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September 25, 2005
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, our first interview will be the Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year, Danica Patrick. Congratulations on your Rookie-of-the-Year title. Tell us about your race today, if you would.
DANICA PATRICK: Where do I begin? You know, we weren't super strong this weekend. The road courses have been a challenge, as I've said this weekend so far. We kept getting better. We kept getting faster each time out. We were holding our own in the beginning of the race, it was going okay. They made a good decision on the pit stop, as we only had done five laps. They only put fuel in as opposed to fuel and tires. We made a few gains there. Settled in a little bit. Then we made a pit stop. As I went back out, on the same lap, Rahal Letterman had a bad lap. I don't know what happened with Buddy. I think he crashed on the exit of pit lane. Vitor had an electrical problem or something like that. I don't know, something had gone wrong. Myself, I went to go adjust my brake bias. I'm pretty sure I knocked the ignition switch off, as they're right next to each other. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I looked down to turn it off, and it was already off. Unfortunately, that was what happened. As I got going again, pulled into the pits. We adjusted the clutch pedal for various reasons this weekend. There isn't very much room at the bottom of the clutch pedal. As soon as you lift your foot off a little bit, it just dumps. I think that's what happened. It happened one other time this year. I think it was actually for Indy, we adjusted it there. You know, that's not anybody's fault. It's showed its head when I didn't want it to. Anyway, got back out, just ran a race, that's it. Just finished it out, got as many points as we could. That's about it. It's disappointing. I wanted to run well here today. I think if we could have hung in there without that problem at the beginning with the switch, we would have been okay.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Danica Patrick.
Q. You clinched the rookie title with one race left. How worn down do you feel right now?
DANICA PATRICK: I'd be lying if I told you I wish there were 30 more races. I could go to NASCAR then (laughter). I have a little bit of this urging energy for this last one. I'm like I want to end strong, I really do. I think with the run that I had at Chicago, there's a real potential for a great result at Fontana. I think I'm going to be putting every last ounce of energy I have into this last race with knowing that it's the end and there's a break afterwards. I'm going to do everything I can. But, yeah, I'm looking forward to the off-season for a lot of reasons. A lot of reasons being I get a break finally, I'm going to get married. All kinds of stuff. Yeah, it's been good, but it's been a very memorable and very good first season. If I was told how the season was going to go, and it went like this, at the beginning of the season, I would have said, "I'll take it." I tend to get into the moment, down and depressed, angry when things going wrong like today or like some of the days in the past. But I have to look to the goal I had at the beginning of the season, and that was to keep on improving and to win Rookie-of-the-Year and to win Rookie-of-the-Year at Indy. That's all happened. Why am I mad? I don't know. It's 'cause I'm driven. It's because I always want more. It's the reason why I'm probably here.
Q. Now that you've been through the season, how do you prepare for the next season in the off-season?
DANICA PATRICK: I think in this off-season I'm going to work hard on the road racing stuff. I'm going to do everything I can to turn left and right and sharpen my skills and push myself there because I think that's where my downfall has been. As far as improving the car goes on the short ovals, we did that. On the big ovals, we're pretty much right there most of the time. I just need to work on the road racing stuff. That's going to be my focus. I'm going to take a couple of breaths, too, and chill.
Q. Will you change your physical without?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, there's always a little bit of tweaking here and there with certain areas that I'll go, "Right there." I'm marrying a physical therapist, so he's got all the answers.
Q. What will you take from the first trip to Watkins Glen?
DANICA PATRICK: I will remember driving around the track last night in my car with my fiancee and my mom and my dad, going around and looking at all the campers and all the motorhomes. There were so many. That's amazing. That's so cool. That's so cool that there's that many fans out here for our first race out at Watkins Glen. Rumor has it that I heard a lot of them are not all NASCAR fans, so it's not like it's a NASCAR crowd that came out. This is all just excited open-wheel blood. So I think that's very positive and I hope that that continues and grows in all different places.
THE MODERATOR: Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year, Danica Patrick. Thank you for coming in.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Please welcome our race winner Scott Dixon to our podium. Congratulations on your win today. Give us a condensed version of how you did it.
SCOTT DIXON: I think the start of the race didn't really go as planned. I sort of picked up a spot. Tony had a good run on the inside. He was probably the slower car I think through the first stint. I was struggling to get around. I don't know, I think the yellows fell in the right places for us. It was going to be a hard race to get good fuel strategy because of everybody I think not quite making the 20-lap windows. With the yellows falling in the right place, that wasn't too much of a problem. The car all day was superb, it was quick, it was fast, even in traffic. It was better really. We just raced to the front. We passed cars when we needed to, had power and the handling to do it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Scott.
Q. Long time no see.
SCOTT DIXON: It's getting old, that one (laughter). Yeah, you know, it's great, though. It's kind of funny that it makes it feel so much better after having such a slump. You almost think that it's never going to come back, that you're never going to get a chance to win. I think today, once we started passing cars, running fast, able to catch people that were leading, I kind of knew that we could do it. Wasn't real sure there with the pit stops towards the end with other cars coming out. But, you know, it feels great. Just relieved.
Q. The one thing that road course races show, the driver has more control over the outcome of the race. How much of an equalizer was it for you?
SCOTT DIXON: I think this track is all about momentum. To be honest, I think the headwind down the back straight really helped, you know, to pass cars. Toyota did a great job in bringing good power to this race. They improved even from the test we had here the first couple of times. They're working very hard. It's hard to always play catch-up. It is good to come to road courses. It is definitely an equalizer I think over car handling and power.
Q. Entering the boot section, you made a pass on Dario. There was a bit of contact. Any worry there?
SCOTT DIXON: Not for me. You know, it was a little bit of a bump. I saw the tire just now. It had a bit of blue paint, stuff on it. It didn't bother me. I think it was more worry about him I think hitting the fence because he was on the outside. No real worry. The car didn't change in handling. If anything, it maybe made it a little better.
Q. Does it feel sweeter since you won here after being bumped off the pole?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, the pole would have been good, as well. But the pole's not winning the race. As long as you can put yourself in a situation to be able to take the win... I think we would have been a lot closer if we had a better balance in qualifying. We had a lot of understeer, didn't quite get what we needed out of it. I knew we had the car to do it in the race. We just need to stay clean. It's great to race at a track that doesn't open up passing places.
Q. Thoughts on the Watkins Glen course?
SCOTT DIXON: It's very technical. It's a great place to come to. It's rewarding in the fact that you get a lap together, you get a very good time. Going through the splits the whole weekend, you sort of mess up sections, you get one right, the other right, the more so on the (inaudible). It's a true driver's track. I think everybody loves it when it rewards you right. As I've said about the passing opportunities, I think the straights are just long enough. The headwind down the back straight did help a lot to go in. I love the place. It's great. Obviously, I love it because I won here.
Q. What does this mean for the team after the "miserable season" it's had?
SCOTT DIXON: Pretty good, I guess. You know, it's good for me. Chip's not on my ass anymore, I hope. No, it's superb for the team. They've been working extremely hard. They've had a rough period there with a lot of crashed cars, a lot of down moments. But as I said before, it does reward you in the fact that you struggled so much, now you can get back up on top and remember what it feels like.
Q. Do you think doing two cars is really the way to go?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I don't think so. Look at Andretti Green. They run four. Ran that smoothly. I think we've had a bit of bad luck, maybe some self-inflicted. That's just part of racing. If it would have been in '03, we ran three cars, probably would have had the same outcome. I think it just depends on the year and we had pretty bad luck.
THE MODERATOR: Tony Kanaan has joined us in here, our second place finisher. Tony, talk about your race. Looked like a pretty competitive deal.
TONY KANAAN: I was racing for second, you're right. I would say it was a good day. We had a very good start. That was it basically. I think Scott drove a hell of a race. I knew how strong he was because he passed me more than once on the racetrack. I knew it was going to be tough. I tried to beat him on the stops. That was the only way I could really try to be ahead of him. But I think he still would have got me in the end if I had done it. Gave him a hard time. As usual, we raced fair with each other. Hopefully we put a good show, and people don't say we don't see passing on road courses, because I think there was a lot of passing. He had a better car. I was there just trying to give him a hard time, see if he would make a mistake. You know, it's been a while that he hasn't been up here. I felt in some ways that he deserved to win. We haven't been racing against each other a lot this year because unfortunately with all the problems they had. But I kind of had forgot how good he was. When you don't race with somebody for a long time, you don't remember. Nothing against him. I said, "Oh, that's Scott, I got to remember that." That was it. I knew how hungry he was. I'm happy for him.
Q. Tony, can you comment on your teammate clinching the championship midway through the race.
TONY KANAAN: I mean, for me it was done last race. The team told me to wait till lap 31. But, come on, you're trying to give me hope that I still going to win it? Unless I kidnap him and disappear with him for the next two races... I'm happy for Dan. I said it many times before, if I couldn't win, I would like one of my teammates to do it because we keep it in the house. It's very good for the team. A guy that wins six races in a year, I think he deserves to win the championship. If I had won the championship winning two, another guy winning six, I would still take it, but it wouldn't make me feel good. I think he deserved it. He had a very good year. As we all know, I told him, he's going to have to be prepared for how busy he's going to be. Obviously on the following year, you're going to have to try to match. We're going to be back. I'm going to give him a hard time, as well.
Q. This race showcased the last three championships. Talk about that.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I don't know. I guess it's a bit of potluck. I don't really look at it that way. I don't know if you can pull that much out of it. It's a good little fact, I guess.
TONY KANAAN: I guess we're very good in the road courses, I guess, I have to say (laughter).
Q. Tony, talk about the start. You jumped from fifth to second on the first lap. Can you describe what that was like.
TONY KANAAN: I had a bet with Kim Green that I was going to pass at least two cars on the start, otherwise he was going to fire me before Fontana. I had to hurry up and do it (laughter). I just took the advantage. I knew that I would have a chance being back there drafting the guys, depending which way they're going to go. I knew I had a chance to pass maybe one car. Pantano I think, he didn't really start good, so Scott tried to move up. Carpentier was beside him. All of a sudden I'm just ready to follow Carpentier into the corner right behind him. He kind of squeezed Scott into Pantano. They had to lift. Carpentier braked. I said, "If he makes it, man, hats off for him." Obviously, he didn't make it. I was already alongside Scott and Pantano at that point. Carpentier gave me the position basically. I think I would have got Scott just because he had to lift, then Carpentier made the mistake and gave me this position.
Q. What are your thoughts of the racetrack, the area, the weekend?
TONY KANAAN: I think it was a very positive weekend. From the get-go, when we came here, at first we asked for a lot of modifications in the racetrack. They did. I think there's still a lot of room to improve. But everything that we asked, that was possible for them to do for the amount of time that we had in our hands, they did. I went to town on Thursday night for the (indiscernible) event they had there, the museum. Saw a lot of people there, a lot of people involved. I went to dinner last night in town, which I don't do very often. I stay at the racetrack. I saw a lot of buzz around the race. I even got stopped by the police, and the guy recognized me, so I didn't get a ticket. That was awesome.
Q. Can I use that?
TONY KANAAN: Yes, you can. He asked me if I had anything to drink. I said no. He still made me that (indiscernible) test and whatever. And the people that I saw today, a lot of guys. The racetrack was fun. The race I think was a good race. I have to say, we drove hard from lap one to the last lap. I mean, if you look at Scott's lap time, two laps to go, I think it was a 32.5. My fastest lap in the whole race was a 32.7. Obviously, we always going to get people trying to criticize us, but I don't see it right now. I think was a very good weekend.
Q. How did the last pit stop fit in? Do you see that in the future coming here?
TONY KANAAN: You're talking about the strategy, the top eight guys didn't pit and the rest of the field pitted? Is that what you're talking about?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I mean, when you're in the top six, you're going to follow the leader. What I got told, I'm sure Scott got told the same thing, "If Helio comes in, you come in." Helio pretended he was coming in. We all stayed out. The other guys, they couldn't pass. They tried to gamble. But I still think our strategy, it was a better one.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, you nodded in agreement.
SCOTT DIXON: Basically what Tony said. You've always got to follow the leader. Sometimes you do get stuck with it. I think the last two or three road courses, it sort of played out that way. Looked like maybe the first race was going to be different the start of the year. The tires are still so bad that they got passed in the end as well. Yeah, you know, you pretty much got to race till the end of your fuel load, pit and move on.
THE MODERATOR: Tony Kanaan great drive. Scott Dixon, congratulations on your win here at Watkins Glen. We are joined by driver Dan Wheldon, co-owners Michael Andretti and Kevin Savoree. Before we get started, Dan Wheldon becomes the 25th time that an Indy 500 winner has won a major open-wheel championship in the same year that he won the 500. Congratulations to you, Dan. You clinched the title early. Talk about your emotions as you're racing around out there knowing had you the title.
DAN WHELDON: I think for me the nicest thing is I'm going to be able to sleep now. I don't normally have a problem sleeping. I think I'm like Dario. I think it's how we're brought up in Europe. Having won it is a big weight lifted off my shoulders. A lot of the hard work was done in Chicago. Until you actually finally clinched it, I don't think you ever feel like you clinched it. I'm ecstatic, to tell you the truth. I came in this year focused on winning the Indy 500. After achieving the dream of winning that, you somewhat feel greedy trying to go for the championship. Obviously, you're going to go for it, there's no doubt about it. You're so desperate to win that one particular race that then you have to readjust your focus and mindset on obviously performing to win the championship. To win both in the same year I think is an unbelievable achievement. I thought I might be capable of doing it in my career, but I didn't think I'd be able to do it this quick. I want to thank certainly my three teammates because I'm relatively young in my IndyCar career. I think the opportunity that the team has given me has been fantastic, certainly with Honda. I mean, there's never been a year where we've not been competitive. You can't say the same for some other people. But I think those guys have really kind of sped up my learning curve no end. I'm proud to be part of the organization. I'm proud to have delivered them a championship. It's particularly nice to take it over from Tony, although I'm sure he's not happy about that. It's particularly nice to keep it in the team.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin Savoree, Michael Andretti, your thoughts on clinching the championship.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I mean, it's been a dream year, for sure. Dan fulfilled one of my biggest dreams, and that was winning the Indy 500. Then to go on and win the championship now is just fantastic, along with the other three cars, the achievements they've had. It's been fantastic. I just want to thank everybody that made it happen, the whole Klein Tools, Jim Beam team, did a fantastic job, won a lot of races for Dan, as Dan won a lot of races for the team. It was a total team deal. So we thank them and Honda, as Dan said. They've just been unbelievable. We've had such a great partnership with them. I think we pushed them and they pushed us. I think that's why we get the results. It's just been amazing. I think the big challenge now is to keep the ball rolling. That's going to be up to us to try to keep things together, hopefully give these guys the tools of what they need to hopefully keep winning.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin Savoree, your thoughts and emotions?
KEVIN SAVOREE: It's just an incredibly special day. To think back three years ago, Dan kept in our face, kept saying, "Give me a chance, give me a chance." We put him in a mule car with Honda starting our development with the IndyCar Series. Dan did about 3500 miles, never put a foot wrong. That satisfied the technical side of it. Then for Klein Tools and Jim Beam to step up the way they did three years ago really with an unknown race car driver, this plan that we had put together, it's so special to reward them with a championship and an Indy 500 win. Things like that, you can make plans, but they don't -- there's great competitors out here, to beat them, that just makes it that much more special. It's an incredibly special day.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our championship winning driver or owners.
Q. Dan, when did you finally allow yourself to feel you had won?
DAN WHELDON: Well, I think as crazy as I am, you never know what's going to happen in my life. I just had to make it here. I think that was something the team owners were worried about. You know, I had a good idea after Chicago obviously that I was going to be able to do it. I think after doing the one practice lap or the practice, I knew that was the case, the race just had to become official. For me, when you get involved in a race weekend, I'm not the kind of person that's just going to give a half-hearted effort because I've already achieved the championship. That's just not my style. To some extent, I think Tony, Dario, I and Bryan are disappointed in the result, the individual result, because we all had the same problem in our race cars and we think we know why we had that. Now that it's official, it's particularly special. I think certainly the Jim Beam is going to be flowing tonight somewhere, so watch out.
Q. Dan and Michael, you both achieved championships, the Indy 500. Every team has goals still on their list. What are some of the goals on each of your lists?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think the goal is to keep this team to continue to win the way it has. I don't think it's an easy one, I think it's going to be the hardest one yet. It's all about winning races. That's why we're in it, championships, obviously the Indy 500, we want to win it again and again and again if we can. Those are our goals. They're not going to be any different. Every year it's the same. This year has been special because we pretty much met every goal. Next year we're going to set the same goals.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, personal goals you have in mind?
DAN WHELDON: I think the biggest thing for me is, I mean, motorsport is a fickle business. I've had a great year this year, and I think I've achieved an unbelievable amount, but now you have to continue. When you set the bar high, you've got to continue to be as good, otherwise people are going to talk bad about you, and I don't like that. I aim to just keep doing the same. I still believe I'm learning a lot, believe it or not. Like I say, I'm still -- this is only my second full season in IndyCars. I definitely feel like there's some places I keep going and I keep learning a ton. I hope to keep getting better, like I hope to keep winning as much as I possibly do. It would be nice to try to top this year. It's going to be very difficult. The competition in this series is unbelievable right now, and I think you could certainly see that today. I mean, this kind of track makes for great racing, and you could see obviously there was a Target car running up front, then you had the 7-Eleven car with Tony, the Arca/ex car with Dario, I think Castroneves was up there, a lot of different cars which just shows you how strong. I'm looking forward to continue and looking forward to get back to the speedway.
Q. How difficult is it going to be to keep this super team together?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Like I said, that's our challenge. It's not just the four drivers which is a challenge trying to keep together, but everybody within the team. That's our job and that's what we have to do. We're getting pretty close to doing that for next year and hopefully beyond. I think continuity is a thing that really did it for us this year. If we can continue that continuity, I think it's going to be good for this team.
Q. (No microphone.)
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: People are always. One thing that's been great, though, is we've hardly lost any people. We have really good, loyal people. It's like a big family there. Everybody really gets along. It's not all talk; it's real. We just got to continue to keep it that way.
Q. Michael, your dad raced here in the US Grand Prix. You're the first IRL team owner to win at Watkins Glen. How special is that to you?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's definitely special. To come here to Watkins Glen, I think it's one of the classic road tracks in the world. There's so much history here. Dad is a big part of it obviously, won a lot of races here, had his first Formula One pole here back in '68. The unfortunate part is in my career I didn't get to race here as much as I would have liked. I only raced here a few times in Formula Fords. To win the championship here is definitely special. It's close to home. I guess now it's almost considered our home race. It was great to do it here.
Q. Dan, talk about your particular race today and the fact that next season we're not going to be in the fall, we're going to be in June.
DAN WHELDON: Well, obviously I hope it's a little bit warmer with the race being in June. It's somewhat like England here right now. I kind of feel at home. For me, this is a great track. I think the Klein Tools Jim Beam team had a little bit of a difficult weekend. It wasn't one that ran as smooth as some of the races we've had this year. But that's what's great about the road courses, it brings out different people at the sharp end of the field. With my situation, you have to -- there's still a lot to learn. I haven't done as many races in the IndyCars as people like Dario, Tony and Bryan. For me, it's a time to kind of catch up and learn. This track is unbelievable. Some of the media -- I compared it to Spa Francorchamps. It's one of my favorites, this and Spa. Some people said that I was just saying that for the press. That's absolutely not the case. I have nothing to tell the press. I speak for how I want to speak. This place gives you great satisfaction when you drive around it quick. I'm not sure I was quite quick enough. It's very fast, it's flowing. It's very, very challenging. We were just a little bit out of the setup window. It made for a very difficult race. But that's what makes racing fun, especially around a place like this. It keeps you on your toes. I had a good time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
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