October 16, 2005
THE MODERATOR: We have our third place finisher, Vitor Meira. For Vitor, it was his seventh top-five finish of the year. Vitor, tell us about your day.
VITOR MEIRA: The car was really good. I had a real good restart from 13th till seventh or sixth without a mistake. Then the track kept changing on us, just because of what had happened overnight, the rain, after the qualifying, after the warm-up. Again, it was just fine adjustments, nothing that some bars, with jack or a little bit more wing couldn't solve. That's what we did the whole race long. Little clicks here, little turns there. The car started again real good and finished real good. I take it as a good result when you take everything that the car has to give you. I think we took advantage of everything that the car had. I mean, Tony and Dario, they were real quick. I had to change something major to keep up with them, and honestly, I don't know what. That's how good my car was. I could run everywhere. Just wasn't as fast as theirs. We're still 1, 2, 3, 4 for Honda. Being their hometown basically with HPD and all that, I think it's going to be a good season-ending for them and for us.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Now you're sitting here in third place. I believe you were third at Indianapolis, as well, or second. See, nobody remembers.
VITOR MEIRA: I do.
Q. Now you're sitting here by yourself. The season is over. Talk about how your complete season has been and what is going on for you for next year.
VITOR MEIRA: We had a lot of ups and downs. I mean, we had a lot of ups and downs. But all the races, every race we had, we were at the track and without any mechanical or electrical problems. I think we had a top-five car. I mean, again, the win didn't happen this year, but we gave a really good chance for it. Again, every race I was one of the top guys at Rahal Letterman Racing. It was a very good year with a lot of ups and downs, but still a good year.
Q. And for next year?
VITOR MEIRA: I don't know yet. I'm not signed. We'll see what happens. Now is time to work. Is that time of the year, as everybody knows.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Tony Kanaan. Tony, give us your reaction on your run today.
TONY KANAAN: It was a long day. I think we had a good car all race long. Everybody was struggling a little bit. A couple people got a little crazy, but I think this is oval racing.
VITOR MEIRA: It wasn't me.
TONY KANAAN: All of us (laughter). I think we raced each other pretty hard. Towards the end, was a shame. I really don't know what happened. Either I missed a shift. Either I pressed the wrong button. They reckon I pressed the pit lane speed limit instead of the overtake. I'm not very happy about that. My teammate won the race, so it's not that bad. I finished second in the championship. It's not bad either.
THE MODERATOR: And you announced a sponsorship renewal.
TONY KANAAN: We announced a sponsorship. I'll still be selling Big Gulps next year and Slurpies (laughter). It was a good day for us. Today's race I think is a good day for Dario. Unfortunately, we couldn't win.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions for either driver right now.
Q. Vitor, do you feel snake-bit? You've been the best guy not to win this year.
VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, I mean, again, as I said many times, all you can do is take the best of the car. I think in many races we had the best that the car had to give us, and that's all you can do: work hard and let it happen. You can't force the thing. I mean, it's going to happen when it's going to happen. You can't push more. I can't push more than I'm pushing. I can't work more than I'm working. Again, it's going to happen when it's going to happen. We're giving a good chance in many races to make it happen. If it's a compliment being the best guy there without a win, I would look for the positive side and take the compliment.
Q. TK, do you expect us to believe you didn't lift? It sure sounded like you lifted.
TONY KANAAN: It's my word against yours (laughter). You take that up. You can only believe what I say, like I believe what you say, too - sometimes.
THE MODERATOR: Do you believe what he writes?
TONY KANAAN: I like him. He's okay (laughter).
Q. Speaking of believing what you say, explain this up-shift button to us.
TONY KANAAN: There's two buttons. Obviously, the overtake and the pit lane. Basically you press the pit lane. It cuts immediately the engine to be able to bring you down to speed, to 60 miles an hour. The overtake is supposed to move you forward. It had happened in Watkins Glen as well in my out-lap. Basically, that's how it works. Basically, when you press it, it cuts the engine. I'm trying to pass the guy, I'm going ahead of the guy. Obviously, I can't get into details on the overtake because that's a Honda thing. You have many seconds' worth of the overtake. That does something to the engine, it can't hold for a full lap. It's either 10 to 15 seconds. Obviously, you wait till the last minute to do that, to be able to pick up more power and win the race.
Q. Different area?
TONY KANAAN: Completely. One on the left, the other one on the right.
Q. It's a hell of a mistake, isn't it?
TONY KANAAN: It is. What can I say? People make mistakes.
Q. May we talk F1. Did you have your Honda ride?
TONY KANAAN: Yes, I did. It was a hell of a ride.
Q. Tell us about it.
TONY KANAAN: We did only 40 laps in the day out of the 150 I had left. Unfortunately, we had a mechanical problem. But I had a blast. I think I need to thank them to make my dream come true, driving an F1 car. First couple laps, I almost blew my hat off. I was very impressed with the speeds and the braking and everything. I got really good treatment. Obviously, I would have loved to have run more. Everybody was a bit sad that I had to stop around 2:00 in the afternoon. It wasn't a test. It was a gift. There is nothing into it beyond that. I have a contract until 2008 with my team. I am not going to Formula One. I'm very happy here. When you're happy somewhere, you don't want to go anywhere.
Q. Can Honda F1 win a title in the next two years?
TONY KANAAN: You're asking a tough question because my best friend is driving for them now, from next year on, so I really hope so. I think he's very capable. He had a very, very hard time against Schumacher. I think he needed a new house. He needed a Honda family to try to cheer him up. I really hope so. Honda had proved that they can do it. Now, they're going to have a lot of work to do? Yes. I already told him after I drove his car before he did. But, you know, with Gil there, Rubens, Jensen, they are going to be good.
Q. Do you think, yourself aside, anybody on the grid today might want to be in Formula One perhaps?
TONY KANAAN: I think so. Why not? I mean, if you ask Vitor, if he doesn't have a ride now, if they give him a ride in Formula One, I'm pretty sure he would go.
Q. What do you say, Vitor?
VITOR MEIRA: Yeah.
Q. Tony, second in the championship this year, won it last year. How much fun are you having in this type of racing?
TONY KANAAN: This series, I'm having fun. This type of racing, I don't know if I really like to do three, four times a year. Maybe two. On the league, I think I'm having a lot of fun with my team. We built something very special. We, all of us, will never forget what we have. I for sure wake up in the morning, I have a pleasure to go to work and to meet my guys and to spend time with them because I fully trust them a hundred percent, that whatever I do, I'm going to be supported. I don't have to prove anything to anybody inside that team any more. I have a teammate that won six races this year, Indianapolis and the championship. I don't feel that any people are treating me any different because I haven't won again. We all got the same treatment from the owners, from the mechanics. I'm having a lot of fun. I think I found my place. That's where I wanted to be, otherwise I wouldn't have signed until 2008. I told Michael today, when Honda announced they're going to stay until '09, can we extend my deal maybe for one more year? I told Michael, as today, I want to be able to retire racing for him. Probably they stuck with me. I'll be part of the furniture in the shop because I'm not retiring any time soon.
Q. Tony, I know you and Dario and anybody who raced with Greg always carries him in your heart. Does coming here bring that closer to the surface?
TONY KANAAN: Always. We do still keep a very close relationship with Rick. This place, it's kind of mixed feelings for me. I mean, constant I remember about Greg. I mean, rushing my scooter to the paddock, if you guys remember, he got run over that day. I'm wondering when I'm crossing the Marlboro Team Penske hospitality, it's a blind corner. I'm like, Am I going to get hit as well? All of a sudden Greg comes alive. I won my championship here last year. I won my last championship here in '97. This place gave me a lot of joy. But for sure gave me one of the most disappointment times of my racing career, if not the most. Obviously, losing my dad was a big one, but losing Greg for sure. Just me and Dario, we know what we went through. We know the nights that we sleep here in this racetrack, what we remember. He's up there somewhere. Hopefully he's laughing his ass off for sure.
Q. In light of Greg's passing here, it obviously doesn't affect the way people drive here. The driving here could be called dangerous, moving around a lot, really close together. How do you mentally temper those two things?
TONY KANAAN: You don't think about it. If you do, you don't race. I mean, for sure a lot of people out there, I don't think they saw Greg's accident, otherwise they wouldn't be driving the way they're driving. You give a race car to a race car driver, they want to race. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm not saying people are crazy. I just think sometimes they go overboard. We're lucky. We're lucky that God is watching us because it could be a lot worse. So close racing like this can cause big accidents. We've been extremely capable to build cars that if we crash, they will hold the amount of crash and safe walls and all this stuff to make it better. It's definitely you try not to think about it
Q. Last year, Tony, you won the title. This year Dan did. How close do you think Dario is to probably being a guy who can be up there celebrating the championship next year?
TONY KANAAN: I think he's very close. I mean, Dario for sure raised his game the past two years. Had some misfortunes this year, but that's how it goes. I think if he get it right, he's close to win the championship. He's definitely capable of it. It's so hard to do. You ask me. I was in the contention for three years in a row and I only won one. I think it's going to be tough. He's growing, growing and growing, and getting old as well (laughter). He better do it sooner or later before he retires. But I think Dario definitely next year is going to be very strong. That's the beauty of our team. We can't sleep in peace because I know my teammates are going to be very tough to beat next year.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much. We're ready to get started with Danica Patrick. Danica, if you l tell us about your day.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, it started out okay. I don't think we necessarily were the fastest people out here, fastest car, but we were able to kind of hold our own. You know, I had a comfortable car, which means we might have had too much drag or something like that, that could have been the reason. I had a tough time catching people. You know, I'd make progress, capitalize from lap traffic or from people catching each other, slowing up. I was inching my way forward. Sometimes I lost some places when I made pit stops, had to do it all over again. It seemed like I was going around in this vicious circle with the pink cars. Lazier was a problem all day, he's been a problem for years. I complained so many times on the radio about him. He was all over the place. That's eventually what happened in the end, is that I was a little bit ahead of him, his driving all over the place, ended up in the side of me. Needless to say, I'm mad. I did not want to end the season this way. I didn't deserve to end the season this way. I probably should stop talking.
THE MODERATOR: Danica, let me ask you in general, recap the year, what you felt about your performance this year.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I think it was a good year, you know. I mean, of course, it's difficult for me to say that right now, having ended up in the wall and had a horrible day today. I went into the season hoping that I would be Rookie-of-the-Year, hoping I would be Rookie-of-the-Year at Indy, hoping that I would have successes, hoping that I would make progress each and every race. I feel like that's what I did. So I walk away from the year saying, "Yeah, I did what I hoped, what I potentially expected from the year." Now, I'm not happy, though. But that's why I'm here. That's why I believe I will stay here is 'cause that's not good enough. Three poles wasn't good enough. I was frustrated in qualifying because we missed the gears a little bit. I thought, "Shoot, I could have had the rookie record for poles." There's always more out there and you have to want that more out there. Just being satisfied with what happened isn't going to necessarily make any more history.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. How is your elbow? Have you seen the replay?
DANICA PATRICK: I have not actually.
Q. I guess somebody else might need glasses to make the comments they've made.
DANICA PATRICK: What have the comments been?
Q. They seem to think it was your fault, that you were not giving him enough room. It didn't look that way to us.
DANICA PATRICK: Thanks. You know, I know that we were getting very racy at the end. Everybody knew it was the last 25 laps of 2005, and they were putting it all out there. So everybody was getting a little bit more racy, like I said. I was definitely giving my wheel to him down the back straight, but that's no different than what I get from lap three, lap 10, lap 50 of the race. People go down the straight and try to intimidate you. So that's what I did. But in the corners is a different story. You have to play safe or that's when you have things like that happen out there. By no means was I trying to crash. Oh, my gosh. No, I'd rather finish sixth than fifth, than chop someone down. Like I said, I haven't seen the replay. I thank you for the way you saw it. Really all I can go off of is that I was frustrated all day with him.
Q. Do you feel from the competitors that some of the criticism that they give you is almost like below-the-belt comments? Chip said you were damn dangerous, which is ironic considering he had Ryan Briscoe.
DANICA PATRICK: Kind of ironic that he's done how many millions of dollars in damage at that Team Target team? Yeah, okay. I think they've crashed every race.
Q. A co-owner at Watkins Glen referred to it as a "Princess Mobile." Do you feel they've gone below the belt with you, more so if it had been another rookie?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, probably. I've had a lot of attention. I think that they're looking -- I'm sure the people are looking for things to talk about. You know, staying in the media for various reasons isn't always the worse thing in the world. I definitely have my strong beliefs. I believe that the people around me and the people that are important do, too. Those are the people, meaning sponsors and team owners, as long as they are with me, then I'm going to keep driving.
TONY KANAAN: Danica, I love you. Don't worry about it.
DANICA PATRICK: Tony, good job this year. See ya later. That's very nice. I feel like those guys have definitely had their tough times with me. He had his comments at Chicago. Like I touched on with him at Chicago, you know, he had a frustrating day. He kind of lost the championship that day. I'm not going to hate him for it.
Q. Are you going to miss us?
DANICA PATRICK: Am I going to miss you guys? I went into the medical center and I said, "I just want to see everybody before I left for the year, say bye." You know, I made a comment to somebody else, too, joking around, saying, "So like in two months am I going to walk out of my house and go, where is the media, what happened, am I a loser now?" No, it's going to be a needed break. It's going to be important to get away for a little while. I don't know, it depends on what kind of Christmas card or gift you send me. I'm just kidding (laughter).
Q. Won't be much, trust me.
DANICA PATRICK: No, you guys, I will say this, I've been really fortunate this year to stay with what I think is good terms with all of you. That's incredibly important. And I worked my butt off to try to do as well as can I out on the track and to try and give you guys what you need and to try to give you the time that I can. So thank you for all the good words that you guys have said or written about me. It can make and break someone.
Q. Early in the year, they kind of give you the kid-glove thing. That's off. Do you feel the respect from that?
DANICA PATRICK: That's what happens when you get rid of those three stripes there a little bit on the back. That's what happens when people get comfortable with you, when they respect you, when they know the limits with you. I think you can race a little bit harder where, you know, someone new comes to the series and you're not quite sure where they're going to be on the track or how they drive or how defensive they are, you play it safe. I think the fact that everybody's using up all the space around me means that they're getting used to me and that they trust me, that they respect me. So it's not the worst thing in the world. Yeah, it's okay.
Q. If you were going to give yourself an employee evaluation, where were you strong, not tracks, but general ability, and where are your weaknesses, and what are you going to do to improve them for next year?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that, you know, my strengths are definitely, first and foremost determination, to make everything right. I think my strengths are consistency, perseverance. I'm not the kind of person that gets frustrated when something goes wrong or I drop back or something happens. I think that's important because you can't go through thousands and thousands of miles in a season and not have things go wrong, so that's valuable. I think that my communication with the car and to my engineer are good. I think they're simple, good, straightforward terms that we can make good advances with the car, keep it simple. You can overcomplicate things in this sport very easily. You know, I think that my racing has definitely gotten a lot better. I think that I have become much more intuitive with the car and how it changes throughout the race and kind of what I need to do for a full tank to the empty tank, from beginning of the race to the end of the race, just feeling how the track is changing. So I think that I'm adapting to the car very well. I think that the things that need to be worked on are, you know, we need to work on the road courses. I think that was an obvious one this year. You know, I need some more time there. I think that progressing in the same direction with the on-track stuff, racing will be good. I think we could get a little help from the car, from Panoz, from them, trying to get some aerodynamic things that should let us be more racy with the Dallaras. I think that would help. I think -- I mean, I said a lot of things that are strengths, but I think that overall you can grow in every area. You can get better all over the place. That's why drivers keep getting better over the years, to a certain point. But, you know, it's a never-ending learning process, and things become more instinctive as you go along. That in itself is valuable just to be able to stay relaxed and kind of have everything be second nature.
THE MODERATOR: Danica, thank you very much.
DANICA PATRICK: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our race winner Dario Franchitti. Dario, this is your second race win this season, won previously at Nashville. Last year he also won two races at Pikes Peak and Milwaukee. He started in the Indy top 10, 16 of 17 races this season and finishes fourth in the IndyCar Series points standings. Dario, if you would, tell us about your day.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It all came down to that last, as usual, two feet, didn't it? I don't know what Tony told you guys. He hasn't really told me much. But it looked like he lifted.
Q. (No microphone.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know. I just know we worked very well to pull away from the other guys together. I'll get to the bottom of it. I'll ply him with alcohol tomorrow night and I'll get the answer out of him.
Q. (No microphone.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Probably not. It was a tough day. I mean, we went out to start with and I thought we had a reasonably quick car, but we were very, very loose this morning in warm-up, so we did some changes to that, slowed it down a bit. Again, made it more consistent. We just struggled with understeer a bit. We slowly worked on that as the day went on. My pit crew did a fantastic job, just got me in and out very quickly every time. We didn't make any mistakes. That's what it came down to. The old engine in the back certainly didn't hurt things. But I'll tell you, really, it was a handling track. You think somewhere as big and wide open as Fontana, it would be all about the horsepower, but it's really a combination of the two. You have to get the car handling right, because as soon as the car starts sliding a bit, you lose a lot of lap times. That's what we saw towards those last couple of laps, the car was starting to slide. It's a hard (indiscernible) race.
Q. Just the way you presented that a minute ago, it sounded like until you hear from Tony, it almost feels like a little bit of a letdown win. Do you feel like that at this point? You dominated the last segment of the race at least. Does it feel a little bit bittersweet?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It feels bittersweet for other reasons. As far as Tony, as I say, I'll get to the bottom of it. It's a difficult one. I really don't know at this point. If he lifted, I'm sure he would say. Maybe he did hit the pit lane, I don't know. I'll get to the bottom of it. You know, I did my best. As I say, we worked very well as teammates pulling away. There's a couple times last year where I helped him out, when he was going for the championship. Maybe he did lift, I don't know. Either way...
Q. The race seemed almost combative at some points. Give your aspect on how the driving was going on out there today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was surprised. To me today, it was one of the cleaner races. There was one point today when Hornish tried to push me below the white line when he was a lap down. A part from that, no. Otherwise, I was racing with him a lot as well, and he was clean for 99% of the race. There was just that one incident. Luckily, I managed stay close to the front all day. I think it might have been a bit different, as it normally is, mid pack. That's where the excitement generally happens.
Q. Tony pretty much said that you were kind of serving notice that you could win the title next year. The way the season went for you this year, except for a few mistakes, Dan's dominance, you may have established yourself as the next Andretti Green driver to win a title.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think on pace, we had the pace all year to do it. As you said, I made a couple mistakes. The guys made a couple mistakes. We had some pretty bad luck. If we can iron out those problems, we'll challenge for a championship. If we can't, we'll do the same as we did this year. But I think I have the equipment to do it and the desire to do it, so we'll see what happens.
Q. For argument's sake, say he did lift. What does that tell you about respect and the friendship you have as teammates?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Tony is a very strange character. You probably noticed that. But Tony is either the most generous guy you'll ever meet or one of the most selfish, and there's very rarely a middle ground with Tony. I think he's entirely capable of doing it, probably. And I have to say, I would do the same for him. If the roles were reversed, I would do the same for him. That's the relationship we have, and have had for a long time, so...
Q. Put this race in perspective of the passing of your friend Greg Moore at this track, especially this facility when you come in here.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's probably the first thing I think about when I say, "Okay, Fontana coming up next." You go through the gates. He's never far from my mind any time really, but when we're here especially. It was nice to win here today, but it will never bring him back. You know what I mean? And it never will make up for 1% of the loss. It was just nice to go out and win that last race at this track and fight it out with Tony, who was another one of Greg's best friends.
Q. You made the comment that Tony is a little strange. I noticed last night at the autograph session, he left a little sooner than you did, and I noticed he took the key out of your scooter. I don't think that makes him strange or does it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Doesn't make him strange, but it does mean I will have to get him back. Luckily he did leave me the key for his bike. I think he was expecting me to panic. I had a lift back to the paddock. Another one in a line of practical jokes.
Q. You've come close to a championship here, too, which was overshadowed by what happened that day. Going into next year, does this make your temperature go to 108 degrees to go and get a championship?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, makes no difference. I mean, this year I was pushing so hard for the championship. After the results we had in the first couple of races, it was difficult to see that championship happening. We had the problem with the engine at Homestead, had the fuel cell problem in St. Pete, two dominant cars. We had my mistake in Japan, another dominant car. It was difficult from that point, from then on. But I became a bit of a pain within the team. I was really not happy with the way things were going. So I've lightened up considerably. But I will push very hard for that championship next year. At this stage of my career, there's no point. For me, there's no point in showing up unless you're going to give a hundred percent.
Q. Speaking of practical jokes, whatever happened to that bike that you sawed in half at Indy?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm still waiting for my 50% of it. That was the deal. I sawed it in half. He takes half, puts in it his house, I take half and put it in mine. Although, I did buy a picture the other night. I paid $400 bucks for this picture of Tony and his dog, which I'm going to put in the bathroom of my new house. That was money well-spent.
Q. Did you have to pay for the bike?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yes.
Q. How much?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. But it was worth it.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Michael Andretti. Can you comment on Dario's victory?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Was an awesome day. I'm very happy for Dario. I know it was important for him to win here. I think it shows what this team is about, teamwork. The way those two worked together to get away from the pack, him and Tony, that's what this is all about. They had each other's back all the time. You know, when everybody works as one, we get the results. That's what we've been having all year. It's been just a dream.
Q. Adrian did it last year, the donuts in turn two. Is that becoming like a tradition? When one of Greg's friends wins here, a way to keep him part of the victory?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah. It seemed like a cool thing to do last year. Last year was completely spur of the moment. I saw Tony going down there. I thought, "Hey, I know what he's thinking." So we did it. This year I just wanted a couple of minutes just to hang out there.
Q. Michael, what is your perspective on that last hundred yards?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know what happened. It looked like it was going to be really close, and it was. I don't know. I didn't get a chance to really ask Tony what the deal was. I don't know. It was close. I didn't know who won there at first. It was good. That's what it's about.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I didn't. They were going for the win, both of them. Dario just came out ahead.
Q. Michael, a lot of years you raced, Roger Penske's guys were winning all the races and championships.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, that was no fun. This is more fun.
Q. Do you feel now you're actually in a position like he was, to where people are kind of rooting against you because you are stinking up the show sometimes?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I guess sometimes, you know. I think when I was winning my races and stuff, I think I got more boos than I did cheers. When I started not winning races, I was ever getting cheers. I think I like those boos better because you're winning races. It means you're winning races. That's what it's about. I think that's just the way -- the American way sometimes, root for the underdog. It just comes with it. But I've been here before. It's not going to last forever, so we got to enjoy it now while we can.
Q. A couple times I heard on the PA system that while you were under caution, when you started to heat up the car, so forth, all of your cars had smoke coming out.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know exactly. The Hondas, they have something where it does it. Has to get the back pressure. Spills some oil out through the back and burns it.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Spooling up to make all that horsepower.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, thank you very much. Congratulations on your win.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon. Dan, if you would, first off tell us about your day today.
DAN WHELDON: It was a little bit difficult. It just goes to show you that certainly the Klein Tools Jim Beam boys always, under very difficult circumstances, always try very, very hard. That showed today. I had a very difficult car to start the race. We actually were understeering really bad, gradually dropped to the back of the pack. Once kind of in the middle of the pack, it worked out better if I was right at the back because I could actually continue at a much higher speed without the risk of hitting the wall. We dropped to the back, caught a lucky yellow, made some changes to the car, which helped the handling. Just didn't quite have enough today. I think I went a little skimpy on downforce, which can hurt you on these super speedways.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, reflect on the championship, going back to the month of May.
DAN WHELDON: It's been a very happy season. There's no doubt about it. I think everybody at Andretti Green Racing has showed how every person in the team, I mean, there's some people that don't come to the races that put in an incredible amount of effort, and they're all very talented at what they do. They come together as four units but one team, give us race cars where you've got four drivers that get along very well, can bring good results. For me, I realized the dream in winning the Indianapolis 500. That's something that's very dear to my heart. I think that's obviously the best, the biggest and probably the most fun race in the world. There's no doubt about it. I went through every different emotion I could possibly have gone through that month. You know, to top it off, winning the championship. It's a very, very difficult championship to win, as there's some incredibly talented people involved. You know, it continues to go from strength to strength. I think to win a championship in this day and age of the IRL is a good accomplishment for everybody involved. There's a lot of people involved, so I have a lot of people to thank.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, would you talk about consecutive championships, talk to us about Dan and his season.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think, as much as the team had a dream season, Dan as a driver had a dream season for sure, one that I dreammt about when I was driving. You know, as a team, backing it up with such a great year we had last year, the way we did this year, just gives you a great feeling to be a part of it. It's a special team. We're enjoying special times. Hopefully we're going to enjoy some more of them. As for Dan, he did a great job for us all year. That whole side of the team was just very consistent, made their own breaks, got some breaks. That's how you win championships. Took advantage of every situation. Hopefully one of the four guys are going to be in that position next year.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Dan, everybody talks about the different personalities among the drivers. The same could be said for your team owners. It's almost like they play good cop, bad cop.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm always the good cop.
Q. Talk about dealing with those different personalities.
DAN WHELDON: Like you said, they're obviously very, very different. I think certainly from a driver standpoint, we relate very well to Michael because he's been obviously very successful as a driver. I think he's proved to everybody that he can be very successful as an owner. From a driving standpoint, it's always very comforting to know that you have somebody that you can go to that's experienced a lot of different situations. He's not the guy that has experienced average situations. In anything he's ever done, he ran at the front, except when he got screwed by McLaren. It's experience like that that you can really draw upon. It speeds up your learning curve. Obviously Kim is somebody I feel indebted to a lot because he brought me into the team in 2003. I think perhaps at the end of that year was sticking up for me when it was difficult. It was a tough rookie season I had. I certainly learned from a lot of mistakes. That's a very calm guy, very team orientated, very organized, very focused on making sure not just one car is capable of winning, but all four. Then you obviously have Kevin who I think is the most feisty of the bunch, there's no doubt about it. But I think what you have to give Kevin a lot of credit for, I think even the series owe him credit, is he's bringing new sponsors to the series when not many other people are doing that, if anybody. However much money is, there's a lot of great companies involved with this race team. I don't see any other teams bringing in new sponsors like him. We had Air Tran on today. They came on for the Indianapolis 500. It seems like they're a very lucky sponsor, I have to say. They came on the Indy 500, I win there. Then they're on at Fontana, and Dario wins that one. They're three very good team owners I expect to run a strong team for for a long, long time.
Q. Michael, Tony won the championship last year, on top of his game. The pre-season polling picked Dan. What did people see?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think what I saw was the way he came on as the year went on, progressed last year, how he improved on the tracks and places that he was weakest the year before. I think that really impressed me. Once we had that test down in Homestead on the road course and he was right on pace, I think he was second quickest at the test, at that point is when I thought Dan was going to be the guy to beat for the championship.
Q. How soon do you think you'll be able to say 2006 is locked and loaded for every driver, for every sponsor, for every car?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, we're working on it. It's a big job. We have a lot of things that we got to get ironed out. We're getting there. We're very happy with the progress that's been made, especially the last few weeks. Hopefully soon we'll have it all wrapped up so we can enjoy the holidays.
Q. Michael, what is the plan with the promise for Marco next year and a little beyond? You have an embarrassment of riches of drivers at the moment.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We don't know yet. We don't have a plan yet. We're right now thinking about it. He just finished his last race yesterday. We're going to sit down and review our options. We'll hopefully know in a couple weeks.
Q. Is it likely he's going to get a ride in a big car next year at some stage?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know yet. We'll have to wait and see.
Q. I bet he's in your ear trying to get something going.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He doesn't know what's going to happen yet either. He's a little anxious to find out what we're going to do. We just all have to sit down. We had a job to do. We had to finish out this championship and get all the races set away. Now we're really going to start focusing on what we're going to do with him and the team. Hopefully in a few weeks, we'll be able to announce some stuffs.
Q. I would imagine there's no chance you're going to let Dan slip through your fingers?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We'll have to wait and see. We would love to keep the team intact for sure.
Q. Michael, what was the process you went through to pick these drivers? Obviously, you couldn't have foreseen what happened?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think talent and personality, for sure. Obviously, you have to be able to drive a race car and you have to be a winner. That's the first thing we looked at. Two, we had to see that the personality was going to fit in with the rest. That's pretty much where Bryan came from. It actually started with Dario, then we brought in Tony, who we knew would get along really well with Dario. Then we brought in Dan and, Dario had his problem. Bryan came in, did a great job, fit right in with the team. It was a no-brainer to get him fit into the team. It has to do with that. It's chemistry. It's something that happens. You can't plan this stuff. You can try. I think we got a little lucky for sure the way they got along.
Q. Dan, since you won't obviously be driving for McLaren next year, where do you think you'll be?
DAN WHELDON: I think Michael has answered that question. We'll leave it at that. Hopefully, I mean, you just have to wait and see. I think it's going to be announced shortly.
Q. Even though the ownership of this team is different, the foundation of the team really started with Barry Green. How much do you cut him in on the celebration for what you have accomplished last couple of years?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think you said it. Barry set up the foundation. All good things start with a good foundation. He was a big part of that. Then basically we just tweaked it from there. We definitely have thanks to Barry. He's still, we feel, a part of this team. Unfortunately, he's not here to help us celebrate.
Q. How do you celebrate this championship?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Starting tonight, Jim Beam party.
DAN WHELDON: More of the same. I've noticed, I've always spotted three very pretty ladies to the left. For sure we'll be inviting them.
Q. Which way do you want to direct Marco in his career? Do you want to encourage him to go all the way, which would be Formula One, or are you thinking to direct him more into setting him up for IndyCars?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think if he wants to do Formula One, which I think that is an aspiration for the future, I still believe probably the best way to there will be through our team. I really believe that if we can get him good experience in this series, it's a very competitive series, get the experience, especially -- if he could be with guys like Dario and Tony, Bryan as his teammate to learn from, I believe that would be invaluable for him for the future. Then we take it from there. It's really hard to set out an actual plan. I think he would like to someday, if the opportunity -- if the right opportunity is there, I think he would jump at it with Formula One.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, but unfortunately this series isn't all that way. We got to go with what we have. I think we have a great asset here to help him get there. I think you can go other ways. You can go GP2 and all that. I think it's a bit of a crapshoot, I really do. I think this is a little bit more of a sure thing for him. Hopefully we can help him get there.
DAN WHELDON: When you think Danica grabbed the headlines, you wait till he starts. She'll be jealous of him.
Q. Dan, if you realized your dream in winning the 500, what is your new dream? What do you want to be doing in five years?
DAN WHELDON: I think the important thing in motor racing is you can be forgot very quickly if you don't continue to win. Certainly that's what I love to do. I love to keep learning. I still feel very inexperienced. This is only my second full season in IndyCars. I still feel like I learn a lot from my teammates. They've been around for nine, 10, 11 years at the top level and performed very, very well. I'd just like to keep winning as much as I possibly can.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, Michael, congratulations. Thank you very much for your time.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.
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