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April 30, 2005

Kim Green

Danica Patrick

Buddy Rice

Scott Sharp

Dan Wheldon


THE MODERATOR: Joined by our second and third place finishers in today's Indy Japan 300. Scott, if you want to get us started, tell us about your day.

SCOTT SHARP: Very good day obviously for the Delphi team. You know, we've been very competitive this year, but in two of three races we've gotten knocked out by other cars. Put us a little behind in the points. I really wanted to come into -- this starts a stretch of races that I really like and I think the team's really strong at. It's great to get second place here.

THE MODERATOR: Buddy, how about your day?

BUDDY RICE: Quite eventful, I'd say. I think I made about 10 or 12 pit stops, had a drive-through penalty, had a flat tire, and came out on the podium. I think it was a pretty eventful day. Good for Rahal Letterman. We had a little bit of a rocky way to start the season off. Mechanical at the season opener. A self-inflicted one in the second round when we crashed, then the third one, electronic. It's definitely been an eventful year. Coming into Japan, we had a strong car last year. Both my teammates qualified well. The cars were good. I think the Panoz/Honda combination is the combination to have, especially with these big tracks, heading into Indy. I'm definitely looking forward to the big stretch. Like Scott said, I think it's going to work really well for not only myself but I think the combinations that are sitting here. I think there's a lot to gain out of this for us. At least we got some fine points right now and it's going to start putting us back in this championship race hopefully here.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for our drivers.

Q. Scott, how close were you as far as fuel was concerned?

SCOTT SHARP: We were pretty close. You know, on that last restart, I had some problems, a couple of cars, trying to get by them. It put me back a bit. I think we had to use fuel to try to catch the group again. I saw the fuel meter kicking down, and I would drive by and look up at the scoring pylon. I knew how many laps were left. I was adding it in my head. It wasn't going to happen (laughter). I kept asking what they wanted me to do. Fernandez team is historically very, very good in fuel mileage strategy. It paid off. We ran out of fuel crossing the start/finish line.

Q. Do you think Tomas would have made it to the checkered?

BUDDY RICE: He didn't. He stopped.

SCOTT SHARP: He didn't make it.

Q. When you were driving, were you concerned he would make it, he would actually get there?

BUDDY RICE: I think we were all more or less concerned about ourselves. We weren't even sure any of us were going to make it. I know in the last year I think I made two or three stops for fuel to make sure we were going to make it all the way to the end. Like Scott said, I was watching the fuel meter, as well. I was like, "This is going to be close." I know we made a whole bunch of stops. I was just waiting for people to start falling off in the last eight to five laps. His teammate Matsura came up on me pretty hard, I knew he was obviously planning on stopping, running that hard, so I didn't put up a fight. I just think everybody was so concerned about saving their fuel, it's just -- I don't think anybody was worried about anybody else at that point because we were all strung out.

SCOTT SHARP: Our guys had a pretty good feeling that Scheckter and Hornish were not going to make it. They radioed that to me. They just didn't know what was going to happen to Kanaan and Wheldon. One pitted, the other one won, so.

Q. Today had been one of the most yellowed races in the history here in Motegi. What do you think was the reason why we had yellow on the first lap, then soon it was cleared, another lap?

BUDDY RICE: It's hard to say exactly. I didn't see what happened on the first incident. The biggest thing, the competition is getting so tight, everybody is running so close. They're making and taking riskier moves to make passes right now. That's just what's happening. They're starting to lock wheels. Everybody is starting to push and shove a little more than you've seen in the past. All the teams are so good, and the way the IRL rules are structured, everyone is so close on speed, so you have to get a little forceful every once in a while. This track kind of opens the door for that a little bit more because of the differences on each end of the track.

Q. Now that Danica just joined us, how was it racing against Danica, Scott and Buddy?

SCOTT SHARP: I thought Danica did a really good job. I just told her she was a lot racier than I thought she was going to be. She did a great job at the start to slide into first place there, it was good. It was good. We duked it out a lot with each other. She did a good job.

BUDDY RICE: Obviously, with her being my teammate, I've seen her from the test obviously last year, and obviously as she's moved up through the races and stuff. Like I said before, she has the talent to be here, she has the credentials. She's showed it, she's proved it in the other formulas. Just going to take a little bit of a learning curve. Obviously she made a major leap this weekend in qualifying. Did an excellent job, led the race. Did a good job. With where we're at and everything, she was a few spots behind from most of the race until the end. It's just kind of the way everything shook out. I think she's done an excellent job. She'll obviously keep getting more and more experience. She'll constantly get faster and faster as she learns how to get her car tuned up for what she needs. She's obviously shown she can get the job done.

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Danica Patrick. Fourth place finisher today. Her best finish in her brief IndyCar Series career. Danica, tell us about your day.

DANICA PATRICK: As Scott said, it was literally start to finish. It was a little bit dirty I think the first lap, outside of turn one and turn two, so I was oversteering, was pretty loose the whole way along. But the car was good. I had it pretty well balanced for the fuel loads, what needed to be changed to make the sure the car stayed good. A few times here and there I got a little bit behind and lost some time just with a little bit holding back because of me not keeping up with it. I dropped back whenever I had to save fuel, especially at the end, especially about 10 or 15 to go, whatever it was. Yeah, I dropped back really fast (laughter). But, you know, I think that the guys today did a really good job with the pit stops, made up some there. It's a good weekend to go into Indianapolis with. This weekend in qualifying, ninth at Homestead, or if I would have finished the race, ran a good race or something, 'cause I was so close to pole... I've been hearing rumors that the first two cars ran out of fuel, might not have finished. If Buddy hadn't saved fuel the last lap, I keep thinking that maybe I could have won the race. I should just really be happy and use as it some momentum going into the next race.

Q. The next race coming up is Indianapolis 500. What is your aspiration?

DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think I really should look to qualify on pole and go for the win. I know I can race. I know I can race with them. I've always known that. It's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time, everything coming together, having a good car for the duration of the race. It's hard to have a good qualifying car and a good race car and put that all together. For some odd reason, I've got a lot of confidence in the team for next year. After winning last year, I think they know what's going on. Scott Roembke, I look to him and Bobby Rahal and my other teammates and engineers for their advice. Throughout the month there's going to be a lot of track time. The weak spot is the traffic, knowing when and where and how to not lose a lot of time doing that, getting by them. So that's what I'm going to be practicing. I'm confident I'm going to have a good car.

Q. This is the best result you've had so far. You've only been in Indy racing for four races. This race is 300 miles. The Indy 500 is 500 miles. Do you think you're physically ready for 500 miles?

DANICA PATRICK: Absolutely. If I'm a little bit behind, I've got a whole month. I'm sure I'll make use of the gym. But everyone else will, too. I'm small. You really don't need to be so strong to drive a race car. I'm not physically in pain. I could have done more laps obviously. I'm sure a lot of other people could. I just need to be strong to do the races.

Q. Today before the race, did Bobby give you any advice? What did he say after the race?

DANICA PATRICK: He's been very, very good the whole weekend. When he first got here, he was emphasizing how important it was to make sure my in and out laps were good. He told all of us drivers before the race if there was one single inch between us and the car in front of us when we were pulling into the pits with yellow, he said there's going to be trouble. But, no, he's been really nice, and very happy, and very proud. I'm not making him look bad. He was just really giving me the very basic things. I think he's respectful of the actual things that need to happen gear-wise, pit strategy-wise, whatever. He's been a lot of help I think this weekend. It's good to have him at the races.

Q. Was there a single turning point in the race for you that determined your finish?

DANICA PATRICK: What do you mean by turning point? Was there a point where I knew I was going to finish fourth? I don't really understand. I think I'm sure a lot of other people had to do it, when we have to save fuel, I definitely dropped back. But I don't think there's a point in a race -- well, there is. This one, there's too much happening. I don't think there was ever a certain point where I knew where I was going to finish.

Q. When you were saying you had some problems and dropped back, handling the car. In what areas particularly, where or like what happened and how did you manage to get back?

DANICA PATRICK: I dropped back saving fuel, which means I wasn't able to use a hundred percent fuel, maybe something like 94 percent or something. But as far as the handling issue, I'm not sure exactly. As you put fuel in the back, you're putting a lot of weight in the back and the car handles different. As the fuel comes off, the rear lightens up and handling changes again. So occasionally through the process of the fuel coming off, I don't remember exactly what lap, I didn't even know what lap, sometimes I would have a lap or two where I would be like, "Gosh, is it the way I'm lifting off the throttle that's creating understeer?" I would lose maybe half a second or something to somebody because I wasn't keeping up with the things to do inside the car to make sure I stayed right behind them with a good-handling car.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica. See you at Indy. At this point we are joined by race winner Dan Wheldon and one of the Andretti Green Racing team principals, Kim Green. For Dan Wheldon, this is his second consecutive Indy Japan 300 win. Dan becomes the first driver in league history to win three of the first four races to start a season, and he comes out of Japan heading into Indy atop of the IndyCar Series points standings. Dan, start us off and tell us about your day. (Temporary line disconnection.) Kim, from your perspective along pit road, tell us about the day for Andretti Green Racing.

KIM GREEN: Well, I think the race had several segments. In the middle part of the race, I thought Andretti Green Racing was looking pretty good. We were running one, two, three. The fourth car was only a couple cars back. I could see perhaps, maybe if everything went our way, we could have another one, two, three, four finish. In the end, a yellow came out that made it a fuel mileage race. No doubt Dan did a better job on fuel mileage than I was able to do with Tony Kanaan's car and working with Tony. Bryan Herta and the other AGR car was struggling with fuel mileage. Dan and his team did a very, very good job making the fuel mileage necessary both under yellow conditions and race conditions. In the end, he was in the position to win the race perhaps with not the fastest car, but doing the job he had to do to win.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Dan or Kim.

Q. Dan, last year when you won here in Motegi, and also when you won in Homestead, your victory was very much a dominant win. You were ahead of everybody in all aspects. Today it seemed like the race was a bit different. Perhaps you were struggling at the start. How were you building your strategy in order to finish the race on top of everybody else?

DAN WHELDON: Well, I think at the start I had a lot of understeer through the middle and exit of turns three and four. With the gear that I had, I was very, very slow right the way through back until turn three again. I was finding that very difficult. But as the race went on, we made some changes in the pits, and the car seemed to come back. I think I still did have the problem where I struggled a little bit in traffic. But I think put me out in front, I could definitely run as quick as anybody. When I was behind cars, in particular, I just picked up a little bit too much understeer. I personally think it would have been difficult to pass Dario. Although certainly this year with the change in regulations, you were a sitting duck when you were restarting in the front. That was unfortunately what happened to Dario. It happened to me on several occasions. Then it was just difficult to get back through. I think all in all, everybody, certainly that had stuff to do with my car, did a really good job with getting the best out of what we had. Certainly as my experience level builds in IndyCars, that is the one thing that is made more and more apparent to me: you don't necessarily have to have the fastest car or best car in traffic to win; you've just got to basically make the best of what you have. If you do that, chances arise like today. Obviously, you've got to give credit to Tomas Scheckter as well. He was pretty quick out front. It seemed anybody that was half reasonable out in front could stay out in front. But I do think Dario would have been very, very difficult to beat. The one thing I think everybody is proud and - perhaps the boss can talk about this one - but how at one point during this race every one of our drivers led, not maybe a lap, but I certainly know all of us led at one time. I think we're all very proud of that.

Q. In the end, you were probably like third or fourth place. Tomas Scheckter was way ahead of you. How did you feel him being so far away?

DAN WHELDON: I think honestly I was told over the radio that I had to forget everybody in front of me and just focus on looking at my dash and getting the numbers that I was required to get. I actually thought at one point I could have got past Tony. The moment I looked at perhaps trying to do that, I got screamed at and just said to sit there and concentrate on getting the numbers I was required to. Basically I just did what I was told. Fortunately it worked out. The guy that actually does the fuel numbers for my race, perhaps you guys don't know much about him, but a guy by the name of Bill Bates, he does an absolutely exceptional job. So I'm very grateful to him for this victory.

Q. How did you feel when you realized you were on the top?

DAN WHELDON: Very, very happy (laughter). No, it was obviously -- it was a great feeling. When I realized that I was in the lead, immediately they shouted at me, "Okay, you're in the lead by four seconds. Now you've just got to save fuel." That's what I focused on. I think I just ran that lap in particular about 70 percent throttle. Honda did do a fantastic job. They get great power with great fuel mileage. It's difficult, because there's 11 of us with Honda power. There's four in the team. There's a lot of competition just within those 11 cars. But it was a great feeling. We've got to be able to build on this and not get too confident. We've had some great luck and I'll take it, but there's some very, very good guys out there that are going to try and be beating us, especially the next race.

Q. Mr. Green, there was a restart at like 60 laps to go. What was your strategy as far as like fuel efficiency, fuel mileage, in order to win the race? Tomas Scheckter had dropped off about two laps to go. While he was there, what was your strategy in order to have the car win in front of him?

KIM GREEN: Well, with Tony Kanaan, we were certainly -- with that many laps to go, the fuel mileage per gallon or lap was very, very difficult to attain. We also didn't want to give up too much track position. We really were hoping for another yellow flag. If we got a yellow flag maybe two laps, three laps, we would have been fine on fuel. I believe given the chance, Tony could have passed Tomas Scheckter. We continued to try and make fuel mileage to get to the end without stopping, but we were not able to do that and hold the pace. Credit to Dan for being able to do that. Credit to Honda engines that certainly from a fuel mileage standpoint outlasted everybody else. We were probably perhaps just a little too aggressive at the start of that restart for the first few laps, a little too aggressive, used a little bit too much fuel really trying to get the lead, then backed the fuel down. Perhaps my mistake there. I would probably do something differently next time.

Q. I asked Scheckter, did you take a chance to go out and gamble? Was it miscalculation, miscommunication? He said he really didn't know, perhaps it was miscalculation. That means it kind of worked out the best for you. You might have taken a chance and it worked out for you. You had good calculations, good communication. What exactly did you have in mind? Did you do anything to make sure you had the right fuel? Obviously at the end of the race you had enough fuel to make a doughnut.

DAN WHELDON: That's true. That's true. All that for that one question? Japanese is long (laughter). The guy that calls my race, John Anderson, we spoke before the race. We've had a good first three races leading into this one. With the position that we were in, we weren't going to risk coming out of the top 10 and perhaps running out of fuel. I think Tomas, certainly in his situation, I think they perhaps gambled a little bit and were hoping for a yellow. Obviously, I've worked with that team before. I know they're very, very good at calculations. I think they just made a bit of a gamble. From our standpoint, we said we weren't going to go crazy and risk not finishing the race if it came down to fuel mileage, that we were just going to work and try our best at getting the numbers we needed to get. I give a lot of credit to John Anderson because there were times when I wanted to overtake cars. I'm not easily calmed down in the race car. He was on me all the time constantly. The amount of times that I heard from him under yellow, "That mileage sucks, you've got to get better," which I thought I'd done brilliant. I give a lot of credit to him. But we had enough fuel to make it to the end. It was obviously going to be very marginal. Otherwise, I would have been in a situation where we would have had to have done what Tony did where he had to pit. Tony still got very good points. He finished sixth. He's going to be a strong force to deal with throughout the season. From our standpoint, I give a lot of credit to the guys. I'm just thankful this guy is still awake (laughter). Every time we come to Japan, we have somebody take good care of us by the same of Hiro-san at the back there. Everybody at Andretti Green Racing would like to thank him for the hard work that he puts in for us.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. We'll see you in Indianapolis.

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