DP champion contenders teleconference, part 1

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 10, 2007) -- An interview with Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype contenders Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Scott Pruett and team owner Wayne Taylor, substituting...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 10, 2007) -- An interview with Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype contenders Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Scott Pruett and team owner Wayne Taylor, substituting for contending driver Max Angelelli.

MODERATOR: We would like to welcome everyone to today's teleconference for the Grand-Am Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve. The Daytona Prototype Championship battle is the closest in the world and we're joined today by Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty of GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, as well as Scott Pruett of TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates Racing and Max Angelelli of SunTrust Racing, who are 1,2, and 3 respectively in the championship.

Each of the team drivers are with us, including SunTrust Racing team owner Wayne Taylor who is substituting today for Max Angelelli, who has been delayed in his flight plans. They're joining us today to talk about the battle that's coming up. We know all about it, it's going to be a tight race.

Gentlemen, welcome, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to be with us today.

Alex, let's get started with you. Wayne and Scott have done this before, but you and Jon are in the championship mix for the first time. You've been a team to beat for the majority of season, talk about your game plan heading into the finale this weekend. Will you do anything different at all in this race?

ALEX GURNEY: First of all, thanks for the question. We are all very excited to be leading the championship for the first time all season. This race is a little bit different. It's a longer race, running somewhere around seven hours. So it does require a little bit of a different approach. It's almost been sprint racing up to this point for awhile now, and that has kind of allowed our team and Jon and I to just go as hard as we can. So it will be a different approach with the GT cars and the way the strategy will work out as far as fuel mileage and the way we approach the race as far as where we are in the championship.

There's a lot more things to consider and reliability is a big issue also. So just a lot of things -- and it will be a little bit different in the way we approach this race compared to some of the others.

MODERATOR: This is the final of the 14 races in the Grand-Am Sports Car Series season, both the Daytona Prototype Championships are on the line along with the GT championships, but the championship making the headline has been the driver battle here. Jon Fogarty, you've won championships before in Atlantic competition, and here you are looking for your first championship with Alex. Talk about what is the secret, if you're even going to let that out of the bag, for what has been so right with you guys this year. You've won a record seven races, it seems like your car has just been perfect. What has put it together? Has it been more of the equipment, more of the personnel or just a good combination of both?

JON FOGARTY: I think if it was a secret it would have been too good of one for everyone to keep their mouth shut and the word would have gotten out by now. So really, there is no secret. Certainly we have the right package with Pontiac and the Riley chassis that we have and Alex and I and our engineer Kyle Brannan, the whole team is doing a great job.

So no secrets. But I think a big part of it really is the relationship that Alex and I have and have had for a lot of years going back to the late '90's when we first competed against one another. We've been good friends and good competitors ever since then and it's just a relationship that's working really well as far as sports car racing goes with the team atmosphere.

MODERATOR: Scott, you're no stranger to championships - there's a debate out there of whether or not you fall in the same generation as Hurley Haywood and we don't know if you do. Hurley was racing years before you and you've been racing against some guys that certainly started their careers after you did - but you've won more championships than anyone of your generation. Do you ever get tired of having this happen every year or frankly would you miss it if you weren't out there battling for the overall championship?

SCOTT PRUETT: I think if I wasn't battling for the championship I would be thinking about giving it up. That's what it's all about. Its exciting going into the last race, we're in great position. We're going to treat it as a seven hour, seven and a half hour sprint race. The car has been very, very solid and as we saw at the Rolex 24, never missed a beat. We're bringing on Salvador Duran, he did just a great job this year where we won with myself and Juan Pablo Montoya and him. And we got a little bit of an update from Grand-Am, which I think it's going to put us in a better competitive position with Pontiac. And we also have a team car that's out there that's run very strong as well.

So across the board, if you look at it, I think we're in great shape. We're just going to go out and run hard and try and win the thing outright.

MODERATOR: Scott has 384 points, he's just one point behind Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty who lead, but not at all out of it is Max Angelelli, who has 382 points. Again only three points separate the top contenders here. Max is in the air as we speak, the flight schedules didn't work out to the today for him to join us, but no stranger to a championship battle is team owner and sometimes co-driver Wayne Taylor with us today.

Wayne, thanks for supporting Max and you made it clear you want to talk about these drivers going for the championship more so than what you're doing. But you know from experience what's going through Max's head right now as he heads into this big race. How do you prepare for an endurance race that you know has all the marbles waiting for it at the end?

WAYNE TAYLOR: There's really not much we can do other than go there and try and win the event. And even if we did win the event and Alex finished second, we would be tied on points, and with all the wins, they would win the championship.

So we need a little bit of luck on our side, I guess, for Max to win this. I don't think the approach is going to be any different to any other race we have done this year. As Scott said, these races are no longer endurance races, they are sprint races now. And so we have to take it exactly the same way. We have got Magnussen back for this event. Both of them really like this track. I know last year we were pretty quick there.

I think that the wild card is going to be to see how much more power the Lexus has got. And I think that might just determine how this championship will finish. So we've got to wait and see what they have got really for us.

Although there's two Pontiac teams that are going to take you on there, Scott. We'll just wait and see, but I think really at the end of the day we're going to approach this like any other sprint race.

MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions right away.

Q: Scott, you mentioned the aspect of having the sister car out there and given the IRL race, taking that in mind and their battle for the championship, do you reckon your teammates will be kind of holding up the rest of the traffic behind you?

SCOTT PRUETT: I wouldn't say holding up, but as we saw with the IRL race even yesterday, teammates can play a pretty important part. Sometimes on the good side and sometimes not. Unfortunately, there's times when bad things happen. But for the most part they're in a great position to just kind of mix things up a little bit.

We're not going to do anything dirty by taking anybody out or anything like that, but you can get guys racing with you, you can start taking advantage of them. You can do certain things that you can't just do by yourself.

So that's a, that's something that we have up on the other two teams and we feel that we're certainly going to take advantage of it every way we can without getting dirty.

Q: Wayne, no intended disrespect, we got Max and Jan for your drivers, who is your third driver?

WAYNE TAYLOR: We intend to only have two drivers. I'm going to be there and probably will test in case something were to go wrong with either of them, I would get in the car. But I don't see any of that happening.

Q: It's also great to have you as a backup driver. We do slow down in age. I only wish I could be as fast as you at your age. Y'all walked out of the Rolex 24 and you know, oddly enough, that first race of the season really proves to be a kind of a pivotal race, when you consider Alex and Jon came out in 22nd and Scott of course as mentioned earlier, he and Juan Pablo and Salvador came in first. You guys came out in third with Jeff Gordon in the seat. That was a pretty pivotal race when you look back, because here you guys are again battling away for the championship. If Alex and Jon would have done a little bit better they probably would have been a little bit further ahead right now. What is it that you intended, Wayne, with regards to winning this race?

WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, we'll just take out Scott Pruett. (Laughter.)

No, like I said before, we're going to -- we're really going to look at it in no other way than we do all the rest of the races of the season. Because as I said, the Rolex 24, if my memory serves me correctly, the winning car only pitted for tires and fuel and for the rest, you know, it looked like a sprint race. So this is being a seven and a half hour, it will be like a sprint race. And we have no option but to go there and try to win the race. As I'm sure they have, but for us it's clearer that we have to do that, because we have the biggest deficit. And so clearly the mission is to win the race and then we'll see what happens.

Q: This is for Jon and or Alex, how often do you guys pull this kind of duty as parents? (ed. -- Both Gurney and Fogarty were watching their small children during the call) I'm curious to know that.

JON FOGARTY: Pretty often, in the racing business it's definitely tough on our families from the time that we're going. And so we try to pull our weight when we're at home. I'm going to be gone for about a week here and there's just a lot of things that the other half need to get done before we go. So I'll take a day or a couple days and go a hundred percent with my son William and let my wife Sarah get done what she needs to get done before I skip town. I'm so happy to do it, because I miss the guy at home when I'm on the road. So we're spending time together.

Q: I can understand that. Alex?

ALEX GURNEY: Similar deal for me. My wife actually just started school again, she's actually a kindergarten teacher. She was a second grade teacher, but now she teaches kindergarten and she does two days a week. She actually shares a contract with another teacher. So anyway, I'm in charge of the baby on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Q: I congratulate you guys as a guy who did that regularly. Jon, that was a hell of an answer on the secret part. Really, no one can keep a secret, that's a problem because once the secret is told to other one other person it's no longer a secret. And I hadn't even thought about that before. What great way to put that. And thank you I'll stand by.

A question for Scott, how much difference do you think will the engine enhancements that have been allowed for the Lexus will make in this season finally?

SCOTT PRUETT: That's a good question. I don't know. We're going to find out here real soon. The Lexus guys and TRD have been working very hard. With all these new parts, it's been a huge massive challenge for these guys to redo the car. The throttle body was somewhat similar, but when you're redoing heads and changing valve size and some of the other stuff that they're doing, it's a lot to do in a very short period of time. I think they have had about two and a half weeks to do it all and machine it all and to try and run a dyno for durability tests. They have done those things and so we're going to get our first test here in about two days.

I'm looking forward to it and looking forward to the race. Having Salvador (Duran) back in the car is going to be awesome. It's been an up-and-down year for us, having a rookie driver like Memo (Gidley), he certainly has had his hands full and sometimes things have gone real well for him, but as rookies go, sometimes it's a lot of learning. So all the pieces together, coming in the last race I think we're in pretty good shape.

Q: Well it sounds like it's a concern to some of your competitors, so good luck this weekend. Question for Jon and Alex, with seven and a half hour race, you going to have to be very careful to keep the car together because there have been several incidents this year where there's been contact and are you going to be extra careful to try and not damage the car and maintain that points lead and go for the championship? Can you be a little more conservative in that regard?

ALEX GURNEY: You know, maybe slightly. We won the Six Hour at The Glen and the car was pretty pristine at the end of it. I had one deal where a GT car kind of forced me on to the grass for a little bit. But other than that the car was clean. So I think that we have proven that we can get through the race without any problems and win one of the longer ones. This race coming up is similar length and so we hope and expect the same result.

JON FOGARTY: I was going to say like both Wayne and Scott had stated, GT cars or no GT cars, two and a half hours or seven hours, this is still a sprint race. So we have to be aggressive because we know our competitors will be. And we're just going to try to move through traffic quickly and it's just a balance. And we just definitely are going to try to not damage the car. But we have got to be on pace. So there's a balance there.

Q: Sounds like it's a real juggling act and I don't envy your challenge and it's been a great season so far, coming down to the wire like this. I wish all of you luck.

Q: Jon and Alex, we talked before about chemistry, about working with Kyle (Brannan) as your engineer. The fact you guys have known each other for awhile, has that made your jobs easier this season in going after the championship, the fact you are so familiar with one another and are good friends?

JON FOGARTY: Yeah, the whole team are people that I enjoy spending time with, racing or not racing - and Alex and Kyle in particular who I spend just about 24/7 with during the race weekend. I think we have been fortunate to have the consistency there where it's been just Alex and I in the car for over a year now, and Alex and Kyle since the inception of the team. So it does make the job easier when you are happy to walk in the office door and you're excited to see the people you're going to be working with. It's pretty great.

ALEX GURNEY: I would just say absolutely it's a big help, Scott mentioned that having a rookie in the team has maybe been a little challenge for them and Wayne - obviously their team, they have bounced around a little bit as far as which drivers they have had in the car. So that continuity with Jon and I and us being very good friends and Kyle and Bob and all of us just being just very open when it comes time after a session to talk about the car and try to figure out collectively what to do. It adds up every day at a race weekend. So we have obviously seen the fruits of that, I think.

Q: Scott, you and I have talked before about changing teammates every year and yet every year you're still at the top, fighting for the championship. Is it particularly draining on you to have to bring on board a new guy each season or does the team function so well that it's made those transitions easier?

SCOTT PRUETT: I feel a bit like Bull Durham anymore, training new guys coming up. The answer is really two-fold. One, yeah, I mean because we continue to race for the championship year to year, we have won it in 2004 and then been runner-up in 2005, 2006 and winning the team championship last year and much in the hunt for it right now. It's a huge challenge. But the team has been very efficient and very good at what they do, so bringing a new driver in, even though that's not something that you really want to do. If you can do like what Alex and Jon do, the best deal is to just keep building on the relationship you already have and continue to get better and better and better.

So that's been a deficit for us this year. It's been a huge task for Memo to learn the tracks, to learn the racing, to learn the drivers and so on. But at the same time if he was going to do it, if any team was going to take it on I think our team is in a position to do that, given the needs and given good solid cars that just don't have a problem and go out there and get the miles that he needs to understand this racing that much better. So, yeah, it's tough, but I think that we deal with it as good as anybody can and here we are fighting for the championship with one race left and I think we're in a good position to race head to head and compete with these guys.

Q: Following just a little bit on Memo, as I tried to follow the series as well as I can, and I missed a number of the races, but in the reports I see it appears that Memo has taken good care of the car and been able to hand it over to you without major problems by and large. And that undoubtedly has made your job a bit easier.

SCOTT PRUETT: Just like a couple guys mentioned earlier, if you tear something off your car, it's going to affect you. If it's something smaller or if it's something big, it's going to affect the handling and take away from the performance of the car. He had a couple little issues this year but for the most part has done a great job of getting the car back to me in one piece. But with that, the closer to the front you are, the better position you are going to be. In a perfect world you want two drivers that are absolutely on par with each other that have the same experience and same understanding and have very similar styles to be able to drive. You could qualify either guy and you could finish either guy and know that you're not going to take away from any of the strengths of the team.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing