Top four DP drivers press conference (part 1)

Max Papis Scott Pruett Wayne Taylor Andy Wallace ADAM SAAL: Thank you for participating in the Rolex Sports Car Series media teleconference. Today we're pleased to have the four drivers who will battle for the Daytona Prototype drivers ...

Max Papis
Scott Pruett
Wayne Taylor
Andy Wallace

ADAM SAAL: Thank you for participating in the Rolex Sports Car Series media teleconference. Today we're pleased to have the four drivers who will battle for the Daytona Prototype drivers championship at the season-ending Lexus Grand American Champions Weekend, California Speedway October 29th through 31st.

This race will also determine the season championship in both the Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer category as well as the Daytona Prototype constructor championship. All three titles in our main class are on the line as we head to California on Halloween weekend.

Joining us today are Rolex Daytona Prototype Championship co-leaders Scott Pruett and Max Papis, who drive the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley; Wayne Taylor, who is vying for the championship in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley; and Andy Wallace who remains mathematically alive in the title chase having driven both the No. 2 and the No. 20 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawfords this season.

Welcome, gentlemen, and thanks for taking the time to join us today.

We've got a couple continents represented. Wayne, Max and Scott are here in the United States, but Andy is actually joining us from England. So Andy we appreciate you taking the time in your evening to join us for this teleconference.

ANDY WALLACE: Sure. Thank you very much.

ADAM SAAL: Only three points separate the top trio, 327 to 324. It's likely either the Ganassi teammates will get a share of the title or Taylor will leave the California finale as the 2004 Daytona Prototype Champion. Both the Ganassi duo and Taylor have three wins this season. Taylor and co-driver Max Angelelli most recently won the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust at Virginia International Raceway, while Pruett and Papis claimed their last victory in the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic.

The No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford has been driven to a pair of wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Andy, and he has 309 points and has a mathematical chance at the title.

Combined our four guests have won eight of the year's 11 races to date with only the California round remaining. For some guests, California Speedway is familiar territory. To others it will be a new experience.

We'll get started with the same question for both Scott and Max. You both have had some success there in open-wheel competition. Max, you've led and had some podium finishes. Scott, you've been on the pole there a couple times. Starting with you, Scott, then again, Max we'll move on to the same question with you.

Is there anything you can learn from your oval experience that you can apply to your road course there?

SCOTT PRUETT: Only where the track is. That's about it (laughter).

My last race there, I qualified on pole in '99. I'm looking forward to going back. It's a great track. It's a great facility. I've enjoyed--I tested the IndyCars there on the road course--so at least I have a pretty good idea where it goes.

I think it's going to be a great show. I mean, it's always great for the series when you can go to the last race to determine the championship, whether it's a manufacturer (championship) or whether it's the drivers.

It's a little stressful for the teams, but good for the series.

ADAM SAAL: Max, same question for you. I believe your team, not you, but certain members of your team have tested at the California Speedway on the road course once this year. Is that true?

MAX PAPIS: Actually, we went in the beginning of the season testing at California Speedway. That was one of the first tests we actually did. And, again, Fontana, I have great memories, you know, I had great success over there. I led I think over 300-something laps. We had great head-to-head with Scott in '99, when Scott was on pole, and I started on the outside of the first row.

So it is a great facility, as Scott said. You know, we have one thing in mind: bringing the championship to Lexus, bringing the championship to Chip (Ganassi). It's going to be very exciting. I am really focusing on giving my best to the team on the track and off the track. We are ready for it.

ADAM SAAL: Wayne, moving on to you, I don't know if you have as much experience at California Speedway as some of the other drivers on this call. In fact, have you raced there before on the road course?

WAYNE TAYLOR: No, I've never raced there at all. The only time I was ever there was at the end of 2002 when the Cadillac (sports car) program came to an end. I was asked by (former CART president and CEO) Chris Pook to come out and look at potentially running a CART program for the following year. I went and spent a day watching the cars go around. That was it. I've never seen the road course other than on the Internet.

ADAM SAAL: That being the case, knowing that the championship is on the line, both the drivers title as well as the manufacturer championship between Pontiac and Lexus, and even the chassis constructor, Daytona Prototype bragging rights between Riley and Crawford, is there any added pressure considering you guys have not raced there before?

WAYNE TAYLOR: No. This is probably going to sound weird, but I was saying to someone the other day, I'm so busy with the commercial side of this program that I don't even know when the race is. I haven't had the chance to actually worry about it. Luckily I have all this other stuff to do, then I can focus when I get there rather than spending two weeks trying to focus on something that I can't really do. There's nothing I can do with it.

I haven't been there. I'm not going to be there until next Wednesday. There's no point in trying to focus on something I physically can't do anything with.

So, you know, when we get there next Wednesday, I know we've got a good crew, got good guys, got a good car, got a good engine, got a great teammate, and we'll do the very best we can and race to win the race, like everybody does. I think the championship will be decided at the end of the race. It's just a matter of fact.

ADAM SAAL: Thank you, Wayne.

Andy, you're not out of it. You're mathematically alive in the championship but admittedly it would take a lot. What do you focus on coming in? It would take a complete collapse by the other three drivers on this call with you in order for you to have a chance, but anything can happen in racing, and it might have to at California Speedway. Do you think championship or just getting your third win to match their win total?

ANDY WALLACE: It's always nice to win a championship, but as you say, it's probably not going to happen. I'm too far back now. But we're all very happy with what we've done this year in the team. You know, it was a brand-new team, Howard-Boss Motorsports at the beginning of the year. The car was new. Altogether really we've had a great season. We've won two races. It would have been nice to have won a few more. We just missed the 24 hours (at Daytona) at the beginning of the year.

I just treat every race as they come. Of course, the championship is very important and I think for those other guys in the race, it's going to be a very stressful race. Of course, what I want to do is just go out there and just try to win the race.

I haven't seen the circuit either. I found a nice website that had a few photographs of the track on there. I don't think it will be too difficult to learn the track at all. We're just going to go there and do what we do at every race really.

ADAM SAAL: We have worked up a few championship scenarios. Andy, you would basically need a win with 15th place class finish or lower by Papis and Pruett, and a 12th place finish or lower by Taylor and Angelelli. It's not out of the question, but I don't think they're going to let that happen. It's going to be a great race, and we look forward to Halloween weekend.

Let's get started with our media questions.

Q: This question is for Wayne. How tough of a duo has Papis and Pruett been to beat this year?

WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, you know, they've been tough. They have a great team. But I think at the same time, you know, Andy has also been tough. And Butch (Leitzinger) has been tough. You know, the good thing about this series is that any one of five, six, seven, eight cars can win. Clearly through the course of the year, the Ganassi guys have been the most stable, and I think that's just by virtue of the fact that they've focused on it.

I think from our standpoint, it was a start-up program, as Ganassi was. But I think the resources that they have far outweigh what we have. But, you know, it's just a case of they've been successfully running every single race, and gaining points at every event. We've not been as fortunate. We've had a couple of problems.

However, it always appears to be competitive between them, us and whichever car Andy's in, and/or Butch now. You know, I think the fact that they're going to three cars (on the Ganassi team) for the last race is probably a good thing because maybe they'll get their resources strained and not focus on the right car. We're going just with one car, and aim to focus on the same car like we do every race and see what happens.

Q: Would you rather be in the position they're in or do you like maybe being the guy that's only like a few points out? Maybe there's less pressure on you than there is on them coming in as a leader?

WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, I can only tell you how it was the last time I was in a championship race with Max Papis, which was 1996, and the roles were completely reversed. I led the whole way, and he came on stronger. And I can remember feeling the pressure going into the last race, knowing that they were chasing and I had to look after my position.

I remember that feeling pretty clearly, and it wasn't pleasant. In the position I'm in today, I feel a hell of a lot better than I did then. I think they're probably more worried than I am because they've got a lot more to lose than I have.

ADAM SAAL: There are many championship scenarios. If either the No. 01 or the No. 10 car win at California Speedway, they win the title. That's what it comes down to. A win would take everything, all the permutations, clear it up and make it real easy, but we can only have one winner.

Next question, please.

Q: Andy, when are you going to leave England for Fontana?

ANDY WALLACE: I have a flight I believe on Tuesday, the Tuesday before the event.

Q: Tuesday of next week. Now, are you flying all the way or are you making -- are you just going to hop from plane to plane or stop over or are you going to go straight on to Fontana?

ANDY WALLACE: Actually, one of the very lucky things about living in England, because we're such a small country, London being the main airport, you can fly pretty much anywhere direct. So I have a direct flight from London to LAX.

Q: How long is that going to take?

ANDY WALLACE: 11, 11 and a half hours.

Q: Your opponents hope you have a tremendous amount of jet lag off of that.

ANDY WALLACE: Where they'll be slightly upset is I've just come back from California just yesterday, and I plan to stay on California time. So I'll be just fine (laughter). It's a nice idea, though. Thanks for bringing that up.

Q: The Comp USA team has grown by one with last year's IRL champ and his teammate, this year's teammate and they'll be teammates again next year, (Scott) Dixon and (Darren) Manning, teaming up in a third Chip Ganassi, Lexus Riley for the Fontana race. The interesting thing about that is that provides an extra blocking back, Mr. Taylor. What do you think you need to do in order to get through those two red and white cars in order to beat that third one with Mr. Papis and Pruett at the wheel?

WAYNE TAYLOR: Oh, I don't think they're going to be doing any blocking of us. You know, it's just another car on the grid really. It really doesn't affect the way that we prepare for the race. I mean, what can I really do about it? We've just got to go there and try and win. You know, whether they have three or five cars. If I were in their position, I'd probably be worried that they're bringing on a third car - although they have such vast resources, they can probably manage it pretty well. If it was me in that program, I would probably not be so happy.

You know, I think it's more of a problem for them than it is for us.

Q: Speaking about that, because you've twice referred to that concern, if you were to have to face sharing resources, as you put it, Scott take that for me, what is your angle on that, sharing the resource thing?

SCOTT PRUETT: I understand where he's coming from. If it was a normal team, that would absolutely be the case, but the fact that where the team is housed, we have both the Grand-Am team and the IRL team. IRL is done. They knew they were going to be done. They only ran one car in the last race. The guys on the IRL side, everybody, mechanics, engineers, everything, it's being run under the IRL umbrella not under the Grand-Am group of guys.

We've been around in this business long enough to know what happens when you stretch your resources or try to do something you shouldn't do. That's not the case at all.

It's being run almost as a completely separate team, except for the information stream, as far as all the data and so on. So for us, it's going to be seamless as far as any impact for our side of it.

I kind of disagree with some of the comments earlier, you know, with Wayne saying that more pressure's on us. It's really not. I mean, we're in a good position because we, except for them winning or for us winning, they have to win to win the championship, otherwise, you know, we can finish right behind them. I mean, a win is the game. Anything less than a win potentially for them, the game's over.

You know, it's always exciting going into it. We're both looking at it in our own view and most certainly are going to do whatever we can. The focus is to go there and win, do whatever we have to. All of us I think are faced with that.

Andy's in a great position because he's just wanting to go and win. That's the bottom line. They've shown very, very strong all season, especially to the end, and on these types of circuits.

I see those guys as being one of the toughest guys to beat this weekend.

MAX PAPIS: Absolutely. If I can say something about what Wayne said and Scott said, as well.

Q: Please.

MAX PAPIS: I'm actually really pleased about seeing the third car out there. You know, we are such a motivated team and such a well-established organization that unfortunately for Mr. Taylor and Mr. Angelelli, what most of the people are thinking, that maybe is going to distract. It is the opposite. Those guys had better start fearing that we're going to be out there for one goal.

Our goal is winning the championship. That's why Chip Ganassi committed, and Comp USA and Lexus committed, to put the third car out there, because we're going to take no prisoners. We're going to be out there fighting to win the championship, winning the race.

You know, as Scott said, we have a lot of determination. We have a lot of will to succeed. You're going to see it all coming from Thursday on the track all the way to Sunday. I think I couldn't be in a better team that actually could have run a third car and could have run it in a proper way.

Again, you know, we spent a lot of time analyzing and looking and preparing ourselves in the best way. I know that my motivation and Scott's motivation couldn't be higher. I think that with the added help of Manning and Scott Dixon, it's going to be awesome.

Think about it, we can share a lot of the information. We have guys, not just the 02 car, but even the 8 car now, we can go, finish the session, talk to them, say, "What do you think? What do you feel?" This and that. I think it's going to be really something that is going to help us a lot.

Not to take anything away from the 10 car. They've done a fantastic job up till now. They've been definitely very, very strong contender together with Andy. Andy has done an unbelievable job, you know, coming from the back most of the time. Really hats off to the job he's done from the beginning of the season.

But again, you know, we're prepared to go out there and fight.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Max Papis , Scott Dixon , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Max Angelelli , Chip Ganassi