CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: Top three finishers press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q</I>: AJ, a month ago you were unemployed. A month later, you have three wins and a championship contender? A.J. ALLMENDINGER: And engaged. That's the most important thing, I'm engaged. I wouldn't have ever thought...

Continued from part 1

Q</I>: AJ, a month ago you were unemployed. A month later, you have three wins and a championship contender?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: And engaged. That's the most important thing, I'm engaged. I wouldn't have ever thought that could be just the way it went. But when I showed up at Portland, I think if you asked me, as I was driving from the airport, could I win three in a row to start with Forsythe, I would have said no way. But I think after Friday qualifying at Portland, just the energy of the team, how well we were already working together, just how comfortable I felt in the car and out of the car with the team, I would have said there's definitely a chance.

But there's so much luck and skill and everything that comes into play to win three in a row. To win one, but to win three in a row... So, as I said, I just want to keep this streak and continue it because when you start winning like this, you kind of get spoiled and keep wanting to do it. Right, Sebastien?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Because you've won way too much in the last three years.

Q</I>: You went 31 or 32 races without winning, now you won three straight. What is the difference in you?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I mean, it's because of the team. I wasn't very happy at RuSPORT, and we weren't improving as a team. I wasn't improving as a driver. You just kind of -- when you're in such a tough series like Champ Car, you got such great drivers and teams, if you're not always improving, you're going to start falling behind. I think that's shown with Sebastien, that the guy has won two in a row, came out to start the season, was better than ever. You always got to keep improving.

I wasn't happy, and we weren't improving, so we just needed a change. When you're able to come into Forsythe and be able to do this and have a sponsor like Red Bull stick behind me and give me confidence that people believed in me because they said they were going wherever I went, it just -- it's kind of -- you get in and it's not easy, but it just seems easier to come into a team and just believe in yourself again and have them believe in you and know that, say something like at Cleveland, we had a problem at the start, go to the back, you can fight through it and still win. When you're able to do that, it's a lot of confidence and it's nice to be in the car.

Q</I>: Paul, speaking of confidence, was there ever a time in the first seven races, Am I ever going to get back on the podium again? Were you always confident of that?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think you always -- you know, in the back of your mind, in your gut, you always know that you can do it. But obviously from the midway point of last season, we came here, Toronto last year, leading the points. Then from about mid-season, we've just had one thing after another happen, just a string of bad luck. It just seemed like it wasn't ever going to end. So, you know, it's always hard when you're down. You know, you're not feeling good about how things are going.

You know, we've been in position to do well this year. We've had mistakes. We've had problems. We've had mechanicals in the last six months. It's been a frustrating period. You know, I've never given up on my ability or my desire. That's why I signed a new contract with Forsythe, because this is what I love to do, these are the kind of cars I love to drive. I know that I can contribute a lot more to the team.

ERIC MAUK: Just a note, this is Paul's 130th consecutive Champ Car start, tying him with Mauricio Gugelmin for the ninth longest consecutive start streak in Champ Car history.

Q</I>: Paul, how does it feel to be chasing your teammate?

PAUL TRACY: I think it's great. He's obviously shown -- he got let go from Carl's team because they felt they needed to find a guy who can challenge Sebastien. Now he's going to need to find a guy to challenge the guy he fired. I think it's pretty poetic justice really. I get a laugh out of things like that.

You know, it's great to have him on the team. Him and I get along great. Him and his dad, his mom, are great people. You know, it's good to have him on the team. It's elevated the level of our team and the confidence of the second team. You know, the whole team is up. Everybody's much more motivated and much more on top of their game.

Q</I>: A.J., talk about your thoughts on a Forsythe 1-2 finish.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I think it's fantastic. Paul has had some difficulty the last few races, but he's a big reason that I'm able to come into the team and be as quick as I am and have the success. It's basically his setups that we started with when I joined this team. His driving style is fairly close to mine. I was able to get in the car and feel comfortable, just kind of work off that to make my car better and be quicker.

Without everything that he's developed on this team over the last four years, there's no way we would be having this kind of joy and these victories. I'm glad that he could finally get a result that he deserved and be here. It was kind of one of those things that he was the first guy I wanted to see behind me on the restart but the last guy I wanted to see behind me because I knew we had the same kind of cars, but it probably didn't matter at that point because he probably wanted to win so bad.

His will come for sure. We know how great Paul is. Hopefully we can just continue to work well together and make Forsythe the best team in the series.

Q</I>: Paul, if A.J. was still at RuSPORT, and you had come up behind him, would you have been expecting him to make a mistake?

PAUL TRACY: No, you see he's matured a lot since last year. Obviously, Edmonton was a big surprise to everybody. Just kind of a fluky thing, both the RuSPORT cars had problems, one on the restart and one on the pace lap to the restart. That was like a huge surprise to me.

You know, it just goes to show, you don't realize how difficult these cars are to drive. They're probably more difficult to drive around the track behind the pace car when the tires start picking up rubber, your anticipation is high, you want to make a good restart, you're spinning the tires trying to keep heat in them, they're picking up rubber off the road, they become extremely difficult to drive at 50 miles an hour because the cars are so high-strung, they're not meant to be at that speed.

He's done a great job this year. He came into the team in a time of doubt where he thought maybe, you know, maybe his time was up here. Some things fell into place. Everything has turned out like a storybook. I think it's great for the series, it's great for AJ. It just adds a new dimension to the championship, which is great.

Q</I>: Obviously one of the key points of the race was you beating Justin out of the pits on your first stop. Anything special go on there?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: No, I mean, I think the special thing is my pit crew. I said it here yesterday when we were sitting here, if I came in the pits behind Justin, right behind him, I knew I was going to beat him out because that's how great this Forsythe Indeck team is. If you watch them practice pit stops, all the work they do to be prepared, you know why they're the best in the game.

I was just sitting behind Justin the first stint saving a lot of fuel. I could see he was kind of burning his tires up. My car wasn't exactly perfect at that point, but I was just saving fuel. When the yellow came out, I knew there was a good chance to beat him out. We probably could have beat him out more, because we were making a wing change. They got the tires and fuel in so quick, we were basically having to, as we were doing a couple of turns of the wing, wait for that and finish that up because they had stopped so quick.

I knew once we beat Justin out, if I got clear of him on the restart, we just needed everything else fuel-wise to fall in place. Without a mistake, I didn't think I could get past.

ERIC MAUK: Champ Car's widely known as an international racing series. You look at the driver roster, the places we go run. A lot of talk about there not being a lot of US representation in the series. Now, not only representation, but you're out here doing things that get you mentioned in the same breath with Andretti, Unser, Rahal, Sullivan. Talk about what that means to you.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Obviously those are names, in Champ Car, that mean a lot, a lot of history behind it. If I can be mentioned with those names, I know that I'm doing something great.

I think me being the only American driver right now, yeah, that's tough. But I take that with pride and try to put that on my shoulders, do the best that I can for my country.

If I think if you see in the Champ Car Atlantic Series, there's a lot of young American drivers. The whole open-wheel system, Champ Car especially, I think we're strong with American drivers, they're just young. You got Graham Rahal, Jonathan Bomarito that finished on the podium today. You have guys like that that will be in Champ Car one day. If I got to just kind of uphold the American flag for right now, I'm willing to do that and take pride in it.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. This brings the press conference to a close. We go racing in two weeks at Edmonton. Thank you very much.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mauricio Gugelmin , Graham Rahal , Jonathan Bomarito