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IndyCar Series: Honda Indy 225

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Indy 225

IndyCar Series: Honda Indy 225

Michael Andretti
Robert Clarke
Dan Wheldon
August 21, 2005


FOUNTAIN, COLORADO

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica. First with Michael Andretti, congratulations to you. Second win in a row here at Pikes Peak.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you. What a great day, you know, especially for the championship. Dan drove like a champion today. The whole Klein Tools Jim Beam team did a great job in the pit stops. Honda did awesome with their engines. I'm just so happy we were the ones to clinch the championship for them. I want to congratulate them.

THE MODERATOR: Robert Clarke, GM and VP with Honda motorsports. Congratulations clinching the championship here today for the manufacturers.

ROBERT CLARKE: Thank you very much. This is kind of a special weekend for Honda. It's the 10-year anniversary of our first win back in 1995 with Andre Ribeiro and Tasman Motorsports in New Hampshire. To win today at our event and to clinch the championship all in the same weekend is pretty special.

THE MODERATOR: And to our winner, congratulations, Dan. 2005 Indy 500 champion, has won previously this year at Homestead, St. Pete, Motegi, Indy. The current points leader, this marks your fifth win of the season which ties you for the record for most wins in one season in the IRL with Sam Hornish in 2002. Congratulations on that. A very strong run today that seemed to get stronger as the day went along.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, it seems that I win a lot of the special races for Honda, and I'm certainly proud of that. I've been part of that family now for about three years. I'm just hoping that Robert is going to sponsor the Indy 500 next year because I love that race. It was a great result. I think what you could see there was a real team effort from Andretti Green Racing. I think, unfortunately, Bryan's car wasn't so good, but he certainly helped me out there. I know Dario would have run me real strong. Tony and I always run close together. It was fun. We went into turn 1-3-wide with a Penske in between us. I give Helio a lot of credit. You can't run three-wide around this place with many people. Certainly Helio showed both Tony and I a lot of respect to allow us to do that. It made it fun.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Although mathematically you can still be caught, but Dario and Sam, virtually can be very difficult to catch you. Talk about a 97-point lead with four races left.

DAN WHELDON: Never say "never" with Dario. Dario is certainly going to be very, very strong on the road courses. I think Tony will. You know what, Sam, I think he's not going to be too bad either. I've certainly got three teammates that are going to feature strongly. I think certainly with my experience level right now on the road courses, which is somewhat limited, I'm going to have to rely on them for some help. I look forward to the rest of the season. Until it's mathematically impossible for anybody to catch me, I'm going to keep trying to do the same. I would love to try and get six wins. That statistic of most race wins in a season is something pretty special to me. I love the Indianapolis 500, and that's always going to be my favorite race in the world, and it's going to be probably one of the fondest memories of my life. But that statistic somewhat means as much to a championship for me, it's that important. If you can win a championship and win a lot of races on the way, that would be pretty special. Like I say, it's still mathematically possible for a lot of people to beat me. We'll see what happens.

Q. If Dario had a clean stop there at the end, who wins this race?

DAN WHELDON: The person that crosses the start/finish line first on lap 225. Don't like my wit, huh? You can't answer a question like that. That's what makes the Indy Racing League so good. There's so many variables. There's so many people pushing the cars to the limit, you just can't answer a question like that. I have no doubt he would have been very strong. I managed to sneak by him just before that stop and break a little bit of a lead, which you need with Dario. Anything you can do to gain a little advantage over him on the racetrack is good because this is like his home track. He always goes very, very well here. To race with him would have been fun. You know, he's a strong competitor. But he's very, very clean. I have to say that the racing out there today was particularly clean. I know that Hornish is second in the championship, and probably our biggest rival team and engine manufacturer. But he drove very, very cleanly.

Q. Dan, seemed to me in this race had you a lot of patience at the beginning.

DAN WHELDON: Did you see me go three-wide with those guys (laughter)?

Q. You waited to past people until the right time approached. You knew had you to lead the last lap, and it didn't matter how you got there. It just appeared to me you were more relaxed and cautious, made the moves at the right time.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, it's a very difficult track. It's one of those tracks where if you have the right setup, you can really utilize everything that you have. Obviously, we've had great power all year, although we keep harping on them to give us some more. I was certainly able to -- when the time arose and I needed to, I got everything right, to get past people pretty comfortably either around the outside of turns three and four, or if I didn't do it there, up on the inside into turn one. I give Eddie Jones and Bill Bates a lot of credit. The first stint was pretty difficult. I had a lot of push. You know, they pretty much calmed me down and just told me to stick with it. Then we made some changes during that stop, and it just transformed the car. But certainly Michael and Kim are always on me about being patient and collecting points at this stage in the championship. I'm a believer that you just got to go for it and win races. But I try and do my best and listen to them as much as I can.

Q. After you won Indy, obviously Danica stole a lot of your limelight. Do you feel like you're finally getting the respect you deserve? Is that closing now?

DAN WHELDON: I think what we have to understand is Danica's done a very, very good job. If you look at where she's qualified and compare that to me recently, I think my bosses would be pretty appalled with me. I think the year she's having, and I think sometimes the media are a little tough on her. When you're up against the likes of Herta, Kanaan, Castroneves, Hornish, Franchitti. They have been in this series a long, long time. No matter how good your equipment is, no matter how good you are, they are experienced and they know every trick in the book. I think what she's done is particularly special, so I think she deserves a lot of the praise she's getting. From a personal standpoint, I appreciate the praise that I get. But, you know, I've just got to maintain focus and keep trying to win as many races as possible. The fan base and media respect will keep building. That's something out of my control. But I give a lot of credit for the job she's been doing this year. I think it's fantastic. I think the way she's handled the media has been very good, too.

Q. Michael, you were in that race at New Hampshire. Could you have envisioned that 10 years later the dominance -- we knew what they did in Formula One before they came to IndyCar Series racing. Could you have envisioned the dominance they were going to do 10 years later?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It scared me at that time. I remember I was very nervous, in fact to the point where I tried to get Honda engines in our car for the following year. But, unfortunately, the team owner had another idea. No, I wasn't surprised. I mean, as a competitor, you hated going up against them because you know that they're the best. That's why it was so nice to finally join forces and be a part of the Honda family. No, I'm not surprised. I mean, the way they commit themselves and everything, you know, their record is not by accident.

Q. Robert, we know about your past and your present, but what about the future? Chevy reiterated that they are leaving the series. You said that was key to your continuation, was to have another engine manufacturer to compete against. You're not interested in being the only engine company here. What are your views on the future of Honda's involvement in the IRL?

ROBERT CLARKE: Well, that's probably another discussion for another time. I don't want to ruin a good weekend. It's something that we have to consider. I mean, now that the direction of things seems to be more clear, it's time for Honda to consider what it's going to do. I can tell you that we've been very pleased with the relationship we've had with the Indy Racing League, what we've gotten out of it today. We're not looking to leave. I'll leave you at that.

Q. Dan, it looks like you're going to wrap up the championship, won the Indy 500, been dominant, you could break the record. What else is there to do in '05? Where do you set your goals now?

DAN WHELDON: I think the important thing is just to keep winning as much as you possibly can. I still feel like I learn a lot from my three teammates. I don't see that stopping any time soon. But for me I'd love to win more Indianapolis 500s. That race is just an unbelievable event. You know, I live for that race. That race just means a ton to me. I've tasted milk once, and I really enjoyed it. I'd love to taste it again many more times. But it's a very difficult race to win, I know that much. But I'd love to build up my win tally a little bit more there. That would mean a lot to me.

Q. Michael, is Dan going to get pretty expensive to resign for next year?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He already is expensive (laughter). No, we hope that Dan will be a part of the team, and we're sure that it's going to happen. Dan has been a great part of AGR from day one, and hopefully he's going to spend many, many years with us.

DAN WHELDON: I couldn't leave my three teammates. I'd feel lost.

Q. Michael, when the team was put together, did you ever have any idea that these four guys would mix the way they did? Did you pick them or it just happened you picked them by talent and it turned out they like to throw pie in each other's face?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We did pick them for talent, first of all, but then personality played a big part of it. You know, your goal is to hopefully get what we have. But never dreamed that it would be as good as it is. The greatest thing is, it's sincere. These guys love each other and they have a lot of fun with each other and respect each other. Because of that, they work together so well. Because they work together, everybody else on the team works together. It's something very special. It's something we tried to do, but we didn't think -- we never thought we'd pull it off the way we have.

Q. Michael, is it hard as a team owner? When Dario came in, he had the car to beat. Goes in the pits. I know he was frustrated, disappointed.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I just felt so bad for him. His year has been that way. He's had such strong cars in every race. I think he probably has had the strongest car over a year, but he's had the worst luck over the year. I just felt so bad. When I saw that thing stall, I was like I couldn't believe it. Unfortunately, when it's your year, it's your year. When it's not, it's not. Unfortunately, it's been that way for Dario.

Q. Are you ready for the road? Is it going to be a lot more physical than today?

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think Sonoma is going to be very, very physical. Certainly 80 laps around there, I'm going to be praying for yellow. Every 20 laps I'm going to want a yellow, that's for sure (laughter). I don't think I'm the only one on that. I think the whole paddock. But it's one of those tracks, not only is it physical, it's difficult to put one lap together that's real good. Certainly Dario was very quick when he tested there. But, like I say, my level of experience on the road courses is still not quite to their level, and I'm still establishing somewhat of a base setup. I would compare it to my short oval setups are somewhat developed to my liking. We each have our own little things that we like. We're pretty comfortable with my stuff there. But on the road course, I still haven't achieved that. I'm sure that I'll feature strongly, but I've got to still learn from my teammates. I expect them all to be strong.

Q. Are you trying to fly under the radar with your road racing skills?

DAN WHELDON: I like to fly under the radar. That's my style. No, I think I'll be good. I mean, I was obviously quick at St. Petersburg. I was a little bit inconsistent there. I didn't do a particularly good job in qualifying. But the session before qualifying, I was quickest. It's one of those things -- second quickest. It's one of those things where you just got to bring it all together in a race weekend, which I'm sure I'll do eventually. I just got to make sure I'm consistent in Sonoma and Watkins Glen. I'm really looking forward to Watkins Glen. That's kind of a European track, fast and slowing, whereas Sonoma is a little stop/start. It's going to be tough, but it will be good.

Q. If you want to get a head start on road courses, think of taking a quick trip up Pikes Peak?

DAN WHELDON: Those guys are pretty crazy that do that. I'll leave that to those guys and stick to Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

Q. You got a head start on your IRL career because of Dario's motorcycle in '03, Motegi. That seemed to be a race where a lot of people thought you were pretty good.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I mean, in this day and age, it's sad to say in motorsport, but if you don't perform right away, you're going to be replaced pretty quick. It's one of those things that it's not a case where you can feel your way into it; you have to do well. You know, certainly that's what I tried to do. I think, like any rookie, I made some mistakes along the way, but I tried to learn from them as much as I could. You know, it's worked out. I still feel like I'm learning a lot, I really do. There's definitely stuff -- certainly Dario, Bryan and Tony are very -- they're very technical in how they set up their cars. That's where I still got to get a little bit better.

THE MODERATOR: Robert, Dan, Michael, congratulations to all of you today. Thank you for a great show.



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