IndyCar Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
Topics: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
August 28, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Let me revise these championship points. Mathematical mistake on our part.
Helio remains at 441, Sam at 440, Wheldon has 422, Dixon has 420. I think earlier I told you Dixon 423, so let's check that to 420 with Dixon. He moves down to fourth in the standings. Wheldon is at 422 in third. Thank you. Sorry for the mistake.
We're joined by race winner Marco Andretti and AGR team owner and father Michael Andretti.
With Marco's win today, he becomes the first rookie to win a race in the IndyCar Series since 2002. He is the youngest driver in IndyCar Series history and the youngest driver in major open-wheel racing in the United States to win a race at 19 years, 5 months, and 14 days.
Marco, if you would, tell us about your day out there.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, definitely pretty adventurous. The majority of it I wasn't even able to be in position one and totally go for it. The guys were brilliant in the pits. They had a plan in the beginning. You know, everything worked.
We just had to, you know, do what I did. We really didn't put a wheel wrong all weekend, which is definitely key here. I definitely, you know, just had to learn how to conserve fuel and stay fast I think was the main thing.
You know, towards the end of the race, I knew, you know, after our last pit, they said, We're not seeing -- well, I came out in the lead, and they said, I'm not going to see them for the rest of the day. That was the best thing I heard, because this place is all about track position.
But I knew I was going to have to turn down and then I knew the king of saving fuel got by Tony. That's Dario. I knew it wasn't over at that point. Just put our head down and went fast and saved fuel.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, from your standpoint, obviously a proud day for you. In addition to the obvious question about your thoughts on the race today, maybe can you reflect back on your first major win, the feelings you went through. I don't know if Mario was at that event.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, he was at it. He was in the race. He was definitely there (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: That's right.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, you know, it feels better for him with his first win. I feel so happy for him. The way he's done it, the way he's driven all year long, you know, totally deserves to be sitting in the chair he's sitting at right now, especially this weekend.
He did not put a wheel wrong, like he said. Qualifying and the one-lap shootout, he was quickest. Almost pulled it off in the 10-minute shootout there at the end. He put himself in a good position early in the weekend to win it, and then just drove flawlessly in the race.
He couldn't have done anything any better. You know, that's what makes champions, and guys that are going to win a lot of races. I think that's where Marco's at. I'm just very happy and very proud. Just a great day.
I'm glad we were able to do it here in Sonoma, because this is probably going to be our real last chance to win a race before the end of the year. I'm glad Marco as able to get it done during the end of the year because it's going to be a tough time in Chicago.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions.
Q. How tough it would it have been (indiscernible)?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. We were going for it. You just kind of go for it no matter what.
The thing that's good is, he did make it in on the cool-down lap, so he still had fuel for that. Would he have made it? I don't know.
Because in the end, he was definitely driving a lot harder and burning a lot more fuel than he would have been had it come down with not a yellow. We'll never know for sure. But he was not going to pit.
Q. What was your dad telling you over the radio? Was he giving you any advice?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't talk to him. They don't let me have a radio in there (laughter).
MARCO ANDRETTI: Couldn't be happier because we fulfilled all the goals that we set at the beginning of the year. Rookie-of-the-Year at Indy, the series. We got our win, you know. So definitely it's the best feeling all year for sure.
Q. Marco, in your headset they're telling you conserve, cool down. You have to be saying to yourself, I'm doing that.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, the toughest thing is what I had to do is what I did: Go fast and save fuel, because it's two different things. Like I said before, we had to lean on those Firestones more than ever. You know, we were able to do that pretty decently.
Like I said, the majority of the race I was saving a lot of fuel. You know, it was definitely a perfect strategy from Tom and the guys.
Q. (Question regarding Dario.)
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, definitely. You know, I knew he was, like I said before, the king of saving fuel. I knew he was probably going to be turned up more than I was. I was on a yellow lap at that point. I was conserving a lot. You know, I knew it was going to be tough. Fortunately, it worked out.
Q. (Question regarding the last pit stop.) Did you have the car to beat him anyway?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. It's tough to say because, you know, right after the first lap of the race, I was turned down on fuel. I never really, you know -- maybe the strategy would have changed a little bit. A win's a win. I'm going to take this (laughter).
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, there's definitely different feelings. You know, it's your son out there. It's really special. Yeah, I love the other guys like brothers. But, you know, I was feeling really, really good.
I mean, you know, I love Dario, but I didn't want him to pass Marco there in the end. It worked out perfect, you know, 1-2. Dario's a great guy. I felt really good when I saw Dario behind because I knew he wasn't going to do anything stupid. He's such a smart driver.
But, yeah, it's just a little different.
Q. How is he different than you were at age 19? And every father has a moment with their son where they realize the kid's past them. Even if it's one-on-one in basketball or playing golf or something. Where was that moment for you?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: How do you know it's there (laughter)?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I was going to say, how many races did you win?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Wait a second. Might not be done, I don't know.
What was the first part?
Q. How is he different than you were at 19?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He's way ahead of where I was at 19. I think his biggest asset that he has that I know I didn't have, or my father, is patience. He just drives with a lot of patience, but yet a lot of aggression. That's a great quality.
I think I look back at my career and I wish I would have, you know, had more of that quality. I think I would have won a lot more races. He's already got that at 19, so that's going to win him a lot of races, I can guarantee it.
Q. Marco, what is it about this track that suits you so well?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think mainly it's a road course, you know, and that's what I grew up doing. I just have a lot of laps here, which definitely helps, you know. I said even before this race that the majority of my success was here. This place has a big lead now.
Q. Marco, you got your first major win on a road course. Michael, Long Beach. Your grandfather, Indianapolis Raceway Park. How do you feel about being the first generation to do that on a road course?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, no, it's definitely special. Like I said before, a win's a win. But, yeah, they were all road courses. I think that's what our family, you know, likes to drive on the best. But it's what I grew up doing anyway, and definitely them.
But, you know, having said that, I'm learning to have fun on the ovals as well, primarily the shorter ovals. But if we come back with some speed next year, funny enough, I think we can go for a championship.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think mainly because I had circled this race early on. You know, we showed signs of being very competitive at Watkins Glen. I just look forward to the next road course naturally. We did all the right things. Not just me, but the team. We were on our game this weekend.
Q. How much of your talent do you feel is perhaps natural talent or maybe genetic? How much does it have to do with learning and asking questions of your father and grandfather?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think, number one, you just have to have it, especially at this level. But in this sport, you can't be taught. You know, there's a lot to be learned, but the base, you just can't be taught. You're either going to have it or you don't.
Being able to bounce things off the two best in the business is definitely priceless.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think, you know, he answered it right. I think it's definitely something you're born with. I saw it in him when he was three and a half years old already, that he had what it took. I knew it. It just shows you that you are born with it.
But what you do with it is another, you know, case. He's done a great job. He's been a sponge. He's learned a lot. He's had a lot of resources to learn from, and he's taken full advantage of them.
Q. (Indiscernible) former driver and you also helped Danny Wheldon last year. How much of an influence has he had, and tight are you guys?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It's clicked since day one with him, for sure. Not only do we have a lot of fun, but he's a brilliant guy as well, you know. He gave me exactly what I needed this weekend, and all year really. Yeah, he was a good driver back in the day. He would have won Indy, he said (laughter).
Q. Could both of you share what Mario's reaction was after the win.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He was pretty happy (laughter).
Q. Anything that he said?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't really remember for sure. You know, just basically what he said -- he said, The kid's really good. I said, I know.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, just how proud, he loves me, You did it. You were the man. The whole grandfather thing.
Q. Michael, as the race wound down, was it tough balancing being the team owner and being a proud dad?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You know, in the race, it was definitely mixed emotions, especially there the end. We had three of our cars up there. One of them is your son. It was a little strange. But it was exciting, you know. It's what I want. That's what I wish every race was like that.
But it is fun. I've been, I think, the luckiest guy in the world to be able to enjoy the things I've enjoyed in this sport.
Q. If Dario passed him, what would you have said to him?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, you know, Dario was driving for a win. There was no team orders. You know, I thought he might have pulled it off because he did have more fuel. But Marco did a tremendous job on the restart. After I saw that, I felt good about it.
Had he done it, it would have been like, Way to go. I still would have been very happy for Dario. I would have told Marco, It's going to come.
Q. Is Grandad deliberately staying out of the limelight?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He is?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I was just going to say, he's not here. I don't know why you say that.
Q. Michael, you said at three and a half you could tell. What was he doing?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just the toys and stuff he drove.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Break every bone possible.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He did that later after he was getting crazy. Before that, you could just tell the way he would control machines and stuff like that. He was doing it at a very early age.
Actually, there's one story I guess I could tell. His first day of school. He was very good at driving golf carts. He had to stand and push the throttle and steer. He couldn't sit on a chair, on the seat. We were waiting at the end of our driveway. We had a golf cart there.
The school bus comes there, pulls up. He turns around and he's gone with the golf cart, crying, saying he's not going to school. I'm running after him, trying to catch him. He's driving it so fast. I knew at that point. He was probably five.
Q. Did he make it to school?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He went to school.
Q. Are you embarrassed?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I can't believe he just said that (laughter).
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm glad he's embarrassed because I was so embarrassed that day. Now I'm getting him back.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just ran out of gas. He had to come in and get a splash of fuel.
THE MODERATOR: All right, guys. We appreciate your time. Marco, congratulations.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Thank you.
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