CHAMPCAR/CART: Champion Tracy press conference

CART Champ Car media teleconference transcript with Series Champion Paul Tracy. ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone in the media that joined us today for a very special CART Champ Car World Series Media Teleconference with the winner of the 2003 ...

CART Champ Car media teleconference transcript with Series Champion Paul Tracy.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone in the media that joined us today for a very special CART Champ Car World Series Media Teleconference with the winner of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford and the holder of the Vanderbilt Cup for the first time in his 13-year career, the driver of the #3 Indeck/Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone for Team Player's and PF Racing, Paul Tracy. Congratulations, Paul, thanks for joining us today.

PAUL TRACY: Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: It's been a couple of days, been a long flight, a couple of days to sit back. Has the whole thing sunk in on what you have been able to accomplish this year?

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, it's just -- everything is happening something quick right now, been so busy with media after the race and a little party on Sunday night and flying out in the morning just got back, yesterday, arrived yesterday morning and all the flights were cancelled out of LAX. Had to rent a car and drive to Vegas. Been a little long couple of days. Been a couple days to basically turn my laundry around and head back over to Fontana.

ERIC MAUK: For the media on the call, we have definitely got Paul on the whirlwind tour. He's over in Vegas now and doing satellite media tours and doing some appearances over there. He gets one day off possibly on Wednesday. Then come on over to Fontana and get ready for this weekend's 500-miler at California Speedway. Talk about California Speedway a little bit, a place where you haven't had a whole lot of success in your career; never qualified any better than fifth; never finished in the Top-10 over there. What is about that place?

PAUL TRACY: I had a lot of mechanical failures there and I am really just very happy that we were able to complete the championship run before going to Fontana because it has always been a difficult race for me. But it's not from the fact of not running well there, I have never qualified that well, so to speak, but I always was at the front because of the Hanford wing. It's always very easy to move your way to the front. But I have had mechanical failures that slowed me down there and I had a crash one year. But we're just very satisfied with Player's/Forsythe Racing, that we were able to wrap it up and really have the moment wrapped up early.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations from everyone at Champ Car. Real quick, just a look at what Paul has accomplished this year: Seven victories - one of just six drivers to accomplish that in a Champ Car season; six poles; he's led 658 laps which puts him in Top-10 for a single season with laps led. He has earned over a million dollars first time since 1995 and again 226 points in just 18 starts this year. He's led 18 times this year in the Series' 18 races. Let us open it up for questions.

Q: What do you think the problem has been in California? Same mechanical problems or different every time?

PAUL TRACY: Pretty much I have a lot of engine failures. I had one crash in the inaugural race there and then every year after that I have -- had suffered an engine failure which happens at those type of races. I don't see that happening so much this year now that we have the Ford-Cosworth motor. It is a 1,200 mile motor, but when you had all these development engines, Honda, Toyota, Ford, all of that, we were revving the things up to like 16,000 RPM and running them at the max all day and stuff would let go. I just really had a lot of engine failures at that race.

ERIC MAUK: Informational bit for the media on the call, obviously the big story out here in Southern California are the rampant wild fires that are going through the country side. Champ Car and California Speedway have a very close eye on what is going on out here and as of right now everything is still a go-ahead for the King Taco 500 on Sunday. Although if there were any situations that would pose any kind of threats to the drivers' safety or anyone involved, we would most certainly take a look at that and see if the race needed to be altered or postponed in any way, but as of right now, everything is still full speed ahead 100% for this weekend.

Q: PT, at the start of the race when you got tagged, did you think here we go again, I have got this thing pretty much in the bag; now we're going to have to fight, just kind of seems like that has been kind of the trend this year because you had so many good races and then had some pretty big disappointments early in the race, were you thinking 'keep the engine running, how bad is the suspension' -- what were you thinking?

PAUL TRACY: Really just a whole range of emotions. Before the start of the race I had a good warmup and I was confident that I could make a good start. I knew going into it that there was going to be some type of a team strategy play from Newman/Haas and obviously that became a factor at the first corner and the way the start went off, Bruno led the thing away from -- instead of the pole position guy leading it away. So when I got spun around at the first corner, I mean, going from being confident to having a good result to really pissed off, and then just trying to work my way back to the field and then I had Tag spin in front of me and then drive into me. I backed up into another car and damaged the suspension trying to get out of the accident to really just disappointment after that, that knowing that okay, we're pretty much out this race, I am going to lose a lot of laps, I don't know if we can fix the car and then you know, then again later in the race seeing Bruno crash to being elated, you know, just unbelievable feeling of happiness. I had every range of emotion that you can possibly have in a two-hour time period.

Q: With all the races you won, all the poles, all the laps you have led, some of the guys that have gone to the other side had said we weren't there to challenge him. Does that taint in your mind in anyway the championship because you are one of the guys who can look back to say I beat everyone when we were all together too?

PAUL TRACY: I am not trying to take anything away from what Scott (Dixon) has done or what anybody has done over there, but I mean, from my standpoint, I have driven the maximum effort that I think I have in my whole career. The competition level is still tough, top-five or six are very tough and really the guys that -- maybe the guys that are saying that they are not even driving anymore. They are all retired. So I mean, I am not trying to take anything away from what anybody does over there, whether -- if you are a champion at the top level, you have to work hard at it.

Q: Way back when you and I were racing out at Goodwood and whatnot, did you ever think you would be where you are today and conversely did you think it was going to quite take so long?

PAUL TRACY: You always dream of winning championships, but as the time went on and things, you know, you keep trying and keep trying and I have always given 110 percent effort all the time into my driving and every time it is time to go racing and qualify, I put it all out on the line. I don't think anybody can take that away from me. But there comes times in your career when you think man, I won all these races, but am I have going to win a championship, how do I do it. Finally now it's come. So I am just relieved that it's come. It taken a long time, but you know, it is worth the wait.

Q: After obviously you are just absolutely full of emotion, on a real roller-coaster during the event for all the stuff that we have already talked about, but when it got quiet and you ended up back in the hotel room, what went through your mind?

PAUL TRACY: I think -- I guess really -- I don't feel that much different as a person. I guess from my standpoint now that I have got the championship, the weight of the pressure that people put on you saying well, you haven't won a championship; when are you going to win a championship - well, they can't say that anymore. So I don't have that pressure on me anymore. I have won tons of races and led tons of laps and I am in the top five in every category of everything that there is to do, but people would always say: Well, you haven't won a championship. That puts a lot of weight on you. That just felt like it has been taken off now.

Q: The one key to this team finally succeeding in getting the championship obviously was to get you on the team and then you were able to get them into a different chassis. But the season before that the Player's team was almost synonymous with having some sort of mechanical problem that let them down. That didn't happen this year. Why do you think that is and do you think that's probably the big turning point with this Team that got you to where you are?

PAUL TRACY: I think one of the key things is that the people behind the team, that are behind the scenes Bob Bexon and Jerry Forsythe, they believed in me for a long time as a driver. I worked with Bob who was in charge of KOOL when I joined Team KOOL Green, then he moved back over to Player's after about a year and a half. From that point in time he was a big believer in me and wanted me to come to Player's, but I was, you know, always in the middle of a contract and just didn't come together. We tried a couple of times, but it just wouldn't come together. Once I came to the team, they basically told me whatever you need, or you feel you need, to win the championship just tell us what you need. I have never been in a situation with any team where they basically said to me, who are the people you want, what are the cars you want, who are the guys you want to work with. It's always been come and we will tell you what you are going to do.

I guess they allowed me to get the people around me that I was comfortable with and obviously getting Tony Cicale and then Todd Malloy on the team who worked with me at Team Green, people that I am very close with, I struck up a good relationship with Neil Micklewright. Him and I get along very well. And then my other engineers Mike Pawlowski, I have got a great relationship with him and all of us just clicked and really that was the difference. They just put a whole package around me of what I thought that I needed and it all worked out.

Q: There's been so much great Canadian talent that have won championships and won races around the world. The name Villeneuve is certainly synonymous. I know you are a proud Canadian and I know some people make too much of that. I know you don't. I know you are very proud to finally kick this thing with a Canadian flag in there is very special to you?

PAUL TRACY: It really is. Having won the races in Canada and won two out of three in Canada this year and top it off with a championship is a great feeling. I can't wait to -- I will be up there next week on Thursday to do a media tour up there and just can't wait to see what the response has been like.

Q: Obviously your first start, you started the season off with two wins in a row. Can you look back on the middle of your season and see what went wrong and how -- would you have liked to have wrapped it up a couple races earlier?

PAUL TRACY: I think looking at how the season went, I mean, we had basically my career has always been hot/cold, hot/cold. It's never been kind of lukewarm the whole time. We started off the year with three wins and we went to Europe and had basically three races. We scored three points. We had a mechanical failure, gearbox failure in England; went to Germany and we were uncompetitive. We chose the wrong aero package to go there. And then came back to Milwaukee and we were running up front and we had a wheel fall off after the last pitstop. That's kind of how the season went. Then we would go hot and cold; then hot and old cold. There were a few races, the middle there, where we scored some third and fourths, but it wasn't just on even keel the whole time.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy