CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND MARIO DOMINGUEZ ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our post qualifying press conference now that the final grid has...
CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND MARIO DOMINGUEZ
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our post qualifying press conference now that the final grid has been sent for the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, presented by PacifiCare, Round 9 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We are joined by our top three qualifiers.
Our third-place qualifier, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Mario Dominguez, who put up a fast time of 59.644 seconds, 100.013 miles per hour, tying his best starting spot of the year. Our second-place qualifier, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais, series points leader, defending race winner here at Denver, time of 59.541, 100.186 miles per hour.
And our polesitter, with a new track record of 59.432 seconds, 100.370 miles per hour, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: How come my 59.39 doesn't count?
ERIC MAUK: It counts, just not for anything really good. You'll need to take that up with somebody more strategically placed than I.
This is Paul Tracy's third Bridgestone Paul Award of the year, the 25th of his career. One of just seven drivers in Champ Car history to win as many as 25 poles. I'd like to introduce Bob Forrester and Al Speyer.
ERIC MAUK: With the Bridgestone Pole Award, a $10,000 award, $5,000 of that going to the driver and team, $5,000 of that donated to charity. While I have Mr. Speyer here, Al, tell us a little about the Bridgestone Potenzas, how they performed today. Tricky track, challenge for you guys. Seemed to have held up well.
AL SPEYER: Yeah, Denver is a challenge for all of us with the thin air up here. That certainly takes some of the downforce off the cars. We try to compensate for that by bringing our softest street course compound to Denver. We've done that for the past couple years. I know there's always some struggles with setups on the cars, these guys would always like to have more grip. But the package adds up to a new track record so I guess it must be working fairly well. We're certainly pleased with the performance.
I'd also add that Champ Car got their schedule announced today. Having it this early is a real benefit, speaking as a manufacturer and sponsor. We're really looking forward to coming back here next year.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much. We're looking forward to having you. Mario Dominguez will start third, matching his best starting spot of the year, that having come in the season opener in Long Beach. Mario, you recovered quickly from a spin at the end of the session this morning. Tell us a little bit about how it went.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, good afternoon. It went well. We definitely pushed hard out there all the time. It's not easy to be fast in this track. You really have to be on the edge. The track is very slippery. It's fun, fun to drive on the edge like this.
At the very end, I thought I had enough to get Sebastien off the second place. I really wanted the 1-2 for Forsythe, but I lost it on the last corner - the last two corners actually. But I'm quite happy with third, as well. I think it's a very good starting position. It puts me in a good place for tomorrow's race.
ERIC MAUK: You have a real interesting view of the start tomorrow. Have you thought about what you're going to do going into the first turn?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, obviously, I've thought about it (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: Are you going to tell us about it?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I tell you what, I think it's going to be fun. It's going to be fun watching these two guys go at it. They've been having a good battle all year. I'll definitely have the best seat in the house.
ERIC MAUK: Starting on the outside of the front row, his fourth front row starting spot of the season, Sebastien Bourdais, our series points leader and the defending winner here in Denver. You got the front row, right about where you started last year. You started on pole last year, but you're on front row. Tell us a little about how your day went.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The whole day went pretty well. We made a big, big change comparing to yesterday. There was absolutely no damage to the car, and we couldn't understand why we went so much slower with the new tires yesterday. So we worked really hard yesterday night with the McDonald's crew, got a big chunk of the offset between PT and myself out of the way.
You know, we thought we had it right, and then the more the track picks up rubber, the bigger the problem is. We came to understeer a bit too much, can't get the best out of the Bridgestone tires, so it's a real shame. There's no grip out there, we can't use it. We end up going faster with a significant amount of laps on the tires. So I guess there's some good in it and some bad. The bad was today; the good should be tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: From your standpoint, what is the trickiest part of this racetrack? Looked like there were a couple areas where it might be a little twitchy. What did you think?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, the track is very consistent. You know, it picked up a bit of grip all the way through, but not very much today. I think, as we said yesterday, the track was a lot cleaner than the years before. You can't see that big an improvement between day one and day two. Puts things a bit more realistic, I would say, because they drop the boost between last year and this year, so we should have been significantly slower, but we still are going a bit faster. So I guess Bridgestone has done a good job and all the teams have been doing a good job to try to improve the cars.
ERIC MAUK: Paul, a new track record. You guys kind of switched things up strategically today from yesterday. As soon as the green flag dropped on the session, you were out taking advantage of a clear track. Talk about that a little bit.
PAUL TRACY: That wasn't really our plan. Obviously, I was in the car ready to go, and when we saw Sebastien went, we just decided, "Let's go out and go head to head, one to one, see if we can beat him." Obviously, Sebastien did a great lap this morning on fresh tires, so we knew we had to step it up, and the time to do it was when he was on the track.
I did a good lap on the sixth lap and came in, everything was looking good, so that allowed us to sit and wait. Sebastien decided to go out straight again. I guess he thought that he could get a better time, decided not to wait. So that allowed us to sit and wait and watch his run. The time didn't come.
Then it was, decide whether to go out or not. Mario was making a big play. Obviously, he was close in the time. We sat there and talked about it for a minute or two. I just said to the crew, "You know what, I'd be kicking myself if I sat here and lost the pole." So we went out and gave it another lap. We did a good lap, but then the red came out on my final lap. It all played out for us.
ERIC MAUK: 59.7 yesterday. You said you pretty much hit everything perfect. Were you surprised how much faster you were today?
PAUL TRACY: No. Obviously, I knew when Sebastien went 59.3 this morning, we knew the track was better. We were on older tires and couldn't really get the time down. We knew we had to improve. We knew we had to step up. We were able to do that today. So it was great.
ERIC MAUK: We'll take questions from the media now.
Q: You three particularly looked really smooth out there, are you comfortable with your cars?
PAUL TRACY: Well, this is a track that obviously there's some parts where you have to attack, attack the corner. You know, really turns what I would call one, two, three, four that lead onto the back straightaway, from the pit exit, you know, the track is really bumpy and you have to really attack the corner and just live with the car sliding around and really not doing exactly what you want it to do because it's concrete and it's bumpy. The car is kind of sliding and jumping around all over the place.
But the last section of the track is kind of all pavement. You know, you really just want to carry as much speed as you can and not get too aggressive with the car because it slides and you just lose time. It's kind of both ends of the track are completely different from each other.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think you should open a driving school. Well, it looks like even when I really try to abuse them, they don't go away, so it's a good thing. As I said, you know, I'm kind of beating myself up because I think we could have got the pole with going back out with the same set of tires. I guess a lesson was learned. We'll try and improve that. If it happens again next year, we'll try to address that.
ERIC MAUK: By winning the pole today, Paul Tracy earned another championship point, raising his total to 190, cutting Sebastien's series points lead to 26. A lot of places we go, there's a longer straight leading into that start/finish line. It's pretty customary to see guys on the 'push to pass' leading into that. Here that start/finish line, not a whole lot of distance. Does that play a little different?
PAUL TRACY: For sure you're going to use it because everybody else is going to use it. With such a short run-up, you're not wasting a lot of it. It's probably beneficial to use it.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The only thing is it's kind of a funnel, so it's never really easy to go at it. I experienced that with Mario last year, getting pretty narrow coming into turn one.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Payback, huh?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You said it was okay, right?
Q: Where do you pass on this track?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think Sebastien could tell you. He passed everybody in the field last year. I didn't pass anybody. Him and Bruno got into each other. I got into the lead. I didn't pass a car all day. He passed everybody in the field. He could probably answer that better than me.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. I passed someone every single corner, so I can't tell you (laughter).
No, it's extremely difficult. It needs to be timed right. You can't stay more than three or four (indiscernible) in the car. If you do that, you overheat the tires, you slide, and you lose the momentum.
You know, I think I passed like three or four cars right away after the restart, then after I got kind of settled behind the Ryan Hunter-Reay, and it took me something like 10 laps to kind of figure it out. So I kind of hang back, came back and passed him.
It depends a lot on how fast you are from the car in front of you. I suspect tomorrow might be again a fuel economy for the first set of the race again, then after we going to put (indiscernible) on and get the speed.
When it's a more conventional situation like it is today, with the fast guys in front, it's always tough to pass. I got the benefit. At the end of the race last year, I was on old tires when the guys got out of the pits, and it played in my favor. PT made a few mistakes on cold tires. Although it was pretty hot, the tires took quite a while to really get to the max. I took the best out of it.
It's extremely difficult to pass. We'll see if we can get it done. It's probably going to happen at the end of the run when things start to settle down. If somebody's car is going away, then you have a shot.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, gentlemen. Green flag tomorrow, 1:45.