CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Top three finishers press conference

CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM THE LEXMARK INDY 300 WITH NELSON PHILIPPE, MARIO DOMINGUEZ AND ALEX TAGLIANI ERIC MAUK: Ladies and gentlemen, the top three finishers from today's Lexmark Indy 300 Round 13 of the Bridgestone Presents...

CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM THE LEXMARK INDY 300 WITH NELSON PHILIPPE, MARIO DOMINGUEZ AND ALEX TAGLIANI

ERIC MAUK: Ladies and gentlemen, the top three finishers from today's Lexmark Indy 300 Round 13 of the Bridgestone Presents a Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, we'll start with our third place finisher, driver of the #15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone Team Australia, Alex Tagliani. He finishes third today. Second podium finish of the year. Second at Surfers Paradise and 14th of his career. Today's performance put him back up in the top 10 in the season standings.

Alex, tough race for you. You battled, and here you are on the podium  .
Tell us about it                                                       .

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, you know, I have a little bit of mixed feelings, you know, for our team, because you know Will was doing really good and I saw his car on the side, and I know it's going to take him a while to get over this race. I've been there in Montreal, being on the pole and could win the race and something goes wrong.

So for our team it was quite important to try to come home with a podium finish. There was a new sponsor on board this weekend. I think for the future of the program Team Australia, showing how competitive the team was and finishing with the podium this weekend, especially on a big event like this, it's quite important. And we're hoping that it's going to be some more company that's going to come and help our program getting stronger and stronger.

For the race, I think we had a chance at winning the race. Unfortunately, on the first pace lap the dash went completely blank and the battery voltage was down. So the team asked me to run higher revs, so obviously no saving fuel. And I was basically on a very big saving fuel mode during the race when I was running at speed, because I needed to catch up the time that I couldn't save fuel on full course yellow, and made us going always too early in the pits, especially when Nelson stayed out a lap or two more than us.

And then we were always playing catch-up during the race. So the car was very competitive, but when we were out there, we needed to save so much fuel for what we were not able to save during the full course yellow.

ERIC MAUK: How big a result is this for you personally? You're on the podium in the season opener back in Long Beach. In between you've had some bad luck and struggles, and you come back to the podium, in what is conceivably the biggest race in the second half of the season.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yes, I'm quite happy, especially here in Australia for the team. We had a lot of bad luck this year. I know the race with P.T. and Milwaukee and I can go on, Elkhart Lake and Denver, and there were races we were always in the top five and it's really hard for our championship, but, you know, like I said before, I'm going to take the last two races, you know, session for session, and try to do the best we can for the team.

And I know that Team Australia did a lot of effort for this particular race. They worked really hard, and because it paid off and it shows that the team is competitive, we're hoping that we'll be able to do that sort of work and intensity every race next year in the season.

ERIC MAUK: Today's runner-up, driver of the #8 Pemex Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Rocketsports Racing, Mario Dominguez. This is Mario's best finish of the 2006 season, second podium of the year. Third podium here at Surfers Paradise, the 11th of his career. Today's result boosts him from ninth into sixth in the season standings with just one race to go. Strong run today, Mario, tell us about it.

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: First, I want to thank all the Australian people for putting on this great event. I couldn't be happier to get a podium than over here for two special reasons: One, because I love it here in Australia. It's beautiful. They treat us so well. They treat the drivers as we're really superstars. And, second, because this is the one race before Mexico City, and we get a lot of momentum, show up there, I'm very, very motivated. So is the rest of the team.

We wanted to get a great result and that's going to help a lot. It's only my second race with Rocketsports Racing. And with everything that's going on with me this year, this has to be the worst year of my life. This is a great podium.

I think I want to dedicate 100 percent to my sponsors for believing in me. Pemex, GICSA, Del Valle, Pemex and Bridgestone. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to be here, and I'm just very, very happy to be here. Great race with Nelson. He deserves to win. He did not make any mistakes. We raced hard but clean. That's what racing is all about. At one point I thought I had him, but he did a good job and he's a good friend and I'm happy for him.

ERIC MAUK: Mario also gains the championship point that's awarded every race for the driver that makes up the most positions during the event. Mario started 10th and then finished 2nd today. Mario, tell us about that last lap. You went into the first chicane and looked like you might have a shot at him, couldn't quite get there.

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Yes, I was pressing and pushing as hard as I could all the time, tried to be as close to him, tried to force him into making a small mistake, get a run on him. But it just didn't happen.

At one point, another chicane, we were side by side and that was pretty exciting as well. I'm glad we were able to put on a good show for the Australians; they deserve it. And just very, very happy about this result, because, like I said, this has been the toughest year in my life with everything that's been going on, and I'm going to work very hard to do a good result in Mexico City, do a good season and closing, and hopefully I can get sponsors to race in Champ Car next again year.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Great result. This year's winner of the Lexmark Indy 300, the 16th different winner in 16 events here at Surfers Paradise, extending what's the longest streak in the history of Champ Car racing, the driver of the #4 CTE Racing, HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for CTE Racing.

Nelson Philippe earns his first Champ Car win. Becomes the youngest driver ever to win a Champ Car race, breaking the previous record held by Scott Dixon. His first win of his career, third podium of his year, first win for CTE Racing since Ryan Hunter Reay won in Milwaukee back in 2004. And the victory clinches the nation's cup for the country of France for the second consecutive year. Nelson, outstanding day for you. How does it feel?

NELSON PHILIPPE: I got out of the car, literally had no words, didn't know what to say. The team did an amazing job all year and amazing working with them all year and my engineer is absolutely wonderful. And before I used to hear Paul Tracy talk about you know your engineer, he has to be like your wife. I thought he was joking, to be honest, but I realize this is exactly what it's supposed to be. And I mean I was talking to Alex before, and I was telling him, in 2004 when, I came here, nobody ever thought that I would be where I am standing today. And it's a true testament to my family who stuck by me, who helped me through my whole career, and I worked my butt off the last two years, and I'm so happy to be here today.

ERIC MAUK: The standard follow-up question is: What were you thinking in the last lap of your first win. But we imagine all your thoughts were, "Where the hell is Mario?" Tell us about the last lap.

NELSON PHILIPPE: Pretty much the last 15 laps, there was a car, white, red, green and was in my mirrors, couple times got close to me, was able to hold him off. Like you said, didn't make any mistakes, managed to just keep it on the road. And to be honest with you, at the halfway point in the race I really told myself you have a real shot at this, so just went for it, pushed hard and at the end it came together.

And it's absolutely wonderful. In the last lap, the whole lap I had a bunch of goose bumps down my back the whole lap, and it was an amazing feeling and to just pull this off, especially here in Australia, is just amazing.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us about the pass you made on Servia to take the lead.

NELSON PHILIPPE: I don't remember that.

ERIC MAUK: Want me to tell you about it?

NELSON PHILIPPE: No, actually I passed a few cars. I passed a car going into turn 3. Also when he was going on in full tires, passed Servia, and passed quite a few cars. And from the beginning, as soon as the race started, I passed Bruno at the beginning, and I knew the car was fast and it was a matter of finishing the race, which is usually the case at Surfers. That's what we did. And first victory for CTE Racing since 2004, so I'm happy to give that to them.

Q: Question to I guess mainly to Mario and Nelson. It looked like, Mario, you were better under braking for the first chicane at the back straightaway. Then seemed to me Nelson was maybe quicker through the fast chicane after the last chicane on the back straightaway. Is that accurate, or can you comment on that?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Yes, there were a couple places that I was better than Nelson on the braking, especially for chicane. But then he was pretty good on the fast chicane. So everything I gained on him, he would pull away, and then I would gain a little bit back, coming up to the last corner, and it was just like a give-and-take situation. A gain and he would gain that back, and it was fun. It was playing cat and mouse.

NELSON PHILIPPE: Mario says it better than me. He was definitely quicker than me in turn 1 and turn 2 and better at braking into turn 3, but I managed to keep him right behind me and I was able to maintain the gap, which was pretty good. And I led a bunch of races this year and it's good to finally lead one and finish it, finish it in the lead.

And before I forget, I need to thank every single driver in the Champ Car World Series for giving me the time to grow and giving me all the respect, because I now realize that when I came in I was a really small kid, real young, real stupid, real immature, and I want to thank them for - I really want to thank them for giving me the time of day, and it's really awesome to be part of them now because truly I feel like I've joined their group. (Applause)

Q: Nelson, what's more important, winning today or winning the respect of your peers, what you've just touched on then?

NELSON PHILIPPE: Both are important. But from a personal standpoint, I think I earned the respect of all the guys in the beginning of the year, I came back, I was really stronger than I was the year before.

But I have to say that, you know, I won a Champ Car race that has to be the best feeling ever, and I'm still on the cloud. I still have time to be a bit up tonight, probably going to party it up real hard, and then I have to come back down to earth and gotta get back to work for Mexico City. Mexico City, although I'm not Mexican, seems like a home race for me, just because I've got a lot of Mexican friends, and maybe we can do another 1-2 with Mario.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Mario Dominguez , Nelson Philippe , Ryan Hunt