CHEVROLET - Tony Kanaan Media Day
CHEVROLET RACING IN THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
102ND RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVYDRIVER TRANSCRIPT – MEDIA DAY
THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2018
TONY KANAAN, NO. 14 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET:
ON DRIVING THE NO. 14. “That number is a big thing here. The number, I think, one day is going to be retired as A.J.’s (Foyt) number. His fan base is unbelievable. So, it’s a lot of pressure. And at this point in my career I didn’t think that I would have that much pressure after winning everything that I wanted to win, but, yeah, it adds to it.”
YOU HAVE A LOT OF FANS TO BEGIN WITH, BUT HAVING A.J. FOYT WITH YOU… “Oh, 100 percent. That’s no doubt.”
CAN YOU HEAR THE FANS DURING THE RACE? “I wish. I wish I could, but, no, the cars are loud and they have ear plugs in the helmet now.”
DO YOU PAY ATTENTION TO ANYTHING OR JUST DIRECTLY TO THE CAR? “Not really. Obviously, I did when I won the race, but I had a full lap under the yellow flag to look around, but, no, when you’re driving, it’s quite tough. At 230 miles an hour you don’t have a lot of time to look around.”
WHAT GOES THROUGH A RACE-CAR DRIVER’S MIND AS THE RACE PROGRESSES? “Well, it goes through stages, right? At the beginning of the race, you’re a little bit more relaxed and you just want to make it through the first half of the race. The first half of the race you’re just trying to put yourself in the top 10, and then with two to one pit stops to go you want to be in the top five and ready to go. It’s pretty much, more or less, what you’re thinking.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WIN THIS RACE? “A lot of hard work and luck. It’s very simple but very difficult at the same time.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT LARRY FOYT IN YOUR TIME WITH THE TEAM? IT’S KIND OF LIKE HE’S BEHIND THE SCENES. “He is, and I think A.J. is trying to give him more and more control of the team. Nowadays, Larry runs the team; A.J. carries the name. I’ve become very good friends with Larry. He’s a wonderful person, caring, and a guy who will work for you and with you for anything you need. One hundred percent. I’ll give you an example. He gave us two brand-new cars, me and Matheus, for this race. He bought two new chassis and we worked on those cars. We never ran those cars until opening day. So, the effort is there.”
WHEN YOU JOINED A.J. FOYT’S TEAM, WITH THE EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAVE AT THIS LEVEL, WHAT IS THE GOAL AT THIS POINT? “I think they needed a lot of credibility. They hadn’t been very successful the last few years. I think me coming over, I was able to bring more people. You know, it’s hard. Racing is so brutal. Sometimes, if a team is not doing well, it’s a hard-working place – people really don’t want to work for a team that don’t win or a driver that don’t win, right? The motivation, it’s not there. I think I’ve bumped it up and I brought a few people with me: My engineer, my mechanics. So you bring more credibility so you’ll be be able to build a team, and now you’re getting what you want. It’s not about having the best people, but making the best out of the people that you’ve got. That was the biggest thing, for sure.”
SO, IT PROCESSES, WHAT YOU DO DURING THE WEEK? THAT TYPE OF THING? “Yeah, I mean it goes all the way across the board, top to bottom. It goes through when you get to the track and you shake hands with your guys, you show them how motivated you are because then you’re going to motivate them to prepare a car for you that is not going to fail. So, this has been an ongoing process here this month. People think that when we come to this month everybody puts an extra effort to it, which is not true; the effort is there all year. I know this is a big race and you try to do this and that, but with the guys, we have been working really closely together since I signed in September, and slowly we’re making progress. We have our hiccups. We have some good races, and we have some, like the GP was terrible for us as far as pit stops, so this is always an on-going thing that you have to work on and fix. And eventually we’ll become as strong as the big guys.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY MILESTONES IN YOUR HEAD, LIKE WE SHOULD BE HERE AT THIS POINT? “Oh, yeah. We have to. We have to set goals. If you’re going to ask me now, Where do you think you are right now? I think here we’re exactly where we want to be. We’re competitive, we’re in the top 10. So, yes. In terms of the championship, I think we’re a little bit behind but we know exactly what we need to do. We really made some changes since the GP, a lot of personnel change and a couple of guys are moving people around and addressing the issues. We have a long list, and we do the priorities and we try to tackle them as we go. I knew that’s the way it was going to be, that’s why we made a long-term deal to be able to increase the level of the team every year.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF STARTING NEAR THE FRONT FOR WHAT’S EXPECTED TO BE HOT CONDITIONS. “I think the top two rows are going to set the pace. I’m concerned about the temperature, for sure. I think with the lack of downforce this year I’m not expecting to see the race like we’ve seen in the past, and we’re going to have our hands full, for sure.”
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT ANYBODY RUNNING AWAY WITH THE RACE, OR IS THAT NOT GOING TO HAPPEN THIS RACE? “I don’t think it’s going to happen, to be honest with you. Maybe if the top three guys get together and be smart, they might, but I don’t see that happening.”
ARE YOU WORRIED THAT IN THE MIDDLE PART OF THE RACE SOMEBODY MIGHT TAKE AN UNNECCESARY RISK? “It’s going to happen. There’s going to be a yellow, and it’s going to bring another yellow, then it’s going to bring another yellow. That’s just the way the races are. And I have to say it’ll be a dog fight with 10 laps to go if it goes yellow. We might have an unexpected winner because people are going to take risks because it’s really hard to pass.”
CAN YOU GUESS WHAT RE-STARTS ARE GOING TO BE LIKE RIGHT NOW? “As crazy as they’ve always been. It’s Indianapolis. It doesn’t matter what type of car, wat type of aero kit we have, it’s always been crazy. So it’s going to be four-wide and everybody’s looking to get into the lead.”
IT LOOKS LIKE CHEVY TEAMS HAVE A LITTLE EXTRA POWER. DOES THAT GIVE YOU A LITTLE COMFORT GOING INTO THE RACE? “Yeah, but I think Chevy – we talked about this – I think Chevy had a bigger advantage with the 140 boost. Our engine, for some reason, it works better than the Hondas up there. At 130, I don’t see that big of an advantage. I know Chevy did their homework, and they put eight cars in the top 10, which is remarkable. So, I expect to have an edge. I want to believe we have one. We have a strong engine and I know it’s real reliable, so that’s all we need.”
DO HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN THE RACE, DOES IT HAVE TO BE A ZERO-MISTAKE DAY? “One hundred percent. The way the series is so competitive, you have one hiccup and somebody else doesn’t, they’re going to win. That’s the way it’s been for a while, if you think about it. Rarely you see a guy that dominates a lot nowadays. Back in the day, people would have problems in the pits, but then they’d come back because you only had only like two or three cars that had a chance to win. Now you have 15 guys. Penske has four cars. Andretti has five cars. You keep adding. One guy has a hiccup and the other three, they won’t. It has to be a trouble-free day, for sure.”
MATHEUS LEIST, NO. 4 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET:
HAS THIS SEASON LIVED UP TO WHAT YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE?
“Things have been tough and busy, but I’m very happy to be racing here and against guys that I thought I would never have the chance to race against. Having Tony (Kanaan) as my teammate is just awesome. I’m having a great time and am really looking to get back on track and see how things turn out.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY RACING SUPERSTITIONS?
“No, not really. I just go out there and drive. Before the race, I’ll listen to some different music… depending on the mood. I just try to stay relaxed.”
HOW ARE THE NERVES GOING INTO SUNDAY?
“They’re good. Everything has been as expected so far. I’m just happy to be here and am living a dream. To be here at Indy with AJ Foyt as an owner and Tony Kanaan as a teammate, it’s something I never thought would happen. I can’t wait to get back out on the track and see how this race is going to feel.”
WILL THERE BE A TIME WHEN DRIVERS WILL FOCUS ON MORE THAN ONE TYPE OF RACING?
“It’s awesome. AJ (Foyt) raced in everything - dirt races, NASCAR, sports cars, Indy cars… it just proved that he was the best and won in everything. That’s what a good racing driver should be… someone who goes to other categories and does well.”
AFTER TWO DIFFICULT RACES AT ST. PETERSBURG AND PHOENIX, HOW IS YOUR CONFIDENCE?
“I’m fine. At St. Petersburg, we were very fast. The car was awesome but we had a gearbox problem. At Phoenix, we were fast but had a pit stop problem. Those things happen. The car has been fast everywhere we go. I’m excited to finally go racing. We’ve done a lot of testing here and my confidence is high.”
IN THE WEEK HERE OF PRACTICE, HAVE YOU FOUND THE HANDLING OF THE CAR TO BE DIFFICULT IN TRAFFIC?
“Yes, that has been tough. The aero kit doesn’t help that much, but it’s a fun car to drive. The only thing is that is difficult to pass. You have to figure out how to best work with your throttle, your technique and other tools in the car. The Chevy engine proved in qualifying that we are fast. So I’m thankful to have Chevrolet supporting us. It’s so good to come to the biggest race of the year with their support. It gives me more confidence to go out there and do my job.”
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Dave Chess has been writing for RIS since the late 1980s during the CompuServe days. His work has also appeared in Auto Week magazine, Chicago Gearhead News newspaper, ATA airlines in-flight magazine, National Speed Sport News and on many websites.