CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Top three finishers press conference, part 1

CHAMP CAR DENVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH A.J. ALLMENDINGER, BRUNO JUNQUEIRA AND DAN CLARKE ERIC MAUK: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Grand Prix of Denver Sponsored ...

CHAMP CAR DENVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH A.J. ALLMENDINGER, BRUNO JUNQUEIRA AND DAN CLARKE

ERIC MAUK: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Grand Prix of Denver Sponsored by Bridgestone, round 10 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

We are joined by our top three finishers. We'll start with our third place finisher. He is the driver of the #14 CTE Racing HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for CTE Racing, Dan Clarke. Finishes third, earns the first podium of his young Champ Car career. First Champ Car rookie to finish on the podium since Andrew Ranger finished second in Monterrey last year. This is the second time that CTE Racing has finished on the podium this year. Nelson Philippe finished on the podium in Milwaukee. Dan, you ran a good strong race, solidly in the top five. Right place at the right time. Here you are. How does it feel?

DAN CLARKE: Hasn't really sunk in yet. Yeah, as you said, we were actually running in sixth for the majority of the time. Engineer came on the radio about 10 laps to go and said the car in front of you was Justin. I couldn't see anybody. Three laps later I caught him and passed him. He was struggling.

That was a plus as well because by that time we'd already out raced Will through the pits. The rookie race is the priority for us, especially a weekend like this where we struggled so hard for pace. We really had to strategize, see where we could get some strengths. In the pit stop, it seems like we passed so many people. I didn't even realize we were sixth until about 25 laps to go.

Right at the end, came through the last turn after my engineer warned me of some contact. Sebastien and Paul were about to get into a little tussle. I was actually watching that after I went through the race. When I went through the corner I could see the screen. I missed that just like I missed the Tagliani and Tracy incident because I was walking back at that time.

Came on the radio to my engineer, and said, Don't you dare tell me that's a podium. We came so close two weeks ago. We came so close at Cleveland. We were actually running really strong in Portland, as well. It gets to the point you get kicked in the balls so many times, you think, Should we keep trying, because it hurts to be kicked in the balls that many times (laughter). Now that we've actually achieved it, it hasn't sunk in yet. This is going to give us all a lot of confidence to keep perservering like we did today and maybe we'll have some more podiums hopefully before the end of the season.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good run today. A.J., you need to give him the memo on what to say in press conferences, what not to say.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I thought in British terms it was bollocks. That's what Justin used to say, or trousers or something, I don't know (laughter).

ERIC MAUK: Today's runner-up, driver of the #2 Hole in the Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. His second podium finish of the year, matches his season-high finish of second. The 30th podium of Bruno's career. He led 14 laps on the day, brought it home in second. Good strong run, Bruno. Tell us a little bit about it.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It was a good race today. I'm quite pleased. Had some problem in traffic in qualifying. Could be in top three, but we were not. I started the race, and I did a good start. I already pass Andrew Ranger and Tracy and Tag together. I was before. So I was making good time, everybody pitted early. I was doing good mileage. I kept going. I took the lead. I could put some good laps throughout the whole race. I was racing Sebastien, Tracy and Justin throughout the race.

I passed them, they passed me. Sebastien passed me the end. It was a quite exciting, quite fun race for me. In the end, Tracy and Sebastien get together, gave me a podium, so I'm quite pleased with that. For sure, Dan, you're not going to miss anything because it's going to be on Sportscenter tonight the race.

I'm quite pleased here in Denver.  I have four podiums, two wins, one
second, one third.  That's better than my record in Road America here
(laughter).  I'm quite pleased here.  I led the race every single time I
race here.  I'm quite pleased with this track.

This is a very difficult race today, especially on the red tires because I think they fell off so much. They started really good, and after they fell off so much of the pace. Everybody I'm sure that got real loose and was real hard to drive the car. When I got the lead, they said, Bruno, you got the lead, push, push hard. I had no tires to push hard. I was completely sideways going through every corner. You still have to try to save the tires. I could keep a consistent pace. It was a hard race today, but I'm quite pleased with the result.

Very important after two really bad races without a finish, so to get some points, give the crew some confidence and myself. I think the next four races already did very well. Already won those races in the past, as I did here. I'm expecting very good results for me, the whole Newman/Haas team to finish strong this season.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good run today. As Bruno alluded to, he's led every time he started here. He holds the event record for total laps led by a Champ Car driver. He also is back in the top 10 with today's finish. He is just nine points out of what is a three-way tie for fourth place at the moment. The battle for fourth to tenth, which at the end of the season each one of those steps is worth $10,000 in bonus money, very tight battle going through there.

The winner of the Grand Prix of Denver Presented by Bridgestone, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. His fourth career win, fourth win this year. He becomes the first U.S. born driver to win four Champ Car races in a season since 1996. Michael Andretti won five, Jimmy Vasser, who won the championship that year, won four. That's the last time that has happened. He led 45 laps today. Earns his 13th career podium finish. A.J., before we get into the second half of the race, which seemed to be fairly easy for you, tell us about that second stint. You really made some ground on that second stint today.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I think as Bruno said, a lot of people were struggling on the red tires. We just all weekend never really got our car to really work with the tires. So the first stint, I was pretty confident. Sebastien started on the new set of blacks. First 10, 12 laps, I was hanging right with him. We were easily pulling away from everybody else.

All of a sudden within a lap, two laps, the tires just went to junk and we were struggling. I was running like 64's at the end. Just a great call by Michael Canon, the whole engineering staff at Forsythe, to pull me in right there, instead of trying to run a couple more laps and pit with everybody else, because if we would have done that, we never would have had a chance at the second stint.

Great pit stop by my crew guys, as always. Once we got back out there, Sebastien was right in front of me again. I was just kind of pacing myself because the first five, six laps on the blacks were about the same as the reds. Then as Michael said, just stay with it. All of a sudden the car came alive. I could see Sebastien just really struggling hard on the reds. It was more than anything just a matter of trying to time the pass out right.

ERIC MAUK: A little trivia bit here. A.J.'s margin of victory 20 seconds today, that's the largest margin of victory in a Champ Car race since 1997. Alex Zanardi beat Mark Blundell at the US 500 in Michigan by over 30 seconds.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Where do you come up with these stats, Mauk? I like that stuff. (laughter)

ERIC MAUK: Tell us about that second stint. Was it as easy as it looked? When you're ticking off the last 10 laps, what goes through your mind?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: It wasn't easy at all. Sebastien was struggling, but he's a fantastic driver. He figured out how to get onto the back straightaway really well. It was getting tough to try to time the pass out right. That was probably where at that point my car was probably the most loose. It was just trying to time it right. When the yellow came out, it kind of hurt me because I had to think about P.T. and Justin behind me again instead of just really focusing on Sebastien.

But I could see the last three laps before I passed him, I was getting decent runs on the back straightaway. I was making him use his 'push to pass'. He was getting into the last corner too deep. A couple times I put my nose into turn one to try to make an attempt. Finally I got a decent run on the back straightaway, really made him drive it into the corner hard. He overshot.

You know, I really -- I'd like to say it was all skill about timing the pass in turn one, since the Red Bull party station was off to the right in turn one. I was really trying to represent for my sponsor. So, yeah, it was -- I timed it perfect for turn one. That's all I was focusing for, was the pass in turn one.

ERIC MAUK: More importantly than the pass in turn one - possibly - you shaved 12 points off of Sebastien's lead, moving into second place. Talk about what this means for the championship?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: It's still going to be difficult. We're going to four tracks that -- well, I don't think there's really any tracks that Newman/Haas really sucks at. We're going to four tracks that they're really good at (laughter). It's going to take a little bit of luck - maybe a bad race from Sebastien to really kind of get in there and put pressure on him. More than anything, I'm looking forward to going to Montreal and trying to keep the streak going, really just put pressure on him, try to get another victory for the whole Forsythe Indeck team.

ERIC MAUK: Unofficially top five in points, Sebastien, 275, A.J. moves into second with 243, 32 points our points leader, Justin Wilson slips to third with 240, we have a three-way tie at fourth between Nelson Philippe, Paul Tracy and Mario Dominguez, all with 149. Questions for our top three finishers.

Q: A.J. talk if you could about the hometown thing. It's a big race for you to win.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, it was exciting doing the parade lap. The fans were going crazy and cheering for me. You know, I have to admit, the next lap I came around after passing Sebastien, I had to kind of take a look into the grandstand to see what they thought about it. They were just so excited and cheering for me, waving the American flag.

I mean, it really pumped me up when I saw that, to see how excited they were for me to get around them. To be able to win in my hometown, my second hometown race since San Jose didn't go too well, you know, I was just really pumped up and excited. All the people outside after the race cheering and high-fiving, stuff, it's a cool feeling to have that at these American races.

Q: Bruno, could you talk about the incident on the last lap. You're up here because of some unfortunate circumstances involving your team.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I was behind them. I didn't want to be too close because I knew Sebastien was going to try to pass Tracy (laughter). I just kept a good space. Actually, when Sebastien passed me in turn one, I did turn one and two outside on the marble. Next two laps I lost like five seconds. I just said three laps to go, let's just finish and see what happens.

I looked that they went inside. Sebastien was on 'push to pass'. Tracy didn't have any 'push to pass' left. I cannot make any comments. I mean, I don't know whose fault is. That's a kind of race accident. Maybe somebody's fault, I don't know. But two very aggressive drivers fighting for a good position. I think they hit each other. I got lucky to finish on the podium. I got unlucky a lot of times this year, so it's about time to get something.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Mark Blundell , Mario Dominguez , A.J. Allmendinger , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Dan Clarke