CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Top three finishers press conference

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, JUSTIN WILSON AND NELSON PHILIPPE ERIC MAUK: We have our top three finishers in the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225, round 4 of the Bridgestone Presents Champ Car ...

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, JUSTIN WILSON AND NELSON PHILIPPE

ERIC MAUK: We have our top three finishers in the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225, round 4 of the Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Our third place finisher, driver of the #4 CTE Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, earns his first podium finish in his young Champ Car career, his best ever finish in his three years of Champ Car and the first podium for CTE Racing -- HVM since Mario Dominguez finished second at Surfers Paradise in 2004. Nelson, welcome to the podium. Nice job. How does it feel?

NELSON PHILIPPE: It feels definitely amazing. I said outside, it's been a long time coming. I've been really close a couple of times to being in the top 3, and finally I achieved it today. The main thing is I've got to give it up to my team because without them I wouldn't be here. They gave me an awesome car, it was great in traffic. I'm on the podium, you know.

ERIC MAUK: You had a number of very exciting moments out there, and you went after Justin hard a couple times and wheel to wheel with Sebastien a couple times. How much fun was that?

NELSON PHILIPPE: A lot of drivers tell you, when you have a bad car it's no fun. When you have a good car, it's fun. Today I had a good car. I've never had so much fun. It was definitely great to be side by side with Oriol, with Justin, with Sebastien. I scared myself a couple times behind Justin, but it was all part of it, and we brought the car home in one piece, and that's the most important.

ERIC MAUK: Great result today.

NELSON PHILIPPE: Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: Our second place finisher, driver of the #9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT Racing, Justin Wilson. His third runner-up finish in the 2006 season, he led 61 laps today, earned his sixth career podium finish. Another strong run, came home with the runner-up spot. Tell us how it felt.

JUSTIN WILSON: It feels good. I started out going to the first corner and I saw Bruno go down low so I kept my foot in it and went down on the low side of everyone. I was very pleased and the car the working well. That was a critical point in the race ahead of Bruno. I'm not sure what happened after that, but it was nice to be ahead of all the incidents.

Ultimately I wasn't quite quick enough, but really it was good for the performance of the CDW #9 crew. They've done a great job and gave me a good car. It's all down to the team and the car, and if they give me the equipment, I can do the job. I'm very pleased with the opportunity today.

ERIC MAUK: We usually don't have drivers talk about other drivers when we do this, but tell us about the battle you and Nelson had at the end.

JUSTIN WILSON: It was pretty good fun. Nelson was running a little less downforce so it was quick on the straights but couldn't quite carry the speed through the corner. He would come down the inside and I just would go out around the outside. I could see out the side of the car, that the wheels were getting pretty close, looked in my mirrors, and the last time we came out of 2, I looked in the mirror and I saw Nelson's car weaving all over the place. I guess he lost downforce, so he did pretty well to hold that. It was a great race. I'm just really happy to have made the podium on an oval. I can count this as my third oval. I didn't really think Vegas counted because it was just flat out -- this is one where you have to drive, and you feel that you can drive this track.

ERIC MAUK: Great result.

Before we take questions, we're still waiting for Sebastien to make his way through the phalanx of people there. He is first in the Top 5 unofficially with 136; Justin Wilson is second with 110; Mario Dominguez third with 76; Ranger is fourth with 75; A.J. Allmendinger moves up to fifth with 59. We'll take questions for two of our top three finishers today.

Q: Justin, you almost got lapped by Sebastien and then got the yellow flag and then were right behind him again. Did you think you had anything for him?

JUSTIN WILSON: I was hoping so. That middle stint where we nearly got lapped, we were really struggling with the balance. I'm not sure what happened. We came in with tires, and I think the pressures were the same or we got them wrong. When I caught traffic, I was hanging on at that point, and I couldn't pass anyone. I was just trying to wait it out until that next pit stop, and we made some adjustments after that.

It was a lot better, but as soon as we got that new start, Sebastien was away and Nelson was battling quite hard. I was then focused on holding my position rather than trying to attack ahead. Ultimately I don't think we were quite quick enough today, but as I said, the team has done a great job with the experience I've got.

Q: Justin, were you concerned that it was a 19-year-old kid battling you when you were getting close?

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, to be honest, at that point you don't think about age. You think about the driver, and I know Nelson is a hard charger, but he's also a smart guy. He's not going to go in there and go too deep and take us both out. He's going to push it to the limit and a little bit beyond, but it's down to me then to also respect that and give him a little bit more room than ideally I'd like to, but I have to understand that we're both racing and sliding past the edge. I didn't really expect a problem.

NELSON PHILIPPE: Justin and I used to be teammates, so there's great respect between each other. I think it showed out there. Like you said, a couple times I tried out there a little bit, and a couple times I almost felt like I was going to come right into you. Just pushing, and like I said, I'm a hard charger but I wouldn't do anything stupid. It was so much fun. I can't get over it.

Q: Justin, what did you think when you saw Sebastien finally have a problem?

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I saw him come in and I asked my team, why is he pitting, and he had a puncture, and I said that's good. We didn't quite put him two laps down. He pitted and fueled up, but then as soon as the fellow came out 20 laps later, he's back in the lead lap and you know he's back in contention. I think if we would have managed to complete that lap and get him two laps down, then it's a heart attack because as soon as you get the one pass around, you're back in play.

Q: Nelson, tell us how much you have improved this year and during your career?

NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, I think the other drivers in the Series know how much I improved last year. They voted for me to be the most improved driver. I sort of expect to be the most improved driver again this year, because I'm pushing my game more and more and just trying my best to learn as much as I can and pushing my fitness, pushing my mental skills, and slowly the experience is coming. But like you said, I'm very young. I'm turning 20 in a couple months, so I'm looking forward to some great things in the future.

ERIC MAUK: We are joined by the winner of today's Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225, the driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Led 117 laps on the day, posted the fastest lap on the course. His fourth win of the season, his fourth in a row, the first driver since Cristiano da Matta to win four at any point in the season. His 20th career victory in the Champ Cars, putting him in sole possession of 15th all-time, his 12th from the pole, tied Michael Andretti for fifth all-time with 12 wins from the pole.

Q: Sebastien, you finally had a tough day, but you worked hard as a team and pulled it out. How does it feel

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It feels awesome. This car was a rocketship today. It really looked like we were going to run away with it, and I guess on lap 15 or something, the guy started to see a small leak on the right rear, then I started to think different. At that point I was very confident we were going to have a good result because the car was really good and we didn't panic and everybody knew what he had to do, and me first, and the most important thing was to finish this race, not make any mistakes, and we were already really concentrated. Then I started to hit traffic and go very quickly and play catch-up a little bit, and it all worked out.

I think we just ran down everybody one by one, and once we got in the lead, we just ran with it. It was an awesome feeling. I think it feels very good to have everybody change his opinion about Newman/Haas Racing and Sebastien Bourdais on the short oval. It was one thing I really felt that needed to be a little corrected, I think.

We had fairly decent cars in the past two years, not as good as the front runners, but we were still making the race happen last year and we got a sixth place out of it, which was really a disappointment. But going into this year, the team really stepped up its game, and I can't reward these guys enough for the job they've -- all the hard work they've been doing because everybody knows it.

You need a good driver to have a result here, but without the car, you're just nothing. I know exactly where I'm coming from, and I know exactly where we're at today, and I know how much work is behind that. It's a great feeling, a great way to get my first win here in Milwaukee on the short oval. It's only my fourth time on that kind of track, and that feels awful good.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about, you used the word rocketship in talking about your racecar, but it looked like during the normal flow of the race you're running 22.9s, 22.8s, picking up time on everybody, but when you needed it, you had a 22.3 there any time you wanted it. Is that accurate?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think obviously the Bridgestone tires, we had scuffed tires the whole race, and I think the last set was only five laps or four laps from qualifying or something like that. I was just very good right away. The end still was just completely absent, and I just got the best of it.

At the restart I was just going from it, inside, outside, I was just standing on it. I knew it was time to pull away. After that we were getting into a mechanical routine trying to take care of the tires and getting by traffic. It was a little bit of a different story, but the car was very consistent. It was a very good performance after four or five laps and then it was kind of settling around 22.5, 22.7, and that was good enough.

ERIC MAUK: Talk about the Championship a little bit. Under most circumstances four wins in the year you're going to have them pretty much buried. The guy to your right got three seconds and he's right there 31 points back. Tell us a little bit about that fight.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That's why I'm saying we need to enjoy these wins and everything, but nothing is done. Justin is consistently right there. I've seen him digging and digging and digging for a result and never giving up and getting the crown at the end. He's very good at that, he's got tons of experience, and I don't think I'm very much beyond him on the experience, but it's going to be whoever gets the fewest mistakes of the season. We both know that. So far we've been running kind of mistake-free, and it's just the reason why we're both on top of the Championship. I think it's going to be like that for the whole season, and I just hope that we keep on running trouble-free like that.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.

Q: Are you starting to think that you can run the table?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. I mean, obviously that's a press thing. It's a good way to write a paper, I guess, but it's way too early. I think you've seen how these races get turned around. There's no way you can predict anything like that. I think if you get to six, seven in a row, it's already pretty darn good. We were really close to doing it last year, if not for a small bobble on a pit stop in Montreal. Realistically, I think we've had our share of records, and I've just re-concentrated on getting the job done. I think this Championship means a whole lot for a lot of people, myself first, and I just think we're going to get the wins when we can and get the points when we can. There are no such things -- you can't say, okay, I'm going to run the table and blow everybody away. That's definitely not me. But I love to do it.

ERIC MAUK: There are a dozen drivers that won four Champ Car races consecutively and only three drivers have ever won as many as five in a row.

Q: How have you made your improvements on ovals?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think to be very honest, I got to understand very early what I needed to do on the racetrack when I was by myself, just because you do so many laps, you go around, you try different things, and you drive the balance, you learn how not to drive a loose car and things like that after a couple of moments.

But the thing I really learned, and Indy helped me a lot with that, is to know how to race, to get close to people, to time it right, to not get myself in trouble, not try things when I don't quite think it's going to make it right away because then you get blocked, you take a chance to get the car loose on power in the middle of the corner, and you kind of see things coming at you a little different, and that's what made it a lot easier and easier, I think. Obviously the car was just great. Last year I had a strong run before this penalty, and I think this year we just put everything together and threw it on the racetrack, and it was quite a heck of a run today.

Q: You made up a lot of ground but then it seemed like you had trouble when you ran up on Oriol. What happened?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, what happened after the restart, I passed Nelson and another car, and then I got behind Oriol, and I'm P-4 or P-5 or whatever he was at the time. I was okay with that. I knew they were going to 15 or 20 laps. I just wanted to keep my Bridgestone tires in good shape and be able to capitalize on that. Boy, it didn't play up quite the way I expected it to play. I caught Oriol and he was in trouble but he was running an impossible lap to go around. He was low, wide, and I couldn't do anything. He always cut my line, whether I was high or low or whatever.

Nelson was playing catch-up behind, and I was kind of trying not to be too close to save my tires, and Nelson in traffic goes around me, and then I got him back, and we got A.J. and then it became like a fight, like a terrific fight out there, but nothing that I was enjoying too much because we were kind of taking chances and being very close to one another.

At some point I just said okay, now we've got to get by, it doesn't matter if we are taking chances out there. We kind of played it a little tougher and used a little bit to kind of go around Oriol, and it worked out, and it was perfect timing because from there on I could run very fast and I was very happy with the car at the time. It was just the exact timing we needed.

Q: Did the race play out the way you expected?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Not too much because I really thought after the weather -- the start of the race when I thought was car was just as good or even better, I knew what to do with it for the first few laps to capitalize on the newer tires. When you're running kind of hard, it's tough for people behind you to even stay there because you're running in thin air and they're running in somewhat of a dirty area. I just kind of took off, took the lead and then I was managing it, and then we hit traffic. I had a couple of moments, that's the reason why I kind of really tried hard at the beginning to pull away because I knew we were going to run into traffic, that being the case, all day. Sure enough, I got behind Pastorelli, and he was wide and I got inside. That was a close call. I just put on the brakes and did a 25 lap or something like that, and all of a sudden Justin was back like a second from us.

But he had a same trouble, so I guess we pulled away again. It was a lot of give-and-take in this race. It teaches you how to be patient because that's the way oval racing goes when people have cars that are not as good as yours or they just don't feel it.

Q: Yesterday you were talking about how difficult it was going to be to pass. At what point do you change your mindset from not being able to pass to doing whatever it takes to pass.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You play it somewhat safe, but if you want to get to a certain position, you've got to help yourself a little bit. We pushed. I don't really have the feeling we took stupid chances, but I definitely had to try, otherwise we would have stayed a lap down and that would have never been a factor in the race. So that wasn't really the plan of the day.

When we got that back, we had to kind of be aggressive because there wasn't anything to kind of take anymore. We were not in a strong situation so we had to get there, and then after that you can usually think of being a little conservative. The truth is once you get in the kind of a mood where you are in attack mode, it's tough to back down a little bit. So we just did what we could, and I felt comfortable in the car. That's very much me. I think when things like that happen, it kind of puts me in a different mindset and I have a different approach, I guess.

Q: Do you think things would have changed if we had gone the full race distance? Would you like to see more racing on oval?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't think so. I think everybody has pretty much set his positions.

NELSON PHILIPPE: I wasn't done yet (Laughter)

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I didn't see what was going on behind me. Yes, I think we should have more ovals. This series has been more about these ovals, and it would make it easier for everybody because when you're a rookie in the field, it's tough. We never test in these places. We show up, we hope we have good equipment and everything, but when you're a rookie and the team doesn't have that good a setup and you show up just before the race, it's awful.

I was talking to Jan (Heylen), and said I have no idea what I should do. It was the first time I came here and I didn't test before in 2003. It's just incredibly difficult to figure out. You've got to get to a certain level before you get comfortable. I think it would be a good thing.

JUSTIN WILSON: What level is that?

NELSON PHILIPPE: One where you get comfortable.

JUSTIN WILSON: I think it would be nice to see one or two more because historically that's what this Championship has been about, having the variety of circuits, whether it's airport or road or street or short oval. Maybe the race would have played out different towards the end there. I was pretty pleased to see the champion because he kept catching certain guys, as Sebastien said, who were wandering all over the track. I went on the outside of one guy who then went high, as well, so he put me right up in the marbles, and I thought I was going to crash at that point. It's very difficult to know what some people are going to do.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Champ Car did a great job cleaning the track. Usually they would never do that, and sure enough, there would be like three or four cars crashing just for that. I escaped one just because they cleared the track because Power didn't see me or whatever and I was trying outside, too, and he dragged me all the way. Without that, for sure I was in the wall. That was evidence.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Cristiano da Matta