Menards Infiniti Pro Series California 100 - California Speedway September 20, 2003 MARK TAYLOR Race winner and 2003 Champion THE MODERATOR: At this time we'd like to welcome the winner of today's California 100 at California Speedway and...
Menards Infiniti Pro Series
California 100 - California Speedway
September 20, 2003
MARK TAYLOR Race winner and 2003 Champion
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'd like to welcome the winner of today's California 100 at California Speedway and the 2003 Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion Mark Taylor. Mark led flag to flag in winning today's race. It was his seventh Menards Infiniti Pro Series win of the year. Also for Panther Racing, they have now won seven Menards Infiniti Pro Series races, more than any other team. The previous record was five by A.J. Foyt Racing last season. For Mark, as I mentioned, a Pro Series record with his seven wins, also the seventh of his career. Tell us first whether you thought today would be the day you would clinch the championship, then take us through your race, if at any point in the race it settled into your mind that, 'I'm going to be the champion?'
MARK TAYLOR: It's difficult to say, really. We were hoping that today would be the result to be able to complete the championship. We weren't really thinking about that. We were hoping we were really going to win the race, first and foremost. It was a great car. Panther Racing gave me a great car every single time I went out on track throughout the whole year. I was able to take advantage of it. We were able to get seven wins out of, what is that, 11 now? So just a great, great percentage for us really.
THE MODERATOR: Midway through the race, Ed Carpenter and you had a good dice going on, and at one point he dropped back, came on again. You opened up at the end. Tell us about fending him off, about his challenge. Obviously, you had the mettle to hold him off.
MARK TAYLOR: I mean, the track changed quite a lot between the morning and the afternoon on both days. We found that yesterday afternoon we had an advantage over everybody else in the hot weather. So I was looking forward to the race, especially as the wind picked up, and we were able to take advantage of it once the conditions were like this. Just able to get Ed to sit behind me. All I wanted to know was that he had more understeer than I did. I figured the more he had to work his tires compared to me, then he's going to eventually have to drop back because I know that I was getting pretty close to the wall on the outside of Turn 2. It's just one of those things that you lose the front ends if you sat behind someone like that. He was trying to get me to go in low into Turn 1, take advantage of me that way. But I just had the car to be able to hold it down there in Turn 1. Going in, it was fine; it was coming out that was the problem. It's just a great result. We were able to pull away at the end. It made it easier for me, that's for sure. I think with something like five laps to go, I realized I was pulling away from him. Thanks to everybody there. Thanks to Pancho. Every race, he was out there, telling me what's going on around me. He's helped me learn a huge amount this year. It's partly because of him that we've been able to win so many races.
THE MODERATOR: At this time, Mark, let's take some questions from our media.
Q: I'd like you to remember back at Indy, Tuesday after the Indy 500, you said on the radio, you were going to win the championship. I was there.
MARK TAYLOR: As soon as I got in that car in Miami, we came out winning that race, I knew -- I felt confident enough to say I was going to win the championship just because we couldn't seem to do anything wrong. The car was great every time I've been able to get into it. My confidence was high, especially the two early wins before coming to Indy. Indy was actually a disappointment. To finish third, it to be a disappointment, shows what a great year we've had.
Q: I was there in Phoenix the very first day you got into the race car and started testing. You mentioned Pancho Carter. Obviously, a big influence on your career to this point in time. Talk about the engineering of the race car. Everybody is running the same car, engine, tires. Engineering-wise, anything from Sam Hornish's team filtering on down or filtering up, or is it just the crew you had that really put things together for you?
MARK TAYLOR: I mean, I've had (engineer) Brent Harvey. He worked with Tomas Scheckter last year. He's got a huge amount of experience when it comes to these types of cars. It's got to be an advantage for me with that. Chris Griffis, he equally has a huge amount of experience. I think it shows because we have had no problems with the car. They make sure everything is perfect every time we go out and race. It's just a great team. They're 100% behind me. I'm 100% committed to them, as well. It shows on the racetrack. I think Nashville was a prime example. Going out and qualifying, I felt we were struggling to find a race setup. I wasn't 100 percent confident about being able to go into qualifying with it like that. And, I just said to Woody (Brent Harvey), "He fixes the car, I go out, and I drive it. I was going to keep it nailed all the way around, if he gets the car fixed, it will be fine. If the car isn't very good, and I end up sticking to the wall, he'll just have to fix it." We were able to put it on pole there. That was an important race, as well. There were some big challenges at that point in the year, some people thinking that maybe they had a chance still at the championship. We were gradually able to pick them off one by one. I mean, with the flu coming along in Kentucky, it just lengthened the championship a little bit. But, it was a great race at Chicago. To be able to win there really sealed it for me. I think that, along with Kentucky, were two great races. Do I mean Kentucky (laughter)? Kansas. Chicago along with Kansas were the two best races for me personally. Great cars, just able to, in Kansas, drive through the field and at Chicago, with Ed for so long, side by side. We were so close so many times. To be able to do that with a driver like that, to be able to learn, I mean, he's been in IndyCar Series cars. He's had that advantage. To be able to race alongside someone like that, all I can do is learn from him at the moment. Hopefully, I'll be alongside him in an IndyCar Series race in the near future.
Q: Of your seven wins, where do you rank this one in terms of its competitiveness in terms of how often you were challenged by the other drivers in the race?
MARK TAYLOR: It's tough to say because I think the track was the challenging aspect of this race. The change in the weather has really affected a lot of cars. Ed and I obviously had great cars out there. It was a fight between the two of us rather than between a pack of cars. It's just a different type of race. We were fighting it out between ourselves. A very tactical race. He knew what he was trying to do. He just wasn't able to pull it off toward the end and stick with me. So probably he's fairly disappointed he wasn't able to do it. I was just trying to get him to have a bit more understeer than I had. We were able to take advantage of that.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Fabulous run, fabulous season. One race to go. Your thoughts heading into Texas. The overall battle is won, but your thoughts heading into that last race.
MARK TAYLOR: Texas is going to be a special place for me because next weekend I'll be able to drive the IndyCar for the first time. That's got to be my sort of test, to get in that car, prove that I can drive that car. I'm going to have a teammate, Dane Carter, Pancho's son. That's going to be a new change for me. Very exciting going toward Texas. Even though the championship is sewn up, I'm actually happy about that because now I can probably learn more along with Dane, help him to come up to speed so that I can learn more. It's a new challenge for me. It will be great fun.