Road Runner Indy 300 Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our second- and third-place finishers, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon. We'll start with Tony. This is your best finish of the year. Talk to us a little bit about how your year's been going and how the race was today?
TONY KANAAN: Well, after the day that we had yesterday, only putting like 10 laps overall all day, I think it was a pretty good result.
I think we got a little lucky at the end with Scott's misfortune on the yellow flag. I think we definitely had the car to finish in the top three, but not to beat either one of the Ganassi guys. So pretty good day, like you said. It was my best finish of the year.
You know, I can't complain. I think the race itself was kind of boring for all of us and I think for the fans, too. So I don't know what we can do to try to make these races better. The only probably exciting part of my race is when I land for 20 laps right beside A.J. Foyt IV, and the last lap with Scott in the back markers. I think they tried to give us a little action, just to see if the public would get more excited about it. But happy about the result, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Scott, you want to tell us about your day.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I thought it was pretty good from the get‑go. The car was definitely quick. Led a lot of laps. Just trying to work out what we needed to do fuel-wise, and that was the concentration of that last sort of stint. We had enough to get to the end, you know, we were just pitting a lap earlier than everybody else, and that so happened that (Buddy) Rice crashed in (Turn) 2 and put that caution out while we were in the pits. That pretty much ruined our day. That put us a lap down, and we got the pass around but we got 15 cars back, so there was no way to challenge the two guys up front with Dan and T.K. that broke away.
So it was pretty frustrating. You know, it was one of those days that he had a good car and you thought you should have won, but you came up short. So seems somewhat like Japan, and it's a bit frustrating two weeks in a row.
Q. You're back in 7th with 28 laps to go on that last restart. Did you think you had enough time to pedal your way back to the front, or did you really just feel like it was kind of a futile thing to get all the way to the front?
SCOTT DIXON: I think we might have been seventh, but there was so much lap traffic between us. We were probably 15 cars back. When you have the cars trying to go three wide, and still lifting and doing laps on the turn, the front guys just sort of break away. So it was just trying to feed through those guys without crashing, and then getting to the faster guys trying to pick up some spots.
But, you know, definitely I think T.K. and Dan knew that that was the case, and they just pushed as hard as they could to get away from the two Penske cars, and they did that quite handily.
So I knew it was going to be tough. We probably needed another caution for it to sort of pack up again, and you know, once I was clear of that mid pack, there was no chance.
Q. You mentioned working through traffic in the back markers. A lot of them oval rookies. Next time you're on the track with them, obviously, Indianapolis, stakes are higher. How ready do you think they are for that?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I think the guys have done a very good job. Look at Homestead and look at this race. We've had, you know, bickering stints, crashes and single-car crashes. I think I saw (Tomas) Scheckter and maybe somebody get into it. But that was the only one I saw.
You know, very early in my IndyCar career, there was a lot more crashes than that just from us guys being involved in them. So I think they've kept it very clean.
I know you always have a few problems when you're feeding through a lot of guys where you get sort of slowed down and things like that. But I think they've done a bloody good job.
Q. What exactly about this race as a driver made it boring for you to drive through?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I mean we wanted to see some action. And once the race starts, you see Scott pulling away, Dan following him, and we just ‑‑ then we realized that we need to just get in line and keep following everybody, you know. And, to me, that was boring. I'm not criticizing the type of racetrack or the type of cars. I'm just saying we had some more exciting races in Kansas.
And I think like Scott said, we, as the drivers we did such a good job that there wasn't a caution in the last 30 laps of the race, and that actually made the laps exciting. Probably for Scott trying to catch us. But I have to say if it goes yellow 12 laps to go, it was going to be pretty exciting for everybody.
So it's just the way that the race played out. It's not any particular reason. You know, it was just the way it went.
Q. Looking ahead to Indy, there's a flat track, almost four distinct corners almost favors guys with road course experience more than this track?
TONY KANAAN: Indy's an open road, so for sure, I think everybody's going to have a chance to do really well there. If you remember when anyone asked (Sebastien) Bourdais and Bruno (Junqueira), they were pretty strong there that year. So I don't see why not they can come back there and be as strong.
They're very good race car drivers. I mean, Indy's a whole different game. So I'm pretty sure there are a lot of those guys going to be up to speed pretty fast.
Q. For a while there Tony and Helio were jockeying for third and fourth. When did you feel you could make a move and get in the top three?
SCOTT DIXON: It was Ryan and Helio, right?
TONY KANAAN: It was Briscoe, I think.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, Briscoe and Helio.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I was with Dan.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, he was already up with Dan. So I think it was somebody else that me and Ryan (Briscoe) were racing with, and then we passed him pretty quick. And the only thing I didn't want Ryan to do was go side by side with Helio (Castroneves), and luckily enough I had enough run on them coming out of four that I was able to pinch Ryan down on the bottom and get a run past Helio.
So once I got to Helio and got into that position in Turn 4 and I knew I had a run on Ryan, I figured, you know, once I got two wide, it was going to be all over. But once I strung out on the front, we were fine.
Q. As the afternoon went on, I was up in the backstretch up on the hill, it got windy; did the wind and cold temperature bother you much?
TONY KANAAN: I was following Dan the whole time, so I had no wind. So, no, I couldn't tell.
SCOTT DIXON: No, you could feel it occasionally. But I think that was some of the reason why today was so easy, I think, was because we had so much more grip than in years past. Typically this is a track, you're racing in 90° heat, and you pick up a ton of downforce and grip from the car, just made it that much easier to drive. So I think that from a standpoint of where some of us maybe thought it was a bit boring, it was probably because of that. The cars were so easy to drive because of the grip.
Q. Michael (Andretti) said it's kind of a sign of how strong the team is when the team owner can leave here disappointed with two cars in the top 5. Talk a little bit about that, because you were second, Marco was fifth. There were some good things, obviously, Danica dropping out was a downer for him, but still had two cars in the top 5.
TONY KANAAN: Well, I mean, if we're going to be happy with the second and fifth place, why should we go racing? We want to win. I think Michael (Andretti) was a racer before. If you remember the way he used to race, either it was a win or nothing. So that's the way he thinks, and that's the way we think as well.
As a team, I think he's frustrated because I don't think we did a good of enough job over the weekend. I mean, we had many, many mechanical problems with all of our cars. Then when you have the two Ganassi guys that unload the cars are so fast, it's pretty hard to catch them when you don't run. And I think that's what he meant.
So we definitely have to regroup and fix the problems that we think we had this weekend and move forward. So I totally agree with Michael. I think we could have done a better job.
Q. Could you both talk about what it means to you guys to be able to race at Indy?
TONY KANAAN: I mean, Indy's always going to be Indy. I think everybody wants to be there. Everybody wants to win that race, especially me and Scott here. We've been close so many times.
And I think, you know, it's kind of a place that you create a lot of expectations which I try not to do because you can leave that place pretty disappointed. So it's one race, yes, it is a big race. But I think in the big picture we still have a chance to go. If I have a car to win, it would definitely mean a lot to me. And that's something that I wanted to do. But it's not the end of the world if I don't.
SCOTT DIXON: I think you left out you win a lot of money if you win that, yeah. No, it's a special place. The whole festivities and on the track for drivers. You're on the track so much and that's the best part for me. Every day you wake up, for me, it's where I live. Wake up, drive to the track and jump in the car. So that's fantastic, something that we don't get to do too often.
The race, because it does come around once a year, and as Tony said, we've been pretty unlucky in some years when we've had good cars and we've come up short. And last year with the weather I think everybody was trying to work out what to do.
But I think it's just that fact that you only get a chance to do it once a year. Well, a championship's different, you can work towards it, but if you come up short on the day, you don't win.
Q. (About thoughts when the yellow fell after he had just pitted).
SCOTT DIXON: It's hard to tell. I don't know who was on pit lane, because we thought we were only going to be one lap earlier or maybe two, possibly. And, you know, we had sort of just about finished up, so I thought maybe those guys had already got on to pit lane. But once we got out and I had realized that nobody had pitted and they had come in just for a splash under the caution, I knew it was going to be very tough then.
You know, last year it wouldn't have been such an issue because you wouldn't have all the lap traffic between you. It's a tough thing to get through on the first few laps and you lose a lot of ground. Once, you know, I clear air, these two guys are probably a whole stretch ahead of me and there's going to be no chance of catching them.
If Dan had enough? Oh, I don't think so. Our cars were very quick, but I think they were pretty even. And if we were in front of him, I think he would have had a pretty tough time to get past just because the high line was so much longer around, even for me. Some of the slower guys it was very tough to pass once you got up high.
Q. Usually the guy that wins this last race before Indy is the favor to win. Do you think that Dixon has to be the favorite going in?
TONY KANAAN: I think if you look at Scott's run through the first four races, I would say, yes, for sure. But I was looking at his results, and I think they've been in the top 4 every single session the whole year. So Scott's been very strong. He has shown that sometimes other things have let him down. So I think Scott is one of the favorites, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's winner, Dan Wheldon. I have a couple of notes on his win. Dan is the first time winner at Kansas Speedway in eight IndyCar Series races at the track. And this is also his 14th career victory and his first of the season. Dan, talk about your day.
DAN WHELDON: I bet the media center is busier when Danica wins, right? No, it was just a fantastic, fantastic weekend for everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Scott was obviously a little bit unfortunate with the way that yellow fell. But, I think he probably deserved a little better than third.
But it was a really strong weekend. Our car performed very well throughout. And it's difficult with the equality of the Honda engines, but certainly we were going to get in some good fuel mileage, and I think that's what helped us win today.
Q. If Scott doesn't have this trouble, do you have anything for him?
DAN WHELDON: It was very difficult to have a go. Because when you cross the seams, the car would get a little bit loose. But I didn't really have ‑‑ I tried a little bit at the start, but I didn't get a particularly good one.
And then from that point on, I told a few people in interviews already about this, Chip gets on my ass so much about not saving fuel. He's on me all the time. Apparently he says that I just like to lead from the front and that's lost me a lot of races. So every possible opportunity, I was saving.
So I didn't have a real tough go, and it would have certainly been very difficult to pass. But I don't know, to tell you the truth, because I didn't try real hard. Maybe in the traffic something would have happened, but it would have been really tight. We definitely had very equal cars. So I can't really ‑‑ I don't know.
Q. Many of us tab you as the favorite to win the Indy 500 after your win here last year, and the month didn't quite go as well as you wanted. How can you use today's victory as a catalyst to an outstanding month of may this year?
DAN WHELDON: Well, I think the circumstances are definitely different last year. I think you could focus on Indianapolis a little bit earlier. Because if you had a bad race, the worst you were going to finish was probably fourth, fifth or sixth, because we definitely had competitive cars that were working for us at the beginning of last season.
This season with the point system the way it works and that many cars, you've got to concentrate on each individual race. So we've really been focusing, certainly the people on the road have been focusing on Kansas, and, you know, the different races that we've been at, with the people back at the race shop having more of an eye on Indianapolis.
So I think the win is good, but the biggest thing that you notice about this year is, you know, pick up the wins when you can, but you can't have races out of the top five, because the points are just that close. So it was important to score wins. I think this will help going into the month of May, but I don't think it means too much because it's just going to be other tight there.
I think you've seen Newman/Haas when they were there back in 2005 and they had a month to work on their cars they were very, very strong in the race with Bourdais and Junqueira, so I would certainly expect them and KV Racing and some others to show strong.
Q. You said something about the seams and I noticed you ran up into the seams until you had to come off the corner and make that transition out and come back down. I guess that was intentional because of the seams running up there in the second group. Did that mean your car was a little tight, or is that just missed the seams?
DAN WHELDON: That's a good question, actually. Well noticed. As the race was progressing, I could tell it was going to be very close between Scott and I. And my intention was, you know, when you're following a car, you change the controls inside the cockpit to make it work better for you.
At different times while I was following Scott, normally towards the end of the run was when I was just trying a few different things to see if I did pull out and have to use the second lane how the car would react in clean air, and would I need to compensate for that. So that's exactly what I was doing.
But it just seemed to me that you couldn't kind of run your working tires across the seam because it kind of unbalanced the car, so as well every now and then I would use that high line to try to clean it a little bit, because I wasn't sure that many people were using it. That was a Hornish trick.
Q. In days of old, the race before Indianapolis was Phoenix. It always turned out that if you did well at Phoenix, you'd come in and do well at Indianapolis. Does Kansas help you, racing here and racing prior to going to the speedway? Is there anything you carry from here, or is it just you're going to come in and you've got a win and feel good and have confidence?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think that's the biggest thing. I think it helps your confidence. You know, both Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars were very strong this weekend. That's great for this race, but it's going to make people work harder to try to catch us for their race at Indianapolis.
But I think the biggest thing is confidence for everybody involved. We definitely have been fast this year. Towards the end of last year things perhaps didn't always ‑‑ in fact, not a lot went my way. I never really had a patch like that in my IndyCar career.
So it's nice to kind of see something and maybe that luck change a little bit. Because certainly last year there were situations where I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm not allowed to say too much because Chip says I sound like a spoiled brat when I complain about stuff like that.
Q. Tony Kanaan was up there talking about how this race didn't have a lot of action, maybe that's because he didn't take the checkered flag. From the winner, did you look at this as a race that you had to grind it out, it wasn't as exciting maybe as others? He called it boring, I don't want to use that word.
DAN WHELDON: Well, I mean, it was tough from my standpoint because I had to run very close to Scott to save fuel. But the problem was it is so difficult to run close. And if your car crosses the seams, it gets very loose.
So it was incredibly tough from a concentration standpoint, and it was incredibly tough to work out what you needed to change on your car to get the balance of it right. But if you got a run and got in clean air, making sure that it was going to be good then and perhaps not loose.
So wasn't really very difficult. But from the standpoint of being boring, it might have been boring because the two Chip Ganassi racing cars are pretty dominant.
Q. And you'll take that any time, right?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah.
Q. The other question, what's up with the black shoes? Is this going to be a whole new style for you? Is this a good luck charm? Is this the start of something new for you?
DAN WHELDON: I think you'll laugh at this story. My wife and I have a very good friend back in Florida, and he has a daughter called Ava that's two years old. She loves my wife and I, and she loves the fact that I race and she can watch it on TV. So our little thing for her is she gets to pick the color of race boots that I use for each individual race.
It wasn't so bad today. It was worse at Motegi because she picked green boots. And the last time I wore green, I crashed at Homestead, so I was a little concerned about Motegi, but that turned out OK. So she picked well for this weekend, so we'll see for Indianapolis.
But I'm going to have designed a special boot for me for Indianapolis. So hopefully she picks that one.
Q. Could you just talk about you're the only repeat winner to ever win here at Kansas speedway. Is it something about this track? Can you talk about how it feels to be that first guy.
DAN WHELDON: Any time you win it's a good thing. And if you can be a repeat winner at a track, that's something to be proud of. I think at Homestead this weekend I could have been the first four‑time winner, and I, unfortunately, didn't make that one happen. So maybe we can work towards that in the future here.
But it's a track that I very much enjoy. You know, it's a track that is incredibly challenging with the seams and what it does for the race car. But, hopefully, this year we'll bring up some more tracks like that.
Q. So you've won two straight times here. If you finish anything less than first after this, is it going to be a disappointment here?
DAN WHELDON: I think it just depends on how many points you get, and if you don't win, who that person is. But like I said, this is very different than most. I mean, the first three races, you know, we didn't have a result at St. Pete that we'd like. But we were in the top five in both others, and that still put me back in sixth in the points.
So it's about not necessarily the wins, but making sure if your car's not competitive on any given day that you score as many points as possible. I'm sure that, especially in 2009 and beyond when the transition guys have had a little bit more time to develop their race cars and stuff like that, it's going to be incredibly important just to be consistent. I'll take a win any time I can get it, though.
Q. As you said, the two Ganassi cars were the class of the field. When Scott was back there in seventh place on that last restart, were you getting any splints on him? Were you hearing any of his progress, where he was at in those final 28 laps? Whether he was going to be a factor at the end?
DAN WHELDON: No, you know, just worried about my own deal. Obviously, you know, Kanaan is a good friend of mine. As a race car driver you know he's never going to give up until that checkered flag drops so it was a case of making sure I could maintain a gap to him.
Actually, I think Ed Carpenter came out of the pits with about two laps to go. We nearly touched. We were very close. Fortunately, I was able to get by him. I think him and Tony ended up nearly touching, too. So once I kind of got past carpenter, I was able to have a gap.
But I could tell by the pace that I was running out front that the car was very quick. And if anybody was going to catch me, they were going to have to be moving way, way fast, and there weren't too many people quicker than the these cars this weekend.
Q. Kind of a different question, we talk about Kansas on the track. In terms of off the track the other places that you guys visit, what is this experience like for drivers and teams to come in in terms of logistics, moving things around, traffic, just conveniences? Compared to other places you guys might visit?
DAN WHELDON: It's pretty similar. The teams have been doing this a long time now. Coming into Kansas is sometimes a little bit difficult, depending on how Motegi has gone, because the race cars and equipment don't get back from Motegi until Monday afternoon.
Depending on that, fortunately I'm on a big team where you have two or three cars and they can prepare your Kansas car before the Japanese race. But for a lot of people they're using their Japanese car for this race, and it's tough for them. But once you're at the track, I don't think it's too different from any other race.
Q. Were you surprised the way the lap cars raced there at the end of the race? Could it have changed the outcome? They were racing you pretty hard there at the end.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I thought Ed Carpenter was a little bit aggressive, maybe a spot. I didn't let him know, but we were very close to crashing. So that would have been a difficult one to explain.
But for the most part I think people were very respectful. But the good thing was our car was working well on the high line, which it didn't seem many people's were. So it was easier for us to pass.
Q. Could you talk about your comfort factor at this place?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, it's a track that I enjoy. I don't know what it is that makes me go well around places like here, Miami, Chicago and any of the other tracks. It just seems that fortunately I got well. I don't know why, and I don't want to jinx myself, but I hope it continues.
Q. Earlier in your career and after you won Indy you used to talk about how big a deal Indy was for you even after winning it.
DAN WHELDON: Like I explained earlier, when you look at the first few races, obviously St. Pete was disappointing, but the other two races we're in the top five, and we were still sixth in the points leading into this race. So to be quite honest, you couldn't take your eye off the ball. You needed to focus on each individual race.
We were able to come into here. We definitely had strong cars in Motegi, but we just got called out on fuel mileage. But here it was a race where we were very conscientious about saving fuel, because this race in the pass has been a fuel mileage race.
But like I said, it was mainly a points thing. You had to concentrate on this race and not really have an eye on Indianapolis. Because if that was the case and you did, I think it would have cost you dear.
Fortunately, we've got a big enough team or Chip has a big enough team to have other people working on the Indianapolis project already. Hopefully we'll be strong enough, too.
Q. How do you feel about having so much time in between this race and the Indy 500?
DAN WHELDON: So much time?
Q. Yeah, do you wish you had more time to prepare, less?
DAN WHELDON: I wouldn't say so much time. We have to be there Saturday. So I wouldn't say it's too much. Maybe I should get your job (laughing).
Q. You make way more.
DAN WHELDON: No, you know, I think honestly, as competitive as this season has been, or it certainly seems to be the case, there are a lot of things you can improve on. We're certainly trying to improve our pit stops. I'm hoping that as a team, we'll get to practice in before we have to be at Indianapolis on Saturday.
But there's a lot of data to go over with the races on consecutive weekends like the Japanese race and this race. And even, you know, Miami and St. Pete. You don't get to sit down with your engineer, purely because he doesn't have enough time to do a proper debrief on that race. So we'll probably take a little bit of time to look at the trend and the way our race car has been in these first four races, and use that time to get through there and start the month of May.
Q. Indy is, if not the biggest one, one of the biggest events in Motorsports. Talk about what it means to you to be able to race in this and how big this event is to you?
DAN WHELDON: Well, it's my opinion, but there's no doubt the Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race in the world. I think in particular this year with the amount of cars that are going to be qualifying and even we've heard that starting the first week there's going to be about 30 cars. We're talking a good 30 cars that are going to have time to develop their car and have it working well by the time the race comes around.
But for me, it's my passion. It's the race where you can be in the race car for the whole month. It's incredibly competitive, and there's a lot of pressure on everybody within the team. I put a lot on myself to perform well. So it's, you know, it's a new race. There's history and tradition that no other sporting event has.
Having been a previous winner, you get to feel what it has done for, and I've felt what it's done for my career. I want that feeling again. It can be a cruel place, too. I felt how cruel it was last year certainly having as people said we went into the month of may with a lot of momentum. We were very, very strong the first three or four days of Indianapolis, and then it just kind of went downhill from there.
I think we have, and actually back to your question, we use time that we have as well to look at the previous couple of years to see if there's a trend in the way the race car has gone as the month has gone on, and we'll use that time, too.
But I was so mad about the Indianapolis performance last year, we've already looked at that and we have a good idea as to why we weren't very good there in the race. But we'll continue to look at that, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks and congratulations on the win.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.
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