October 12, 2003
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
MODERATOR: We've got Dan Wheldon, driver of the 7-11 car. Dan with the finish today wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award. This is Dan's fifth top 5 finish of the season. Dan, just talk about the season as a whole looking back. It's got to be almost a dream season for you.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah. I wouldn't actually say a dream season. I'm certainly in a dream position as far as running with the team that I'm in with the backing that I'm in. It was a tough race, I have to say. It was made a little difficult for us. I had a good Honda in the back and it was able to pull me up front. The car I have to say the last four or five races handles very, very well in traffic on the super speedways as everybody knows here. When you're on these super speedway-type tracks, you run in clusters. Fortunately we were able to run pretty much up front all day. We had to conserve fuel. So on that last stop we could stay out just in case we had a yellow. But I'm very happy to have my first podium and looking forward to coming back to the championship next year.
MODERATOR: What does it mean to be driving for someone like Michael Andretti. How much emotionally and psychologically does that help? How much did Michael help you with advice.
DAN WHELDON: First of all Michael kicked my butt at Indy for not winning Rookie of the Year. But I can say I did get one out of the two. He's an intelligent guy. I think I'm in a unique position. I saw it at the Indianapolis 500. When you've had somebody around you, he's done it. He's very relaxed. He takes it all within stride. He's very very good, but I have to say Kim Green kind of acts like a father to me, and I know it's kind of his project to bring me on. Kevin. I can't say enough for this team. It's a fantastic operation. I think some of you media guys forget, forgive me for saying this, don't throw anything at me. It's their first year in the series. To put Tony in a position, obviously Tony's been driving fantastic all year. To be able to win this championship, just shows how great the team is.
MODERATOR: How comforting also is it that going into next year? You can do some off season testing to get ready.
DAN WHELDON: It's going to make a difference. I haven't been concerned for next year, but the recent results I think should help that. But it will be fantastic to start the season and work with the team through preseason testing on the CI. We tested a lot at the beginning of this season, but when it got down to it the seasoned race driver had to take over. It will certainly put me in a stronger position. I'd like to think I have a good shot to be in contention for the championship.
Q. Were you aware that Roger had a problem at some point during the race when he was fairly far back in the field?
DAN WHELDON: No, not at all. My focus out there during that whole race was to win it. We spoke with the man that calls the races, Tony, who I think has done a fantastic job this season. We decided that that was what we wanted to do. I think obviously to win Rookie of the Year is a fantastic feeling in IndyCar, particularly in my first year. That was our objective, and that's what we just planned on doing. If the result was good enough, then that would give us Rookie of the Year, which it did. We just focused on our own race.
Q. Dan, were you anywhere near the incident there? If you were, could you describe what you saw?
DAN WHELDON: No. I really wouldn't -- I don't really want to describe what I saw. Kenny I consider a good friend, and him and his wife Anita are a very nice couple. And my thoughts and prayers are with them. I hear that Kenny is awake. He is one of those guys out there that he's just a class, class racing driver. You can see from his results. He's been IndyCar champion, he's won the Indianapolis 500. And I just hope we can get back testing with him real soon.
MODERATOR: Dan, congratulations on Rookie of the year. We'll see you next year.
DAN WHELDON: That's the intention. I'd like to say thank you for putting up with me this year. It's a real pleasure and honor to be Rookie of the Year in this series because, boy, I tell you, it's so competitive. It's my opinion, but it's the best championship in the world. It's so, so competitive. I think that shows you what a good series this is and I'm looking to be part of it for a very long time.
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