IndyCar Series: Kansas Lottery Indy 300
Topics: Kansas Lottery Indy 300
April 29, 2007
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the race winner, Dan Wheldon. Seventh different winner here in Kansas in as many races that the IndyCar Series has run here. Dan led 177 of 200 laps today. He has led 484 of 700 laps to date this season. He becomes the points leader heading into Indianapolis.
Dan, why don't we start off with talking about your run out there today.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, you know, it was fortunately a different race for Kansas. Kansas is normally a producer of very close finishes. I have to say I much prefer the widest margin of a Kansas race than the shortest because I've lost on one of those shortest.
But both Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars were very fast. You know, mine seemed particularly quick. I was a little worried going in because when I saw my lead just growing and growing, I was waiting for something bad to happen because, you know, that's unfortunately the way some of our races have gone.
But fortunately it turned out the way we wanted it to. We achieved the goal. It was unfortunate for Scott not to be second because, you know, he had a very good car also. But unfortunately I think circumstances just cost him that. Nonetheless, it's a great team effort.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, winning today going into the month of May having the points lead, talk about that a little bit and how important it is to have that momentum going into Indianapolis.
DAN WHELDON: The Indianapolis 500 I think, as everybody knows, is the be all and end all to me. That's the race that I'm desperate to win. I've had a taste of that milk before. It's an amazing thing. You think after winning it once, after you worked so hard to try and win that race, you'd be satisfied. But I think that taste of milk makes you even more determined to win again.
It's kind of frustrating really. We've got the championship lead, which is nice. But I think more importantly we scored another win, which is what I like doing the best.
In terms of creating momentum, I think you can create your own momentum because the month is so long. I think obviously, you know, Sam's had a disappointing - by his regards - start to the season. But I can guarantee you come race day at Indianapolis, he's going to be strong. You can create momentum.
But I think with what we've done so far this season, it puts everybody in a great mindset going into the month. You know, more importantly for what we've had going on with Motegi last weekend and now Kansas, it's put the guys in the workshop an awful lot. They've sacrificed time with their families. I think to give something back in terms of race wins is something that is a just reward for their families and not just the people on the team. As everybody knows, Mr. Ganassi is a hard taskmaster. He'll give you the goods to do the job, but he wants you to work hard. That's why he's a great guy to drive for.
Q. Dan, when you had the tire problems, how fortunate was it that the caution also came out?
DAN WHELDON: I think I got a little bit lucky with time in the stint that I picked up the puncture. I think I was about to pit in about two or three laps anyway. So from that standpoint it wasn't too bad. But, you know, it's a shame. It seems that I haven't had one of those races without any problems just yet. Maybe I'll get that at the Indianapolis 500. With a grueling 500 miles, I'm not sure that will be the case.
But, you know, with the car being so quick today, it does put you in a position where if you have a problem, you can react to it. Fortunately, we were able to do that.
Q. As Dario had pointed out Indy is a different type of track than this. Do you have to change your mindset at all going into this? Does the pit crew have to make any particular adjustments in the car for the change in track?
DAN WHELDON: What's unique about the IndyCar Series, what I think everybody loves about it, is the diversity. Certainly being from England, you tell everybody you drive on the ovals, I think they think every one is very similar. But they're very, very different. And the level of competition in the series right now is to the point where the car is very much on edge at each different track, so therefore requires something particular to be good around each individual track.
I think the biggest thing with Indianapolis, you know, it's very high pressure. You have to control yourself emotionally to be able to not let things fluster you because, you know, it can be a detriment to your month.
But, you know, what I think is great about a lot of the races leading into the Indianapolis 500 is our crowd attendance and the buzz. I mean, there's been a lot of buzz. Without being too rude, you hear a lot of bullshit in the press about how many fans are in the grandstands. Well, let me tell you today, if anybody's got a camera, that place was jam-packed. I know Mr. Ganassi was desperate to try to get Scott and I into our car. The problem was, we were signing for so many people, we couldn't get to them.
I think that's great. You know, we're going to a place where the Super Bowl -- it's the home of the Super Bowl champions. Hopefully we can overshadow them with a great race. Not to take anything away from the Colts because I like the Colts and Peyton Manning, too.
Q. With the fast start to your season, also your victory today, can you talk about your confidence with speedways like Texas and Chicagoland, similar to what we had today?
DAN WHELDON: Any time you're winning and leading laps, it's very positive for everybody involved. I can't say enough. There's so much pressure it seems this year because the competition is so close. People talked about going into the season that it would be between two teams. I think for all the drivers involved, they're very glad that that's not the case. A good friend of mine, who I happen to love racing, Tony Kanaan, is up there. That's good to see him happy again.
Any championship or any race that you're in, you want to beat as many people as you possibly can that are close to you because it's more rewarding that way. I think, you know, having just won a couple of races and led a lot of laps, that does give you great confidence. But at the same time you have to continue to work hard because the league's too competitive just to sit and rest on your laurels. You'll be swallowed up pretty fast.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAN WHELDON: A lot of people have asked me that. I think it's difficult to say who is the favorite going into Indianapolis. Do I think I'm going to be a contender? Absolutely. I was very strong there last year. Certainly throughout my career I've been very lucky to be in very competitive equipment to be good at Indianapolis because it is the race that I love.
But I honestly think you could pick 10 to 15 people. That's the thing about Indianapolis. I mean, it wouldn't be Indianapolis if it was just one of those races where three or four people to win. It's not. It's one where 10 or 15 could win, and possibly more.
I think I will be a contender. But I'm not sure you can say I'm the favorite. Hopefully you guys think I am because that's good. In my mindset, I'm a contender. I'm just going to try to do the best I can.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAN WHELDON: I think with the conditions today, and I think the competition level, you're really trying to push the envelope on setup. If you're a little bit out of that envelope, it can cost you dearly.
The temperature's always very hot here. The wind was kind of gusty. I think the seams in this racetrack have more of an effect on the car than normal. Because of that, they were difficult to drive. I had an -- I don't know if I had an in-car camera. It would be impressive to watch the loose moment I had in traffic on one particular lap.
That's what has been a little bit unusual for this race. But, you know, at the same time it's good to win and be quick. I don't think you can take any credit away from the boys for the job they did on both cars this weekend.
Q. Before the schedule changed this year, Motegi would have been the last race going into Indy. How much did it help getting that all out of your head in one week?
DAN WHELDON: Say that again.
Q. If the schedule hadn't changed where there was a race between Motegi and Indy, if you had the disappointments you had last week, you would have had that going into Indy. How important was that to get your head cleared of all that from last weekend?
DAN WHELDON: I think I'll be a lot nicer to deal with now. That's part of my personality. I mean, as an IndyCar driver, you're only going to be around for so long. I can't emphasize enough, I've been very fortunate to be in good teams. When you're in a competitive package, you don't like to let results slip. I know not just me but everybody in the team, it can wear you down.
So to put it right going into a grueling month is good. It's definitely very good. I can eat breakfast tomorrow morning and be happy rather than stabbing my fork into the table.
Q. Last year you and Sam battled, ended up tied in points, but you lost because of wins. You want to win everything by as much as possible. It's a team sport. Everybody can make a boo-boo. You have to really work hard to eliminate the tiny mistakes that cost you the championship.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think it's very important to do that. I think I underestimated last year the transition going from one pretty big team to another. We certainly had the capability of winning that championship, and we didn't. Over the winter you don't just sit back and think, It was a great season because we tied. That's certainly not what I would do. I'm highly critical of myself. In some of the areas where I feel I needed to improve, I tried. And in some areas where I feel the team needed to improve, we've worked hard on those.
Hopefully we're reaping the rewards of that. But there's still areas that we can improve on, and I think we're certainly going to try.
Q. You mentioned some of the close finishes here at Kansas Speedway. You've been at the wrong end of one of those. How satisfying was it to be able to break through today to get the win here?
DAN WHELDON: It's good. As an IndyCar driver, you want to try and win at all the different venues you race at. I came up a little short a couple of times here. It's nice to have this one in the books.
I think going into these first five races now, I've won at every track, is that correct?
THE MODERATOR: I believe that's correct.
DAN WHELDON: I like that. I'm very goal-driven. That's something I'm trying to work on. Like I've emphasized, now we can start thinking about Indy. I get excited about that. That's the one I'm desperate to try and win.
Q. You talked about the diversity of tracks in the IndyCar Series. How do you feel like the diversity of drivers has maybe helped the sport, Danica Patrick, drivers from Brazil, Milka Duno from Venezuela?
DAN WHELDON: I think it's good. It seems like the series right now is in the spotlight. A lot of people are talking about the different things, the new people that came to the series.
To be quite honest and frank, some people were skeptical about Milka Duno. I think she performed pretty well considering. But certainly up front I think you've got people from different countries, just different ladder systems leading into the IndyCar Series competing against one another.
I think when you think of myself, Dixon, Hornish, Castroneves, Tony, Dario, there's some very good drivers that could compete anywhere in the world. When you're racing against them, it's rewarding to win.
The Brazilian is good, though, let me tell you. No. 11 Brazilian can drive a race car.
Q. You talked about how hot it is usually here. Dario mentioned he liked racing here in April. What is your opinion on getting to race here earlier in the season?
DAN WHELDON: He likes it because he's from Scotland and it always rains in Scotland. He's probably more used to the temperature. I can't talk, I'm from England. I think I've adapted to the summers in Indiana. I spend a lot of time in Florida now. I'm kind of used to that.
I have to say it doesn't matter when you race at Kansas, it's always a good race. It's always very competitive. Perhaps might not have looked like that today. Everybody was pushing hard. There's always a great fan attendance. I think if this is the date they wanted it, it really doesn't matter because we always put on a good show. I think all the drivers like coming here.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, thank you very much.
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