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IndyCar Series: GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300

IndyCar Series: GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300

Marco Andretti
Dan Wheldon
March 29, 2008


THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Marco Andretti, who finished second in tonight's race.
In your third IndyCar season, a pretty distinguish good opener for you this year.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Definitely. The goal at first was just to finish this darn thing. But, you know, we knew the result wouldn't be that bad. We've been really working in the off-season to get a car that works for me at this track. I think we did. It was a lot of tough luck for some other guys. I feel bad for T.K.
But we're thinking points this year. To be honest, that's right where we need to be. So we'll see.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Dan Wheldon, who finished third tonight. Dan is the winner of the last three races here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
So you're not really a stranger to doing well here. Talk us through your race.
DAN WHELDON: Well, the little rookie -- he's not a rookie any more. He's well experienced now. He's a veteran. I was following him for a lot of it.
But, you know, I think it's a tremendous team effort from everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. I was able to get up front pretty quickly, which was good. Actually on a long run, seemed to be very, very competitive. Just in that last stop, I lost a little bit of time. Unfortunately, that was kind of it. I gained one place 'cause of Tony's unfortunate situation.
But, you know, obviously pleased with the job that the team did. Sorry I wrecked the car yesterday. But, you know, good points at the first race is something you can build on. The last few years when I've won the first race, I haven't done particularly well in the championship. Maybe this is a good omen.
THE MODERATOR: A couple of comments from both drivers on the significance of this race tonight.
DAN WHELDON: Can we ask Marco about his 21st birthday (laughter)?
THE MODERATOR: Happy birthday.
DAN WHELDON: I will give out his phone number shortly afterwards.
THE MODERATOR: So this is a historic night. Talk us through tonight and your feelings about the significance of this race.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, no, it's definitely special. It's cool to see all the best drivers under one roof and the series combined. Now we just go from here. Tonight was, for myself and the team, like I said, right where we need to be because in our mind we're thinking championship. This is actually, for the team and definitely myself, as we saw in the last two years, a very difficult race. Definitely happy to be second.
DAN WHELDON: Well, what was the question again?
THE MODERATOR: The significance of the race tonight.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, you know, I think first and foremost the way that this unification happened, you should certainly give a lot of credit to Tony George, Kevin Kalkhoven and Brian Barnhart because I think it's been orchestrated in a very respectful manner to all parties.
Obviously it's last minute for some of the teams coming over to the IndyCar Series. And I think what -- certainly you can see with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing, KV Racing, we were trying to help them get up to speed as quickly as possible. I think, the way those guys performed was admirable. You could certainly see towards the end of the race that their pace had certainly picked up. So that was pretty impressive. I'm sure they're going to be fantastic at the road courses. You can't be shortsighted and think it's all going to be one way. I think certainly we can think of their method of thinking on the road courses because they're very familiar with the road courses.
I think all in all, it was a great race for open-wheel racing. I think everybody showed a lot of respect between one another. I think that will be good to build on.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take a couple of questions.

Q. Marco, I don't remember your exact quote about last year, but it was something about your car scared you basically. How much pleasure are you getting coming out of here with a second-place finish at a track that's been tough for you and the team?
DAN WHELDON: You should have seen some of the girls at his party, that would have scared you (laughter). I must be getting old.
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, I mean, you get that sense of a little bit of an accomplishment because, you know, we worked. Right after Chicago last year, I was ready to go into this race. So a little bit of redeeming to do, which all year I have that to do. You know, a little bit to prove still yet.
I really think not a bad job. I mean, coming from last year, like I said, our first goal was just to try to finish this race. Like I said, in the off-season we worked very hard, my engineer and I, the whole team, to try to come up with a setup that works here.
It looks like we did. The car was very good, very stable. It had some speed. So that's what we want.

Q. Dan, turns out that not only did your team finish 1 and 3, but your subsidiary team was the top transitional team with Oriol finishing 12th. Could you comment on that. You had to pass all these other guys to finish third. Could you critique the transitional guys.
DAN WHELDON: I mean, it's obviously very difficult to critique them. To be fair, I think you'd be doing an injustice to critique them because they're very new to this style of racing.
But I think drawing a positive from that, it shows where you've got new blood coming in, how difficult this style of racing is. It certainly looks very easy from your couch. But I think it definitely goes to show that the people involved are highly talented.
But I think what you've seen with these guys coming over is how talented they really are, and they're ability to learn very quickly. I saw Oriol Servia, who does happen to be driving for KV Racing, kind of is like our sister team, and towards the end of the race he seemed to be running a very good pace. So, you know, I think from that standpoint, like I say, I think this race was for them to be able to build on. I think they did a very, very good job.
But in terms of critiquing them, I think if you were to put a new Pro Series team together and to do a race in the IndyCar Series for the first time, I'm not sure that they would perform because I think a lot of those guys performed admirably, I really do.
In terms of coming through the field, obviously Chip wasn't happy that I had to start where I did because of what happened yesterday. But, again, you could tell that you were racing against people that are very talented and certainly are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the not-too-distant future.
I think every one of those guys should be very proud. We're going to have to keep working because I'm sure what's great about this merger is the fact you're going to get new methods of thinking, you're going to get new blood. So I think anybody that's currently in the IRL and the IndyCar Series for a long time, if they don't continue to build on what they know, the other guys are going to catch them pretty quick.
It's going to be a great series. I really think in time this series is going to be very strong, I really do, because there's some great names. Not everybody knows these names right now, but I'm sure in the future everybody will.

Q. Dan, yesterday after you hit the wall and the car came to a stop, you got out remarkably unscathed and you kept looking around the back. Did something appear to you to break?
DAN WHELDON: The only thing that broke I think was my concentration because I couldn't catch it. So maybe I am getting old (laughter).
But, no, the biggest thing for me, it's always easy to say now, but judging by the segment times I had on my dash, that was going to be a monster lap. I'm sure the other three would have been pretty good, too. I was looking at the back of the car praying to God that I would be able to use it today. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.
I think that goes to show the preparation that the team do. They wanted to make sure that we scored good points early on in the season.

Q. Marco, take us through that pass early in the race when you took the lead. Six inches on either side of the car and the wall over in turn four, take us through that.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, no, I had my eyes closed so I don't really remember either (laughter).
No, that was Scott Dixon that saved both of us really because at that point, if I had gotten out of it, my car was coming around, too. I had to just -- you know, I had to pass him on the high side. He wiggled all the way up. I wiggled with him. He got it up before we both hit the wall.
You know, it's one of those that you got to realize how fortunate you are and you move on.

Q. Last year the car was miserable. This year you have a car that can win the race. Talk about the dramatic difference in how everything has worked out for you.
MARCO ANDRETTI: We were working in the off-season. We were working right after this race last year because obviously we're competitive, we couldn't have been more disappointed after last year. So we just went to work all last year. I think we weren't going to be bad as Chicago actually if the suspension wouldn't have broke.
So by the end of last year, I think we kind of got our confidence back in the ovals and were, like I said earlier, I think right after Chicago last year, I was ready to try to come redeem myself here this year.
Even in the whole off-season, the testing, we were able to make it work.

Q. Any disappointment to lead 85 laps and still not get the victory?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, I mean, like I said, I'm a competitor so you want to win races. After my luck at this place the last couple years, I'll take second place.

Q. A stat flashed across the TV. You had more laps today than all of last year. How does that make you feel?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, good. I don't know. I mean, you know, like I say, we're not messing around this year. We've done a lot of work, like I said before. We're ready to go. I gained my confidence back on the ovals, which was our definite weak spot to start. And we're hopefully going to be strong next weekend, as are a lot of other people.
We just need to bring our A game, as I my engineer would say, every event.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations and thanks for coming in.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.

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