CHAMPCAR/CART: Barber, Tracy teleconference transcript (part 2)

Continued from part 1 Q: With this blockbuster lineup you have, you kind of hedged about how much you're going to drive. Are you serious you may not drive at all? You only drove one lap last year, as I recall. FOREST BARBER: Indeed. I...

Continued from part 1

Q: With this blockbuster lineup you have, you kind of hedged about how much you're going to drive. Are you serious you may not drive at all? You only drove one lap last year, as I recall.

FOREST BARBER: Indeed. I was only able to do one lap last year. We went there to put our best foot forward and to win the race. As circumstances played out, the right people to have in the car throughout the race really wasn't me, but at the end it worked out. I was very, very pleased and proud to be in the car.

Indeed, I am serious. I won't drive in the race unless it is the appropriate thing for me to do. Our goal is to back up our win from last year and put our best foot forward for Kodak, who we again have as our primary sponsor on the car. We're very grateful again to be associated with that company.

We're there to win the race as a team. Whether I drive the car or not, I know I'm going to be part of that.

Q: Paul, an awful lot has been made of this being a one-shot for you. Is there anything in you that would call this a transition in your career?

PAUL TRACY: Not at this point. You know, it's just really a good opportunity for me to get out there and try something new. I've just signed a contract with Forsythe Racing for another couple of years, just came back from Edmonton last night. I was in Edmonton meeting with the people from the Edmonton Grand Prix, some potential sponsors there.

My focus is still on open-wheel racing and really what this exercise is about is me getting tuned up and ready for the start of the '05 campaign and to basically take back the cup that's on loan to Sebastien.

Q: When you were out there testing the car, I can imagine maybe a smile under the helmet. Did it bring back anything from the old Can Am days when you raced I think one or two years? Did you remember any of that?

PAUL TRACY: I'm always smiling when I'm in a car. For the amount of years that I guess I've been driving, I still have the same enthusiasm and the same excitement when I get in a car. As soon as I get in and strap the helmet on, I'm really into it.

My desire and my commitment to what I do is still the same. Just driving to me is still a lot of fun.

Q: It seems like a throwback to days when drivers drove and they weren't just one kind of discipline. Would you like to see that return or would you like to be a kind of driver that you could drive wherever and drive anything?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I've always really been a driver that has really concentrated on what I'm doing. I haven't strayed kind of outside the box to try different things, whether it be NASCAR or endurance cars or sedans, Trans-Am or anything like that. A lot of guys go and do IROC and do other things. I've just really kind of stuck to one discipline and felt that there's a lot of guys, the classic example is a guy like Robby Gordon, he's trying to do 10 things at once. I've always kind of looked at that. It's great if you can do that, but sometimes I don't feel like -- when you're trying to do 10 things at once, you can't give a hundred percent into anything.

So I've always tried to concentrate on one thing and give a hundred percent to what I'm doing. Really I look at this as an opportunity to get prepared for what I'm doing the start of the season. It's not going to infringe into any of our testing plans, it's not going to encroach into the start of our season. It's really just a preparation for the '05 campaign.

Q: Forest, it helps quite a bit the sports car world, in particular the Rolex Series, to have all of these name drivers to draw attention to what used to be spectator-wise a headlining race. Now this race goes off with not too many people in the seats. Do you think this will change or will help change that reality?

FOREST BARBER: Well, I do think having stars like Paul and other people we've talked about in the series does bring that attention. If we can get that attention for some of the key races with the crossover drivers, they'll see that the series overall is extremely competitive, has close racing.

We're going to have a lot of cars out there this year, over 30 of the Daytona Prototypes at the start of 24, probably 65 on track. There's always the potential for action at every race and excitement. That should bring spectators, a bigger audience to the sport.

Yes, I think it will work to make things -- the fans more aware of what's going on and bring some enthusiasm.

Q: Did the Grand-Am office, front offices, did they encourage you in going after a driver like Paul Tracy who brings that headline value to the race for just that reason?

FOREST BARBER: Well, they recognize the value of people like Paul and others. But this is a purely homegrown arrangement between Paul and John Tomlinson and myself. Yes, when the idea came around, they were enthusiastic about it. They remain so. We'll hope that enthusiasm continues and maybe it will help bring some other name drivers to the sport.

NATE SIEBENS: There are several additional press conferences planned for Daytona test days here at Daytona International Speedway from January 7th through the 9th. Those will involve many other well-known drivers and teams from various other racing series.

Q: Paul, you know there's probably in the history of the Rolex 24, another road racing Canadian in Ron Fellows. The last time that team competed in the Rolex 24, they were overall winners, as well. You know there's a good Canadian heritage of driving cars with roofs over your head.

PAUL TRACY: There's a lot of guys. I ran into Scott Maxwell down at the test, as the Canadians know, was my arch rival when I was 16, 17 years old back up there in Canada. I gtot a chance to catch up with him. There's a lot of guys down there from Canada.

I think it's going to be a good field. I'm very impressed with the job that Grand-Am has done in the three years of the (Daytona Prototype category's) existence, they've been able to grow the series from five or six cars on the track to 10 cars on the track to now potentially over 30 for the start of this year's season. That's a pretty impressive job.

Q: Maybe more detail, compare the two different cars. I know you said you were quite impressed that the Doran Pontiac felt as good as it did. Give me an idea of what it's like in terms of grunt out of corners, how it handles, pitch and yaw, things like that?

PAUL TRACY: It was very similar. Obviously the car is heavier than a Champ Car and has less power. The ultimate performance of the car is quite different.

But, you know, general handling, it's got understeer, it's got oversteer. When you're pushing it to the limit, it's sliding and doing the same things that a Champ Car does. The big thing for me is it was hot inside. That's something I've got to get used to. I'm not used to being inside of an enclosed cockpit.

Depending on how the weather is for Daytona, you can go there and it can be hot or it can be cold and raining. We'll just have to wait and see what that is like. But the car, it's a race car. A race car is a race car. You always kind of have the same problems. Usually there's never enough grip, you always wish you had more power, wish it would go through the corners better. It's kind of the same struggles you have in any car.

Q: Are you excited about the launch with the Edmonton boys up there, the new Champ Car race? Apparently it was a pretty good day.

PAUL TRACY: I was really impressed. In 14 years of myself going to launches for races, openings for the announcement of a Grand Prix, I've never been to an event that was put on so well and had so much hype and the production they put on.

I mean, my hat's off to the people at Edmonton. A lot of the fans out there have been saying, "Why Edmonton? Why Edmonton?" These guys have been so persistent and they're so keyed up about this race. They've got the local industry, the Premiere of the province is completely behind it, the Mayor is completely behind it. They have all the local businesses are already signed up and lined up for sponsorship around the track and suites. They pretty much have all the suites sold out already. It's going to be a great race.

The fact that it's on an airport, very similar to how we race at Cleveland, in the city center, it's going to be a fantastic race.

NATE SIEBENS: As a note for our Canadian journalist friends, the Rolex Sports Car Series will be in action at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant on the weekend of May 19th through the 21st. Not quite the same Canadian presence that Paul is used to, but we do, in fact, have a visit or two planned for north of the border.

Q: Paul, you're saying it's similar, that racing is racing, cars are cars. Last year at the Rolex 24, almost the entire race was run in the rain. Do you think that's going to create any problems for you? It will obviously be something different. How do you prepare for something like that?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I guess it's something that we just have to be ready for. Last year's race was in the rain. I would expect, compared to a Champ Car, it would probably be a little less hectic in the rain because you have a windscreen and a windshield wiper, whereas you don't have that in an open cockpit car. It becomes very difficult to see in an open cockpit car with just your helmet exposed.

We'll just have to wait and see how the weather is. Last year, like you said, it was raining the whole time. It created a pretty dramatic race and a pretty dramatic finish to the race. We'll just cross our fingers and hope we have good weather.

Q: Have you been doing any kart racing up in Vegas or just waiting for this whole thing to come together?

PAUL TRACY: No, I've actually -- I've just kind of been keeping pretty busy. I've been training. I've been back and forth to Miami a couple of times because of this test and things like that. Really my off-season hasn't really been that slow. I've been pretty busy.

That's what I want to do, I want to keep busy the off-season, not being sitting waiting to drive.

Q: Paul, was Homestead the first time you drove on a roval?

PAUL TRACY: Yeah. Actually, you know what, I think I did a test there last year, but we did a different configuration. I had run the road course. When we test with the Champ Car there, we come off of the oval on the backstretch and go through a couple of corners again on the infield, then come back onto the front straightaway.

It was my first time around the track, around the high-banked part of the track, through turns three and four.

Q: Is your approach to driving on a roval would be different than a street or natural terrain course?

PAUL TRACY: No, not really. I mean, it's all pretty much the same thing. I would probably say that for the Rolex-style car, Turns 3 and 4 banking at Miami is a much more difficult corner than, say, Daytona because it's so much tighter, much more difficult to go flat out around that corner than it is at Daytona.

But the approach really is the same. It's not a lot different from a Champ Car at all.

Continued in part 3

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