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IndyCar Series: Firestone Indy 400

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Firestone Indy 400

IndyCar Series: Firestone Indy 400

Tomas Scheckter
Dan Wheldon
July 31, 2005


BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our second and third place finishers. Dan Wheldon, a second place finish. He has four wins this year. This is his second second place finish. For Tomas Scheckter, it's his fifth top five this season. Dan, tell us about your day out there.

DAN WHELDON: Well, I don't think it was my day. It was Herta's day. There's nobody more deserving of a victory than him. I'm going to say it, you're going to get mad at me, but he busts his ass for this team more than the other three, and I think sometimes we take the glory. It's just very, very good to see him in Victory Lane. Like I say, I have a little bit of a temper, so when I have a temper and can perhaps get in trouble by my bosses, he's the one that calms me down and stops me from being fired. I guess I owe him quite a lot. His car was fantastic and obviously his motor was particularly strong. Honda should have a lot of credit for that. My day, I struggled somewhat with the car a little bit. I don't think I had quite the overall speed as some of the others. Was just able to utilize the draft of other people to benefit me. It was just kind of one of those days really.

THE MODERATOR: Tomas, how was your day out there?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, I think in the beginning, it was going good. I was just sticking with Bryan and conserving fuel. You know, I was conserving a lot of fuel, lifting. I thought he must be flat out and not conserving fuel, and he only put in a lap before me. I knew at this stage the guy was going to be pretty tough to beat. Then obviously I came in. I'm not sure what happened. I knew I speeded because I pushed the button. I came over. When I accelerated again, it increased the speed. I was just lucky not getting lapped. These guys were catching me. I was doing 214s on my own. I thought it was all over. I think I had the same sort of day as Dan. Maybe I knew I couldn't win the race, but I could utilize the tow very well. Certainly didn't have the car I wanted. I was loose off of two. I definitely saw some understeer from you a couple times (laughter). Just stuck in there and when those opportunities went came... Just very happy to be in the top three, especially with what happened early on.

THE MODERATOR: We can open it up to questions for our drivers.

Q. Dan, closing laps, when you went three-wide into turn one, were there any potential moments where it was almost a little too close for comfort?

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, probably. But that makes it fun, huh, when it's on the edge? I was just praying to God that we didn't touch because that would have been a tough one to explain to Michael, that you just cost Bryan a win and taken out Tony with you. It was one of them where I have to say I raced Tony. We have similar personalities. We spend a lot of time together. I know just how far I can push him, and I think he knows just how far he can push me. I think you can see that today. He certainly didn't give me much room. I'm sure Tomas was waiting for the big accident to happen.

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I was praying in a different sort of line.

DAN WHELDON: That's just the way it is. I knew we'd have to make it through. Bryan is sensible enough up front, he can see what's going on. He made sure we both had some air. It was a sensible situation.

Q. You're being friendly now, but it looked like a spirited battle towards the end. Tomas, did you feel you were getting blocked the last few laps?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I'll have to go look at it. I understeered a couple times. If the car is going to push up, it's going to push up. There were a couple opportunities I thought I could get by and he came down. I think maybe my team owner is a little more angry than I am because I understand what's happening in the cockpit. It's tough racing. But, you know, the closest racing I actually saw were between these two guys, Tony and Dan. I'm amazed they actually speak to each other afterwards. But that's the competitive nature of the team. They do a great job. They always seem to be in front.

Q. Dan, you've been the recipient of some of Bryan's jokes. You get to turn the tides on him.

DAN WHELDON: I don't think you have to turn the tides at all. I think it's going to be a good party tonight. That's all can I say. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be on Bryan's tab. It's going to be a good one.

Q. Tomas, when these guys were a freight train out front, you were behind. How distressing and worried were you?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I started seeing debris waiting for that yellow. I'm not sure if it was really debris or me seeing things, but I would ask the guys how close were they. My pace was horrible. No one was in front of me, so I couldn't draft anybody. It was a horrible feeling. We were just moving along slowly, five seconds, three seconds. Thank God that yellow came out. It saved my whole race. Put me to the back of the grid. I was up with these guys in no time.

Q. Dan, specifically what did Bryan have this weekend you didn't have? You're sitting right behind him at the end.

DAN WHELDON: It's real easy, two words -- I'll say three actually: fast race car. I mean, the stuff that he had just worked for him. These superspeedways, they're really frustrating for the driver at some points because you can have the same setup and be happy with your setup, but you can just be -- you know, you are either quick or slow. I can give you an example. At Texas, the first Texas last year, Dario qualified on pole pretty comfortably, was very fast in the race. Came back with the same setup, it just wasn't the same. Situations change. But it was Bryan's day. Whatever he had worked for him. That's all credit to him. It wasn't all easy for him. He had to work for it. He dropped back on a couple of restarts, came back through. I guess Tomas and Tony, I saw them at the back of one restart. Before you know it, I look in my mirror coming out of turn two, I thought it was Buddy Lazier actually, but it was him.

Q. Tomas, did that penalty cost you the race today?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: No, I don't think so. I think after the first run, it was clear that if someone made no mistakes, they could win the race. I hate to say no because circumstances could change. The other thing that's tough is even say I got in the lead and Bryan was on my outside, with Dan and Tony around, they're not going to go behind me. It's not because Dan's not my friend, it's just because he's with the team and I know who he's going to bump by. No matter what situation you look at it, although Buddy did a great job, he helped me a massive amount, with three, four cars up front. It's hard when you got side by side. I think the finish we had maybe we could have got one better, but that's about the best we could do.

Q. Tomas, when you got towards the back, you were running by yourself, didn't seem to gain a heck of a lot. When they came for a pit stop, I noticed IMS Radio Network asked, Can the No. 4 do anything? They said, Watch him. You worked your way up to the front. What was the difference?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think it's exactly my car on its own was 214. The leaders were doing 217s. We were three miles off. The car only worked when it was in a big tow. The fourth lane was very, very good for me. I had some troubles getting by some people. But, you know, I seemed to be good in that situation. When I won here in '02, it was the same sort of thing. 25, 35 laps to go, we were at the back, I could get through. Some of these situations suit me a little bit.

Q. Dan, you never seemed to drop out of the top five. Do you think you could have won it?

DAN WHELDON: My personality is I always believe there's a chance of winning. I'm going to try my hardest. But he just had a very, very competitive car. But I will say I think you could see in that race the fact that I did have three teammates because they never let me drop out of the top five. If ever they saw me dropping back, I -- Tony actually helped me a lot on several occasions. He pulled out of the draft to pull me up. That's a good thing about being the baby in the team, they never seem to want to lose you. There's not actually many teammates out there that would do that. I think Hornish must be seriously frustrated. Any time he'd get around us, the three of us would work together and make him shuffle back. We like Tomas a little more than him, so we tried to help Tomas out a little more (laughter). That's just the way it works. I think what you saw was a real team effort from Andretti Green. It was a good day from that standpoint.

Q. Dan, did you realize how much Bryan was pulling ahead of you in that first half of the race? It was a half second a lap.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think to some extent we had given up on trying to even reel him in. When we kind -- I don't know -- I know Tony and my spotter were talking to one another. When they came to the conclusion it was a waste of time, we wound the fuel back and tried to save as much as we could. Our pace went from a 215.9, 216 to a 213. That's perhaps where he tried, started to pull away. It was good to see Bryan up there. I know he would have been looking in his mirror laughing. It was pretty cool for him, I'm sure.

Q. Tomas, you seemed to have over the summer months gotten the bad luck behind you. You're kind of seeing what can happen by being able to keep it there till the finish. How much has that boosted the confidence not only in you but the whole team?

TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, I think that's exactly -- it has. Just running up front all the time. I think the main thing is I get frustrated as well in the car. Whenever I fell back, it destroyed me. Before maybe it destroyed me where I tried to drive over a problem or drive through people that maybe I should have hung back, fixed the car and got through. I think now with the confidence of the win, there's no real pressure. They know if I've got a good car, I'm going to win the race. If I don't, then I'll do the best I can. Today was third.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.



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