Grand-Am Road Racing press release
An Interview With: FELIPE NASR, MICHAEL MCDOWELL, JORGE GONCALVEZ and GUSTAVO YACAMAN
HERB BRANHAM: We're going to invite our third place Daytona prototype finishing co-drivers, the No. 6 Ford Riley of Michael Shank Racing, part of a 1-3 finish for this organization, Felipe Nasr, Michael McDowell, Jorge Goncalvez, Gustavo Yacaman.
Q. Gustavo or Jorge, as you guys ran in Indy Lights last year, not only did you have to learn endurance racing but also pit stops, sharing with drivers. Talk about what your experience was like and how you handled it throughout your first 24-hour race.
GUSTAVO YACAMAN: Well, you know, the biggest difference from this kind of racing to Indy Lights racing is Indy Lights is more of a sprint race. You go out, you give it all you've got for an hour, and then you're done.
This is a lot different. You know, you've got to have compromises, and maybe the car setup is not as you would like it ultimately. But in the end, you've got to use what's faster for all of us. You know, luckily we didn't have to have any seat inserts. Michael kind of crammed into our seat. I think we were all pretty comfortable except him. He's glad he's done.
Yeah, it's a lot of fun. It's also fun because it's not one hour and then you're done. You know, you get -- in this kind of racing you get a lot of track time, a lot of running, a lot of passing with the GTs and even some DPs whenever the safety cars went out. It was a lot of fun, really good racing, and I really, really enjoyed it.
JORGE GONCALVEZ: It's more about what Gustavo said. Short racing in Indy Lights, and right here you have a little bit of pressure because you have the whole team pushing you, so you have to be fast and give the car to the other guys and don't crash.
So I think we all did a really good job. Nobody crashed the cars and then it go to the guys. That's why we are on the podium, I think.
Q. Felipe, you said a couple of weeks ago at the little press conference in Birmingham at the auto sport show that open wheel racing is still your priority to make it to F1 or maybe to IndyCar. Nevertheless after this very successful debut is maybe endurance racing also on your priority list?
FELIPE NASR: It's been great. I'm surprised to be here with these guys right here. I think we all did a good job. For my first ever time doing a 24, I'm surprised, I need to say. It was an unbelievable experience for me, and I just can't wait to come back here in the next years.
Q. Michael, three Fords at the top of the DP list. Can you give us an explanation on how that happened?
MICHAEL MCDOWELL: Big power by Roush Yates. The Ford guys worked really hard, and reliability, too, has just been -- just the Ford has been awesome. Fuel mileage was great. Over the years it's just a proven commodity, just like the Riley chassis for us, as well. We knew we had good speed in the test sessions, and coming into it, but in the race there was quite a few of the cars that we thought maybe could be a bit quicker in the straight line that fell out early, so I think we really got an opportunity to just shine there at the end.
Q. Gustavo, you've been under the guidance of Juan Pablo Montoya, your countryman. Can you explain a little bit what it means for you to be racing against him and actually beating him in your first race here at Daytona?
GUSTAVO YACAMAN: Well, you know, it's a long race and a lot of complicated things happened. They had a lot of problems. We had a flawless race. Michael Shank did an amazing job preparing, getting ready both of the cars. We had no mechanical failures. We had no driver mistakes.
You know, I don't think I beat Juan, I think I beat the whole Ganassi team. Juan has been a great help for me this last month. You know, he's been a great help for me the past four years, just guiding me through Indy Lights and giving me tips here and there, someone that has been a great help. Ozz Negri was, as well. He guided me through the team and everything. I really want to thank them, too, because thanks to them, I think we had the result that we had today, especially Ozz. Obviously we had more contact and more time together, explain how the car works, explaining situations.
You know, I had probably 1,000 questions to ask Mike before the race started, and he answered them all in one email. It was a seven-page email, but he answered them all. Everything was really clear. I think we were all -- I wasn't nervous at the beginning of the race. I knew what I had to do. I knew in case of emergency what we needed to do. If I had a flat tire, I knew exactly what we needed to do if I had a flat tire.
I think it's preparation and being cool-headed, and also, you know, a little bit of luck. At the end of the day, it's 24 hours, and a lot of things can happen, and you need to have some luck.
Q. Michael, you've raced NASCAR, you've raced over here. Obviously the popularity of this side has ticked up a bit. Could you explain what you like most about NASCAR racing and most about GRAND-AM racing to help fans?
MICHAEL MCDOWELL: Yeah, well, what's cool about my situation is this is really where I started my professional career was in GRAND-AM. I was in the Rolex Series for two years prior to moving over to stock car. So my transition is actually kind of backwards from what most guys do. They have a good successful career in NASCAR and then come over and race GRAND-AM. What I love about it is I grew up road racing, loved open wheel, loved sports car, and just the cool places, cool venues we get to go to and great racetracks.
The thing that keeps you coming back to this event is you don't have a watch yet. It's what keeps bringing you back. But it's a great event, and it's become really an all-star race with just great drivers from every series and world champions. So to win one of these races is very special.
And what I love about NASCAR, to finish that question, is I haven't won yet. It's extremely difficult. It's the best racing in the world as far as wheel to wheel, how hard it is to make it, and I think AJ can attest to that. You find a lot of guys that have speed that can come over into this series, into IndyCar Series that have that speed and can show that in a race or two and a lot of guys spend their whole NASCAR career and never win a race. It's astounding how difficult it is.
Q. Looking at the entry list, the one veteran and yourself and a bunch of rookies wasn't exactly the instant pick for a podium. Tell me about how you guys worked together to do something that doesn't happen that often.
MICHAEL MCDOWELL: Yeah, it was actually a lot of fun, not the fact that I was the oldest because that wasn't fun, that was hard to get over at first.
GUSTAVO YACAMAN: He was basically telling us what to do.
MICHAEL MCDOWELL: Yeah, I felt like the old man in the group. But it was just great. These guys not having a lot of experience in endurance cars doesn't make them any less capable of running well and having patience and doing the things that we did in this race.
More it was just running through scenarios and just telling them how to prepare for the GT traffic and just walk through it. But one of the cool things is I have crashed a lot of these Rolex cars. You guys have seen that. So I could tell them exactly what not to do and who not to do it to. I haven't crashed one of Shank's cars. Well, probably, racing I've probably crashed a few of them, but not driving them. My first couple years, when I was 19, 20 years old racing this series, I tore up a lot of stuff, so I definitely have a good feel for what not to do.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks, gentlemen. Congratulations.