Marco Andretti, Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan were guests on Wednesday’s Indy Racing League teleconference
About the speakers: Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan are two of four drivers for Andretti Green Racing, co-owned by Michael Andretti.
· 22-year-old son of Michael Andretti and grandson of Mario Andretti
· Entering his fourth season in the IndyCar Series
· Finished seventh in points in 2008 with six top-10 finishes, including a third at the Indianapolis 500
· Led eight races and 330 laps
· Earned his first career pole at Milwaukee, becoming the youngest pole winner in series history
· Competed for the U.S. in A1GP action during the offseason
· 2006 Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year
· Earned his first career victory at Infineon in 2006
· Co-owner of Andretti Green, which includes teams competing in the IndyCar Series and A1GP and promotions companies that own and operate races in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Toronto
· All four drivers return for the first time since 2005
· All four drivers finished in the top 10 in points in 2008 (3rd, 6th, 7th and 10th)
· Andretti will call race strategy for Danica Patrick in 2009
· Andretti Green is the winningest team in IndyCar Series history with 34 victories
· The team has won championships with Tony Kanaan (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005) and Dario Franchitti (2007)
· The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg April 3-5 will be the season opener for the first time
· The Honda Indy Toronto will be the first IndyCar Series event in Toronto July 10-12
· 34-year-old entering his seventh season in the IndyCar Series with Andretti Green
· Signed a multi-year contract with the team last August
· Finished third in points in 2008, recording one victory and 11 top-five finishes
· Led nine races and 415 laps
· 2004 IndyCar Series champion
· Has 98 career starts, 13 victories, 10 poles and 66 top-five finishes
· Has at least one victory in every season since 2003
· Has finished in top three in points in four of last five seasons
Q: Marco, last year you certainly had some great moments like a second-place finish at Indy, a few finishes that I'm sure you wish could have been better. Looking ahead, what are your goals and expectations for 2009?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It hasn't changed since I've stepped in. Indy, it's the biggest race in the world. Indianapolis, as a team we've been super-competitive there every year. And then the championship, I definitely think we're going to have a shot. I think the word for me this year is definitely consistency because we've led at a lot of different types of racetracks in different years but were unable to capitalize. So this year is going to be ‑‑ I'm going to be looking to capitalize at a lot of races. I don't see a weak spot in the championship for our whole team, really, so I think that definitely ‑‑ I can't wait to get going.
Q: Michael, I'm sure it's a good feeling to have all four drivers coming back. What are your expectations are for each of them this season?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We're very excited that it's the first year since 2005 that everybody is coming back together, and I think continuity is always an important thing, and it's nice to have that going into this year.
I think we have high expectations from all four drivers. I think Tony and Marco are going to have great years, I really feel it, as well as I think Danica (Patrick). Hopefully we can get her back into victory lane, and we want to give Hideki (Mutoh) his first win, which we feel would be really huge for our team if we were able to achieve that, be able to get the first Japanese driver to win a major open wheel race.
We have a lot of incentives for all four guys to be running up front, and we're going to do everything we can as a team to make it happen. So far the testing that we've done, I feel very good about what's been going on, and all the work that we've done over the winter, I think, is hopefully going to pay off, and we'll see at the first race at St. Pete.
Q:Michael, tell us about how the St. Petersburg event has grown into one of the marquee events on the schedule and now for the first time ever it's going to be the season opener.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We're really excited about that. It's a positive for the event. It's always nice to be the opener, and I can't think of a better place to open the season than down there. I think the setting is just perfect for an auto race and a street race, and we're excited about the progress that's been made there. I think there's going to be a lot of new things that you'll see that are a little different and more things ‑‑ we're always trying to do more things to keep the fans busy during the weekend, which I think we're achieving with the yacht club and things like that.
The encouraging thing, in tough times that we're in right now, I'm happy to say that ticket sales are right there with last year, which we're quite excited about.We're looking for another great event down there, as well as Toronto is going quite well, as well, the ticket sales up there, and also the corporate involvements are quite high.So things are really chugging along up there, so we're excited about that, as well.
Q: Tony, you've had at least one race victory in every season in the IndyCar Series, won the championship in 2004, and as Michael just alluded to, some changes for you, too, in getting used to a new engineer. Tell us a little bit about some of your goals now for 2009.
TONY KANAAN: Well, every year we talk about the same thing. I think the goals never change, especially when you're a part of the team that is the most successful team in IndyCar Series (history). So we're looking forward to the championship, and obviously we're looking forward to Indy.
I think the changes were good. It's taking me a little bit of time to adjust with my engineer just because I spent only 13 years with Eric (laughing), so we're not going to do it in a couple tests. But Allen (McDonald) is very good. Allen has been with Dario (Franchitti). They won the championship and the (Indianapolis) 500 together. He has a different way of working so I'm just getting used to it. But again, I'm excited.
We know what we're going to face, and we know exactly where we needed to improve last year, and I think we're not leaving anything on the table. The engineers have been working really hard, the drivers, too, so I think we expect to have a great year for sure. The competition is getting tougher and tougher, so we'll see what's going to happen. But I'm excited.
The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. The radio broadcast also will be carried on indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg. The races will be telecast at 6 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by VERSUS.