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DATE News (chronologically)
05/31/11
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SPEED Quotes: Mario Andretti, Robin Miller on Wind Tunnel
Dave Despain welcomed 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti to Wind Tunnel on SPEED Sunday night  alongside SPEED/SPEED.com open wheel reporter Robin Miller.  Andretti discussed a variety of topics ranging from Sunday’s centennial running of the Indianapolis 500 to rookie driver JR Hildebrand’s last-lap crash in the Indy 500 to Formula One points leader Sebastian Vettel.  Following are excerpts from the interview:
 
On his reaction to the soap opera-style drama of the Indy 500 finish:

Andretti
: “You just said it.  Just about everything that could be exciting really happened.  Above all, it was very unpredictable.  I don’t think you could have thought (Dan) Wheldon was going to win, even though he was up front right to the end.  But even midway, who was going to be up there? Nobody dominated today. In fact, when you look at the whole month, yes, there was domination on the part of Alex Tagliani in practice and so forth, but what we saw, which is actually good, is the small teams were a factor, a big factor, throughout.  Something is working there. We saw the end result today continued.  The small teams were a factor throughout the day and that’s good.”

On Formula One points leader/2010 SPEED Performer of the Year Sebastian Vettel winning Sunday’s F1 race at Monaco and his overall talent level:

Andretti
: “No question that he’s above and beyond.  The extraordinary talent just comes around once in a very rare while.  I’ve said they’re as rare as white flies.  He’s definitely one very special.  I could see that when he won his first race in Monza in the wet with the Toro Rosso car, which was a relatively inferior car, but in the wet, which is a great equalizer. I was watching for whatever you could on TV – his control coming off the corners, the nice, beautiful drift, by getting power down – that takes finesse.  And for a young man at the time, he showed what he’s made of.  Quite honestly, now it just gets better and better. I don’t think you’ve seen the best of it yet.  Again, it’s a pleasure to watch talent like that and I think we did right by giving him the SPEED Performance trophy (2010 SPEED Performer of the Year) last year – no question about it.”


On what Sunday’s Indy 500 means in terms of where Indy car racing is and where it’s going, and whether Andretti noticed a “buzz in the air” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year:

Andretti
: “Absolutely.  No question about it.  When you’re here year after year and you’ve seen the decline, and now you’ve seen the new surge … last year was already a move forward and this year … I saw it in the parade and I’ve been in every parade for years.  Probably the biggest crowd I’ve seen at the parade, quite honestly. The place was buzzing and there was so much of that.  When I travel, you get a good feel; you get a temperature of the water, if you will.  And people always used to say, ‘I used to, used to.’ Well, that ‘used to’ word is no longer there. We’re going.  And many people who have been away for so long because of the centennial are coming back and I think those will come back again because it’s all about catching that bug again.  I think it’s all happening.”


Miller: “Mario and I have talked about this a long time.  For a long, long period after the split, Indianapolis sadly was a NASCAR town.  The Brickyard 400 dwarfed the Indy 500 in ticket sales and buzz and merchandise vendors and scalpers.  But in the last couple of years, Indy is back where it should be and that is the biggest deal in town and the biggest deal in the world.  I don’t think you can ever underestimate, just like Mario said, you can just tell … the scalpers tell me this is the first year they’ve scalped tickets since the split, and that’s a pretty gauge too.”

Andretti: “Every year from the hotel you get the (police) escort and some years back I was getting the escort and you never saw a soul until you got to the gate.  I said, ‘Wait a minute. Why am I spending this money?’ This morning, it was like 6 o’clock, 5:30, 6 o’clock in the morning, the sirens were going immediately like they used to be.  Honestly, you really can feel, you can see that a lot of things are happening that were there but they’re definitely coming back, which is great.  That’s what we need and it’s only right.”


On what advice Andretti would have for rookie driver JR Hildebrand in light of his last-lap crash while leading the Indy 500:

Andretti
: “Oh gosh.  I don’t know.  You never know what pressure he had on him at the time.  Obviously, I think his spotter could probably have been a little bit smarter, saying, ‘Relax.  You’re good.’ Instead, he felt the urge that he needed to make the pass and got caught up.  But what do I know? The poor kid is going to have to deal with that one for a long time.”
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