IndyCar Series: Firestone Indy 400
Topics: Firestone Indy 400
July 30, 2006
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our second-place finisher, Vitor Meira. His third second-place finish in 2006, seventh second-place finish in his career, sixth top-five finish of the season.
Vitor, tell us about your day.
VITOR MEIRA: Well, first of all, I want to congratulate Helio. He did a very good race. I think we were the two fastest cars there. The Revive USA Panther Racing, it is amazing the job they do. I mean, with what we have compared to the real big teams, with how late we start, it's amazing. I just have to put my hands down to John Barnes, Griff, everybody that is part of this team.
THE MODERATOR: Vitor, the race today, 193.972 miles per hour, the fastest race in Michigan International Speedway history, third fastest in league history. You were hustling out there today. Talk about that.
VITOR MEIRA: We were. I kept waiting for a yellow after I lost the lead, but it didn't happen because I knew on the restarts we were really good. But, I mean, it's a proof of how good of a job Honda is doing, not only Honda but the teams, too, just maintaining the cars. The league is doing a great job of making the race competitive. Everybody's doing their part. That's what happens when everybody does very good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Vitor.
Q. At some point, do these finishes start to become -- do you get pissed off by finishing second, for lack of a better word?
VITOR MEIRA: We come here to give 110%. That's why we come. That's what everybody does. The outcome is a result of the work you're going to do. We took 110% out of what we had to do - not only today, but we've been doing it since John made the call of restarting Panther Racing. I think that's the proof of victory.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our third-place finisher. Dan, your seventh top-five finish of the season. Tell us about your run today.
DAN WHELDON: Obviously it's good for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, making up some ground in the championship. I want to commend everybody in the team for their hard work and effort. Certainly for Scott Dixon pushing me around at the end, we were half a mile an hour I think off of both Penske cars and Vitor. I think we just made the most of what we had. I wouldn't say it's a startling day, but at the same time you come into the series to win the championship, and we did gain points.
I think it's disappointing to see Sam go out, I think through no fault of his own. At the same time I'm here to do a job, to try and make up as many points as we can, which we did today.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, to that point, Helio is now in first place with 376 points, 17-point difference between third and first place. Can you talk about the last three races, the point chase we have ahead of us.
DAN WHELDON: I think we just got to work hard. The Penske cars are very fast weekend in, weekend out. For the time that we've had with the Dallara at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, I think we've definitely made some big gains. But you're up against a team that's obviously one of the best in America.
Roger is hungry to win championships. The guy has won a lot before. He can smell another one. He's going to work as hard as he can to make sure he capitalizes on that. At the same time, so is Chip. We're going to come together as a team, we're going to work very hard, and we'll do the best that we can. That's all we can do.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Vitor or Dan.
Q. Vitor, with Sam dropping out, you're scratching your way back up into the points. Talk about how big a deal that is.
VITOR MEIRA: I mean, the way we started the championship, with electrical failure, it's outstanding. That's what we've been doing really good during the season. We've been good on short tracks. We've been good on the road courses, street courses, long ovals. We've been good everywhere. If you take a look the last, I don't know, seven races, we've been always on the top four.
I guess that's what we have to do to climb little by little in the championship. It's a shame that Sam dropped out. I mean, he was, again, there all the time. He's a championship contender. But as Dan mentioned, it's definitely a little good for us.
DAN WHELDON: Let me just chime in.
These guys are going to win when they win. They do a bloody good job. Vitor I think is one of the most underrated drivers out there. Everybody knows that I think Panther perhaps don't quite have the budget that the Target guys and Penske do. I think their time is going to come very soon. Just let it happen and it will happen. The boys, both Vitor and that team, are very, very impressive when you consider what they're up against.
I don't mean that in a bad way, John, that you don't have the budget that those guys do. But what they do with what they have is unbelievable. You should perhaps go easy on them about the victory because they're up against very stiff competition. They're one of the top teams.
VITOR MEIRA: Says the champion. Says the champion, so...
Q. Dan, after the race, Tony Kanaan made some comments that he thought you weren't giving him all due respect. I think he kind of indicated you might be blocking him. Any truth to that?
DAN WHELDON: No. He came up to me and said, Good race. I think he might be upset that my teammate was between the two of us. But, no, I was just running the low line. There was obviously -- I was more concerned with trying to catch these two. I had Chip me my ear, Keep going, keep going. I just tried to run the shortest line I possibly could and catch these guys.
Like I say, I think both the Marlboro Team Penske cars and the Panther car were just a little bit ahead of us today.
Q. Dan, talk a little bit about Sam dropping out, Helio takes the points lead, but it improves your position points-wise.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, you know, I never like to see that in a championship battle, like a problem with I don't know exactly what it was. But to see Sam go out like that is disappointing, and at the same time I feel like we've had a little bad luck this year and lost some points.
It's very difficult, I would say, to be excited today about the result. But I think, you know, it was just one of those okay races. We were just a little bit off. But I expect everybody at the team, including myself, we're going to work very hard. 16, 17 points in this championship, you can make that up in a weekend, which you saw Helio do in this race. I think everybody at the team is very committed to winning. We'll work hard together.
Just because it wasn't a great result, I got to say everybody at the shop worked hard and the Honda performed very well, again, as did the Firestone tires.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, you're right. Anytime you finish in the top three, it's good from a championship standpoint.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.
VITOR MEIRA: Thank you.
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