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IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

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

IndyCar Series: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Helio Castroneves
Tony Kanaan
April 6, 2008


THE MODERATOR: We can get started with our post-race briefing. Third place for Tony Kanaan, his third consecutive race here at St. Pete with a third-place finish. Tony, if you would talk about your day out there.
TONY KANAAN: I finished second once, you know that, right?
THE MODERATOR: That was three years ago.
TONY KANAAN: I'm giving you a hard time.
It was a long day. Great call by Tony George and Brian Barnhart not to start the race the way it was. We had a lot of water on the track, so it was a great call. And after that it was very difficult, but we hung in there up until we tried to gamble, and I think it didn't pay off. We came in, me and Helio, in the same strategy, trying to pull something out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and I think today didn't all work for us.
Like I told my guys, I support them because I know they're the best, especially after last week and sitting here third, it's not that bad. I told them that after the race. I said, look, sometimes you guys lose some positions for me and I'll get it back because someday I'll lose some positions and you guys will need to get them back for me.
I'm pretty pleased with the result. I think, after all, obviously it's a shame probably having the fast car, setting the fastest lap of the race and not winning the race, but it's better than finishing third and finishing with three wheels like last weekend. So pretty happy with the result and pretty happy with the way things are going for the year.

Q. (Indiscernible).
TONY KANAAN: Well, I mean, it's a great team work and great driving. People can say, well, the strategy played along for him and this and that. Yes, it did.
But I have to say, if I was 19 years old, restarting, three laps to go, and you have Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan behind you, I was going to be kind of worried. He played it so cool, so I guess he proved how good he is. He proved that his name still says something, and I'm very, very pleased for him to win in this race.

Q. Just kind of to follow up on that a little bit, the guy is 19, but when you listen to him talk, you keep saying to yourself, this kid is like 36 years old the way he sounds. To see how cool and how calculated this guy really is at that age, how big a surprise is that to you?
TONY KANAAN: Trust me, I have a 21-year-old kid on my team. His name is Andretti, and it's the same. Me and Helio, we were far and away more stupid than they are when we were 19. I have to say it makes us look really old. Can you imagine when Graham was born, me and Helio were racing already. That's not cool, is it?
So this is the new generation. You see it everywhere. You see it in Formula 1, you see it in NASCAR, you see it here. The young guys are definitely coming up and growing up so quick that we've got to watch out. We are old but not that old, though.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our second-place finisher, Helio Castroneves. If you would touch on your day.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Wow, I'll tell you, thanks to Dancing With the Stars to dancing in the rain, it was kind of like good practice. Well, it was kind of tough because at the beginning of the race obviously it was very, very difficult. I couldn't see anything. I don't know what Tony was seeing over there, but I couldn't see anything, and it was a good call from Brian Barnhart to start the race on the yellow and make some adjustments on the racetrack because there was a lot of puddles so a lot of accidents could have happened, and that was a great call to prevent that and give a great race for the fans.
The strategy, we thought a lot of people would follow up. I followed Tony and nobody followed me basically, and we ended up kind of in the back. We were alone again back there. It was kind of tough.
But I have to say the good news about those new drivers, they have a lot of experience, and I mean, all the giving and taking, it was kind of very smart of everybody trying to take care of each other, especially on the wet. And for me that's just to show the series and the quality of the drivers are getting better and better. It kept us off trouble, but obviously it was a little bit hard to catch the leaders, and the way the yellow played off and everything, it turned out to be quite tough for us.
At the end of the day I decided not to change tires, and in fact I told the team, I was like, I want to keep the tires, and that actually paid big-time because I passed a lot of guys in the pits. Not only that, I was able to even pass those guys that did change tires because they had cold tires. For me I was very happy that I made the decision. They say you get older and you get wiser, so I'm kind of happy about that. That was a good decision.
Towards the end, I was really, really trying. I especially wanted to have no yellow at that point. The car stopped picking up in the steering, and I think we ended up going more than the life of the tire in those sets. And towards the end I picked up a lot of debris and my car was pushing like crazy. So I was more -- when I saw Rahal locking the tires, I'm like, okay, he might make enough chance -- the chance for me to try to overtake him was a little risky, and I didn't want to -- I was waiting for another chance, and he never gave me that.
So he deserves it. He did a good job. Second place obviously is well for the championship, and we're leading right now, so it's paying off.

Q. You kind of answered this a bit, but on the last restart, considering your experience here and his lack of it, did you think that some fact or something was going to be either bad luck, great choice by you or by him and you were going to get him?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I did. That's why I said, when he locked the tires I could actually throw my car inside. We probably would have been banging the wheels, and I would have -- if I would be probably not thinking about the championship, I would have probably done it. So I preferred to wait for another opportunity, and he never was able to make that mistake.
For him it's kind of like good job, because he ended up doing -- he ended up not making a mistake.

Q. That was kind of my question. I just wondered, do you get of get like, here we go, because it was him -- not him as in personally, but because you have --
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, whole circumstances. He was in view obviously but at that point he didn't need it. Obviously he is leading the race, and I didn't see him during the whole week. However, he was fast. But I didn't think, especially that I was catching him in that long green flag.
But yes, I thought I had a great chance, and that's why I didn't probably -- I wasn't that aggressive. Well, we know we are competitors now, so that's good for the future.

Q. If the two of you could answer what it's like to have the arrival of another new star to IndyCar Racing with Graham.
TONY KANAAN: I think it's great. We need the Rahals, we need the Andrettis, we need new names. I think Tony made the series to grow, and it's good that we're now one series and we can compare each other and race against each other. I think they are, as I said before, very capable race car drivers. They're going to give us a lot of hard times, so I wish them the best, and I'm looking forward to beating them in the future.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, we're talking about Bobby Rahal's son. Bobby Rahal is a legend. I remember watching him, wow. Now all of a sudden his son followed in his steps. That's a big deal. It's a lot of pressure for him, for Marco, to repeat, for A.J. Foyt, for those guys to repeat what their grandfathers and fathers did in the past.
This is great for motor racing. It's great that this name ended up winning because it just shows that open wheel is getting stronger again, it's getting better again, and it's going to be huge in the future.

Q. Rahal isn't the only Champ Car guy who showed well today. Do you think the Champ Car people sent a message today that you're going to have to start reckoning with them right away on these street and road courses?
TONY KANAAN: Of course, if you think about it. Me and Helio, in the past five years we've done 14 road courses, and it's the past five years. They did that last year. So the same way they felt in the oval we felt here, so I think we still have something for them.
It was kind of expected. I mean, we knew that the people that we were racing. We used to watch them, some of them we raced against. They've been sending the message that they are going to come over. I don't think they needed to prove -- for me they didn't have to. We've got to watch out for sure.
By the time it comes to the next road course, it's going to be tough.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: For me, you know, it doesn't have any more Champ Car. It's not IRL anymore. Right now everyone is one series. Obviously it's a new team. I didn't have any doubts, and I always said that, that good teams are going to be good teams and are going to pick up very quick, and it just proves -- I want to make sure that we always keep separating the Champ Car and IRL and now we're becoming one strong series because this is going to be huge for the motor sport.

Q. To follow up on what Helio just said, when do we stop saying "we" and "they"? Does that stop today?
TONY KANAAN: Right now. I think we shouldn't be comparing. Obviously it's big news that Graham won the race, but let's say Rahal won the race and let's forget about where they came from, where they used to race. But I have to say in my opinion we should stop it now. Now it's up to you guys to stop saying, well, the guy that came over from Champ Car and everything else, and then we'll stop talking about it.

Q. I wonder how Mr. Kanaan thinks Hideki did his job today.
TONY KANAAN: How did he finish? 6th? There you go. I told Hideki the other day, he's definitely the fastest Japanese driver that I've seen and I race against him. For sure they have plenty in Japan. He did a great job. He's plenty fast. He still has a lot of -- he doesn't have experience, so he's still relying on me a lot to tell him what he is going to face, and he came and asked me before this race, what should I do? I said, "I don't know."
So I guess he was waiting for a good answer and didn't get it, so I said, Hideki, I have no idea what it is you just finished.
I think that's what he's done. He's a great kid. I mean, I like the Japanese people. Your culture, they are very determined, and he is very calm, which is the opposite of the Brazilians, so I guess we have a pretty good balance there.

Q. There was a lot of talk about strategy changing from wet tires to dry. Was there a lot of talk between you and your crew, either one of you, as to now it's time to change, now the track is dry, now we need to go to slicks?
TONY KANAAN: I was waiting for my window, and then I think Dixon put his tires a little early so everybody saw his lap time, and he was like two seconds quicker than I. So that was a no-brainer there. When I came in, they said, we're going to slicks. I'm like, "Are you sure?" They said, "Well, Dixon is running two seconds quicker. What do you want to do?" I said, "Well, you just said it. We're going to slicks." So I had no choice on that one.

Q. This is the second time a 19-year-old has won in this series in just over two years. Are you guys starting to feel a little bit old?
TONY KANAAN: Yes, thanks. You've been around a lot longer than I have. Remember, you'll be in a wheelchair before I actually retire (laughter).
Like I said before, he was born and we were racing already when he was born, and so was Marco. It makes me feel very old, especially that I have one young guy on my team. But I would say we're not old, right?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We're experienced.

Q. Second race, we're already seeing some great rivalries here. Are you guys going to miss not having them in the next race?
TONY KANAAN: What's the great rivalry? They're going to have an easier race in Long Beach than we will in Japan, so I would invite them to come to Japan. I think we're going to go back to Japan and race against the people that are more used to it, but after that we're back together.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We know that we're facing that. Unfortunately we always want to keep everybody together, and we couldn't make it happen. So we knew we were facing that. There's not much we can do, so now we're going to Japan, have a good race and go back.

Q. I was wondering what it's like in the car when it's raining because it looks like it kind of sucks.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Man, I couldn't see anything at the beginning of the race. As I said, it was a good call of Brian trying to take up at least the puddles from very key points. Turn 2, which is a fast corner, Turn 13, 14, I don't know how you call that, the fast chicane. So those are very crucial. It was a great call, because it saved a lot of equipment, a lot of cars, and us, as well.
It was very hard, but the worst thing is when you don't know if it's dry, and when you put dry tires. So I just saw people coming so fast at me. I thought, man, I'm not that slow. I saw Tony right in front of me, so I know I'm not that slow. That's when I realized they had slicks and we decided to put it on.
TONY KANAAN: If it's raining on the way back home, open the windows of your car, don't turn the wipers on and just wear sunglasses and drive. That's the feeling.

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