June 7, 2003
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
MODERATOR: Tony Kanaan and Tora Takagi. Tony, this is your first visit to Texas Motor Speedway. You had a great round that last few moments. Your overall impression of racing here at the Speedway?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I think the race speaks for itself. It was a great race. Lot of close calls. I think we're going to address that in the next driver's meeting. But most of the race was really clean and fair. The last lap, I mean the last race car I had a pretty good idea from the previous race car what I could do without. He was very strong all day. So I had to try. I wasn't constant enough that I could make it, but I had to try. So I got a run on him on the outside. And the outside line was a little slower. And I proved that Scott was running with me, I was all the way to the inside and Scott could get by me. So Al figured that out and he was all the way to the inside. He did a great job. Very clean as always. I congratulate him for the win. It was a great fight. To have a good lead is never good enough, but that's what we're here for. I need to thank the whole 7-11 team for the great car and Honda to give me a great engine. I look forward -- I don't have too much time to celebrate and think about next week where we have another one.
Q. Tony, follow up to that. You're going for the win, but what was really top most was to make sure you got second place and not have something happen on the last lap. Was that utmost?
TONY KANAAN: My car was very good. So I was very secure with what I was doing. I wasn't trying to make -- that I wasn't going to be able to do it. I knew how to do it. I just tried it and it worked for half of a lap. In the drivers meeting they told all of us that the last four races people won here, they won from the outside. So I went on the outside. So I need to slap him in the hand because this time it didn't work.
Q. We've got a translator translating each of the questions, but Tora, give us your general impression of racing on a big track like in Texas and your third place run in the Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing machine.
TORA TAKAGI: I have to avoid the crash. I have to go down. I have to go down. My team did a good job.
MODERATOR: The third place finish, are you happy with the third place finish?
TORA TAKAGI: Yeah, I think so.
MODERATOR: Go ahead and hope with questions from the media. Once again wait for a microphone. Let us know who you are addressing the question to, please.
Q. To Tora. Before the meeting, they made it clear to the drivers not to go below the white line. Can you just explain more about what happened that led up to the accident and what you feel you are involved with. Did you go under the white line before you got pushed down at all?
TORA TAKAGI: He was already inside within the track and he was trying to come down because he was hit by Scott. That's why he was cutting inside of the white line.
Q. So there was actually contact?
TORA TAKAGI: Yes. He pushed him off to the right.
Q. There was one last shoot-out at the end which is not much time. Had there not been any yellow and you had the last, would that have given you a better shot or would he have had a better edge?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. I think it worked better for me being a one time -- one lap shot because Tora was really strong, too. So I was concerned about him. I think it was the last 10 laps would be green, I wouldn't be trying what I was doing. I would sit behind Al because I was trying to pull away from him. Then maybe try the last lap. I didn't have -- what I had you saw. I didn't have anything more than that. I was quicker than him in 1 and 2, but he was quicker than me in 3 and 4. I knew right away that either I could get a good run on him and then I was going to be able to go to the inside line. Maybe I'd have a shot because I couldn't do that. I knew he was there. We tried to race the same from the first lap to the last lap. It was because of the last lap we had to do something different. I was clean, Al was clean, I was clean. It wasn't good enough today.
Q. Tony, different formula. You didn't get a chance to race here two years ago. Just talk a little bit about these cars on this track, the type of racing. Was your expectations exceeded compared to what you thought two years ago?
TONY KANAAN: Two years ago honestly we did just like two sessions and we had to stop. It was just the type of cars we had at the time. It wasn't good for the racetrack. The racetrack I don't think had nothing to do with it. It was just a matter of us understanding how fast those cars were going. This weekend I felt pretty comfortable. We had some close calls like I said before. We're going to have to address that in the driver's meeting because it can hurt people. I've been through that twice. We don't want to see that happening. I was really excited about the race. I never saw the laps going by. By the time I looked at the lap chart, it was at the last yellow, 20 laps to go. The time goes by so quick. So I tried to make no mistakes, stay clean, play clean with people and get the best out of my car.
Q. One other question. Some drivers who were new in the series this year, they had to be kind of convinced to join the IRL. They had to come kicking and screaming. You seem generally happy here. What is it about this type of racing that you seem to be having a good time?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I love racing. I would have a good time anywhere because that's what I love to do. Definitely the whole 7-Eleven team is giving me all the support. Not just having the fast car. But we are so tied together and the chemistry is so nice that I wake up every morning and I'm looking forward to come to the track. I'm looking forward to go to the shop. It's just the whole thing. The series is great. They can criticize us as much as they want. We have the closest race. We have very good drivers, probably the best -- not the best drivers, but the majority of the best drivers out here. We race good. The cars are tough. If anybody has a question that those cars are easy to drive, I'd invite them to go to Indianapolis with them coming here right after and they can give it a try. It's a great series. I have a great team. Great people working for me. I have a lot of reasons to be happy. My arm is not working anymore. It's great to be on the racetrack.
Q. How important is having someone spot for you that's comfortable with this racing from before?
TORA TAKAGI: Very good.
Q. What if anything bothered you tonight, because it was relatively a caution free race. What did bother you tonight?
TONY KANAAN: Not a lot. We had a lot of close calls and there's a lot of things that we see that people outside don't see. It was a very clean race. I haven't seen everything yet. I don't have my opinion right now. Even if I had, I don't think it's important. I think Brian is the most capable guy for the job and he's going to address the people that caused the thing. I would say on my side it was just a couple close calls just racingwise, but you shouldn't -- once you choose the line, you should stay in that line. A couple of the guys maybe moved a little bit. Sometimes it's tough, I understand that because you're following one car ahead of you and you have a car beside you and a car behind you. You have a lot of wind -- they take a lot of wind out of your car. So your car gets really light. So sometimes you have no control. But you have to anticipate because you can cause a big wreck. Fortunately I think it was a great race. It was a clean race, apart from what happened in the end that I haven't seen. But there was a lot of close calls, too, during the race that we can talk privately. I don't think it's a matter of people not trying to be clean, just people understanding where they have to be at the time to not hurt anybody else.
Q. Tony, you've had to come back from a broken arm. Al Unser, Jr., has had to basically come back from a lifestyle change basically. As a fellow competitor to see him on a daily battle to fight those demons and win a race, how do you feel about what he's been able to do over the last year?
TONY KANAAN: I feel great. I think I appreciate -- everybody has problems, obviously. Obviously he came from tough times and turned the situation around. When you're a driver, you won so much in the past and you go through a tough time and you struggle, people just hammer at you and say, "Oh, he's done, he's old, he's this, he's that." It's not up to us to judge. This guy is very capable. He's proving that. And he proved that today. It was a tough race, and he had a strong car and he knew what he wanted. He has a lot of experience. You can't take for granted what this guy has done in the past and is still doing, still delivering. I'm really happy for him. Look how close the series is. We have six races, that was race six, right? Five, five races, five different winners. That tells you how competitive it is. I think he did a great job.
Q. Does that mean from race one you had full confidence racing against Al, or did you have to build that confidence over a few races?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. I've known Al since the CART times. He's always been very clean. He's been the guy that's been around for a long time. He actually sometimes in a driver's meeting he gets up and say something. He says, "Look, guys, let's take care of each other." He's very clean. He would never do anything to hurt you at the racetrack, even if it's going to win. He could actually go wide and try to not put me right beside him. He's very fair. He's a very clean driver. I had no concern at all.
Q. Beside the fact that he's won, from what you've seen he's still going?
TONY KANAAN: I've always said that. I already said that. Racing with him at the track, he's the guy that can go -- you would least expect it he would be on the outside and then coming in. And it's like where the hell did this guy do that. To do that, he has to be able to drive a race car.
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