The Racing Capital
of the World
May 15, 2013 | By Paul Kelly
MODERATOR: Welcome to Economaki Press Conference Room with another of our 11 o'clock press conferences with two very popular drivers, obviously. Simona de Silvestro is going into race four, and Tony Kanaan has been a fan favorite here for a long time.
TK, welcome back to Indianapolis, as always it's great to see you.
TONY KANAAN: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Tell us about how things have gone this month.
KANAAN: Smooth. The last few days have been more of a weather challenging as far as being cold and windy, but you know, we're keeping our head straight with the program that we decide to do, doing some race stuff. So far, so good. It's early days to say anything, to predict anything. I think a lot of the times that we see are being posted on huge draft, so the reality is still not there.
MODERATOR: And that's fairly obvious, we've watched that unfold.
Simona, I would think for you this has to feel like just a great opportunity for you. Coming into your fourth “500” with a solid organization behind you. I can imagine your confidence has got to be pretty good.
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: Yes, definitely. Coming here with KV is a very special feeling. Definitely also having the Chevy engine behind us, it's going much faster around here, so it's way more fun.
For us, it's been going pretty well. Going through the motions every day and sticking to our program, going step by step, and that's been really important. Working with Tony, too, it's been a lot of fun, you know, so I feel like as a team we've been doing pretty well and going through the motions, and I think it's the right path right now.
MODERATOR: Tony, I was thinking about this coming in. Simona's an accomplished race driver; that's quite obvious. But you have been in this sort of position it seems to me a lot occasionally with drivers, sort of taking them through their paces and understanding Indianapolis and the whole cadence of the event, that seems to be a role that you find yourself in a lot.
KANAAN: Yes, I guess they picked the old guy it teach the young kids all the time, I guess that's what it is. (Laughter)
It was a role that I got. Not that I wanted it, but back in the Andretti days, and it's been following me ever since. I don't mind at all. I think if I can contribute to the team's success, obviously thinking on my own.
But with Simona, it's different, it's definitely a lot of fun. I think we knew each other before she was my teammate; we got along even before that. We had a couple accidents in separate occasions, but we caught fire and did similar things that we both went through. I think, you know, last year she had a very, very tough year, which I appreciate. I was watching from far, and the way she handled herself was remarkable. I don't think I could have done that myself. You know, so she deserves what I can do and she's extremely fast, so I got to worry about her. (Laughter)
MODERATOR: Very good. Let's open it up to questions.
Q: I've got a question for both of you. How's your hand?
KANAAN: My hand is OK. It hurts, but I guess -- Jimmy Vasser told me in Brazil if I'm going to hurt my hand and go that fast every time he was going to hit the other one. (Laughter)
It's hurting, it's going to take a while it heal. Here in Indy I'm doing treatment at St. Vincent with the guys, and Dr. (Terry) Trammell and all the guys are here in town, so I get a chance to see them every day. But it will take at least eight months to be back to normal. As long as I can drive -- there are a couple things that I can't do, but it's not in the car. (Laughter)
So my wife will be able to help me out. Don't get bad ideas, guys. (Laughter)
Typical things -- but it sound wrong. (Laughter)
So Simona, how's your hand?
DE SILVESTRO: Mine are fine. They have been fine since like a year now, so it's all good. I don't have to wear any funky gloves anymore for, you know, burn or anything, so we're all good.
Q: Simona, last year was a frustrating season in the Lotus engine. Is there anything positive that you can take over in 2013 with KV?
DE SILVESTRO: Yeah, I think it is. Especially here at the Speedway. Last year was kind of a difficult month but, you know, after I crashed in 2011, I was pretty skeptical about the oval stuff. Maybe last year actually really helped me kind of not having any pressure, just going through what I had to do, get comfortable out there, and I think that's really helping me this year because I got this the car, felt confident with what I learned last year, and that's been kind of pretty rewarding to myself. You know when you take a big hit like that, it takes a little bit of time to get the confidence back in yourself and in the equipment around you. So I think actually last year helped me a lot on the ovals, to be honest.
Q: Question for both of you. Tony, first off, I've heard you say among other drivers that the Speedway picks you, you don't pick it. But there's a lot of fans out there that feel like this place owes you. How do you feel about that?
KANAAN: I don't feel this place owes me anything. I have had great times here. Although some people would say I'm making an excuse or I'm sounding like -- but the experiences that I had, which I can only say every time I've been here I put myself in the position to win this race. That's all I can do. There's a man sitting right beside you that knows exactly what I'm saying.
The way the fans treat me, you know, and the privilege that I have to be here every year. I've led in nine of the 11 times -- eight out of the 10 times I've been here. So I don't think it owes me anything. I love the way the fans think like that, because I think they know how much I work for it. But it will be really unfair for me to say I deserve to win this thing because there's other 33 people there looking for that, as well.
So to me the best memories I have, it's every time I drive my golf cart out there I can hear my name big time. The year that I started that last, we went all the way to the lead, and we ended up finishing 11th because of a strategy at the end. I got out of the car, the entire place was screaming my name, and Dario had won the race. If I never win this thing, I think I got the feeling like from the people around here how is it to win. Obviously, it will be a lot different if I would have my face on the trophy and stuff like that, but I don't take it like that. I don't think it owes anything.
I am not going to go away years from now if I never win regretting or being a little bit bitter about it. I mean, I had great time. My name in IndyCar, it's a lot bigger right now because of the fans of Indianapolis and because I have not won it yet than actually probably if I had won already.
Q: Simona, for you, obviously over the years, a slightly smaller brunette was vying to become the first woman to win here. Realistically, which -- where do you place your chances now that you've got your best ride, your best opportunity ever and the speed that you've attained so far this week?
DE SILVESTRO: I think anybody that qualifies has a chance to win it. For me, it's always been hard for me to put a result you know as a goal or anything like that. But I feel like if we really do all the work we need to and be as prepared as we can and get a chance to win it for sure, you know, we're going to take it.
But right now, it's kind of going through every day and kind of not, you know, expecting too many things. That's how it went in my rookie year and went really well because I went through the motions and then a pretty good result came out of it. So now with a better team and a better engine and everything, you know, things can work out. You know, I'm working hard toward that goal, and hopefully it will happen.
Q: Two questions for you, Tony. Number one, it was already said, you have much more experience than Simona in IndyCar. Nevertheless, is there anything you can learn from Simona? And question No. 2, last year you were driving together with your friend Rubens (Barrichello). Are you still carrying on to convince him to make a return to IndyCar?
KANAAN: Well, the first question is obviously I definitely can learn a lot from her. More in the street courses right now because I think I can contribute a lot more to her oval experience. But we're exchanging information every day. Her feedback, it's remarkable. So I think I definitely learn every day with her, and you know, I think it's a learning process for both of us to understand the way we like cars and how we can migrate from one car to the other.
The Rubens question is, I don't think Rubens needed any convincing. He wanted to do it, but for somebody like him that came from Formula One and the name that I think he brought it a lot to IndyCar by doing the switch, we didn't do a good job getting him to stay. When a guy like that put a lot out of his own pocket, almost $5 million to invest in his career after 19 years in Formula One just because he wanted to keep racing, it was remarkable of him. But to ask him to do it again the following year I don't think was fair. Not blaming anybody; it was just a situation that we all face right now with the economy. You know, it's pretty hard to everybody. It's hard for big names in America already to find a meaningful sponsorship to keep racing. It was just a matter of trying to put the two and two together, and he felt that he couldn't find that amount of money, got another offer to do stock cars in Brazil down there, and he's doing some TV. That was it. I don't think it was a choice. Just the consequences of the financial situation right now.
MODERATOR: Any questions?
Let me ask you one, Tony, based on something you just said. That is, there's always this balance between what the engineers say the car is and what the driver likes and what the driver wants. When you're in a team, you're the senior member, you give some feedback about what you want. I don't mean by age now, Tony, come on. (Laughter)
KANAAN: Can I have a wheelchair? (Laughter)
DE SILVESTRO: Who's got the gray beard?
MODERATOR: Then you have Simona, who's new on the ovals, and she has a feedback about what she feels or like. How does the team work that out? How does that all sort of get dissected and understood?
KANAAN: I would say me my engineer, as you call me, I'm an older man. He doesn't fool me anymore. He will do what I say because I have been around. Simona, actually, when we find stuff that I don't want to try, I said, she doesn't know any better. (Laughter)
Let her do a couple laps, and if it works give it back to me. I had that in the past with (Alex) Zanardi, I remember, I used to ask Alex all the time, ‘Why do I try all those things?’ ‘Because I don't want to.’ (Laughter)
DE SILVESTRO: That's still going on. (Laughter)
KANAAN: That's the difference. When you've been around a lot, there's things or days you say, ‘I'm not running today,’ and you can see the rookie going: ‘Oh, I want to do it. I want to go out.’ You know. All right.
Like today, I can't get into much details, but we had a decision to make last night about setups and stuff. And the young lady picked -- there is stuff I didn't want to do.
MODERATOR: So you understand, Simona, he's the senior member of the team.
DE SILVESTRO: Yeah, he is. I tell him sometimes, and I always get in trouble for it.
KANAAN: And she understood last night when she was on her way home what happened to her car, so she knows.
DE SILVESTRO: Everybody kept asking me if I got pranked by Tony yet, and until yesterday I was fine.
KANAAN: You still haven't. Just the beginning.
DE SILVESTRO: Well, a little bit. I tried to get in my car, and I think he put all kinds of like -- well, I don't even know what it was.
KANAAN: It was grease.
DE SILVESTRO: Grease on my door handle. I almost fell over when I tried to get in my car. (Laughter) I told him, ‘Thanks,’ and he was like, ‘You're welcome.’
KANAAN: I was going to leave you a note and a couple napkins so you could clean your hand.
DE SILVESTRO: I had to do the walk of shame back to the truck and get some napkins and clean my door handle.
MODERATOR: That's what senior guys do.
DE SILVESTRO: It is. I think they have to try the difficult stuff –
KANAAN: Should we tell about today?
DE SILVESTRO: Oh, yes. No. I wasn't even -- I didn't even know about this until he threw me under the bus.
KANAAN: That's not true. Anyway, we want to find Simona a boyfriend.
DE SILVESTRO: We don't, but apparently Tony is convinced.
KANAAN: I want to go to dinner with me, my wife, you and your boyfriend. So I launch on Twitter that people could send me pictures and their phone numbers, and we're going to pick the top five. (Laughter)
But she's not going to know them. Me, my engineers and her engineer will pick the guy, and I'm going to take them to dinner and she's going to meet him.
DE SILVESTRO: Great.
KANAAN: And if she's nice enough and he's nice enough, she is going to come to the banquet with him on Monday night next week.
DE SILVESTRO: He planned all this; I had nothing to do with it. I just got dragged into it somehow.
MODERATOR: We're going to look at all the data, telemetry. We're going to make the appropriate decision.
KANAAN: We might get a new sponsor. Maybe he has a lot of money.
DE SILVESTRO: That won't be bad. (Laughter)
MODERATOR: Well, we need some updates on this one.
KANAAN: Don't worry, you'll get it.
MODERATOR: Other questions for these two? Thanks a lot.