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April 1, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our third-place finisher, Tony Kanaan. Three straight years now Tony has finished in the top three here at St. Petersburg.
Tony, talk about your day out there first.
TONY KANAAN: It's a very easy day. Had nothing to do (laughter).
I should say how was my weekend because it's been up and down. I never had such a good car. For a long time we kept -- that hasn't happened before. We kept putting ourselves behind. I started yesterday a big one into the wall, which was stronger and harder than the one I broke my arm back in 2000. I was bragging about that yesterday because obviously I didn't break my arm. When I woke up this morning, I realized I'm getting old because I couldn't move.
After that, I mean, the race is just like, you know, I put myself back there. I should have been first instead of sixth. I think if I was there, in the place I was supposed to be, what happened wouldn't have happened.
So we touch wheels, me and Dario. I spun. Here we go again. Back like two years ago, back to 18th, 16th, whatever it was. And I knew Scott and Helio were pretty fast. Pretty much I knew that the good job that we were supposed to do was going to be just finishing third because if nothing happened to them, I don't think I could have won this race.
We had such similar cars. I don't think they faced the problems that I did. I knew I had cars that are a second slower than me and I couldn't pass them. So the only way was to keep putting the pressure, like I did on Hornish, like I did on Manning. They finally made mistakes and I was able to go through.
I think it's a better start of the year for us than last year. But I was saying out there, I think weekends like this, when you have such a good car, in this series you cannot afford to throw it away. I would say we threw away a win this weekend for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by second-place finisher, Scott Dixon, who finished in the top 10 at all three events here at St. Pete. Unofficially he takes over the series points lead with 80. Wheldon and Castroneves 75 each, Kanaan 65, Hornish 61.
Scott, if you would talk to us about your day.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, we had a pretty good start. I think we got Dario, and then we had the caution when these two got together. The car was fairly decent. We had a lot of understeer, especially in traffic. That's all we did all day, we just seemed to follow Marco or Helio, which was pretty frustrating. We didn't seem to be able to get a run on them.
I thought towards the end there when we went to sticker tires, the engineers had helped the front end a bit, I thought we'd be able to get a run. Especially on cold tires, I think we were quicker than Helio.
As Tony said, unless the guys were a lot slower you just couldn't pass, which was frustrating. Put tons of pressure on Helio and was hoping and waiting for a mistake, but it never came.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Tony, can you talk about all the effort and the teamwork that went in last night to get your car fixed? How late it was before it was done?
TONY KANAAN: It was 10:00 by the time the guys finished. If somebody was listening to me on the radio on the last lap, on the cool-down lap, I really thanked the team. That's what makes us who we are. It wasn't just my guys. I had two of Danica's guys, two of Dario's guys, two of Marco's guys working on my car until that car was done. And that's a team effort.
That's something that makes me very proud. Being a part of a team that we're very, very connect, get along really well. Moments like this really show how good of a team I'm in. And to me the least I could do today was what I did. And I thank each single one of them after the race because it was a big effort. They put the car back together and the car was P1 in warmup, and we finish on the podium again.
Something like that I would say means a lot more to me than a race win, than a championship, because you have people working for you like that.
Q. Then it's ironic on the first lap you and your teammate touch wheels.
TONY KANAAN: Well, is always going to be ironic when you touch wheels with your teammate, especially your best friend. It is ironic. I don't think Marco really thinks like that, so we're probably going to have a talk. When I go see Dario today we're going to laugh. But I don't think Marco was laughing at the time.
You know, it shouldn't happen, but it happened.
Q. Last year when you came in here after your drive trying to chase your way to the front, you expended a lot of energy. Was the mental energy that you had to expend this weekend more draining than the way you felt physically last year?
TONY KANAAN: After last night, yes. It was mental. Knocking my head into the wall inside my bus saying to myself, What the hell did you do, man?
But today was physically and mentally. At one point of the race I was behind cars. I was much faster and I couldn't pass them, so I had to be patient because it's really easy to make mistakes. It's really easy to do it again, and I didn't want to do it again. Two years ago, if you guys remember, I was kind of knocking a couple people off the track to try to pass them. I didn't want to do that today.
It worked out fine. I knew at one point I had more fuel than some of the guys in front of me because I was saving a lot. So when the track got clear, I had a fast car, so I just got the positions like that. It was mentally and physically, I would say. Again, I'm bragging about it now, but if you call me tomorrow, you watch, I'm probably going to be in bed all day.
Q. Tony, after you touched wheels with Dario, was the car still as good at that point? Was it as good as the car was yesterday before the crash?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Obviously, I figured it out this morning in the warmup. After we touched wheels, it was nothing really. It was like a little tip. I don't know what happened to his car, but my car was fine. He hit me, I would say, right - if there is a right way to hit somebody. It didn't do anything to my car.
I was extremely lucky that I kept the engine running and I didn't hit the wall and nobody else hit me. So it's just like, you know, give me a little break as the weekend went on. That was my break right there.
Q. Tony, along those same lines, do you come out of this race feeling pleased that you got a third place after all of these different things have happened, or are you frustrated? Do you feel like you've accomplished something?
TONY KANAAN: Yes, you never take it for granted, for sure. But, like I said in the beginning, I shouldn't be pleased when I had a car to win a race. It wasn't -- something that we cannot control. I will take it. I would say if something broke, but something that we can't control, especially me making a mistake, I'm pretty hard on myself.
I would say I'm pleased, but I think I let my guys down this weekend.
Q. Scott, how do you handle the frustration of having to drive very fast, knowing you can't pass for the lead? I know it's early in the year to worry about points, but it's always good to be leading the points. Do you do anything in the car? Does your crew guy calm you down?
SCOTT DIXON: It's very frustrating, especially following Helio all bloody day was taking its toll. You know, you just sit there and you're waiting for the guy to make a mistake. That's all you're doing. You're trying to apply as much pressure as you can.
Sometimes I will say that Helio, especially when we were on scrub tires, he did put a gap on us. We leaned out to try to save fuel for later in the race. I think he was doing fairly similar because we pitted on the same lap.
But, you know, it is tough just following the same car every time, every time. He drove a great race, there's no doubt about it. We couldn't give him any more pressure than what we did, and he didn't make a mistake.
Q. Scott, another guy behind you for most of the race, a former teammate of yours, Darren Manning. You probably had to really think he's really staying up here pretty good with that 14 car. What did you think of what he was able to do before he turned it around and spun out?
SCOTT DIXON: I thought he was doing a very good job. The problem was after the first pit stop, I felt so bad for the guy because he's up to third, then he dropped back to like seventh. I'm like, Oh, my God, the guy must have dropped a wheel nut or something. You know, the team is definitely picking up the pace. You know, Darren, I could just imagine what he was doing in the car (laughter).
You know, he drove very well for what he had. Those guys should be proud of what they were doing. You know, he was probably a bit tired with the handful he had at the end of the day and that he spun.
Q. Briefly, the trouble with passing, is it that the cars are that equal, or is it this particular track? Is it road courses in general?
TONY KANAAN: If you watch any street course racing, if you see more passes than we did today, I'd be surprised. That's what Formula One it's up to these days. So was the LMS yesterday. It's just the nature of the racetrack.
I was talking to Scott. When you run half a second, because that was the difference between probably the three of us at one point in lap time, that half a second in 1.8 miles, it's probably going to be two corners. If those two corners are the two slowest corners on the track, you're not going to pass anybody.
Then coming off the front straightaway, the guy in front always has the advantage because we depend on the front wing to turn the car and we lose the front and that's how probably Scott couldn't make the pass. That's how I made most of my passes, waiting for people to make a mistake. That's what I did to Sam. That's what I did to Manning, although I felt really bad.
SCOTT DIXON: You should (laughter).
TONY KANAAN: I mean, I got to tell you, he needs a trophy. He should have won a trophy today. It's just the nature of the track. It's a combination of being the series very competitive and street courses. Always been like that. If you watch any other race, it's always like that.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, pretty much the same. It is tough. But as Tony said, the cars are so close. The only thing you can do is wait for a mistake. I think he was lucky a lot of guys made mistakes. That's what I was trying to wait for with Helio. I think I had it at one spot. I think when he was lapping one car there, he got pretty out of shape. With the complex one, two, three, there's not much opportunity to pass there.
Q. Tony, I wanted to ask, did you notice that your crew had put three Band-Aids along the top left of your nose last night? When your car was out on the grid this morning the three Band-Aids were still there now covered with clear tape, so you drove the Band-Aid car today.
TONY KANAAN: Let's make it good, the Band-Aid was on the nose of my car, not on my nose. Although they fit here, it wasn't on my nose (laughter).
You know me. I mean, after yesterday, I went back there. I went to dinner, a sponsor dinner. Came back, the guys are still here. I looked at the guys, we have a mechanic, Steve Price, he's always hurt. If you see him, he always have a Band-Aid or something like that. Lately, I mean, this weekend I had Band-Aids all over the place. I had a problem with my back because of the LMS race in Sebring. I had to do a three and a half hour stint with no power steering so I kind of messed up my back, so my arm was a little sore. I had the same thing. They start to make fun of both of us.
Then we look at the car. First thing I said, Hey, looks like Steve. It was all banged up, different colors. One of the guys said, Well, we're missing some Band-Aids. I went and get some. We put it on without the clear tape. One of them tried to come off in warmup, which I was very upset. When the car is good, you don't touch it, so I'm a bit superstitious. Let's put clear tape over those things. We left it there.
I hope the car feels better now.
Q. Scott, knowing Dan the way you do, how do you think he feels knowing that he's not the fastest guy in St. Petersburg the last two years, it's Helio?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't even want to go into that (laughter). Tony's probably got a better idea of that.
You know, he's probably definitely not too happy. I don't even know where he finished up today. I think he was struggling. Helio helped him out there pretty nice when he was leading.
Dan was definitely struggling, that's all I can say.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, Tony, we appreciate your time.
TONY KANAAN: Thanks.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Now joined by race winner Helio Castroneves, his second consecutive win here at St. Pete. This is the first time in league history that the polesitter has gone on to win a IndyCar Series road or street event. Helio led 135 of the last 200 laps here at St. Pete. Now has 12 career wins, tied with Wheldon for second on the all-time IndyCar Series list.
Helio, to get started, tell us about your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the start of the race, I tried to start a little bit quicker, you know, to make sure that we don't have any trouble. And somehow, I mean, Marco was right there. He did a very good job in the beginning on the first few laps. I have to really try to do everything I can to not make him pass. And he was pushing right at the beginning, right like all the time. I'm like, Man, it's just the beginning of the race. Take it easy.
I guess the young stamina was working for him on the beginning. I have to keep pushing, as well, to not making any mistake. Until a point that I'm start saving fuel, looks like my car is working extremely well in medium to old tires, not so much in the new tires. And that for me was the key, you know, to keep going, to keep pushing in that direction.
As the fuel going low, my car was getting better. Again, I was just trying to make sure that I make the number that they're asking me in the pits to make sure that we do enough stops and don't get caught in any situation.
Then we got to a point that I had like, I don't know how big was the lead, but I couldn't see them getting out of the corner right on my tail. So I'm like, Okay, looking good here, looking sharp.
And then a yellow came. We made our first pit stop. Very difficult leaving the pits. With the new engine, everybody kind of stand still in the pit box. And then my team did a great, great job, put me right up front. I guess Wheldon was in front at that time. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened. I really had no intention to bump him.
As soon as he start going out in turn 10, I was just following him, and all of a sudden he really brake. I don't know if he's trying to brake a little early, one of those tricks that drivers has, like a brake test to maybe upset you, or he really had cold tires, he was just trying to be cautious.
It was just very difficult, you know. I bump into him. In the same time was green, green, green in my ear. You know when green goes out, means race started. And that's where I say, You know what, I'm going to have to go, buddy, sorry. I start going. I guess also Scott came with me. I don't know what happened after that.
Again, Scott after that was really, really pushing. My gears start wearing out a little bit, especially second gear or third gear. I started to focus a little bit more on the equipment. I'm trying to push, but not so hard in the gears.
Then the last pit stop, I think I pit the same as with Scott. I got a little trouble with Sarah. She was coming to the pit as well. It was a little moment, to be honest. But she did a good job. She didn't get out in front, in the way.
As soon as we get out, was 20 laps to go, 25 laps to go. I say, Okay, now make sure we focus. Don't make mistakes. It was actually good that he was right there in my gearbox because for me was better. For me, having the guy in the gearbox, it means you have to pick what best you can do. I knew fortunately my braking, it was good, but unfortunately the gears start wearing out. So I say, You know what, let's stop. Getting a good exit. That's what I did. It work out pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio.
Q. You didn't do much of a fence climb today. Also didn't do a victory lap. Were you tired at the end of the race?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Big time. You know, I was so focused. I have to say, that was probably one of the races that I was extremely focused. You know, nothing was distracting me.
I'm glad. I'm getting better. I'm still learning, believe it or not. It was very good for me to achieve that stage. It looks very easy for you guys on TV. Okay, the guy is having a great car, a great time. I have to say, it wasn't easy. It wasn't very easy.
Q. How tough were those last several laps mentally when you have a really good car, a track that's played a little tricky this weekend and two really good street road racers behind you waiting for you to make a mistake?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Very tough. I know those guys for a long time. That's a good thing. I do believe they know me, too. They know that three of us will be always pushing very hard. And I know I couldn't let off because in any moment those guys were trying to make any move.
So basically three of us, at least Scott was closer, he was extremely pushing. I remember last year he was also in the pretty much scenario. That's what I felt. I said, You know what, it will be a tough one. I always predict it will be a tough one. And it was a very tough one.
Q. I'm going to get a good answer out of this question yet. How do you think Dan feels knowing he's not the best driver in St. Pete the last two years?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think we should swap. He's going to start moving to Miami and I'll start moving in St. Petersburg.
You know, it's tough. Scott is a very tough driver. You see Sam did a good job this year. I mean, many, many times I saw him, I don't know if I'm right or not, but I think he was running third. Just to see that he's learning, he's also getting better and better.
I'm sure he's not bothered about it. I don't know. I can't answer very well that question.
Q. Talk about the gearbox and what was actually going on with it.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Normally I'm a right foot brake. That means you use the clutch to downshift. I believe a lot of guys here, except Manning I just found out this morning that he also right foot brake. What happen, sometimes when you're not synchronized with the downshift, you can do dog-to-dog damage. If you do that many times, you end up wearing out the gears and can possibly break the gears. That's why you start have problems downshift.
It was a problem that I having long time ago. My nickname inside the team actually is 'Termite'. I can destroy a gearbox pretty nice (laughter). I would say I was able to finish, so...
But I took care of it. I know what I have to do to prevent. But sometimes when I have the big lead I was kind of relaxing. That's probably the times that I probably damage because I'm just downshift, you know, easy and not so much focused. That's why I'm glad when Scott was right there. I'm like, Okay, now I have to do exactly the same way every lap.
Q. Talk about the new package with the ethanol fuel, the bigger engine, and whether you were getting the right kind of fuel mileage or how close you were as we went through.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have a very -- I cannot say how many gallons I have in the car, but it wasn't very much. So I have to thank ethanol to being a good fuel and not burning so much like methanol.
Package was good. I have to say it was really, really good. You know, we had a good race. Obviously three guys finish in the top three, but they knew each one of those guys are thinking. So that's why maybe for you guys, Oh, it's boring or it's difficult. We know what kind of tricks we have to use to keep one each ahead of each other.
But I have to say that it was the right package to make the engine a little bit stronger, fuel a little bit smaller. And it was a very close call on the fuel. The yellow came out probably on the perfect time. People that probably took a chance, didn't work out this time. But it was interesting.
I still talking to Brian Barnhart about the package that we should come with next year with the pedal shifting, power steering. You guys heard me talking about. We have to change that because it's going to be much better for everyone.
Q. How far did you get with Marco's shoelaces before the race? Was that a kind of psych-out?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: How far where?
Q. How undone did you get with the shoelaces?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's right. I think that work (laughter). I was trying to loosen up, just playing around. He seemed to be a good kid. Again, I'm always speak good things about him. He does have a good team behind him, I have to say.
But it's still very difficult, you know, even that you have the grandpa and the father that are such incredible race car drivers for you to follow the steps. It's very hard.
I was just trying to loosen up. Make him, Hey, just relax. We're going to race against each other. We're not going to kill each other. I guess he did a good job.
Q. Other than being an accomplished street and road course racer, why do you think you're able to get around this course as fast as you are without making mistakes here two years in a row? Are you serious about buying a place on the beach here and moving here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, I am. I'm just looking around. It's like Lance Armstrong. I think he bought a place in France. So it works.
All jokes aside, the place is so beautiful. Probably just something that I had in mind since last year. This place is very nice. And, again, I enjoy street course. This place is very technical, very bumpy. We work extremely hard, like I told you guys, from Friday in all aspect. And we're good. I prepare myself very well to make sure that I not only condition but mentally. It paid off.
I have to say my trainer Carlos, he'll be extremely proud of me again because I didn't feel -- actually, I was better well-prepared this year than last year. Last year I end up with cramp and stuff like that. This year was like no problem. I was tired, yes, but no cramp.
Q. After next weekend, it's a pretty brutal stretch you have there where you go to Motegi, Kansas, then Indy. How are you going to prepare for that? What do you do between now and the time you go to Motegi to keep from getting burned out at the beginning of the season?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The ovals are not so tough, I have to say physical. Buy traveling, yes, it's going to be tough coming back from Japan straight to Kansas. I think the mechanic's going to have a hard time. We are in the same boat as everybody. We're going to have to continue trying to do everything we did and make sure that we understand.
I know it's a different season. Races are much closer. We just have to follow some regimen and hopefully it work out.
Q. On turn 10, you were one of the only drivers that almost always hit the rumble strips. What does that do to your body in terms of conditioning?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Last year when I was in third, I remember a lot of guys touching that. I didn't know that. That's why I start touching this year. I guess they saw me that I wasn't touching so they change (laughter). Good observation.
I don't know, the car seems to be holding well. Sometimes if you hit wrong, if you go a little bit too much, the tendency is to touch the cockpit and the car jumps a little bit too much to the wall, to the outside wall. But somehow my car was working very well through that turn.
If you doing well, don't change your plans. So I want to stick with everything I was doing, make sure I don't change, because it was working from lap one to the end of the race. So I kept with the same plan.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you very much.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you.
End of FastScripts