An Interview With: DAN GURNEY T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART media teleconference and thanks to all of you for joining us today. We'll be joined by Team Rahal driver Max Papis, winner of Sunday's Shell 300 ...
An Interview With: DAN GURNEY
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART media teleconference and thanks to all of you for joining us today. We'll be joined by Team Rahal driver Max Papis, winner of Sunday's Shell 300 at Laguna Seca in a moment. But first we wanted to spend a few minutes with Dan Gurney, one of the great champ car drivers of the past who will be participating in the CART Legends program, part of the FedEx Championship Series season finale, the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, November 2 through 4 at California Speedway in Fontana.
Welcome, Dan, and thanks for being with us today.
DAN GURNEY: Nice to be here, T.E.
T.E. McHALE: Dan proved himself to be one of the most versatile drivers in motor sports history during his outstanding career with victories in Formula 1, Champ cars, NASCAR, and sports car competition. His Champ car career includes seven victories, ten pole positions and a pair of runner-up finishes in the Indianapolis 500. He is one of the founders of Championship Auto Racing Team, as well as a former team owner of All-American Racers.
Dan, you are going to be joined on the Legends Weekend by a number of your old competitors, including Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Parnelli Jones and Wally Dallenbach.
Do you get much of an opportunity to see these guys and get together with them and re-live some old memories?
DAN GURNEY: Well, yes, I do, and it's always a lot of fun. I haven't seen Bobby lately, but I've talked to Mario. I saw Parnelli just this last weekend at a 100 Years of Ford Racing get together in Dearborn, Michigan. So, we manage to cross paths fairly frequently, although, I look forward to seeing them again in Fontana.
T.E. McHALE: We all look forward to seeing you in Fontana.
Q. Dan, how was the weekend up at Dearborn? Were there a lot of people there? Did you see some old friends?
DAN GURNEY: I saw lot of people, a lot of fans that were so rabid that they were there despite fact that it rained pretty hard and frequently, and we were not only knee-deep in mud, but knee deep in nostalgia. It was a great event.
Q. Did you get to ride in the sweepstakes?
DAN GURNEY: No, I didn't. I saw John Force covered in mud. I think he was a passenger on one of the 1901 demo cars, and they ran on a dirt track, mud track?
Q. Did you want to be out there or were you just happy racing next weekend?
DAN GURNEY: I was happy no matter what. When you hear the sounds of these really early cars that you would never get to hear, that already is worth the trip. But the number of fans is really inspirational, and we had some question and answer get together on both Saturday and Sunday that were a lot of fun.
Q. I noticed in the picture your champagne bottle from the first time you sprayed champagne was there?
DAN GURNEY: Yes.
Q. Is that a historically correct item; that you did that for the very first time?
DAN GURNEY: As near as we can tell, it is. We looked into it as carefully as we could, and it looks like, strange as it may seem, because everyone knows it now, it looks like that must have been the first time.
Q. What prompted you to do it?
DAN GURNEY: You know, it was probably a huge success for AJ and me, and then for Ford Motor Company, and it was the U.S. against Europe kind of a thing. And the Ferrari team was very, very strong. And it just turned out to be something that I had been there probably nine or ten times by then, and even though it was AJ's first, why, it was just a terrific feeling. We were there up on a podium and they handed us this great, big magnum of champagne and it just -- the photographers down below were really looking expectantly, and the whole thing just clicked, spur of the moment kind of thing. And the next thing you know, I had a fire hose of champagne and I got just about everybody I could see.
Q. Well, one of the other things that will bare your name. Thank you very much.
DAN GURNEY: My pleasure. Thank you.
Q. Any chance of you putting together a team again and coming back into CART?
DAN GURNEY: Well, there's always a chance. I remain a fan, but if that were to happen, why, you would be among the first to know.
Q. You sound like Mario Andretti, the kind of energy and -- I don't know if it is natural or if it's vitaminic, can you tell us what kind of vitamins, Mr. Gurney, he gives to you?
DAN GURNEY: (Laughs). Well, I don't know, it's kind of like a TLC, pill, tender loving care, and it really helps, I guess, and good luck, also.
Q. In light of the recent developments in CART so on and so forth, can you provide some comment and see the direction and maybe possibly comment on some uprising stars or drivers you've had your eye on that you would like to maybe kind of let people know that you think is talented to come?
DAN GURNEY: The first one that comes to my mind is Townsend Bell who is a good friend of our son, Alex, and Townsend just won the championship, I believe, for the Indy Lights and did a great job, I think five wins and quite a few poles.
He and Alex, our son, were the two that I would have wanted to go with, had we had the opportunity to do so, but Townsend looks like he is really catching on and he has all of the earmarks of a future champion.
Q. How do you view things, how the state of CART is today?
DAN GURNEY: The state of CART is, you know, as right now, of course, I'm no longer part of CART officially. I'm still a big fan of CART. But the world is rough out there, and particularly, since September 11, it's not easy for any big league business.
But, CART has a great series of races. I wish that they could match the leadership of the other Major League Formula 1 and NASCAR, and I won't -- I don't want to say anything negative about Joe Heitzler; I have never met him or talked to him. But when you are up against Bernie Ecclestone and that family, you have your work cut out for you, and I hope that they can pull it off. I don't want to leave out Tony George, either. But I think that those are the three major adversaries of CART in racing, although, in this day and age, they are only, what, 52 weekends in a year and you are up Major League sports in addition to the real competitors in automobile racing. So, it's not an easy thing to pull off a great success, even though you may have all the potential in the world, which CART still does have.
T.E. McHALE: We're going to thank Dan for joining us today. It's going to be great to see you in Fontana at the end of the season and best of luck to you between now and then.
DAN GURNEY: Thank you, T.E., and give my congratulations to Max.
T.E. McHALE: I think Max probably heard them himself, so thanks and we'll pass those along.
DAN GURNEY: Thanks, T.E. .
T.E. McHALE: Thank you, Dan.