CHAMPCAR/CART: Mario Dominguez press conference, part I

An interview with Mario Dominguez. Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We're excited to welcome to the call...

An interview with Mario Dominguez.

Part 1 of 2

Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations.

We're excited to welcome to the call the latest winner in the CART FedEx Championship Series, Mario Dominguez, driver of the #55 Herdez Ford-Lola Bridgestone, who earned his first ever Champ Car win last Sunday at the Honda Indy 300. Adrian Fernandez of Fernandez Racing, who was injured in the spectacular first-lap accident on Sunday, will be joining us a bit later.

First off, let's welcome in Mario Dominguez. Mario, thanks for joining us this afternoon.

Mario Dominguez: Thanks for having me.

Merrill Cain: On Sunday Mario virtually locked up the Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year award by playing the pit window perfectly in the rain-shortened race, capturing the checkered flag in front of a wet and lively crowd in Australia's Gold Coast.

Has the reality of your first win in Champ cars really sunk in yet?

Mario Dominguez: It was a very, very good win for the team. The reality hasn't really sunk in. It was a very well-deserved win by the team because not only did they fix that car after the big crash at the beginning, but they had a wonderful strategy in the pits.

I'm just very excited, very happy for the whole team. I think this is what we needed to cheer us up. We've had all the bad breaks this year. Finally a very good one came back. We got paid back. Somebody up there was looking over us.

I'm just happy about that. It's just something that we needed, that the sponsors needed. Herdez has been working for many years to get a result like this. I'm happy that I gave it to them. Del Valle has been a supportive company, Corona and Televisa. They're very happy about it. Now we have to keep on working hard and focus on getting good results.

Merrill Cain: You mentioned you were involved in that first-lap accident, the one that took out Adrian Fernandez and Tora Takagi, as well. They had to be transported to the hospital. How tough was it to get through that first lap accident, the conditions you experienced, and talk about the effort of the team to get the car back into the race? What went into that strategy that ultimately wound up with you claiming your first victory in CART?

Mario Dominguez: Well, first of all, after that crash, I was very worried about all the drivers. I was hoping that everyone was going to be okay. Once I found out that, yes, the injuries were not severe, everyone was going to be alright, I felt relieved. I think all the spectators, all the teams, all the drivers were relieved that nothing bad had happened.

Then I was just worried. I never thought my team was going to be able to get the car ready for the race. I was just very frustrated at that moment, that I was not going to be able to race. You work so hard all year. You go all the way to Australia, and not even to be able to race. I could not describe to you how bad I was feeling.

My team put it together. They fixed the car. They fixed it perfectly. I was so happy when I knew I was going to be able to race again, you wouldn't believe it.

Then to win it, I mean, that's just unbelievable. The whole strategy was fantastic. It was a very good gamble by Joe (Ward), the team strategist, but it paid off. We just stretched and stretched our pit window at the beginning. It was just a wonderful thing to come in first. It was obviously a tough race. In the end, somebody had to be there. Who better than us?

Merrill Cain: We'll take some questions from the media.

Q: This is excellent you finally have won a race here. The monkey on your back is gone here. For a while, there's going to be some folks out there who are going to say there is a little asterisk next to this win because it was wet, the controversy over the finish and the pit window. That's all water under the bridge. Is there any additional pressure on you in your own mind that you need to get out there and win another one where there isn't the rain and all the controversy?

Mario Dominguez: Well, of course, no question, this win was - I've always said it - more a team win than me. My driving didn't play a huge part in it. It was just team strategy. It was a wonderful team for us. But there's always been pressure for me to perform and to win races.

Yeah, sure, I want to get out there and prove myself. I want to get out there in Fontana and have another win, have a very good result. I'm looking forward to this race, for the next challenge.

But obviously and definitely, this is the kind of result that will cheer us up and totally lift our spirits.

Q: Some drivers have been critical of the rule where there's a mandatory pit window in a race. What is your opinion? Should CART get rid of this mandatory pit window or refine it?

Mario Dominguez: The reason they did it is because before, people were winning races by saving fuel, by running really slow throughout the whole race. It would be a similar circumstance to the way I won this race in Australia, being very lucky. So what CART wants is for the drivers to go out there and drive 100 percent every single lap of the race. They shortened the pit windows, that way nobody will be saving fuel. You drive as hard as you can all the time. This going slow, saving fuel strategies, those kind of things, don't play such a big part.

In the end, nobody is ever happy with everything. You can't have everybody happy. I think this has been better for the show, no question about it. The CART races this year have been better. All the drivers think it's better. It's completely different to be driving 100% than driving not 100%, saving fuel, shortshifting, doing things like that in order to win by another strategy. It's much better when you win by driving 100%.

Q: You have to be excited about finishing the season in Mexico City?

Mario Dominguez: Finishing the season in Mexico City is the best thing that could ever happen to us. I'm looking forward to that race. It's going to be fantastic. I think that track is the best in the CART series. The facilities are state-of-the-art. The track is just beautiful. It's perfect. One of the most beautiful racetracks in the world. We're expecting 400,000 people for the weekend. It's going to be a wonderful event to finish the season.

Q: When you look back at the way this past weekend unfolded, was there ever any thought that you might walk away a winner?

Mario Dominguez: To every race we get to, we always walk with the hopes and ideas of trying to win it. But to tell you the truth, I've been so unlucky this year, I've had so many bad breaks, and Friday didn't begin too well. I had a crash, sure enough I hit at exactly the wrong spot on the track where the car was badly damaged, so I had to go to the spare car. During the race, I never, never expected that I was going to be able to win it because of all the bad luck I had this year. I thought, if somebody is going to get the lucky break, it's not going to be me.

What goes around comes around. Like I said, I think somebody up there was looking over us. All the effort, all the hard work that's been put into this by the sponsors, by the team, by the guys, the engineers, myself, finally paid off. It was a good break, a lucky break. But we made our luck in this race, so it was good.

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Mario Dominguez press conference, part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Tora Takagi , Mario Dominguez