dan has shown now after I think this is his third year, you know, that he's learned where his weaknesses were and has improved them and now has become a legitimate championship contender. I think when those guys are making that statement, I think it's a true statement. I think Dan is going to be one of the guys to beat. I think, you know, you can't count out the other three guys on this team, as well. I think they're going to be strong. But it's going to be, as Dan said, a very exciting season, I can assure you.
DAN WHELDON: Watch out for Bryan Herta. I think he's going to surprise a lot of you guys this year. The guy does a lot for our team, he really does. He's very good at keeping everybody working in the right direction. You know, the work load that he carries for certainly myself, Tony and Dario is exceptional at times. He really doesn't get credit for that. But you just watch him at the Indy 500. I expect he'll be very, very strong. Don't ever count him out as a championship contender.
Q. Were you glad to see Sam Hornish, Jr. and Tony Kanaan racing side by side so you could get away?
DAN WHELDON: You know, when I saw Tony was sandwiched between the Penskes, I knew at one point they were going to go side by side because I knew Tony wasn't going to sit there. When I saw, I looked in my mirror, I could see them two, three, and four, running side by side. I thought, "That's my boy. He's coming." It was expected. Kanaan will never, ever give a position up. If he can make one, he's going to make it. Even if he can't, he's going to try. It was expected, but it was also a welcomed sight because that's when I started to edge away.
Q. Were there any concerns, Dan, after Dario lost his engine and also Buddy so early?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I'm not a hundred percent sure that Dario's engine went. I think he might have had an electrical problem. But I think the electrical problem he had really didn't do much. I mean, everybody's pushing the envelope right now, so anything can happen. But I was pretty confident in what I had under my hood.
Q. Were you concerned at all about Scheckter? He seemed at the end to be catching you.
DAN WHELDON: I think actually Tomas was one of the main concerns today. He was pretty quick on his own. Actually, when he got to the lead of the pack to try and catch me, they seemed to edge towards me. Like I say, I don't think I was a ton quicker than anybody else, but just enough. I was always, you know, fortunate to have Tomas in about fourth or fifth, otherwise I think I wouldn't have had the lead that I had. But, you know, I think that team is going to be very strong this year. You know, he's always one that you can never discount. You've got to be concerned.
Q. Talk a little about the first road course race in IRL history when you come back in about a month to St. Petersburg.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I think it's one of the biggest things to happen to the IRL in its history. I think getting these cars onto road courses and especially a street circuit such as St. Pete I think is just going to be where the next growth of this series is going to come. I'm really happy and proud to be a part of that, you know, with helping promote the race down there in St. Petersburg. We're very excited about it. We're excited with all the sponsors, Honda, Firestone, everybody else, 7-Eleven, all that that have really chipped in to really get behind it and back it. I think it's just going to be an awesome event. I think it's just -- I think it's going to start a trend, is what it's going to do.
DAN WHELDON: It's actually where I live now so it's going to be nice. I can lay in bed until maybe 8:45, if the session is at 9:00, throw some clothes on and go. No, I think it's going too be very good. I get nervous. I'm not sure I can turn right any more. I mean, we tested well here. But I'm enjoying (inaudible) right now, particularly the results like I've been getting. But I think it's great for the series. I think it needed to perhaps do this. You've got a car that handles very, very well. I really, really did enjoy the test that we had here. I think the cars were particularly quick. Through the fast corners, the downforce was incredible. I'm kind of a rookie in the IndyCars on the road course. Got three good teammates to learn from, so it's going to be fun. I think you're going to be very surprised in the turnout to the St. Pete race.
JOHN ANDERSON: I think it's a great challenge from a mechanical and engineering side of things. We have four team full of engineers back at the truck that are chomping at the bit with the road course in mind. I think they'll really enjoy the added challenge of getting these cars to go right as well as left.
Q. Dan, a little reminiscent of Motegi, the way you led so many laps. Comparable at all?
DAN WHELDON: The (inaudible) is not going to be as nice as this one. No, you know, very similar. You know, I had a very, very good car that weekend. The same here. Whenever you can pull away on a superspeedway, it's a fantastic feeling. It's a testimony to how good the power in the car is. You know, around here, when you run on your own, you're able to run pretty comfortably flat out. You've got to maintain, like you can't be turning the car too hard through the corner and wearing out the right rear. You've got to be aware of all these situations. But, you know, Motegi is always going to be special because it was my first win. But to win in this series is very difficult, so I enjoy them all.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and congratulations.
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