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August 28, 2006
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our second place finisher, Dario Franchitti. His top finish of the season to date. Dario, if you would, tell us about your run out there today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Where to start? I guess the start might be a good idea.
Yeah, I managed to pass Tony up to the first corner, but then I tried to get a run on Helio coming out of the carrousel. Made a mistake. Tony got back past me. After that, really just forced the person in front of me to make a mistake, try to keep up front, try to work on the car in the pit stops. Then some guys went out of sequence.
Our race really came alive in that last pit stop. I'm not sure where I came in. Probably third or fourth in that group that came in. The Klein Tools Canadian Club guys got me out first.
Certainly one of the best, if not the best, pit stops I've ever been involved in. That really gave us track position. I was pushing Tony and Danica. Danica was really pushing Tony, giving him a really hard time.
When she eventually pitted, I managed to make a move on Tony in the 6. He didn't block or any of that stuff. He saw I had a run and was very, very fair to me, like I was to him earlier.
Then I tried to chase Marco down. That last yellow really probably cost us the win because I know Marco was in trouble with fuel. When it went green again I wasn't quick enough. I probably would have only won the race on fuel strategy today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dario.
Q. Marco was close on stretching fuel. Do you feel that last yellow flag is really what just did it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's what I just said.
Q. Could you elaborate a little bit more?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think I said enough really. He was in trouble with fuel and we weren't. That's the luck of the draw. That's the way it goes. He drove a hell of a race. I would say we were not as quick as him today, out of the pits anyway.
No, as I say, we could have done it on strategy. But he was definitely a little bit faster than I was today. Drove a great race.
Q. Were you surprised that Bryan spun where he did?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Where did he spin?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Which one do you guys call seven? The apex?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm surprised more people didn't spin there. If you follow anybody through there they're coming out of there sideways. We were struggling for traction there all weekend. I came close a couple of times to looping it there, especially when you're trying to get a run on somebody there and through the S's. You really get on the power quick. I'm not surprised he spun. I came close a couple times today.
Q. Were there any team orders?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No. They said, go, go, see if you could catch him on the restart. As I say, he was quicker. I'm really proud of the job that the team did today. Bryan, Tony, Marco, myself, the guys in the pits. I think it was a great team effort.
It's been a tough season. It seems that any track that requires a bit of handling, a bit of driving, we're in contention. The big one and a half and two milers are the ones we're struggling on right now. We need to work on that.
Q. Do you think your performance in today's race (indiscernible)?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it makes no difference. They've already told me they want me to come back. It's just whether we can get a deal sorted out.
Q. (No microphone.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm not going to talk about next year at this point. I just want to celebrate with the team and the job we did today. When we work out things for next year, I'll let you know.
Q. (No microphone.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm trying to think. I just said, "You're a legend." You know, looks like -- well, I think for sure all four of us will not be on the same team next year because there's three seats. I think Bryan has already chosen what he wants to do next year.
It's kind of sad because we've built up such a good relationship. I know how much I gave out there of myself today. I'm sure everybody else did. You know, just friends.
Q. Marco was running so strong out there. Was there any possibility of you catching him out there?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: As I said, the only chance we had was he had a different pace strategy. I think in his lap times today he was quicker, but as we know, it's not always the fastest car that wins sometimes. I think on strategy, had that last yellow not come out, we would have had him. Ifs and butts.
As I say, he deserved to win that race. He drove a great weekend all in all.
Q. What do you think your boss would have said if you passed Marco at the end?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Good job. I'm pleased to win races, not finish second. I do everything I can to do that. I wouldn't want any part of a team that operated in any other way.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, thank you very much.
We are joined by our fifth place finisher, Helio Castroneves. With his fifth place finish, he's now in the championship lead with 441 points. Teammate Sam Hornish trails by one point with 440. Dixon is in third at 423. Wheldon is in fourth at 422. Vitor and Tony were eliminated from the championship point race today. A one-point difference.
In 2003 we had a tie with Helio and Dixon going into the last race of the season. Those are all the numbers.
Helio, why don't you tell us about your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it was interesting, very difficult. Finally I completed the whole laps. That was my goal first of all. But at the beginning, a good start. We were running pretty good pace. Obviously, Dixon was start taking off.
I don't know, it was very interesting because I was saving a lot of fuel and I still pit before those guys. That's what kind of I didn't understand much. Marco was actually doing a really good job, not making mistake for the beginning especially I was expecting. He definitely did a good job.
But in the end, everything start getting crazy. Obviously with the yellows, different strategy. Our group, the No. 3, decided to do everything we can to keep running the guys we're competing against, which was Dixon, Sam, and Wheldon.
In fact, we pit -- we have fuel to stay out, like Marco and Tony, which I almost went in, but Cindric decided to keep with those guys, which was smart decision.
And then I was just holding. I don't know what happened with Tony. I don't know if he was going down. I understand he was saving fuel, but he was really, really slow. This place is very hard to pass.
Obviously, I would have take a chance. But when you battle the championship, knowing that Sam is back there, Wheldon and Dixon behind you, you have more to lose than to gain.
After he lapped, Dario passed by, you saw, literally I was really faster than Dario. You saw how much gap he opened up. I was just waiting, you know. For one point his car was really miss firing and everything. I was like, Man, we going to have a problem. Because every time you're approaching the corner, one of those things you have to do, it was a chance game. If you get too much close to Tony, those other guys would make a move because you upset your car.
So I have to back off, which causing the same problem to Dixon. And Dixon have to back off causing the same problem to -- it was like that kind of situation, you know.
Until last lap, he really -- he was really slow. I pull right beside him and he didn't lift. It would be a bad decision. I didn't want to take a chance.
Vitor came like taking every chance that he could obviously because he want to be in front of Tony. I let him by and then Dixon then also took another opportunity.
Instead of lose a lot of points, I prefer lose like three, four points. I hope I don't regret that in Chicago.
THE MODERATOR: If you would, why don't you talk about taking over the championship point lead today. Obviously, I don't think you're going to share your game plan for us going into Chicago. It's got to feel good being in the points lead.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Right now I'm going to enjoy this moment. Let me tell you, it's no question it's a situation that it's really close. We came here to take as much points as we could. Fortunately or unfortunately, fifth place was what we got. I'm very happy.
Monday night I would like more, but this is part of the championship. This is part of the game, which is fun. Now let's go to Chicago. It's kind of every man for himself, no question about that's what it's going to be there. The odds, it probably help a little bit Sam because he's more familiar with the ovals.
It will be very interesting. No question we're going to try everything we can to finish and clinch this championship.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Just the fact that you did this once before with Sam, different teams. How much different is it now going into the last race on the same team?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, one thing, no question is, we don't want to give the championship to Target Ganassi. We're going to try everything we can to win this championship, whether it's going to be me or Sam. My opinion, obviously it should be me (laughter), but I don't think Sam would agree with that.
Again, we really -- I don't see the difference. For me, I have a good news. I know what he's got. The bad news, he knows what I got. That's the only difference compared to three years ago.
Hey, it's going to be a hell of a fun and I'm sure guys going to enjoy it.
Q. Were there any points during the race that you felt like you could get out in front and battle with the leaders, or was it always kind of like you were close but not quite?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, when Tony let Dario by, I'm like, Okay, he's definitely having problem. I said, Okay, man, now you going to hold him till you can. I noticed he was having a lot of problems.
He didn't make any dramatic move or something. It was just really slow. All of a sudden, in fact, I pulled side by side him at one point and he still continue trying to come. Anyway, that was the point that I thought, Okay, if I pass him, it will be a home run, we'll finish third, and that's what we got today.
But, again, losing those two spots was a little unexpected. Again, it's just part of racing. So I'm happy. Even if it would be half point leading the championship, I would be happy.
Q. One of the things you said as a goal, you said this was your chance to really get some points, to walk out of here the leader. You succeeded in that goal.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, at one point we did. You're right, that's what we want to do. We want to take as much as we could. I do believe in 2002 it was very close call as well. I would have to win the race, and Sam would have to finish third for me to clinch this championship.
Well, now doesn't matter. Whatever. If I finish 10th, he finish 11th, the championship is mine. That's why it's going to be very interesting.
I'm going to go for it. Obviously, it's been working since Michigan when I switch my plan to instead of be conservative, go for it. I'm going to continue doing that. I do believe we have the car to win there this year. We're going to go for it.
Q. What did you think of Marco out there today?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Unfortunately, my hands were a little full with Tony. But when I was running behind him at the beginning of the race he was doing definitely a good job, no question about it. And the rumors obviously saying about the yellow, unfortunately we never going to know. I have to say that he earned my respect. You know, he did a hell of a job not making mistake. Sometimes even like that, if it's easy or hard, anything can happen. So he definitely deserve it. Well done.
Q. Do you feel you would have been ready to win like this when you were 19?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, when I was 16 I was ready (laughter). I never doubted I could jump in one of those IndyCars or Formula One, say, those guys don't know what they're doing.
That's why I would say when you're young you make a lot of mistakes. Maybe you try too hard too soon or maybe you didn't try hard enough. I guess he's been in the business with his dad, watching his dad. Definitely he got the talent.
Today, it was his day. You know, anybody can say anything they want, but the guy that's over there at the top of the podium is him, so that's what happened.
Q. Of the Target Chip Ganassi, two guys that are still in the championship, which one do you fear the most in Chicago?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Good question. Good question. Are they close in the championship?
THE MODERATOR: Scott is 18 behind you, and Dan is 19 behind you.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: They're in a similar situation than us. Whatever finish those guys have had. I say Dan has been leading a lot of laps in the ovals, but Scott is the one that is making it happen.
It will be a definitely good battle. It definitely is going to be interesting to see. I'm sure other guys going to be in the mix. You want to be in the mix. I can't wait. I wish the race would be next weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you very much. We'll see you in Chicago.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Let me revise these championship points. Mathematical mistake on our part.
Helio remains at 441, Sam at 440, Wheldon has 422, Dixon has 420. I think earlier I told you Dixon 423, so let's check that to 420 with Dixon. He moves down to fourth in the standings. Wheldon is at 422 in third. Thank you. Sorry for the mistake.
We're joined by race winner Marco Andretti and AGR team owner and father Michael Andretti.
With Marco's win today, he becomes the first rookie to win a race in the IndyCar Series since 2002. He is the youngest driver in IndyCar Series history and the youngest driver in major open-wheel racing in the United States to win a race at 19 years, 5 months, and 14 days.
Marco, if you would, tell us about your day out there.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, definitely pretty adventurous. The majority of it I wasn't even able to be in position one and totally go for it. The guys were brilliant in the pits. They had a plan in the beginning. You know, everything worked.
We just had to, you know, do what I did. We really didn't put a wheel wrong all weekend, which is definitely key here. I definitely, you know, just had to learn how to conserve fuel and stay fast I think was the main thing.
You know, towards the end of the race, I knew, you know, after our last pit, they said, We're not seeing -- well, I came out in the lead, and they said, I'm not going to see them for the rest of the day. That was the best thing I heard, because this place is all about track position.
But I knew I was going to have to turn down and then I knew the king of saving fuel got by Tony. That's Dario. I knew it wasn't over at that point. Just put our head down and went fast and saved fuel.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, from your standpoint, obviously a proud day for you. In addition to the obvious question about your thoughts on the race today, maybe can you reflect back on your first major win, the feelings you went through. I don't know if Mario was at that event.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, he was at it. He was in the race. He was definitely there (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: That's right.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, you know, it feels better for him with his first win. I feel so happy for him. The way he's done it, the way he's driven all year long, you know, totally deserves to be sitting in the chair he's sitting at right now, especially this weekend.
He did not put a wheel wrong, like he said. Qualifying and the one-lap shootout, he was quickest. Almost pulled it off in the 10-minute shootout there at the end. He put himself in a good position early in the weekend to win it, and then just drove flawlessly in the race.
He couldn't have done anything any better. You know, that's what makes champions, and guys that are going to win a lot of races. I think that's where Marco's at. I'm just very happy and very proud. Just a great day.
I'm glad we were able to do it here in Sonoma, because this is probably going to be our real last chance to win a race before the end of the year. I'm glad Marco as able to get it done during the end of the year because it's going to be a tough time in Chicago.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions.
Q. How tough it would it have been (indiscernible)?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. We were going for it. You just kind of go for it no matter what.
The thing that's good is, he did make it in on the cool-down lap, so he still had fuel for that. Would he have made it? I don't know.
Because in the end, he was definitely driving a lot harder and burning a lot more fuel than he would have been had it come down with not a yellow. We'll never know for sure. But he was not going to pit.
Q. What was your dad telling you over the radio? Was he giving you any advice?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't talk to him. They don't let me have a radio in there (laughter).
MARCO ANDRETTI: Couldn't be happier because we fulfilled all the goals that we set at the beginning of the year. Rookie-of-the-Year at Indy, the series. We got our win, you know. So definitely it's the best feeling all year for sure.
Q. Marco, in your headset they're telling you conserve, cool down. You have to be saying to yourself, I'm doing that.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, the toughest thing is what I had to do is what I did: Go fast and save fuel, because it's two different things. Like I said before, we had to lean on those Firestones more than ever. You know, we were able to do that pretty decently.
Like I said, the majority of the race I was saving a lot of fuel. You know, it was definitely a perfect strategy from Tom and the guys.
Q. (Question regarding Dario.)
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, definitely. You know, I knew he was, like I said before, the king of saving fuel. I knew he was probably going to be turned up more than I was. I was on a yellow lap at that point. I was conserving a lot. You know, I knew it was going to be tough. Fortunately, it worked out.
Q. (Question regarding the last pit stop.) Did you have the car to beat him anyway?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. It's tough to say because, you know, right after the first lap of the race, I was turned down on fuel. I never really, you know -- maybe the strategy would have changed a little bit. A win's a win. I'm going to take this (laughter).
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, there's definitely different feelings. You know, it's your son out there. It's really special. Yeah, I love the other guys like brothers. But, you know, I was feeling really, really good.
I mean, you know, I love Dario, but I didn't want him to pass Marco there in the end. It worked out perfect, you know, 1-2. Dario's a great guy. I felt really good when I saw Dario behind because I knew he wasn't going to do anything stupid. He's such a smart driver.
But, yeah, it's just a little different.
Q. How is he different than you were at age 19? And every father has a moment with their son where they realize the kid's past them. Even if it's one-on-one in basketball or playing golf or something. Where was that moment for you?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: How do you know it's there (laughter)?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I was going to say, how many races did you win?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Wait a second. Might not be done, I don't know.
What was the first part?
Q. How is he different than you were at 19?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He's way ahead of where I was at 19. I think his biggest asset that he has that I know I didn't have, or my father, is patience. He just drives with a lot of patience, but yet a lot of aggression. That's a great quality.
I think I look back at my career and I wish I would have, you know, had more of that quality. I think I would have won a lot more races. He's already got that at 19, so that's going to win him a lot of races, I can guarantee it.
Q. Marco, what is it about this track that suits you so well?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think mainly it's a road course, you know, and that's what I grew up doing. I just have a lot of laps here, which definitely helps, you know. I said even before this race that the majority of my success was here. This place has a big lead now.
Q. Marco, you got your first major win on a road course. Michael, Long Beach. Your grandfather, Indianapolis Raceway Park. How do you feel about being the first generation to do that on a road course?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, no, it's definitely special. Like I said before, a win's a win. But, yeah, they were all road courses. I think that's what our family, you know, likes to drive on the best. But it's what I grew up doing anyway, and definitely them.
But, you know, having said that, I'm learning to have fun on the ovals as well, primarily the shorter ovals. But if we come back with some speed next year, funny enough, I think we can go for a championship.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think mainly because I had circled this race early on. You know, we showed signs of being very competitive at Watkins Glen. I just look forward to the next road course naturally. We did all the right things. Not just me, but the team. We were on our game this weekend.
Q. How much of your talent do you feel is perhaps natural talent or maybe genetic? How much does it have to do with learning and asking questions of your father and grandfather?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think, number one, you just have to have it, especially at this level. But in this sport, you can't be taught. You know, there's a lot to be learned, but the base, you just can't be taught. You're either going to have it or you don't.
Being able to bounce things off the two best in the business is definitely priceless.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think, you know, he answered it right. I think it's definitely something you're born with. I saw it in him when he was three and a half years old already, that he had what it took. I knew it. It just shows you that you are born with it.
But what you do with it is another, you know, case. He's done a great job. He's been a sponge. He's learned a lot. He's had a lot of resources to learn from, and he's taken full advantage of them.
Q. (Indiscernible) former driver and you also helped Danny Wheldon last year. How much of an influence has he had, and tight are you guys?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It's clicked since day one with him, for sure. Not only do we have a lot of fun, but he's a brilliant guy as well, you know. He gave me exactly what I needed this weekend, and all year really. Yeah, he was a good driver back in the day. He would have won Indy, he said (laughter).
Q. Could both of you share what Mario's reaction was after the win.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He was pretty happy (laughter).
Q. Anything that he said?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't really remember for sure. You know, just basically what he said -- he said, The kid's really good. I said, I know.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, just how proud, he loves me, You did it. You were the man. The whole grandfather thing.
Q. Michael, as the race wound down, was it tough balancing being the team owner and being a proud dad?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You know, in the race, it was definitely mixed emotions, especially there the end. We had three of our cars up there. One of them is your son. It was a little strange. But it was exciting, you know. It's what I want. That's what I wish every race was like that.
But it is fun. I've been, I think, the luckiest guy in the world to be able to enjoy the things I've enjoyed in this sport.
Q. If Dario passed him, what would you have said to him?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, you know, Dario was driving for a win. There was no team orders. You know, I thought he might have pulled it off because he did have more fuel. But Marco did a tremendous job on the restart. After I saw that, I felt good about it.
Had he done it, it would have been like, Way to go. I still would have been very happy for Dario. I would have told Marco, It's going to come.
Q. Is Grandad deliberately staying out of the limelight?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He is?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I was just going to say, he's not here. I don't know why you say that.
Q. Michael, you said at three and a half you could tell. What was he doing?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just the toys and stuff he drove.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Break every bone possible.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He did that later after he was getting crazy. Before that, you could just tell the way he would control machines and stuff like that. He was doing it at a very early age.
Actually, there's one story I guess I could tell. His first day of school. He was very good at driving golf carts. He had to stand and push the throttle and steer. He couldn't sit on a chair, on the seat. We were waiting at the end of our driveway. We had a golf cart there.
The school bus comes there, pulls up. He turns around and he's gone with the golf cart, crying, saying he's not going to school. I'm running after him, trying to catch him. He's driving it so fast. I knew at that point. He was probably five.
Q. Did he make it to school?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He went to school.
Q. Are you embarrassed?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I can't believe he just said that (laughter).
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'm glad he's embarrassed because I was so embarrassed that day. Now I'm getting him back.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Just ran out of gas. He had to come in and get a splash of fuel.
THE MODERATOR: All right, guys. We appreciate your time. Marco, congratulations.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Thank you.
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