Scott Pruett Max Papis Wayne Taylor Max Angelelli ADAM SAAL: Good morning or good afternoon to our friends in the media. Thanks for joining us for one of our Rolex Sports Car Series media teleconferences. We're preparing for the second half...
ADAM SAAL: Good morning or good afternoon to our friends in the media. Thanks for joining us for one of our Rolex Sports Car Series media teleconferences. We're preparing for the second half of the current season with six races down and six to go.
It appears that two teams have emerged as the championship contenders, and we're delighted to have the two drivers from the No. 01 Comp USA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, Scott Pruett and Max Papis, as well as the drivers of the SunTrust Racing No. 10 Pontiac Riley, Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us from various points in the country as we prepare to go back to racing with the upcoming event EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Classic on Saturday, August 7, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, followed by Sahlen's 200 at Watkins Glen on Friday, August 13th. That's our second and final appearance with the Nextel Cup Series boys at that event, and Scott Pruett will be pulling double duty that weekend.
As I mentioned, it's a close championship battle. Leading that championship, even though both teams have won two races this year, are Max Papis and Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Lexus.
Max, we'll get started with you. Welcome. You're in your first full season I believe of Rolex Series competition. Really your first taste of Daytona prototypes after doing a couple one-off drives last year. What are your initial impressions of both the category and the series? What do you see as the growth potential here?
MAX PAPIS: First of all, it's a great satisfaction to be able to be part of such a successful team as CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing. Daytona for me has always been the business card for American racing. I had the greatest satisfaction at Daytona, winning overall once and winning my class another time.
As I say, again, usually I always made sure that I was at Daytona for the 24 hour every year through my career in the United States. This year I am making that race part of my championship fight.
The Daytona prototype cars, they surprised me from the level of competition that is within the series. There is never a given factor or given winner. Everybody's on a very plain competitive field. I think it's what makes the racing very exciting.
Again, we are leading the championship, but by no means do we think that we're just going to cruise to win the championship. We're going to have a great battle with the 10 car, with Max Crawford's cars (the No. 2, 4 and 20 Crawford Pontiacs), and Kevin Doran (team co-owner of Doran-Lista Racing). So I'm expecting close races and different winners.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you very much, Max.
Scott, you're obviously a key part -- you've won two races, as have Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor, in the SunTrust car. You've co-driven with Max Papis. Plenty of competition out there, but it does seem to be focusing on these two.
Do you look at just this team you're racing against, or do you still think there's other factors out there that could come up and challenge you for the championship?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, you'd be foolish to say that you don't have to consider, you know, all the top teams. Between the No. 01 and the 10 car, which is kind of interesting anyway, 10 and 01, but from our standpoint we're just keeping our head down and going about business however we can, winning races, getting poles, doing whatever we can.
It's pretty interesting. I was having a conversation today with one of the guys--I'm actually down here in North Carolina at the Ganassi NASCAR shop. They were talking about it. Grand-Am is the only growing road race series in the world right now. Everything else is getting smaller. Everybody is complaining about budgets.
At the same time, you know, you talk to a number of the former Atlantic guys, they're looking at Grand-Am as an alternative. They like the playing field. They like the opportunity where nobody's exclusive to any particular piece or part. They can buy whatever chassis they want, they can buy whatever engine package they want, which in itself lends to good, stiff, hard competition.
With that being said, I'm pleased to be involved with CompUSA, with Ganassi, with Lexus, all very, very good companies and certainly with racing heritage and most impressed with the job Lexus has done this year and continues to do.
So from my standpoint, you know, we're doing what we do. We love to go racing, and from my perspective I think that, you know, we just got to keep doing what we're doing and see how the cards play out here when we get down to the last couple races.
But right now we've got to -- we know head-to-head going into every race we've got to beat whoever we can, whether it's the 10 car or anybody else out there.
ADAM SAAL: Scott and Max combined to win both of our six-hour races that we've run this year back-to-back, the first at Mont-Tremblant and the second one at Watkins Glen. Again, we do return to Watkins Glen in a couple of weeks for two races in a row, one at Mid-Ohio and one at Watkins Glen.
However, matching their win total is Wayne Taylor's team with SunTrust. They won the Phoenix 250 earlier this year and then the Paul Revere 250 at Daytona International Speedway. The principal behind that team, former sports car champion and a gentleman who came out of retirement to pursue another championship for SunTrust is Wayne Taylor.
Wayne, talk a little bit about your season to date, where you hope to be six races from now.
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, I think as Scott and Max says, the series has really grown astronomically over the last year, and really while it appears on paper that there's these two cars are going for the championship, I think the fact is that there's three or four other really good teams out there that could surprise us at any point in time.
There's so much with the series with regard to speed and opportunities in the race with the yellows and so on that could really change the dynamics of the results.
I think from our standpoint, it's too early to look at the championship. Quite honestly, I put this program together in about 90 days, and never, ever felt in the first year we would be at this point racing for a championship. Obviously, the guys, Bill Riley and all the guys back at Riley, have done an outstanding job. Of course, my teammate Max has just, you know, made life a lot easier for me.
You know, we had a huge disappointment at the Glen by finishing second. But I think, as you said, teams are 1, 2, there's six races to go. It's still an open book.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you very much, Wayne.
As you mentioned, a key part of your effort here is Max Angelelli, who has partnered with you before. This is the first time you two have been able to run consistently together in a few years.
Max, we will go to you for our final opening question before we ask our friends in the media to join us. This is a new type of car for you, as well. Talk about the Daytona prototype category and some of the experience you have had. How does that compare to other series you've raced with?
MAX ANGELELLI: Yes, I never drove the Daytona prototype before Daytona 24-hour race. Actually, I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning, but I should say the car is really fun to drive. It's very quick, a lot of grip. It's nice because it is light, has enough power to enjoy.
Coming from the LMP 900, which is the top sports car available at the moment, the Daytona prototype is the best balanced. It's an open fight, very nice races because you can never know who is going to win even when we start from the back because of whatever happens. We are still able to win it.
I have the best teammate, the best car, so life is easy for the moment. But, as Wayne said, a lot of new teams are coming, a lot of teams are getting better and better, so I'm expecting harder life for us in the future.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you very much, Max.
We have a pretty good media line up. Scott, as I mentioned, is now getting some work done for his Cup effort coming up. He will return to action as part of the race at The Glen when we're up for the Sahlen's 200. Scott is going to have to leave us pretty shortly. If you have any questions for Scott, we'd appreciate it if you could ask those first and we'll get to them.
Q: I want to ask Scott, since he's trying to slip out the back door, we talked last year at I think Cleveland when you were doing the Trans-Am thing, but how has your racing career been rejuvenated by the last couple years? Do you belong in a seat? Do you know what I mean? You're still driving these race cars here. I'm wondering mentally how rejuvenated you feel at the moment?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, I got to tell you, it has. It's been an interesting ride ever since my (NASCAR) deal in 2000. I kind of had a lot of anger and rage at what happened there, but finally put to that bed, kind of stepped out of the act of racing and into TV. I didn't really enjoy that. I wanted to be back behind the wheel.
I came back extremely strong with just a couple races with Ganassi. I ran with Corvette, won at LeMans. Last year specifically, I won the Trans-Am championship, and finished second at The Glen in a Cup car.
I think my driving is as good and as sharp as it's ever been. You know, my joke, people ask me, "What do you think? How do you want to keep this thing going?" I say, "If I can put the car on pole, I can win races and I can win championships, damn straight, I belong in a car every time."
We had a great run at Sears Point a few weeks ago, and we're going back to The Glen. I'm going to have double duty at Mid-Ohio, as well. I'm going to be doing the Brickyard (400) in a Cup car. All in all, I'm having a great -- this is probably the most fun I've had in racing in a long time. I enjoy doing what I do. I enjoy working with the Ganassi boys. I love what I've seen with the Grand-Am series, where it's going, everything is going upward. I'm just having a blast.
Q: I'm looking at your series right now. I see you and Max. Both you guys won races in CART. In some respects you have as many or more high-profile names as they have in that series now. I'm just wondering, like you said a while ago, people are saying this is the fastest growing sports car racing series out there, road racing series. In some respects, other than the NEXTEL Cup, do you see a huge future for this in the long run, I'm talking about the Grand-Am series?
SCOTT PRUETT: I do. I do, quite frankly, as we talked about earlier. You've been around long enough to see, you know, the life and death of series. What happens is, you know, you come in, the sponsor, you start spending $2 million a year, then it's $5 million, then it's $10 million, now it's $15 million a year. If you can't back it up with a good TV package, like the NEXTEL Cup, you can't back it up with the exposure like the NEXTEL Cup, the other open-wheel series are struggling.
If you look at what happened with almost every other open-wheel series in the US, I think they're all having an extremely tough time. They don't know if they're going to be around more than a year. You have a number of sponsors that -- to justify their investment, they have to have the TV package, they have to have the fans, they have to have all that goes along with it to spend those 5, 10, 15 million dollar budgets, and they don't. Sometimes, quite frankly, they feel like they can't compete at the same level because they can't get the same equipment.
What's happening right now in Grand-Am I think is a perfect opportunity. I think what you're going to see is some of those teams in Atlantic, which they've already started looking, potentially some teams from CART, which they've been looking, I wouldn't be surprised to see some of those guys come with some of their sponsors because I think they can get a lot bigger bang for their buck than they're doing now.
Q: You've driven almost every ilk of car there is. Honestly, are these cars fun to drive? Obviously, there's the competitive part of it. Are they fun? I don't want to say easy, but are they simpler to deal with from a driver standpoint? Can you really kind of let it all hang out, if you understand what I mean?
SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a good point because, one, they are fun, an absolute fun car to drive. They have enough horsepower where you can have a good time with it. From a driving standpoint, you need to be a little bit careful. You have to do a bit of tire management at times. There are a couple of pieces that I think are good from a driver standpoint that really cut the cream to the top.
You know, the level of competition, these cars are strong enough, that you can do a bit of banging. We saw some pretty big excitement from my teammate at Homestead. But, you know, with that, if you saw what they were doing, that shows the strength of these cars and what they can do. And putting the view that we want to keep the drivers safe, we want them to go out there and do their job, but we also want to keep them safe. All those things together, I think they've focused on and we have a great series going on.
Continued in part 2