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July 3, 2005
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
THE MODERATOR: Dan Wheldon has joined us. You finished second in today's race. Take us through those last couple of laps with your teammate Tony Kanaan.
DAN WHELDON: Disappointing. You know, I have to say coming into the race I wasn't expected to run up the front like I did all day. You know, we still need to work very hard on our (inaudible) speed on superspeedways. It was nice to get out front and seeing Scheckter challenging to get past. You know, in the end, we pitted a little off sequence. The guys did a fantastic job in the pits to get me out ahead of everybody. But it's one of those Kansas things. I mean, when somebody's on the high side, they can get you, as Tony did. I love Tony to bits but I'm glad he beat me instead of somebody else. But, you know, losing by that much is very, very difficult. But that's Kansas for you.
THE MODERATOR: Just for your notes, the margin of victory was 12/1000ths of a second, which is the sixth closest in league history.
DAN WHELDON: You can see why I'm pissed off, huh?
THE MODERATOR: We'll get questions from the media center.
Q. After being so bad yesterday, were you shocked to be up front today?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I was actually. I couldn't believe it. Especially when you know how strong Scheckter is. You see him try and challenge you, can't quite complete the pass. But, you know what, we always have this situation. We're so poor at qualifying on superspeedways. I mean, it's not the engine. The engine is fantastic. You can see what the Rahal cars did with the Honda. It's just something that we're missing as a team. To be honest, it gets very, very frustrating. I mean, I've been in this thing for three years and the frustrating thing is, not just frustrating for me, it's frustrating thing is, not just frustrating for me, frustrating for everybody, we don't know why we're slow. I mean, poor Bryan Herta this weekend, that guy doesn't deserve to be running around in 15th or 16th. Everybody knows how good he is. It's just a situation that we can't resurrect. We don't know why. But come the race, we're able to turn that situation around to some extent. But I would still say I think Scheckter has a very fast car. To be honest, Sam Hornish is very quick on his own when he's not in traffic. We definitely have to improve our performance in qualifying on superspeedways.
Q. Could you have done anything to get by Tony?
DAN WHELDON: Well, I wouldn't say get by because I was alongside him. You know, I was pressing every button I had in the cockpit to try and make the car go fast. That was as fast as it was going to go. To be honest, with my car, it would bind up a little bit on the bottom. You know, it was something that you just have to swallow. But it was a shame. It would have been nice to equal Hornish's record of five wins in a season. I still have some races to go.
Q. How important were the last few pit stops?
DAN WHELDON: Very much (inaudible). You're really pushing the limit of everything, the length of the start, how quick you can stop the car. I think it was no different today. I think the strategy that certainly John Anderson put forward for us was a good one, and it got us leading. I mean, that's something -- I mean, for the advantage that we had when we came out the pits, if our car was quicker, we might not have been around other cars, we might have been able to finish first. Like I say, after yesterday, if I was to say I was going to lead the most laps and finish second, then, you know, still keep the lead that I have, I would have been happy. I guess I can't be too grumpy. I'm really desperate to try and win as many races as I can before the season ends. That one just slipped by.
Q. Did the changing weather today kind of change your car? Did you make any adjustments?
DAN WHELDON: No, it really didn't. Maybe my visor was too dark because I couldn't see the cloud change at all. It was one of those races where you just, like I say, you're pushing the envelope on everything nowadays and you can't afford to make any mistakes. When I came in the pits on that last stop and for the out, I actually had some good track in front of me. There were some cars that were breaking up, some clean air. I was able to pick up a residual slip stream. That kind of really helped. I would say from a weather standpoint, my car was pretty consistent through the race. I have to say, credit to Firestone, the tire has been very, very good the last few races. The level of grip that it gives you is good for the speed that we're doing and how hard we're pushing, and the consistency's pretty good. I think we just need to go to the drawing board as a team and find out why we qualified 25 miles an hour off. 25 is an exaggeration.
Q. Did the wind affected the race today?
DAN WHELDON: It made zero difference. You always feel the wind when you're the lead car because it sucks because you're breaking the air for everybody else. No, it didn't affect it.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAN WHELDON: I was surprised they couldn't get by me, to tell you the truth. I sound like I'm being negative, derogatory towards the speed of my car. Just after yesterday, you know, I saw how quick Scheckter was at Texas, and, you know, for a superspeedway-type track, this is certainly somewhat similar to Texas, and he could get alongside me, but he couldn't quite make the pass. That gave me a lot of confidence. But when you've got two cars that run a similar speed around here, when you're on the outside, even if you've got somebody on the high line pushing from behind, it's very difficult to complete that pass. It worked out well, and I think that just goes to show from a team standpoint, under difficult circumstances we can pull through. I can see those Pensekes keep getting quicker and quicker. Kind of worrying me a little.
Q. Was it frustrating to get kind of stuck?
THE MODERATOR: I'm not sure what you're asking.
DAN WHELDON: He's asking who I pissed off and who pissed me off.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAN WHELDON: No. For me, you know, that's a good thing about leading on a superspeedway. You know, it's quiet and peaceful. People can have a go at you, but you can kind of dominate the piece of track that you want, especially when the guy alongside you is a similar speed. It was a relatively quiet day. But I do think at this point in the season, and I've seen it certainly last year, that people really do start to push the envelope on how much -- how close you get to one another and the things that are going on. I think maybe I'm getting old, but you just -- you know, it really isn't worth it. If you're going to get by somebody, you'll get by them. I was upset with somebody this morning. The problem is then people get mad with one another, you get the bad stuff happening on the track. I think if we remain professional, we'll put on what I think will be the most exciting championship for a long, long time in any series. Brian Barnhart is very stern with his words, and that's why I think everybody remains somewhat professional. We've got to keep that going. Normally the last couple of races it quiets down when everybody knows where everybody is in the championship.
THE MODERATOR: This the 111th race and the 50th time in league history that the margin of victory was less than a second.
Q. Did you see Vitor's desperate move at the end? Did he have enough room?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I was aware of both. You know, it was a case of just trying to do what you can do. You really can't do anything when you're in my position. I mean or Tony's position. You want to go around the outside, Vitor wants to go down the inside. You just got to hold on and see what you can do. I thought the best move of a race, on a restart, I saw Scheckter down on the apron overtaking about six cars, which I thought it was quite impressive. I had a chuckle to myself about that one. It seems to be Kansas. Kansas, you never get a lot of yellows. You always get that real close finish where you're three-wide by the start/finish line. It really does suck - as much as, like I say, I love Tony - to lose by that little.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Danica Patrick has joined us. You started on the pole, finished ninth. Take us through your race.
DANICA PATRICK: Okay. Get ready to write. Well, on the start, I was completely flat on the power. There's really nothing I could have done more. It's tough when you're out in front 'cause you don't have the draft. Our fifth gear was a little bit too long and fourth gear was definitely too short because I tried that one. All the dash lights are coming on, going, "Don't be here." So I couldn't run fourth. I just had to run it out in fifth. So that was frustrating. Everybody is just going around me. I'm like, "I can't do anything more than go flat." I kind of dropped back, found a little groove. The engine starting cutting out and dying on me. You know, I'm on the radio thinking I'm done already. So we tried a couple of things in the cockpit with all the buttons that I have, and we turned off traction control, and that seemed to help it. Then that added to the next issue, which was pit stops. We spent a lot of time in pit lane. We had some understeer on the track. We took too much time trying to put front wing in the car, just too much time, lost tons of ground. Then we didn't have any traction control in the exit, so I almost hit everyone on the first time. I think there were people scattering everywhere, some like aimed towards the pit wall. That made our pit exits a little bit slow. As far as on the track, I mean, I felt like I had a really great car. That's why I was so frustrated after it was over. I didn't think the car -- I'm talking about the car like it's a person, kind of like Herbie, "I thought the car deserved to finish higher." I did. I think it was fast. I was able to catch people and I was able to overtake for the most part after a couple of tries. You know, a lot of people had understeer out there. We had wind pick up from 6 to 12 miles an hour today, which is huge for us. In three and four, there's a lot of people not able to be low. I was really low. So I was able to keep a little bit of wing around the corners. I made a lot of my passes just on the inside, just on the exit of the corner, down the front straight below the white line because people were pinching me down there. All kinds of fun stuff. Overall, we struggled in the pits today. We had a fast car. We did our homework. We worked hard. We got a fast car for the race. There was just a few things that went wrong here and there. When you add up a few things, this is where you end up.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get a few questions.
Q. You're halfway through your rookie season. Give yourself a grade. What do you think you've done well and what might you improve on?
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, I'd have to give myself a pretty darn good grade. I think I've adapted well to the situations. I feel comfortable in traffic more and more all the time. The only times I feel uncomfortable is when the car is off. That's normal. Everybody's going to feel like that. I think when the car is right, you know, I can do a pretty good job. We've worked well as a team. We've almost had pole at two races, I think, then finally got one. I think that's great. I think that my driving is becoming much more precise and much more calculated. I feel like I'm maturing pretty well as a driver. I don't know. I hate to give myself -- just throw it out there, I think I'm doing a good job. I think if I wasn't, people would be telling me.
Q. Is it a letdown to have won the pole yesterday and finish ninth today?
DANICA PATRICK: Sure.
Q. How could a car be so good yesterday and then have all the problems you talked about today?
DANICA PATRICK: Have you seen underneath the hood of one of those things? There's a lot of stuff that can go wrong. There are so many wires and they all have a purpose. You know, when the engine was cutting out, it's just a little electrical glitch. They thought it was like a wheel speed sensor that was signaling that, you know, the wheel was spinning faster than anything else and cutting it out, traction control was kicking in. That's why we turned it off. I think that the car was good enough to be up front. So I would disagree in you saying it was a ninth-place car. It wasn't. I think it deserved a higher place. I know at the end, before we made our last little splash, when I was up with Tony and Vitor, and I think it was -- yeah, third. I felt completely comfortable there. I thought, "I can pass these guys, if we just didn't have to stop." I think that, you know, we just made some mistakes in the pits today. Just cost us.
Q. Have you forgotten about Rookie-of-the-Year and you're just focusing on winning races?
DANICA PATRICK: That's pretty much what my focus has been all year, is to work towards that goal. I think if you win races, then you're going to get Rookie-of-the-Year. Again, my goal tends to be higher. I tend to set the goal and the bar a little bit higher than what probably I should for the time being because I don't want to sell myself short. If I can go out there and win a race, I'm not going to go and try for Rookie-of-the-Year.
Q. Can you talk about some of the adjustments you've made over the course of your rookie year. What are some of the things you've learned and had to adjust to so far this year?
DANICA PATRICK: Just a different car. Just learning the car, you know, working with the team and getting in sync with the team, working with my engineer Ray. You kind of develop a language with your engineer. I don't think that there's anything outside of physically just driving the car that I've had to learn. I feel completely comfortable with traveling more because the schedule's busier. I feel comfortable with the media, with the fans. I think it's 'cause I understand why it's here. I understand that it's so good, it's so important to our sport. Nothing's really overwhelming me. The most overwhelmed I get is like this morning, I had tons of things to do. I felt like I needed my rest time before the race. That's about as bad as it gets. Other than that, it's important. It's a team job to make sure that you feel comfortable. I think I really -- I really don't think there have been huge adjustments other than just trying to learn the race car and learn how it handles in traffic. Other than that, keep truckin'.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica. Tony Kanaan, winner of today's Argent Mortgage Indy 300. Tony, your first win this season, your first since Nashville last year. What took you so long?
TONY KANAAN: I wish I would know. I don't know. I think we definitely were close a lot of times this year. We haven't been able to capitalize. I think it's always like this, the race that you don't think you have a great chance, you end up winning. I think this was one of those cases.
THE MODERATOR: It was such a close finish at the end. It's got to be a relief to be battling with your teammate.
TONY KANAAN: Kind of de'ja vu of last year. I was stuck behind Vitor and Buddy over the last 10 laps. I finished third. I wasn't too happy about that. When I got side by side, I looked in my mirror, I saw Vitor. I said, "Hey, remember this?" I had a lot of fun racing. Vitor is a very clean guy. Then, as well, me and Dan, we talked about it, what we're going to do. It wasn't like we just came up with that. It was planned, you know, if that would happen, what we were going to do. We tried the whole race. I never run the high line ever through all the 200 laps to make people think I couldn't run up there. But my car was quicker up in the high line than it was on the bottom. I kept it on the bottom the whole race because I was tired of getting passed on the outside in the last lap. I guess it worked out perfect.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions from the media.
Q. Why didn't you think you'd have a good chance to win the race today?
TONY KANAAN: Well, looking at the qualifying and warm-up, we thought we had a good car, but I didn't think I was quick enough to get on my own. I knew I had a car to be first, but once I got there, I don't know if I could hold it. I mean, Scheckter looked really strong. If you look at the whole race, he was passing anybody he want any time. That proved my point. I said, "Well, we're going to have to get rid of him." He almost got rid of himself a few times putting his car where it doesn't belong. I think IRL addressed that when he passed me on the bottom of the track, that I couldn't -- I didn't even saw him. I mean, all of a sudden I see this silver thing going by. I thought was the white line, so they put it back. When it went green all the time, all the way through the six laps to go when we had to make a stop, that's when I took the advantage, coming in quick, getting out quick, not losing a lot of time, so we spread the field out. Dan was there holding everybody, "I'm coming." I guess they told him.
Q. When you have one of these side-by-side battles, is it easier or harder with a teammate?
TONY KANAAN: It's easier, definitely easier. Especially in our team, we don't play -- we don't play around, we respect each other a lot. I had no problem actually. I was laughing, to be honest. I'm like, "Ho, ho, we're going to win this race as a team now. Let's see who is going to win, Daniel." Last lap I'm talking to myself. I'm like, "Let's see the odds. He won four races. I haven't won yet. Come on, give me a break. It's going to be a close finish. I have the bigger nose, I guess I have a good chance."
Q. Did you think you had him at the line or it sounds like you were blocking?
TONY KANAAN: Blocking who? You can call that blocking for sure. They did it last year. You know, blocking is when you try to cut the guy off. Over there, we just blocked the traffic. I knew I had won because I could see his nose where it was. But I got a bit confused. I knew I had beat him, but all of a sudden Vitor flies by, and nobody says anything on the radio because they all celebrating instead to tell me who won the race. I go to turn one and I looked at the tower. I saw my number. I started to celebrate then. For a moment, I knew I had beat Dan, but Dan moved me up a bit, and I was worried about Vitor. Sure enough, he was coming.
THE MODERATOR: The race today was also the second closest 1, 2, 3 finish in IRL history. Michael Andretti, talk about what you're thinking those last few laps as you watch Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan at the end.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was a good feeling actually because it's a little bit of reverse de'ja vu where Rahals were running 1, 2 in that same position, and Tony was running in Vitor's position. We knew Tony was in a helpless position last year, so we knew where Vitor was this year. It was a nice setup. It was a good feeling to have both of them. Pretty much you felt that if everything went the way it's supposed to go, we were going to win it, either Tony or Dan. It was where we wanted to be.
Q. Does it give you greater pleasure to beat your friend Dan?
TONY KANAAN: Yes, because I can pick on him (laughter). Still has Indianapolis ahead of me, and another three races. I mean, if you look at the cool-down lap, he hit my side pot with his car just to leave a big dent there. I guess Michael is going to make him go to the shop and paint. Yeah, for sure, it's fun because we can look at each other and make fun of each other, for sure. Like he was after St. Pete, he's like, "Hey, thanks, man. Good job. Let me by." So today I said... Not a payback, but I have more pleasure beating a lot of people, everybody else, than beating my teammates.
Q. Did the wind have any effect on you today?
TONY KANAAN: A little bit in the beginning of the race. After that, I didn't pay attention a lot or if I was running behind people all the time. That really for me didn't make a difference. I could tell it was strong because on the back straightaway we're pulling all the gears. Then you get in the front straight, it looks like you don't go anywhere. But balance-wise, handling-wise, I don't think the wind was a big factor.
Q. Is it as big a kick to watch your teams win as it was for you to win?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's a different kick, but it's a great kick. You know, winning it as a driver, there's that self-feeling. But winning it as a team is a great feeling, as well, especially when you're friends are winning for you. It makes it really special. It's different, but the same in a lot of ways.
Q. How scary is it as a team owner to see two and sometimes three cars dicing it out with each other?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, definitely you're holding your breath a couple of times when you're looking to Turn 1. There was one moment when Tony went inside of Scheckter, I thought, "Oh, boy, here we go." Definitely your heart skips a beat there for a second. But, you know, that's part of it. I think everybody else has the same feeling as well. I guess that's the excitement of racing.
Q. Do you feel this is somewhat of a turnaround in your mile-and-a-half programs?
TONY KANAAN: I think it's a good feeling, but it doesn't change anything. We still don't have it for qualifying. We haven't figured it out. But we do have for the race. We've never been concerned about the race, having a good-handling car and be able to go to the front. If you look how long it took for me, Don and Dan to go to the front, all of a sudden in two laps, we're second, third and fourth. But I think we're lacking a little bit of the speed, for sure. That applies for qualifying. If you have a little bit more speed for qualifying, you can transfer that to the race car and then be strong all the way around. But on the other token, the best comparison we have, if we say who is the guys who figure out qualifying this year for the mile-and-a-half ovals is the Rahal guys. Then looks like in the race they struggle a little bit more than we do. So I think it's kind of a trade that I wouldn't trade places. I still keep starting 13. I don't mind. I mean, I can pass few people and move to the front and then have a good race car. I think we haven't found the balance between the qualifying and the race. I don't know if we ever going to find. You know, only thing we can do is keep working. We have good race car drivers, a great group of engineers that are working really hard. Trust me, as a team as competitive as we are, we don't like to start 8th, 13th, 14th, especially when you see 1, 2, 3 same team kicking our butts all the time, so we have to work really hard. Turnaround makes us feel really good. We have Nashville, we have Michigan, we have Fontana. It's coming, so we have to work really hard.
Q. Tony, it seems like you were the only driver out there today that had success in the front position. What really gave you the edge on the outside line?
TONY KANAAN: Well, like I said, I worked a lot on my race setup this weekend. I did everything different that I ever done in the past. I approached the weekend saying, "We're going to work on race, then we're going to put on a new tire and go qualifying," because I haven't done that so far. In the race, man, I never showed people that I was strong on the outside because I didn't want them to know. I always run on the bottom. People thought I was understeering. I kept losing positions and going back there. I wasn't panicking. When I had to pass Scheckter, he really pissed me off going on the bottom, I passed him on the outside. I knew I was strong. I knew my car would run better on the outside than it was on the inside, but I didn't want to show anybody. When I was able to -- I was afraid that Dan had figured that out, so he was going to go on the outside and didn't let me the inside on the last six laps, but I guess he didn't. I knew the moment that I pulled beside him, I was going to win the race.
Q. Tony, Dan was talking about the close finish here. What is it about this track that seems to produce these close finishes?
TONY KANAAN: I think it's the type of the cars that we run and the type of the banking we have. It's been very exciting. People doubt it before because they say we always have yellow before the last 20 laps, that's how we got the pack together. It didn't happen today. I think the nature of the track is what causes to be those finishes that we have. I think the way we run our wings, the cars are very similar, so the drafting is really important.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONY KANAAN: I don't hear anybody talk about Rahal Letterman right now, so who cares. They can talk as much as they want. Like I said, when the race is finished is when the checkered flag drops. Now they're going to have to talk about us. You guys want to see Danica win? Sorry, you got to wait till next time.
Q. Comment on Bryan Herta's troubles today above
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We're really scratching our heads. It's not Bryan's car fault for sure, it's the same car he had at Indianapolis which he struggled with all month long. We're trying to figure it out. Believe me, our engineers are scratching their heads right now. But I have confidence that we will. Bryan should easily be running up there with the other guys with the setups and everything that we have. It's just unfortunate that he's got something in that car that's not working right.
Q. Talk about the continuous green-flag racing, how it played into your strategy?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I'm not sure it played into our strategy. I think it just worked out well for us. I think we run the same strategy as for everybody else. I'm glad it didn't come down to that last pit stop thing because it seems like that happens a lot. It was nice to see it actually play itself out in the right manner, and that was to have the last pit stop under the green and really have the best cars running at the end up front. But there wasn't a strategy involved. I mean, we did run two different ones with Dan staying out, the other guys coming in. But in the end, that really wasn't the thing that made a difference because you do that different strategy because a yellow's coming out. They didn't come out, so it didn't really matter.
Q. Comment on Vitor's move at the end.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: First I was thinking, if he were to pass, there would have been a big protest because he was down under the white line, seemed like there were some problems there all day long, especially with Scheckter, we were a little upset that he did it twice and didn't get penalized. Obviously, if Vitor would have pulled off the pass, he would have had a little bit of controversy, which I'm glad we didn't have.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, and thanks for coming in.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.
End of FastScripts...