IZOD IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500 Bump Day
Topics: Indianapolis 500
May 23, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Tony, I don't really know where to start with, you and your week or that last bit of qualifying. I've been around here a long time. I don't think I've ever seen anything unfold like that did. It's one of the most amazing things I've seen. But amazing.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, it was -- I remember the first time I came to live in America. I live in Miami. And I remember one day I'm home and it was a day like this. And they said there was a hurricane coming the next day. I said this is America, the people are crazy. There's no way.
And the next day it was so nasty that I couldn't believe it. And that's what happened to me. It was beautiful days all week. I think we had a good car. We didn't have a shot for the pole. But we had a car to be in the top 9 easy. I was a little bit too greedy.
You live, you learn. And we crashed. And today was just a nightmare. I think we fixed the car. We didn't fix the car. We changed cars. And in my out lap after the leak check, we didn't know what happened.
Luckily, enough, if you have to crash, you crash slowly. And it was a crash that we were able to fix the car. And since then, obviously as you guys know, the preparation of the cars and the side part and the rear wing, it all really counts a lot for the speed.
I had the rear end of the Hunter race car, Danica's engine cover, Marco's front wing, and it didn't fit very well in the car, and that we knew we were going to lose some speed.
And apart from that, the conditions today were the hottest we've ever seen. The track was really slick. I saw everybody complaining. So it's tough to keep it cool and say: Yeah, we're just going to go out at 5:00. It's the last day. You're not in the field yet. Crashed two cars. And just stay cool. That's what Steve Horne was telling me the whole time.
And I did. I did. I believed it. Obviously it was a very emotional day. I'm not the type of guy -- I don't cry very easy. The other Brazilian does all the time (laughing). But it was a tough day for me. Every time I came out it was very emotional.
I mean, you have an idea how much the fans like you. And then I hear from you guys because you guys are out there and saying I'm the fans' favorite, this and that. And I never really paid a lot of attention. I always treat my fans really nice. But every time I came out here, it was amazing, driving to Pit Lane to make an attempt or to try my car again, how big the crowd cheered.
And that made me very emotional, and, again, it was a long day. Probably lost five days of my life today. Not a lot of hair anyway to lose. But here we are. I'm happy to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Tony Kanaan?
Q. Your team took some hits this week in terms of what's been said about them, in terms of preparation for the cars. What can you say about the team kind of rallying in a way to put your car out there today?
TONY KANAAN: I'm a team player, and I think you guys can tell that from day one when I drove five cars. I have nothing to say about my team but actually good things. Guys rebuilt three cars in 24 hours. That's preparation, if somebody has any doubt. I believe that somebody had rolled two cars off. I don't -- I can count them on one hand how many teams can rebuild that.
So sometimes the quick assessment, it's making under the heat of the moment, without people thinking. Sometimes it's making to cover some problems that you have. And I'm not here to judge anything, but I would never throw my team down. Those are the guys that stayed here until 2:00 in the morning yesterday. They were here 7:00 in the morning and at 9:30 they're rebuilding another one.
And they celebrate as hard as we did the pole in 2005 here, when I'm starting 32nd, so we're not lacking anything. If you're not capable -- (laughing) I know you fell for me. I'm always thinking of you. Congratulations to you guys, too.
So I believe that it's easy to blame people instead of waste your time blaming somebody, just go work, go to work and make it better. That's my opinion. I think I don't spend a lot of time complaining. Maybe I get home and I complain to my people and break my bus, but in front of them, those are the guys that are working so hard.
I don't believe somebody who wakes up in the morning and says, "Today I'm going to make the 11 car slower because I don't like Tony." That doesn't happen. We have very capable people. The team, it's one of the most winning teams in IndyCar. So we're not lacking anything. We're behind and we're going to work for it.
Q. You were talking about how frustrating or I guess how excruciating this day was, but you're normally in a position of waiting to see how your speed plays out on top of the charts. What was it like waiting to see how that last row, your speed, was going to hold up?
TONY KANAAN: I think in life you should experience many things. And I probably took for granted the last eight years I've been here. Never started worse than 6. You just saw when I saw Bryan, Bryan had one of these weekends where he was my teammate. Although I really felt for him at the time, I don't think I had an idea how bad this could be.
And, I don't know, I think I appreciate a lot more now many, many things, and I think it's normal you only appreciate some of the things after you go through it. And, I mean, I remember being here on the pole in 2005. I think I'm more excited today that I'm starting 32nd.
Q. You said that you were able to remain calm, I guess, throughout. I respectfully call bullshit. Seriously, you were able somehow to maintain your confidence and cool throughout that nonsense?
TONY KANAAN: I think I'm getting old. I'm 35 years old. I've been around a lot. And I think you learn from your experiences. I mean, I'm not 23 anymore. And I think I learned a lot with my teammates in the past. Bryan was one of the good ones. And days like this I do miss you, because you always have something good to say.
No, it's not bullshit. I'm not going to say, yeah, yeah, it was totally cool sitting in the garage; yeah, we have to wait until 5:00. No, of course not. But there's a difference of being calm and be aware of you might not make it then actually lose your composure and go out and crash again.
Because in the heat of the day, we made five attempts with five new set of tires, and I couldn't make it a single lap. I couldn't make the corners. The car was horrible. I was going to crash every lap, and I came back in. So I think I hold up pretty good. I mean, my girlfriend can say something different.
But it wasn't bullshit. It was cool. But it was not as cool as earlier sitting on the pole right now.
Q. Tony, on Friday we had you and P.T. sitting there, and it culminated in a love fest between you and P.T. Can you express what you feel Paul Tracy's feeling right now?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I feel bad for him. I mean, I think obviously it wasn't his decision. And I had a huge mixed feeling at the time because Bryan is a good friend of mine. Steve worked with me back in the days. We won our 12 hours of Sebring together. And these guys, if you have to pick what it's really like, my God, thank God I didn't have a lot of time to think about this.
And it wasn't his decision. And he was the one that got out of the car when I was in line to go to my first attempt and said: I think we're all safe. So I saw him walking out of the car. I thought, cool, he's in. I realized actually in my interview that he was out of it because I didn't even see it. Too bad. I think it was a bad call on their part. But that's racing.
Q. I know it's been a tough couple of days for you, but what kind of advice can you give Danica? She's had pretty much of a tough season. I think she really respects you a lot as the senior member on this team.
TONY KANAAN: She's calling me old already (laughing). Well, at closed doors we spoke a lot last night. I think she realized what she did. And we sometimes say things that we don't want to say and we regret.
I think my best advice to her, which I said that to her last night, is you gotta learn from the tough times and the same guys that she finished fifth in the championship last year and won her first race, they're still there. And those are the same people. And in racing besides having the good setup and a good car, I believe that your attitude counts a lot.
And she definitely needs to change her attitude. Not against the public or the fans or -- in herself. She's not happy herself right now. And I can understand that. I can relate to that, because I've been there. I had a terrible year last year.
But the best advice I said to her: Look, start having fun again. And when you wake up in the morning in your bus, and you can't wait to go to the racetrack and see your guys, it's the best feeling. But when you wake up in the morning and say, my God, I've got to drive a race car again, that's not good.
So I told her just go have fun. Think about it and have fun.
Q. Tony, talk us through what kind of day it's been for you emotionally with the accident this morning. I know we could see there was frustration getting that car back up to speed.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, obviously this morning was something that we didn't understand. And I totally get it when I'm trying as hard as I can to put the car in the top 9 and I hit the wall. But when I'm going at 211 miles an hour and I hit the wall, that's something wrong.
And we don't know what happened. And since then, it started to be a nightmare. Because we knew it was going to get a lot hotter. And the morning, when everybody -- or at noon when everybody went out for qualifying, it was a very, very good condition. It was only going to deteriorate from that.
So I knew I was going to have a long day. I knew I had to keep people around me calm because it's easy to lose it when you go out and you can't drive around, and especially I can't imagine what rookies go through when they're in situations like I was today, because I've never been like that.
So I knew exactly what was going on. And so I tried to calm my guys down and my engineer and they're trying to calm me down because it was like it's not the car. It's the same car that was doing 226 two days ago. And the track was a lot worse.
People are saying in racing you don't have a lot of friends. But I think I made a few. Some of the other drivers that don't even drive for us didn't tell me anything more than the feedback that the track was worse. That was enough for me to believe it. And we just waited it. We knew what we needed to get in.
At this point I wasn't trying to be the hero through, to be the 25th guy, because the conditions deteriorated, first of all. And we did have a plan already to probably go back to the other car anyway. So I was going to start last no matter what. And so now Bryan you're 32nd, I can tell you that.
Q. Although you had some speed out of your car, thought you might be a top 9 yourself, as a group you guys have been off. Here you struggled pretty mightily yesterday as an entire group. Are you spread too thin? Do you have any idea where -- I mean, you guys used to fight for first couple of rows?
TONY KANAAN: Remember the days, Bryan? Four cars in the top 10. All right. Go to Steak 'n Shake on Saturday night (laughing). Well, that is not an explanation. Obviously if we knew the explanation, it would be a lot easier because we were going to go and fix it. I think with the competition nowadays we're struggling. And at some point of this week I was the only hope of the team to make a good result.
We have some discrepancies inside the team between the drivers about the driving style and some people cannot drive my car or somebody else's car, which makes a huge difference. This is what we had when it was me, Dan and Bryan. That's not the same. That's not the case right now.
And Hunter, he struggled with his car all week. And he was the guy that we've been working together to get the results that we got until now. So I lost kind of like my wingman and then we all went separate ways.
So honestly I don't have the answer for you. I can tell you that, yeah, we're nowhere near the team that we were three years ago.
But everybody's working towards getting better, and that's all we can do. I mean, everybody, I think, has a phase in racing, and every team does. I remember Ganassi a few years back, and I remember Penske a few years back. And I guess it's our turn. Hopefully we'll turn it around sooner than later.
Q. As the most seasoned member of this team --
TONY KANAAN: There you go. There you go.
Q. Have you had to kind of keep the morale up? Just kind of tell them, look, just what you said about having to go through these periods and say okay, it's bad now but it's going to get better?
TONY KANAAN: It's part of my job. When Bryan was there, it was his job. And he was the oldest (laughing). But I'm just hitting on you, man. I actually gotta take it easier, your team, might hire me one day you never know.
I have to -- like I said I talked to Danica for two hours last night. And we need to -- but it's hard. In a month like this especially being so short nowadays, sometimes I don't think anybody wants to listen to anything. You just want to go do your thing.
But, yes, I've been keeping -- trying to keep everybody up. I've made sure that I drove the five cars in the first day to make sure they're all the same. We had a little bit of discrepancy on Ryan's car. We went ahead and fixed that. And that's it.
And I proved it again to them today, because they're all like, oh, my God, you're going to be so good and you're going to be top 9, this and that. Bryan was like, I don't know if I'm going to make it. John was like, oh, my God, I'm done, I'm not going to make it. And look who almost didn't make it.
So this place you can't make any decisions or any conclusions until today at 6:00. So I think it was a message there for them, for the young ones, and so that's my role on the team. I'll try to keep everybody up.
Q. Congratulations, Grandpa.
TONY KANAAN: You're going to call me during the week, can we do this interview? I'm going to hang up on you, don't worry about it (laughing).
Q. T.K., normally you would have preferred spending today working on your race setup instead you spent all day trying to get in the field. Do you think your team will have the time to get that nose and the engine cover and everything massaged to get you that last bit of speed? Because you don't have much time to work on a race setup now.
TONY KANAAN: The good thing is that my race setup was done Thursday. I was extremely happy. Lucky thing for us, today wasn't a good day to do that. Because you can get really confused. I think that's why you saw a lot of the teams not even doing that, trying to judge just in case we get this type of weather on race day.
I had some of my teammates running for me, which for the first time we did have a very similar setup for the race. So I know more or less.
To answer your question about the car, that car that was damaged yesterday, it was not going to be built on time for today. But that car will be back for the race. So on the side parts and everything, I gotta give all this stuff back to everybody. And I'll get my stuff when, you know, during this week.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
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