CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Top three finishers press conference

CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM PORTLAND WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, JUSTIN WILSON AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference. We have the top ...

CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM PORTLAND WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, JUSTIN WILSON AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS

ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference. We have the top three finishers from the GI Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, round five of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

We're joined by two of our top three finishers. We'll start with our third place finisher, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien finishes third today. He leads five laps, earns his fifth podium finish of the campaign in the series' five races, the 29th of his career. Sebastien, trying for the fifth win in a row. Gave it a good shot. Ran hard today. Tell us a little about how it went for you.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I guess I probably should keep my mouth shut because I'm not going to make a lot of friends around here if I do speak up.

No, I think it was probably the most frustrating race I've ever been a part of right from the beginning. You know, if you think the first start was ugly, I think the second one was probably about the worst thing I've ever seen in my life. From there on, after that, you're trying to make up for mistakes that people did to you and the entire line I was part of.

So, what can I say? You know, the McDonald's car was probably the class of the field today. You know, we are trying to make a little bit of history here, but I guess some people thought different. We never really got a chance to fight for it. This is the way it is. We'll just move on and see what we can do in Cleveland. But, yeah, quite a frustrating day.

ERIC MAUK: Not to lead you down the path of evil, but they're (media) going to ask if I don't. Tell us what your issues are with the start.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, they keep on throwing the green flag before they can even see things, make any kind of sense of how it looks. So basically if you do that, well, you expose yourself to a really screwed up start. That's what happens every now and then. The first attempt, yeah, it wasn't that pretty. Bruno started pretty early. Everybody wasn't completely there, but at least the order was making sense. AJ was right behind Bruno and I was behind AJ and Cristiano was there, Justin also. I guess it was not the prettiest start ever, but it was all right.

The second one, Bruno slowed down quite a bit to pack everybody up, like he was probably instructed to. They threw the green at the same moment as he just kind of backed off a little bit because AJ was starting to be way ahead of him. At that time they threw the green, so Bruno was on the opposite side of what he was supposed to do, and AJ was flat out. All the left line just passed us. By the time I crossed the start/finish line, I probably was sixth. To make things worse, as we were slow on the whole left side, Tracy went around. It was just a mess.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien still comes out of this weekend after five races with a 30-point lead in the championship as he again tries to become the first driver since 1948 to win three consecutive Champ Car titles.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Don't take me wrong, I'm not bitching at the results. Under any other circumstances, I would have kept my third place, keep my mouth shut and just move on. I think to lose that way is just about the worst thing that can happen to a race car driver. You got one of the best cars out there. You're busting your butt. To get that, I don't think it's fair.

I mean, if they don't want Newman/Haas to win, they should just say it, save us the time to qualifying and make us leave at the back of the pack and at least we'll see what we can do.

ERIC MAUK: Today's runner-up, the fourth time this driver has finished as a runner-up so far in the 2006 season, driver of the #9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Justin Wilson. Justin's seventh podium of his career and the first time this year that he has gained points on Sebastien, whittling a point off the lead, now 30 points behind after five events. Justin, tell us how things went from your perspective today.

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, you know, it was nice to slot in behind AJ at the start. Dan Clarke managed to get into second. That wasn't too concerning. I just sat there saving fuel for the first stint. I was pushing as hard as I could without burning too much. After he went off, got his flat tire, I just pushed hard and tried to keep the gap the same and close the gap down, if I could, to AJ. It's just a case of running flat out for the rest of the race.

Seems like we did 105 laps at qualifying pace. Every lap was flat. I got close to making a run into turn one. Locked up the right front for some reason, and that pretty much put an end to my attack. I lost front grip ever since then and had a huge vibration. We're losing time and there's also the risk of it letting go so we decided to pit early. We had a long last stint, which ultimately hurt us, made life difficult. Fortunately, I was able to stay ahead of Sebastien and claim second place.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us about AJ's out lap after the second round of stops. You pitted early. You slot in behind him. Bruno was in between you two. Tell us about what happened there.

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I'm struggling to actually remember because there was so much going on. There were times when there was traffic at play, people -- from what I recall, one car shortcutted the chicane, and that made the difference on my out lap.

You know, it was frustrating. Seems like that same guy keeps making mistakes. I was happy to get into third off the start. Seems like from my perspective Bruno made a mistake and caught Sebastien out. Everyone was in line. Everyone was ready to go. Got to the usual point where normally we've gone. You know, Bruno jumped on the brakes to I think try and catch AJ out and got it all wrong. He hit the brakes right as the starter thought everything was fine. You know, they threw the green flag when Bruno braked. You know, it put me into second. I saw Dan look for the first corner. At that point I thought, I'll come forward and take third.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good run today.

JUSTIN WILSON: Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: The winner of the GI Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. AJ led 100 of 105 laps today, taking the first win of his Champ Car career, earning the ninth podium of his career. He vaults into third place in the championship standings after five races. AJ, how good is this?

AJ ALLMENDINGER This is absolutely amazing. I still don't think I really understand it and believe that it happened. I know with like seven or eight laps to go, I started tearing up. I told myself to stop being a sissy and finish the race because I hadn't won anything yet.

It just absolutely amazing. I can't thank Forsythe and the whole team enough for everything they've done for me this weekend. Before the weekend even started, just stuff like travel and stuff that happen doesn't seem that big of a deal that sometimes can be trouble, they made so easy. Getting here, the group of guys were absolutely fantastic. I can't thank them enough for what they made me feel like when I got here and how comfortable I was to get in the car, out of the car, how much fun they made this weekend go.

I mean, the pit stops were absolutely fantastic. I just can't thank the whole team enough. Red Bull for sticking behind me. No matter what I was going to do, they said they were going to stick behind me. It's absolutely a fantastic sponsor.

Companies like Puma that had a suit ready for me in two days, Corby Concepts had a paint job. Everybody, my parents for sticking behind me, my fiancee. Just absolutely -- Tara Regan for being such a nice, nice lady, doing everything for me over the past week. Tony, just everybody. Everything that they did for me this week, it's amazing.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about the second stint, you have a 7.7 second lead, this guy (Wilson) starts whittling away, you come out of the second stop, there he is.

AJ ALLMENDINGER Yeah, you know, I was hoping that since I would switch colors, Justin would be a lot nicer to me, but he's not. (laughter) He just started running me down. I was really struggling in lapped traffic. Katherine Legge held me up for three laps. I knew watching my lap times I was running 60.4 and 5s by myself. Once I got behind Katherine, I was running 62. I knew Justin was coming. Once I got -- I beat him out of the pits, thanks to the Forsythe pit crew. I just knew I had to pace myself because once we got through the lap traffic, started pulling away, my car was getting off the last corner really well, so it was going to take a mistake by me or Justin to really get a great run on me to get around me. I saw him lock up, and I knew that he probably flat spotted his tire right there. So once we got through traffic, I just drove as hard as I could to get away from him. We were able to pull enough gap. From there on, it was kind of just pacing and taking care of the car because I knew I had a six- to eight-second lead. I was just pacing myself the last few laps and bringing the car home.

ERIC MAUK: What did you see at the start?

AJ ALLMENDINGER Luckily a clear track, that was good. In my mirrors, looked like chaos.

I don't really know what happened on the start. The first start, Bruno really took off early. I think kind of caught the whole field off guard. So they didn't throw the green. On the second start, I think he was waiting a while because he didn't want to jump the start again. Maybe the flagger, JD, was thinking he might try to take off early. Just listening to Justin as I walked in, about the same thing, I wasn't even looking up. I was kind of getting ready to take off. They yelled green to me, so it was a bit of a mess going into turn one. Once I saw -- coming out of turn one, Dan was behind me, I knew I probably had a better car. I really tried to pace myself and save the tires, but still kind of drive away. I think that's what got us such a big lead in the first stint.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Well-deserved.

A couple quick bits. The three-day attendance figure for this weekend is 77,065, an increase of almost 20% over last season. Also unofficially the top five in points, Sebastien remains your points leader with 162, Justin is second with 132, AJ climbs to third with 102, Andrew Ranger is fourth with 89, four-way tie at fifth with 76 between Mario Dominguez, Paul Tracy, Nelson Philippe and Cristiano da Matta. Those are all unofficial in case my math isn't any good. We'll take questions from the media.

Q: A.J., are you glad CBS has a six-second delay?

AJ ALLMENDINGER You know, did I cuss on TV?

Q: Yeah, after taking the checkers

AJ ALLMENDINGER I didn't remember that, so. Oh, well, yes then. I don't know. It didn't matter at that point. I was just yelling, so... Figured Dale Jr. did it, so why couldn't I.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Because you can't afford it

AJ ALLMENDINGER That's true, yeah (laughter).

Q: Your dad and you were hugging after the race, just a great display, what did that mean to you?

AJ ALLMENDINGER I mean, just a buildup of emotion for two and a half years. I came so close obviously at Edmonton last year, wasn't able to get it. Being on Father's Day, really just everything that my parents have done to me and mean to me, just kind of the emotion rollercoaster that I went through the last week, it just kind of built up. I knew that it was going to come to that point once I got out of the car. But I wouldn't have it any different.

Q: A.J., this was a two-race deal, do you think this helps your cause to stay in the car all year?

AJ ALLMENDINGER Actually, they said since I didn't qualify pole yesterday, they're going to look at even if I'm going to be in the car at Cleveland (laughter).

No, I think -- as I said before, I think we wanted to look at, see if the team jelled, myself and the whole team would get along and work well together. I think we showed that that happened today. It was just more building for the rest of the year. I'm not too worried about it. Everything will sort itself out. Mostly I would think I'll be in the car the rest of the year, so.

Q: AJ, what was the major difference between today compared to past weekends that you were not able to win? There has to be some reason why you were able to come through.

AJ ALLMENDINGER Well, I mean, the first thing was that Forsythe this weekend just gave me a fantastic car. I think working well with my engineer, Michael (Cannon), the whole team, made it easy.

But more importantly, after signing with Forsythe, I just kind of had a new lease on my career, excitement, knew there was going to be great opportunity. I was thrilled to sign with Forsythe. So coming to the racetrack, meeting all the guys, seeing how energized they were, to see me being at the team, makes it exciting to sit in the car, talk to the guys all weekend. When you're more relaxed, having fun, it seems to make a your job a little easier. I think because of what Forsythe is all about, everything they have done for me, up to this week and during the weekend, I was just excited to be here and have fun and it showed.

Q: Obviously, you weren't having fun and weren't relaxed before.

AJ ALLMENDINGER Well, I think, as Carl (Russo) said, there was difference of opinions. We were going at it a different way. But other than that, you know, I mean, like I said, I have no hard feelings. I'm happy that Carl made the decision. It was a little hard at that point to figure out what was going to happen in the short-term. But it figured itself out. When you're able to come in a new situation and really just have a new attitude about the excitement of being here, as I said, it can make your job a bit easier.

Q: Justin, you have to be aware of the irony as you were trying to chase down your friend and former teammate.

AJ ALLMENDINGER We're not friends. We said that when we were teammates and now. Now we can tell the truth.

JUSTIN WILSON: It's just a cover (laughter). To be honest, at that stage, I was just, you know, not thinking about anything. I was trying to catch down that car in front. You know, it was a Forsythe car in front, not AJ in front. That's what I was working on and doing everything I could to win this race.

It's only afterwards you stop the car. It was actually after we just crossed the line, went through the festival here, and AJ is parked in the middle. I pulled up in front of him and gave a wave, let him go ahead and practice his donuts. That's when it really -- as a friend, you know, you think it's a great moment. Up until that point, I'm thinking selfishly as a driver, I'm trying to win the race.

Q: How tough was it to deal with lapped traffic today, it seems like a lot of people were having trouble with that today

AJ ALLMENDINGER Well, I think that was the problem. It was hard to get close to the lapper in front of you. It seemed like, for me at least, I don't know about the other guys, but I'd always come up on two guys racing each other. So obviously they don't want to move over because they're racing for position. So it was difficult.

To try to get Champ Car to get to the point to tell them that they had to move, and I think that's really what it came down to for most lappers that were lapping, they would wait till that last possibly moment till Champ Car said, Move over or get a penalty. That's really what I was struggling with. Seemed like we were just catching groups of cars instead of one at a time.

JUSTIN WILSON: It's very difficult to get close. Like AJ said, you'd get within, I don't know, a second, two seconds to the car in front, you drop to their pace. You did everything you could to make it happen, but at the end of the day, you're kind of relying on getting extra assistance from the officials to help you out.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You know, obviously not being the leader and everything, it's always tougher. I had to get quite close to the guys to really get them to wave the blue flag. The team did a good job to try to, you know, push Champ Car to get them out of the way. Obviously, when you're catching cars two seconds a lap, it doesn't really make sense to try to hold you up. You also know you can't pass them, or it's very difficult. They were trying to stay in front of me.

It's always the same deal, but I could get two car lengths, one car length, and that was that. I was just doing this and waiting that the guy would move over because there was no other way.

Q: I know at least one driver got the double blue flag. What is the problem with trying to pass them? Is it because they get on the 'push to pass' on the straightaway?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, if they get on the 'push to pass', that's what we try to make a point on during the driver's briefing and all that. The 'push to pass' has not been designed for guys to stay in the lead lap. All that really achieves, it's pretty much the opposite of what we're trying to achieve. It's for passing. That's non-passing. That's a little frustrating.

I think personally, since I'm one of the true pushers to try to have this thing banned, like if you are about to get lapped, you're not allowed to use the 'push to pass'. I think it would make a lot of sense. They just said they can't enforce it. That's just on race control's part. No, I really think it's a tough deal. There's not much you can do about it.

AJ ALLMENDINGER He's right.

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, the problem is you have long, sweeping corners, you know, leading onto these straits. You need all the grip you can get to get through the corner. If you're too close to the car in front, you lose the front of the car. When you wash out, you can't get on the power. You slow onto the straight.

We don't make our time up with quicker engines down the straight; we make our time up by going through the corners quicker. Once you get behind somebody in the same situation who's just a couple of seconds slower, it's not because they're slow on the straits.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The biggest problem also is because this track is really old. The pavement is really beat up. You don't have a lot of mechanical grip. You rely so much on the downforce, when you take the downforce out because you're following the guy in front of you, you instantly drop to the pace of the guy in front of you because there's no way you can go any faster. If this place were repaved, it would be extremely exciting racing. As far as I'm concerned, as soon as you get behind a guy, you're just stuck. It's not really wide, so it's not like you can pick another line.

Q: There were complaints yesterday about some grip in the corners, was there trouble today?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, it was the first day. It was definitely better with the alternate tires that Bridgestone brought because obviously that's exactly where the difference was. I think we identified the problem. It was due to a tail wind going into five, six and seven. That was just unloading the car on Friday. That's why it made life better with stickier tires. All of a sudden you would increase the mechanical grip and the car would feel better. AJ didn't feel it because he was on alternate tires. Everybody else was like sliding all over the place. We were like, What the hell is going on? On Saturday was much better. Today it didn't affect us.

Q: What are you guys going to have to do in order to catch Sebastien for the championship?

AJ ALLMENDINGER I mean, obviously, Justin is a bit closer. You know that Sebastien and Newman/Haas is probably going to, every weekend, without mechanical or an incident or anything like that, they're always going to be in the top five or fighting for wins.

Right now for me it's more gelling with my team and going out there and trying to get more victories. It's probably most likely going to take some luck and some bad problems for Sebastien to come back, at least to me, because I think I'm like 60 points back. For Justin, you know, he keeps plugging away. Obviously he has a better opportunity. But, you know, I'm going out there, I'm third in points now. Just going to focus on the next race at Cleveland.

JUSTIN WILSON: Oh, yeah, it's going to be easy (laughter). What am I supposed to say?

Q: You're going to have to win races, obviously.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, he's going to need that things go his way. That's the way. I mean, it's all about consistency, this championship. If we keep on finishing races, you won't have a chance, that's the truth. He knows that. He'll be out there week in, week out, and he'll try and win races. I'll try and just, you know, be there all the time. That's how we can win the championship. There's no magic. It's math. You just take the points and move on.

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I'm just going to go out there and attack every race, pretty much what we've done all season, get the most out of it we can and just have some good results and enjoy it. That's the main thing. If Sebastien's luck changes, gives us an opportunity, we'll take advantage of that. You know, the main thing is to have good racing and enjoy it.

ERIC MAUK: Last note before we wrap-up. Sebastien mentioned running at the finish. Actually, every car that started the event was running at the finish of the event. First time that's ever happened here at Portland International Raceway.

We go racing again next weekend at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. Thank you very much.

-cc

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Cristiano da Matta , Dan Clarke