CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana: Top three press conference, Part II

An Interview With: Jimmy Vasser Michael Andretti Patrick Carpentier Part 2 of 2 Cain: Despite the great performance Team Rahal has had over the past few years, it is the team's first win at California Speedway. As Jimmy said with the pit stop...

An Interview With:
Jimmy Vasser
Michael Andretti
Patrick Carpentier

Part 2 of 2

Cain: Despite the great performance Team Rahal has had over the past few years, it is the team's first win at California Speedway. As Jimmy said with the pit stop challenge victory on Friday, it was a great effort from the team the entire weekend.

Q: Jimmy, your thoughts during the red flag while you were waiting to restart?

Vasser: Well, I thought it was the right call. We've seen it happen with NASCAR. It's about the fans, giving them a proper green flag finish. I thought that was the right thing. I was a little upset. I thought Cristiano was in a good spot. I thought they could have left him there at the end. I didn't think it was that dangerous to bring out a yellow with 15 to go.

Andretti: I wish they would have now (laughter).

Vasser: Who knows, but with that extra time, maybe Dario would have caught on fire.

Then I did my best to try to get a little gap on Mike on the restart. I figured if I could just make it through one and two without him getting by me on the restart, I might have a fighting chance. I'd been running pretty good all day, being able to pull enough cushion that guys couldn't draft by me. He got a good run. He was right there.

If the thing with Dario hadn't happened, it was going to be a lot more difficult for me to pass Mike under racing conditions. He knew exactly, as opposed to a lot of other guys I was racing with all day long, what air I needed to do the things I was doing. He was masterful at taking the little bit away where I needed it to do things.

The only other guy that was doing that that I had a hard time passing was Nakano, but I don't think he really knew what he was doing. He knew what he was doing driving, but I think his line was pretty strange, and it was just enough that I couldn't even pass the guy. He was almost in the place for me where I needed a little air.

The last yellow definitely helped me, and the red. It was the same in '98 where Greg (Moore) passed me on the last lap at Michigan. Then we did the same for him here. It's a great idea, good thing, but the last-lap dash restarts, the guy leading the race is a sitting duck.

Q: You talked about the last lap. Did you feel faster today with this particular wing setup?

Vasser: You could actually drive away if you had a really good car. If you had your car working well, you opted for a little less downforce, I think you could drive away. I like the package a little bit better. I think you guys could see there wasn't the big drafting moves and the big huge pack, nobody wants to lead in that kind of a situation. I thought it's definitely a much better solution than what was in the past.

Q: Speaking about getting out front and staying there, Michael, in the first maybe 50, 60 laps, you were able to get out front and stay there, but that didn't seem to be the case later on. What happened first that wasn't there later?

Andretti: Actually, they told me to get back in the pack and save fuel a little bit, which probably was not the thing to do. Once I got back in the pack, I had a real problem in traffic and I just couldn't get back up to get my track position back.

I think if I could have stayed up front, things would have been different. Like in the beginning, the car was really strong and they told me to slow down, get behind the other guys. I was like, "Fine, all right, I'll do it," but I didn't want to do it.

But I think I just fell victim to all those guys because I just couldn't stay close to the guy in front. We adjusted the car in the race, but I think that messed up the middle part of my race when we did that.

I also want to make a comment about the driving. I think everybody did a great job out there today. I mean, I had no close calls. Nobody was chopping anybody. Nobody was taking each other's air. Everybody was driving really heads-up. I've got to say I'm proud of the whole group.

Q: Jimmy, would you comment on a couple of those pit exchanges with Cristiano when he came in on the inside? Looked like you were trying to protect your line in pit lane.

Vasser: Later on I was. It's a little more difficult to judge how fast you can come in when you're the first guy in the pack. You don't want to be an idiot, come in too fast and lose it. When you're the next guy behind, you go a little deep, he a little faster than the guy in front of you.

I was probably a little bit conservative coming in. Then he snookered me and got inside of me, which they were screaming on the radio not to let him do it. It's kind of a tricky maneuver. When he gets there, and my pit is before his, I have two choices: turn into him or hit the brakes, lose some time and let him go by.

Andretti: You should turn into him (laughter).

Vasser: I was guarding the inside a little bit more after that so I didn't lose that much time. It seemed like I was always the guy coming in first in the pack. It's a little bit tougher to gauge just how fast you can come in.

Q: The physicalness of this race in the schedule overall, Michael, in particular, has your improved fitness helped you?

Andretti: I think this race is more a mental race than a physical race. The ovals normally aren't very physical. You're turning hard for the road courses; that's where you get the physical element. These races are very mental because you have to be aware of everything around you for three hours. You have to watch the guys behind you, if they're coming ahead. You have to watch the guys in front of you. You have been careful not to get caught in the guy's air the wrong way. Mentally, you're pretty spent after these things.

Q: Mentally is this one of the toughest races in the schedule?

Andretti: Yes. This here and a place like Indianapolis, they definitely drain you.

Q: Jimmy, comments on that?

Vasser: I would agree a hundred percent with what Mike said.

Q: What about Pat?

Carpentier: Same thing.

Q: Michael, looked like maybe you might have had a run at Jimmy coming off of turn two there. Were you saving it for three, four?

Andretti: No. I tried but I just came up a little short. I said to the guys, "I'm done." I had been losing my front end a lot more in turns three and four. I knew I wasn't going to be able to get a run on him. When I couldn't keep my foot in it into one and two the last lap, I said, "That's it, I'm not going to get him." I was a little disappointed.

Cain: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great show today for the fans. See you in a couple weeks in Mexico City for the season finale.

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Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier