CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Top-three qualifiers press conference, part 1

CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, CRISTIANO da MATTA AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started our post qualifying press conference, the final grid has...

CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, CRISTIANO da MATTA AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS

ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started our post qualifying press conference, the final grid has been set for Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank, round five of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

We are joined by our top three qualifiers. Before we start the formal part of our press conference today, I'd like to bring up Mark Robinson, director of communications for Bridgestone who will join today's polesitter, Mr. Paul Tracy, for a special award.

(Award given.)

ERIC MAUK: We will start with our third place qualifier today, our series points leader, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien puts up a quick lap of 57.559 seconds, 131.719 miles per hour. This is Sebastien's third top three start here in Cleveland in his three starts. Sebastien, tell us a little bit about how it went today.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's good to be here. It's been a bit of a struggle. Finally made it to the top three. But, no, I think we really worked hard both days, yesterday and today, and made the McDonald's car work pretty well. I was fairly happy with the balance.

Paul spun around, just didn't see me. So it kind of ruined our run a bit. And then after that, it was a tough choice: either you want to stay out or you want to wait. We were a bit too optimistic and stayed in the pits for too long. Then when we went back out, many cars on the track, couldn't do a lap. It's kind of a repeat from yesterday. A bit of a shame, but, you know, we've got two fast cars in front of us, and we're just going to have to battle it out tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien, red flag came out, shut the session down three minutes early, you were 14-hundredths off of Tracy. Did you think you had a shot at the pole?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The last run is always a struggle here. I think I really had a little going on in the first run, I was really frustrated. But, you know, so it is. You just have to put on a good race tomorrow and try and pass these guys.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien started third here a year ago, went on to lead 88 laps and won the race here. He is the defending two-time Cleveland race winner. Our second place starter, driver of the #21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for PKV Racing, Cristiano da Matta. Cristiano starts second after putting up a time today of 57.424 seconds, 132.028 miles per hour. This is Cristiano's first front row start here in Champ Car since the Surfers Paradise race in 2002. Cristiano, tell us a little bit about how things went today.

CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, we had a good session. First run everything went pretty smooth. On the second run, I think, as everyone -- as Sebastien is talking, there were just lots of cars in the racetrack, difficult to get a proper gap. I don't think I got everything out of what my car could have given me on the red tires. I think on the black tires on the first run is where I did my time. So definitely there is a couple more -- a little bit more left in the car.

I'm very happy still just to know that last weekend wasn't just a spell. We come back here and we run strong again because we never knew what we were going to get until the first session we started to get going, then we saw we were up there. We were really happy. So just the fact that we're getting more consistent overall as a team, I'm very happy about that, very happy about second place. Obviously Paul beat me by five-thousandths of a second. I think I beat him yesterday by three-thousandths of a second. Everything indicates it's going to be a very close race, if Sebastien, too, and some other cars out there are going pretty fast. Seems like the field actually looks a little more spread out than what it's going to be in the race.

ERIC MAUK: This will be your first start on the front row since we instituted the new 'power to pass' in the Champ Cars. A little different animal on the start. Have you thought about how you're going to attack that start tomorrow?

CRISTIANO da MATTA:  Well, the start I think is not too big of a secret.
Everyone is on the 'push to pass'.  I'll be on the 'push to pass', too.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Our polesitter, the third time he's won a pole here at Cleveland, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul hangs up the day's best time, 57.401 seconds, 132.(check) miles per hour. This is his 24th career pole, seventh place all time on the Champ Car list, breaking a tie with Johnny Rutherford. Another strong run today. You're on pole. How does it feel?

PAUL TRACY: It feels good. The first session we decided to go out early. I felt that I could probably get the best out of the car, was good in warm-up on old tires, so I thought we'd go out early and see if we could get the best of it on a clear track. Had a huge spin in the last corner, flat spotted the tires, ripped the front wing off in the grass. So not the way we wanted to start our first run. You know, I got in the way of Sebastien. So we lost the fast time for the session.

The mindset really then was we have to do two fast laps. We decided, again, to go early, just as everybody was starting to pull off the track, and I had, you know, four really quick laps in a row. Two were good enough for pole. The one was just a couple hundredths behind that. We're very satisfied.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us about the performance of the Bridgestone Potenzas today.

PAUL TRACY: It was impressive. Normally my style of qualifying is to bring the tire up, hit it hard for one lap, maybe take a cool-off lap and take another one. Having to deal with taking our fast lap away, you have to put a couple of them together. I was able to put three fairly quick laps together that were just -- that were all good enough for the front row. The way they performed was great.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Paul is the first driver this year to win multiple poles during the Champ Car season. He won the pole season opener in Long Beach. He earns a champion point for qualifying, giving him 96 for the year, closing the gap between him and Sebastien at the front of the standings to 10 points. We'll take questions from the media.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Cristiano da Matta , Johnny Rutherford