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July 6, 2008
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
THE MODERATOR: Well, we have the gentlemen who finished second and third in the Camping World Indy Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, Tony Kanaan. Who certainly stands to gain a lot in the overall point standings, turned what could be a disastrous day into a very good day.
I know it's been grilling and congratulations to Darren Manning and the ABC/A.J. Foyt Team for a career best second place finish.
Tony, we'll start with you. I can't imagine a worse situation in the final practice to have a car snap around on you. You wrapped your wrist a little bit, and the team really fought hard. A very good end of the day, at least from our perspective.
TONY KANAAN: For sure. I think we had a suspension failure in the morning, which caught me by surprise, and hurt my wrist a little bit, which distract. It's not a nice feeling. It's a wrist that has been broken twice, so it probably hates me right now.
But I have to say, it was a great day for us. As far as points, like you said, I think, you know, I don't think I had enough, even with my wrist being okay for Darren or for Hunter-Reay.
I mean, Darren was pretty strong at the end. Ryan as well. I mean, I was losing a little bit in the high speed corners because I couldn't turn, but I don't think I had a better car than he did. I probably could put a little more pressure on him. But I don't think I could have passed.
So I'll take a third place. I think it'sÃ¢â‚¬Â -- like you said, it's thinking about the championship, it's great.
THE MODERATOR: Well, Darren, you were right there at the end with a chance, and, boy, what a great day for you and the team. It was neat to see you out front, I think for the fans. Congratulations.
DARREN MANNING: Yeah, thanks. It's a nice change to be in the press conference here a little bit. There you go. See, I'm a rookie. It's been a while. There you go. No, it's obviously really nice to run competitive and run at the front.
The competition out there is so, so deep. Really, really deep throughout the field. You know, last year if you were second off the pace in qualifying, you may be, you know, in sixth, seventh place, something like that. This year if you're second off the pace, you're 20th. It's crazy. Well, it's not crazy, it's good. It's good for the fans and good for the state of the sport. That every team can get up front there.
Just a shame I was a bit of a sitting duck. We had chosen to stay out. And, you know, I knew I was going to be in the lead there. But I was at the stage that I got in the lead there, I was at a stage that I was in the lead there when I was about to go green. I knew I was going to have to save fuel. And I knew I was probably going to be a sitting duck with saving fuel.
But, you know, we were willing to take that and hold off as many people as we could saving fuel. And made the drop into top six and things. But as soon as a couple more yellows came out, we were golden. I was waiting for those magic words from A.J. that we've got to go to the end on full. So we were.
It was just a shame. There was a lot of dirt there in turn ten. And I decided to restart after the dirt, thinking I might be able to catch some of these guys out. But it was a shame on me, because Ryan got a good run on me. I nearly got him back into the stop, but I thought discretion was the better part of valor, two-wide going into it. I think Tony gave me a bit of room to come back in.
TONY KANAAN: I was just in.
DARREN MANNING: Yeah, I could see him licking his lips. And Ryan nearly went into the stop at under 90 miles an hour. And I spotted in there. And then I reached the yellow, came back out. And thought okay, my turn to get him back. And A.J. was screaming in my ears, Don't let him do that again. Get him back.
But I tried and he learned from my mistakes and it went really early. That bugger. I had words with him. But he had a quick car, And pulled away. Pulled a quick couple of seconds gap on me.
As Tony said, I was quick enough to hold my own. It's just all testament to the team, and good job we've done.
THE MODERATOR: Before we take your questions. Just a point, Tony Kanaan, we mentioned, is the only driver to be in the Firestone Fastest Six every time we've had it. So I do expect that.
But I think it's worth noting despite the attrition we had. Darren Manning was strong all weekend long, and congratulations to that team.
Q. Tony, if you could just tell us a little about how much pain you kind of went through? Because this is kind of a physical course anyway. You know, even without having a broken wrist. And both of you can talk about how at the end it just really seemed to be the adage caution breeds caution.
TONY KANAAN: First, let's not say broken wrist, otherwise Tremmel's going to try to operate on me tomorrow, and I don't want to do that. So it's fracture, maybe.
The pain, how can I describe? It's a wrist that has already 14 screws on it. It's been operated twice. It's a really sharp pain on the outside bone. So, basically every time I turn to the right, which we don't have. Yeah, not too many on this side. It gives me like somebody's really putting a needle inside my wrist.
So that was the pain that I had all race. And I was really happy for all those yellows, trust me. I was even wanting my tires at one point, thinking I can't do it. So it was painful.
Like I said, I don't think we had the right car to win the race today even if I was 100%. So I'm not trying to brag about it or make an excuse that's what happened.
After what happened in the morning, we turned it around pretty good. So if you asked me after if I was expecting to finish third today? I would say no. I didn't even know if I was going to continue the race.
Q. Talk about the caution, like the last 16 laps?
TONY KANAAN: Everybody gets greedy. Funny enough, everybody gets greedy before the start, because the last two cautions were under yellow. So I assume everybody could run under yellow, so every car, everybody's trying to warm their tires. That's what I think caught Dixon at the time, and it's unfortunate, but, like you said, yellows bring yellows.
DARREN MANNING: After you go through two and one, you've got to get through that. There are a couple of cars that didn't on one of the restarts, but if you can just be a little more than patient, and not have to worry about warming your tires. I think sometimes you get a bit more build up even when you do warm the tires.
So like Tony said, everybody's so competitive, everybody's going for every little advantage they can get. Like Ryan did with me. He won the race because of the restart. So it's won and lost.
Q. Darren, you did have a good weekend. You were pretty quick all the way through, have you guys taken a little bit of a step-up on some of these courses?
DARREN MANNING: Yes, all the cars did. Just can't quite shown it yet. We ran in St. Petersburg, strong. We finished third there. I think I would probably finish behind them there. But we had a gear box problem, and enough to finish the race in third gear.
So, we were really strong there. And, we had enough to get up in sixth place there. And I was challenging Marco for fifth. And a lot of theseÃ¢â‚¬Â -- still finishing ninth, it was great for us. We dropped back to 24th in a race on the way back to 9th place.
So even though things had gotten very quickly around there, because we race every weekend. It was the last race. That's why I'm in second right now. Or should I say?
TONY KANAAN: Third now. Could be worse.
Q. For both of you, Darren, you haven't had the best of times, but your crew hasn't given up on you. Does it keep working to give you a car, and this weekend you had the same thing. You had your problem this morning, and the guys worked hard up until the time they got the cars in to get you back. And they did a good job. Because you had no problems up until the last two runs.
DARREN MANNING: My guys are a small team. We're not a two or three car team. My own teammate, A.J., who is a pretty good teammate to have at times, but other times, he's a tough task master.
He's got very high standards. You know on some of these short weekends where we've only got maybe an hour, hour and a half to do qualifying and race set-up, and try to get the car fast and comfortable and get the race set-up and things. And trying to get in traffic running, you run out of time really quickly. It's extremely difficult, you know, by ourselves.
But I think within the team, they know what a job we did, and we did resources. We've got the same resources as anybody out there. We've got the race sponsor in ABC, that gives us everything we need: The wind tunnel time, the shocks. We've got pretty much what everybody else has got.
It's just nice. We've had a long weekend right here at Watkins Glen. The three-day weekend to sit down and talk about it, between myself, and the engineer and the chief mechanics. We've worked out what we need to go faster. We've proved it every now and then to ourselves. It's nice we can validate it to ourselves on weekends like this.
TONY KANAAN: I've got to thank our team. That's our strength to be able to put the car back together. Not just my team, but the whole team. We have different guy guys working on that car.
So the least I could do is drive the best and get the most out of the car. That's what I did, and that is the best way to thank those boys. Like I said, great results, I think. We were trying to feel the car, and I was hoping I was not going to have another suspension problem.
We go through the check, and it was one, two, three, bust off. And came through turn three, and I said radio check, my favorite corner. So they all laughed. So I was trying to get some positives out of it. It was a good weekend, for sure.
Q. If both of you could comment on Ryan Hunter-Reay breaking through as a race winner?
TONY KANAAN: I'm always happy to see somebody win the first time. It always brings me back to when I won the first time. He won the style that he fought for it. It's nice. It's nice to see a new face in Victory Lane.
So, well deserved. I hope he enjoyed it. Like Manning said, you're only as good as your last race. So next week in Nashville, he'll have to try to do it again.
DARREN MANNING: Yeah, I thinkÃ¢â‚¬Â -- I just realized I was second to him when he won his first Champ Car race. A bloody win there as well, not so good, is it?
No. It's nice to finish second to Ryan. He's a good guy, a good driver. It's nice, he was out of the ride for a little while there. I'm sure we've all been in that situation before. And it's nice that the Rahal/Letterman team gave him a chance. And he proved it straightaway. He was super fast straightaway. And we all knew we had another competitor on our hands for sure. It was just a matter of time.
DARREN MANNING: Yeah, I'd have to apologize. I don't think it was anything other than a bit of a racing incident. We were kind of three-wide between Marco, myself and Dan, and I think he just had a problem.
He had come back right away from the lead group. He was bottle-necking us up. And Marco had to get off the gas, and I kind of went to the left of him, and we went to the right. And you can stay out without even looking at the replay whether Dan had come to the left and didn't know I was there, or Marco had come up to me or I had come up to him. But he just dropped a little bit.
I think I touched into Marco a bit. Did Marco finish? I think? Yeah, at least Marco kept going. So just a shame for Dan, I mean just a situation where Wilson was coming back, and we'd all kind of go around him, and I had nowhere to go.
Q. Were you surprised to see Dixon make the mistake he did under yellow?
TONY KANAAN: I guess he's human, isn't he? Jesus Christ, you know? You go, and you look at the guy is having a fantastic year. You think he has some extra power from another planet or something. Then you don't know when he's going to have a bad day, and there you go.
I was surprised, but you know what, the way we all warm our tires like we were saying before, it can catch you by surprise. So, obviously, he's not going to forgive himself for that. But somebody else asked me if I was happy about that. I should never be happy about what happens to that. But if I had to look at Dixon right now, I would say it was a trade from Homestead. I don't think they're that upset when I drop off, so.
Q. Over the last couple of weeks you've taken about 40 points out of his championship lead. Can you just talk about your prospects in the championship?
TONY KANAAN: I'm on my way. I guess the second part of the season that happened. I got there last year as well. You know, I think at one time I was going to have to turn the situation around. I was getting worried about it. I had a dark cloud on the top of my head the whole time. And I talked to my mom. I don't know. Do something. Pray. What am I doing wrong?
No, it's been good. I think it's going to be tough. It's still 66 points behind, but, you know, it was really good before I came here, so we're on the way. We're on the way back.
DARREN MANNING: Going for a championship, it seems to be today was a bad day. You have to do the best you can with a car without trying to get carried away because it can put you in the stands. You've got to be smart. And I said that under the yellow.
I see under the yellow, it's Hunter-Reay, and I look behind me, and it's Rice, and Marco, and Marco was the highest guy in the championship among all those guys and myself.
Here's the thing. I don't think Hunter-Reay are going to give me any slack, because I have everything to lose if they don't.
So despite the situation, you've got to be happy with what you've got. And you know, third is better than nothing, and there's a lot of points, obviously.
It's worse than second, and worse than first. But sometimes you've got to be smart about it. That's the way we won the championship, and that's the way to keep himself alive in a championship until now. So, you know, I was extremely happy shooting third there.
THE MODERATOR: If we can have your attention. It's our pleasure to bring to you now the two principles who have captured the Camping World Indy Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, team owner Bobby Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Just a quick note if we could about some of the significant aspects of this win. Many of you may know that Ryan Hunter-Reay has won two times in his career in Champ Car competition in Surfers Paradise in Milwaukee, where I believe he won every single lap if I remember correctly. It's the first win in the IndyCar Series for Rahal/Letterman Racing since Buddy Rice won in Michigan in 2004.
Another interesting note about this event, save the years that Cart ran at Watkins Glen when Bobby Unser and Rick Mears were victorious. Going back to the days of the U.S. Grand Prix, and now the Indy Grand Prix with the Indy Racing and IndyCar Series. It's the first win by an American born race driver in that series.
One more note, as part of the new partnership with the Indy Racing and the IndyCar Series with IZOD, it was well established that Ryan Hunter-Reay was going to go and spend a couple of days in New York where a gigantic poster and billboard, if you will, was going to be unveiled with a picture of Ryan Hunter-Reay. And next to it, the words were, "I am next." Our understanding is that they're going to work overnight and change that to, "I am now."
So, ladies and gentlemen, a great congratulations to two gentlemen here at Victory Lane, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Bobby Rahal.
First of all, Ryan, I'll start with you. I think I've served as a public address announcer for 85 to 90 events in this series. I don't know if I've ever seen one that went quite the way this unfolded. But let's make this clear, you've been strong all weekend long. Congratulations and tell us what it was like?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you, it was a long day. We settled into a good rhythm there in third place. Briscoe and Dixon were just really fast in a straight line, so that was difficult.
But, for all the things that have just gone against us for all the weeks leading up to this race, for something to go our way was great. It didn't land in our lap. We had to definitely go out there and I had to stuff it down the inside of Darren and hold off Tony several times during this race.
Then we just checked out, which was the best. We put an exclamation on the end of that one. So it was a beautiful deal. And I couldn't have done it without this team.
At the beginning of the year Bobby told me to go out there and make something of this. And to make something of building this team around myself and we all get along so great. It's really a special thing to be a part of. The fact that we've been building and get faster and faster and faster is a neat thing. And to finally win, huge.
THE MODERATOR: It is huge indeed. And Bobby Rahal, I would imagine nothing ever changes or replaces the exhilaration of winning as a driver. But it's certainly gratifying as an owner. But for you personally, I would think to break a drought, not only to break it, but to break it at Watkins Glen would be an added special thing for you as a car owner.
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, for sure. I think for sure to win here, I mean, it's my first Formula 1 was race here. My first professional Formula Atlantic race was here. My first Can-Am race I drove was here. So my first pole position and Sprint car racing was here in 1981 or 80, one of those two years. It's so long ago I can't remember.
So, yeah, I mean, this is the crown jewel of American motorsports circuits. So much history and so many great drivers have been here, and it is such a fantastic racing circuit, especially the long circuit.
To win here, you know, for us it has been a bit of a drought. And there were comments made about this team by some of our previous drivers about our desire and our commitment. Really what it boils down to is you have to have the right person in the driver's seat. And this guy, since the day he came on to the team and almost a year ago now, mid-Ohio, he elevated the performance of the team immediately.
We just got better and better. We're saying this is the third time, three road courses in a row we've been in the Firestone Fast 6. And it's because he's been able to take the car to a new level and work with our engineers and our guys to, you know, kind of keep it there and make it stronger and stronger.
So, you know, for me it's a vindication a little bit. But I'm just so happy for our team and all the mechanics who work so hard. This is a brutal series in terms of the timing of the race, the tempo every weekend. These cars are very difficult.
You know, we've just come off a big shunt at Richmond, and we had to repair the car. These guys work like you can't believe. So I'm just so pleased for them. So many of our guys on the team this is their first win, and that even makes it even more special. So, yeah, I'm thrilled. As I told my guys, I said, you know, it's okay if we do this again.
Q. If you could follow up or elaborate. In two weeks it will be your first anniversary together. Bobby, if it's just kind of a situation where maybe everything kind of happens for a reason in order to get a guy like Ryan, the driver that you had before wasn't able to do it. And just how this game works in cycles?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, you know, I've known Ryan fair long time. My career wasn't a smooth progression. I had sidesteps and backsteps and times when I was the flavor of the month, and times when people didn't return my phone calls. So I think I identified with where Ryan was at.
The guy showed a lot of promise, and it takes a long time to get up, and it takes nothing to get down. Because you have a bad deal or bad this or bad that. Sometimes not even of your making, but you're the one who suffers from it. So I just had a great belief in Ryan.
And this team, if we look at the history of this team, Buddy Rice was pretty much a forgotten commodity. We asked him to join us, and next thing we know he joins Indy 500. Michel Jourdain, people had pretty much washed their hands of him, and this team worked with him, and he won numerous Champ Car races. The guy was a darn good driver.
This team, I don't know if it's just the make-up of the team that we believe in. If you're going to come drive for us we're going to do everything we can to help you win. Because obviously, we win as a result.
For Ryan, it wasn't a difficult decision for me to ask him to drive for us, and I have to say the ethanol people were fantastic because they were very supportive.
I mean, if you remember. We had a horrible baptism together in Homestead with Paul Dana's staff. And this was originally Paul's deal. He worked hard for this, got off on a horrible first step. So for today I think this is kind of the ethanol guys are really the ones who backed this. I hope they think this is as sweet as I because they deserved it as much of as anybody.
You know, with Ryan, all year, again from last year and even this year he's stepped up his performance, and stepped up his team's performance, and the results, we're seeing.
Q. Can you talk about the one-year anniversary?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The amount of action that we've gotten done in the year is unreal. Just because we made some changes there that Bobby enforced over the off-season engineering-wise, and he had put that same faith that he put into me and the engineers on my car. And we've been working so well together, it's unreal.
We have a great repertoire, we're doing everything right. We talk to them almost every day. It's a great thing the way everything's rolling. And with the Ethanol folks, I've got a great dialogue with them and representing them is huge.
But it's all along the lines of to get into this seat I had to really show what I could do prior to that in Champ Car, and that's what made it possible. I mean, I won with Dan here in Surfers Paradise, one of my old team owners is here. And he comes out to the races and I've either gotten a podium or a win. So he's coming to the rest of them for the year.
But to me, this is huge. And to be on the bottom, he for sure gave me an opportunity to come back and really show my stuff.
I was driving a couple Grand Am races here and there, and looking for some NASCAR testing. I didn't sit down though. I was out there trying to make myself visible. And I like to think I drove the wheels off anything I got into.
And this deal, I got in it. I couldn't go out there and wreck any race cars, but I went out and I learned and I applied myself. In every race, I was my biggest critic. And I went back out, and you know, this is big for us.
This is big for momentum, and this is only going to be better as we go forward. I'm just so happy to give it to some of these guys. Like Bobby said, these guys work so hard. It's unreal. NASCAR's every weekend they have 30 cars and they roll them out, and they've got guys back at home and working on them. These guys are the same guys that go back home and repair the cars. It's amazing how hard they work.
To give them a win is huge, and to do it with Ethanol on the side of the car is awesome.
Then to top that all off, as if there wasn't anything better, you know, IZOD, we announced our partnership this weekend, and we've got this huge party on wheels out there in the paddock. And we're going to New York this weekend just to say I am next, is pretty funny. It's awesome. I was next.
Q. Bobby, how does this compare with having Graham win earlier this year?
BOBBY RAHAL: It's different. I guess Graham's win, you know -- Ryan's not my son. I might -- if he keeps going like this, I might adopt him. But I'm sure Nick would have something to say about that and Ryan's mom.
But, you know, I know how hard these guys have worked, and it's been a topsy-turvy last couple of years. And they've worked extremely hard on mechanics and our engineers, there's not a lot of payback, you know? And that's tough.
That really wears on you when you're, again, from the timing of the schedule, and you're repairing and you're driving all night home Sunday night, you know, you're back, piecing the car together on Monday. I mean, that is -- that gets really old in a big hurry.
You know, I just know that Scott, who is my right-hand guy, Scotty lives and dies by this team as to what happens on a daily basis.
For him, I'm particularly pleased. I think it was pretty emotional in the stands. We didn't kiss or cry, but you could tell. There was such a sense of, I don't know, you know, we did it, and all of those -- the stress of it damn near killed Scott Rimsky a year or two ago. So for him, for the crew. I mean, yeah, Graham's thing was wonderful. This was wonderful, but just in a different way.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Another thing about Scott, too. Rimsky is an amazing guy to drive with. He's the guy in my ears. He's got plenty of experience doing this, and he's very -- he's one of those guys that you work with and you just know the bases are covered, and that's big for a driver to know that.
He's a great guy to have in my ears. I love working with him. And congratulations to him, too. Because I know this means as much to him as it does to me.
Q. That moment was captured on television by the way. It was really a good moment. I'm not quite sure how to ask this question, but prior to the unification, as people watch races, kind of expect a certain three, four, five people to be up there and running out in front. Now since the unification, that's got it all scrambled up, and now we seem to have people who in the past seem to be able to drive automobiles without getting a scratch on them. Now they're having accidents and I was just wondering if it was a case of just so many good drivers out there or maybe they're not used to driving with each other and how they react in certain conditions? I'm just kind of curious because it was an interesting race.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I don't think there's any question that the intensity level of this series has gone up and has been ratcheted up. In part, it's because of guys like Ryan coming in to existing IRL teams, and in part because of guys like Justin Wilson, Graham, Viso, Will Power, Oriol Servia, and these guys are good drivers.
So all of a sudden, now to qualify in the top 10 or 12 is a real accomplishment. That's what you want. That's what makes it so satisfying for us being that fast six. Because it's like, I mean, you got these guys have to suck it up for those couple of laps to -- especially the way the qualifying is, which I think is exciting for all the fans and the driver it's a lot of pressure that you live under for an hour and a half.
But, hey, the intensity level goes up, there's going to be incidents. There's going to be incidents. There's going to be push and shoving, emotional, you know. I mean, it gets emotional out there. But then again, that's what you want. I don't think you want it where you just kind of can cruise around and collect.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, everything coming together with the split now, it's amazing how tight the competition is. I'm so happy it's this way. Went through so many years where it was, you know, ten cars and the rest were field fillers, ten cars, and the rest were field fillers on both sides. Now it's stout, 20 deep, for sure.
Q. Ryan, going back to the things were meant to happen for a reason. A year ago, if things had gone a certain way you might be out there pounding around in the middle of the pack in the truck series. You know? Just talk about how, maybe, it really worked to your benefit that those opportunities didn't come through? And I have a follow-up to that.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, even when the whole, you know, in 2005, when the whole Rocket Sports thing went down, and I got on that team and it was a horrible experience from the first day to the last day. A couple months after that whole thing ended, I was like these things happen for a reason.
I've got to stay strong, and this is teaching me a lesson to show me what it could be like and to never be complacent and to always be pushing as an athlete and as a businessman, too. To be out there working it as hard as you can. And, you know, that's basically how I see it.
Things happen for a reason, for sure. I don't think things are set in place. The time line of my life is set in place for the future, but yeah, things happen for a reason.
Q. Also the emotion you felt at Texas when you thought that was going to be the breakthrough night for you, how much has it helped to have gone through something like that so close to getting your first victory to be able to appreciate this?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It definitely makes me appreciate it a bit more. I would have appreciated that one, a lot, too. The appreciation is in abundance.
Q. Ryan, towards the end of the race when what looked to be the two best cars were basically taken out. What were your thoughts on that? And did that change your mindset and approach to the rest of the race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, I've said it a couple times, you know. Dixon's one of the most aggressive tire warmers out there. He warms his tires really hard. There's a lot of marbles off line, and I don't know.
I guess he just got off line. Right when it happened it was like a scene out of "Days of Thunder." I couldn't see where it was, where the opening was or cars, nothing. It was just black and dirt in front of me, a cloud of it. So I picked far left and luckily it was open.
Got through there, and immediately I thought this is that point where everything has finally paid me back a little bit for all the bad luck. Paid this team back for all the bad luck it's had not only this year, but over the past three years.
So, like I said, it wasn't gifted to us in our last lap, we had to go grab it from them, but it helped.
Q. Is there any special significance to winning this race on the 4th of July weekend?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, for sure. I've said that a couple times. Being an American kid with Ethanol, an American fuel in the car and on the side of the car, driving for Bobby Rahal, an American legend, and finally announcing IZOD, the American apparel clothing apparel clothing line on the 4th of July weekend in upstate New York on one of the best racetracks in America, it's a pretty American deal. That's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to the team. And I have to tell you, one thing that goes with winning, you have a longer night now, Ryan. So congratulations.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you.
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