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April 21, 2007

Dario Franchitti

Tony Kanaan

Dan Wheldon


THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our third-place finisher, Dario Franchitti. His first top-three finish here at Motegi with five IndyCar Series stops.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I remember finishing second to the boss once here in Champ Car.
THE MODERATOR: I didn't have the Champ Car statistics with me. We'll say overall two career top-three finishes here. Dario, if you would, give us an overview of your day out there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: As can sometimes happen here at Motegi, it came down for us to a fuel-mileage race. The start of the race, the car was very good. We managed to make up from our seventh starting position. I think we got up to fourth or third. But the car was really good and giving me a lot of hope for the rest of the race because I could pass the guys in front. Towards the end of the first stint, we were the quickest car. It was all looking good.
Made a small mistake coming into the pits for the first stop. The first stop wasn't great, so I got back to seventh again. We worked our way back up. It was then that we were running third. The last yellow came out. My team decided they wanted to take a gamble because we felt the Canadian Club car was the equal of Tony's car and Dan's, but I wasn't going to be able to pass them on the track with sheer speed. Took a gamble with the fuel strategy. Unfortunately, the number was just impossible to achieve without going really slowly. So I went a lap down to Dan and Tony. It was really just getting there in the end.
It didn't hurt the result, but I think it was a good gamble because the result probably best was going to be third unless the gamble paid off. I'm happy with the job my guys did on that. We really improved the car today from yesterday when I felt we were struggling. So all in all, leaving here with a very good feeling. Kansas next weekend, then looking forward to Indianapolis. I'm happy my little brother Tony won the race. He did a good job. It's like the three of us again. I was laughing at one point. We were 1-2-3. It's happened a few times before.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Dan Wheldon, our second-place finisher.
Dan, give us a recap of your day.
DAN WHELDON: I think I have to say when you consider the pace of our car, I think even Tony would agree it was probably the best out there. We were very fast. You know, again, Honda provided us with a great engine. I think, you know, with the quality they provide to everybody, you could see. Certainly Tony and I were closer times. You would have wanted that little bit extra, but we didn't have that.
But it was just a little bit unfortunate we lost radio communication pretty early on. We were being very conservative with the time that we had to pit. Perhaps some improvements we could have made with the car over the duration of the race. I think that was basically what really hindered us. Not so much the fact that we didn't have the radio, but just the time that we had to pit because of that.
But I think it was a mistake that was made. You know, I know Chip's feeling on it. Certainly mine is the same. It needs to be rectified because that's not good enough.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Dan or Dario.

Q. Dan, could you talk about this mistake. Is that relating to the radio? Were you unable to speak and hear?
DAN WHELDON: Well, no, I got in my car before we actually took off to start the race. One of my earpieces was not working. That's something that should be checked before you go out. Then I think about 20, 25 laps into the race, the other one stopped. So I couldn't hear them and they couldn't hear me.
But know, the frustration of it is, and I love being part of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, it's a fantastic team. You can tell by the laps we lead. You look at last year and the first few races this year, we just don't close on opportunities that really should be ours.
You just can't keep doing that. It gets too frustrating. I'm in this business to win. When we're costing ourselves opportunities to win through silly mistakes, it's tough to take.
But, you know, the team continue to work very, very hard. I'm looking forward to Kansas now. It seems that everything happens, and I just get more and more fired up. I think when I do that, I drive better, so that's good.

Q. Before I asked you what was the best memory that you had fighting against Tony. 2004, when you won the race, it was a good battle between you guys.
DAN WHELDON: That was my fondest memory of being at Motegi, was winning my first IndyCar race.

Q. What do you feel now about that?
DAN WHELDON: Tony is somebody that I have immense respect for. I love racing against him. You can see out there, we both had very fast cars. But what's great when you race against him, you race very hard, but you race very fair.
At the end when he came out the pits, he clearly had the legs of me. You clearly can't risk doing that. You know with a guy like that, you can race. There was an incident out there with Ed Carpenter. He clearly would have seen me. But the guy's not aware of what's going on around him. Whereas when you race with Tony, he's incredibly intense. You know every lap that he drives that car is a hundred percent. But at the same time when you race with him, you know he's going to give you enough room to get through the corner - not much, but he'll give you enough.
I'm happy that he won. He's a deserved winner. He works very hard. He's good for the series.

Q. Dan, the key point of today's race, it was probably the last yellow, and also the last 10 laps when you pitted for refueling. If you had communication with your team, do you think you would have made a different strategy or better time?
DAN WHELDON: I think we'd have been able -- our strategy for sure would have been better. It was a little scrappy to start with until they grabbed the pit board. I'm not even sure they had a pit board close to them. It took them about 20, 30 laps to get that going.
But, you know, at the end of the day it doesn't matter. We made a mistake, Tony won. He's a deserved winner. You know, a lot of credit should go to him and Andretti Green Racing because, you know, they perhaps didn't have the quickest car, but they won, they scored the most points. I give a lot of credit to those guys for doing that.

Q. Dario, I know third is not what you wanted. How does this make you feel heading to Indy? Can you get a feel for an Indy 500 car here?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I hope so. I hope so is the answer to that. This is the Firestone I think they're going to bring for Indy. Obviously, the tire is a huge part of the handling of the car. I think we've got a car that works quite well. We just got a little bit of work to do.
But our car this year compared to our car last year here, there's no comparison. I think we had a very good car today. I'm optimistic for Indy. Surely got enough practice time to hopefully get it right. But it's going to be tough.

Q. Dan, when Marco crashed, I think you were just coming up on Tony. You must have had a view of that. What happened there?
DAN WHELDON: Well, actually I think it was Scott and Marco just in front of me. Yeah, because I was leading. Actually nearly collected Marco as he was spinning.
It looked like Scott had a run on him. I'm not sure. You know, three and four is very difficult because you pick up a lot of marbles. It looked as if Scott was kind of inside a little bit where Marco couldn't quite get on the line that he wanted, and then he got up in the marbles. And just -- once you're in those marbles, it's very difficult. The car just takes off. He hit the wall.
I think hopefully he's okay. I think Dario said he's got a slightly hurt shoulder, but I think he'll be fine by Kansas.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.
We're now joined by race winner Tony Kanaan.
Tony, if you would, tell us about your day.
TONY KANAAN: It was a race that I had to be very patient. I think when we started, the car wasn't that good, and I knew the track was going to get better towards the end of the race. So I just waited. A couple opportunities I had to pass Dan, and I knew that I had to stop later than him because my car had better fuel mileage than his.
When he played by the last stop, I was almost convinced that I could pit and come out still in front of him. So that's what we did. The team did a great job. I got to thank all my guys. You know, very happy. Japan, it's been great to me. I had a lot of close calls here. Never had one. So finally I think I got it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Tony.

Q. How did you feel winning on a Honda track here in Motegi?
TONY KANAAN: It feels great. Unfortunately everybody has a Honda engine now. I would have liked to have had one a long time ago. Dan did that for us a few years back. So it feels awesome.
It's just great to come back here. I mean, I walk into the museum a couple days ago, and my car is sitting up there, right across of Senna's car. I guess I'm not that important, but that is a little bit in there. I sat there for a little bit and I kept looking at it. I looked his car, I looked my car. I'm like, Yeah.
So it feels good. Definitely feels very good. I was very happy to give Honda a lot of things that they trust on me for a long time. I gave them the first pole. I gave them the first IndyCar win. I gave them the first championship. I didn't give them Indianapolis, but Dan did that. The best way to thank Honda, the Honda family, is winning. That's all they want to do. Very, very emotional win for me.

Q. Last lap Dan was very close to you. Do you think if there was one more lap, you would have had a problem?
TONY KANAAN: No (laughter).
I kind of slowed down a little bit on the last lap. I had a car in front of me, so I knew pretty much the distance. I wasn't too worried. I mean, you don't need to win by five seconds; you just got to win. So I took extra careful to make sure that nothing was going to happen.

Q. After the last yellow caution, it seemed Dan was really faster than you. Was it part of the deal that you didn't want to catch him or was it because of the fuel?
TONY KANAAN: He had less fuel than me because on the previous stop he short fueled. He put less fuel in his car to try to go ahead of me. At that point I was just controlling the pace and saving my tires because I knew we were going to have to pit and not change tires. I was saving for the last 10 laps of the race. At that point I was just controlling him and trying to put a little bit of pressure so he would run out of fuel sooner. He had to come into the pits and also, you know, wear his tires more.
It paid off because when he pulled in to refuel, I pushed really hard for the extra two laps that I had, and that's how I got him.

Q. Did you know that Dan didn't have any radio communication with his team? Does that affect how you race when you know that?
TONY KANAAN: They told me. I kind of under the yellow saw that they were kind of putting the board to talk to him. It didn't affect the way I raced him because Dan is a very clean driver. "Clean" in the sense on the racetrack. I don't know if he takes a shower every day (laughter). I'm kidding.
So I wasn't too worried about it. I was just racing him fair and square. He had no radio communication before. I passed him once. He passed me back. It wasn't a big deal. We do need a spotter sometimes. But a driver that drives only depending on the spotter, I don't think it's the right way to go. So Dan knew where I was and I knew where I could put my wheels, if I should say that.

Q. Tell us more about saving fuel. Did you start the race planning to save fuel or did you pick up that idea during the race? Physically or technically how do you do that?
TONY KANAAN: There are many ways to do it. But the way you got to approach a race was the top three cars were very, very fast. We could not pass each other. So when you're in a race like that, if you're able to keep up with them, obviously I was the third car, so I was drafting, right? By doing that, I could save some more fuel than them. Always the first car is going to save least, the second car a little more, and the third car a little more.
We have a fuel mixture on the steering wheel that you can turn the mixture down, which saves a lot of fuel in the car, too. I did that. Then I was lifting a lot off the throttle. Just try not to lose touch with them.
They were pretty strong. They were racing very hard in the beginning, and I didn't want to do that. But I had to make sure that I didn't lose touch with them either. So I would say from lap 15 on, I started to plan. It paid off. I pitted later than everybody. That's what probably gave me the win.

Q. Do you think your strategy would work without the pace cars?
TONY KANAAN: We always going to have yellow flags on an oval. It's tough to predict. I mean, it didn't work the way we really wanted because we wanted to make it in three stops and not four. It's tough to say, to answer that. It worked the way it should work. I mean, it's tough to predict scenarios when you have an oval race that anybody can crash or you can have a yellow flag any time.

Q. Did you know Dario's strategy? Do you think he could have won?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think so. But like the previous question: if, if, if. We can always have explanations afterwards. Having four cars in a team, we can afford to cover all the bases. Basically I was in one strategy. The main goal, it's for the team to win the race. I think they took another direction trying to cover all the bases. I think if we hadn't had the yellow, Dario would have won the race, yes. But if Helio hadn't crashed, he might have won the race. If... There's so many "if's." But, yes, he was on the right strategy until the yellow came out.

Q. You've been racing in Motegi for 10 years. Why do you think you got to win this time and not before?
TONY KANAAN: I wish I would know. Well, many things. This race is the second longest race we have on the calendar. After Indianapolis, this is the longest. Fuel mileage, it's very important here. All the races that I lost, it wasn't a fuel-mileage strategy. Like it didn't work for Dario for example today, in the past it didn't work for me.
Remember, back in 2005 Scheckter was leading with a Chevy engine. I was second in a Honda. Dan was third in a Honda. Honda hadn't won a race here yet. I would say if we hadn't won that race, a lot of heads were going to get chopped off.
Strategy was I put the pressure on Scheckter, ran Scheckter out of fuel. I ran out of fuel. But a Honda won the race. It's a very particular racetrack because of the length of the race. So basically I hadn't won it in the past for many circumstances. Most of them was fuel-mileage strategy.

Q. Now you can buy your baby real great diapers.
TONY KANAAN: Some Japanese diapers maybe.

Q. What are you going to name your child?
TONY KANAAN: It's a boy. I'm going to name him Leonardo Kanaan.

Q. Is he born already?
TONY KANAAN: She's five months pregnant. Not yet. By the ultrasound, we can see his nose is as big as mine, so it's my son (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Tony, thank you very much.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.

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