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IndyCar Series: Indy Japan 300

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Japan 300

IndyCar Series: Indy Japan 300

Dario Franchitti
Dan Wheldon
April 21, 2007


THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our third-place finisher, Dario Franchitti. His first top-three finish here at Motegi with five IndyCar Series stops.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I remember finishing second to the boss once here in Champ Car.
THE MODERATOR: I didn't have the Champ Car statistics with me. We'll say overall two career top-three finishes here. Dario, if you would, give us an overview of your day out there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: As can sometimes happen here at Motegi, it came down for us to a fuel-mileage race. The start of the race, the car was very good. We managed to make up from our seventh starting position. I think we got up to fourth or third. But the car was really good and giving me a lot of hope for the rest of the race because I could pass the guys in front. Towards the end of the first stint, we were the quickest car. It was all looking good.
Made a small mistake coming into the pits for the first stop. The first stop wasn't great, so I got back to seventh again. We worked our way back up. It was then that we were running third. The last yellow came out. My team decided they wanted to take a gamble because we felt the Canadian Club car was the equal of Tony's car and Dan's, but I wasn't going to be able to pass them on the track with sheer speed. Took a gamble with the fuel strategy. Unfortunately, the number was just impossible to achieve without going really slowly. So I went a lap down to Dan and Tony. It was really just getting there in the end.
It didn't hurt the result, but I think it was a good gamble because the result probably best was going to be third unless the gamble paid off. I'm happy with the job my guys did on that. We really improved the car today from yesterday when I felt we were struggling. So all in all, leaving here with a very good feeling. Kansas next weekend, then looking forward to Indianapolis. I'm happy my little brother Tony won the race. He did a good job. It's like the three of us again. I was laughing at one point. We were 1-2-3. It's happened a few times before.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Dan Wheldon, our second-place finisher.
Dan, give us a recap of your day.
DAN WHELDON: I think I have to say when you consider the pace of our car, I think even Tony would agree it was probably the best out there. We were very fast. You know, again, Honda provided us with a great engine. I think, you know, with the quality they provide to everybody, you could see. Certainly Tony and I were closer times. You would have wanted that little bit extra, but we didn't have that.
But it was just a little bit unfortunate we lost radio communication pretty early on. We were being very conservative with the time that we had to pit. Perhaps some improvements we could have made with the car over the duration of the race. I think that was basically what really hindered us. Not so much the fact that we didn't have the radio, but just the time that we had to pit because of that.
But I think it was a mistake that was made. You know, I know Chip's feeling on it. Certainly mine is the same. It needs to be rectified because that's not good enough.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Dan or Dario.

Q. Dan, could you talk about this mistake. Is that relating to the radio? Were you unable to speak and hear?
DAN WHELDON: Well, no, I got in my car before we actually took off to start the race. One of my earpieces was not working. That's something that should be checked before you go out. Then I think about 20, 25 laps into the race, the other one stopped. So I couldn't hear them and they couldn't hear me.
But know, the frustration of it is, and I love being part of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, it's a fantastic team. You can tell by the laps we lead. You look at last year and the first few races this year, we just don't close on opportunities that really should be ours.
You just can't keep doing that. It gets too frustrating. I'm in this business to win. When we're costing ourselves opportunities to win through silly mistakes, it's tough to take.
But, you know, the team continue to work very, very hard. I'm looking forward to Kansas now. It seems that everything happens, and I just get more and more fired up. I think when I do that, I drive better, so that's good.

Q. Before I asked you what was the best memory that you had fighting against Tony. 2004, when you won the race, it was a good battle between you guys.
DAN WHELDON: That was my fondest memory of being at Motegi, was winning my first IndyCar race.

Q. What do you feel now about that?
DAN WHELDON: Tony is somebody that I have immense respect for. I love racing against him. You can see out there, we both had very fast cars. But what's great when you race against him, you race very hard, but you race very fair.
At the end when he came out the pits, he clearly had the legs of me. You clearly can't risk doing that. You know with a guy like that, you can race. There was an incident out there with Ed Carpenter. He clearly would have seen me. But the guy's not aware of what's going on around him. Whereas when you race with Tony, he's incredibly intense. You know every lap that he drives that car is a hundred percent. But at the same time when you race with him, you know he's going to give you enough room to get through the corner - not much, but he'll give you enough.
I'm happy that he won. He's a deserved winner. He works very hard. He's good for the series.

Q. Dan, the key point of today's race, it was probably the last yellow, and also the last 10 laps when you pitted for refueling. If you had communication with your team, do you think you would have made a different strategy or better time?
DAN WHELDON: I think we'd have been able -- our strategy for sure would have been better. It was a little scrappy to start with until they grabbed the pit board. I'm not even sure they had a pit board close to them. It took them about 20, 30 laps to get that going.
But, you know, at the end of the day it doesn't matter. We made a mistake, Tony won. He's a deserved winner. You know, a lot of credit should go to him and Andretti Green Racing because, you know, they perhaps didn't have the quickest car, but they won, they scored the most points. I give a lot of credit to those guys for doing that.

Q. Dario, I know third is not what you wanted. How does this make you feel heading to Indy? Can you get a feel for an Indy 500 car here?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I hope so. I hope so is the answer to that. This is the Firestone I think they're going to bring for Indy. Obviously, the tire is a huge part of the handling of the car. I think we've got a car that works quite well. We just got a little bit of work to do.
But our car this year compared to our car last year here, there's no comparison. I think we had a very good car today. I'm optimistic for Indy. Surely got enough practice time to hopefully get it right. But it's going to be tough.

Q. Dan, when Marco crashed, I think you were just coming up on Tony. You must have had a view of that. What happened there?
DAN WHELDON: Well, actually I think it was Scott and Marco just in front of me. Yeah, because I was leading. Actually nearly collected Marco as he was spinning.
It looked like Scott had a run on him. I'm not sure. You know, three and four is very difficult because you pick up a lot of marbles. It looked as if Scott was kind of inside a little bit where Marco couldn't quite get on the line that he wanted, and then he got up in the marbles. And just -- once you're in those marbles, it's very difficult. The car just takes off. He hit the wall.
I think hopefully he's okay. I think Dario said he's got a slightly hurt shoulder, but I think he'll be fine by Kansas.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.

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