CHAMPCAR/CART: Tracy, Allmendinger press conference, Part II

CART Champ Car World Series media teleconference transcript with: Champ Car driver Paul Tracy Atlantic driver A.J. Allmendinger Part 2 of 3 Q: Do you see yourself in any other form of motor sports besides Champ Car? Tracy: Well, I...

CART Champ Car World Series media teleconference transcript with:

Champ Car driver Paul Tracy
Atlantic driver A.J. Allmendinger

Part 2 of 3

Q: Do you see yourself in any other form of motor sports besides Champ Car?

Tracy: Well, I don't think you can race at this level -- the commitment level is obviously very high and the performance level, it's all about performance. If you're not doing well, then you're on the outs. I think from my standpoint, as long as I'm competitive racing in Champ Car and when that day comes that I'm not competitive, then maybe I'll try something else. There's things that I want to do other than open-wheel racing. I'd like to try sports car racing. I'd like to race at Le Mans and maybe race at Daytona in a Winston Cup car. There's things that I would like to try and do other than just open-wheel racing.

Q: You have competed several years in Champ Car, but you compete in other levels, also. Do you remember any year that you got such an exciting beginning of the season in other levels?

Tracy: I think the year I won the Indy Lights championship in '90, I think that year I won nine of 12 races. So, I mean, it was so long ago, 1990, and it doesn't really translate to what I'm doing now but I mean, I'm happy that I got off to a good start and it's a nice change. Normally, like I said, I'm a slow starter and it takes me a little while to get going. I think the advantage is that a lot of these tracks that we are going to go to in the next five or six races, I know very well, and I know the car and I know the crew guys I'm working with. Hopefully we can do well throughout the whole season.

Q: You mentioned sport cars and stock cars. Is there any consideration of going to F-1 in your future?

Tracy: For me I'm a little too old for F1 now. Everybody in Formula 1 is looking for the next 22-year-old superstar. So I think my time has kind of passed for that.

Q: Cars are kind of different this year. Could you talk about how it feels different, how it behaves and how you think that's going to work in Long Beach?

Tracy: Well, I think the car is pretty much the same and the tires are fairly similar. I guess the biggest change is really the engine. I've used the Ford engine before in '95 but never at this lower revving capacity. We dropped the revs last year. With the Honda, we were almost running 16 and a half thousand RPMs and now the maximum is 12. We have a lot more boost than we had from last year. But I feel the power level is really at about the same level as what we had last year. It's just, you know, we were able to in Monterrey break the lap record there. I feel that the car is just as fast as it was last year but just doing it in a different way. It seems to be in a more reliable way because the engine has been very reliable throughout the first two races. So I think that's a good thing for CART. They have been able to reduce costs and maintain the sound and the field of the race cars that fans like, and the cars are still just as fast, if not faster. So I think that it's all been positive stuff.

Q: You said that you are in the best shape of your life, physical condition, how does that correlate to success in the driver's seat?

Tracy: I think the races are two hours, some races are 500-mile races; it can be up to four hours, you're racing into the Midwest and you have a lot of heat and humidity. And when you're fitter you are able to cope with the temperatures and the temperature of the race car and the ambient temperature much better. I've been training a lot over the winner in the last couple of years and feel that I'm in the best shape of my life, and I don't feel that it showed last year in terms of points or race wins but I think my level of commitment is as high as it's ever been and I feel that hopefully this year will be the year.

Q: Have you lost a lot of weight over the winter or anything like that?

Tracy: I didn't really lose so much weight from last year to this year, maybe about five pounds, six pounds from where I am right now. Just running, cycling, a couple of days a week, just lifting weights.

Mauk: To reiterate that point, Paul is talking about the St. Petersburg race and how this commitment to fitness doesn't necessarily stop once the season starts. Track walk time at St. Pete, first time on a track a lot of guys had not seen, a couple guys were out on their scooters and guys in the golf carts were running along. And we are up in the media center putting that thing together, and you kept coming by with your bicycle and probably went two hours on that bike the whole entire time. Shows quite a commitment and definitely illustrates the point that you are trying to make today the fitness level and the commitment you've made to Champ Car and how it has definitely stepped up here the last couple of years.

Tracy: I think for me, riding the track is more beneficial because I'm able to get one more day of workout in and also get a better look at the track. We had a two-hour window that we are allowed to go out on the track and look at it. I think a lot of guys choose to walk with their engineers, and really you can only get, maybe in a two-hour time, you can only get maybe two or three times around the track to get a look at it. And a lot of those times, the track is still being put together and it's not completely finished at that point. For me I'm able to, on both of these last two races I've been able to get about 40 miles in, which is probably about 20 to 25 times around the track. So I'm able to look at all of the different corner times, rather than just walking it once or twice.

Mauk: Also joining us, the reigning Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion, moving up to Toyota Atlantics this year, going to make his second start of the year in the RuSPORT car at Long Beach, A.J. Allmendinger. A.J., thanks for joining us today.

A.J. Allmendinger: Thank you for having me.

Mauk: We've followed your career quite closely coming up through karts and into Barber Dodge and your relationship with Paul Tracy's karting team. Tell us a little bit about how you got started and got hooked up and started your relationship with Paul.

Allmendinger: It's funny, about middle of 2000, I was on a karting team just kind of -- karting team was good, but really wasn't taking me anywhere car-wise. I remember Paul called me because he was starting up a new team at the beginning half year and asked me if I wanted to drive for him. It took me all of about two seconds to say yes and I figured out -- from there on, it's just been so beneficial to me; one, just publicity-wise, being a part of his team and being around him.

Two, just especially now like with Barber Dodge and Atlantics this year, being able to be at most of the races, any time I have a question, be able to go to him and hang out with him and have fun, it's been so beneficial. Like I said, he's got so much knowledge and so much experience to the point where if I do have a question about setup or line or anything, I can go over and ask him and just have that in my bag of tricks that somebody else that might not have that and it's been a big help to me.

Mauk: Paul, what did you see in A.J. that made you want to help him out?

Tracy: I think for sure we saw a guy who is on a karting team that was maybe lacking a little bit of the funding to do it right, and he was winning races at the 70cc level and then moving up to 150, leading a lot of races and in position to win races. We were looking for somebody that was young, and we had an association with the Skip Barber program and through CART, and we were able to get A.J. in one of our carts and then translated into winning races and from there he was able to get into the Barber Dodge program through the scholarship. That's been what our focus is on, trying to get guys into the CART system.

Q: Talk about CART becoming privately-held again and rumors of maybe Champ Car becomes a division of Formula 1, and any comments about that one way or the other about all the talk?

Tracy: I really just read things on Internet and I haven't really paid too much attention to it because I've been concentrating on what we have to do as a team. Whatever is going to happen will happen over time. Whatever does happen, we can get more manufacturer support back into the series and more car manufacturers back into the series. We already have a very strong package of race venues, but there are a lot of venues that are vying to get car races and really good markets, if we can do that I think that will strengthen the series back up again.

Q: I know you've been proud to wear the Maple Leaf but knowing what Team Players means to motor sports in Canada, have there been emotions to put on that fire suit and especially to add to the legacy of the organization the way you have?

Tracy: It sure felt good. It took us a long time before I got suited. I tested all winter with a white suit and I wanted to get the Players suit on. When I was able to get it on at Spring Training I felt good and everybody has commented that it looks good. There's this sense of pride and heritage to be associated with Team Players and what they have done in motor sports in Canada. If I can continue on that spirit of winning, then it's great for the sponsor and also the other Canadian drivers coming up.

Q: A.J., curious your thoughts about the Long Beach circuit and then how exciting a venue this is for you, especially for the young drivers to be able to race on.

Allmendinger: I've been to the Long Beach Grand Prix, and just the scenery around it, the people, the town, to be a part of it is exciting, and I'm really looking forward to racing this weekend. And like I said, it's just, I think, Paul could tell you and anybody that's raced there, it's just an amazing race to be a part of, and I'm looking forward to being a part of it and building up the momentum I had at Monterrey to get a podium and a victory at the race.

Q: You've been talking about your training and so forth, you just set a new personal record on your ride in the morning with the climb and so forth, but when I saw you after the race in Monterrey, I guess the nicest way to say it is you had issues on both ends; was that due to your physical fitness level?

Tracy: No. I caught some kind of virus down there, Montezuma's Revenge. I had gone about half-distance in the race when it started to hit. And I talked to you after the race, you had issues, too, at both ends. Everybody on our team mechanics-wise got very sick. I don't know if it was from the restaurant, at the hotel or maybe some of the water that we had in the coolers, but I had a couple good weeks of training in the last couple of weeks and I had a great ride today before Long Beach.

Q: On Tuesday you told me that you had a Kaopectate buzz going. Now, A.J., this time last year I was taking a lot of grief about losing to Danica Patrick.

Allmendinger: She's a good driver. But you look better with the collar around your neck more than anything, walking around the pit area with your leash.

Q: Which leads me to my next question which is about Monterrey. What would Paul have to say about getting beaten by Danica? And in all seriousness, advice on what went down in Monterey?

Allmendinger: I mean, it was just a rookie mistake, not being in the series not racing with the guys, I didn't expect Luis (Diaz) to break when he did for turn one. And you know, it's his call, he's leading the race on turn one, and I just got caught off guard and got caught in the back of him. For me it was still a great weekend because it was the first race with the team, the team's first race in the series, and I was up in the top two the whole weekend time-wise. And I figured that I could have finished on the podium, and even had a chance to win the race during the race because the car was really good in long runs and if the tires got worn down more.

We had a good day of testing yesterday and I'm really looking forward to Long Beach and continuing the success we started. For Danica's part, she did a great job. There's no doubt, a podium in her first race, she made no mistakes all weekend and I give her a lot of credit as I'm sure everybody else did. She's just another competitor on the track, not that she's a girl or anything, just another competitor and hey, you got beat by her, too. I mean, you had more experience, a lot more experience, so I don't know what your excuse was.

Tracy: Hey, Tommy (Kendall), how come you didn't use a chrome horn?

Q: She asked me that the other day, she came out early for Long Beach and said: "I've been meaning to ask you something, you had that one chance to get rid of me and got caught up in traffic and didn't." I didn't have an answer for her. So I felt much the way you did. I appreciate your good nature. I'm a big fan of A.J.'s, as well. It's nice to see two young drivers 21 -- how old, you're 21 as well, right --

Allmendinger: Yes, I am.

Q: -- that are leading the charge here. Editorialize a little bit, for Paul. I think Paul probably sees a lot of himself in A.J., just a tremendous amount of talent and ability so I'm sure he probably said, hey, what were you thinking. Deep down he knows that the reason I think he hired A.J. is because he sees a lot of potential there. Behind our ribbing there's a belief and we wish you the best.

Part III

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About this article
Series Atlantic , IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , A.J. Allmendinger , Skip Barber , Danica Patrick