Day-By-Day During The Month Of May With Tony Kanaan
6/17/2004 12:33:21 AM
We opened the month with a conservative setup and we weren't looking for a big lap time, but I found what I wanted in a dozen laps even though we only ran 217 (miles per hour). My speed doesn't look as good as Dan's (Wheldon) but I think we're in the ballpark.
Today was much more serious as we ran 46 laps and really made some progress. I ran 219 just before we stopped for the day and, even though Toyota was 1-2 with Helio (Castroneves) and Scott (Dixon), I think Honda has something up its sleeve.
Today was a lot like yesterday in that we struggled a little bit in the morning and then found ourselves late in the afternoon with a lap of 220. But I feel more confident and I think we're on the right track.
We jumped to the top of the speed chart today with two laps over 222 but I got a great tow from Bruno (Junqueira) and then my teammate, Bryan Herta. I wish I could have done it by myself but it's not the reality. Still, it's only Wednesday and we do have a good car and we're gaining day by day.
It rained all morning so we didn't get on the track until 3 o'clock. The temperature has changed quite a bit; it's cooler, but we still managed 220 in only 19 laps. Indy is always changing and you're always chasing the track, so it's quite a challenge.
On the most important practice day of the month we never got out of Gasoline Alley because it rained out all but about five minutes. I think we've got a good shot because Honda has given us great horsepower in this new 3-liter engine. I might be able to run 222.6 to 222.8 and if somebody can run 225, well, then I may as well try to put my car in the field and go congratulate them. But I think the pole speed is going be in the 222 range and I think we've got a good shot -- just like all the Honda guys.
It was one of those crazy, unpredictable Pole Days at Indianapolis. We all got a late start because the track hadn't dried properly. Things started out great as we became the first and only car to run over 223 when practice finally got going. When I finally went out to qualify, Buddy Rice had already posted his 222 average, so I knew what we had to beat. My first try only lasted two laps and we waved off after 221 and 220 because we knew we had more. We changed the chassis, and about an hour later, I was back out again. We made the right changes and we went faster, but it just wasn't fast enough and we settled for 221.200 in our 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda. Our goal was to win the pole and the race and we gave it our best shot. But the day was a success because Honda hogged the first seven positions on the grid and Dan starts second, Dario third and I'm fifth.
We started working on race setups and running together but then we all went and cheered on Bryan during his qualifying attempt. He crashed Saturday but showed his professionalism and hopped right back in his backup car and stuck it in the show with the day's best speed. So now, all four of us are over the first hurdle and ready for the next one. Race day is only two weeks away.
Two days away from the track doesn't mean sitting on the couch or playing video games. On Monday, (May 17) we all traveled to Honda's manufacturing plant in Marysville, Ohio to visit with the employees. Dario and I also rode our bikes during the two-day break and plotted new ways to torment Wheldon. But it's always good to take a breather from the daily pressures of Indy and I think it recharges a driver's battery.
The beauty of having three teammates is that we can all run together on the track and try different setups to see which ones are best in traffic. I ran 103 laps today, while Dan ran 85, Dario 76 and Bryan 62. Then, after we quit running, Dario went on ESPN's Sports Center to talk with Gil de Ferran and John Kernan. It also happened to be his birthday so his teammates took the appropriate measures and we plastered him with cream pies while he was on air. It doesn't get much better.
We've had a lot of different weather this month -- windy, sunny, cloudy -- and you can't be sure what Race Day conditions are going to be like, so it's imperative to run at all times. And we have the advantage of four cars so we just continued to gather information today. It was pretty hot and muggy out there and we felt pretty comfortable.
Our momentum suffered a setback when the right rear suspension failed on Bryan's car just as he was starting to turn into the third corner. He had no chance to save it and it smacked the wall pretty hard but thankfully, he escaped injury. The car was hurt pretty bad but it will be ready for Carb Day [May 27].
You never feel like you're completely satisfied, but I ran 218 again today in my backup car and I think we're ready for the race. It's been a stressful 10 days for everybody, but we've gathered a lot of information and now it's time to sit down and analyze it.
I flew to my home in Miami and I've got to say it's a nice change of pace. I love the ocean and being with my wife, plus I didn't have to do anything but relax.
Got back to Indy in time to ambush Bryan (Herta) while he was doing a radio talk show. He saw me and immediately quit talking but offered little resistance as I creamed him in the face with a pie. I'm really starting to like the sound it makes when it splats on somebody's head.
Carburetion Day always consists of running a few laps to make sure everything is working properly and today was a good sign of things to come. No leaks, no failures and no problem running quickly with a full tank of fuel. I can't wait for the race to start, but we've still got three more days.
Had a sponsor dinner with the 7-11 and Klein Tools folks.
We saluted Gil (de Ferran) at the public driver's meeting and then talked about taking care of each other on Sunday in the private driver's meeting. Daniele and I rode in the parade and that's always fun. It's amazing how many people show up and Indianapolis fans always make you feel special.
My third Indy 500 was long day that was a lot of fun and also a little disappointing, but real good overall for Andretti Green Racing and Honda as I finished second, Dan was third and Bryan fourth. I managed to lead 28 laps and I had a good car but not as good as Buddy's [race winner Buddy Rice]. He was much stronger today, and I don't think I had the car to pass him, even if we'd been able to run those last 20 laps under green. I don't think the result would have changed. Not always the best car and driver wins here, but today, I think Buddy deserves it. I did my best and it was one spot short of what we wanted. But I never had as much fun racing against a teammate as I did today with Dan. We kept going back and forth for first, second and third and when you can get out on the track and fight that hard against each other and still get out of the car and be able to laugh about it, to me that's priceless. I mean, winning races and championships is important, but this was also very special.
I opened my envelope Monday night at the victory banquet and my check read $659,240 but I told my wife it was only $65,240 because she doesn't need to know everything about auto racing just yet.