August 28, 2005
BUDDY RICE: -- stay right there, wouldn't close the gap any more. That last little bit, like everybody, we were chasing the fuel a little bit. That was also part of the deal. But, I mean, everybody was just marking off each other. I was surprised how fast the pace was. I thought it would be actually a little bit slower. That's just the way it was.
Q. There's a lot of talk about how physical this race was going to be, especially in the heat. Can you talk about that?
BUDDY RICE: It was a lot cooler today than it was the last couple of days. I think that was a little bit of a help. Like I said, everybody was pacing themselves early on, waiting to see who was going to do what. You could see couple guys gapping or slowing down, or hold their pace at lease, because everyone was going to try to take a little something in the tank for themselves for, you know, the last 15, 20 laps. The speeds were all fairly even.
Q. Were you happy to see the road courses this year and would you like to see more?
BUDDY RICE: Well, I mean, really, everybody keeps bringing up this issue of getting back to road courses, certain people having road course experience. Five years ago it might have been an issue, four years ago maybe. But not any more. Everybody that's here, other than one or two guys, have extensive road course backgrounds. I say at least three-quarters of us have go-karting backgrounds from back when we were little. Everyone is exciting to go back to road course racing and do that. I think it's like what Alex said, it breaks up the monotony a little bit. It's different. Everybody has road racing background. I don't think that's an issue at all. It would be nice to see one or two more road courses in there, for sure.
Q. Alex, you're a native Californian. This is the first open-wheel race we've had here in 35 years. What did you think of the reception you got here, that the whole series got here?
ALEX BARRON: I mean, to start with, the test, the first couple laps I did, we were excited to drive the circuit. It's really technical from an engineering standpoint to set the car up, working with the drivers. It's really technical from a driving standpoint to get around the circuit. My family and friends, I had like 25 people here. They all camped out (indiscernible). So that makes it extra special. There's two races in California, and that makes it a little bit more special when you go to the circuit that you're closest to. But Infineon did so much work to this place over the last couple years, I think it's a state-of-the-art facility. It's a fun place to be. This is one of the nicest places to be this time of year. It's hard to beat California weather.
Q. Is this course more challenging than the one in Laguna Seca?
ALEX BARRON: I think it's pretty similar as far as like the technical side of it. What you do, low speed and high speed. But it's pretty similar. I think Laguna Seca has its characterics of the trapezoid corners and stuff that are a little bit different than here. At the end of the day, Mid-Ohio, Elkhart Lake, here, Laguna, it's all give and take of how you set the car up, which makes it real difficult for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Michael Andretti for a few minutes. Tony is right behind Michael. First ever visit to Infineon Raceway for the series, Tony with the victory. Your thoughts on how the day went.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'll tell you, real perfect day for us, first with Marco coming in, starting the pole, winning the race, leading every lap. Tony driving a perfect race, 7-Eleven guys doing perfect pit stops and strategy. It was one of those good days. Unfortunately, the other two guys had tougher days, especially Dan. He had a chance to almost put the championship away, but unfortunately the fuel pump drive broke and (inaudible) the race. And Bryan unfortunately lost (inaudible). Other than that, it was a good day.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You kept bringing Dan in to top off early on those pit stops. What exactly was the fuel strategy going to be on that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: What happened, the first stop, no fuel went in the tank. They had a problem with the probe, so they had to fix it. He had to come back in. Then they filled him. Since he was already in with a (inaudible) on the next yellow, they figured why don't we just top him off. Actually that was really going to work to his advantage. I think Dan was sitting in a position where he actually had a shot of winning the race because of that. He was doing really quick time, made up a lot of time on the racetrack. It was really unfortunate for Dan because he really drove a heck of a race.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I actually have to talk to Bryan. I'll have to talk to him. I'm sure it was really frustrating because he was really quicker than him, but unfortunately, this track is (inaudible) tough to pass. I think he just misjudged it a little bit, I guess.
Q. Drivers seemed to be overplaying their hands a little bit here. Are you glad sort of Tony stayed clear of that crash that happened right in front of him? Dario also had some problems in the qualifying yesterday that wound up putting him behind the eight ball, too.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, yeah, obviously Dario was very disappointed that he made a mistake because he probably had the fastest car for qualifying, so he was really disappointed. Unfortunately, he was stuck in the back there. The way the yellows fell for him weren't positive, didn't work to his advantage. Just stuck in traffic all day, couldn't make up any time. As for Tony, it's always great being up front and out of trouble. I mean that's one of the reasons why you want to be up front. On tight tracks like this, there's going to be some guys that lose their patience and make some crazy moves sometimes, and that's what happened.
Q. You mentioned pit strategy for Tony, the way that it worked out. Was that what you guys did in terms of pits? Is that how you had scripted it or did you change some stuff on the fly?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it was pretty much scripted right away. They took advantage of the yellows. Bryan and Dario decided they were going to stay out. They did the opposite of the leaders. Could have played out right for them, had the yellows fallen right, but they didn't. They fell right for Tony and the rest was history. Obviously, it's a little bit of luck. You never know what's going to happen. But they did it the way they had to do it at that point with the track position they had. The other guys took a gamble, but the gamble didn't pay off.
Q. I know as a non-driver you never raced here, but do you find this course as challenging or more challenging than Laguna Seca?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I love it. I raced here a long time ago. There wasn't buildings here I don't think. Back in '83, in Atlantics, I loved it. I qualified pole and led every lap of the race. It was just a fun track to drive and a challenging track, very challenging, one that I know the guys really enjoy driving. I know difficult. Is it tougher than Laguna? I don't know. I think every track is tough, you know, in its own way. But the challenge of the rises and stuff are definitely something different than the norm, so it makes it fun.
Q. How key was that last yellow for Tony? Would he have made it on fuel without that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I believe so. I believe he was conserving actually when he was out front. He was really able to keep a good pace and save a lot of fuel. I think they felt pretty confident even without that yellow.
Q. A year ago this weekend you had a lot of different emotions with the closing of Nazareth. You have the winery here. Is this speedway the start of a new family tradition for you guys?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. I guess I live on the other side of the continent (inaudible). It's a great addition to our schedule, for sure. You know, I think all of us, we're so happy that there's another road course on the schedule, especially being up here in Sonoma. It's so beautiful up here. It's a great place for our sponsors to come. It was a huge addition to our schedule.
Q. Would you like to see some more road courses added?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Road or street circuits, for sure. We all would love to see that happen, and hopefully it will in the future.
Q. What exactly happened to Dan's car?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: The fuel pump drive into the engine broke, snapped. That's what broke. Very unfortunate for him.
Q. The original schedule for this year, this would have been the first non-oval race in IRL history. How much did it help to have the St. Pete raceway back in April to help you guys prepare for this?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You know, probably helped a little bit. You know, I think we had more time to work on some of the problems that we may have had just with the reliability and things like that. It was nice having that experience, for sure.
Q. What would be the perfect mix for you for the schedule, ovals and road courses?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'd like to see a 50/50 mix one day. I think that would be awesome. Hopefully that will happen in the future.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for your time, Michael. Good luck for the rest of the year. Congratulations.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, welcome to the media center. Congratulations on the victory. We all got to see the push-ups for the first time here in Sonoma. Great race. Talk a little about the incident with Ryan and Helio. That certainly opened the door for you, how that led to you taking the checkered flag.
TONY KANAAN: I was just a spectator on that one. I kind of saw it coming. I saw a flashback of St. Pete. I said, "I don't want to be involved in this." What I tried to do is I just backed off and I watch. Ryan hit the curb, hit Danica, hit Helio. I made it through. I was taking it so easy that I ended up even losing a position to Tomas Enge. That's how concerned I was not to be involved in anything because I knew I had a great car.
Q. For those who aren't familiar with the push-up routine, can you talk about how that started and why you like doing that?
TONY KANAAN: It's the first time. I just made it up this morning with my guys. I said, "Guys, this race was going to be so tough for us," I said, "I want to see anybody that finishes this race to do 11 push-ups." Obviously 11 because of 7-Eleven. So somebody remind me of that. I completely forgot after the race. So I ended up doing it. So from now on I guess I'm going to have to do it all the time. Hopefully I will have the strength to do that.
Q. When they reminded you, did you really want to do those?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. You know, when you old, you find the extra strength. It's unbelievable. I became so strong, when they told them that, I pumped myself up, I said, "I might as well do it." I tried to do it one-handed and I almost fell with my nose on the floor, so...
Q. Was this a walk in the park for you because of your fitness?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. I think I was really concerned last night, and I woke up this morning, you can ask my wife, I wasn't in the greatest mood, because I was very concerned about that. Obviously, you know, I was kind of upset to myself because I said, "How come I can work out that hard and be this tired?" Once you qualify, you really pushing hard for one lap, and you might like spend your energy squeezing the steering wheel and trying too hard. Once you get in a rhythm, it's a little easier. I would say that the race was hard, but it was easier than my qualifying lap. But definitely once I got in the lead, it was a little bit different because I was controling the pace. I could push for a lap, rest for an actual lap, push for another lap, so forth and so forth, and time myself the gap that I had to Buddy. It was much easier to control that way. But I think definitely my physical condition helped me a lot.
Q. Tony, I know you don't wish misfortune on Dan. What happened to him today does make the points race a little more interesting.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I had bad days, and he capitalized a lot on that this year. This is the way the race is. You know, obviously I don't know how many points I'm behind him, 80, 70, something, but I been in the exact same position three races to go last year, so I know what it takes. And he knows what is takes, because he was chasing for me. So for me what I care about right now is win more races. I know I got to win every race to the end of the year to be able to win this championship. That's what I'm going to go for. If I can't do it, I can't do it. I'll definitely try my best.
Q. It looked so easy, those last 30 laps. The first part of the race, guys overplaying their hands. Dario doing the same thing in qualifying, putting himself behind the eight ball. Sam Hornish maybe helped your team out a lot messing up in the first lap. Was that on your mind to play it cool the first half of the race?
TONY KANAAN: It was on my mind to concentrate a lot because I think that's how you make mistakes. You lose concentration or you're trying to overdrive the car. I needed the car that I had it in my hands. Tomas Enge put a bonsai move on me on the inside of the hairpin on the first lap, and I let him go, and I was just patient. I said, "Well, good cars going to be in the front, bad cars going to go to the back or going to go off." Sure enough, a lot of people went off. Tomas, he was driving a very good race, he was driving the wheels off of that car. He didn't have a very good car in my prospect. I just played it cool, yeah, and then save a lot of fuel. I was able to go four more laps than everybody else. I think that's what ended up making me win the race.
Q. Back when they announced this race, is this what you expected would happen racing here at Infineon?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, we knew it was going to be a lot of people making mistakes, a lot of people going off. The (inaudible) the racetrack, the way it is, the runoffs are very tempting. You don't have a wall right there, so you try a little harder, a little harder. Once you go off, it's gravel, and then you just take off. So I think it went, everything the way we expected. You can't expect road racing to be like the oval. I mean, we have the most competitive series on an oval running side by side over there. You can't run side by side for 12 corners here. I would say it was a great race. Obviously, people would share different opinions. Sometimes I heard out there that there wasn't a lot of passing. But where can you see a lot of passing on a road course? I mean, I don't see anywhere. I think was a good race.
Q. You were able to stay a few laps out longer than everybody else. Was that the key for you in terms of pit strategy, stay out there the longest, till lap 50?
TONY KANAAN: The way I figure the race out was you can't pass anybody. I mean, if you try to pass, you're going to hit or you're going to crash. If they close the door, the risk is too much. So how you can beat the other guys? I was putting the pressure on Enge the whole time and saving a lot of fuel because as soon as he pitted, I was going to push so hard and I was going to bring a gap, that by the time I pitted I could go out and I could go out in front of him. That's exactly what happened on the last stop. That's how I planned the race, yeah. It could have cost me, but I think on the long-term, that's what made me win the race.
Q. What did you think of Enge's spin there by himself.
TONY KANAAN: I didn't see it. I saw big smoke and a flag. I didn't know who it was. I made it through the corner, I saw Enge right there. I was said, "Ahh, they really put some presure on you, brother." So I didn't even try to pass him. I took it even easier to save a little bit more fuel because I knew at that time, as soon as he saw me in his mirrors, he was kind of, you know, like, "Man, the guy, I mean, he had a seven-second lead and went to zero. I just going to stay here, show my both noses and try to scare him a little bit and see what he does.
Q. Post qualifying you stated there were two or three passing zones. Did you try that to be true today?
TONY KANAAN: I still stick with turn 12. I think the chicane here we call turn 10, you guys call turn 9, and the last corner before we come to the S's I think is turn 5, right?
THE MODERATOR: Seven.
TONY KANAAN: Well, we have different maps. Where Briscoe crashed (inaudible) and then the hairpin. So I think those are the three corners. And still, you still saw passes there. I still think we were able to pass, for sure.
Q. How impressed were you by native Californians' reception for IndyCars this time?
TONY KANAAN: I was really happy. We could barely walk to the paddock before the race. I was really impressed. Sometimes can you walk and go from your pits to your garage, from your garage to your truck. It was extremely busy. People, they knew me from long time ago, since back in the CART days. You know, the fans, I mean, a lot of Brazilian fans. I was very impressed. I guess we all over the place. But I was happy to see. I think we put out a great show for them. It's definitely different than what they have seen for sure when you guys have NASCAR around here. Hopefully they like it. Hopefully they enjoy it. We try to put the best show we could so we could come back next year.
Q. How is the track? Did it get slippery, hard to stay on? Did it get dusty? Any real problems?
TONY KANAAN: No, I think the track got better. Obviously, we put more rubber down. Apart from some guys going off and bringing some dust to the racetrack for a couple laps, I think the track was great.
Q. The San Francisco Bay Area may be the most cosmopolitan area in the United States. How much of a growth potential do you see for this race here because of all the diverse cultures involved?
TONY KANAAN: I see a lot. I think, you know, besides the American people, like you said, there is such a massive crowd from all over the world, and I think they follow different type of racings besides NASCAR so they're more open-minded sometimes to come watch a race like this. So I think we have a big potential for sure. We just need to get the bugs out and I think we got it. From now on we got to work with the track and the series to make this thing more successful than it was. I think, you know, I have to call it a successful event. We got to make it better every year and we will.
Q. Prior to the road courses, there's always concern about the performance of the IRL cars. Can you tell us how the IRL cars themselves performed?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I think, you know, we did a great job from testing. I knew it was going to be a good package. I mean, everybody was concerned about passing, downforce, this, that. I think the cars are reliable. I mean, I don't see a lot of people, you know, having mechanical problems, apart of going out off or hitting each other, which is normal in a road course. I'd have to say the cars was very reliable. Downforce-wise, I think it's good. Maybe the way that the nature of this track is, the steering was a little bit heavier. We probably got to do something about this next year. Everybody was a bit concern. But other than that, I think we have a great product, and we definitely going to make it better, for sure. Every year we make it better.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONY KANAAN: I had a blast. I'm sitting here, I won the race, obviously it's fun. Apart from that, I had a blast all weekend. It came back in the old times. I have to tell you, I was rushed on the first day. I was like, "What's going on?" I couldn't put a wheel in the same place every lap. It's just been a long time. In my opinion, we should do more of this.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, thanks so much. Congratulations on the victory. Good luck the rest of the year.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.
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