CHAMPCAR/CART: Bryan Herta Post-Laguna Seca Interview

BRYAN HERTA, WHO CAPTURED HIS FIRST CAREER VICTORY TWO WEEKS AGO AT LAGUNA SECA, IS LOOKING TO PUT THE PAST BEHIND HIM AND FOCUS ON RIDING THE WAVE OF HIS RECENT SUCCESS BACK TO VICTORY LANE NEXT WEEK AT THE GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON. HERTA ALSO ...

BRYAN HERTA, WHO CAPTURED HIS FIRST CAREER VICTORY TWO WEEKS AGO AT LAGUNA SECA, IS LOOKING TO PUT THE PAST BEHIND HIM AND FOCUS ON RIDING THE WAVE OF HIS RECENT SUCCESS BACK TO VICTORY LANE NEXT WEEK AT THE GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON.

HERTA ALSO ELABORATED ON HIS NEW TEAMMATE FOR THE 1999 SEASON, MAX PAPIS, AND THE CONVERSATION THAT HE AND CO-OWNER DAVID LETTERMEN HAD AFTER HIS VICTORY IN LAGUNA SECA.

BRYAN, WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO HAVE FINALLY CAPTURED YOUR FIRST WIN? "Well, it is really great. It is a nice feeling. I have to say it is probably as much a relief at this point as anything just to finally get that first one out of the way and it is nice to know that I won't have to answer the questions anymore about when is that first win going to come. I think it took a long time certainly, but it was worth the wait."

WHAT WERE THE FIRST WORDS BOBBY (RAHAL) SAID TO YOU AFTER YOU WIN? "We had a nice moment there right after the race and he kind of leaned over to me and basically said: Bryan, I always knew you are a winner, now everybody knows it."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GOING INTO HOUSTON NOW AND DO YOU THINK YOU CAN PULL OFF WHAT SOME OF THE OTHER GUYS HAVE DONE IN WINNING BACK-TO-BACK RACES? "Gosh, it would sure be nice especially with being down in Houston and Shell Oil Company, our main sponsor, is based right there, so it is right in their backyard. So, it is certainly an important event for us and I guess would you have to say we have got some good momentum, I mean, in addition to the win and qualifying pretty much on the front row the last few races, I feel like we are doing a good job with the equipment. We have got great equipment. I mean, the Ford engine, I think, it is certainly the class of the field right now. The tires are great from Firestone and the Reynard chassis, I think those three factors together in combination are probably the best to have."

IT IS SAID THAT IT TAKES A WHILE TO LEARN HOW TO WIN. DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE LEARNED HOW TO WIN NOW AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT? "Well, that is the funny thing, we really didn't do anything different. I think a few of the times in the past couple of years when we have been right there with a chance to win we have been a little bit unlucky at times. In this case, I think we were a little bit lucky because, as everybody knows, coming down towards the end of the race, it was certainly a fuel economy run and everybody was trying to maintain as quick a pace as they possibly could, yet we still had to try and save fuel and that was going to be a difficult thing. It was going to be, I would say, 50/50 whether we were going to make it -- whether we were going to run out coming down the hill or whether we were going to make it coming down the start/finish line. Then we got the yellow and that opened it up for us where then when we did go green again at the end, I'd had 100-percent fuel and it was wide open. So it was a great finish to the race that way."

DID YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU HAD TO CONTINUE TO PUSH YOURSELF EVEN HARDER BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T WANT YOUR CREW TO LOSE CONFIDENCE IN YOU? "No, it didn't. I think that you are right, it could have, but I think that says a lot about the guys on the team and the crew that I have and the fact that we have really stuck by each other and stood behind each other and believed -- you know, you can win -- they have believed in me as much as I have believed in them. I think we, as a group, all of us together had a lot at stake to win a race and to do it this year and we have done that. The nice thing is that nobody has taken the attitude, okay, great, now we have done it, we can relax. It has reinvigorated us even more to say we want to go out and do it again. It just makes you hungrier for more."

WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STORY AS ONE OF: PERSEVERANCE, DEDICATION AND HARD WORK WILL BRING POSITIVE RESULTS? "Yes. Yes, it is inasmuch as anybody's story that has become a winner in our series, Dario Franchitti or Alex Zanardi or Jimmy Vasser a couple years back, I don't think my story differs from theirs really at all other than it took a little longer. But I think I was in a position probably by the second year of my career to challenge for race wins and obviously it took longer than I would have liked for it to finally have happened. But I won't say that -- you know, I know that I have taken a lot of dedication and perseverance to this job and this vocation that I think if you look at a guy like Dario that grew up racing in Europe and wanted to go to Formula 1 and that door kind of shut to him and he got a chance to come to Indy cars and then all of a sudden he got a chance to drive for Barry Green and get with a great sponsor and a great team, you know, I don't think my story differs in that way much from any of theirs."

DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON YOUR NEW TEAMMATE FOR NEXT YEAR? "Yeah, Mad Max. I really think that this is a golden opportunity for Max. He has certainly shown his ability in other cars and I really think he has shown his ability already in these cars with what he has done. He was in the very early development stages with Toyota and they have been getting stronger and stronger. But in the beginning especially, he didn't have the tools to go out and fight hand-to-hand with a lot of these guys and he will have that next year. And I think there will be more pressure on him because of that expectation and I have seen that myself, you know, it is what you want as a driver, no excuses, good team, great sponsors, you know, all the equipment is there and it is good and it is capable of winning. So at that point then it really puts the only news on him to provide the result."

DID DAVID LETTERMAN HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY REGARDING YOU WIN? "He was just very happy and I guess he felt the occasion wasn't appropriate to be funny and so he wasn't. He actually just had a lot of the same emotions I did - happiness and relief. I spoke with him on the cell phone not very long after the race and we sort of got to share in the afterglow of that.

SO, DID LETTERMAN SEND THE TEAM A CANNED HAM TO CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORY OR ANYTHING ALONG THOSE LINES? "No, but he did send all the members of our team a very, very nice bottle of champagne which I thought was a very classy move."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta , Barry Green