CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Top three finishers press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 ERIC MAUK: We'll take questions from the media. Q</I>: A long day with a lot of cautions, almost like an oval race. How hard was it to set a strategy for this? AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, I guess first off, on...

Continued from part 1

ERIC MAUK: We'll take questions from the media.

Q</I>: A long day with a lot of cautions, almost like an oval race. How hard was it to set a strategy for this?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, I guess first off, on the start, as I said, Oriol made just a perfect start. I wasn't expecting that car to be the one on the outside of me coming out of turn one. So good job on that. Because of that, I had to pinch the car off on the corner. He had a run. He dove under me. As I said, when he went under me, I thought I saw his car twitch just for a second. I didn't want to get clipped because I went in pretty deep. I was for all purposes holding him a little tight. So I just drove it in too deep. When I got in there, I kind of straightened up the wheel for a second to let the car straighten out, give him more room, and I lost it. I was too busy spinning through the grass to see what was happening behind me.

With that, as I said, I was fortunate that the yellow came out. Because of that because they were able to put the wing back on and restart with everybody. For all the yellows -- I was surprised for how many yellows. A couple of them helped us and there's a couple that really hurt us. I think the biggest changing point was on one of the yellows, I had a big lead. I was going to pit seven -- actually about five laps before the yellow came out or after the yellow came out. I had a couple five more hot laps, I was looking to put some lap times in, stretch the lead, get out ahead of a lot of people. The yellow came out. When that happens, the pits closed, everybody gapped up. More than anything, I was surprised to see a lot of people follow me in because those guys had just pitted a couple laps.

But, no, when everybody followed me in, it surprised me. It just shows how strong the Forsythe crew was because most of the guys behind me that pitted had a lot less fuel, which means the pit stop is going to be a lot quicker than mine because we had almost a full fuel load to put in. The only guy that beat me out was Justin. That was a changing point of the race.

The last part was after that last yellow came out, trying to save as much fuel as possible. Fortunately the car was so good, I was watching my mirror the whole time. Saved a lot of fuel. When he could catch me, I would do one reasonably hard lap, another three or four. Yeah, I mean, just fortunate enough that everything worked out. A lot of times, that's what it takes in a Champ Car race to win.

Q</I>: Can you clarify what happened in Turn 1 A.J.?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, the front wing, when I spun through the grass, snapped off. We're going to have to pit anyways, obviously. Got Sebastien out of the car, made sure he was okay. There was a yellow, we pitted right at the end of the yellow. At that point, kind of put us off sequence where we had seven or eight laps of fuel on a lot of people. That's where all the fuss started with the pit strategy

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, I don't know. I did a really good start. I came out of turn one behind Oriol. AJ went off course. Then I look in my mirror, I see that I have no way to win. After that, PT hit Sebastien and the fun began.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Just my teammate.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I didn't see him coming. I mean, I was flat out, 'push to pass', just going into turn three, happy that I did a good start. And then all the fun start from there. Went a lap down, change the rear wing of the car, try to hang around. Was a really hard race, especially driving a car that wasn't in perfect condition. It was fun.

Q</I>: You had a good dice with Bruno there at the midway point, tell us about that.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, between a couple of people spinning, all the mess, I took the penalty because I initially pitted when the pits were closed to fix the front wing because I didn't know if the tire had got cut. I didn't want to break anything. I knew the car was going to be okay other than that. I just thought I'd restart last. You know, just a couple people spun in front of me. A couple close calls because a lot of people were spinning.

I think I got around Bruno on the restart, then I stupidly hit the pit speed button out of turn one to really get that launch out of turn one, not get any wheel spin. So he passed me back. I could see where Bruno was struggling. His car seemed okay in certain areas. But like through turn seven and eight, he was really struggling. It was just a matter of trying to get the timing right to get around him. I finally timed it right, got around him. We ran each other clean. It's always fun when you can be able to do that. We passed each other probably three or four different times. For that, I was having a lot of fun.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think what AJ said is right. I mean, passed him a couple of times, he passed me a couple of times. We were clean. The most important thing is we were passing each other because we were going through the field on the restart. Sometimes I would try to pass someone, and I passed, but then I had AJ pass me. When we were like one and two. The team told me to save fuel, get a good restart. But when I tried to save fuel, he had a run on me. All the close calls we had in the race, even the last lap, Mario slid in turn eight, the chicane, I said Oriol is going to have a run on me. I just came out of the corner with the 'push to pass', was able to hold second place. The whole race was excitement.

Q</I>: Would you have made it to the end with fuel?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, I think I definitely saved enough fuel. They gave me a number. I was saving a lot more fuel just in case. Then even on the fast lap that I had to pull away, I matched the number that they gave me. I had plenty of fuel. I probably could have started pulling even harder. I was just making sure I was safe. I was happy to see the white flag come out early just in case.

Q</I>: What did you see in the incident at the end of the race?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think Clarke was pass around inside, Mario tried to pass him on the exit. I think went very fast on the throttle. I don't think it was dirty, but he lost it.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I didn't see much.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I have to say, when Tracy crashed in turn eight, I went in there, and he was waving A.J. on to go win the race.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Paul did do that. He did point me to go get him and get the win. I mean, Paul was fast all weekend. Last week, really didn't get to show him the help he was giving to me and I hoped I was giving to him. We have the same driving styles, are able to use the same setup. Obviously, his car probably was damaged in the first lap, so he wasn't able to show, because he was fastest in the warm-up. Just one of those things. He wasn't able to show for the most part the true speed that he had.

Q</I>: Tell us about your thoughts on Toronto?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I've always loved the race. I think it's a great city. The way the race is put on, it's one of the most exciting races that we get to go to. Unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of great luck there in a Champ Car. I was able to win Barber Dodge and Toyota Atlantics. I'm looking forward to it. I think with the momentum, obviously Paul and Sebastien last year kind of were the dominant cars. I look forward to going to Toronto and really having a great car again, try to at least be on the podium there.

Q</I>: Oriol, I don't think you were ever passed on the track but finished third.

ORIOL SERVIA: Don't have to tell me. You know, sometimes those things happen. You know, it's racing. In a day like I felt today, we had a really good car, it's even more painful.

At the beginning, I wasn't too worried because I knew, you know, the people would have to pit. After the first yellow, I thought even was okay. At that point I thought I just have to race Justin, have to be ahead of Justin. After the first pit stop, I was still ahead of him. I was thinking we were fine. Then the second or third yellow, I don't know which one really screw us up again. Then I started saying, well, not looking that great. The thing is the car was good. When the car is good, you can always move forward. That's what we were doing.

I was never able to show the speed. I really think the car was going to be up there with the fastest laps. I was in traffic or saving fuel. But the car was great. In the first stint, we showed that the car was actually making those lap times extremely easy with great mileage. That's the most important thing for the future.

Q</I>: A.J., was it the team, the equipment or the driver that played the biggest part in this win?

AJ ALLMENDINGER

After last weekend, we obviously had a lot of confidence. We were coming to a track that Forsythe had won at last year with Paul. They gave me a great car from the start. It was just a matter of going through the weekend. Even when I spun out in turn one on the start, or turn two, for the first time in my life in a Champ Car, instead of getting just mad and kind of upset about it, probably messing up the rest of my race, I was able to stay calm. I just apologized to the guys, said I'll get it back for you. For the first time in my life, I had a car that I could drive up through the field and still go win the race. Yeah, it was going to take a lot of luck, the right things to work out, but I knew that I was going to have the capability in the race car to go out and get it. I knew I was going to have fast pit stops to get by more guys if I needed to, and it worked out.

ERIC MAUK: That will wrap it up. Thank you very much. Congratulations, gentlemen.

-CCWS

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