CHAMPCAR/CART: This Week in Ford Racing, July 13, 1999

This Week in Ford Racing July 13, 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series John "TZ" Tzouanakis, Assistant Team Manager Newman-Haas, is Christian Fittipaldi's lifeline to pit road during the race. Tzouanakis, along with Todd Bowland and Tom Smith,...

This Week in Ford Racing July 13, 1999

CART FedEx Championship Series John "TZ" Tzouanakis, Assistant Team Manager Newman-Haas, is Christian Fittipaldi's lifeline to pit road during the race. Tzouanakis, along with Todd Bowland and Tom Smith, are responsible for the Team's race day strategy. It was that strategy that is getting the trio accolades and helped Fittipaldi to his first career win last week at Road America. Tzouanakis, who's first job was with the 1980 Indy 500 winning and CART Championship winning Chapparal team, has had success everywhere he has gone. However, he ranks his contribution to Fittipaldi's win at Road America at the top of the list. He has been with Newman-Haas since the teams first season in 1983. JOHN "TZ" TZOUANAKIS - Assistant Team Manager Newman-Haas --YOU TALK TO CHRISTIAN DURING THE RACE ON THE RADIO, WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING THAT YOU SAID TO HIM AFTER HE CROSSED THE FINISH LINE? "Wow, let's see, it's kind of hard to remember because we were all jumping on each other but I think I said something like 'Way to go my man!'" WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING THAT HE SAID TO YOU AFTER CROSSING THE FINISH LINE? "It took a while for him to say anything. It was a pretty emotional moment. He took his time going around on the victory lap. I think I remember him coming over the radio and saying, 'Thanks for sticking with me guys.' But I will have to go back and look at the tape. We were all so excited that it's tough to remember." WERE THERE EVER ANY NERVOUS MOMENTS DURING THE RACE? "Well whenever you have your guys running 1-2 it always makes you a little nervous. I think there was one time during the race that Michael passed Christian going down the straight and all you do is hope that everything turns out okay. Michael and Christian are both great drivers but none the less it makes you a little nervous when you are going for the win. You don't want to see your guys take out each other. You kind of get a laugh out of it when it happens to other teams but let me assure you, it's no laughing matter when it happens to you!" YOU HELP CALL THE RACE STRATEGY FOR CHRISTIAN AND TALK TO HIM ON THE RADIO DURING THE RACE. IN THE POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE MICHAEL (ANDRETTI) GAVE YOUR TEAM A LOT OF CREDIT FOR THE RACE STRATEGY. HOW WAS THAT DIFFERENT FROM THE STRATEGY THAT MICHAEL WENT WITH? "Todd Bowland, Tom Smith and I all collaborate on the strategy. We just tried to go a little further between stops. On both of our stops we ran one lap further than Michael did. We were not ahead of Michael on the race track, I think both times we were in third place and went one extra lap on both stops and we came out ahead of Michael. I think he ended up passing us back at one stage though. We ran a different fuel mixture and ran one lap further which really helped us." THINKING BACK TO LAST WEEK, WAS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT HAPPENED DURING THE WEEK OR ON RACE WEEKEND THAT MADE YOU THINK THAT PERHAPS THIS WAS GOING TO BE YOUR WEEKEND? "One of the biggest things was qualifying. You have to start up front because it makes things a lot easier. We all know that Christian can do it and the team can too and it was just a matter of time until we got our first win. All of the guys have been working really hard and Christian had a good season so far. He got the pole in Rio, he has run good on ovals and road courses and the car has not dropped out of a race. We have managed to complete all but two laps and the two we didn't complete was due to the ran in Cleveland when we got down two laps with a spin in the pits and one on the race track. That says a lot for the team and the guys who work on the car. There are weekends that you go to the track thinking that this may be a good weekend and obviously last week was one of them. You can usually tell what kind of weekend we are going to have by Christian's mood and the way he feels. He had, I don't want to say an arrogance, but more of a quiet confidence about him all weekend. He was very confident all weekend." YOU HAVE BEEN WITH NEWMAN-HAAS SINCE THE TEAM WAS FORMED. HOW DOES THIS WIN RANK AMONG YOUR PREVIOUS WINS? "All of them are sweet and nice to win but this one was a little more gratifying." WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF YOUR JOB? UNDERSTANDING PORTUGUESE? "No, he has not used any Portuguese on the radio with me yet. The biggest challenge is trying to carry on with the strategy you decided to go with before the race. You kind of map out some things in your mind with Tom and Todd but it usually doesn't go the way you planned. So you are always thinking on your toes and asking yourself questions and conferring with the guys as the race goes on. I would say that is the biggest challenge. After you get off the strategy you planned you need to find a way to get back to it and carry on which is a challenge." HAVE THE CONGRATULATORY PHONE CALLS STOPPED YET? "Not really. We are one big team but it is pretty gratifying for the guys who work on Christian's car and have kept their heads up and coming to the track each week. Yes, we are a team and Michael has won races over the years but for a lot of guys on Christian's team their last win was when Paul Tracy drove here. So it's good for those guys." HAS THE PAST SUCCESS MICHAEL HAS HAD EVER GET TO THE GUYS ON CHRISTIAN'S TEAM OR DOES IT JUST REINFORCE THAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF WINNING RACES AND THAT IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME? "It does reinforce the fact that the team is capable of winning. We have had a couple of times that we have not qualified well this year but most of the time we have had very strong runs. Runs like that help the guys stay confident and know they can do the job and that Christian can too. It's also good to have Michael as a teammate." SO DID CARL (HAAS) BUY DINNER FOR THE TEAM? "No, not yet. But I think that is going to happen in Toronto." ANY IDEA WHERE YOU GUYS ARE GOING? "Not yet. But somewhere close to the hotel so everyone can walk, stay out of trouble, not cause too much commotion, and have a good time."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Tom Smith