Negri, Segal - NASCAR teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: I was interested in something you said earlier, I had a driver, an open-wheel driver this weekend tell me he felt better as a driver after driving in sports cars. And it sounds like that's something that you feel, ...

Continued from part 1

Q: I was interested in something you said earlier, I had a driver, an open-wheel driver this weekend tell me he felt better as a driver after driving in sports cars. And it sounds like that's something that you feel, also. Am I accurate in that?

OZZ NEGRI: I don't know if it's exactly like this. I was pretty successful in the formula cars, and you know, so far I achieved a little bit more in the formula cars than what I did in sports cars. I would love to win one of those Rolex watches by winning the tournament, 24 Hour, and being in the Top 3 in the championship, that's mainly our goal.

But what I'm really enjoying is the racing; the way the drivers are competitive. You cannot leave anything on the table, absolutely nothing. I mean, you see that most of the IRL teams, they keep saying that, you know, Ganassi, it's a tough team to beat. It's a tough team to beat.

It's exactly the same thing here at Grand Am, we have Ganassi guys, we have the GAINSCO and we have Sun Trust and you know, any motorsports, all those things, they are so hard to beat that you're going to bring your best here. You've got to lay out your best game and you always have to be able to pull from the bottom of the hole everything you learned in your career; you should be able to run up front and that's really cool about Grand Am racing, there's about ten cars that can win every weekend.

Q: That's not the case, though, in open-wheel. Let me ask you a little different way: When he was saying that the ability to manipulate the car, open-wheel is almost a spec series now, his ability to manipulate the car in sports car racing, the competition that you're talking about, all of that has made him a better driver. Do you feel that, that you're a better driver now, even the success that you had in open-wheel, do you think you're a better driver now?

OZZ NEGRI: Yeah, absolutely and just like he said, the competition being so difficult, the level of competition being so high, you have to be digging, digging for more, digging for more all the time, learning. It's a never-end learning curve; I can promise you that. You go to the track and you've got to find some more time or, you know, find some more ways to go fast or to keep up front more information to deliver to your engineer so he can help you go fast. So you know what, I definitely think I'm a much better driver than I was before, absolutely.

Q: Is open-wheel out of Oswaldo Negri's system now?

OZZ NEGRI: Listen, everything that there is wheels, an engine, a steering wheel, it's in my system, I can tell you that. Everything that has an engine and I can drive, it's in my system for a long time hopefully.

Q: I saw in your bio that you mentioned Senna (ph) as a driving hero when you were coming up. Was it his passion for the sport or the speed or the car control that he had in his career? Are those things that you emulate in your driving?

OZZ NEGRI: I would say so. I had the pleasure of racing for the same team that Senna (ph) used to race in go-kart. And obviously I was only a junior watching someone already very successful and brilliant in what they were doing. So you really try to see what are the qualities, you know, and where and how can I beat the guy, how can I be as good as he is.

You know, so just keep working very hard and you know, his education, he was always very serious about what he was doing; that was his priority in life. You know, the way he was going after his goals was something that would impress me and that's one of the things that I really use, you know, in my career. I don't take no for an answer and I go after everything until I'm totally exhausted and I cannot find what I want anymore, and I'm talking about a way of going quick or a way of making my car go quick or having ideas, just stuff like that.

If you talk to my engineer, he will say that I'm the biggest thorn in his side because I call him Sunday at 6 o'clock, 8 o'clock at night; I call him any time that something shows up on my mind. But he definitely accepts all this, because he knows that what I want is just the success of our team and our car.

Q: Is that something that you take into the rest of your life if you want some music or you're looking for the perfect meal; do you take that same passion and aggression into everything that Oswaldo Negri does?

OZZ NEGRI: 100 percent. And sometimes I get a pretty hard time from my girls. I have a wife and two girls and they tell me that I always do everything, you know, to the max, and I don't relax. I definitely try in life, I definitely try to find a balance in things. I don't think too much of one thing is good enough, and too little is not good enough, either.

So I try to look for a balance and you know, sometimes I can tell you that my wife and my kids are the ones that give me that balance.

Q: What are any special challenges or anything special you need to look into to take care of heading into Virginia International Raceway, as opposed to some of the other tracks on the circuit?

JEFF SEGAL: I think first and foremost, the biggest challenge is going to be trying to establish a baseline for our car with the rules adjustments. We haven't run the car like this. We don't know how the tire is going to react or what changes we'll have to make to compensate. Right off the bat we have something extra on the agenda to take care of.

The second challenge particularly for this week is the time frame, having practiced in qualifying and really every opportunity you have to improve the car, be so close together in one day, we really have to be spot-on with every change that we make. But specifically, with VIR, the track last year seemed to suit our car pretty well, and unfortunately our car was caught up early in an incident in the race and we never got to show how good our car was.

But you have really two competing forces at VIR which makes set up a bit challenging. The first one is that you've got a really, really strong straightaway at the back straightaway. So you have to make sure your car has good top speed so you can take over other cars and so that you don't worry so much about being overtaken on other portions on the straightaways.

Having said that you can't just turn the car out and make it a rocket on the straight because you have a lot of really high-speed corners, particularly the upper climbing axis, it's; fifth gear, sixth gear in our car and you're just sort of trying to hang on to make sure you keep it on the track. Things happen so quickly. So you want to have a lot of downforce on the car for that, but at the same time you can't afford to have the drag on the car for the straightaways.

In terms of setup, it's challenging. Having said that, it's a track that I really like and I have a lot of experience at that track and I'm pretty confident that we can unload the car strong out of the trailer, which is very important, and then go on to have a good race.

Q: I got a recent review on a YouTube that Mr. Assentato, your co-driver, did last year, narration of one lap of VIR and he went around the Oak Tree turn that leads to that long back straight you just referenced, and while he was narrating it he said, "Get the heck out of here." What did he mean by that? Was it the preceding S's, or just that whole section and looking forward to just nailing the throttle on that long back stretch?

JEFF SEGAL: You know, Emil is really a character. At certain tracks that are certain corners that he just doesn't like. You know, there are certain tracks where you'll look at his data and you can't believe how quick he's going, and there are other tracks where the simplest corner, he'll struggle and struggle and struggle.

And probably what he was referencing was that Oak Tree corner, I remember last year going over the data over and over and over again with him trying to get through that corner, because really it's not a terribly difficult corner; it's incredibly slow. It's very straightforward, but it's very, very important because of the long straightaway that's after it. And I think Emil was probably just referencing that that was a corner that he's not particularly fond of. That wouldn't surprise me.

Q: You referenced your dear wife, Claudia, and your daughters, both of whom I've seen grow up, and now the oldest of which is in college; have any of them ever tried to talk you out of racing?

OZZ NEGRI: No, absolutely not. They love what I do. They support me very much. They only one day just told me that they wish during the week, at least once or twice, I would wear a suit and a tie like the other normal dads that they do, which is pretty funny.

No, they really support me. My whole family, all of the races, they are shown live in Brazil. Everybody watches. So it's a good and big Brazilian community which watch the races. So their friends and cousins, they are always supporting, and you know, they love what I do. They are aware of, you know, what it takes, time away and everything.

And you know, they help me very much and support me very much with it. And my wife, I mean, I know my wife since I was 12 years old, as you know, so when I met her then, I was already racing go-karts. So that's how she met me, like knowing that I was racing and that I would be racing as long as I could.

Q: I remember we talked a couple of years ago when you were in the Koni Challenge Series, and you were starting to get fast then. It's always fascinated me what causes a guy to get fast; what flips the switch for Jeff Segal and he learns how to get fast, and not just be fast but learns winning time. You've won two races in a row, so obviously you've learned what winning time is.

JEFF SEGAL: I think probably the most important thing for my progression as a driver is the people I've been surrounded with, from the time I started racing, especially racing in Grand Am, I've had a really good support network to draw from. I've had incredible co-drivers, I've had really good teams and you sort of draw from each of those guys.

You know, in the Koni Challenge series, I don't think I ever had a problem going quickly in that car, but I definitely couldn't tell you why I was going quickly, and I couldn't tell the team what they needed to do to improve the car.

So a lot of it was just sort of raw, you know, I didn't have the background to draw from, and obviously with more experience and listening to the input that some of the really experienced guys give, you start to draw from what they are feeling and put it into words.

And from there, besides telling the team what is wrong with the car, you can start to suggest changes on your own and you really -- it spiraled for me from there. So definitely the people I've been surrounded with, long-time friend and co-driver, Nick Longhi, has been incredibly helpful to draw from, and now active in our program driving in the endurance races. Sylvain Tremblay at SpeedSource has been a great mentor for me, and in the Challenge Series working with Joe Vardy (ph), an incredible guy and is the guy I would say is responsible for the championship we have won there.

And I would say that I have learned a lot not only from those guys but the guys I've driven with, and I would say that's it the difference between me now and a few years ago. I don't think I drive the car any faster than I could then but I can definitely make the car go faster than I could then. And just the more experience you get, you understand how to win races and that's something that in the last few years has really click for me.

You know, it's not about going maximum speed every single lap. I mean, sometimes you've got to think about your decision and how that it might affect you later in the race, whether it's saving fuel or tires or breaks or thinking twice about making an aggressive move on somebody where you might have contacts on them and the biggest thing is when you have an incident with somebody, it used to be enough for me to say, it wasn't my fault. But ultimate willy it didn't matter whose fault it is; if you damage the car, you're not going to win the race. So even if you're absolutely in the right, you still have got to make the decisions that keep you out of harms way, and that's probably the most important thing that I have learned.

Q: Maturity and experience obviously has flipped the switch for you. Magic Johnson in the NBA used to talk about winning time and you came right to the edge of that. Can you recognize winning time during a race because of that experience and maturity behind the wheel?

JEFF SEGAL: The last two races have been funny the way the strategy has worked out. It certainly was not an accident that he with were where we were but our strategy has been to reason run a very conservative middle stint and just make sure that we are in position to be in contention for the win when the last stint starts.

So we sort of have those underwhelming middle stints where I'm just being incredibly careful and trying to get excellent gas mileage and trying to get a good tire there to set you up. But the last two races I've been sitting in the car with maybe 35 minutes left going, man, we could win this thing. And on the one hand that's a great feeling, knowing that you're in contention, but on the other hand, it's a terrifying feeling because when you start to think like that you maybe start to lose your focus.

So I tried to block that out of my mind as much as possible. I know going into the race what my game plan is for driving, I know what I need to do. Ultimately this is all about a championship at the end of the year, so until the end of the year when the points thing is very clear, right now, all I care about is scoring good points.

And if that means that I finish second or third or fifth, I'm prepared to take whatever the car and the circumstances are going to give us and we have been fortunate to win last two, hopefully we win a few more this year but really there's a bigger overall strategy and the wins are sort of just icing on the cake.

Q: So finally, Scott Pruett told me once that at this part of the season, he's racing himself, he's getting the car ready for the championship run at the end of the year. Is that kind of the same thing for Jeff Segal, that he is getting the car ready and getting himself ready so that when the championship winning time comes at the end of the year, you're there and can capitalize on the work you're doing now?

JEFF SEGAL: Yeah, I certainly hope so. It's an incredibly long season and a lot of things can happen, so it's far too early to go into any sort of championship mind-et no matter where you are in the points. But really, for me, maybe my approach is a bit different.

I can look at the schedule and probably identify three or four races that I was less confident about than others, whether it's the performance much the car at the track or some other circumstance, you know, there are a few races that I'm less confident than other ones, and as we get through the season, and I can check off more of those races. And then I've got the ones I'm really comfortable with, you know, in my mind, sort of sitting there in the bag, I'm happier and more confident, but really anything can happen.

You can go to the track where you're second clear of everybody and you're driving really well and everything looks great and you can have a ten cent part fail and we've had that happen.

So really you have to put yourself in the position to win and then hope everything works out.

Q: For clarity again, it's getting yourself and your team ready for what you hope to be a championship run later in the year?

JEFF SEGAL: Yeah, absolutely, 100 percent. Right now I think the standings are sort of irrelevant. All we can do is make sure that we perform as well as we can and get as many points as opportunities present us with, and if we are in contention at the end, then we can start to race other people for sure.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, and thank you Ozz and Jeff for joining us today. Best of luck in Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR.

-source: grand-am

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Scott Pruett , Nick Longhi , Sylvain Tremblay , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Jeff Segal
Teams SpeedSource