Negri, Segal - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR/Grand-Am Teleconference Transcript - Ozz Negri And Jeff Segal April 21, 2010 An Interview With: OZZ NEGRI JEFF SEGAL THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, we would like to welcome you to a special edition NASCAR Grand Am ...

NASCAR/Grand-Am Teleconference Transcript - Ozz Negri And Jeff Segal
April 21, 2010

An Interview With:

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, we would like to welcome you to a special edition NASCAR Grand Am teleconference. Joining us today are Ozz Negri and Jeff Segal coming off the race at Barber Motorsports Park with plenty of momentum going into Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.

Ozz is coming off a second place finish in the Porsche 250 when he joined Michael Shank Racing the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford Riley. Coming off your strong finish at Barber, coupled with tough luck suffered by some of the championship contenders, what are your thoughts heading into VIR at this several stage of the championship?

In the meantime, we'll introduce Jeff Segal. Jeff, co-driving the SpeedSource No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8, he carries a two-race winning streak into VIR, having won four of the last seven races and had some tough luck in the Rolex 24 after Jeff won the pole in dramatic fashion.

Jeff, you found your way back into contention with back-to-back victories; can you continue that into VIR at a track where Mazda has never won.

JEFF SEGAL: I certainly hope so. Our team is very strong right now. We have been running the same car for a few years, the same driver lineup for a few years. So we are really gelling well right now, the entire team. And also last few races we have a lot of momentum, which is huge and counts for a lot in terms of our performance.

But this is a track we have struggled in the past, and the rules changes certainly are not going to make things easier. Having said that, I'm confident; it's such a strong car and the team knows it so well. So just looking forward to another good finish.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Jeff.

Coming off your strong finish at Barber, a number of the other perennial contenders had had some tough luck; what your thoughts heading into VIR at this early stage of the championship?

OZZ NEGRI: You know, J.J., we take care of every single race, we know how competitive the series is. You know, we have got a good momentum going, up in third in the championship, second as a team and third in drivers; it's a lot of momentum, good confidence.

We have got a good car since Daytona when we were on the front row. But at the same time, you know, we can't deny that you know this year is probably one of the toughest years, and we are going to have to work very hard to earn it.

Q: Ozz, tell me a little bit about driving with John Pew this year, obviously after having a long and fruitful relationship with Mark Patterson, every driver needs to build a level of familiarity and trust with a co-driver, after being with Mark for a period of time, what's it been like for you to having to adjust to having a new teammate, a new wing man and someone that you have to go into battle with?

OZZ NEGRI: Well, it's funny you ask me, because obviously I know John for quite some time. And I know how his mind works and how he drives, because he's been our sister driver for the last two years. It's been some work and we've been spending quite a lot of time together.

We have been go-karting every single week and John is a very easy person to work with. He definitely listens, his heart is 100% into doing well, and you know, performing well. And he's got time on his hands that he can dedicate and can give me time so I can work, you know, on and off the track with him.

It's been fun and most of all, to me, it's been, how can I say, it's been very -- I'm having difficulty finding the right word, but you know, I'm very excited about -- motivating, that's the word. I'm very motivated about working with him and getting great results just as I did with Mark.

Q: I followed your career back in Formula 3, and you then came over to the States and raced in Indy Lights and have gone on to a great career since then. But I guess for you, when you came over here and were looking to continue your open-wheel career, did you ever think you would have this long and prosperous of a career in America and driving sports cars in the Rolex Series?

OZZ NEGRI: Well, first of all, I'm extremely, extremely happy, and glad with, you know, where I am right now.

It's very funny, I've been talking on and off with Ruben Varicello (ph), a good friend of mine, we talk sometimes between his races, and he's been asking me, you know, how is it; you know, how is it to race sports cars there in the States.

And I tell him, I said, "I never had as much fun in my whole life." And that's pretty much a good part of the success, you know, because you're going to enjoy what you're doing, it helps you doing well. If you're not enjoying, then, you know, the fun is not there and the heart is not there. I can tell you that every time I go in my car and I get with my team -- it was a little bit difficult at first, you know to come from single-seater street race to the endurance race.

I used to be a lot more aggressive. I kind of had a little bit of a tough time in the beginning of my sports car career, you know, with some aggressive moves, but I finally learned. I finally learned the hard way a couple of times, you know, the sports cars world runs a little different, and I'm totally enjoying it, totally, totally enjoying it.

Q: Jeff, pretty big rule change in GT with Porsche getting some concessions and you guys getting 75 pounds added to your car, wondering what your thoughts are on that and how you think that's going to affect your RX-8.

JEFF SEGAL: You know, first off, it's frustrating. As a driver you want to make sure that you have the strongest car that you possibly can. Porsche works incredibly hard on the preparation and the development of the cars. They built three new cars over the winter this year, just building off of what we learned over the last two years. Nothing monumentally different but a bunch of really small things that have defined the car and made it that much better.

So when we showed up for Daytona testing, we had a car that we know very well and a car that we had improved in any every way that we know how. We had been running the same chassis and engine and driver lineup for the last few years, so we really have that continuity going for us.

Obviously Martin, in particular, has been quite successful in the last few races and, ultimately I guess there's political pressure to do something about that. In my opinion, you know, I wish I could see the data where it made sense, how these decisions are come by, but at the end of the day, I just drive the car.

Obviously for me I think it's not going to help anything but we've got such a strong car, such a strong team and the depth of engineering, sharing all of the information, I think it's something that we can move on from. I think we'll still have a strong car and a good race in VIR, and I can tell you that we'll be trying as hard as ever to make sure we win another one, right away.

Q: Ozz, a lot of your wins have come late in the season. Is that just because of the tracks at the end of the season suits your team best, or is there -- like this year, you had a great run at Barber -- yeah, Barber. So is there anything to that, the tracks, or is it just how your team works?

OZZ NEGRI: Well, I don't think it's -- I don't think it's normal. I think it's just coincidence.

You know, we have been very strong in the beginning of the season before last in '08. We have a couple of podiums and you know, a pole position at Daytona 24 Hour. You know, it's just the way that it goes.

You have to understand that we are Pro Am driving lineup, and our strategy in the race, it's a little limited. You know, it's not as flexible as when you have a pro-pro in the car. So everything has to be almost absolutely right for us to be able to, you know, be on top of the lead I would say.

And you know, the races, for example, the last race that I won, New Jersey, it was all, you know, on a pit stop. I came in for the last pit stop at nine, and you know, everything, all of yellow flags, they fell at the right time and we didn't need to take that much fuel. We all came out of the pits and when we call came out of the pits, I was third, so I had only to pass two cars in the race.

This series is so competitive. It is one of the most competitive series I have ever driven in. You know, everything has to be aligned so you can be up front and win races. And I promise you, we are working very, very hard, me and John and the whole team, we are working very hard to win one of these races.

Q: I want to think about what it is that you did with Mark Patterson and relate that to John Pew. Earlier your relationships with both were spoken up; what are the differences between John Pew and Mark Patterson, driving differences?

OZZ NEGRI: Well, they are two very different characters. Mark is very confident, very outgoing. Mark is very brave.

John is quite a lot more technical and a little shy at times. John, what is good about John is that John has given me all the time I need to help him. So I've been learning his moods a lot quicker than when I did with Mark, obviously, because we have that time on our hands, and John is 100 percent committed to racing. Mark has his business and that was his priority. John's priority racing and doing well, so we just been spending a lot of time together watching videos and you know, looking at data, studying what happened to Barber, what could we have done better and so on.

So I think, you know, the speed that things are happening and will happen with John, it's going to be quick and pretty, you know, a lot of people will definitely notice a good change on John. I've been getting him to race go-karts, so we can work on his race crafts and on his speed with cold tires, feedback and everything. You know, that time like I never had with Mark, which I'm having with John -- by the way, John raced this past weekend at Homestead at Lotemax Championship (ph) and he won both races, Saturday and Sunday, two pole positions. The Saturday race he won on a dry track; on Sunday, he won on the wet track. So this is extremely good training. I'm very glad to, you know, to be part of it, to be helping him, and I know we can get those fruits for ourselves in the next few races.

Q: Mr. Segal, if my second grade math kicking in here, math skills is correct, you are on the verge of your 25th birthday; is that correct?

JEFF SEGAL: That is absolutely correct.

Q: Okay. Now, when we go back, when you joined the team, there was probably an incident -- not probably; there was an incident at Daytona International Speedway during a sports car race there in which the No. 69 car has made a number of highlight reels since. When you look at Mr. Assentato and go back those years in the cars; embryonic phase, to put it mildly and since then you guys have picked up the pace and won quite admirably, and I would point out, haven't you won like four races in the last seven or eight or something along those lines?

JEFF SEGAL: Four out of the last seven.

Q: When you look at Mr. Assentato last night on Grand Am Weekly, one of the guests said that a gentleman driver like him shouldn't win to the extent which he won, and I would like to know, when you take all of that into consideration, the wreck, the roll and all of that and now advancing to this point, why is it that Mr. Assentato should win?

JEFF SEGAL: To be perfectly honest with you, I think anybody that says that just certainly doesn't know Emil very well at all. He's one of the most competitive guys that I've ever met, and you know, obviously, I'm quite thankful to him for giving me the opportunity to step up from what was at the time the Koni Challenge into the Rolex Series and he took on a project.

From the time I got in the Mazda, I had never had a problem going fast, but I certainly had a lot to learn in terms of maturity and making the right moves at the right times, listening to the team, working with the team to help engineer the car and so on.

So you know, the incident we had at Daytona is a perfect example of that. I think that's something that happened. It was really unfortunate, because it was the last few laps of the race in second place looking really good. But it was a learning process, and hopefully it never happens again.

But in terms of Emil and the success that we have had together, he fits the mold perfectly for a gentleman driver. He absolutely embodies what Grand Am is looking for in the Akin Award that they have. He is incredibly passionate about racing, but he spends 99.99 percent of his time working on his business. He shows up at the racetrack usually at the last minute with no sleep and jumps with the car, and we are always astounded at how quickly he goes. And I think you have to know his history to understand why that is.

This is not a guy that decided at a late age he wanted to go racing. This is a guy that's been passionate about racing his entire life. He was racing Formula 4s at Limerock way before I was born, and he's somebody that made the rather wise decision: Hey, maybe I shouldn't be screwing around at the racetrack. Let me go build the business and be successful there and I can come back to it, and that's exactly what he's done. I think he strolls through; he has a ton of skill, his feedback is great and he's a great co-driver because he understands the whole process. He understands what we need to do to get that car up to the front. There's never an argument about feed time. There's never an argument about strategy in terms of when he does and doesn't get to drive. He just gets it. And I think that the success we have had has been in a large part due to him.

Q: Jeff, with your success this year and winning races and the team doing well, what has that done to both your attitude and that of the team, and how do you keep that sustained going forward?

JEFF SEGAL: I think it's been really, really helpful. The whole Mazda family has been very successful because we all share all of our data across the board, every Mazda that's out there is part of that Mazda family and we really do all help each other. Having said that, traditionally, the 70 car, has been the strongest Mazda.

So for a long time it was a bit frustrating that we always had the speed to always get close, but when it came time for the results it was always there, and really what's that done is motivate our whole team that works on the 69 car to just work that much harder. Everybody on the crew has upped their game in the last two years in terms of the pit stops, the strategy, the preparation on the car. Everything about it has come up a level.

And for me, it's taken a big step to realize that it's not just about driving the car. I can't just show up at the race weekend and drive the car. I have to be hands-on with it in terms of deciding what kind of things we want to do with setup before the race and kind of managing the team as much as I can.

And I think we have seen the fruits of that labor, and I'm just really proud of all those guys. I think everybody is incredibly motivated even more so now, because there's no reason we can't win on a consistent basis and it's sore of an addicted thing. It's very, very good for the momentum of our team.

Q: What's the most challenging part of the track last year, Michael had success last year, just talk about that and the momentum you have coming into the race, and how much last year's finish for the team will give you confidence going in?

OZZ NEGRI: Well we always had a very strong car at VIR. To me it's one of my favorite tracks. I love, you know, fast corners and that's what you get at VIR, you know, going up the hill with a fast axis and then also the last couple of corners going on to the front straight. It's just like Jeff was saying, it's teamwork, and you know, we are not just drivers.

We are the drivers, but we are also part of the technical part. We need to relate to the team what we need, what we want with ideas, suggestions. Me and my engineer, we talk quite a lot before the race, before race weekends, and we come out there with a plan. And then it's up to us to just deliver that plan, which has been -- it's been working very well this year. It's also my sixth year with Mike Shank Racing, and you know, we are pretty much like a very solid, closed group. We know each other quite a lot and we know which member of the team needs and what you are thinking. You know, I think we are very in sync with each other.

VIR, they are a couple of things that you know we definitely look for which is traction coming out of those corners and changing direction and making sure the car can change direction well going up the hill to the fast axis and then coming back down the hill on the back side of the track; that's what we mostly look for.

Also, you know, this is an endurance race, so we have got to be able to go fast but we have got to be able, also, to go fast for a long time. You know, that's very important and that's what really helped us at Barber. We had a great car on low tires. A car that is very easy to drive and a car that stops so well and enabled me to make the passes.

Like I said, this is all work done before we go to the race between me, my engineer, Dave Kanning and Jeff Schaffner and the whole entire Mike Shank Racing organization.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jeff Segal , John Pew , Michael Shank
Teams SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing