An interview with: PAUL TRACY ROBERT DOORNBOS NEEL JANI THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'll get started here with our post race press conference. One quick note for the media. Total attendance this year was 151, 426, with more...
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'll get started here with our post race press conference. One quick note for the media. Total attendance this year was 151, 426, with more than 65,000 fans in attendance today. Overall, a 28% increase in attendance over last year in 2006.
We'll get started here with our drivers. Neel Jani, rookie in the series, your first career Champ Car podium. How does it feel right now?
NEEL JANI: Great. Had a very tough season beginning, especially Las Vegas and Houston. We were fighting for a podium until something happened, technical or a shunt. So I'm really happy to be on the podium this weekend.
The weekend began quite well, but then we had a bad qualifying. In the race we were at the back, to the front, to the back, then again at the front. It ended well.
THE MODERATOR: Our second-place finisher, Robert Doornbos, fourth podium in five races. Almost getting old hat for you. You're only three points back from Bourdais for the championship lead.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I think consistency is always very important. I couldn't have planned this afternoon. I think it was the longest afternoon out of my career. I couldn't believe it that I got a drive-through at the start of the race because I had a good start, passed Graham.
If you ask me, I know in Europe we race a bit tougher than we do here in the States, but I still feel nothing went wrong. We might have to talk about it afterwards.
Anyway, I got the punishment, so I went to the back of the field. Pushed really hard. The team did a great job to calm me down because Michael Cannon, he knows me now a little bit. He said, just don't make mistakes and push till the end. Yeah, great pit stops. So I have to thank the team more than anybody else.
THE MODERATOR: And our winner today, Paul Tracy. Paul, your run was anything but spectacular out there (laughter). Why don't you take us through what it's like to go through two front wings.
PAUL TRACY: I guess this is why the series pays me to stay here, to create some excitement (laughter).
You know, I'm still kind of in shock with how the race went. I got off to a really bad start, got into the mix with Robert and Graham fighting. They both kind of ran wide in turn three. Graham was kind of way out in the dusty part of the track.
When he turned to change directions, go the other way, he basically had to come to a stop in the middle of a corner without kind of half spinning out. I was coming pretty hard. I knew he was going to have to slow down at the apex, but I thought I could kind of cross under him.
He basically parked the car right in front of me to avoid spinning out. I ended up running into him. We both went out in the grass. That was wing number one (laughter).
Got going again. Kind of the same thing with Bruno and Oriol. Oriol made a move on Bruno. Bruno tried to cross under Oriol at the apex of turn one. Basically, had to come to a complete stop in the center of the corner to cross underneath of Oriol.
I thought, Okay, I can kind of swing through the corner here and get a good run on the straightaway. I ran right into the back of him. That was wing number two.
You know, we came in. We were at the back of the field. We had lots of fuel when other guys didn't have fuel. A little bit my spirits were down for six or seven laps. I kind of stayed at the back and didn't do anything. I just sat at the back of the field. The team really rallied and said, All right, come on, let's go. We can do something here with our strategy.
I passed the five cars that were in front of me. I pulled away and caught up to Graham and Justin towards the end of that stint, really started to turn some good laps. The rest was really just strategy. We had the fuel at the end of the race that other people didn't.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q: What did they say the reason was for that penalty?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I got a drive-through penalty for blocking. In this championship, blocking is a big word. It was with Graham. Something happened with Graham. Yeah, I didn't see it was a dangerous position or a move.
Anyway, I got the penalty, got on with the race. Maybe it was meant to be because we could change our strategy and I'm here now.
Q: Why didn't you use your 'Power to pass' at the end, Robert?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I knew exactly how much Paul had and how much I had. I also knew how many laps were left. I did struggle on the black tires with my car, the balance. I sort of had to wait a long time for the heat to come into the tires, to turn in some good laps.
Six, seven laps from the end, I was really pushing, catching Paul every lap. Then I decided to use my 'Power to pass'. Of course, I ran out at the time when I needed it. I could see Paul's light flickering, which means he was using it.
Yeah, very frustrating. I mean, it's a game. But he lives in Vegas. He's used to gambling, I think (laughter).
Q: Paul, what did you think of that?
PAUL TRACY: I knew he had a lot. After holding off Graham for that 20-lap stint, I pretty much had killed the tires on the car. When I saw Graham had peeled off the track and we had three or four laps to go, I had a three-second advantage, I kind of tried to protect the tires.
The more I tried to protect them, the slower I went. I was really, really struggling in turn one. I couldn't get the car stopped without locking the front tires. I couldn't get the car to turn through the apex. So I was very slow through the apex. But I knew he was coming. They told me every time he was using 'push to pass' to gain ground, gain ground. I think going into the last lap, we were about equal on 'Power to pass'.
You really have to get down the last straightaway from turn one to the end of the back straightaway. It's very difficult to get by anybody the rest of the lap unless you make a mistake. I had enough to use it on the last lap. We were safe.
Q: Paul, last time you won was here what is it about this place?
PAUL TRACY: I don't know. This track has always been good to me. I don't know how many times I've won here. I think it's three or four times now that I've won here. It's always been the race leading into the Canadian races. Usually it was before Toronto.
It's just kind of a motivator that you want to finish up well here before I go into my home country. I've always kind of done that here. I've always kind of run strongly here, then had strong races in Canada.
Today it was by no means a nice, comfortable, easy, pretty win. It was ugly. It was messy. It's not the way I would have liked to have won a race. But we've lost many races with silly things happening. The sand slips through your fingers and you can't get it over the last two years.
To come through today and have to drive the way we did, the races I had with the people we were racing with, with Alex, we were fighting like crazy, fighting like crazy with Graham. You know, it's a satisfying win because we really had to push ourselves to win here. It was by no means driving around and dominating the race. I really had to fight, which was good.
THE MODERATOR: To clarify, this is Paul's third win here at Cleveland. He also won here in 1993 and 2005.
Q: Paul, talk about racing with Graham (Rahal) out there?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, he was good off the last corner and good under braking, good into the hairpin. That's where I was okay, the last corner, but very poor under braking into turn one and very poor through the apex. That was really his only good shot at me.
He had one shot at me in four. I made a small mistake. I was pushing. Had to get off the throttle before dropping a wheel off the track. Once you drop a wheel off the track, the guy is going to go by you regardless.
He had a couple good shots at me. It seems like he wasn't -- you know, when I was behind him, I could tell -- in the rest of the track, other than turn one, he couldn't brake as late as I could. For him to get by in the places where he was going to try, it was going to be difficult except for turn one. He could get in there pretty good.
Q: Robert, just a clarification about the Power to pass, it said you had 35 seconds left, was there a problem with the system?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Well, I'd been pressing the button really, really hard, and nothing came out (laughter). I don't hope there's a problem in the system, which would be disappointing.
But, no, yeah, I tried. I thought I ran out.
THE MODERATOR: To clarify on that. The timing and scoring page received its power to pass numbers through telemetry. If an antenna was down, sometimes those numbers freeze up and give false readings.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Thanks for that (laughter).
Continued in part 2