IndyCar Series: Indy Japan 300
Topics: Indy Japan 300
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica. See you at Indy. At this point we are joined by race winner Dan Wheldon and one of the Andretti Green Racing team principals, Kim Green. For Dan Wheldon, this is his second consecutive Indy Japan 300 win. Dan becomes the first driver in league history to win three of the first four races to start a season, and he comes out of Japan heading into Indy atop of the IndyCar Series points standings. Dan, start us off and tell us about your day. (Temporary line disconnection.) Kim, from your perspective along pit road, tell us about the day for Andretti Green Racing.
KIM GREEN: Well, I think the race had several segments. In the middle part of the race, I thought Andretti Green Racing was looking pretty good. We were running one, two, three. The fourth car was only a couple cars back. I could see perhaps, maybe if everything went our way, we could have another one, two, three, four finish. In the end, a yellow came out that made it a fuel mileage race. No doubt Dan did a better job on fuel mileage than I was able to do with Tony Kanaan's car and working with Tony. Bryan Herta and the other AGR car was struggling with fuel mileage. Dan and his team did a very, very good job making the fuel mileage necessary both under yellow conditions and race conditions. In the end, he was in the position to win the race perhaps with not the fastest car, but doing the job he had to do to win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Dan or Kim.
Q. Dan, last year when you won here in Motegi, and also when you won in Homestead, your victory was very much a dominant win. You were ahead of everybody in all aspects. Today it seemed like the race was a bit different. Perhaps you were struggling at the start. How were you building your strategy in order to finish the race on top of everybody else?
DAN WHELDON: Well, I think at the start I had a lot of understeer through the middle and exit of turns three and four. With the gear that I had, I was very, very slow right the way through back until turn three again. I was finding that very difficult. But as the race went on, we made some changes in the pits, and the car seemed to come back. I think I still did have the problem where I struggled a little bit in traffic. But I think put me out in front, I could definitely run as quick as anybody. When I was behind cars, in particular, I just picked up a little bit too much understeer. I personally think it would have been difficult to pass Dario. Although certainly this year with the change in regulations, you were a sitting duck when you were restarting in the front. That was unfortunately what happened to Dario. It happened to me on several occasions. Then it was just difficult to get back through. I think all in all, everybody, certainly that had stuff to do with my car, did a really good job with getting the best out of what we had. Certainly as my experience level builds in IndyCars, that is the one thing that is made more and more apparent to me: you don't necessarily have to have the fastest car or best car in traffic to win; you've just got to basically make the best of what you have. If you do that, chances arise like today. Obviously, you've got to give credit to Tomas Scheckter as well. He was pretty quick out front. It seemed anybody that was half reasonable out in front could stay out in front. But I do think Dario would have been very, very difficult to beat. The one thing I think everybody is proud and - perhaps the boss can talk about this one - but how at one point during this race every one of our drivers led, not maybe a lap, but I certainly know all of us led at one time. I think we're all very proud of that.
Q. In the end, you were probably like third or fourth place. Tomas Scheckter was way ahead of you. How did you feel him being so far away?
DAN WHELDON: I think honestly I was told over the radio that I had to forget everybody in front of me and just focus on looking at my dash and getting the numbers that I was required to get. I actually thought at one point I could have got past Tony. The moment I looked at perhaps trying to do that, I got screamed at and just said to sit there and concentrate on getting the numbers I was required to. Basically I just did what I was told. Fortunately it worked out. The guy that actually does the fuel numbers for my race, perhaps you guys don't know much about him, but a guy by the name of Bill Bates, he does an absolutely exceptional job. So I'm very grateful to him for this victory.
Q. How did you feel when you realized you were on the top?
DAN WHELDON: Very, very happy (laughter). No, it was obviously -- it was a great feeling. When I realized that I was in the lead, immediately they shouted at me, "Okay, you're in the lead by four seconds. Now you've just got to save fuel." That's what I focused on. I think I just ran that lap in particular about 70 percent throttle. Honda did do a fantastic job. They get great power with great fuel mileage. It's difficult, because there's 11 of us with Honda power. There's four in the team. There's a lot of competition just within those 11 cars. But it was a great feeling. We've got to be able to build on this and not get too confident. We've had some great luck and I'll take it, but there's some very, very good guys out there that are going to try and be beating us, especially the next race.
Q. Mr. Green, there was a restart at like 60 laps to go. What was your strategy as far as like fuel efficiency, fuel mileage, in order to win the race? Tomas Scheckter had dropped off about two laps to go. While he was there, what was your strategy in order to have the car win in front of him?
KIM GREEN: Well, with Tony Kanaan, we were certainly -- with that many laps to go, the fuel mileage per gallon or lap was very, very difficult to attain. We also didn't want to give up too much track position. We really were hoping for another yellow flag. If we got a yellow flag maybe two laps, three laps, we would have been fine on fuel. I believe given the chance, Tony could have passed Tomas Scheckter. We continued to try and make fuel mileage to get to the end without stopping, but we were not able to do that and hold the pace. Credit to Dan for being able to do that. Credit to Honda engines that certainly from a fuel mileage standpoint outlasted everybody else. We were probably perhaps just a little too aggressive at the start of that restart for the first few laps, a little too aggressive, used a little bit too much fuel really trying to get the lead, then backed the fuel down. Perhaps my mistake there. I would probably do something differently next time.
Q. I asked Scheckter, did you take a chance to go out and gamble? Was it miscalculation, miscommunication? He said he really didn't know, perhaps it was miscalculation. That means it kind of worked out the best for you. You might have taken a chance and it worked out for you. You had good calculations, good communication. What exactly did you have in mind? Did you do anything to make sure you had the right fuel? Obviously at the end of the race you had enough fuel to make a doughnut.
DAN WHELDON: That's true. That's true. All that for that one question? Japanese is long (laughter). The guy that calls my race, John Anderson, we spoke before the race. We've had a good first three races leading into this one. With the position that we were in, we weren't going to risk coming out of the top 10 and perhaps running out of fuel. I think Tomas, certainly in his situation, I think they perhaps gambled a little bit and were hoping for a yellow. Obviously, I've worked with that team before. I know they're very, very good at calculations. I think they just made a bit of a gamble. From our standpoint, we said we weren't going to go crazy and risk not finishing the race if it came down to fuel mileage, that we were just going to work and try our best at getting the numbers we needed to get. I give a lot of credit to John Anderson because there were times when I wanted to overtake cars. I'm not easily calmed down in the race car. He was on me all the time constantly. The amount of times that I heard from him under yellow, "That mileage sucks, you've got to get better," which I thought I'd done brilliant. I give a lot of credit to him. But we had enough fuel to make it to the end. It was obviously going to be very marginal. Otherwise, I would have been in a situation where we would have had to have done what Tony did where he had to pit. Tony still got very good points. He finished sixth. He's going to be a strong force to deal with throughout the season. From our standpoint, I give a lot of credit to the guys. I'm just thankful this guy is still awake (laughter). Every time we come to Japan, we have somebody take good care of us by the same of Hiro-san at the back there. Everybody at Andretti Green Racing would like to thank him for the hard work that he puts in for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. We'll see you in Indianapolis.
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