CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM CLEVELAND WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, BRUNO JUNQUEIRA AND ORIOL SERVIA ERIC MAUK: We are going to go ahead and start our post race press conference from the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, US Bank, round...
CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM CLEVELAND WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, BRUNO JUNQUEIRA AND ORIOL SERVIA
ERIC MAUK: We are going to go ahead and start our post race press conference from the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, US Bank, round six of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Before we get going, a couple of notes. For those of you who weren't there when we announced the attendance figures, today's attendance was 51,426 for race day. The three-day attendance figure was 118,853.
This is the most caution flags we have ever had in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland and the most leaders we have had at the Grand Prix of Cleveland since 2001. In 2001, we had the rain in qualifying, topsy-turvy at the beginning of the event. Most different leaders We have had in Cleveland since then.
We will start with our third place finisher, driver of the Bell Micro Gulfstream for PKV Racing, Oriol Servia. He led 23 laps on the day, his highest finish of the year, first podium finish of the year, 13th of his career. Oriol, good strong run. Tell us a little bit about how it went.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, strong. A little disappointing. I really felt the car was a winning car. Qualifying was good for us, but we still fell a little behind AJ basically. In the warm-up, I wasn't too happy. We changed a little bit the car. In the race, it was great. I had the great start. You take risks, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Today it worked.
I was second out of the first turn. I passed AJ. After that, the car was on rails. I was actually saving a lot of fuel. That usually tells you you have a good car underneath you. Was looking great. I thought, hey, it could be our race. I knew Sebastien was out. Tracy and AJ were having issues. You know, it's never an easy race to win, but it was looking really good for us. Then the first yellow came out. That was the worst moment for us. After that, the second yellow again came at the worst moment for us. It was looking difficult for a second out there.
But pit stops were good. We had a couple issues with the air jack that cost us a couple positions. Plus I didn't have radio communication today, so was not the greatest day to not have a radio with all those yellows. I didn't really know what was going on, if I had enough fuel to race Justin. At the beginning, all I was doing is just doing the same as Justin was doing because I knew we had to start at the same lap on the beginning. Thought it was going to do what RuSPORT was doing. At the end, we got a little bonus at the last lap. I think we deserved the podium today.
ERIC MAUK: Oriol is now back in the top 10 in the Champ Car point standings unofficially after six races. Oriol, you got taken out in Long Beach, obviously a crash that was not of your making. Tell us a little bit about what a weekend like this, now to be back on the rails, qualified well, does for the PKV Racing team?
ORIOL SERVIA: We needed some fresh, cool air. Long Beach was tough. But, you know, Houston, we had a super fast car. We were actually surprised how fast it was. At the end of the race, passing Tag, when I thought he had a problem, I thought he was letting me by, actually another crash. Still okay. Monterrey we really struggled. Milwaukee, we were okay, not super fast, not slow. Was a decent race. We were hoping for a podium. Didn't really happen. Portland we struggle again.
Yesterday when we qualified fourth, already felt like was a big step forward for us. Today even better. So, you know, we just need to keep pushing. This year I really believe it's getting tougher and tougher. You see how many good drivers and teams have a chance to win every weekend, it's getting more and more, the number. So it's hard to get up there. But, you know, we're moving the right way. We're not going to give up until we're contenders every weekend. That's where we want to be.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
Our second place finisher in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank, driver of the #2 Hole in the Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. His best finish of the year, his first podium of this season, the 29th of his career, his third that he has earned here in Cleveland. He led 11 laps on the day, jumps up to seventh in the points standings after also having a tough start to the year, caught up in the same accident in Long Beach as Oriol. Took a long way to get home, but ended up with a second place finish.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, very exciting race today. Very good start from seventh. I was on the backstraight, suddenly I felt someone hit my back when I was full throttle. Then I looked in the mirror, I had no rear wing. I did turn three and four like a bit sideways, then the yellow came out. So thanks. I would not at least lose a lot. Changed a new wing, a few other parts of the car, then we were a lap down.
Then after the first -- the next yellow, we were able to get the lap back, were able to pass some people on the restart. The car wasn't too good, but we were able to go forward and pass a few people that were not that fast. Saving fuel, doing different strategy of the leaders put me in the lead of the race. Sometimes I went like P9, sometimes P1 or P2. At the end of the race, was P2, so I'm quite happy to finish second.
As I said, I raced the whole race with a race car with a lot of parts missing, so was really hard to drive, to keep it on the track. I was able to do it and finish. I'm quite happy for me and the whole Newman/Haas team. Did a great job. Not easy to change a rear wing in a few seconds like they did. The car was all right. So thanks a lot for the team. It was good. Start of the year, we had good qualifying, terrible results. I didn't have the best qualifying here, and had the best result. So I think that was a big boost for the team, put us in a better position in the championship. So I also can keep fighting for the points and for the wins on the next race.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about how the Bridgestone Potenzas held up. A lot of cautions. A lot of heat cycles going through those tires.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, the tires were really good. I was very impressed because here the fuel makes a lot of difference. Very often, other racetracks, we start to burn fuel, the tires start to go away, the lap times keep consistent or go a little bit faster. Here not. Keep going faster and faster when the fuel burns because the tires are really consistent. They don't lose grip throughout the run. They hold up very well.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. The winner of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. AJ led 36 laps on the day, a race high. He earns his second victory, his 10th career podium. Back-to-back victories for AJ Allmendinger. He is the first US-born driver since 1996 to win back-to-back Champ Car races. AJ, you got this question the other day. One could be a fluke, but this certainly wasn't.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, I got to thank the whole Forsythe team, everyone that was a part of it. They gave me absolutely a fantastic race car throughout the weekend. I thought last week's car in Portland was really good. This one topped that one. I tried to do as much as I could to not get the victory because I spun out in turn two. Oriol made a great start, dove under me. I thought I saw him twitch a little bit and I panicked because I didn't want to get clipped. More than anything, I just kind of -- I threw it away and spun out.
Fortunately enough, yellow came out. We were able to come in and fix the wing. From there it was just a dogfight. The first 20 laps was probably some of the worst 20 laps I've ever driven in my car. I think one time I went to go to the 'push to pass', I hit the hit speed limiter, so that doesn't go very fast. I think I tried to hit a couple people when they spun out. The first 20 laps, I had to settle myself back down and get going. The car was just absolutely brilliant, and the whole Forsythe team. I knew the crew is the best in the game so I knew I was going to make up a couple spots in the pits no matter what. If I could make some up on the track, I could at least get back in the top five. The way the yellows fell, it got me back in the lead, I was able to pull a huge gap because my car was so good.
But so many times I thought I had the race won, a yellow would come out at the wrong time, I thought it was over for us. We'd get back in the lead, the yellow would come out again. The last 20 laps I was just saving as much fuel as I could because it was going to be close.
Just thanks to Forsythe and the whole crew, especially my engineer Mike Cannon. He's the best in the game right now, just giving me absolute perfect race cars both weekends. Thanks to Red Bull and Bridgestone and Cosworth, everybody that's a part of this series, to make my dreams come true right now. Absolutely amazing.
ERIC MAUK: You talked last weekend in Portland that the last few laps you were getting a little emotional. Was it easier this time around at the end?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: No, because this time wasn't emotion, it was just panic that I was going to run out of fuel. I'll take emotion over panic any day. I don't want to go through many of those races. I'll take a lot of the end results I'm getting right now, but everything that I had to go through during the race to get back there and fight there. I mean, as I said, so many times I thought I was in it, out of it. I've never experienced something like that in a race before. I'm just thrilled to come out with a victory and get closer in the points with Justin and Sebastien.
ERIC MAUK: Let's follow up on that. You don't wish ill on anybody, but all of a sudden here you are 31 points back.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Exactly. As we said in Portland, you don't want any bad luck to happen, especially something like Sebastien where he was possibly injured, but fortunately enough they said he got out of the hospital. Thank goodness for that. We wish Sebastien well.
But, yeah, I mean, it was going to take some bad luck more for Sebastien. Justin basically just had under a race lead on me for second. So we could at least chip away at those points. When Sebastien had a complete two-race lead on me, we didn't think, without any luck, that we were going to be able to catch him. He's still the man to beat. We're going to a track that he dominated at last year. We still know it's going to be an uphill climb. As long as a team we can just keep plugging away, getting the car better, getting some good results, at least try to put some pressure on him, see what happens at the end of the year.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Unofficial points after six races, Sebastien Bourdais at 166, retains his lead; Justin Wilson has 140, closed that gap by another five points; AJ now has 135, just five out of second; Andrew Ranger holds on to fourth with 99; Mario Dominguez is fifth with 95. A dogfight behind him, the guys from fifth to 11th separated by five points. Bruno and Oriol are part of that fight there.
Continued in part 2