July 31, 2005
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Danica Patrick. I heard you say on the IMS Radio Network it was not the most fun day for you. If you could tell us more about that.
DANICA PATRICK: No. You know, I think I've been struggling with the car the whole weekend just trying to find a good balance that was consistent. If we ever hit it and made the car feel like it was good, it didn't seem to be the same the next time out. That was our struggle, just trying to find that consistency in the setup. Hit-and-miss for sure this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Danica.
Q. Coming out of two, it seemed like you would lose power or what you gained going into the first half of the race.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah.
Q. Did you feel that, too?
DANICA PATRICK: Definitely at the beginning and at the very end, mostly at the beginning, though, the car -- the rear-end wanted to come around for a long time. I was changing things inside the cockpit to extremes that I had never done before just to try to get it to settle down. My lifting in one and two probably caused a little bit of the lack of speed out of two. I would say that would be the biggest difference. There was laps I was flat out, and there would be somebody next to me. For the most part, I'd beat 'em out - for the most part. So that would be more of the reason.
Q. You seemed to be making progress in the middle of the race. Starting to pick people off.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I finally got the car to where I wanted it to be, in a place I could actually keep my foot on the throttle behind people, which I wasn't able to do at all during the day. The rest of the race, it would just be very twitchy and want to step out. I'm telling you at 200 plus, it's not fun and not comfortable. You know, I was looking to just make sure, first and foremost, I kept the car off the wall and made it to the finish line. In the process, just improved the car as we went along. It seemed like that yellow just put us back a step. The track seemed to change again. I don't know if the grip was just coming into the track progressively. I wasn't keeping up with the car enough to make the car go from a track that wanted to oversteer to a track that wanted to understeer. I would like to think there was a more consistent setup we could have had on the car, not something so finicky that was changing lap to lap. You know, it's just one of those things. I guess that's why we're professionals, is 'cause we're supposed to know how to change that stuff. And I was. But, again, like I said, I was changing things to extremes that I'd never done before. I was kind of stepping outside my comfort zone like, "Holy crap, what is 30 pounds of weight going to do to the right front? Oh, my gosh, here we go." I know that doesn't make any sense to you, but sorry.
Q. When you pulled off the end, what was the official reason? Fuel? Were you leaking?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't believe there's been an official reason for the failure and why we fell out of the race. I just know that I went into three and four and just something let go and I just didn't have any more drive any more. I don't know. There was some smoke. I saw that out the back, too, which is why I stopped at the beginning of pit lane. I didn't want to drop fuel the whole way down pit lane and make the cleanup crew have to oil dry pit lane, too. Not knowing what happened, I just was playing it safe and trying to make sure everybody else had a clean finish to the race at least.
Q. Can you explain when you first knew it was going to be this kind of day? Was it practice or lap one?
DANICA PATRICK: It might have been yesterday (laughter). You know, I mean, it's kind of a proven thing I think with a lot of people, and it can be overcome, don't get me wrong, but when the weekend starts off wrong or bad in any kind of way, it just sets the tone. You just start climbing an uphill battle the rest of the way. We definitely struggled immensely from the first practice session and thought we got it together by qualifying. You know, then to come find the racetrack today, for the race to be different than the practice this morning, it was just ever-changing. Didn't feel like we had this car with a big plateau comfort area. It was either we got it or we don't. I think that we were -- we might have just missed setup kind of as an overall grip thing somewhere. I don't know. I'm not an engineer. All I know is that the tone didn't start out as great as it has been a lot of other weekends.
Q. You keep talking about things being a learning experience. What do you take from this weekend?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think the biggest thing that I can take from this weekend is probably just getting good at setting up passes, understanding and getting used to closing, trying to set up passes so they happen and they don't kind of happen and pass me back because I'm lifting or because I don't have the run out of the corner or something. So it's a lot of just setting up. And also just, you know, feeling the car. You know, when something is not happy, the safest thing on these big ovals is to just slap some understeer into the car so you don't feel like the rear is going to come around because you are not going to keep your foot down if you think the rear is going to come around. Just really being proactive with the car and just really trying to make sure you have something that you can at least drive into the corner. I learned more about the car and the feeling. It taught me to hurry up and change things faster so you don't fall back (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica.
DANICA PATRICK: Thanks, guys.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our second and third place finishers. Dan Wheldon, a second place finish. He has four wins this year. This is his second second place finish. For Tomas Scheckter, it's his fifth top five this season. Dan, tell us about your day out there.
DAN WHELDON: Well, I don't think it was my day. It was Herta's day. There's nobody more deserving of a victory than him. I'm going to say it, you're going to get mad at me, but he busts his ass for this team more than the other three, and I think sometimes we take the glory. It's just very, very good to see him in Victory Lane. Like I say, I have a little bit of a temper, so when I have a temper and can perhaps get in trouble by my bosses, he's the one that calms me down and stops me from being fired. I guess I owe him quite a lot. His car was fantastic and obviously his motor was particularly strong. Honda should have a lot of credit for that. My day, I struggled somewhat with the car a little bit. I don't think I had quite the overall speed as some of the others. Was just able to utilize the draft of other people to benefit me. It was just kind of one of those days really.
THE MODERATOR: Tomas, how was your day out there?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, I think in the beginning, it was going good. I was just sticking with Bryan and conserving fuel. You know, I was conserving a lot of fuel, lifting. I thought he must be flat out and not conserving fuel, and he only put in a lap before me. I knew at this stage the guy was going to be pretty tough to beat. Then obviously I came in. I'm not sure what happened. I knew I speeded because I pushed the button. I came over. When I accelerated again, it increased the speed. I was just lucky not getting lapped. These guys were catching me. I was doing 214s on my own. I thought it was all over. I think I had the same sort of day as Dan. Maybe I knew I couldn't win the race, but I could utilize the tow very well. Certainly didn't have the car I wanted. I was loose off of two. I definitely saw some understeer from you a couple times (laughter). Just stuck in there and when those opportunities went came... Just very happy to be in the top three, especially with what happened early on.
THE MODERATOR: We can open it up to questions for our drivers.
Q. Dan, closing laps, when you went three-wide into turn one, were there any potential moments where it was almost a little too close for comfort?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, probably. But that makes it fun, huh, when it's on the edge? I was just praying to God that we didn't touch because that would have been a tough one to explain to Michael, that you just cost Bryan a win and taken out Tony with you. It was one of them where I have to say I raced Tony. We have similar personalities. We spend a lot of time together. I know just how far I can push him, and I think he knows just how far he can push me. I think you can see that today. He certainly didn't give me much room. I'm sure Tomas was waiting for the big accident to happen.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I was praying in a different sort of line.
DAN WHELDON: That's just the way it is. I knew we'd have to make it through. Bryan is sensible enough up front, he can see what's going on. He made sure we both had some air. It was a sensible situation.
Q. You're being friendly now, but it looked like a spirited battle towards the end. Tomas, did you feel you were getting blocked the last few laps?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I'll have to go look at it. I understeered a couple times. If the car is going to push up, it's going to push up. There were a couple opportunities I thought I could get by and he came down. I think maybe my team owner is a little more angry than I am because I understand what's happening in the cockpit. It's tough racing. But, you know, the closest racing I actually saw were between these two guys, Tony and Dan. I'm amazed they actually speak to each other afterwards. But that's the competitive nature of the team. They do a great job. They always seem to be in front.
Q. Dan, you've been the recipient of some of Bryan's jokes. You get to turn the tides on him.
DAN WHELDON: I don't think you have to turn the tides at all. I think it's going to be a good party tonight. That's all can I say. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be on Bryan's tab. It's going to be a good one.
Q. Tomas, when these guys were a freight train out front, you were behind. How distressing and worried were you?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I started seeing debris waiting for that yellow. I'm not sure if it was really debris or me seeing things, but I would ask the guys how close were they. My pace was horrible. No one was in front of me, so I couldn't draft anybody. It was a horrible feeling. We were just moving along slowly, five seconds, three seconds. Thank God that yellow came out. It saved my whole race. Put me to the back of the grid. I was up with these guys in no time.
Q. Dan, specifically what did Bryan have this weekend you didn't have? You're sitting right behind him at the end.
DAN WHELDON: It's real easy, two words -- I'll say three actually: fast race car. I mean, the stuff that he had just worked for him. These superspeedways, they're really frustrating for the driver at some points because you can have the same setup and be happy with your setup, but you can just be -- you know, you are either quick or slow. I can give you an example. At Texas, the first Texas last year, Dario qualified on pole pretty comfortably, was very fast in the race. Came back with the same setup, it just wasn't the same. Situations change. But it was Bryan's day. Whatever he had worked for him. That's all credit to him. It wasn't all easy for him. He had to work for it. He dropped back on a couple of restarts, came back through. I guess Tomas and Tony, I saw them at the back of one restart. Before you know it, I look in my mirror coming out of turn two, I thought it was Buddy Lazier actually, but it was him.
Q. Tomas, did that penalty cost you the race today?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: No, I don't think so. I think after the first run, it was clear that if someone made no mistakes, they could win the race. I hate to say no because circumstances could change. The other thing that's tough is even say I got in the lead and Bryan was on my outside, with Dan and Tony around, they're not going to go behind me. It's not because Dan's not my friend, it's just because he's with the team and I know who he's going to bump by. No matter what situation you look at it, although Buddy did a great job, he helped me a massive amount, with three, four cars up front. It's hard when you got side by side. I think the finish we had maybe we could have got one better, but that's about the best we could do.
Q. Tomas, when you got towards the back, you were running by yourself, didn't seem to gain a heck of a lot. When they came for a pit stop, I noticed IMS Radio Network asked, Can the No. 4 do anything? They said, Watch him. You worked your way up to the front. What was the difference?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think it's exactly my car on its own was 214. The leaders were doing 217s. We were three miles off. The car only worked when it was in a big tow. The fourth lane was very, very good for me. I had some troubles getting by some people. But, you know, I seemed to be good in that situation. When I won here in '02, it was the same sort of thing. 25, 35 laps to go, we were at the back, I could get through. Some of these situations suit me a little bit.
Q. Dan, you never seemed to drop out of the top five. Do you think you could have won it?
DAN WHELDON: My personality is I always believe there's a chance of winning. I'm going to try my hardest. But he just had a very, very competitive car. But I will say I think you could see in that race the fact that I did have three teammates because they never let me drop out of the top five. If ever they saw me dropping back, I -- Tony actually helped me a lot on several occasions. He pulled out of the draft to pull me up. That's a good thing about being the baby in the team, they never seem to want to lose you. There's not actually many teammates out there that would do that. I think Hornish must be seriously frustrated. Any time he'd get around us, the three of us would work together and make him shuffle back. We like Tomas a little more than him, so we tried to help Tomas out a little more (laughter). That's just the way it works. I think what you saw was a real team effort from Andretti Green. It was a good day from that standpoint.
Q. Dan, did you realize how much Bryan was pulling ahead of you in that first half of the race? It was a half second a lap.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think to some extent we had given up on trying to even reel him in. When we kind -- I don't know -- I know Tony and my spotter were talking to one another. When they came to the conclusion it was a waste of time, we wound the fuel back and tried to save as much as we could. Our pace went from a 215.9, 216 to a 213. That's perhaps where he tried, started to pull away. It was good to see Bryan up there. I know he would have been looking in his mirror laughing. It was pretty cool for him, I'm sure.
Q. Tomas, you seemed to have over the summer months gotten the bad luck behind you. You're kind of seeing what can happen by being able to keep it there till the finish. How much has that boosted the confidence not only in you but the whole team?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, I think that's exactly -- it has. Just running up front all the time. I think the main thing is I get frustrated as well in the car. Whenever I fell back, it destroyed me. Before maybe it destroyed me where I tried to drive over a problem or drive through people that maybe I should have hung back, fixed the car and got through. I think now with the confidence of the win, there's no real pressure. They know if I've got a good car, I'm going to win the race. If I don't, then I'll do the best I can. Today was third.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We're joined by race winner Bryan Herta and team co-owner for Michael Andretti. For Bryan, it's his first IndyCar Series victory since Kansas in 2003. This marks the third time this year the race winner also won the pole at that respective race. Bryan, tell us about your day.
BRYAN HERTA: Great day. Obviously, the team gave me a dominant car, a better car than I've ever had on a superspeedway. It was all going my way. In the first half of the race, we were able to pull out a big lead. Clearly, I didn't want to see a yellow, but I thought it was unlikely we were going to go 400 miles without one. I knew leading on the restarts was not the place you wanted to be. I got swarmed the first two times we did it. I got back to the front the one time, then the second time I kind of got stuck. At the end of the race, I knew my only shot was if I lost the lead on the restart, it was going to be very, very difficult for me to get it back. I concentrated on getting the best restart I could, holding my line on the bottom. It all worked out. I'm glad I had my teammates behind me. They had my back.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, from your perspective, watching along pit road, your comments, please?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Exciting, I'll tell you, especially the last few laps. I don't know, I think it was totally a dominant show for Bryan and the whole XM team. I'm just so proud to get him into Victory Lane. One of the goals for this team was to get four cars in Victory Lane this year. To reach a goal like that is just fantastic. I'm just so happy for Bryan, too. The race just was a little boring there in the beginning.
BRYAN HERTA: I didn't think so.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was a good thing. I'm not saying it was bad. But unfortunately it became way too exciting in the end. Like Bryan said, he had his teammates there, and they had his back. I think that helped a lot because I think Scheckter had a very strong car. We were definitely worried about him. It was nice that there was a little buffer there for Bryan. That was all it took.
THE MODERATOR: There's a lucky listener out there today that won $10,000 for your victory.
BRYAN HERTA: They're going to be loving me right now (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Bryan or Michael.
Q. When you got that huge lead, did it become a goal to see how many guys you could get a lap down?
BRYAN HERTA: Not really. I mean, the goal was, once we got out a big lead, I started turning the fuel down. They were telling me what second, third place guys were running. I was just downing the fuel back till I could run that pace, try to maintain the advantage I had. I didn't want to give up any of our advantage because if it did go green, obviously we were in a great position. But we also didn't want to short ourselves on the fuel so badly. Our strategy for the start of the race clearly was to just run full rich and try and lead. This is a race a lot of times nobody wants to lead because it can be a fuel economy run. We just decided this year, so many times we got off strategy, tried to do funky things to win a race, we just said we're going to try to win it on speed today. We turned the car out, tried to do everything to put as much speed as we could, try to sit on the front as much as we could, and it worked.
Q. Dan said earlier that you bust your ass to make them look good. Were you ever beginning to wonder when it was going to be your turn?
BRYAN HERTA: No. I mean, I know from the outside it's easy to see that Dan had won four races, Tony and Dario had won a race, and I hadn't won a race, and I'm on the same team as they are. Clearly, I should have the same opportunities. It was frustrating in a way. I tell you what. As much as I want to win, I mean, those guys kept me really up. They were always, "Hey, Bryan, you're going to get one soon. It's going to be a good party when you do." They definitely kept my spirits up. Mike and Kim and Kevin, I mean, I can't tell you how much as a driver it means to you when you're the guy that hasn't won a race, and your team owners come, they say, "We're so happy with the job you're doing. Keep doing what you're doing and we know a win is going to come." It's easy to get insecure and say, "Shoot, I'm the guy that hasn't won." They never put that kind of pressure on me. I know I have to perform to stay on this team and keep my place here, just like everybody does every week. But I've never had a team that's given me as much support through the good times and the bad as this team has.
Q. Michael, in Kansas City I asked you, your three other drivers had all won, and Bryan was struggling. You said, "We can't figure out what's problem is." This weekend, there's Bryan at the top of the heap. Did you spend extra time trying to figure out what was wrong with his car?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: To be completely honest with you, we still don't understand it (laughter). That's the scary part. We don't know. I mean, all of a sudden we come out here and Bryan was just strong right away. The car was running strong. We don't know why. We didn't do a whole lot different than what we did in the last race. We come out here and it works out like that. It's a strange thing. I think it's something that this team has got to figure out. I think when we do, I think we're going to hopefully be stronger.
Q. Bryan, you said your teammates had your back. Three-wide going into one, didn't look like they were too concerned about protecting your position.
BRYAN HERTA: Certainly I knew Tony was taking shots at me and then Dan was. I knew they weren't going -- they weren't looking to gift me a win, and I don't want to win a race that way anyways. It wasn't that they were blocking for me or holding position. It's just I feel most comfortable racing my teammates 'cause I know that we can race close and I know that if we go three-wide, if I hold the bottom and the guy on the top is going to hold the top, the guy in the middle is going to hold the middle, we're going to make it through three-wide and make it through, okay. Whoever is in the lead is in the lead. But I have the most confidence racing with my teammates.
Q. You had a restart where a lapped car tried to get a lap back. Ended up costing you six or seven positions. Did you have an issue with that car?
BRYAN HERTA: I thought that was a stupid move. Brian Barnhart must have said 20 times in the drivers meeting, "Below the white line is not an option." He said it 20 times if he said it once. Here we have a lapped car, went down below the white line, pushed me up, came up next to me, and I had to have a lift. Just killed my momentum. I don't know why that car did what it did. Clearly wasn't in the vein of clean racing. Did they penalize that car for going below the line? It was pretty clear in the driver's briefing from Brian. His exact quote was, "If you go below the white line, you will be penalized." So there.
Q. Michael touched on it, but on Saturday during practices, I don't think anybody thought maybe you might have been the guy to come out on the pole. All of a sudden you did get the pole. Then today you came out and were the dominant car. Was there a switch you flipped somewhere before qualifying yesterday?
BRYAN HERTA: Not a switch. But I think the last couple of races, Kansas in particular, we had really good-handling cars that were slow, we couldn't figure it out. Here yesterday we had a car that was pretty fast, and it wasn't handling very well in the beginning. My engineer, Martin, made some great changes to the car. Just hit the combination right by qualifying. I was surprised. From then on, the car was magic. At no point after that was the car ever anything but great.
Q. Michael, you won seven of 11 races.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: 7-Eleven (laughter).
Q. When you entered the Indy Racing League, ownership, did you ever fathom that would be possible?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No. I mean, it's just been a dream year. Actually for me it's been a dream since I got out of the car, the way everything has gone with this team. It's just been pure pleasure for me. Working with these guys, it's just been so much fun. To have the success along with the fun has been just amazing to me. I hope we never wake up from this dream. Sooner or later you know it's going to come to an end. That's the scary part. When it does, I think it's going to be quite interesting to see how the team reacts, how we can get ourselves back when we lose our way. But that's always a challenge. But right now we're really enjoying this.
Q. Your team was in the news a lot this week. How important was it to end it on a positive note?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You know, I mean, yeah, there is a lot of stuff said, which wasn't true. What happened there had nothing to do with Danica or anything. In fact, I'm one of Danica's biggest fans, I really am. I think she's a real racer. I think she's been nothing but good for this sport. It was other reasons why things were done. But it's all fine. We're fine. She's fine. The IRL is fine. Everything is cool. We came in very positive after that into the weekend. You guys just had a lot of fun with it, that's all.
Q. Bryan, you and your engineer obviously clicked today or this weekend. How important is your feedback that he's got to be able to translate what you tell him the car is doing? What was different this weekend that he got the car dialed in?
BRYAN HERTA: You'd have to ask him exactly. I don't know. I don't know. All the ones, zeros, numbers lined up right, whatever he did. Martin is my engineer. I've been very, very happy with him. He's been with me, this is our second year together now. He's given me some really great cars a lot of times this year. Sometimes we didn't always get to show it like we did today. But he is one of a really, really strong group of engineers that we have at Andretti Green Racing. The depth of engineering at the team is unlike anything I've ever seen. I'm glad to have those guys in our corner because they're the ones that make our cars go fast. We're lucky to drive them.
Q. Michael, different circumstance than how Bryan got the ride. When he filled in for Dario a couple years ago, he did so well, had to keep him. Do you kind of look at another competitor and see that Buddy Lazier is doing so well for Panther?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think Buddy is a good driver. I think he did a great job at Indianapolis. It's tough for a guy to come in like that. Bryan will tell you. He's a good driver. He came in there and did a good job. Made our lives miserable a little bit a couple times.
Q. Bryan, you talked about the restarts. One of those restarts got waved off because Barnhart didn't like the way it went. The last restart was perfect. What was the difference?
BRYAN HERTA: I was starting later. I was getting swarmed. The next one I started real early. I guess I wasn't sure where the restart -- first restart cone was. I guess they told me on the radio that Barnhart said it was too early and if I did it again, I'd go to the back. I knew that was too early. The last one I moved it down a little bit. Being the polesitter, that's -- the leader, that's the only advantage I have at that point. Those guys got a big draft off me. I was just trying to take advantage of the one thing I had, which was the element of surprise that they didn't know when I was going to go. I just tried to time it in a spot where I didn't think they'd expect it.
Q. Yesterday we talked about Michigan being your birthplace. You came in a day early to have dinner with your family. Were any of them at the race today?
BRYAN HERTA: Yeah. A couple of my cousins, second cousins. That's always nice. Of course, my wife and my kids were here, which they only get to about half the races. Really cool to have them in Victory Lane, something that I can share with my kids that hopefully they'll remember when they get older. I know I will.
Q. Word around the water cooler was after Milwaukee, you sat your chief engineer down and watched an episode of the Sopranos with him. Is that true?
BRYAN HERTA: No, that's a bad rumor (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
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