Top four DP drivers press conference (part 2)

Continued from part 1 Q: Max, I'm curious, you and Scott - this is a question I haven't addressed before - when you and Scott get in that car, Scott qualified the car for a few races at the first of the season, and I believe it ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Max, I'm curious, you and Scott - this is a question I haven't addressed before - when you and Scott get in that car, Scott qualified the car for a few races at the first of the season, and I believe it was Mont-Tremblant when you first qualified, I believe, and you have qualified since. Of course the car is on a 10-race streak of sitting in pole position - streak is an inappropriate word, but nonetheless it has 10 poles this season. How is it you guys figure out who's going to qualify?

MAX PAPIS: This is a team decision. You know, as we spoke before, I think the luxury we have right now in our team between me and Scott, you know, we have no ego to fulfill. We have one common goal: that is bringing success to Lexus and to Chip Ganassi Racing and the CompUSA team.

We had a conversation. (Managing director) Mike (Hull) came up with the plan, he said he thinks that it seemed to work fine that I was going to qualify and Scott was going to finish. We're going to see coming to Fontana what the situation is going to be. We think about these things before going to the racetrack. I'm sure that (crew chief) Mitch (Davis) and Mike, they've been home thinking about it, deciding what they want to do.

From my side and Scott's side is exactly the same. We feel comfortable about starting or about finishing. Again, you know, it's a team decision and whatever -- at the end of the game, the goal is being successful. You know, we are successful as a team. Our goals are team goals. They're not individual. I think that has been the key for our great success this year.

Q: Andy, as noted, the 10 car would have to finish 12th or worse, and the 01 would have to finish somewhere in the area of 15th or worse for you to come through and win if you were out front and take the championship at the same time. What is it that motivates you looking at those tall odds? And we all recognize it could happen under racing, but being realistic about it, knowing the preparation of the two teams, it's not entirely likely to happen, what motivates you to get in that car, which is not going to be comfortable? It's going to be in California, it's going to be with sunshine, no doubt, and you're going to be going around that track a number of times, how can you get in that car and do what it is that you want to do?

ANDY WALLACE: Actually, I feel very, very privileged to have this job in the first place. I love driving cars. Yes, I would like to win the championship very much. We've all tried very, very hard. But the 01 car, and the 10 car especially, and some of the others, too, have been very, very competitive this year. All the drivers and the teams have done a great job, and it's been very difficult to win races.

The Grand-Am and the Rolex Series has proved to be one of the most competitive racing series anywhere this year. So, you know, just to be realistic, you get in the car every time and you try to win. I'm looking forward to going out to California. I think it's the last race of the year for me. But I've enjoyed every single lap I've done this year.

Of course, I work for my team, and for CITGO and for Pontiac. Every time I shut the door in the car, I drive as fast as I can.

Unfortunately for Scott and Max (Papis) and Wayne and Max (Angelelli), they've also been doing the same thing. They've won a few more races than I have, than our team has, so they're in front of us in the championship. It would be very, very sweet if we could go there and win the last race because, as they say in motor racing, you're only as good as your last race.

If we can win that, we'll carry that all the way through to Daytona next year, and the winter in England won't be quite as bad as it normally is (laughter). I'm sure the three guys you've got there, they're not going to let that happen. We're all going to be out there and we're going to have a great race.

Q: Scott, I want to know, you've had a varied career, raced in four or five different series, but how does winning this championship compare? Does it make your career? How would you rate this thing?

SCOTT PRUETT: You know, all championships are exciting, especially when they're getting down to the end. For me, I focused on a championship the very first race as we rolled out of Daytona and kept that focus all the way through.

It's exciting. I mean, it's what we live for. It's what we do. We talk about the pressure and the excitement and all that. That's one of the things I think that makes race car drivers great. Handling that, it's an everyday job for us to go out there and deal with that and be in the situation to drive absolutely as fast as you can, the pressure of getting down to a championship, the pressure of getting out there and qualifying up at the front.

I think all of us here in the conference this afternoon share that same desire and that passion. When you look at championships, you don't look at it that this championship means any more than this championship. You look at it, dang straight, we're in it for the championship right now, and it's exciting to bring that home for the team, for everybody on the team, because it's something that's shared amongst everybody: amongst the drivers, amongst the mechanics, amongst the team owner and the sponsors, the manufacturers.

That's one thing that I think sometimes is downplayed in championships, that you really focus on the drivers more so than the team. But it's everybody working together with one common goal. You know, whose team, it makes no difference. Everybody is pulling together in the same direction to make it happen. Whether it's the truck drivers, the tire changers or right up at the top with the owners.

Chip is as focused as any driver I've been around to do whatever it takes to bring home championships. To be part of that organization, it's exciting.

Q: You and Max have raced at California Speedway before in CART. How important is it for you guys to send the word out to Southern California fans about sports car racing? Can you and Max answer that?

SCOTT PRUETT: Come see exciting racing. I mean, you're not going to be bored any moment. The exciting part with Grand-Am, not only is there a championship on the line for drivers and for manufacturers, you're also going to see 60 cars going around in one race, a lot of action.

When we get out there with the other two classes, it really changes the complexity of the race. And add that to a facility like Fontana, the fact that you can get up in the stands...

If you look at Long Beach, and I loved Long Beach as a driver, but as a spectator, having a number of friends go down there as spectators, I think they get a little discouraged because they can see one turn or maybe two turns. You go to Fontana for the race, for this sports car race here in 10 days or so, and you're going to see a lot of racing. You're going to see what takes place in road course racing. You can watch and see the majority of the racetrack and how things unfold. That's somewhat unique when you're talking about road course racing.

Absolutely, I encourage the fans to come out and see what we do, how exciting this series is, and what's on the line for so many teams. For us specifically and for the 10 car, we've got a championship on the line. For the rest of the guys, Andy and Butch, they easily can go win this race and change everything fairly significantly.

ADAM SAAL: Max, do you want to respond to that same question. What can the fans expect?

MAX PAPIS: First of all, I'm really looking forward to go back to Fontana. As most of you guys know, I lived really close to there for about four years. I really feel like that Fontana race and Long Beach, they're kind of my - how can I say - kind of a home race for me. There's going to be lots of fans coming out. As Scott says, basically people are going to come out and see what Grand-Am is. Grand-Am is competitive racing, fair racing, you know, tough on the track, but still shaking hands and congratulating each other when the race is finished.

It is going to be super exciting. I was reading on the Internet, there are going to be eight championships in a line to be decided in Fontana. So it's going to be superb. I'm really looking forward. I'm going to have the boss of my fan club in Italy coming over specifically for that with a few supporters. There's a lot of excitement around. I've been receiving calls from people all around the area that have known me for four years. We're going to be very close to the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) facilities, very close to Toyota facility.

As Scott said, I am so excited and I'm so pleased to be able to go race in Fontana for the last race, that is just going to be -- it's going to be awesome and people are going to see fair, great battles, and a lot of overtaking.

Q: Wayne and Andy, they're not as familiar with Southern California, how important is this for their sports racing world?

ANDY WALLACE: Well, just to say again, I haven't been to the circuit before. But California, every time I go there, I enjoy myself. It's got a wonderful climate.

The circuit looks likes it's going to be fairly tough because you have to compromise between the high speeds and the banking and much, much lower speeds, so the setup is going to be important. But it's a track where all the cars will be able to pass each other reasonably easily. We should have a lot of back and forward fighting for the lead right up till the end of the race. In fact, that's been a feature of pretty much all the races this year, where the lead has changed several times and the intermediate positions have changed several times.

It's absolutely surprised me this year just how close the racing has been. I don't think I've ever been in a championship throughout all the years I've been driving, maybe save for perhaps Formula Ford way back when I was driving in England in the '80s, that it's been this close. It's incredible the kind of racing you have. You may win one race. You go to the next race and suddenly you find yourself back in third, fourth, fifth, sixth position again. That's how competitive this series is.

I don't think the Fontana race will be any different from that. We should be able to put on a great spectacle.

ADAM SAAL: Wayne, would you like to make a final comment on this?

WAYNE TAYLOR: Southern California for me is a special place. My partner and friend who I grew up with in South Africa, we're partners in an indoor go-karting facility, and also we build electric vehicles in San Diego. I spend a lot of time in San Diego every year. Of course, you know, racing in Fontana will be the first time that they've seen Grand American. In the earlier days, they used to come to Del Mar, which was a great event as well. Now it's a new package at this track, and I think I'd say exactly what Andy and everybody has said. This championship is great. It's going to be tooth and nail right down to the last lap.

I just hope that we don't end the race under caution.

SCOTT PRUETT: I hear that.

ADAM SAAL: We'll do what we can to avoid that as always.

Q: What about the weather? Do you race in the rain or just a dry-weather track only?

WAYNE TAYLOR: We are real racing drivers (laughter).

ANDY WALLACE: I think I better answer that question as I'm from England. If I didn't race in the rain, I don't think I ever would have raced for the first 15 years of my career as I was trapped in England where it rains just about every single day. So rain is not a problem. All you have to do is put your umbrella up.

MAX PAPIS: I totally agree. The last couple races with the mist and rain, something like that, we even drove basically the last race, all last race on slick tires, on the wet track, and I'm sure that I have more white hair than what I had before, than what some other guys do, because it was kind of hectic out there. Again, wet or dry, no problem, just bring the umbrella.

ADAM SAAL: Rain or shine, we will race the Lexus Grand Americans Championship Weekend October 29th through 31st.

Q: I want to clear up a little bookkeeping. The 08 car, that is a spare car? Is that going to show up next year on a regular basis?

SCOTT PRUETT: That's a good question for Ganassi. I don't think so. But the boss does all kinds of things we don't know about.

Q: (Mike) Hull was once destined for law school. You've got a guy you have to watch out for. He's got that in him. He wanted to go racing, but he's got that in him. One of the neat things I found when you came down for test days earlier this year in Daytona, the first time the Ganassi team showed up, the first time we saw the colors, the cars were just surrounded by a group of people. All you had was one car. It was surrounded by a group of people. I found it rather interesting that they came from every discipline within the Chip Ganassi ranks, but most especially the open-wheel guys. Is that where that staff for the 8 car is going to come from, from the IRL guys that have now slacked off a little bit with the championship having been decided?

SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, absolutely. That actually started taking place before Texas because they only raced one car at Texas. They made the commitment at that point. Everything is in the same shop. If you've seen the shop, there's a lot of crossover between some of the IRL guys helping the Grand-Am guys, the Grand-Am guys helping the IRL. Everybody is working together under the same roof. So for them to take on doing this car, you know, is just an everyday job for them.

MAX PAPIS: It is not going to be a problem. In our 01 car, most of the guys are working in the 01 car have been working on the Scott Dixon car in the IRL last year. Again, you know, the guys that are regularly working on the 01 and 02 car are still going to do the same job. The IRL guys are going to take over the other car.

We're a big family. The fantastic thing of the organization that we're in is I'm sure that Bill (Pappas), the engineer of the IRL, or any of my engineers, could go and engineer a Grand-Am or IRL car any time. It's an open book. It's a continuous exchange of information. We can pick up the phone and talk to anybody within the organization and they all know what we are up to and what's happening. This makes our life very easy.

Q: Anecdotally speaking, I was very surprised to learn that most of the people on the 01 car actually were IRL guys who volunteered to move over to that program, from the IRL to the Grand-Am, because it was something they really wanted to get into. I thought that was rather interesting. Mr. Taylor, is the 10 car you're bringing going to be brand-new or is Bill Riley going to keep that car on the shelf till the first of the year?

WAYNE TAYLOR: We will run the same car we've run all year.

Q: I didn't know if he was perhaps tempted to do it, or if perhaps he were tempted to do it, he would have asked you, or whether they just simply are going to lead up the No. 10 and bring it on.

WAYNE TAYLOR: No, there's never been any discussion of putting a new car out there. This car's run perfectly well all year. There's really no reason to think about changing it.

Q: Andy, in the last race, a 61-year-old guy (Elliott Forbes-Robinson) was able to run in front of that field and win. Eventually he was relieved by a guy almost half his age. That was a pretty impressive performance. That also heralds the developmental stage of the Crawford. Have you been able to push the envelope a little further? Are we going to see the same car at Fontana?

ANDY WALLACE: Yes. It will be actually the same car. Actually, when you say somebody of that age, Elliott is not really a normal person. If you watch him in the paddock, I don't know how he got to be that old, because he runs about like a teenager. He's a very, very good driver, of course.

Yes, the car, it's getting better all the time. I think the conditions of that race suited our car very well, and those two guys didn't put a wheel wrong.

But as you saw yet again, it was one of these very, very close Grand-Am races with just a few feet between all the cars. Unfortunately for myself in that race, we sort of hid a bit from the results. I did manage to get all the way up to just behind Elliott when he pitted, therefore I took the lead for just a short time. When we came in to refuel, the refueling hose was actually spilling fuel onto the floor instead of going into the car. We had to make an extra stop. Later on in the race, I made the extremely bad decision of going onto wet tires. So our race didn't look as good as perhaps it could have. It was really nice that Butch and Elliott could hold their end up for the team and get another win. Everybody was absolutely thrilled to death, nobody more than myself because we all work for the same people. It was just great to have another result.

Q: In case EFR should be listening here, I don't think lowly of that man whatsoever. He is a phenomenal person. I agree with you, when you see him running around in the pits, it is hard to imagine that he is the age that he is.

MAX PAPIS: I wanted to clarify one last thing that I said. As we said before, we're going to be out there with the will to win the championship, and we are going to play the championship within our value of racing that we have. I mean, it's going to be a hard race. It's going to be a tight race. But we're going -- we have our values in racing. We're going to play with that as well.

ADAM SAAL: We look forward to that.

Gentlemen, thank you all very much.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Scott Dixon , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Toyota Racing