CART Champ Car World Series media teleconference transcript with: Champ Car driver Paul Tracy Atlantic driver A.J. Allmendinger Part 1 of 3 Eric Mauk: Today's guest is the points leader of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World ...
CART Champ Car World Series media teleconference transcript with:
Champ Car driver Paul Tracy
Atlantic driver A.J. Allmendinger
Part 1 of 3
Eric Mauk: Today's guest is the points leader of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, the man who has won the first two races of the season, Mr. Paul Tracy. Thank you for joining us today. Paul has won the first two races of the year, has 43 championship points, holding an 11-point advantage over Michel Jourdain, Jr., and is looking to become the first driver since the formation of CART to within the first three races of the season and the first champ car driver since 1971 to win the first three races of the year, Al Unser, Sr. was the last man to perform that. Obviously the first two races of the year with your new team, Player's Forsythe Racing, I guess living up to everything you could have hoped for?
Paul Tracy: Well, it's been a great start to the season. To start off with a new team, Team Players, and I think we have surpassed our expectations for the first couple of races of the year. Our goal was really just to finish the races and get points. And to come out of it with two wins and most laps led and 43 points has just been fantastic. We just need to try to do a good job this weekend in Long Beach.
Mauk: Obviously, you are a two-time winner at Long Beach and you won your first Champ Car race at Long Beach. Tell us how you feel about going back there.
Tracy: I feel good. My last win at Long Beach was 2000. I seem to always run well at Long Beach. I am enthusiastic about going there this weekend. Pat (Carpentier) has been testing yesterday and he's testing today over in Phoenix, so we are learning more about the car and my engineers are over there watching the tests. I think that we've got a good chance this weekend to help get a good result.
Q: I wanted to find out first how this series feels to you now with a lot of the changes? And what were your expectations coming in, you were talking about surpassing them, but what were your expectations with everything changed around?
Tracy: You know, I knew it was still going to be competitive and hard to win. I thought that coming to a new team and being surrounded by new people at the beginning of the year, I felt would be a little bit harder. In testing, we weren't the fastest car in testing over the winter. So my expectations were really -- maybe my expectation levels were that I could win the first couple of races, and I knew I had a good team around me and maybe it would take some time. You know, to come out of the first two races with two wins, has been great. So, you know, I think still, my goals are the same. My goal is the championship and to try to score points in every race. I think that's going to be the most important thing is to finish in every race.
Q: Did you feel like you would have more of an advantage being one of the more experienced drivers?
Tracy: Well, I think my experience level is important. A lot of the tracks other than St. Pete I've been to and raced at before, and a lot of the newer drivers don't have experience. So I think going into the first day of practice in qualifying, I think that's an advantage, but obviously some of the new drivers have proven that this doesn't take them very long to learn a circuit, and one person in particular is Sebastian (Bourdais). He's fast on the second day, he's been able to get on the pole both times with no track experience coming into the weekends. You know, experience does help in the race, and race distances and the first day of practice.
Q: Speaking of the Indy 500, you're removed now from what happened last year. Your thoughts on what happened last year, have you put it behind you or is it still a sore spot?
Tracy: Well, I don't think it's -- it's something that I don't really think about from day-to-day. But, you know, I still feel and know that based on the evidence that is there at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in their film department, I know that I won the race. It's really politics that have dictated the outcome of the race. There's really nothing I can do about it. That's just the way it is and I move on and concentrate on my new team and what I have to do.
Q: Would you go back to race in the Indy 500?
Tracy: No I don't think so. My focus is to do a good job for Players and Jerry Forsythe, and their focus is on CART. So that's what they pay me to do and that's what I want to do.
Q: The question I have to you is there's starting to be buzz about is this the year for you, is this a championship season things are going swimmingly, how do you feel about keeping those feelings in check and how do you approach it?
Tracy: I think all I can do is keep doing what I've been doing, and that's training hard over the winter and getting prepared for the races, each individual race that comes up. A lot of people weren't picking me as a favorite to win the championship before the season started and now we've had two races and I guess, really, all I can do is just try to go into each race and try to minimize the mistakes that I can make on the racetrack and minimize the problems. A race weekend, you go through a weekend and you make thousands of decisions on what you're going to do on car setup or this or that and try to make all of the right decisions. Hopefully, at the end of the day, we've made more good ones than bad ones and that will translate into more wins and good finishes. So, I really would just take it race by race and concentrate on each one that comes up.
Q: Do you feel that you've been relatively fortunate in the races that, Sebastian has basically caused his own trouble, or at least the team?
Tracy: Well, we haven't put ourselves into a problem yet because we've made good decisions. When the yellows have all been -- they have made clear-cut decisions on when to come in and not to come in. We've been back in a situation where we've been stuck in traffic, like at St. Pete, you know, where you could make a risky move and maybe damage the car trying to pass somebody. I think as a whole, the team has made good decisions and I've made good decisions, and that's translated into a couple of wins.
Q: Going in, you've won the first two races and you've traditionally been a slow starter, have you readjusted your goals now, do you see now record-chasing as well as a championship in your future, it's been 30 years since somebody has won the first three races of the season?
Tracy: Not really. Like I said before, I know that there's -- like you just said, it's been 30 years since somebody won the first three races and I don't really get caught up in that. All I want to do is do a good job and finish the race and get some points. I know that if we can start up front going into a race weekend, I know that if we come out of the trailer with a good car and start close to the front, then I can win in any situation, but that's the goal going into the weekend is to make sure that we get a good car, a good set up together. And then when the race comes, I know that I can do a good job. That's really all I'm concentrating on, is just getting through each weekend end, like I said, without makes mistakes.
Q: Have you been happy or impressed with what Players has done in terms of communicating what your needs are with the car and ensuring that you are getting the best car every weekend?
Tracy: Well, I certainly don't have any complaints as of right now. In the off-season, our testing, it didn't go super great. I mean, I was decently quick, but I wasn't setting the pace anywhere. But then that was a little bit by design because I've never been super, super fast, just at qualifying or anything like that. It's more on race day when I'm able to perform.
Q: A bunch of us are writing about some of our favorite Long Beach memories on the Champ Car web site, and I was going to right about the '93 race, and of course it was your first win, what are your recollections of that?
Tracy: It was a great win for me. My first win was at Long Beach and it came off Phoenix when I was really dominant at Phoenix. I was leading the race there by two laps and ended up putting it in the wall. Came into Long Beach with my tail between my legs and came out to Long Beach and dominate that weekend -- we got a couple of flat tires throughout the race. We have problems throughout the race but still came out of it with a win, which was great.
Q: You alluded earlier to how Sebastian has really caught on quickly and seems to me there was a time when you ran and led some laps but did not win until Long Beach. Can you talk about the jump he has to make to win?
Tracy: Well, I think it's just getting the whole weekend to come together. It not just about qualifying or practice times. You have to be able to get through the whole race. A lot of guys have come into the series with a lot of speed but that doesn't translate to a lot of race wins. I'm sure he's capable of winning races and is going to win races but you've got to get to the finish of the race and we have to keep finishing well and keep building up a fairly big points gap and I think that will help us at the end of the season.
Q: You are back together with Tony Cicale and you have a new engineer in Todd Malloy and you have a pretty good relationship with Pat, can you talk about that relationship and how it all has maybe played a part in your early success?
Tracy: I think in any racing team a driver has got to be comfortable with the people he's surrounded by. Coming to a new team, I've been fortunate enough that when I came into the team, the team was able to put some people around me that I've worked with before. One being Tony Cicale, who I have had great success with. And then, you know, now I've got Todd Malloy on the team who I worked with at Team Green for five years. There are some other key people that are on the team, Phil LePan, the team manager, I've never worked with him but I've known him for a long time. So that's made the adjustment from one team to another fairly easy because the learning process is probably cut it in half because we've just really had to learn about the car and not learn about individual idiosyncrasies about how to work with people. The key people around me, I've known for a long time.
Q: What about Patrick Carpentier, sometimes teammates don't always get along and in this case you two seem to get along quite well?
Tracy: We get along. I think we both have a mutual respect for each other. I think he respects what I've been able to do on the racetrack and I respect what he's done, we are both learning. I'm looking at his telemetry and he's looking at mine. I've learned a lot of things that I've seen in the past few years with Dario (Franchitti) and Michael (Andretti), and I think the same goes for him.
Q: Having an unaccustomed lead in the championship early in the season, do you now go into a race like Long Beach -- obviously you go into the race at Long Beach still wanting to win the race, and are no less focused on that than ever, but maybe go in there with a somewhat more relaxed and more confident frame of mind, and if maybe Friday does not go to -- for whatever reason doesn't go so well, you can sort of take it in stride rather than getting -- sort of not necessarily pushing the panic button but getting bent out of shape about it. Do you feel a lot more relaxed than in the past?
Tracy: I would say I do because I've been able to win the first two races. I think coming into the season, like I said before, I was not the fastest guy when we went to testing. And coming into the season, I think the first race, my anticipation was I wanted to do well and I wasn't thinking that we could win races, but I wanted to have a good finish and get a good handful of points. I think my own anticipation was a little bit higher and my anticipation level was wanting to do well and do good for Players and prove to them that they hired the right guy. From that standpoint I am more relaxed because I've won the first two races and everybody is happy, I'm happy. So I'm not going to Long Beach and sit back in my heels. We are going to take it like we do every weekend, and that's to go out there and try to win.
Q: Do you feel that you are driving as well or better than you have before?
Tracy: I think so. I'm still learning as a driver. I'm 34 and I feel I'm in the best shape and conditioning of my life. So I feel that there's still a lot left on the plate to do and I don't feel burned out at all. I feel that right now my energy towards racing is at a peak.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Tracy: Sometimes I don't even see where I'm going to be in five minutes. I don't really have a five-year plan. I don't think right now the way auto racing is in North America that you can make a five-year plan. I know that I want to continue and enjoy what I do. I don't really have any other plan other than that I love racing and will continue to race in whatever until I am not happy doing it.