CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach pre-race teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Paul, I want to ask you about the car. There's a new car coming in next year as you know. It really hasn't changed at all really for the last number of seasons, you've driven this thing longer than anybody on this...

Continued from part 1

Q: Paul, I want to ask you about the car. There's a new car coming in next year as you know. It really hasn't changed at all really for the last number of seasons, you've driven this thing longer than anybody on this call has. I don't want to use a "pang of sadness," but you know this darn thing really well and know how to set the thing up and now we're going to wipe the slate clean and give everybody a new car. First of all, are you worried about the danger of looking too far ahead, but are you worried about this car is going to go bye-bye and being in a new boat next year?

PAUL TRACY: Well, everybody will be in the same boat, and I think that this car has served its purpose. It's allowed cost containment over the last five or six years, which is really what the series needs. It's time now for a new generation of car. Are there some things that I would like to see in the new generation of car that maybe are not there? I think it would be good to have electronic shifting; that seems to be the norm in most series now, whether it's endurance racing cars, Formula 1, A1GP has semiautomatic shifting, so I think that would be something that would be a nice feature.

But they feel that the cost of that is probably prohibitive. To work with new aerodynamics and suspension and rockers and all that kind of stuff, it presents a new challenge. Instead of just trying to microanalyze every time you have a car that you've worked with for six years, you've kind of run out of room to improve. I think, like I said, the car has served its purpose; it's time to have a new evolution of car.

Q: I'll make it as quick as I can. My two questions are to Paul. A moment ago you mentioned the fact that when you look back at the test last week and saw the list of names that were ahead of you, you said that there was a common thread there. If at the end -- I hate to be hypothetical, but if at the end of the season you don't get the results you think you should have got, will you start looking somewhere else for '07?

PAUL TRACY: No, no, absolutely not. I'm committed to Forsythe Racing. I've been analyzing how the test went for us. You know, the common thread is that every one of the drivers that was quicker than us has some type of a tie back to Newman/Haas Racing. It's very obvious that the Newman/Haas team does a great job, and they've done a great job for 20 plus years, like I said.

We're looking at it. Are we where we need to be, no. We need to keep improving and we need to keep our focus on trying to improve the car if we're going to win the championship. We can't just sit back and say, well, I think we've got it figured out. It's a constant, daily effort to try to make things better all the time.

Q: I guess a split question between you and Seb. It seems like when I talk to either one of you, Seb will mention your name, you will mention his name; you did earlier in a broadcast. It's almost like a Kurt Busch/Kevin Harvick thing in NASCAR. Is there a time that this rivalry will end and you guys will become friends off the track?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I don't think that we're particularly unfriendly off the track, other than maybe the immediate aftermath after something happens.

As time goes by, tempers cool down and we get back to racing. Rivalries are what makes racing exciting, the days of the rivalries that Dale Earnhardt had with the drivers that he raced against through his era, and now that's what makes people attracted to racing is rivalries in sport in general. I want to win as well as everybody else on the track wants to win. In racing accidents happen, and you're mad at the time and then you get over it.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I mean, I think the rivalry is a little overrated. You see that with quite a few contacts, and now there's agreement that we're seeing over the last three years. It's just that we happen to keep it exciting at the front. He's a rough competitor and I'm not giving up anything. I think it's just racing, but there's nothing between he and myself, and we can have a very casual discussion without bumping into each other outside of the racetrack. No, I think it's just competition.

Q: Paul, you touched on this earlier on when you were talking about the NASCAR versus Champ Car. You've raced in NASCAR. Can you talk about the whole experience of maybe what does NASCAR do so well to relate with the fans, relate with the people that has drawn such a huge fan base, and what can Champ Car learn from that?

PAUL TRACY: I think anybody can learn from anything. But the one single factor that they have is they have huge, massive amounts of corporate sponsorship to do the type of advertising to put it to the masses. Really this country and the world is so big that unless people know what you're doing and you get it out there to people, then they're not going to know about it. That's one thing that NASCAR is very good at; they've got huge amounts of money and resources they spend on advertising.

Champ Car is doing the best that they can with the resources they have, but there's only so much you can do, and it's something that is a continual process of trying to get our series stronger and stronger. We'll just have to see what happens in the future, whatever happens with unification, if it happens to get back together, then that's going to make it even stronger again, but we're all crossing our fingers for that.

Q: And along the line, would you think the two series, two circuits, do need to unify to get one strong body instead of having two circuits going head to head?

PAUL TRACY: I think everybody can agree with that. One series is obviously what's best for open-wheel racing, and if that is achieved, then I think it would be a great thing for open wheel racing. We'll just have to wait and see and see if that does happen.

Q: I have two short questions. Sebastien, bon jour. I never said that you were afraid of the top contender in Champ Car, but among them, which is the one that you consider more difficult to beat?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think it obviously varies from time to time, and it varies over the season. Obviously this year I think it has been made very clear that Justin and RuSPORT is going to be very strong for the reasons we addressed earlier on. I'm not overly kind of warned by their performance level, but I think we can fully expect them to be a very strong contender for the Championship. He was not in all of them last year but quite a few, and Jay was still working, so we fully expect both of them to be very strong, but I don't forget PT and I don't forget Bruno. Our team is very well aware of everybody's envy to get to the top, so we'll keep on working out and see if it's good enough.

Q: Paul, you talked a little bit about NASCAR. As the experimental race in NASCAR, do you still think that your future can be in that category?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think it's something that I would like to be able to achieve, to do down the road. But my concentration right now is on this championship and this season. If things were to develop in the future, obviously for me I don't want to stop racing in the next few years. Really my experiment with NASCAR is really to open lines of communication with NASCAR owners and officials and people there, as well as the stuff that I've done in the GrandAm Series, as well, which is owned by NASCAR.

It's one of those things where you're not just going to waltz into a place and say give me the best car out there, and away you go. You have to build relationships, and that's really the process that I'm trying to go through.

Q: If you get an offer you can't refuse, what would you prefer?

PAUL TRACY: I'd have to look at all the options. It's pretty hypothetical. If I had an offer from the team to stay, then sure, I would look at it. I don't have a contract for next year, so my options are open to do whatever.

Q: Good afternoon. This question is for Paul. Paul, you spent quite a bit of time down here in Daytona, like you said, GrandAm, NASCAR. Since you can't compare the cars, what do you take away from the experiences that you can use this season coming up?

PAUL TRACY: When you're out there racing, you're still racing. To come in and do live pit stops, even though it's different, you've still got to go through the process of getting slowed down and not overshooting your pits and not breaking the speed limit. The GrandAm race you're out there racing, passing cars all the time and trying not to get run into by other cars that you're passing, whether it be slower production cars or whatever. Really you're just using all the skills that you have as a race driver, and that's really what I think has been great over the winter is to get out there and race and learn some different things and experience different things.

Q: And as a follow-up, what races will you be competing in, whether it's GrandAm or Cup from here on in?

PAUL TRACY: Right now I've got scheduled to run IRP in August and then California Speedway at the end of the year. I've got some offers to do a little bit more GrandAm stuff. They have a nine-hour endurance race, I guess, in Salt Lake City that I may compete in. It's an off-week for us. We just have to see what my team is okay with.

Q: Directing the question to whoever would like to answer it, maybe a couple guys can, there are still a couple of teams out there that don't have sponsorship for their full complement of drivers. How big a problem is it getting sponsors and how is it going to affect the Series looking forward?

PAUL TRACY: Well, it's always difficult. Finding sponsorship is very difficult, especially in -- this is a sport where it costs -- it's not like playing hockey or football or basketball where you just pick up your stick or the ball and you go play; to compete, to make the wheels turn, it costs money in this sport. The teams have to have a budget to do that. It's just one of those situations that I'm kind of in the same situation doing this NASCAR program, I had to go out and put together a sponsorship package and present it to a team.

It's just kind of the landscape of racing.  You know, racing takes money
to do it.  There's a big debate right now with what happened at the IRL
race, whether guys should be paying for their rides.  It's just always
been that way in racing; it costs money to go racing.  It's difficult.

Q: Bruno, you're from Brazil, Cristiano da Matta, he didn't have a ride until right near the end and he had trouble getting a sponsor.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Sponsorship is always difficult, has always been difficult. Unfortunately we don't have a good television package down in Brazil so it's difficult to get. I think in the case of Cristiano it was a different case. I think he never tried to get sponsorship. He thinks, and I believe him, he doesn't need to try to find a sponsor. The team hired him to drive, so that's why it took him so long to get him to race.

Q: We heard from Paul already on this question. Let me ask Bruno, Justin and Sebastien. How do you feel about the potential of unification, and what do other driver that you know as friends that you talk to either from Champ Car or IRL, is everybody in agreement that this is a good thing, this unification? I'd like to hear from each of the three drivers.

JUSTIN WILSON: Well, obviously it's something that most people feel pretty strongly about and feel that really needs to happen for both series to grow again. They've kind of been in difficult times over the last three years, and together they probably have the recognition to turn things around and make things stronger again. That's really what everyone is hoping for and it's what everyone needs. At this point just let them deal with the situation and the owners sort out what can be sorted out, if anything at all, and we'll just get on and do our job and try not to interrupt anything that could happen.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: For me I think there is nothing that the drivers can do, for sure that's a wish that every driver has for the last four or five years. Everybody wants the two to get together and keep talking, conversation the last three years maybe. But I'd say for me, I don't think about it, I just do my job because I can't do anything about it; it's not up to me, not up to the drivers, so we'll have to wait and see. But for sure it would be much better for open wheel racing in North America if we got together. I think 99 percent of the drivers agree on that.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think I completely agree with everything that has been said. I'd just go a further step and say basically keep looking at the situation in open wheel racing right now, which is both series are struggling so bad financially, and the teams can't put programs together and the drivers aren't getting paid anymore and things like that. If they don't try to make it happen, it will die. I think it's very straightforward. Either we succeed at this unification or we'll all be out of jobs very soon.

PAUL TRACY: Can I add in another thing? I think like Bruno said, it's really not in the control of the teams or the drivers. I think that a lot of people maybe from the ownership side, they like to add in their two cents for whatever reason of their own interests of what they want. But I think what ultimately needs to happen, it's really down to Kevin and Jerry and Tony, and you really have to treat it like it's a marriage; it's got to be equitable for both, it's got to be equal for both, and you can't go into it saying we're going to have a pre-nup set up and I'm going to get all of this and you're going to get that. It can't be 60/40 or 80/20. It's got to be fair for everybody. I think that's the only way it's going to work. I think that they're trying to make that happen. There's a lot of outside influences of people trying to put their opinion on what they think it should be, but ultimately it's down to them.

Q: One follow-up for Sebastien, you're going for your third straight Championship. Not too many people have accomplished that. Will you approach this year any different?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I don't think -- the statistics are obviously very nice, and everybody wants to put his name in the history book. But the bottom line is it's just racing; you can only give 100 percent, and anybody who pretends he's going to give 200 percent is not true because you can only give your best and your best is 100 percent. That's what we've done the last few years and that's what we're going to do again. If it's going to be good enough or not, I guess we're about to find out.

Q: Sebastien, to follow up on that, what do you think you have to improve on, or is there any improvement to go into this season to be able to repeat a champion?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, you can always get better, I guess. You know, I've improved in different areas of racing over the years, and especially since I came here to America, between my first season here and last year. But anyways, I guess if I had any weaknesses I felt I had, I probably would not say it right now in front of all these other drivers.

Q: Also, a question for you, your friend, he was staying over at your place and won IROC. How does that make you feel?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was just very different. We had a great time last year in IROC, and we always were kidding and inviting each other over, but the truth is with the kind of schedule we have, it's really difficult to get to see much of each other, which will hopefully change very soon. It was just kind of an open invitation, and I told him, well, at least you're going to come and race in town, so if you want to stay you're more than welcome, and again, it was open, and it was cool to get to spend some time together.

ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car media teleconference today. Thank you for participating today. Guys, best of luck this weekend.

-ccws-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Cristiano da Matta