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A Conversation With ... Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta, Steve Newey

 

MODERATOR: Dan Wheldon, winner the second time of the Indianapolis 500. Dan, always been such an incredible competitor. We all want to snow, what in the world was going through your mind there?

 

DAN WHELDON: You know what, it probably is different to what you guys were thinking. On the radio with 20 to go, they said: ‘Listen, this is the deal. Some people are going to try to make it on fuel. You're one of the guys that can make it to the end. But you've got to go and you have to make sure you get everything out of the car that you possibly can.’

 

So I said to myself at that point, I'm going to move the weight jacker every lap to optimize every single corner, adjust the roll bars to be able to just maximize everything. I didn't have a problem. I was able to catch traffic perfectly without having to lift. They said that there was one person that potentially could make it, I believe. So that made me even more hungry. I started pressing the overtake that Honda brought to the series.

 

On that last lap I was trying to deal with bears between Turns 3 and 4. In the corner of my eye, I saw him hit the fence. I just carried on by. As Bryan says, you have to make it to the bricks with a car that can go forward with all four wheels. At that point, I knew it was mine.

 

Just extremely happy. I mean, this is obviously a very, very special racetrack to me. I love this racetrack. I love how the fans energize the Speedway. To think that I'm a two-time winner, I mean, Bryan, who has been a teammate and a good friend for a long time gave me a fantastic opportunity to win this race.

 

I think, as everybody will agree, him and Steve were very astute to collaborate with Sam Schmidt, and we can't forget those guys, Alex, Townsend, all the engineering guys and mechanics did a phenomenal job.

 

But everything that Bryan put together with Steve has worked phenomenally well, have worked very, very hard, very diligently. They've done everything in their power to give me the fastest race car possible. I was going to drive that thing like I stole it until I saw the checkered flag, whether that was first, second, whatever the position. Just proud to do that with William Rast on board. CURB Records, Big Machine Records, Forsythe Solutions and Aigo.

 

Obviously it was emotionally for me because of my close relationship with Honda. To win, I almost feel they're as big a part of my program as anybody just because they're always very loyal.

You know, it was emotional for me, as well, to win for my wife and my family. I think my contract expires at midnight tonight (smiling).

 

I just knew when I started this race that I wanted to do everything in my power to deliver a win for not just myself, I didn't feel we had anything to prove, but for such a great group of people.

 

You can think I'm giving you the media cheesy line, but it's not like that. The people that form this team, the relationships that we've all kind of bonded very quickly, has been extremely good. With a Cinderella story we took on the might of Roger Penske's organization and Chip Ganassi. We've had a very, very quick car all month. I don't think I saw a Penske in front of me all of the race. So that's a testament to the team.

 

So now when I'm on the beach with my wife and two kids, we can honestly be proud of what we've achieved together. Certainly my family back home. This is obviously a special race because it is the 100th anniversary. I'm honored to be the winner of this particular race.

 

I'm honored as well to represent the Alzheimer's Association. For everybody out there that knows somebody that's diagnosed with Alzheimer's, which is perhaps a lot more than people think, hopefully this made them smile. Certainly my thoughts and prayers to everybody out there that has that disease, the families associated with that person, it's truly an honor to represent them.

 

It's a fantastic day. I just love Indianapolis. I really do. I love Indiana. It's been so good to me, so good to my career. But to these guys for giving me an opportunity, it's tough to beat these big teams. This is a Cinderella story.

 

By the same token, it shouldn't be taken away from how smart these guys are, who they associated themselves with. Like I said, Sam has a fantastic organization, we work very well together. And the leadership of these two, and Allen McDonald, Rob Edwards and Sam Schmidt has been a great relationship.

 

Kind of quiet for me a little bit. I'm talking a lot, but just very, very emotional.

 

MODERATOR: Bryan, as a former driver, you've been given instructions, as well, like Dan received. What were your reactions to the last few laps?

 

BRYAN HERTA: There were several different strategies being played out there. We were on the strategy of Dario had been going longer than us on the pits all day long. When we saw him coming in, it kind of made up our mind to stay out because we knew we couldn't beat him on fuel mileage. We had to try something different.

 

Dan has done such a great job. One of the things he did for us is bring an attitude and a belief we could win this race.

On paper, based on our previous effort, anything, on paper we really had no business believing we could win it. But Dan believed in us so strongly he made us believe it, too. I really think over the course of this last two weeks, he made the crew guys believe it, he made a lot of people on the outside believe it, because so many people were coming up to us the week of the race saying, We think you're going to win. It was so uplifting.

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