CHAMPCAR/CART: Edmonton: Top three qualifiers press conference

CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM EDMONTON WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, PAUL TRACY AND JUSTIN WILSON ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference,...

CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM EDMONTON WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, PAUL TRACY AND JUSTIN WILSON

ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, final qualifying for the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton, round seven of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We are joined by the men that will start from the top three positions tomorrow.

Starting with our third place qualifier, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. The winningest active driver in all of American open-wheel racing with 30 victories, he put up the second fastest time.

PAUL TRACY: Wow. I didn't know that.

ERIC MAUK: That's why I'm here. Valuable service I provide. He put up the second fastest time of the day with a lap of 61.529 seconds. Paul, tell us a little bit about today.

PAUL TRACY: Just, you know, we waited too long. We went out of the pits after AJ about a lap behind him. I radioed Eric (Zeto), my engineer, and said, "Maybe we should go early." This was about, you know, a little ways into the session. He says, "We'll, we've waited too long now. We're too far into the window to go. We've got to wait another minute or two to go." AJ went, did about a lap. We were basically one lap behind him.

He finished his quick lap, and I was coming around and it went red. You know, I don't know if we could have beat the time, but we were up on the time that I did. So a little bit -- that's kind of the way the session went. We went back out. The second time around it went red again. So that was it.

ERIC MAUK: The track made some improvements overnight, added some tire barriers in three different turns. Did it make much of a difference?

PAUL TRACY: Hasn't made any difference for Mario (Dominguez) (Laughter). You know, I didn't really notice. I wasn't really looking at the tire barriers today. In the rain, I was obviously looking at the track. The track in the rain was fun. Obviously we didn't get out earlier. It was a pretty fun track to drive in the wet. Not too slippery. So, you know, we got out there and ran for 45 minutes for the fans. That was a pretty exciting session because it kept getting quicker and quicker and quicker. Obviously, when it comes to qualifying, everybody's got to play the game. The fans didn't really get to see much in qualifying, which was a shame.

ERIC MAUK: Starting on the outside of the front row, a front-row starter for the fourth time in his young Champ Car career, driver of the #9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Justin Wilson. Justin Wilson is the winner of the most recent Champ Car round, that being last weekend in Toronto. Justin, kind of a tough ending for the session for you. Take us through what happened at the end of the session.

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, obviously it was a bit disappointing, not how we wanted to finish the session. You know, from my point of view, I went out, I was behind Sebastien, was quicker than him, so I backed off to leave a gap, and let Timo get past me. That was fine. I just pulled over, let him go. And then I seemed to catch him up pretty easily in the first three or four corners. Into turn five, he slid in there, dropped back, missed the apex. Going into six, he seemed to slow up, hug the inside. I just presumed he was letting me through. Went casually up the inside into seven and found out that wasn't his plan.

We came together at the apex of seven.  That ended the session.  It was a
little bit confusing from my point of view.  Like I said, I thought he
was leaving the door open.  That wasn't what happened.

ERIC MAUK: Any major damage to the car? Car going to be all right for tomorrow?

JUSTIN WILSON: Put a hole in my side pod, but otherwise the car is fine. I think Timo's car is a little bit worse.

ERIC MAUK: Best of luck tomorrow. The polesitter for the inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton, driver of the #10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, AJ Allmendinger. He wins the first pole of his Champ Car career, the second pole for RuSPORT. He also puts up the best time today for today's qualifying, 61.070 seconds. He stands on yesterday's time which will stand as the track record, 58.628. He is the fifth different driver to win the Bridgestone Pole Award in the first seven events of the year. AJ, congratulations. Tell us how it feels.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Thank you. It feels amazing, especially after what happened last weekend. You know, I think if I could only do four laps and have the pole like I did today, that would be easy. But, you know, the session obviously was crazy. As Paul said, everybody had to wait until the end to put a lap in. It just worked out in our favor that there were a lot of incidents. You know, it will be exciting. First time starting from the pole and leading in turn one here.

ERIC MAUK: AJ also gets a championship point for leading today's session, giving him 113 on the year. I'd like to introduce Joe Barbieri to award the Bridgestone Pole Award to AJ Allmendinger.

(Award given.)

ERIC MAUK: Joe, a brand-new circuit, obviously a big challenge to Bridgestone, tell us about what goes into providing a tire for us here.

JOE BARBIERI: Obviously, based on the ten years of experience we have now in open-wheel racing, this track being very similar to Cleveland, we were able to guess pretty closely, right on the money. So we have the same spec from Cleveland. Utilize the alternate program, the two sets that each driver gets. Still some drivers probably don't care for it, the program a whole lot. It was certainly instituted to try to create a little strategy between the teams and drivers, try to accelerate the possibility of more passing. With this wide-open track, we should certainly see some of that happen tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK: The drivers are competing not only for a weekly Bridgestone Pole Award that we just saw AJ receive, but the driver that scores the most poles this year gets a $30,000 Bridgestone Pole Award. We would like to thank the series sponsor and Series tire supplier for bringing that program to fruition this year. We'll go ahead and take questions now.

Q: A.J., when you got up this morning and saw it was raining, did you know you had the pole wrapped up?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I was hoping. I was hoping it was going to stay wet. I got here and my engineer made me grumpy because he said it was supposed to clear up at 11. In a situation where it's raining, starts out to dry, you feel in your heart it's not going to be as fast as the day before because it basically washed all the rubber off the track. You know, as it started to dry out around 12:30, 1:00, I was a bit nervous. But I thought we had the car, as we did yesterday, to get the pole again.

Q: Given that the fans were here all day, do you think Champ Car should have made it so that the fastest qualifier today started in the front row?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, they do. Whoever was on pole today got a spot on front row as well. Unfortunately, as Paul said, I don't know if there's a way to change it in the fact that, you know, of course the fans are sitting there waiting for us to run. You know, we all know that we only have 35 minutes and only 15 laps. At the end of the session, they're going to be the quickest. I don't really know what would be something you could change there to make it better for the fans.

PAUL TRACY: I mean, our plan was to go for the pole today. We knew that maybe AJ -- we didn't expect him to go as hard as he did. Maybe he would save tires because we knew the track was slower. So we were trying for the pole to jump ahead of his teammate. You know, that's what happens. Whoever scores the pole on the second day, if the track conditions are worse, you get to start on the front row.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I also think Champ Car did a good job of figuring out after they had to cancel practice of giving us 45 minutes to run out there more than anything for the teams and actually the fans to get their money's worth. I think Champ Car did a good job of doing that.

Q: AJ, having never started on the pole before, what will be your strategy tomorrow?

PAUL TRACY: I'm going to give him some coaching tonight (laughter).

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I'll just ask Sebastien what he thinks. Simmer down there, buddy. My strategy will be to take the green and not get passed in turn one. Anything else I should know about (laughter)?

Q: What kind of challenges did the rain provide today?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, I think it's important, one, to go out there as the track was drying and work up to it instead of going out there and trying to attack right away and finding the bad spots in the track. So, I mean, it's more just taking your time to get up to speed. Once you feel confident in that certain parts of the track are dry, you can attack those and make sure the ones that aren't, you still kind of take it easy. That's where you see the difference in the lap times obviously.

You know, a lot of the corners were dry. There were just a couple that were still a bit damp that was overall hurting the lap times.

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, part of the track was dry. But leading up to the fastest corner on the track, the chicane, obviously that's one of the most important corners for lap time here because it interrupts the straight-line speed. There was three big puddles all in a row down the straightaway. You arrive at that corner at 160 miles an hour with wet tires. As that started to dry out, the lap got quicker and quicker. As that session dried out, the pavement section, the infield was drying fairly slow, at a slow rate. So it took a long time for it to come around.

Q: A.J., you went out and ran pretty fast right off the bat. Was that your strategy?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, I mean, I think at the point that I did my lap time, I didn't think it was that big of a deal because I figured once everybody started going out, it was just going to get quicker and quicker. You know, we just went out 'cause -- we took a stab at hopefully that yellows were going to come out or red flags were going to come out in the possession and put a lap time in. At that moment I did the lap, I didn't think it was any big deal. I figured everybody put the red tires on and would go a lot faster, which is what our plan was. Just happened to hit the lap at the right times a all these reds came out.

Q: Any team strategy or team orders at the start? You guys seem to like each other, how are you going to keep things safe through the first turn?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Where did you get that information at? It's incorrect. (Laughter) We're paid to like each other. Actually, I got passed by Paul last time when I started outside pole. He is just going to fall in nicely behind me and leave me alone.

JUSTIN WILSON: I just want to get a good start and see how the race unfolds. We are going to have a good car. The important thing is keeping our nose clean, have a good race, try a new overtake maneuvers and see what happens.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: On lapped cars, you mean? Yeah, Justin and I agreed if we do run into each other, we won't be mad at each other, we'll just run like hell, get away from Carl.

Q: Given that Paul and Justin have started in the front row in Cleveland and this track is similar, how do you attack tomorrow?

PAUL TRACY: Pretty similar deal. It's not a hairpin at the end. The entry speed is higher. But it's so wide going in that you can get down the inside. You've don't really have to get the thing to a stop. Obviously, from the outside there's a lot of different ways to get in this corner. It's going to be interesting, that's for sure. I haven't had really a chance to practice for the best approach. Probably do that in warm-up and see what it feels like.

JUSTIN WILSON: I think it looks quite inviting from further back in the grid. It could be an interesting first corner.

Q: A.J., how do you approach Turn One tomorrow?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Is there any strategy that can try to keep Paul behind you? I learned that on the restart at Cleveland, honestly. But, no, I mean, I think I found out actually when I was starting on the front with my teammate, the more you plan it out, the worse it goes. Just try to set the good pace and hopefully everything works out.

Q: Were you surprised at the crowd that came out today despite the rain?

PAUL TRACY: No. I wasn't surprised at all because the fans here are great fans. You know, I was talking to some of the crew guys. They said, "Man, I can't believe how many people here are sitting in the rain. I said, "This is a great day up here." I heard you guys had a hockey game here last winter and it was like minus 35 degrees and you had like 60,000 showed up for an outdoor hockey event. They sat outside in minus 35 degree weather. So this is a beautiful day. I'm really happy that everybody showed up and had a good time. A lot of beer has been consumed. It's good for the promoters and everybody. The bands were playing all day, so everybody is having a great time.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Justin did a great job in the golf cart mud bogging it through the mud on the way to one of the autograph sessions we had to do. Other than that, yeah, I mean, I think it's great what the city has done for the race.

Q: Paul, how do you prepare strategically for tomorrow's race?

PAUL TRACY: I think the opportunity tomorrow is the track is going to be changing a lot during the race. The guys who can push the car to the limit and keep feeling the limit getting further and further out, that's going to be important at the end of the race. Obviously, you know, some tracks that we go to, as the race goes on, sometimes it gets slower and more slippery, at a place like Cleveland or here. Now that there's no rubber on the track, it's going to get faster and faster and faster. You just have to keep pushing to the limit. Maybe some guy in front of you who can't find where the limit is, you might have a chance.

Q: A.J., is this your best chance for a Champ Car win?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I hope so. I mean, the car more than anything, this is the best weekend on my side of the team. The 10 car that we've had from start to finish, having the car be handling well from the first session on, we've had a bad problem this year of struggling throughout the first couple days, starting mid pack, then we have a good race car. I believe so. I believe anybody that's watched these races this year, there's also a lot of luck, a lot of timing between pit stops, yellows and stuff that go into it. You know, for myself, I won't try to think about winning the race until 20, 25 to go and see where we're at at that point.

-ccws-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson