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July 16, 2005
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Danica Patrick. She had a great run here at Nashville her first time here, finishing seventh today. Danica, would you talk to our press corps about your run today, please.
DANICA PATRICK: We'll start from the top. You know, I started in the front. I dropped back at the start. Seems to happen frequently. I think it's a matter of, you know, me trying to make sure I keep my momentum through the first few laps and not lift really at all, if that's possible. You know, I think maybe for the beginning of each run, we need to figure something out to make the car hook up a little bit better. Initially it seems like I'm not able to keep up quite as well when we put new tires on and full fuel. Maybe there's something there. But I definitely have to work on keeping momentum up. Then once you settle in, you settle in. It was single file for a long time. You guys watched it. I watched it. It's difficult to pass. I think a lot of people were suffering from understeer out there, which was preventing them to overtake. I was definitely in that boat. As the run went on, I got to the end of the fuel run, picked off a few people. The balance of the car came back to me as I think I wore the right rear off. Then what happened? Geez, 200 laps. We made, you know, some fuel strategy gambles and it paid off. We were going to pit in one more lap and the yellow flag came out, so someone was looking out for me out there. We pitted under that yellow and lost a few more spots under that yellow flag, but that was because we had to put more fuel in than everybody else because we hadn't stopped for so long. We put all four set of tires on which was a plus compared to everyone. I think they left their old tires on. Then we were kind of back in the game. Went back for that restart. Went high. Saw Sam high. I thought, "Heck, let's go high," not to know that he was sailing towards the wall, soon to find out I would be, too. I lost a bunch of spots doing that. In all the rest of the restarts, it had been fine. The outside line on the restarts was fine. You could run there. But there was just a ton of marbles up there. I'm surprised both of us didn't go into the wall. So we dropped back. You know, that was pretty much -- other than the last restart where I got one more, that was about it. I felt like the car was pretty fast, but I think we had the second fastest lap time of the race. When you drop back at the start on a track that's difficult to pass on, you're just hurting yourself. Over all, the team did a great job on strategy. There's still some things to work on; there's going to be for a long time. But over all it was good gambles, good payoffs, a lot was learned, another fairly good result.
THE MODERATOR: We have time for a couple of questions.
Q. There were marbles up high?
DANICA PATRICK: I just said that we were fine. All the rest of the race was fine. For some reason, I think they were trying to get us to go green again fast, they didn't sweep the track and there was marbles.
Q. Sounds like a couple of restarts are memorable, the one with Wheldon at Indy, then the one with Dario.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, you know, the restarts are fine. I think that I have the timing down. I think that the team does a good job with the way we set the gears up and everything. I think that that's fine. But for some reason, like I said, when the first green flag hits and we've got fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, it's just tough. I don't know what it is. You know, I mean -- I'm sure it's a lot me and keeping momentum up. The restarts are okay. If we could just start single file each time, I would be fine. Let's talk about that.
Q. When you battled with Sam, is there anything more you need to do? Do you feel like your respect level is up there with Sam with the battles you were having?
DANICA PATRICK: I thought Sam raced very fair. I thought he raced close. But I know there was one lap I went into three and four had just, just got up just a stitch, to the point where most people most of the time probably would have not called inside. So I don't know. He gave me room. He raced me very fair. Obviously, was paying attention to his spotter, listening to that, respecting the space, which is in turn respecting me I think. You know, I respect him. We've raced with each other for a long time. He knows when push comes to shove, we're both pretty darn tough. That goes back to our preteenage years even. I hope he respects me. I respect him. I think that's probably a question for Sam.
Q. First time on this concrete track, any adjusting you had to make during the race?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know if I'm just stupid, but I don't think there's any difference between concrete and whatever else. It's absolutely no difference to me. I don't care. It's not a big deal. I don't notice it. A track is a track. All the different tracks have different grip levels, different characteristics. You know, all I was dealing with was normal race stuff, which is the car does this, changes does this, goes back to that, new tires again, it starts all over. Then over the course of that, from beginning to end of the race, there's an entire change in the track as well. So you have your tire life and your fuel levels, then you have your entire track for the race. Everything is constantly kind of, you know, changing. Just normal race stuff.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Danica. We'll get started with our second place finisher with us, Sam Hornish, Jr., and Patrick Carpentier, who finished third today. This is Patrick's first season in IndyCar Series. You had an awesome day, Patrick. Talk about that, please.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it was kind of up-and-down day. We started at the back, slowly moved up towards the front. On one of the restarts, hit one of the Target cars, I don't know who it was, hit one of the cars. I was coming behind him, I had momentum. I didn't want to lift. These guys came out of the corner and I think the Target car got close to the wall and lifted. I was kind of pushing a little bit. When he lifted, I was very close to him. I just hit his car, went up in the air, the front end of the car, finally came back down. It hit pretty hard when it came back down. Front nose was broken. The right tire seemed to have something. We stayed out so we could put fuel in. I was hoping the suspension was okay. We came in, changed the front nose, put some fuel in and were good till the end of the race. It actually was a bad thing, but ended up working out for us pretty well. On that last restart, we started last, let everybody by so that first corner we could see if the car was going to hold up and make the corner. After that it was fine. It was very good till the end. But at the end I tried to stay in front of these guys. Was flat all the time. Around the track, I was struggling a little bit too much speed in the corner -- was lacking a little bit speed. These guys, both of them went by. It was good racing with them, it was fun. I was a bit disappointed to get the third place, but I was very happy because it was kind of mixed emotions because it was kind of a bonus with the crash and what happened, we ended up up there. So it was a good bonus for the Red Bull team.
THE MODERATOR: Sam, you almost got your second win of the season. Talk to us about your run here at Nashville.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Kind of a night of ups and downs. We started back towards -- a little bit further back in the pack, got right back up to the front right off the bat. Thought that we might have a shot to win this. Got a couple runs on Dario there in clean traffic, just couldn't get quite by him. We had a pit stop where we had a little bit of a problem. The fuel nozzle got stuck in. Came out fifth, fifth of the guys that stopped, so I think we were actually eighth or ninth. I was probably getting a little bit -- yelling on the radio probably a little bit too much. Then I went and made a mistake on my own. I tried to pass a couple guys on the outside on the first lap on the restart, went up and lost about four positions. I had a lot of things I had to get done on the last 10 laps to make it up to the guys for yelling about the pit stop. It's one of those things (laughter). After I made the mistake, I said, "Guys, I'm sorry about yelling at you. I guess we all make mistakes." They do an awesome job for me, the Marlboro Team Penske crew. They work super hard on their pit stops. Sometimes things just happen for a reason. I figure if we wouldn't have started where we were, we might have been in that accident with Vitor and Alex. So maybe it was good that we were back a little bit. It still turned out okay. Dario did a heck of a job, was up front all night long, stayed out of trouble, which is exactly what you need to do here. I congratulate him. Also Patrick, because he came out of nowhere, surprised us. He was pretty fast there at the end. He definitely made it difficult to get around, but he was -- it was a pleasure to race against him. You go out there and you run against guys, you hope they give you as much room as you're going to give them. It was good racing.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Sam, at one point you seemed like a rocket, went from sixth to second, blew by your teammate. Was it good timing the restart or traffic was right?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, we had a really good-handling race car and we could run. But it was like once you get up there to that first guy that doesn't have anybody in front of him to take aero off the front of the car, that's the toughest guy to pass when you get to this track because it is one groove. They're going to hug the bottom. You really have to have the car handling well. Plus, you know, we just didn't have enough to get up there to get to Dario, enough laps. If it was a 225-lap race, we might have had a little bit better shot, but it wasn't. We gained some very valuable points today. I made a couple mistakes in the last two races that cost us some points. Now we're trying to get them all back. We had a great day as far as the points were concerned. First would have been a little bit better. The car handled well, I could go in and out of traffic, I could run the high side on restarts. We had perfect gearing for restarts. That's where we got by a lot of people. I've been working real hard to get all those timed right so I don't lose anything.
Q. Patrick, how sinking a feeling is it to have someone go past you right there at the end?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, well, first of all, I kept saying, "It's raining really bad down the back straight," but I guess they didn't believe me (laughter). No, after a while, I said, "Let's go green, it's dry." But I held off Dario the first couple laps. I was so happy. I saw him drop back there. I saw him coming back, like a train. I said, "This guy is really coming." He came fast and just went by me. Then after that, there was Sam. I was hoping, "Okay, I'll get second place. This is good, this is good." I was counting the laps. Five laps, Sam kept knocking on the door. I didn't want to block him or anything. I could have gone on the inside of the track, but my car was scrubbing even more speed, so I was even slower. I had to kind of stay to the outside. I was hoping he was going to back off in that turn three and four. But knowing Sam, I doubt he was going to back off. So he just went in really hard and passed me there, ended up finishing in third place. It's good for us. You know, the team, we struggled so much the beginning of the year, we're not even close to the speed of these guys. Now we have a partner on the team with Red Bull, it's Mechachrome. They do a lot of work for Renault in Formula One and have been working with us very hard. They're building us suspension pieces and shocks and things. We're slowly getting better and better and better. Every race I can see that the car is making some progress. So it's fun to see. You know, that's why I came in and that's what I was hoping for. I mean, to race with these guys at the front is such a blast. It's a fun night.
Q. Sam, do you like the track or does it drive you nuts?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. I think I better learn how to play the guitar because maybe that's going to be the only way I get it. Couple seconds, a third, we've been in the top 10 every year here, which I guess I should be pretty happy about that. Nashville, this is a fun racetrack. I love running around here because, you know, it's somewhere in between Richmond and Texas. It's a little bit about horsepower, a little bit about handling. There's a lot of things that you can make up for. Pit stops are very crucial. Restarts are very crucial here. I enjoy coming here. I look forward to it every year. Outside of the Borg-Warner trophy, that guitar is the thing I'm trying to get more than anything else as far as trophies on the circuit. It seems like it keeps getting harder every year. But I guess that will make it even more enjoyable if I ever do get it.
Q. When did you make contact? Was that on a restart?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: That was one of the restarts, right there at the end, just before that last yellow flag with the big crash in turn four, a few laps before that on the restart. I don't know who it was, one of the Target cars, one of the Chevrolets.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Lap 115, 119, somewhere in there. I remember because that was when the 16 car didn't pit, then Dario was right in front of me, then I almost got by him, did two laps, then there was the yellow end fence laying on the ground coming off of turn four. I don't know.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: You should work with us on pit strategies (laughter).
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I know when you're pitting (laughter).
Q. Sam, when you had that side-by-side with Danica, was that ever concerning? How much fun was that?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, it was concerning because I knew that she was a little bit lighter on fuel than what I was running. They didn't stop. We stopped. It was like, I don't know, 15 gallons. I knew I wanted to be ahead of her because that was my chance to be able to get around Dario. So I was pushing it pretty hard at that point in time. We gave each other room around there. She made me look at the opportunity to pass on the outside. The inside wasn't really available. It made it a little more difficult than I think it needed to be. It wasn't fun because I saw Dario's car getting smaller and smaller as we were running side by side. But it was clean racing and a good time.
Q. Patrick, were you close on fuel?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, we were, until that last yellow flag. It was a three-car crash, I guess. It took a long time to clean up, then we had plenty of fuel for the end. I was maxed. Everywhere we could, we were running full fuel.
Q. Sam, how do you rate Danica's progress?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think as with any driver, including myself, there's still a lot to learn there. That's the thing about this, you don't just get to a point one day and you win a race and you're going to be the best driver forever. It's an evolving process of what you can learn because the technology with these cars changes every year, the strategies change every year, new people come in that are more competitive, they do different things. I think so far she's been able to go out there and been able to finish races and stay out of trouble. That's something that even I don't know how to do some days. It's a lot about making the right decisions. I think over time you'll see more and more. Like I said, any driver needs to keep learning and making their skills a little bit better or else they become outdated.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll get started. Congratulations, Dario. Our hometown man at his hometown track. He has his guitar. Talk to us about your day.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I told you I wanted that guitar, didn't I?
THE MODERATOR: You did.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Where to start? We'll start at the start, I guess. Off the green flag, I made a move around the outside and got up into second place. The car was so strong. I was able to pass Scheckter not long afterwards. Then it was just a matter of keeping the pace, saving fuel out there. The car was really good. No degradation from the tire. I was able to run as quick at the end of the stint as I was at the start of the stint. We came in, we lost a little bit coming into the first pit stop because the eight guys behind us made it difficult for us to get in, so we lost a bit to Tony, but then Tony had his problem. I guess it was a wheel bearing. From then, we were fighting to stay up front. I came out of the last pit stops to discover the two Red Bull cars ahead of me and I was a bit surprised about that. Barron made it very difficult for me to get past. When I would make a move to the outside, he would block, which you're not supposed to do. I was surprised about that. In contrast, it's a race with Patrick. Patrick Carpentier was just brilliant. We've raced against each other pretty much non-stop since '97. That restart, we were inches apart between one and two. We made it through. I got up in the gray. In three had to back off. We came back at him, managed to make the pass. That was it. The biggest problem I felt was the rain under yellow. I was just thinking, "If this cloud breaks and I lose this race because of the rain, it's going to pretty much sum up our year." But it held. There we go. I just want to say thank you to my guys. The arca/ex car has been fast all season long. Thank you to Michael, Kevin and Kim for giving us the equipment to go and do the work. Thanks to Honda, because that engine is very, very strong. Great to win in Nashville at home.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, your other drivers didn't fare as well. Does this make it extra sweeter?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: For sure. It's definitely nice to have four cars out there. There is definitely strength in numbers. You know, all four were running really well there. We were looking good for a while. All of a sudden they started to drop. The scary part was they were all pretty much with the same problem. We were very concerned with Dario's car.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Although nobody told me (laughter).
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Of course. But we were a little nervous. You know, it's one of those deals, it seems like when it's your day, it's your day. He had the problem this morning. They were able to change it. That may have been the thing that actually helped him win the race. You know, it's just the way it works out. Dario had the toughest luck of everybody I think on the team this year. I think he's been doing the best job in terms of setting his car up and racing, but he's just always had a problem getting to the checkered flag without problems. It was so nice to finally have him do it without the problems, do a great job, a great pass in the end. Just very happy for him and the whole arca/ex side of the team. Hopefully now he's broken the ice and he'll get on a roll here.
THE MODERATOR: With your family, maybe you can get free guitar lessons.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know. I think I'll be okay there. I'll call Wy tomorrow morning and see what she says. I could definitely do with learning. My brother's racing in California at the ALMS race. I hear he's pretty excited about the prospect of the guitar because he's been taking some lessons. I might have a fight on my hands.
Q. How difficult was it with the frustration of the season? How about Tony's gesture with victory circle with the ice water?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Let's start with that. I'll get him back, believe me. Next time he's in Victory Lane, I'll have to try and rig a crane or something, throw about a hundred gallons on his head. I'll think of something. We will get him, believe me. The first part?
Q. How meaningful was it, with all the frustration you've had?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You always want to win races. That's why I do this. I do it to win races. To do it at my home race now, what is my home race, is extra special. Sad my wife is not here. She's working. But I'll get to see her tomorrow, so that's pretty cool. Again, I can't -- to win as a team is such a good feeling, to see your guys there smiling. I remember how they felt in Kansas two weeks ago when we didn't get the win we thought we had. To see them tonight, that's what it's all about. It's so sweet to win races.
Q. Dario, it seems you have now won two races in your homeland, one in Rockingham, now here. What does it really mean? Is this your home? Does it give it extra special significance?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah. I spend the majority of my year now here in Nashville. Scotland will always be my home. Nothing will change that. I have I guess two houses now. Scotland is my home, but I also live here. I've really enjoyed being in this area and living here, becoming part of the community. It's a great place. What can I tell you?
Q. When you went around for the pass to take the lead, did you say, "That's it, I've got this one won"?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I've been doing this a while. I learn not to say that because as soon as that happens, something goes wrong. Basically once I passed the 83 car, I would have been surprised if anybody had the pace to close the gap in the last laps basically. I was just praying nothing would go wrong. Yeah, it was definitely a weight off my mind, put it that way, to make the pass.
Q. Have you talked to Ashley yet? Did she watch you on television?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I haven't spoken to her yet. Knowing Ashley, she watched it on television, had the computer going, watching the lap times. She'll have a lot of questions to ask me, what happened at this particular point, what was your thinking here? We'll dissect the race later on. It's cool she is so involved with it and she knows so much about it.
Q. You said they didn't tell you about the failure, but how concerned were you knowing the other three teammates were out? You knew two of them were mechanicals, correct?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No. I thought something was funny with the way Tony crashed coming up to that yellow. Just didn't look right. I saw the rear of the car drop. But I was concentrating too hard to put two and two together that it was probably a wheel bearing. As I say, they didn't tell me what the other guys had. We made a lot of adjustments. We changed stuff this morning to stop that happening in the race. I was confident my guys had done all they could. You can't worry about everything.
Q. Would it have been a load issue?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know. I'm sure the engineers have got it figured out already. It won't happen again, put it that way.
Q. Can you evaluate the performance of Danica Patrick? Do you mind sharing the attention with her?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, first of all, I think there's a lot of drivers out there tonight that did a better job than Danica. I think Danica did a good job, but there were a lot of guys out there that did a better job. I think she fought very hard actually on one of those restarts, got a small block on me, which I was surprised about. But she's a fighter. When she gets a chance, she fights hard for positions and stuff. But like I say, I think we -- personally, I'm looking at Patrick Carpentier finishing third up there in a car that hasn't been competitive all season. For me, that's probably one of the stories of the night.
Q. You talked about the problem this morning in the practice session. How difficult of a problem mechanical-wise was it to deal with?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It really wasn't that difficult at all. It didn't take long to change. The modifications, again, they were bolt-on modifications. They weren't a big deal. What was a big deal was when it did let go in the middle of the corner this morning, I was trying to catch the thing before it hit the wall. A bit of a heart-stopping moment, especially with my teammate Dan Wheldon inches off the back of my car. Almost took two of our cars out. But it worked out okay.
Q. Surprised to see Alex blocking you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I've raced against Alex for a while, as well. He tends to do that a lot. No, I wasn't.
Q. Can you tell us what movie she's working on? Do you know what it's about?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We'll stick to racing.
Q. You never want to see your teammates do poorly. It seems like it gives you an opportunity to make a gain in the points. Talk about your chance in making most of that opportunity.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm absolutely going to make the most of the opportunity. We've had some terrible luck the first part of the season. I'm going to keep doing my job and keep pushing as hard as I can, trying to win races, trying to be up and beat the guys in front of me for the championship. At the same point, I want to be up there racing. When we're fighting for the lead with Dan, Tony and Bryan, those are the fun days, because you know one of them is going to win it. You race each other with such a level of respect, that's what it's about. Again, to be in a team like this, I hate to see them go out of the race like that. Tony and I, we always say for us to go out and have one of those great races, we enjoy it so much. That goes for Bryan and Dan, as well.
Q. We have the few tracks you won at in the next month. Is this the turning point for your season? Now are you trying to make a run for it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Who knows. I've been trying to make a run for it all year. I've been doing the best I can. I've had a car to win five plus races. Hopefully I'll have a car to win another five. We'll close the deal as tonight.
Q. Look forward to those short tracks?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I love the challenge of the short tracks. We're getting along a lot better than the big tracks. We have a better understanding of the car and what we have to do to it.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thank you.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.
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