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IndyCar Series: Kansas Lottery Indy 300

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Kansas Lottery Indy 300

IndyCar Series: Kansas Lottery Indy 300

Vitor Meira
Dan Wheldon
July 2, 2006


THE MODERATOR: Dan Wheldon has joined us in the media center. It's your fifth top-five finish. Almost had him at the end. Take us through the last couple of laps.
DAN WHELDON: It was just, you know, very close. I think to tell you the truth today, Marlboro Team Penske and Sam did a better job than us. Not taking away credit from the boys at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, they've worked very hard. You know, they're dedicated to winning, but sometimes you have a winning car and sometimes you don't. We just tried everything that we could.
He was a little bit quicker than us, I think. Mechanically his car was working a little better. So it was second for us.
THE MODERATOR: A couple comments from Vitor. You tried to pull your way through the field. Another third-place finish at Kansas Speedway. Take us through your race.
VITOR MEIRA: We started pushing quite a lot, worked our way through. Every pit stop was one major change. We worked on tires, worked on wings. The last set of tires, last stint, the car was the best. That's why we gained so many positions by the last stint and the last restart.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and take some questions from the press.

Q. Dan, what happened the last five laps? You were side by side with him. At what point did you realize you weren't going to keep that high line and race with him?
DAN WHELDON: Well, I mean, I just wasn't quick enough. It was going to be difficult for me. You know, you can drive with Sam very close. I tried pinning him down a couple of times. Obviously I've got to respect the fact he needs racing room and his car was pushing a little bit. It got to the point where he was just quicker.
I tried to stay there, but he just gradually was working in front of me. Then as soon as he got clear, I went, he came up in front of me. It was very difficult to pass.
I tried for as long as I could. I was surprised that I stayed outside him for as many laps as I did. I was hoping I could go two more. Unfortunately, wasn't to be.

Q. Vitor, how close do you think you are to breaking through for your first victory?
VITOR MEIRA: Six times close. I don't know. Every weekend, I mean, we are working our way up. We are doing everything we can to get the first victory. It's not going to come without work. It's not going to come because we are doing something that we are not supposed to, because we are doing everything right. It's just a matter of putting it all together. Continue (indiscernible) with the team, keep working the same way we are, because we are constantly putting ourselves in position to do it.

Q. Both of you, what were the track conditions like? How did the heat affect the car? What is it like driving on this track? Did you have two grooves today?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think there was definitely two grooves. It's a little different to how it's been here in the past 'cause, you know, the higher groove is definitely slower. Before you could run up there a little bit more comfortably. I think everybody knows the deal when they come to this particular race: it's always very hot, the track temperature's high, the ambient's high. With the winds, it moves the car around a lot.
I think that's where you saw us, particularly the first stint, everybody was running the high line, certainly in three and four where the wind was pushing you up also. We were doing that just to kind of be easy on the front tires, but because we had to also.
You know, certainly this track is one that's entertaining for the fans. I think the drivers like coming here. Certainly I think the fact it was more challenging this year made it even more enjoyable.
VITOR MEIRA: Same here. At the start of the race, everybody moved up a little bit and washed out off of three, mainly because we had a tailwind on the back straight. It was just making things very difficult turning into turn three. I mean, same deal. Everybody kind of looked for more room around the track and wasn't as grippy as in the morning.
THE MODERATOR: Questions from the press box.

Q. (No microphone.)
DAN WHELDON: Absolutely not. At this point in the championship, there's no point in me coming in second to a Penske car. I've got to win or do nothing.
I mean, I tried everything that I possibly could. I had a couple looks low on him. You know, the guy, I have immense respect for Sam Hornish. He's a very talented guy. He can read a track very well on ovals. He can read what the car behind him wants to do. You know, I've learned a lot from him. I think he had the measure of me today.
Like I said, his car mechanically seemed to work very well. To be fair, he deserved to win. He drove hard. I think certainly the two of us, we tested each other a lot today. I think you could see the respect was there because we drove incredibly close on what is considered this year to be a track very difficult to run side by side. I give credit to him.
I also give credit to Honda. It's very difficult to produce engines so close, with such a quality. They do a fantastic job at that, as does Firestone with the tires. To get a tire that works so well in these hot conditions with gusty winds is pretty impressive.
You know, it's just we came up short.
THE MODERATOR: Back down here.

Q. Did the crosswinds into three and four make passing a premium on the track today?
VITOR MEIRA: Who is that for?

Q. Either one of you.
VITOR MEIRA: It was very hard, mostly because everybody was using a lot of track. Again, on the beginning of the race, I couldn't really stay flat up there. Then we worked on the car and, I mean, mostly because we had the tailwind plus turning into three we got a little bit of a bump. I guess that's why most of the accidents was happening there.
But, I mean, the Panther car we improved and improved. Again, by the last stint, was the best one. Everything stayed consistent. Engine with Honda and the tires with Firestone, the tires never really went off. That's what allowed us to catch up.

Q. A question for both of you. Could you just kind of talk a little bit about Castroneves' tire problems. On one hand, you have to be thinking about trying to win this race, focus on this race. Is it hard to put it in the back of your mind, the fact that the points race is so close and something like this comes up, you've got to take advantage of it?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I mean, obviously I'm not sure what happened to Helio. He obviously dropped to the back early on in the race. I think with his luck in comparison to Hornish, if he doesn't win this championship, there's something wrong. He's had a couple of lucky ones.
But for us, I think for me personally, I like to be leading the championship because then you can kind of control what goes on in the races more. Right now, as the people chasing, we need to take every opportunity we can get. Sometimes it gets a little frustrating when you have an opportunity to make some points up and you don't. But I think that's what is making this championship very exciting this year. It's very competitive.
The cars are handling a little different on a lot of these bigger tracks, it's making them more difficult to get around. I learned something from Scott today. Scott was able to run very low. When I saw what he was doing, he'll probably be a little mad because I was taking the air off his front wing, but as soon as I moved low, I was able to run quicker. It's kind of moving the car around to get where you need to be. Like you said, you've got to try to maximize points. Just a little short.

Q. Dan, you're still not shaving.
DAN WHELDON: I think Target are going to get pissed now if I don't shave, so maybe I should. Who knows.

Q. (No microphone.)
DAN WHELDON: I'm just driven to win a lot. You know, we definitely have the capability to. It's very frustrating because the cars are very, very quick. I mean, you look at the laps that we do, whether it be in qualifying or the race. Right now we're just not quite as consistent as Sam's car. Sam definitely seems to be, in terms of outright race pace, probably the quickest car. Although we can be as quick if not quicker a lot of the times during the races, we're just not quite as consistent. That's something we're certainly going to work on before Nashville. We've got a little bit of time.
We're going to come out at Nashville very strong. Chip wasn't here today. He's not going to be happy with me that I came second. We just need to keep pushing.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you for coming in.

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