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September 2, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our sixth-place finisher, Dario Franchitti. Combined with his sixth place points and the bonus points for leading the most laps, he is now in the championship points lead by three points over Scott Dixon. Tony Kanaan remains in third place in the championship, 39 points behind. He is still mathematically eligible.
Dario, talk about your day out there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: All right. First of all, the Canadian Club car was very fast today. Had a good balance. I got in a good rhythm with it. You know, whether it was running behind Helio, saving fuel, or running up front, you know, I was quite happy with it.
We got back in traffic at one point and we couldn't make anything happen. I don't think anybody could. It was so difficult to pass. Just had to wait for the guys in front to pit, save as much fuel as we could at that point.
Tony took one strategy. I think he was maybe low on fuel for his last stop they said. We got that yellow just when we didn't need it. Got beaten out of the pits by Scott. We were running lap times three seconds slower than my fastest, but couldn't pass. Just couldn't do anything.
Scott, he blocked me a couple of times. But then, you know, coming down to turn I guess 13, Buddy ran in front of him, Scott went for the gap, had contact with Buddy, spun it round and collected me. It was kind of a bizarre situation. We were sitting there staring at each other. No yellow flag was displayed, to my knowledge, so therefore the safety guys couldn't come on the track to help me. No reverse gear, so I'm just sitting there. That upset me more than the incident itself.
I would like to say Tony Kanaan drove a hell of a race today yet again. He did a good job.
THE MODERATOR: One other note before we start on questions. This is the second consecutive year and third time in league history that the championship points lead has changed both with two races and one race remaining in the schedule.
Q. Do you think Scott could have gotten on the brakes, you could have gotten by? Was that intentional? Did you consider it that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know, some people think it was intentional. I just know that, apart from the blocking thing, Scott has raced me cleanly all year and I've raced him cleanly. So going on past form this season, I don't think he would have done it intentionally. I don't know, though. As I say, my owners have a different opinion of it.
Q. What is your opinion of the track, the ability to pass, the ability to be passed?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know, it's very tough. It's very tough. I think the long layout, that long straight followed by a 90-degree right that we used here in '98, '99, 2000, I think that would produce better passing. So it's maybe an option to run that in the future.
This is one of those tracks that's very, very difficult to pass. But to go out there and drive the car when the car's working as well as my car was today, it's so much fun. It's a real joy. When the car is floating from bump to bump, you're in that rhythm, you see the guys disappearing in your mirror, it's like, yeah, that's cool.
Q. Do you see the acrimony of the last two weekends going between the teams leaving a distasteful impression on the final race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I don't. You know, I think if you saw Scott and Tony talking yesterday or the day before about last weekend, you see there's no hard feelings there. As Tony said, Hey, I could have taken Scott out of the race twice. There was one time he pushed me on the grass one way, one time another.
I've got a lot of respect for Scott and his whole team. They're really good guys. I said this was going to be a hell of a championship battle, and it's gonna be. You know, but we want to win and they want to win. There's always going to be some... On the track, we don't take any prisoners, either team.
Q. Did you actually make contact with Scott?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I was just about to go by him when he came back. He bent the right front wishbone and snapped the front wing. But, as I say, it was the most bizarre situation. We're sitting there and staring at each other. There's no yellow flag. Yet again, to go with yesterday's thing in qualifying when there was a car parked in a blind sixth-gear corner, where the car stuck to the ground so hard it's coming off the ground, yet somebody takes pole position. And then today with the two cars blocking the track and there's no yellow, to my knowledge, it's bizarre.
Q. You were leading. You held the lead comfortably. Buddy Rice got out in the lead, started pulling away. Danica was in the lead, pulled away. These cars are pretty equal.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think in fairness to Buddy and Danica, when those guys were in the lead, I was behind Dan, and Dan was slowing me down a lot. As soon as Dan pitted, I caught Danica in about two laps, I think. That was the problem for anybody. Dan was running somewhat off the pace, allowed the guys to gap. We couldn't do anything about it because we were stuck behind him.
Q. You were able to get restarted and limp across the finish.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The engine never stopped. That was the bizarre thing.
Q. By doing that, did you pick up an extra position?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I have no idea. I don't know. Sorry.
Q. Were you surprised to see Buddy Rice up there that long and running that well?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Not really. Buddy's a good driver. You know, he's been struggling this weekend at the track. Him and I have talked about it. You know, the strategy worked out for him. He was doing a good job up there.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, thank you.
We're joined by second place finisher, a career best second place, Danica Patrick.
Danica, take us through your day out there.
DANICA PATRICK: It was a bit of an up-and-down day. We didn't have the best weekend so far. We qualified 11th. So mid pack is never the ideal spot to be. But kind of knew that it was like settle in, make good fuel mileage and be smart, try to get 'em in the pits 'cause any time someone tried to pass, you saw what happened, we all came together. It was just a matter of being smart and making up as much time as you could in the pits.
We did that on the first stop. We came out in seventh. Then the yellow came out. Restart happened. I got hit from behind when Sam was kind of spinning off with somebody. So that was unfortunate. But grabbed the clutch, kept it running, thank goodness, and they pushed me back, I pulled away. No damage, which was fantastic. Kept going.
Then we were in the fuel strategy game because we were in the back of pack. What are you going to do except try and be clever? That's what we did. We ran up front for a good chunk of time, led, made up some ground. Then came back out again, had an accident with Sharp, as well.
You know, it was a fun-filled day for me. We weren't the fastest car, but we were fast enough to be in contention and be there to do something about it, which was half the battle today.
My team did a great job of putting the Motorola car in the right spot at the right time with the strategy. Track position was absolutely everything today, so they did a good job. Caught some unlucky breaks, but in the end caught some lucky ones, came home second.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Danica.
Q. You've been a story for so long in this series. Do you find it ironic on a day when you get your career-best finish, your story will be overshadowed by everything else that happened?
DANICA PATRICK: Hey, I think honestly that's great. I will say, sure, people latch on to when I do good things. They write about it, which I'm flatter and I'm so glad for that. But it just means that certain story lines and certain people are getting really big, too. That only helps the series, when there's more than one thing going on.
Let's face it, I'm not going to be interesting every week. To be honest, I might have a boring year at some point. Definitely last year was one of them that wasn't so spectacular.
I'm happy that there are other story lines that are taking the lead. Just gonna have to do that much better to be the head story. That's all right. Andretti Green is a great team. We've been doing really well.
I wouldn't have said we were running up front all day today, but we have had our best result today. I'd have to say that from basically Indy on, we've really been running up front the whole time. Good job to the team. Good job to the Motorola car and everybody involved.
Q. I'm sure you weren't aware of this, but when you took the lead, the whole stand almost collapsed, everybody stood up and cheered. Obviously you couldn't see that. You do create interest.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you. I'm very fortunate to have a lot of fans, good fans, excited fans. I am a little bit different, so that's always interesting. Being something that hasn't proven to do that well really in history - consistently at least - I guess you'd say I'm a bit of an underdog, too. Everybody loves that. Everybody cheers for that, right?
You know, that's kind of what I credit it to. And I hope that they enjoy my personality. I'm definitely honest. You're going to get the straight truth out of me. I don't beat around the bush up here. I think that's important. I think it's important for consistency so that the fans really get to know you instead of like this false you. All of a sudden you have these glimmers of other people who really are you. People can tell. I'm very lucky.
Q. When you let Dario go by, was that a team order thing or you thought he would get you eventually?
DANICA PATRICK: Honestly, he probably was going to get me. Obviously Dario's very good. Our pace wasn't quite as fast as what I thought it had to be or what I thought it was going to be. So would I have been able to hang in there? Maybe. But, you know what, this wasn't my race to win today necessarily as far as the championship goes and what was happening.
I didn't have to be told. I was informed that Dario was behind me. But I kind of wanted to let him go. I wanted him to go at Dixon. I wanted them to go for it because that is the story right now. The story is who's going to win this championship. They're within a couple of points. Geez, they might even be tied up right now almost or within two. That's bigger than, you know, me finishing fifth, which is what was going on anyway, or fourth, if I wouldn't have let him by.
I didn't have to be told to do that. I would have done that for Dario out of courtesy, out of respect.
THE MODERATOR: Danica. Congratulations.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by race winner Tony Kanaan. His fifth win of the 2007 season. It's his third win in the last four races. He stands 39 points behind in the championship points standings. Still mathematically eligible for the title next weekend when the series moves to Chicagoland.
T.K., take us through your day.
TONY KANAAN: Can call it a long day because it was a weird race. We had a good start, so I managed to pass Dixon right away. After that I couldn't pass anybody. We definitely took the advantage. When Helio got in traffic, we pitted right away. I think we had a problem. I don't think we put all the fuel in, so we had to save a lot of fuel. The yellow came out at the right time. Crazy race behind me.
I think it was a good thing to stay in the front. Very pleased for the 7-Eleven team, after all the criticism I got last weekend, and I even heard the people that criticized me, What you do always comes back to you. So I guess I didn't do a bad thing. You do good things, good things happen to you.
Very pleased. I'm very happy about the race today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for T.K.
Q. How worried were you about fuel if it had gone 90 laps?
TONY KANAAN: They gave me a number, so I can't worry. I was matching the number and actually making better fuel mileage than what they asked me. I trust my team.
I have a number on my dash. I flip the page. I didn't want to see it. I was just making the number, better number than what they asked me. I trust my guys a hundred percent so I knew I was going to make it.
Q. It looks now like last weekend, that decision, instead of 39 points, it could be much less at this point. Did you think about that at the end?
TONY KANAAN: I do not regret what I did. I think I made my decision last weekend in one point of the race that, you know, it dictates these things out of me. That's what I wanted to do. So I do not regret a single bit.
I said that out there today. There is a lot of things beyond racing. Yes, was I very unselfish that time? I think so. Things could have been different, yes. But I could have actually put myself in a better position before the Sonoma race to be able to win this championship.
You know, five years from now when we all retire, people are not going to remember anything, and my friendship for my teammate for sure will last forever. It's a guy that I care about. The decision that I made last weekend, I think that was the right one.
So I do not think about last weekend. I think about this weekend. Now, for sure, I told him, I'm going. Chicago, I'm going. We'll see what's going to happen.
Q. Returning to Detroit after a six-year hiatus, it could come back for the next five. Does that make you happy, sad, and why?
TONY KANAAN: Oh, makes me happy. I mean, this place gave me my first victory in America back in 1996 in Indy Lights. I backed that up in '97. I ended up winning the championship that year. So I had great memories up until 2000, which I had my worst accident here. Broke my arm.
So it's been a good track in a way, and not so good in other ways. But I always loved this place. I have to say the track was awesome, a bit bumpy, but that's the way street courses are. Hats off for Roger Penske and his people that put a great event. A lot of fans today. I'm glad we're coming back next year and hopefully the next five. As long as we can keep this race up with the fans coming to watch us, for sure.
Q. When you looked in your mirror and all of a sudden you didn't see second, third and fourth place, were you beginning to wonder what the heck happened?
TONY KANAAN: I knew it. I knew it. I looked in my mirrors, saw the yellow flag. I keep looking. Nobody, nobody. I figured. I was hoping to see a black and orange car behind me. Then I found out pretty soon when I went by. I saw Buddy in one end, Dario and Scott in the other end. Pretty sad.
But we came here to take the championship lead away from Dixon. It doesn't matter if it's one point. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. Let's move on and go to Chicago now.
Q. Organizers said when they redesigned the track, it would make it easier to pass. That didn't seem to be the case at all today.
TONY KANAAN: Street courses are never easy to pass. They changed one corner. I mean, the circuit is back to the old circuit we had back in '96 and '97. They changed turn nine, which I was glad, because that's the one I broke my arm on. Tried to make it more interesting to pass.
I have to say, I passed four cars in this race, so it's not that bad. We have a series that is very competitive. When you watch our oval races, you see a lot of passing, so people expect us to keep changing positions every lap when you come to a road or street course. That doesn't happen. Doesn't happen in Formula One. Doesn't happen anywhere when you go to a street course.
I would say it could be better, yes. It could always better. Bud already came to talk to me, ask me my opinion about it. I think a couple of places we might can change to be able to actually make it that you can have another possibility to pass. But it's not a place that is impossible to pass, it's just very difficult.
Q. I know you haven't heard it, but Buddy took full blame for the incident, said he ran out of fuel, couldn't get out of the way. But Mike was livid after the race and charged that Dixon intentionally took his foot off the brake and blocked Dario's path. If you're Dixon, whether or not you believe the story, is that what you do, you stop Dario from getting through?
TONY KANAAN: I will never be Dixon so I not going to answer that, especially after all the heat he gave me last weekend, the same way he didn't believe me when I said what I said, what I did last weekend. I strongly believe he did it on purpose. Now, he can say no. We can't prove it. He can say, I was crashing, and I couldn't reach the brakes, here we go.
Like Brian Barnhart was saying in the drivers meetings, there are some parts of the rules that race control cannot judge, only us that drive the race cars do we know.
Do I think was on purpose? Yes. But you know what, like he always said last weekend, too, what goes around comes around. So here we go. He lost the championship lead. He's not been sleeping very well this week and I'm coming.
Q. Speaking of what goes around comes around, it seems like you also pointed out to a four-time Indy 500 winner --
TONY KANAAN: I have a lot of respect for Rick Mears. As he said, he lost a lot of respect from me. I did not lost respect for him. I think he's the greatest of all times. I always look and talk to him. I was Casey's teammate at one point. I raced against Clint back in Indy Lights.
You know me, I make jokes. I felt funny to dedicate the win for him. I'm pretty sure we're going to talk about it. I haven't seen him all weekend.
Yeah, he was a bit harsh on me. Everybody has an opinion. Like I said, a lot of people thought it was a great thing that I did. A lot of people thought that it was not. Rick was one of those guys. You know, that's the way it is. I have to think about it because if Rick Mears, the driver, and the IRL official that he is, came talked to me, I might would respect. But when he comes to say something, he has a Team Penske shirt, I kind of wonder if he was mad because I didn't let Sam by or something like that.
No hard feelings at all. Rick Mears is a great race car driver. Hopefully I have plenty of years to try to earn his respect again.
Q. This seems like a very intense championship fight. Is it the most intense you've been involved with? Can you describe the feeling. Every weekend something happens.
TONY KANAAN: It's been a crazy year, I would say, for sure. More outside of the track and people trying to disrupt what we have on the team, fights. What can I say about fights? Yes, it's been weird. And I think it's been good. You know, we've always known all the drivers get along very well, we're a big family, and it's great. But sometimes it's good to have what we have. I'm not saying the bad press we probably got fighting and stuff is a good thing.
But, Jesus, we're humans. We're under pressure. We've been racing against each other for a long time. It's been tighter, tighter, tighter. Every year it goes to the last race for the championship.
People start to get edgy, start to talk about each other. We get along. I would say the top three guys in the championship, I would say the top six guys, we all get along really well. We talk about it. Everybody that has an opportunity in an interview goes (making sound), and the other guy goes (making sound). That's part of the game. This has been part of racing forever. I remember back in the Formula One days, and I remember back here.
That's the way it is. I think it adds to it. It's really good. You know what, I like the pressure. It makes me stronger, so bring it on. Anybody think they're going to break what we have at AGR, we just proved again, it ain't happening.
I'm a big fan of having (indiscernible) teammates and having problems to solve so I can make myself better.
Q. The last race the year is in Chicagoland. Is that a good place to end the season? When you're chasing, is that a good place to end the season?
TONY KANAAN: For the fans, yes. For us, no. It's a no man's land. I mean, it's an oval track. It's a superspeedway that you don't know what's going to happen.
I like it. Like I just said, I like when the difficulty comes up. You know what, it's going to come down not to just the best driver, it's going to be the best team with the best equipment, the best engineer and who's going to have the best day.
Q. People always talk about the reason NASCAR is so popular is the ongoing soap opera aspect of it. It seems the last couple weeks you have outdone them in that department. Talk about that.
TONY KANAAN: Like I said, I think when a lot of people start talking about us, that means we're becoming more popular. I think that's what's been happening lately. We're definitely growing as a series, all the teams, as drivers. Are we growing slower, faster? We would like to grow a lot faster. If they're talking about it, that means people are watching. So I think it's a good thing.
Yes, I mean, like I said, I got so many emails and phone calls saying how great of a job and how great a human being I am. Then I go read in the paper a couple guys I respect a lot slamming at me. So, you know, it's a good thing. I can write a book about it. I can turn a soap opera for the 2007 season for sure
Q. Everybody coming in here looks like they're wearing a different color driver suit than they started. How physical was it?
TONY KANAAN: Dan Wheldon soaked me with champagne. That's probably why I look worse than I was. It was very difficult. On a bumpy track, it takes a lot out of the driver. You never have the steering straight. It's always left and right, up and down. I would say it wasn't more physical because we had to save fuel. When you save fuel, you have to slow down. It was kind of easy towards the end. But in the middle of the race, we had a pretty big streak without yellows. It was hard, like every street course. That's why I work out twice as much as I can, so I can push out when I need all the way through the whole race.
Q. Is it possible for this season to end next week without an AGR car being involved in a controversy? This is four in a row now.
TONY KANAAN: Of course not. And if not, I'll make sure I'll put one in for just in case.
C'mon. Why should we? I'm already replying to some of Scott Dixon's criticisms from last week. That's going to add. Then he's going to come back Wednesday and talk to somebody else. We gonna carry it to Chicago. That's it.
Like I said, I think it's a good thing. I mean, I like it.
Q. Could you give us a comment on Danica finishing second.
TONY KANAAN: You got to be in the right place at the right time. I told her a while ago, I said, Look, Danica, your first win is going to come when you least expect it. She looked at me on the podium before they went out there. She said, Man, I finished second. I haven't drove as hard. I just was at the right place at the right time. I said, That's what I told you. The day your first win is going to come, it's probably going to be the same thing.
Very well done. The girl have improved so much. She definitely step up. Look at Mid-Ohio in qualifying. Look at Sonoma qualifying. Hats off. In Sonoma, we're talking on the grid. I said, Look behind you. Don't you feel proud of yourself? She was like, Yeah. All of us were back there. Me, Helio. Helio was on the pole. Me, Dario, Dixon. She's done a tremendous job. She's learning so quick. Hats off. Her best finish.
She will definitely win a race. I can't say probably this year. She might win Chicago. It's getting closer and closer. She will win a race pretty soon.
Q. Can you comment on her finishing second and her being completely overshadowed by everything else that happened today?
TONY KANAAN: It's good to be in the other seat sometimes, isn't it? I have to say when she finished Indianapolis, it was a big thing. What we got to understand, she's in a tough spot. You know what, hats off. She's a great race car driver. She gets more attention than everybody else because of who she is. She's a girl in the middle of 18 other guys. But today, thank God, we made a little bit more controversy. It got overshadowed. I think that's the way it is.
Now we're balancing things out, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: T.K., thank you very much. See you next week.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.
End of FastScripts