CART Champ Car World Series media teleconference transcript with: Champ Car driver Paul Tracy Atlantic driver A.J. Allmendinger Part 3 of 3 Mauk: Remember that we can catch Tommy and the rest of the SPEED Channel crew on Saturday...
CART Champ Car World Series media teleconference transcript with:
Champ Car driver Paul Tracy
Atlantic driver A.J. Allmendinger
Part 3 of 3
Mauk: Remember that we can catch Tommy and the rest of the SPEED Channel crew on Saturday beginning at 3:45 Eastern time and also the live race coverage from the Atlantics beginning at 1:30, and, of course, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach starting at 4:00.
Q: I would say you're probably driving the best of your career this season, and I'm wondering if you could address what it's like for the competition on the track because some people may think that we some returning teams that are fairly strong, and we have a few teams that maybe are not that competitive and you make it look easy. But imagine that you have to pass the guys in our field, it's pretty tough. Could you elaborate on that?
Tracy: Well, I mean, I don't really know what the other teams are thinking. I know a lot of the drivers know that I'm fairly experienced and can win at any of the venues we do to. Really I've just been concentrating on my program and not worrying about what other people think. Just try each weekend to get the most points that we can.
Q: What do you think of your chances at Long Beach, considering the car that you have and the type of circuit that you will race on?
Tracy: I think that I have a really good chance of winning there because I've always run well there and I've been able to win the race there twice in the past. So, again, I think experience is important and these street races, whether they are long, you've got walls all around the tracks, so there's plenty of opportunity to make a mistake. I feel good going into this weekend. The team is wrapping up a test today, and apparently yesterday they learned some more things good the car and they were able to find some more speed with our setup.
So, you know, I always felt that the team that we need to beat in Newman/Haas and they had a good setup and good drivers. We are still learning about the car because this is our first -- Players first year with the Lola. We have a couple more tests on testing at Milwaukee and also Mid-Ohio after this race. So that will wrap up our testing for the year.
Q: Being here in Wisconsin, when you do come back to Milwaukee you'll be coming back to a track that will look a lot different, you'll be racing at night, plus a different wing package and no traction control. Can you talk about that, coming back as the defending champion?
Tracy: I think the biggest difference for me is going to be racing at night on an oval, but I haven't done it yet in my career. Coming back with the road course wings, I've done that before at Milwaukee and won in that configuration twice with Penske and with Newman/Haas. So we are going to come there for one day of testing and get a feel for what it's like with the current engine and the current aerodynamics of the car. With the big wings, it's going to be very fast and we just want to figure out a couple of things on the car ride, how it was, because we have not done it in a long time with big wings. So, I feel that it's going to make the racing better with the bigger wings. I think there will be more passing.
Q: I notice you've moved to Colorado. Why?
Allmendinger: That's where the team is based out of.
Q: Does that help you in your training with the elevation?
Allmendinger: Yeah, the main reason I moved was because the team was based out of Colorado. But there is, the training up there with the thin air, it has definitely helped because being up there, and then coming back to wherever, and driving the car I can tell that just my breathing-wise and my health is so much better. Moving there for the team I thought it would be so much better, especially with a new team because being there every day at the shop and just hanging out and getting to know the guys so well and know that when I'm there, they can see that I'm putting all my effort into it just as they are. It really helps and I think it's brought me closer to my guys that are working on the car and the whole team around me. So for that reason, we can go to the track and know that we are always on the same page and that we are always thinking the same thing. It's just been a big help. I think it showed at Monterrey.
Tracy: He didn't tell you yet that he's got a girlfriend that lives there.
Q: A.J., how did the deal with Carl Russo come together for this year?
Allmendinger: Well, Carl, he ran in the Atlantic series last year. Basically with the same team but it was under a different name. He wanted to put together a program not only for Atlantics but for a higher pinnacle of racing. He bought the team out and just renamed it RuSPORT. But he was looking for young drivers. He had Aaron Justus run the last three races last year and that was Aaron's trial basis right there for the ride this year because he knew it was going to be two cars. And, he chose me and two other drivers to go for a test for the ride, and fortunately enough, I got the ride at the test.
From then on, it's just been a lot of testing and stuff, and it's been a big deal putting the whole team together, being around the shop and seeing how much actually goes into putting the whole team together is amazing. We are still building. We are still adding people, still just figuring out everybody, and I feel that we are just going to get stronger and stronger throughout the year and that's exciting because we are already clicked right now.
Q: Have you also assisted A.J. financially in his new team?
Tracy: Luckily I have not had to. Other than financially going through the go-kart program, when we went into the Barber Dodge it was on a scholarship program from winning a run-off and he was able to win another scholarship for a free season of Barber Dodge. So really, all A.J. has had to handle is his travel expenses. And then going into this year, after he had won the Barber Dodge Championship, there was a couple of teams interested and actually went to a meeting with A.J. with Dorricott and talked to a couple of teams that were interested, but they really didn't have any type of a long-term program. And that's where I guess his new team owner Carl Russo got in contact with him and he had a two- or three-year plan and was he signing A.J. up to a program to hopefully where he can win races and win a championship and maybe move up to Champ Cars. So that really worked out to be the best program for him.
Q: Paul, the new Formula 1 rules this year seem to be mixing things up a little bit; that, and the weather. What do you think about rules like that for CART, would that be something good with the qualifying rules that they have?
Tracy: Well, I think it's definitely interesting. We have that qualifying format on ovals and it seems to work for us on ovals. The problem that we have currently with doing a one-lap qualifying effort is that, you know, Formula 1, they go straight out of the pits and come out on the first time and they get the green flag lap and that's it. They have tire warmers, whereas CART does not. Some of the venues that we go to, where we've got a fairly hard tire and it's a street course, so whatever -- and it takes four or five laps before the tires are up to temperature and pressure. I think CART is looking at it and I think that is the format that is being talked about, about qualifying at Brands Hatch because the track is so short, they are going to think about going to a one- or a two-lap qualifying format like we would do on an oval. But again, we don't have tire warmers and we don't have -- it takes a few laps for us to get to where we can go. So, that's something that needs to be figured out. It's how many laps do we actually get to do.
Q: Paul, would you comment on the success that the European drivers have had coming over versus the traditional feeder series from the Atlantic drivers? Seems to me there's a lot of very good Atlantic drivers that are struggling to find a place in Champ Car, could you comment on that?
Tracy: Well, I think in Europe, you know, when you come from Europe, you have the opportunity to drive. If you look at a guy like Montoya, or Zanardi, they are racing -- they are come from a Formula 3000 background, Formula 3, Formula 3000. A Formula 3000 car is fairly similar to what was an Indy Lights car. The cars were updated every year. So technically, there were maybe a little bit more superior to an Indy Lights car and had about 75 more horsepower. They were in about the 500 horsepower range. A lot of the drivers that are at the Formula 3000 level of winning also have testing contracts with Formula 1 teams to do just general testing. So they are getting Formula 1 experience in 800-horsepower cars. So I think the transition from that level to a Champ Car is easier than coming from a 300-horsepower Atlantic car straight to an 850-horsepower car. So I think really just the level of experience is a little bit higher with the drivers from Europe because the driving cars more at a similar horsepower range than what we have over here.
Q: How do you feel about what CART is doing with karting and bringing that into the fold, and where would you like to see that develop?
Allmendinger: I believe it's good. I was a part of the program in its first year. It's good because that's -- in any open-wheel racing, that's where you get your start. So for me, I was a part of it for a long time and I think what Champ Car is doing is a good thing because that's where the young kids come from. It gives them kind of into the spotlight where Champ Car media and people in general start to get to know their names so when they start moving up, like I got the chance to, they already kind of know your name and you just keep building on that. For that, I'd like just to see it keep building in the same direction that they are taking. And I think in the long run, I think it will be good for everybody.
Tracy: Also what CART has done with the Stars of Tomorrow has been great and also the television coverage that the Stars of Tomorrow has gotten from SPEED Channel is also been great for karting in general. I think karting is still pretty dysfunctional. You've got multiple levels much racing now at the 125 level, there's three different National Championships you can win. Until you get everybody running in the same group, whether it be the Stars of Tomorrow or whatever and make it all one uniform group like they have in Europe, that's the problem with karting right now is there's too many different series that at the same level. You can have three or four national champions all at the same level, same class. So how do you say who is the national champion.
Q: A.J., since this is the first time that Toyota Atlantics fans have the chance to meet and you to know you, what about yourself would you like them to know, first and foremost?
Allmendinger: Just myself on a personal level, driving-wise I'm always giving 110 percent. I love to win. Paul knows, I'm kind of like him, I hate to lose and when I do, I work ten times harder the next weekend just to figure out what went on and what happened. I'm never going to give up, no matter where I'm at. I think people saw that in Monterrey with my incident, the front wing hanging off the car was still setting fast laps early in the race. I love being a part of CART, Champ Car and racing in general and being able to be where I'm at. I think people see that in my driving, they see that in my personality or after just when I'm walking around. I love to be there and be a part of it, but foremost, I love to win races and championships and that's what I'm there for.
Q: How is it looking for you next year? Do you think you're going to stay in Atlantics? Is your goal and the team's goal to move up to Champ Car?
Allmendinger: My goal is always to try to move up. I'm not looking at that right now. It's still early in 2003. The team's goal, my goal is we are all building together. Obviously, I want to win the championship this season, and I think we have a really good shot at it just starting out the way we've done it. Moving forward, into Long Beach and through the rest of the year, I think we have a great shot at it. Hopefully if that happens, if we do move up, if not, we see where it goes if that's another year in Atlantics, that's great because most people do take a two-year program. Hopefully I can only take one and move forward. But if not, no big deal. We move on to the next season and try to win the championship again. That's my main goal and I'm just really working hard at the team to make that happen.