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IndyCar Series: Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone

IndyCar Series: Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone

Tony Kanaan
September 2, 2007


THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by race winner Tony Kanaan. His fifth win of the 2007 season. It's his third win in the last four races. He stands 39 points behind in the championship points standings. Still mathematically eligible for the title next weekend when the series moves to Chicagoland.
T.K., take us through your day.
TONY KANAAN: Can call it a long day because it was a weird race. We had a good start, so I managed to pass Dixon right away. After that I couldn't pass anybody. We definitely took the advantage. When Helio got in traffic, we pitted right away. I think we had a problem. I don't think we put all the fuel in, so we had to save a lot of fuel. The yellow came out at the right time. Crazy race behind me.
I think it was a good thing to stay in the front. Very pleased for the 7-Eleven team, after all the criticism I got last weekend, and I even heard the people that criticized me, What you do always comes back to you. So I guess I didn't do a bad thing. You do good things, good things happen to you.
Very pleased. I'm very happy about the race today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for T.K.

Q. How worried were you about fuel if it had gone 90 laps?
TONY KANAAN: They gave me a number, so I can't worry. I was matching the number and actually making better fuel mileage than what they asked me. I trust my team.
I have a number on my dash. I flip the page. I didn't want to see it. I was just making the number, better number than what they asked me. I trust my guys a hundred percent so I knew I was going to make it.

Q. It looks now like last weekend, that decision, instead of 39 points, it could be much less at this point. Did you think about that at the end?
TONY KANAAN: I do not regret what I did. I think I made my decision last weekend in one point of the race that, you know, it dictates these things out of me. That's what I wanted to do. So I do not regret a single bit.
I said that out there today. There is a lot of things beyond racing. Yes, was I very unselfish that time? I think so. Things could have been different, yes. But I could have actually put myself in a better position before the Sonoma race to be able to win this championship.
You know, five years from now when we all retire, people are not going to remember anything, and my friendship for my teammate for sure will last forever. It's a guy that I care about. The decision that I made last weekend, I think that was the right one.
So I do not think about last weekend. I think about this weekend. Now, for sure, I told him, I'm going. Chicago, I'm going. We'll see what's going to happen.

Q. Returning to Detroit after a six-year hiatus, it could come back for the next five. Does that make you happy, sad, and why?
TONY KANAAN: Oh, makes me happy. I mean, this place gave me my first victory in America back in 1996 in Indy Lights. I backed that up in '97. I ended up winning the championship that year. So I had great memories up until 2000, which I had my worst accident here. Broke my arm.
So it's been a good track in a way, and not so good in other ways. But I always loved this place. I have to say the track was awesome, a bit bumpy, but that's the way street courses are. Hats off for Roger Penske and his people that put a great event. A lot of fans today. I'm glad we're coming back next year and hopefully the next five. As long as we can keep this race up with the fans coming to watch us, for sure.

Q. When you looked in your mirror and all of a sudden you didn't see second, third and fourth place, were you beginning to wonder what the heck happened?
TONY KANAAN: I knew it. I knew it. I looked in my mirrors, saw the yellow flag. I keep looking. Nobody, nobody. I figured. I was hoping to see a black and orange car behind me. Then I found out pretty soon when I went by. I saw Buddy in one end, Dario and Scott in the other end. Pretty sad.
But we came here to take the championship lead away from Dixon. It doesn't matter if it's one point. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. Let's move on and go to Chicago now.

Q. Organizers said when they redesigned the track, it would make it easier to pass. That didn't seem to be the case at all today.
TONY KANAAN: Street courses are never easy to pass. They changed one corner. I mean, the circuit is back to the old circuit we had back in '96 and '97. They changed turn nine, which I was glad, because that's the one I broke my arm on. Tried to make it more interesting to pass.
I have to say, I passed four cars in this race, so it's not that bad. We have a series that is very competitive. When you watch our oval races, you see a lot of passing, so people expect us to keep changing positions every lap when you come to a road or street course. That doesn't happen. Doesn't happen in Formula One. Doesn't happen anywhere when you go to a street course.
I would say it could be better, yes. It could always better. Bud already came to talk to me, ask me my opinion about it. I think a couple of places we might can change to be able to actually make it that you can have another possibility to pass. But it's not a place that is impossible to pass, it's just very difficult.

Q. I know you haven't heard it, but Buddy took full blame for the incident, said he ran out of fuel, couldn't get out of the way. But Mike was livid after the race and charged that Dixon intentionally took his foot off the brake and blocked Dario's path. If you're Dixon, whether or not you believe the story, is that what you do, you stop Dario from getting through?
TONY KANAAN: I will never be Dixon so I not going to answer that, especially after all the heat he gave me last weekend, the same way he didn't believe me when I said what I said, what I did last weekend. I strongly believe he did it on purpose. Now, he can say no. We can't prove it. He can say, I was crashing, and I couldn't reach the brakes, here we go.
Like Brian Barnhart was saying in the drivers meetings, there are some parts of the rules that race control cannot judge, only us that drive the race cars do we know.
Do I think was on purpose? Yes. But you know what, like he always said last weekend, too, what goes around comes around. So here we go. He lost the championship lead. He's not been sleeping very well this week and I'm coming.

Q. Speaking of what goes around comes around, it seems like you also pointed out to a four-time Indy 500 winner --
TONY KANAAN: I have a lot of respect for Rick Mears. As he said, he lost a lot of respect from me. I did not lost respect for him. I think he's the greatest of all times. I always look and talk to him. I was Casey's teammate at one point. I raced against Clint back in Indy Lights.
You know me, I make jokes. I felt funny to dedicate the win for him. I'm pretty sure we're going to talk about it. I haven't seen him all weekend.
Yeah, he was a bit harsh on me. Everybody has an opinion. Like I said, a lot of people thought it was a great thing that I did. A lot of people thought that it was not. Rick was one of those guys. You know, that's the way it is. I have to think about it because if Rick Mears, the driver, and the IRL official that he is, came talked to me, I might would respect. But when he comes to say something, he has a Team Penske shirt, I kind of wonder if he was mad because I didn't let Sam by or something like that.
No hard feelings at all. Rick Mears is a great race car driver. Hopefully I have plenty of years to try to earn his respect again.

Q. This seems like a very intense championship fight. Is it the most intense you've been involved with? Can you describe the feeling. Every weekend something happens.
TONY KANAAN: It's been a crazy year, I would say, for sure. More outside of the track and people trying to disrupt what we have on the team, fights. What can I say about fights? Yes, it's been weird. And I think it's been good. You know, we've always known all the drivers get along very well, we're a big family, and it's great. But sometimes it's good to have what we have. I'm not saying the bad press we probably got fighting and stuff is a good thing.
But, Jesus, we're humans. We're under pressure. We've been racing against each other for a long time. It's been tighter, tighter, tighter. Every year it goes to the last race for the championship.
People start to get edgy, start to talk about each other. We get along. I would say the top three guys in the championship, I would say the top six guys, we all get along really well. We talk about it. Everybody that has an opportunity in an interview goes (making sound), and the other guy goes (making sound). That's part of the game. This has been part of racing forever. I remember back in the Formula One days, and I remember back here.
That's the way it is. I think it adds to it. It's really good. You know what, I like the pressure. It makes me stronger, so bring it on. Anybody think they're going to break what we have at AGR, we just proved again, it ain't happening.
I'm a big fan of having (indiscernible) teammates and having problems to solve so I can make myself better.

Q. The last race the year is in Chicagoland. Is that a good place to end the season? When you're chasing, is that a good place to end the season?
TONY KANAAN: For the fans, yes. For us, no. It's a no man's land. I mean, it's an oval track. It's a superspeedway that you don't know what's going to happen.
I like it. Like I just said, I like when the difficulty comes up. You know what, it's going to come down not to just the best driver, it's going to be the best team with the best equipment, the best engineer and who's going to have the best day.

Q. People always talk about the reason NASCAR is so popular is the ongoing soap opera aspect of it. It seems the last couple weeks you have outdone them in that department. Talk about that.
TONY KANAAN: Like I said, I think when a lot of people start talking about us, that means we're becoming more popular. I think that's what's been happening lately. We're definitely growing as a series, all the teams, as drivers. Are we growing slower, faster? We would like to grow a lot faster. If they're talking about it, that means people are watching. So I think it's a good thing.
Yes, I mean, like I said, I got so many emails and phone calls saying how great of a job and how great a human being I am. Then I go read in the paper a couple guys I respect a lot slamming at me. So, you know, it's a good thing. I can write a book about it. I can turn a soap opera for the 2007 season for sure

Q. Everybody coming in here looks like they're wearing a different color driver suit than they started. How physical was it?
TONY KANAAN: Dan Wheldon soaked me with champagne. That's probably why I look worse than I was. It was very difficult. On a bumpy track, it takes a lot out of the driver. You never have the steering straight. It's always left and right, up and down. I would say it wasn't more physical because we had to save fuel. When you save fuel, you have to slow down. It was kind of easy towards the end. But in the middle of the race, we had a pretty big streak without yellows. It was hard, like every street course. That's why I work out twice as much as I can, so I can push out when I need all the way through the whole race.

Q. Is it possible for this season to end next week without an AGR car being involved in a controversy? This is four in a row now.
TONY KANAAN: Of course not. And if not, I'll make sure I'll put one in for just in case.
C'mon. Why should we? I'm already replying to some of Scott Dixon's criticisms from last week. That's going to add. Then he's going to come back Wednesday and talk to somebody else. We gonna carry it to Chicago. That's it.
Like I said, I think it's a good thing. I mean, I like it.

Q. Could you give us a comment on Danica finishing second.
TONY KANAAN: You got to be in the right place at the right time. I told her a while ago, I said, Look, Danica, your first win is going to come when you least expect it. She looked at me on the podium before they went out there. She said, Man, I finished second. I haven't drove as hard. I just was at the right place at the right time. I said, That's what I told you. The day your first win is going to come, it's probably going to be the same thing.
Very well done. The girl have improved so much. She definitely step up. Look at Mid-Ohio in qualifying. Look at Sonoma qualifying. Hats off. In Sonoma, we're talking on the grid. I said, Look behind you. Don't you feel proud of yourself? She was like, Yeah. All of us were back there. Me, Helio. Helio was on the pole. Me, Dario, Dixon. She's done a tremendous job. She's learning so quick. Hats off. Her best finish.
She will definitely win a race. I can't say probably this year. She might win Chicago. It's getting closer and closer. She will win a race pretty soon.

Q. Can you comment on her finishing second and her being completely overshadowed by everything else that happened today?
TONY KANAAN: It's good to be in the other seat sometimes, isn't it? I have to say when she finished Indianapolis, it was a big thing. What we got to understand, she's in a tough spot. You know what, hats off. She's a great race car driver. She gets more attention than everybody else because of who she is. She's a girl in the middle of 18 other guys. But today, thank God, we made a little bit more controversy. It got overshadowed. I think that's the way it is.
Now we're balancing things out, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: T.K., thank you very much. See you next week.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.

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