Tony Kanaan and Dillon Battistini teleconference Ron Dixon pulled double-duty while watching his son win Indy 500 IndyCar Series adds Edmonton to schedule Antinucci back in the lead
1. Tony Kanaan and Dillon Battistini teleconference: IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan, and Firestone Indy Lights driver Dillon Battistini were guests on yesterday’s Indy Racing League teleconference.
Background on Tony Kanaan: Tony Kanaan is in his sixth full season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Andretti Green Racing. · Age: 33 (Birthday is Dec. 31, 1974) · Career Starts / 2008: 86 / 5 · Career Victories/2008: 12 / 0 · Career Top-Five Finishes/2008: 58 / 3 · Career Top-10 Finishes/2008: 68 / 4 · Career Poles/2008: 9 / 1 · Career Highlights: Won IndyCar Series championship in 2004, completing every lap of every race. Has never finished worse than sixth in the IndyCar Series point standings. · 2008 Highlights: Won the pole at St. Petersburg and finished third in the race. Finished second at Kansas. Ranks fourth in points. · Off the Track: Son Leonardo was born during the offseason. Background on Dillon Battistini: Dillon Battistini is a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights, driving for Panther Racing. · Age: 29 (Birthday is Dec. 3, 1977) · Career Starts: 2 · Career Victories: 1 · Career Top-Five Finishes: 1 · Career Top-10 Finishes: 1 · Career Poles: 0 · Career Highlights: Won Formula 3 Asia Pacific championship in 2007, recording five wins. · 2008 Highlights: Ranks second in points. Won the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami and won the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis. Finished fourth at St. Petersburg 2 and Kansas.
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from yesterday’s teleconference,
*** Q. Have you met with Marco (Andrett), sat down and talked with him, after what happened at Indy? What came out of that?
TONY KANAAN (12:00): No, we haven't sat down yet. I think I haven't had a chance to see him. I left right after the race. We'll be fine. I think we share different opinions about what happened. But we had a little fun in the banquet on my speech and he had it on his speech. But we haven't sat down and talked about it.
But, like I said before, it's not a big deal. It's done. It's passed. We both lost the race. We’ve got to move on. We have a championship to win for AGR. So I don't see a problem. We don't need to sit down and talk about it to make everything square, for us to be in good terms. I don't think we have a choice here. We are going to be in good terms, no matter what, even if we agree or disagree. I think we represent a big team. We have big sponsors to report to and we have a championship to win as a team. We'll sort it out for sure. But, no, I haven't talked to him yet. ***Q. It seemed to me in the days leading up to the Indianapolis 500 this year there was so much more buzz. Now that it's behind you, as you go away from it, was this year as different as it looked in terms of excitement, exposure, interest? How would you rate this year against past years you've raced in it?
TONY KANAAN (15:00): I'd have to say since I've been here, this was the best year for sure, as far as the people watching the race, people supporting the race, the buzz, the city. Obviously we carry a huge momentum from the unification, from Danica's (Patrick) win, from Graham Rahal's win. I understand what the Indianapolis 500 was all about when I came here since '02. But this year, now I know what they talk about the old times, the way it was. Every day on the track it's full. Bump Day is crazy. Race Day, for sure it's definitely the best year I've been.
***Q:You led 38 of 40 laps at Indy, but it certainly wasn't as easy as it sounds. Can you talk a little bit about the race. DILLON BATTISTINI (1:15): Well, it was a dream come true really for me. Obviously my first season in Indy Lights, it was the first time I've raced at Indy. The car was fantastic from beginning to the end of the race. I was able to capitalize and lead most of the laps. It made it look quite exciting as well with a few overtaking maneuvers. Yeah, it was a pretty close race, but I'm used to that kind of thing. I quite like the pressure. I respond well to it. I'm really enjoying this oval racing, I'd have to say. I've done three now, I’ve won two. If I can keep that kind of record going, hopefully I can progress to IndyCar fairly quickly.
2. Ron Dixon pulled double-duty while watching his son win Indy 500: If Ron Dixon was distracted while watching the Indianapolis 500, it was hard to tell. Dixon, the father of race winner Scott Dixon, was the spotter for John Andretti, who finished 16th.
"At times, I wish I wasn't there, but it was great," Ron Dixon said after the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration where Scott Dixon received a record $2,988,065 from a record purse of $14,406,580. Dixon became the first native of New Zealand to win the Indianapolis 500. After starting from the pole position, he led seven times for a race-high 115 laps and beat Panther Racing's Vitor Meira to the finish line by 1.7498 seconds. The race featured 18 lead changes among nine drivers, and each of the eight times the yellow caution flag flew Ron Dixon scanned the venue to determine if the red and white No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car was involved.
"Up until the last 10 laps, I sort of listened to what was happening but I was concentrating 100 percent on John," he said. "I have to be honest that each time John disappeared down that front straight I started looking for Scott and it was sort of starting to happen at just the right time - Scott was coming into Turn 3 and John was in Turn 1.
"But it was hard. I called John until the bitter end; you have to because it's a job." Ron eventually made his way through the throngs of spectators to Victory Circle to join the celebration, and it continued during the Victory Celebration that honored all 33 drivers and the Hulman-George family.
"When we first came up here about eight years ago it was always a dream that one day Scott would win the 500," he said. "Those emotions just burst out; it was incredible. People ask, 'How do you feel?' I don't really know. You go numb, and then you start yahooing and yelling."
3. IndyCar Series adds Edmonton to schedule: The Indy Racing League has signed a three-year agreement with Northlands, operator of the Rexall Edmonton Indy, to bring the excitement of IndyCar Series racing to Edmonton beginning July 24-26, 2008. The Rexall Edmonton Indy becomes the 17th race on the 2008 IndyCar Series schedule.
“The city of Edmonton and Northlands have put together a first-class event, and we’re excited that we can bring the IndyCar Series to such a great venue,” said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League. “While drivers such as Justin Wilson and Will Power have raced in Edmonton before, some of our other stars – Danica Patrick, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon – will compete there for the first time. We look forward to a long relationship with the Rexall Edmonton Indy.”
The 14-turn, 1.973-mile circuit is laid out on Edmonton City Centre Airport runways that reach 75-feet wide for most of the course. About 80 percent of the race course, which is five minutes from downtown, can be seen from anywhere in the grandstands.
“We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Indy Racing League during such an exciting time,” said Ken Knowles, Northlands President. “The Edmonton Indy has a proven track record and terrific support from our fans and partners. Under this new partnership, we expect that this year’s event will be the biggest and best to date.”
*** 4. Antinucci back in the lead: Richard Antinucci didn’t hesitate when asked “What is your next step in your career?” after his runner-up finish in the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 23. “Indy without Lights,” said Antinucci, who is back on top the Firestone Indy Lights point standings. The way Antinucci is progressing in Firestone Indy Lights – either first or second in four of the first five races of the 16-event season – uncle Eddie Cheever Jr. might be inclined to put together a program for the 93rd Indianapolis 500 if a full-season IndyCar Series team doesn’t contract his services. Antinucci, 27, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, challenged pole sitter Dillon Battistini of Panther Racing throughout the 40-lap race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
“We tried to take it easy at the beginning because I think the majority of the field was having problems already with the rubbered-in track,” said Antinucci, who started sixth. “We ran really conservative, with a lot of downforce. We were really quick in the corners. I think we were the quickest out there. I just kept hitting the (rev) limiter.
“But congratulations to Panther and Battistini. They did a good job. He was running those times by himself, without a tow – pretty good.”
After competing on road/street courses last year in the series, Antinucci has been a quick study on the ovals this season. Next up is the first short track of the season – The Milwaukee Mile on June 1.
*** The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 on June 1 at the Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Milwaukee 100 at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on June 1 at The Milwaukee Mile. The Firestone Freedom 100 will be telecast at 1 p.m. EDT May 31.