CART FedEx Championship Series An interview with: Cristiano da Matta Kenny Brack Christian Fittipaldi Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: We will get started with Christian Fittipaldi who finished third today. He earns the third podium finish of...
CART FedEx Championship Series
An interview with:
Cristiano da Matta
Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: We will get started with Christian Fittipaldi who finished third today. He earns the third podium finish of the season and the second of his career here in Toronto. He has earned each of his podium placings this season on road and street courses that being in Monterey, Laguna Seca and here in Toronto. He now has 57 points and moves within one point of Michel Jourdain Jr. and into fourth place in the CART FedEx Championship Series standings. Talk about your afternoon today.
Christian Fittipaldi: Obviously for everyone that was watching the race it looked pretty easy out there but we were on the limit all the time. My worst stints were the first one and the last one. The first one I tried to hang in behind this man over here [Kenny Brack] and I think I burned my rear tires a little bit, my car was very, very loose at the end of the stint. Thank God that Bruno [Junqueira] was in front of us and he was holding us up because that managed to keep the gap between Kenny and I pretty close.
The two middle stints were very good. My car had a good balance and on the last stint I had a lot of push. Apart from that, mechanically everything was perfect. I think the only struggle we had was in the middle of the race when some back markers didn't help out there, but apart from that, it was a trouble-free race. And unfortunately, I don't think it was that exciting for you guys.
Merrill Cain: Let's introduce Kenny Brack who finished second this afternoon. He earned his best finish of the season today and his best since joining Target Chip Ganassi Racing by finishing second. Also his best finish on the streets of Toronto and his best on a road or street course since finishing second at second in Australia in 2000. This finish also vaults him from a tie from 11th into 7th position in the points standings. He now has 48 points on the year. Kenny, you were really the only one that had a shot at da Matta today. Talk to us about the last few laps. Did you have a shot at him?
Kenny Brack: I thought maybe we could have a shot and I tried hard in the restarts but he got away on both restarts a little bit. After that, I couldn't pass him. He was a fraction quicker and if you are behind, you are behind. So that was it.
We had a good car today and we bounced back well. So I can't complain. We have a good foundation to build on. We'll see if we can get it turned around at Cleveland next weekend.
Merrill Cain: We will open it up for questions for both Christian and Kenny.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about satisfaction? You have had a fast car like at Portland, where you brought home a podium, last year you were running for the Championship and now it's taking a little longer to get up to the podium.
Kenny Brack: Well, I think we've shown all year that we have been faster on the road and street courses. We've struggled a little bit on the ovals this year to say the least. But on the road and streets we have been very competitive. We just haven't been able to finish where we wanted to because of what has happened to us. But I think that as long as we finish we're going to be podium material.
The only thing we need is a few victories and we need Cristiano to be a little further down in the points so we can close the gap now. We have 12 races to go, so it's still doable.
Merrill Cain: Let's quickly go over the top five in the points race. Cristiano da Matta currently leads the CART FedEx Championship Series points race with 118 points, Bruno Junqueira ranks second now with 70 points; Dario Franchitti in third with 64 points. Michel Jourdain Jr. with 58 followed by Christian who has 57 points in the year.
Q: Christian, is it a little bit frustrating to have a teammate that's so hot and you are basically using the same equipment, pretty much the same team and you are not getting quite the same results?
Christian Fittipaldi: What about these guys [Target Chip Ganassi Racing], they are using exactly the same car, the same tires and same engine? (LAUGHTER).
Obviously, Cristiano is definitely on a roll. Apart from that, I think there were two races out there that I failed to score any points in because I had some small mechanical problems. The last race I lost a wheel. In Long Beach, I can't remember what happened, but we had to stop again. And what happened in Portland was a racing incident. That's definitely going to happen, probably two or three of those during the whole season. When we were racing over there with Paul [Tracy] - I don't think it was anyone's fault. We were just trying too hard. But both these races that I didn't finish, I know I wasn't in a position of winning them, but in Long Beach, I probably would have finished third or fourth. That was a bunch more points. Then last race, I probably would have finished in the top six. And that would have been a bunch more points. So instead of having 57, now I probably would have had maybe more than 70 points and I would be P-2. But Cristiano is definitely on a roll. No doubt about it, he's very, very quick. And everything seems to be working his way. He's going through an excellent phase. What can you say? I guess you just have to work a little bit harder at it and try to go for it. But there's nothing I can say apart from the fact that I need to try harder and I am happy that when I can get it together, I can finish on the podium. Maybe I will have to lose a little bit more weight also. (LAUGHTER)
Merrill Cain: You started with the hair, so...
Christian Fittipaldi: Yeah.
Q: Kenny, early on you weren't quite able to keep pace there with the leaders and Bruno and those guys got away a little bit. Did you actually get better as the race wore on? Did you make any changes in the pits? Was the car any better or not?
Kenny Brack: Not really. I was just playing around with some stuff in the beginning to see where we were with different things, and then I thought I better close up the gap because pit stops were coming up.
Q: Kenny, when somebody like Cristiano is running away with the series like this, what does it do to you as a competitor?
Kenny Brack: Well, obviously we can't do anything about Cristiano, so we have to work with what we have. I have to work harder with my team and focus on how we're going to get better. I have to try to help my team focus on how we're going to get better, and perhaps help in that development that we have. With Cristiano as an opponent, we can't change what he is doing and what Newman/Haas is doing, so there's no point worrying about it.
Q: It's not discouraging to see one individual to win four in a row like this?
Kenny Brack: Racing is always discouraging. I thought I had a good season last year, I won four races out of 20. What is it, 20%? And Cristiano's won the last 80%, it's screwed up. But if I can win four races this is year it will be a pretty good season. I think I have 12 tries left. I think we can win even more races. I think Target Chip
Ganassi Racing is a great team but you have to also remember that I started with this team in November/December, and Cristiano is in his second year with Newman/Haas. It takes a little time for things to perhaps develop in the way you needed them to develop, if you look at Cristiano's first season in Newman/Haas it was a good season, but it was nothing like what is happening now. If you look at my first season with [Team] Rahal it was a good season. We won the rookie championship and everything but it was nothing like what we had last year. We're having a pretty good season this year although we haven't finished that many races, so we have to work on getting faster and getting more reliable in all aspects of our team to bring the total package to be the best there is, but that takes time. It's very tough competition.
I think the CART Championship has changed a little in the last few years, if you look at the package that everyone has with the tires, and the chassis, and everything. It is going more and more like a one spec series, so you have to focus more on the small details. You are not going to have a tire advantage. You are not going to have an engine advantage or a chassis advantage. Everybody has got the access to the same equipment. So it's the small details that makes that little extra. We're talking very small margins. Do you have anymore ink left to write your story? (Laughs).
Merrill Cain: We'll have a transcript to back you up just in case.
Q: I know you guys couldn't necessarily see it, but when Cristiano was behind some lap traffic he could get within four or five car lengths of the car in front, but then he wasn't making much progress. Could you just talk about the difficulty of making clean passes around here today?
Christian Fittipaldi: It all depended on the guy in front of you. Kenny had a big moment on the end of the back straight when he went to pass, and he locked the brakes and almost went off. There were some guys out there that thought they were dicing for position, and yes, they were being lapped. It's not like they were losing a lap if the guy leading the race got around, because they were already a lap down. There are a couple of strange attitudes. There are drivers that maybe didn't have a good day out there, but it can happen. I hope it doesn't happen, but it can happen to anyone at next race. And if it happens, what are you going to do? Are you are just going to let the quick guys by and try to see what happens in your car during the race?
At the same time, there were guys out there that were very good and Michael [Andretti] was one of them. I think Michel [Jourdain] was a guy that helped us a lot too.
Kenny Brack: You also have to take into account that if you are leading the race by 10 seconds or five seconds you are not going to take a huge chance to try to overtake a lap car and maybe end up in the wall. That's kind of stupid. But you know really it's the lap car that should give the track to the leader, especially if they are a lap down already. So we don't have that courtesy. All the drivers don't show that courtesy, so.....
I think everyone tries to do what they can to get a position here and there. But you obviously also have to make sure you get through the first turn otherwise you can't finish the race, and I think the last couple of years around here it has been pretty good to be honest. I don't think we have had any problems here in three years and I think the first turn has been good as far as I can remember.
Christian Fittipaldi: You want to get by the first corner to be able to roll during the whole race. Kenny and I cut it pretty close down the start/finish and I had a very good start. We were actually side-by-side and he moved over a little bit, but then he stopped moving because he saw me and gave me enough room to try and get him and I went down the inside in Turn 1. I had to brake a little bit more because I didn't have an angle to go into the corner. And at that point I think I was a little bit ahead of him but then he braked very deep on the outside and he went by me and his teammates, if I am not mistaken. But we're all paid to do what we do, and I tried to get a good start, but as I said before, I am sure that he saw me over there. He tried to make it hard but at the same time he gave me enough room to try and do some things. Am I wrong?
Kenny Brack: No, that's a correct assessment.
Toronto winners press conference part II