An Interview with Dan Wheldon

IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon participated in a Q&A session this week, discussing the upcoming races at Long Beach, Kansas and more. Below are select quotes from his interview followed by “Five Questions with Dan Wheldon.” Dan Wheldon

·         30-year-old entering his seventh full season in the IndyCar Series

·         Returns to Panther Racing where he debuted in 2002 after three seasons with Andretti Green Racing and three seasons with Target Chip Ganassi Racing

·         Won the IndyCar Series championship and the Indianapolis 500 in 2005

·         Started 11th in the 2009 season opener at St. Petersburg and ran as high as second before finishing 14th

·         Has made 98 career starts, recording 15 victories and 54 top-five finishes

·         Has at least one victory in each of the last five seasons

·         Has won the last two races at Kansas Speedway and finished second there the two seasons before that

·         Son Sebastian was born in February

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Q. Let's look at Long Beach. As you mentioned, you haven't raced there in the IndyCars before, but you made a couple starts in Atlantics and Indy Lights. What do you remember about racing there in the past?

DAN WHELDON: Well, it's a great track to go to. Long Beach certainly has some history with Indycars, and it's always great to go to places that have that because I think it makes the event even more exciting for not just the drivers but for the fans, too. So it's a great place to go back to.

I think as far as street tracks goes, it's very good. You can overtake, you've got the long straightaway. If you have a good run at that final hairpin you can draft and hopefully outbrake somebody into Turn 1. But I'm excited to be back. I was always very good there in Atlantics and Indy Lights, and as the competition is so close, it's really fun to be part of the series right now. You've got to be on your game. The team has got to be on your game. You've got to have great pit stops. So I think it's going to be just as exciting as St. Petersburg.

Q. After Long Beach we get onto the mile‑and‑a‑half ovals for the first time when we go to Kansas in a few weeks. You've won the last two races there. Before that you were second twice in a row. What is it about Kansas that suits you so well?

DAN WHELDON: I really don't know, but yeah, I'm hoping I can make it three in a row. I know obviously if you look at the team's results on the one‑and‑a‑half‑mile ovals, they're very, very strong. Certainly we're going to try to continue to make the team stronger.

I think Kansas is going to be particularly important this year because it leads into Indianapolis. Normally we're able to have Homestead and Kansas, but with the changing schedule and making Homestead the last race of the season, Kansas is our first oval race before leading into the month of May. So it's going to be incredibly important for us, so I think certainly with the development that we have in mind and even the experience that we have at Kansas and the experience we'll take out of Kansas, I think we'll certainly have one eye on Indianapolis.

But I would expect the same thing there. It's going to be a very intense race. Each year the track tends to lose a little bit of grip, so you're going to have to work hard on having a good handling race car across the seams that the racetrack has and being fast. But I really wish I knew what made me good around there and Homestead, but it seems to certainly suit my style, and with the fact that I've now moved to the National Guard Panther Racing team, I would expect us to be very, very strong, and I'm excited to go back there.

Q. Last weekend was the first time that you used the alternate tires. How did you guys manage the use of those tires throughout the weekend, and what did you learn about those tires over the weekend?

DAN WHELDON: Well, it was obviously the same for everybody, and I think that's something ‑‑ it certainly added another element to the competition and to the racing that you saw at the weekend. It was new for everybody, and different people played different strategies with the different tires.

I liked the way that we at Panther Racing played it, although certainly with the experience we've got now, we'll probably try and adjust that a little bit at Long Beach. The IndyCar Series is so strong right now and so competitive, and it's definitely great to watch and great to be part of, but I think it spiced up the storyline a little. And when you have a partner like Firestone that are committed to doing that, it definitely makes it entertaining, and obviously from a spectator's standpoint, it also adds another element of interest.

I thought the red tires definitely give you more I think longitudinal grip so you have better traction, and with the experience that we've gained, we will be able to, I think, affect the car's handling characteristics around that red tire perhaps a little better than what we did at St. Petersburg weekend. But nonetheless, I thought it was a very good contribution to the competition and the spectacle.

Five Questions with Dan Wheldon:

1. Now that you’re a new dad, two questions – who designed the nursery, and are you getting up in the middle of the night to help with the baby?

“I would have to put a lot of that down to my wife, but she did get mad at me at one point. It was her project and the wall is two colors – it sounds terrible, but it actually looks good. It’s brown and yellow. And then we have a border. Susie had them paint that yellow, and I disagreed with that, so I had them switch it to white. You learn in marriage that there are some things that you can push for and some things you can’t, and that was one thing I knew I could sneak in. We’ve now changed that to white, but the majority of the nursery was chosen by my wife.”

“I do sometimes get up in the middle of the night. Susie’s really good actually when there’s a race close or a test close. Leading into that, I won’t get up. She’ll let me sleep through. But, when there’s the chance that I can get up and help I like to. Obviously I like interacting with my son as much as possible. With the schedule the way it is, you have to make the most of your days when you’re at home. Certainly with Panther Racing and National Guard I’ve been traveling more than I ever have. I definitely utilize my time at home. It’s brutal sometimes. I like to sleep. It’s difficult, but I’m getting used to it.”

2. American football or soccer?

“I’ve got to say American football. I’m a big fan. I really am. I guess people would say I’ve become an American. I love soccer too, don’t get me wrong. Often when I’m back in England I’ll watch it a lot on TV, but for the most part I’m an American football fan.”

3. Best memory from racing?

“Winning the Indianapolis 500. I’ve had a lot of great memories, but certainly winning the Indianapolis 500 is my most treasured, and having done it once I’m very hungry to do it again. The feeling that winning that race gives you is unbelievable, so my goal is to win that race again.”

4. Worst memory from racing?

“Indianapolis 500 in 2006. I dominated the race and picked up a flat tire right at the end, so that’s 100 percent my worst memory.

5. Favorite book?

“Probably the Lance Armstrong book, ‘It’s Not About the Bike.’ I’m a big fan of it.”

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           The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues April 19 with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, Calif.. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 126. The radio broadcast also will be carried on indycar.com. The Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be telecast at 6 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 19 at Long Beach. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 20 by VERSUS.


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