IndyCar Series: Indy Japan 300
Topics: Indy Japan 300
April 21, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.
We're now joined by race winner Tony Kanaan.
Tony, if you would, tell us about your day.
TONY KANAAN: It was a race that I had to be very patient. I think when we started, the car wasn't that good, and I knew the track was going to get better towards the end of the race. So I just waited. A couple opportunities I had to pass Dan, and I knew that I had to stop later than him because my car had better fuel mileage than his.
When he played by the last stop, I was almost convinced that I could pit and come out still in front of him. So that's what we did. The team did a great job. I got to thank all my guys. You know, very happy. Japan, it's been great to me. I had a lot of close calls here. Never had one. So finally I think I got it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Tony.
Q. How did you feel winning on a Honda track here in Motegi?
TONY KANAAN: It feels great. Unfortunately everybody has a Honda engine now. I would have liked to have had one a long time ago. Dan did that for us a few years back. So it feels awesome.
It's just great to come back here. I mean, I walk into the museum a couple days ago, and my car is sitting up there, right across of Senna's car. I guess I'm not that important, but that is a little bit in there. I sat there for a little bit and I kept looking at it. I looked his car, I looked my car. I'm like, Yeah.
So it feels good. Definitely feels very good. I was very happy to give Honda a lot of things that they trust on me for a long time. I gave them the first pole. I gave them the first IndyCar win. I gave them the first championship. I didn't give them Indianapolis, but Dan did that. The best way to thank Honda, the Honda family, is winning. That's all they want to do. Very, very emotional win for me.
Q. Last lap Dan was very close to you. Do you think if there was one more lap, you would have had a problem?
TONY KANAAN: No (laughter).
I kind of slowed down a little bit on the last lap. I had a car in front of me, so I knew pretty much the distance. I wasn't too worried. I mean, you don't need to win by five seconds; you just got to win. So I took extra careful to make sure that nothing was going to happen.
Q. After the last yellow caution, it seemed Dan was really faster than you. Was it part of the deal that you didn't want to catch him or was it because of the fuel?
TONY KANAAN: He had less fuel than me because on the previous stop he short fueled. He put less fuel in his car to try to go ahead of me. At that point I was just controlling the pace and saving my tires because I knew we were going to have to pit and not change tires. I was saving for the last 10 laps of the race. At that point I was just controlling him and trying to put a little bit of pressure so he would run out of fuel sooner. He had to come into the pits and also, you know, wear his tires more.
It paid off because when he pulled in to refuel, I pushed really hard for the extra two laps that I had, and that's how I got him.
Q. Did you know that Dan didn't have any radio communication with his team? Does that affect how you race when you know that?
TONY KANAAN: They told me. I kind of under the yellow saw that they were kind of putting the board to talk to him. It didn't affect the way I raced him because Dan is a very clean driver. "Clean" in the sense on the racetrack. I don't know if he takes a shower every day (laughter). I'm kidding.
So I wasn't too worried about it. I was just racing him fair and square. He had no radio communication before. I passed him once. He passed me back. It wasn't a big deal. We do need a spotter sometimes. But a driver that drives only depending on the spotter, I don't think it's the right way to go. So Dan knew where I was and I knew where I could put my wheels, if I should say that.
Q. Tell us more about saving fuel. Did you start the race planning to save fuel or did you pick up that idea during the race? Physically or technically how do you do that?
TONY KANAAN: There are many ways to do it. But the way you got to approach a race was the top three cars were very, very fast. We could not pass each other. So when you're in a race like that, if you're able to keep up with them, obviously I was the third car, so I was drafting, right? By doing that, I could save some more fuel than them. Always the first car is going to save least, the second car a little more, and the third car a little more.
We have a fuel mixture on the steering wheel that you can turn the mixture down, which saves a lot of fuel in the car, too. I did that. Then I was lifting a lot off the throttle. Just try not to lose touch with them.
They were pretty strong. They were racing very hard in the beginning, and I didn't want to do that. But I had to make sure that I didn't lose touch with them either. So I would say from lap 15 on, I started to plan. It paid off. I pitted later than everybody. That's what probably gave me the win.
Q. Do you think your strategy would work without the pace cars?
TONY KANAAN: We always going to have yellow flags on an oval. It's tough to predict. I mean, it didn't work the way we really wanted because we wanted to make it in three stops and not four. It's tough to say, to answer that. It worked the way it should work. I mean, it's tough to predict scenarios when you have an oval race that anybody can crash or you can have a yellow flag any time.
Q. Did you know Dario's strategy? Do you think he could have won?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think so. But like the previous question: if, if, if. We can always have explanations afterwards. Having four cars in a team, we can afford to cover all the bases. Basically I was in one strategy. The main goal, it's for the team to win the race. I think they took another direction trying to cover all the bases. I think if we hadn't had the yellow, Dario would have won the race, yes. But if Helio hadn't crashed, he might have won the race. If... There's so many "if's." But, yes, he was on the right strategy until the yellow came out.
Q. You've been racing in Motegi for 10 years. Why do you think you got to win this time and not before?
TONY KANAAN: I wish I would know. Well, many things. This race is the second longest race we have on the calendar. After Indianapolis, this is the longest. Fuel mileage, it's very important here. All the races that I lost, it wasn't a fuel-mileage strategy. Like it didn't work for Dario for example today, in the past it didn't work for me.
Remember, back in 2005 Scheckter was leading with a Chevy engine. I was second in a Honda. Dan was third in a Honda. Honda hadn't won a race here yet. I would say if we hadn't won that race, a lot of heads were going to get chopped off.
Strategy was I put the pressure on Scheckter, ran Scheckter out of fuel. I ran out of fuel. But a Honda won the race. It's a very particular racetrack because of the length of the race. So basically I hadn't won it in the past for many circumstances. Most of them was fuel-mileage strategy.
Q. Now you can buy your baby real great diapers.
TONY KANAAN: Some Japanese diapers maybe.
Q. What are you going to name your child?
TONY KANAAN: It's a boy. I'm going to name him Leonardo Kanaan.
Q. Is he born already?
TONY KANAAN: She's five months pregnant. Not yet. By the ultrasound, we can see his nose is as big as mine, so it's my son (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Tony, thank you very much.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.
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