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IndyCar Series: Iowa Corn Indy 250

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Iowa Corn Indy 250

IndyCar Series: Iowa Corn Indy 250

Dan Wheldon
June 22, 2008


THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations.
Dan Wheldon, Target Chip Ganassi, congratulations on winning the Iowa Corn 250. Your thoughts on the victory.
DAN WHELDON: I think first and foremost, it was an amazing turnout with the devastation that's gone on in the state of Iowa. I think as you guys know, Scott and I certainly learnt a great deal from the giving that Target gives to different charities. If anybody knows Chip Ganassi, he's renowned for being a considerably tough boss. But in situations like this, he's very, very heartfelt, he really is. Like I say, Scott and I have learnt a lot from that. We wanted to be able to give something back. I mean, it's very small in the grand scheme of things, but we were very proud on this day to be able to do something. So hopefully it put a smile on their faces.
The crowd was absolutely unbelievable. It seemed packed and it seemed busy all weekend. Hopefully it took their minds off some of the devastation and certainly put a smile on their faces.
It was an exciting race for me. It put a smile on mine, that's for sure. It was a great race from everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. We worked hard. We had a little bit of misfortune in practice when Bruno Junqueira's suspension broke. I kind of got collected in that. From the time the guys rolled out the spare car, it was very fast.
Had a couple ups and downs in the race. Kind of got caught up on the outside of Tony which kind of put me in the grey. Nearly got me caught up in the wall there. But was able to survive that and marched on.
I will say that Firestone had a great tire for this weekend, certainly on our car. In the first practice, we worked out that we could do pretty much about a hundred laps comfortably at high speed. Actually, to be honest, when I had new tires, I was more loose than when I had old ones. I was definitely keen to stay out. The Honda definitely gets great fuel economy. It's very fast. At the end we were able to hold Hideki at bay.
THE MODERATOR: Second win of the season. How does it stack up with your other one?
DAN WHELDON: I'm one behind Scott so I need to keep going.
No, this was a very special weekend as well, to be able to win. Barry Wanser, who is the man on my radio, one of the team managers at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, his brother unfortunately passed away just a couple of days ago. So I know during this race, it was pretty emotional for him. To be able to win, as well, for Barry's brother, you know, was something that I think will bring a smile to his face. I'm sure Barry's brother is up there looking down on Barry very proud. Barry's, he's a great guy. Even when the car looks absolutely demolished, he always turns around and says, Don't worry, boss, you'll be out in the next practice session, it's not an issue.
It's probably a more special race just because of the two tragedies that we've had.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. How physical was the event out there?
DAN WHELDON: You know, I got caught up with John Andretti. I'm not sure if he knew where I was. All I could see -- I mean, I was in the gray coming out of four. His car just kept coming. You know, eventually I got to the point where I had to turn left, but I know I was in the gray a lot because the rear got loose and I think I hit him. That was pretty hairy. I think my teammate was just really struggling with his car. Behind him I had a couple of loose moments.
It's one of those races where you had to be patient. Everybody seemed pretty good for the first 10, 15 laps, then they started to tail off. I will say, when I had new tires, my car was really, really loose for those first four, five laps on them. You know, I was so glad they kept me out because on the restarts I knew I'd be good. Whenever I had new tires, I was terrible.
So it was physical but, you know, it wasn't too bad. I think everybody maintained respect. I did nearly crash with Tony, too. I just had a hairy weekend. It's been one of them. You know, he ran very -- I think he knew I wanted the high line. He ran very, very high into one, you know, kind of pushed me up in the gray there. That's racing, as they say.

Q. You crash in practice, you got what is probably a pretty good result at Texas, then you come back and win. How are you feeling from the aftermath of Texas and how strange is it to have that kind of thing and you come out and win a race?
DAN WHELDON: It's been tough on my body because that one wasn't a particularly big hit here, but certainly Texas was the biggest hit I've had. But, you know, it's difficult because it puts a lot of stress on the guys because we've got six weekends - five more now consecutively - and when those things happen it does set you back a little bit. The guys worked so hard to give both Scott and I very, very good racecars. There's tricks that they do on these cars. Obviously it's legal, but it takes a lot of time. It sets us back.
So it's unfortunate. But being part of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, you know, it's a team that definitely can bounce back from situations like that. I think that's certainly what's helping Scott and I right now.

Q. When they told you when the caution came out to stay out, what did you think at that time?
DAN WHELDON: Listen, if you were driving my car on new tires, I looked up and said, Please, thank God, thank God. I was just incredibly loose. I don't know like why it was so bad. But I think, as you could see from the next few restarts that I had on tires that were slightly warm, it was great. The car was very comfortable. Was able to run through one and two flat out without any issues at all. Still a little loose. I had to run a slightly higher line than I would have liked. Once I heated up, I was able to bring it down.
Chip's not here, so if they'd have called me in, I might have pretended I didn't hear and stayed out, because it was real loose. Just kidding, Chip (laughter).

Q. Then when Tony had his incident, did you think you were home free at that point in terms of fuel?
DAN WHELDON: It looked a pretty big accident just from the debris. I knew if I saved as much as I could that I should be okay. Actually, the team told me that. But they wanted to make sure we had some spare fuel. I don't think they wanted to cut it too close. So we saved fuel for a little bit. I think they knew the problems I was having on restarts, so they really worked at giving me a little bit of time to heat the tires up. That certainly worked. Although Brian didn't give me one of my restarts, when I had a real good jump. It seemed to definitely work much better when my tires were warm. The more laps I did, the better it was for me.

Q. Tell us about Hideki Mutoh. Were you surprised to see him behind you fighting for the win?
DAN WHELDON: He's been quick all weekend. I've somewhat been in his situation before. Honda have obviously played a big part in my career. That relationship continues. That's a relationship that I'm very proud of. It's just different now because everybody has exactly the same horsepower, so that makes it a lot more competitive. By the same token, you know, it makes the series more fun to watch.
I know he's one of the guys that Honda have supported. Obviously, he's an Andretti Green driver now. Earlier on in his career they wouldn't have shown him support if he wasn't talented. Just as of late, he really seemed to kind of show his worth. He drove well, as well.
The track has definitely lost grip from last year. It's definitely got more bumpy. The bumps are harsher now. You know, he was pushing me to that low line, and my car wasn't working quite as well as I would have liked on the low line, but I had to make it work. I think he could see that. That was smart of him that he picked up on that real quick.
You know, he's under the guidance of Brazilian Boy Wonder, so I'm sure he's going to learn pretty quickly.

Q. From your seat, how much better was the racing this year as opposed to last year?
DAN WHELDON: Well, I made it through the first corner this year, so that was kind of nice. Or really just, I think.
I think from a driving standpoint, it was much nicer, because last year was processional. That's why everybody was crashing on the starts and restarts. That was the only time you could overtake.
This year, as the stint went on, people's cars went off and you were able to overtake. So that's the kind of racing we like. I think it's sad to say we don't really like the tracks that are easily flat out. I think Brian Barnhart has been working hard on giving us an aerodynamic package. Some of the tracks are easy in qualifying, but I think they will become pretty difficult in the race. That's what we like. That's what we were disappointed about last year. It wasn't really a race. The person that sat on the bottom won, unless you tried to go crazy at the start, which I did, and paid the price, or on restarts.

Q. There were some parts of the race where IV was up in the top five and you were behind him. How much improvement has he made?
DAN WHELDON: The biggest thing that he was doing, he seemed to have clean air because nobody dared go high as him. At the start of the race, I was going around people on the high side. But when I got shuffled back, he was about another lane higher. I was impressed with how brave he was.
But, you know, it definitely shows the biggest thing with the series right now, it is so competitive. It just shows if you have confidence in your car, you can put it in places that other people can't. With there being so many cars, if you can do that, you can get through the pack pretty quick, and he did a pretty good job of doing that. He was running the high line all weekend. He made that work for him. It made him able to overtake a lot of the cars in the race.
It's just one of those things. You need to get on a roll. Like Scott's been on such a roll. When everything goes for you in this business, you know, even when you make wrong decisions, they turn out to be the right decisions. It's about getting on that roll. So hopefully we can do that now. I hope for him he gets on one, too.

Q. You're saying you prefer when you don't have as much traction, and that makes for better racing. Talk about what you saw as the keys to your -- you talked about being loose a lot.
DAN WHELDON: Just on the starts.

Q. Talk about what the keys to your victory were.
DAN WHELDON: You know, I mean, you've got to bear in mind -- I'm getting older, and I sound old when I say this, I'm not Marco's age any more, though I'll tell everybody I am. It's one of those things where, you know, from a safety standpoint you can't be sliding around everywhere, particularly when there's so many cars on the track, the amount of dirty air you'll get from that. But there's a fine line.
Last year you needed to be around two and a half miles an hour quicker than the car to pass around the high line. That wasn't the case this year. That had dramatically reduced, so it made for better racing. The fans don't want to see a procession. They want to see side-by-side, entertaining racing where the cars are on the edge, but in a safe manner. That seemed to be the case this year.
Firestone worked hard on giving us a tire that had a good level of grip, was consistent, and also, you know, one that provided entertaining racing for the fans.
In terms of the keys to victory, obviously staying out was good because for me my car just was so loose on new tires. Obviously it didn't matter how old the tires were, my pace was still very fast. I could still overtake cars. But just I lost a lot of ground on new tires. So staying out was important. Just making sure I had good restarts on the older tires, which to be honest, it was great on the restarts with warm tires.

Q. Everybody talks about the big three. Through eight races, there's just a big one. You have won five times already. Are you surprised?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, 'cause it is so competitive. Although we've won five races, we've worked really, really hard for them each time. The team work really hard. I'm not saying other teams don't, but they work really hard on giving Scott and I incredibly competitive equipment because it is so close.
One of the engineers in the engineering group at Target Chip Ganassi Racing said that if we did a certain something for the race, it would only lose us two-hundredths of a second, but it would do something in another area. When you're talking hundredths of seconds and you've got the guys working all the time to give us competitive equipment, it really does make a difference.
I think Scott and I really kind of feed off that. There's still a long way to go in the championship. Like we talk about, I've been around this business long enough to know now if you get on a roll, everything's great. But if you're not on that roll, it's really difficult. We've got to kind of maintain that momentum. There are going to be a lot of cars that are going to be competitive. Penske is renowned for being competitive at Richmond. We have to work real hard in our practice sessions to make sure we can try and be the competitive cars and race out front because it's much easier out front than it is in the middle of the pack.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, congratulations.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.

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