Transcript: NASCAR GRAND-AM/Rolex Sports Car Teleconference With Scott Pruett And Memo Rojas
March 31, 2010
An Interview With
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to this special edition NASCAR GRAND-AM teleconference, joining us today are Scott Pruett and Memos Rojas, 2008 Daytona Prototype champions and winners of the recent GRAND-AM in Miami at Homestead Miami Speedway and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dinan-prepared BMW Riley.
They share the Daytona Prototype points lead entering our next event, the Porsche 250 on April 10 at Barber Motorsports Park.
You are off a strong start as you enter your fourth year co-driving with Scott. How important will the Porsche 250 be in terms of keeping up the momentum in looking at the 2010 championship?
MEMO ROJAS: Hello, everybody. Even though we have a strong lead at this moment, after the podium at Daytona and the win at Homestead, we learned last year that the way that the pole structure is in GRAND-AM and the way the competition -- how tough it is, you cannot -- you cannot give anything away.
Last year we ran the most consistent and unfortunately we lost the championship with three races to go. So right now we are feeling in an offensive mood. We want to go forward and we want to win races. It's too early in the season to, you know, to know what's going to happen. So we just need to get as many points and race as we can.
Q: Hello, Scott and Memo. My question for either of you to answer, this is the first year for this race, that it's going to be held in April. The last several years it's been in the middle of summer which has been extraordinarily hot here and the big issue was always the heat and how it would affect the drivers. How much better do you think it's going to be in April with much better weather, and also, are you at all concerned that the race will be somehow overshadowed by the Indy race, which is the same weekend?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, first of all, I really look forward to racing there now in the spring. It's good for us, because racing in the summer because the heat is so high that physically, it was really challenging. But also for the fans, I really -- I mean, I really think they could enjoy a much better spectacle in cooler temperatures.
So I really look forward for the fans being able to enjoy the race without any issues. We always have a great car there, even though it was the middle of summer, and we are really looking forward to it now that it's going to be much better weather.
And to answer your question, I really enjoy racing with IndyCar, first of all, because we share a team with Ganassi and the IndyCar team, so it's good to have all of the team at one track, because we all support each other.
And you know, it's a different series. I think it's better spectacle for the fans. You know, both series, you know, two types of road course racing, such as sports car racing and open-wheel racing, I think it's just going to make a better spectacle. So I really look forward to it.
Q: Talk about the development of the BMW engine not so much the overall development, but the fact that you guys are able to find victory circle in such a short amount of time; has the engine come along, at least in the back of your chassis and your working with Dinan to prepare it; have things come along on the development, are you ahead of the curve? How are things going there?
MEMO ROJAS: Actually I think we still have a bit of the development phase as far as chassis setup goes. The engine certainly changed how the car behaves, how the car balances, how we react in certain corners. So we have been working on that.
But I think the good thing is that the engine was already pretty well developed, even though, you know, I think it's the first time the engine has been on a tough team, the engine has been around for a few years; so Dinan has already a lot of experience and miles on this engine.
So I don't think the engine is so much development. But we just need to adapt as quickly as we can, and obviously Homestead proved that we are doing a pretty good job. We keep saying that there's been some improvement to do on that end and to the chassis, to the weight of the new engine.
Q: In my estimation, you actually had the fourth-fastest one-lap race time. This is not unusual to see, others actually put in faster race laps than you. It's interesting despite Chip Ganassi Racing not always recording the fastest lap, you guys still are in the hunt and in the race finishing first or second or certainly in the championship, as well. Why is it that you guys can consistently find yourselves up front, and winning championships, and not setting the fastest times every race?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, I think, you know, that has happened a few times, winning in previous years. I think it's more a matter of having a consistent pace, because you can set up your car to have a really quick lap on new tires, but not necessarily quick on the long stints, especially at Homestead where it's one of the tracks that has the worst tire degradation than any other track.
We really struggle to keep the tires in good shape for long stints, and in order to do that, you need to compensate your setup and make a reliable setup that will make those tires last long, although you may not necessarily be the fastest single lap.
I think that will answer your question; that we have a good car for a long stint, but maybe not for a quick lap on new tires.
Q: First, at Homestead, the incident with the six car, you said on the SPEED telecast that you wait to hold your judgment on what happened; first, have you had a chance to see it and second, what's your take on it?
MEMO ROJAS: Yes, actually, well, one of the things -- got out of the car, I got a chance to see it on TV after the race. Obviously that was the 6 car. I looked at it and the way -- the reason I turned in was because I was looking more for an opening on the inside of the 59 car. He went wide on the engine, and I kind of tried to out-brake him, but at the same time I turned in on the 6 car.
The reason I did that was because I was not aware that the 6 car was that much into the inside of my car. So I think it was one of those things where, you know, you're trying to run the cars side-by-side, and I thought the 6 car was a little bit further behind. I talked to the team after the race, I apologized to them, even though it went undeclared, I don't drive like that and that's not the way I want to perform on the track.
I've raced those guys for driving three years now and we've never had issues. So it was the thing to do, you go talk to them and have no bad blood between us. They are really good guys, and, you know, that's not the way I would have wanted it to end.
Q: The schedule for the Barber weekend is a little different with you guys basically finishing up at 11 o'clock Friday morning from practice and qualifying and all that, to not racing till 12:30 in the next day with a lot of IndyCar action in between. How is that going to affect how you guys attack things, and do you think that's going to change how the track is going to react to that kind of stuff?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, when we race on our own, we have a big gap of time between those schedules, and you know, it's one of those things where you just have to wait and see how the tire compounds affect the track, the chassis, the way the car is balanced, and there's really nothing to do about it but just wait.
The only thing that I can say about it is that it's the same for everybody, so as long as everybody is okay -- that's part of motor racing, those situations.
THE MODERATOR: Scott Pruett, two time Daytona Prototype champion, welcome to the call. You personally reached a personal milestone, Scott. Congratulations on turning 50, and how long do you plan to keep on racing?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, thanks for mentioning that right off the bat, J.J. just coming off our last win at Homestead, I think I have a couple of good races left in me and I'm just having fun. I just really enjoy the competition.
I enjoy racing in GRAND-AM. I know enjoy getting out there and racing hard with all of the competition, no matter what age or what team.
And just to mention on -- the other piece I wanted to mention earlier, I jumped in when memo was answering that last question, another thing interesting about Barber's is we are going back in April instead of later on in the year when it's incredibly hot. I think that in itself is going to be one of the biggest challenges for us is being there when there's probably more grip on the track and certainly cooler conditions.
Q: Would you give me an assessment of Barber Motorsports Park in comparison to degree of difficulty to other road courses in the fact that you come up that hill and turn four and it's totally blind and you're aiming for the scoring tower; how tough or easy is that racetrack?
SCOTT PRUETT: It's a very tough track. It's a very physical track. It's a very technical track. And not just that; going in turn one, you actually can't see turn one where you go down the hill there and there's a lot of blind areas and it keeps you incredibly busy as a driver because there's no real straightaway. Most parks turn all the time and you have an uphill and downhill and a drop. Physically, it's going to be one of, it not the most difficult tracks we race on all season.
And I'm just excited going there in a more reasonable time of year where excited to be there with the IndyCars, team cars, with Dixon and Franchitti. And hopefully we can put a good show. We always put a good show on there. Every year we go there, the prototypes put on a great show and we are looking to do the same thing on Saturday.
Q: If I may follow-up and use again one of the questions from the other gentlemen, with the IndyCars and their Red tires and Black tires and Continental tire series, how reactive is your spec tire to the rubber that these other guys are going to put down in the day and a quarter that you won't be on the track?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, that's going to be a really good question. You know what -- even with the new tire this season has been significantly better. The durability and the longevity of the tire is probably the best of what we've seen from them so far. But we haven't had a situation where we ran on Continental tires and it didn't seem to make much difference for us at all. Which he can check.
When you look at the IndyCar tires, they are bigger, certainly softer; they have multi-compound. I don't expect a problem. If anything, I see us picking up grip, so we have to be on top of that, because that will change the car, but for the most part I see it being a positive instead of a potential negative.
Q: To paraphrase the late, great Ronald Reagan, I promise not to make a big issue about your young age.
SCOTT PRUETT: I appreciate that.
Q: A couple questions for you, how do you attribute personally that you have been able to stay on top of your game in racing, even that little division into NASCAR and everything, you've always stayed on top of your game. What are some of the things that you have done or do you find a reason for that?
SCOTT PRUETT: First, quite frankly, with any athlete, first and foremost is attitude. I absolutely still love driving. I started when I was eight, I'm now going into my 42nd year of racing, which is incredible, but I still love it, and I think I love it even more as the years go by, than in previous.
The technical side of it, I still feel like a student of the sport and I'm still learning from every test, from every race, from every qualifying, you learn a bit and you learn more about the cars and how to set them up and what you're looking for.
I think that's such a high for me. I mean, I just love doing that. And so when I'm going to the gym every day and working out every day; or if I'm out in the vineyard working hard, you know, doing what I do, my first focus is getting in the race car and keep going out and competing.
So I think that's first. I think that's the biggest thing with anybody and what they do. You have to absolutely have that passion and that love, and then everything else falls into place.
Q: My experience as not a driver of Barber is that it's a beautiful facility and it's unique and it's great and so beautiful and everything, but what's really tricky about it and where are the places that you can get in trouble on a track like that?
SCOTT PRUETT: Everywhere. It would probably be easier to say, where you can't get in trouble there, because when you get off in turn one, it's big. If you get off in turn two, it's going to be big. The kink -- it's not too bad but if you get off, it's going to be a big crash. The hairpin across is probably one of the more safer areas. Down in front of the museum, it's incredibly tricky. That kink on the back straight for us is a huge challenge. And then you go into that whole section, that left hill, downhill, right, uphill, right, downhill, coming back towards pit end, that ride is really tough, and if you have a problem there, it's a huge crash.
So I think it's better answered, as I said earlier, but saying that there are places on the track that I think it's more difficult to get in trouble where the rest of the track, you have to be on your game all the time.
Continued in part 2