CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, A.J. ALLMENDINGER AND ORIOL SERVIA ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the...
CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, A.J. ALLMENDINGER AND ORIOL SERVIA
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, presented by US Bank. We have our top three finishers from today's 91-lap event.
We'll start with our third-place finisher, driver of the #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Oriol Servia. Oriol picks up his second podium finish of the year, the seventh of his career. This is the 12th straight race in which a Newman/Haas car has been on the podium. Oriol, you make another strong charge. Tell us about how it went.
ORIOL SERVIA: It's easy to see what was going on out there with the PacifiCare team, they are such a great team, they really make a difference. The new rules, they really make it easy for you, you know. Just when the weekend start, they work ahead a lot. It's just a pleasure to do what you're doing, you know. They make it easy. And, again, PacifiCare car on the podium, that's what we want. We have to have first win very soon, but we take the podium so far. We make the points grow fast.
ERIC MAUK: Oriol ran the fastest lap of today's race on the next-to-last lap of the event when he was trying to run down A.J. Allmendinger for second. You cut almost two seconds off of AJ's advantage on that 90th lap. Did you think you had something for him on the last one?
ORIOL SERVIA: I did. As always, you want one more lap. Especially I thought I was much better than AJ in turn one, which is where you want to be when you pass somebody. So I was really hoping to have one more lap. But it's always like this, right? But it was good. He was also pushing at the end. He was obviously in good pace, too. I'm happy with the podium from where we started.
ERIC MAUK: Our second place finisher today, equalling a career Champ Car high, driver of the #10 Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, AJ Allmendinger. AJ finishes just 3.113 seconds behind Paul Tracy. AJ, strong run again. Led some laps. First time you led all year. Tell us about how your day went.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I thought it went fairly well. You know, the drivers had a bit of an error yesterday - I guess you'd call it an error trying to knock myself out actually. But, you know, I figured if they moved the wall a little bit in turn eight, we'd be a lot quicker through there. Doesn't move when you hit it (laughter).
So, no, I mean, the guys did a great job all weekend. We struggled throughout the weekend trying to get a good balance. The driver made it hard on them after crashing the car. So, you know, I think it was a good pace from the early laps. And, as Oriol was saying, you don't know how the race strategy is going to work out with the yellows, guys making mistakes, stuff like that. I knew it was going to be tough on the last restart when I had Paul behind me, knowing that I was going to have to pull a fairly full distance since he was going to pit later than I was. PT is the master of the restart. Passed two guys out of turn one. That actually pissed me off. I was hoping I'd actually get a couple laps of people in between us. After that, I was just really pushing hard. The car was fantastic. Once again, Bridgestone brings an amazing tire here. The car was at its best at the end of the race. I was a little bit tired. If we just keep inching on the podium every time...
ERIC MAUK: AJ moves up to third in the point standings after five races with today's result. Like you alluded to earlier, took a pretty good lick at the end of the day yesterday. How did you feel getting in the car today?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I was a bit sore and my stomach -- the problem actually was my stomach, from since I crashed, it's been kind of edgy with not feeling very well and not being able to put a lot of food in it.
That was probably the main problem with 25 to go, trying to not lose my lunch in the car. You know, I mean, physically, sore-wise I'm a bit sore, but that wasn't what was wearing on me on the race. It was just trying to finish the race and not lose my lunch.
ERIC MAUK: The winner of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul takes his second win of the year, second win here at Cleveland, his first since 1993 here at Cleveland. The win also gives him 30 career victories, making him the seventh driver ever to win 30 Champ Car races. This is his 10th win from the pole, also making him the seventh driver to win 10 Champ Car races from pole. Paul, couldn't have been as easy as it looked.
PAUL TRACY: It was a tough race today. I thought with how our weekend went, the car has been so fast in every practice session, old tires, new tires. My strategy really was to get to the first corner first and just go as fasts I could go. You know, the first stint we pulled a pit bit of a gap, not a very big gap, two and a half seconds on Cristiano. A lot of lap traffic to contend with early because of the strategies of other people.
But when Cristiano pitted, you know, I was surprised because, you know, I wasn't trying to save fuel. I was surprised that he pitted earlier than us. So he must have been burning more fuel. Then the yellow comes out right after that. So that really threw things all into crazy scenarios. You didn't know who was going to win the race. I was fortunate enough the car was really fast on cold tires and restarts. I was able to make a lot of ground back, get back to Cristiano, pass a couple guys right after the restart, get back into position with them.
The second stint, he was just flying. I couldn't keep the pace that he was going. Looking at the times, we only turned seventh fastest lap time of the race, but we were just consistent the whole race. I ran within a 10th or two the whole race. Never put a wheel off, never made a mistake. The pit stops were perfect. Our last stop was six seconds. You know, we weren't the fastest car out there, but consistency really paid off.
ERIC MAUK: Thanks to Oriol there on lap 90, Sebastien lost a point for fastest lap of the race. You now move ahead with a one-point lead in the points.
PAUL TRACY: That's what I pay him for (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: It seems like recently every time we're up here, we're talking about your passing a Mears or Unser on a career list, Rutherford. Talk a little bit about getting in that kind of company.
ORIOL SERVIA: He's getting old.
PAUL TRACY: It's either flattering or I'm getting old. But, you know, it's something that I guess I don't really think about. I guess if you start -- my philosophy is if you start concentrating on trying to beat people's records or where they're at, I mean, then it doesn't come. Just concentrate on being fast and being consistent and not making mistakes, and then those things will come along with it. But if you start to concentrate on the next guy in line, it's just not going to happen that way. So my concentration is really just on the team and what it takes to get the best out of myself.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. After five events, Paul Tracy is our new points leader, with 128 in the unofficial standings. Sebastien Bourdais has 127. AJ Allmendinger is third with 102, Justin Wilson fourth with 95, and Jimmy Vasser fifth with 82. Oriol Servia's podium finish today boosts him to seventh place in the standings. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q: Paul, does this win build momentum for the Molson Indy Toronto?
PAUL TRACY: I hope so. I mean, last year we came here and were on the pole, then we were out in the first corner. Went to Toronto and had a pretty crappy race there, too. You know, we've had -- out of five races this year, we've been on the podium four times.
You know, the season is going well so far. The team is really working well. With our new engineer Eric, we're really starting to click now and understand each other. So going into Toronto, obviously it builds a lot of momentum, gives the team a lot of momentum. You know, should help with the ticket sales up there, which is great. You know, it creates a lot of excitement for the races in Canada, which is great.
Q: How tough is it when the strategies make it so that cars are always running in front of you?
PAUL TRACY: Well, you don't really know. I guess I spent a lot of time with cars in front of me. But, you know, the cars that were in front of me, I thought, Okay, I can hold onto this guy or get past him, and they were driving away from me. So that's a little bit frustrating. When you're sitting out front, leading, it's easy to run your own pace in the car, the balance is much better, you don't have the turbulent air from the car in front of you. So if you're running right close to a guy, within five or six car lengths, the car is just sliding, you're using the tire more just to stay in there.
My strategy really is almost just to back off a little bit in distance, just try to hold that. Cristiano, he just started to sneak away, sneak away, sneak away, then he broke far enough away and started picking up the pace. AJ was kind of the same. He snuck away a little bit, but I was able to bring it back a little bit and kind of seesaw. I knew with AJ, we needed to keep him within a couple seconds in the last pit stops. I knew I could do three or four more laps than him and I knew that would pay off in the end.
Q: Paul, what did you think of the decision to remove the barrel?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, the barrel was an idea that they were having to try. But, you know, we got through there somewhat decent. Only two cars got turned around. I think the key this year it was a faster-paced start. That's what the starter wanted last year. Everyone was lined up in a perfect row. We all went town there all at once, hard to get into the corner.
I was told to bring the pace up a little bit more, get everybody lined up at the end, bring the pace up a little bit harder, you know, kind of out of the corner and spread everybody out so that way it wouldn't be so crowded down at the next corner. You know somebody's going to get into somebody. Another two cars I guess is better than the first two cars.
ORIOL SERVIA: I believe in a wide start. It's not crazy. People like Cleveland because of the start, too. I kind of like the idea of no barrel.
Q: It looks like you really went hard today for the whole race. Can you talk about the pace today?
PAUL TRACY: Well, the pace was just relentless. I mean, my strategy from the beginning, I felt my car was great all weekend. I told my engineer, "I'm not going to go out there and save fuel and let everybody sit on top of me, you know, and stack the line up behind me, sit there and save fuel." I said, "I'm going to go as hard as I can go." I think once we dictated that that's how the race was going, then the race continued to go that way.
So, you know, when you start out a race and everybody is saving fuel and cruising, you know, it turns into a bit of a funny race. But everybody was going as hard as they could go. The early yellow really threw a big curve ball in where the leaders were versus the second group of leaders that were out of sequence. I think it was a pretty good race.
Q: Is is tough to run not knowing exactly where everyone is on in relation to the lead?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think -- it's just a different way of doing it. I mean, you don't really know what's going to happen in a NASCAR race until the last 10 laps. I think that's kind of what they want: surprise ending. You know, that's the rules. You know, it's everybody's job to, you know, fight within the rules and figure out the best strategy and the best way to do the race without compromising yourself.
You know, anybody that's halfway down the line, 10th, 11th, 12th, is going to take the opportunity if there's a yellow early. That effectively puts them in the race, you know, whereas the old strategy, if it was everybody pit on the same lap, you're 10th, 11th, 12th, basically unless your car is night-and-day better than everybody else, you're never going to get any further than that up the line. It effectively puts guys in the race if there's an early yellow.
Q: There were a number of spins and incidents today. Any close calls?
PAUL TRACY: No. I mean, I didn't really have any super close calls. I mean, I think probably the hardest guy out there, for whatever reason, I saw Marcus Marshall take Cristiano off, and then late in the race with 10, 15 laps to go, I was coming up to lap him, he locked the tires up, ran wide in the hairpin, used the 'push to pass' down the straightaway to keep me behind him, then raced me for another lap, then let me go by. I mean, I just don't really see the point in that when you're three laps down, getting lapped for the third time, why you need to be like that. I'm sure if you ask Cristiano, he'll give a pretty good opinion of him.
Q: You were really fast on the cold tires today, did the heat of the track help?
PAUL TRACY: I don't know if the heat helped at all. I've been good on cold tires, good on restarts. My out-laps have always been very strong. I knew that I needed to make some good laps before we pitted, and I did a couple of good, quick laps before we pitted. Obviously, you know, with great pit stops and a fast out-lap, you know, we cushioned ourselves by three seconds over AJ. That's really what won the race for us.
Q: A.J., did you know that it was going to be tough to catch Paul when you pitted late in the race?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: No. I mean, it was something that with an extra three or four laps, and Paul, I knew as soon as I pitted, was probably going to really push as hard as he could. You know, it wasn't a big surprise to me. You know, you can always hope that maybe they mess up in the pit stop or something. But, you know, his team's been doing this for a long time. So, you know, I was more worried about everybody else that was coming out, and that was my main goal, to get around it.
But I think I was a little bit faster than Paul at the end of the race trying to bring back the gap. I kind of knew, unless something magical happened in my pit stop or something bad happened in his pit stop, that he was going to come out ahead of me. It was just a matter of how much. I kind of assumed it was going to be around three or four seconds, around that. It wasn't a big surprise. I just kept pushing, trying to catch him, and more importantly trying to stay away from Oriol because he was coming really fast after me in the race.
Q: What do you think of running on airport courses like this one and the track that's coming up in Edmonton in three weeks?
PAUL TRACY: It's fantastic. It's great for the fans because they can sit in the grandstand and see the whole track. And it's unlike any street venue that we go to, or road course venue, where you see the cars go by and you wait for them to come around, they come around, you see them go by. Half the time you can't see them because the cars are lower than the wall. So this type of venue, this is great. It creates great racing, wide and fast, allows you to try different lines, try different strategies. It's a lot of fun.