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IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Scott Dixon
Tony Kanaan
April 2, 2006


THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by our second and third place finishers. Both look fairly worn out. Scott, if you would tell us about your day.
SCOTT DIXON: It started pretty good. The car was consistent. Dario seemed a little quicker. But then, you know, he had his issues, which I'm not even sure what happened.
Car went through and with clear air was pretty good. We just leaned back on fuel, tried to save a little bit. Knew the other cars behind me were doing the same. I don't know, the balance of the car was decent, just had a bit of understeer. Went into the second stint on tires and somehow broke the front wing. I just couldn't turn right. I think it was maybe leaning on the left front tire or something.
Once I got behind lap traffic, any kind of dirty air I just couldn't turn, I couldn't get off the corner, couldn't pass anybody. Helio got by, then of course he forced his way past people, and I was unable to follow him for a little bit.
That's the way it happens. Apart from that, the car was pretty good. Just didn't have the speed at the end because of the front wing.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, how was your day?
TONY KANAAN: Long. It was okay. I mean, I think from the start, I tried to save a little bit of fuel, so I lost a little bit of ground. But I was waiting for the second pit stop. Once Dario got out of the way, I felt that, you know, I was just following Scott, and he was a bit quicker than me on the straightaways, I felt, and I was a little quicker than him through four, five and six, which didn't do any good because I couldn't pass him over there.
Waited for the stops. Obviously, I came in earlier because I saw some traffic. I decided to come in a couple laps earlier, which I think hurt me a little bit. After that, the three of us, we just started to fight like crazy basically. We drove the wheels off the car every lap. We're qualifying every lap. You could see the three of us just going like crazy.
Obviously, like Scott said, Helio opened the road for us. I was a little bit behind. A couple times actually I got caught and I couldn't go through it. They opened like I think six seconds, and I put that gap back, basically just killed me. At that time, I just said, you know, when you're glad you catch them, but you say, Now what? We're going to have nothing else to do.
At that point Scott was understeering, but he was still a little bit quicker than me on the straightaway. We slowed down on the corners, but I couldn't pass him on the straightaways. I believe we had a third place car today and we finished third. I think the guys that finished ahead of us deserved to finish where they finished, so I'm pretty happy.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Tony runs triathlons and Scott doesn't. Why are you so much more tired than Scott right now?
TONY KANAAN: Well, Scott does triathlons, as well. I think it only matters about how good your car is. It's not about the most fit guy. To be honest with you, I think if triathlons or cycling was going to make the best race car driver, Lance Armstrong would win every championship here in this series. Basically we have to drive the race car to be fit. We haven't been doing that for a long time.
Whatever we do to try to match that, it's never the same. So basically I probably had a little bit of worst car than he had, and I had to drive it -- you know, the wheels off. I did 11 push-ups after the race because my car was really good and Helio was probably just the opposite.
Q. Scott, how close was it for you exiting on your very final pit stop? Did you realize you were going to come out right behind Helio and in between?
SCOTT DIXON: I kind of was hoping that we would come out of ahead of Helio. We just didn't have the speed. I think everybody is saying, oh, it's sad that it ends on a yellow. I don't think the positions would have changed. Tony and myself might have had a bit of a fight there. Just because I couldn't turn the car on the full-speed corners. Like we said, once you're in that complex of four through nine, you just can't pass.
I knew it would kind of cycle that way. I was really struggling to get the times down once the other guys pitted.
Q. Tony, you were pretty excited last year about the atmosphere here. How was it today? Better? Worse? About the same? What do you think about long-term prospects for this race?
TONY KANAAN: I said it out there, we're doing the parade lap. Hornish is a kind of guy that never speaks, right? He turns to me and said, "Oh, we should have more races like that." I looked at him. I look around to see if somebody was around me, if he was talking to me or somebody else. That's a guy that came from ovals and was asking for some street course racing.
Basically since Thursday that I'm here, right, the atmosphere has been so great. We can barely walk in the paddock, which sometimes it's tough for us, but it's good. The fans, I mean, the support, the city, you guys, it's just -- that's the way racing should be. That's the way racing always has been. To me, if anybody want an example of a race, this is it.
Beautiful people. Good people. People that are excited about it. Race fans that love cars. People that don't know who you are. Some people like, "Who is this guy?" But they're here. Now they probably know who we are and they're going to come back next year. I'm excited that the IRL signed with St. Pete again.
Basically we're showing everybody what we have to do. I think everybody's working really hard from the IRL to promote this thing, from the drivers. I mean, everybody's just trying to make it better. This was definitely better than last year, for sure. I think it was sold out. All the suites were sold out. Hopefully next year we have to build more grandstands. That would keep my boss happy, for sure. No, I think it was a great event.
Q. Tony, on TV you talked about too much wing in the car. You're not going to tell me what you can change, but could you quantify how much you can change your car on a street course like this to get less downforce at the tend?
TONY KANAAN: I can tell you. Well, Scott has a different chassis, so probably we're talking about drag and then the G Force -- Panoz, sorry, might have had a bit less drag than us on the straightaway. I ran a little bit less wing.
Basically you can do with front wing and rear wing obviously to balance the car or you can put a small gurney flap, which is basically front and rear as well. I tried that. I didn't like it. I felt that I was going to lose grip as my tires got older, so I choose to start with the setup that I liked the most. Basically that's what it was.
I believe that if Scott didn't have that front wing broken, he was going to be even quicker than me. I believe we just -- you know, we're a little bit behind right now. For two years when you dominate like that, you expect people, especially these guys and Penske, to work hard to try to catch you. I mean, Scott, being on the dark side for the last few years, he can tell you exactly how it feels. I don't think we are right now. We're just a little bit behind.
This is racing. It was great that we dominate for two years. We laughed a lot. But I think the only people that had fun in the past two years was the AGR team and people that pulled for us. This is a series that is very competitive. We never doubted that Ganassi and Penske one day were going to catch us. So basically now we inverted and we're playing catch.
Q. Tony, you spoke of Sam, how much he apparently wants to come back to a place like this. What are your impressions of how much he's improved on the road and street circuits?
TONY KANAAN: I mean, qualifying ahead of Helio. That's big. I know Helio really well. Obviously, qualifying is one thing, racing is another. I think Sam is a little bit behind on the race pace. But that's normal. What do you expect in a guy that never done it a lot and all of a sudden there's this invasion of road course drivers like us that have been doing forever. We're probably in a go-kart every single day of the week.
I think he work really hard to develop. Obviously, he's in a team that gave him the opportunity, build a test car for him, which wasn't an IRL, it was another type of a car that he went testing. I think everything -- it's not against the rules. Whatever. If you have the money to spend, you go out and do it.
So basically I think he did a great job, to be honest. For sure that's what was his comment because he started to have fun now and he found out how nice this is and he got excited and he wanted to come back.
Q. Scott, you had just under 16 seconds when you pitted. Number one, did you know what your margin was over Helio at that point? Number two, did you and the team think it might be enough to get in and get back out in the lead?
SCOTT DIXON: Our radios were terrible all day. I didn't have a clue what was going on in the race, to be honest. I was just driving out there and trying to do as well as I could.
I thought it was a bit strange that both those guys pitted a bit earlier because I knew we were going to try and stretch it until we at least got a yellow, which I think in hindsight if we didn't pit we would have finished on fuel. We were pretty lean and the car was doing pretty good on mileage.
No, I didn't really know. I thought it was going to be a little closer than what it was actually.
Q. Scott, on a time stop like that, do you think maybe they put in a little too much fuel even if you were running low?
SCOTT DIXON: No. You know, I'm sure every team times it pretty well. To be honest, at the end I think we were probably pretty close to being out of fuel. I don't think they left the car sitting there for too long. It was pretty close.
Q. Danica had a pretty good finish. Can you comment on how she did today.
TONY KANAAN: Good for her. I think she's improving. We ran with her when she didn't pit. The three of us actually got right behind her. Helio kind of scared the hell out of her and basically opened the road for us.
She's doing her thing, and she's getting better, for sure. Trust me, I don't know how she finished the race because I am tired. She's very tiny. I think she did a great job. She's been improving.
The next level is going to be a lot harder. I think win a race, it's going to be really, really tough. What can I say? I mean, we all know she's good, and she's doing a good job.
Q. Scott, you had been fast throughout the weekend. Was it the wing failure that kept you from being able to challenge Helio or was Helio pumping out fast laps?
SCOTT DIXON: I definitely think it was the front wing. The first stint we were consistently quicker, I think. We were running, as I said, fairly lean. I think I could have run leaner. The car was doing good lap times.
Once we got to the second set of tires, and about the fourth, fifth lap, it just started to fall off, got worse and worse over that run. That's when he started to catch me, I got traffic.
I think with a good front wing, we would have been pretty solid.
Q. It seemed that Scott's fueler gets the benefit of getting whacked with a stick in timed pit stops. Does AGR have a kinder way when you do your timed pit stops?
TONY KANAAN: I haven't noticed. You know, being a Brazilian, we probably get a gun next time and just pop the gun (laughter).
I don't know. We have a light actually that tells the guy, my guy, whatever. We can program, and then he can tell.
SCOTT DIXON: We have one, too. We just like hitting our boys (laughter).
TONY KANAAN: The guy actually that does that, it's Chris Simmons, which used to be a race car driver that raced against me in Indy Lights. Used to be my second engineer and moved up to Scott. He's pretty good at hitting people. Every team has a different way to do it.
But it's funny, though. Poor guys, they are trying to refuel, and he gets a whack in the head when it's time to go out. Probably would work for us as well. You know what I mean, instead of wave you off, somebody you just whack your helmet.
Q. You both mentioned a couple of times. Could you elaborate about Helio's ability to clear the way when he's running up front.
SCOTT DIXON: It works for him sometimes, and it doesn't work for him other times. He's pretty aggressive, which is good. But I think I'd rather let him do it most of the time. As you could see last year he tried to do it was as well, ended up in the tires.
I think most of those people, they were on cold or worse tires than us on the restarts. I just couldn't get close enough to do it. I thought I'd let him do it.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I mean, everybody has a different way of driving. For sure, he was very aggressive. He probably could be. He knew which car he had. I would probably have acted in a different way, and Scott as well. At that point I was just there and Scott, too, probably waiting, like, That could be a place we could gain.
Also I think some of those guys, they could have made it a little easier for us. I'm not talking about on the restart after some guys didn't pit. At one point, some of the cars, they were going a lap down already. You shouldn't try to impede the progress of the leader, especially when we were three guys fighting like that. I mean, what are you going to lose if you just let the guy by? Two seconds?
Helio had to be aggressive at that point. I think it worked out for him, for sure.
Q. With the emotions last week, Miami, is it good to be able to sit here and talk just about racing?
TONY KANAAN: Well, unfortunately, you know, sometimes you got to face the reality, and that's what happened last weekend. Yes, it's good to be back and think about afterwards. I mean, the most difficult time it's for us that stayed and not for him that went to a better place.
I just think the worst we going to have it because as the day goes by, we're going to miss him more and more. Yes, it feel goods -- it's not that we forgot, but we got to move on. We will remember him as much as we can, although I personally didn't really knew him that well.
Whatever we can do to make it better for his relatives, people that liked him, his team, we'll make it. We keep going. We're going to have to grow this series. Fatalities, they happen. I mean, that's why we get paid what we get paid. That's only a few of us that can do what we do. Sometimes we got to face the reality.
Q. We haven't seen much out of Vision Racing since they were formed. Tomas had that car up around fourth place when he got into the crash. Could you talk a little bit if you had a chance to race with him and comment on how well he was doing before the incident.
SCOTT DIXON: I didn't really see them too much all weekend. I spent a bit of time with Tomas. I know they're still in growing in the team. They don't have a lot of depth to the team. There's not a lot of people there. I think they're doing pretty well with what they've got. Especially if he was up to fourth, that's great.
You know, it's going to take a little while for them to move up. I think they'll be there at the end.
TONY KANAAN: That shows the competitiveness of this series. I think that team, it's really small. It's growing a little bit. I know some of the guys that are there, they used to work with me at Mo Nunn. That's the beauty of everybody having the same engine and the same chassis.
Obviously, you're going to see people that still have more development and better engineers. But here's a very good race car driver that was in fourth place with a team that probably doesn't have half of the budget that we have, although Tony can come up with some money. I think he's doing a lot already.
I mean, it's good to see a small team like that growing for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, Tony, thank you very much for joining us.

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