CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, JUSTIN WILSON AND PAUL TRACY ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round ...
CHAMP CAR POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, JUSTIN WILSON AND PAUL TRACY
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round of qualifying for the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton, round seven of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We're joined by our top three qualifiers today. Our third place qualifier, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul Tracy puts up a time of 59.497 seconds, 119.381 miles per hour. Paul is second in the points, has four podium finishes in his six starts this year. Paul, a fairly eventful afternoon session for you. First of all, tell us what happened at the end of practice.
PAUL TRACY: "We've been struggling with rear grip pretty much all day. So I spun this morning in the exact same spot. On turning, the rear-end just took off. We went out on stickers in the second session thinking, "Okay, the track will be better, stickers will settle the rear down." My first quick lap, I just braked, turned in, and the rear stepped out again and it was gone. We've been struggling with rear grip. To get to the next level, obviously, where AJ and Justin are, we need to make the rear of the car better. We're pretty happy with how we ended up third today,
ERIC MAUK: Tell us your impressions of the racetrack.
PAUL TRACY: "Well, it's fast. It's all momentum and high speed. If your car is not perfectly balanced and settled, you don't have confidence in it, then it's really hard to push lap times to where AJ is. Obviously, they have their car working well. He can commit to these fast corners because it's so high speed. You know, we'll try to get our car there tomorrow."
ERIC MAUK: Good luck tomorrow. Our second place qualifier, our most recent winner in the Champ Car World Series circuit, driver of the #9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Justin Wilson. He puts up a second best lap of the day with a time of 58.954 seconds, 120.480 miles per hour. Justin, been fast all day. You had the pole right up till the last minute. Tell us about how you feel about how it went.
JUSTIN WILSON: "Obviously, I think RuSPORT came here with a good setup and we've just been able to work on that and get quicker as the day progressed. We're both very excited about the prospects of having a good race here. It's just getting used to the track and understanding what the this circuit requires. So far we're very pleased, and hopefully we can be up there tomorrow."
ERIC MAUK: You took that first win last week in Toronto. Tell us a little bit about coming to the racetrack with that momentum.
JUSTIN WILSON: "It gave the whole team a good boost. You know, we're very close to making it a 1-2 or 1-3 at Toronto. It's unfortunate that we didn't have that. But, you know, I'm sure we're going to get plenty more opportunities."
ERIC MAUK: Good luck tomorrow. The leader of first round qualifying for the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton, driver of the #10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, AJ Allmendinger.
He puts up what will stand for today as a new track record, 58.628 seconds, 121.150 miles per hour. It guarantees him a front-row starting spot for Sunday's event, which will mark the fourth time that AJ has started in the front row in a Champ Car event. Also gets him a championship point, boosting his total to 112 on the season. First time AJ has led a Champ Car qualifying session. Strong run, AJ. Tell us about how it felt.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: "It was good from the first practice on. You know, I tried to make it hard on my team once again. I think they're getting tired of that. I decided to hit the wall with the black tires. I found they still don't move. When you try to move them out a little bit more, they still don't move. I did that."
"The team did a great job to get the car back together. I mean, luckily it was only a flat tire. But I thought for how hard I hit, there was going to be more damage. Got the car back together. You know, my teammate keeps making it hard on me. I did a couple of laps that were a few 10ths off of him, and I didn't know if there was much left. Just kind of closed my eyes and hung on for a lap, and luckily got the pole."
ERIC MAUK: You guys came out on the alternate Bridgestones today. First of all, did they perform up to your expectations?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: "Yeah, I mean, I think for myself, they add a little bit of a different balance. But there's a lot of grip in the car when you put them on. There's a lot of grip in the car with the other tires on, as well. So I think Bridgestone did a great job of bringing the right tire to this track. You know, tomorrow I hopefully -- I think the track is just going to get faster and faster. Hopefully we can keep the cars up with the track and do the same tomorrow."
ERIC MAUK: Brand-new track. Nobody has seen it before. God forbid, it's not even on a video game anywhere. Tell these guys how you come out here and learn this track in a day, day and a half.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: (Laughs) "I mean, I think what it is, is if you're given a good car right away, and that's what my team did for me today, we started off with a good baseline, and it just makes it easier to learn the track because the sooner the car is better, you can attack the track a lot quicker."
"Going into qualifying, I knew that the track would have a little more grip in it. You can just kind of push limits a little bit in each corner and add to that. I think if you start with a bad car, then it makes the weekend a lot harder because the track is hard to learn. Once you get the car right, you're well behind everybody else."
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: "Thank you."
ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q. A.J., did you think you had enough to catch Justin?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: "I mean, I wasn't really sure. To be honest, I didn't think I had a chance at it because the lap before, I was on a pretty good lap, and I made a mistake. But I was only a couple 10ths up on my best lap at that point, which was still going to be 2/10ths behind Justin. You know, this track, as Paul said, with how fast it is, you just hit everything right, it doesn't feel much faster, but the time shows it because, you know, one or two miles per hour through a corner quicker than you've been doing is a lot of time here."
"Once I went through about turn six or seven, I saw that I was about 4/10ths up on my best lap, which was going to put me dead even with Justin. I knew I just try to add a little bit everywhere, and fortunately it worked out."
Q: Paul, there was some concern about the entry to the track coming off the pits. Has that been addressed yet?
PAUL TRACY: "No. I mean, it's pretty much the same. The hard part about coming out of there, it's kind of like Cleveland, but the way you come out onto the track, you can't really see the other car coming. It's almost impossible to see it."
"You know, when you come out into Cleveland, you can look across and see all the way down the straightaway. So you can see if somebody is coming. Here, they're kind of behind you. When you actually get out onto the track, they're behind you. Hard to see."
Q. But they haven't fixed it yet?
PAUL TRACY: "Not yet. I think they were talking about doing something, but they haven't really figured out what they want to do yet."
Q. Did the cooler temperatures and the drizzle affect anything today?
PAUL TRACY: "No, I think maybe this morning there was a little bit more, you know, of a problem. During some of the parts of the session, it was drizzling harder than others. Got a little bit slippery there for a little while. At the end, it kind of cleared up. Today there really was just a few drops halfway through the session. This track, it's obviously fast. No, no problems."
Q. Paul, going back to the other question, how do you learn the track? Is it any easier than others you'd had to learn in the past?
PAUL TRACY: "Well, I think this track, at least for me, I mean, this is much, much different than anything I've ever had to learn. You know, it's really fast. A lot of the tracks that we go to are temporary street courses that are really slow. You know, you've got a lot of slow-speed corners."
"This is kind of like -- this track kind of gives you the feel of Cleveland because the corners are so fast, but if you make a small mistake, I mean, you've got a wall there on the edge. The consequences are high. If you get the lap time, you have to be so committed here and commit so much on the entry and through the middle of the corner to be fast, because that's where you're spending most of the time here in the corners. You know, one small mistake, you saw how many guys hit the wall today."
"Places like Cleveland, Elkhart, you're really committed to the high-speed corner, but you have some fudge room to drop a wheel off a track. Whereas, here if you make a mistake, there's a wall right on the edge, like a street course. You're going 120, 130 miles an hour in some of these corners. It's pretty technical. You've got to be right on perfect and have a lot of trust in your car."
Q. How is the track?
PAUL TRACY: "I think they've done a good job. I mean, obviously, you know, I had one moment at what would be the last corner, the chicane. I turned in there and I had the back jump out on me sideways. I caught it. The thing straightened up. I was like going straight head on for the wall right there. Only one set of tires up against the concrete wall. I looked at that, I was probably going 160 at that point. I was like, "Well, that doesn't look too safe to me." I don't know if anybody else noticed that."
"I didn't think about it beforehand. I thought that corner was going to be pretty easy flat. It's not easy flat. It's really bumpy on the entry. The car jumps around a lot because the cars are so stiff because of the high speed. It stepped out and I caught it. I was going like head on for the wall. Probably could use some more tires there, the last chicane."
Q: How do you feel about the crowd today here in Edmonton?
PAUL TRACY: "It's been huge. I mean, a lot of fans here. You know, just amazing today. To see the grandstands completely packed today for qualifying, I don't know how many people were officially here, but it looked like the stands were sold out, the suites were sold out, the infield by the trucks is packed. It's a great feeling to come to a new venue and have the kind of support we've had. The series and the promotor here, they've hit a home run."
ERIC MAUK: We are expecting to have an attendance figure for you here later this afternoon.
Q. Paul, do you feel that you will be able to pass here? You said the other day that you were concerned about that.
PAUL TRACY: "Well, I guess, you know, I said to you on the way in, you asked about passing, I said I think it's going to be hard to pass here because of the high speeds. There's no real heavy braking zone on the track. You know, even all of the infield stuff, I don't know what speeds we're doing there, we're doing at least over a hundred miles an hour on all that new asphalt all the time for most of the corners. You know, unless a guy makes a mistake, it's going to be pretty hard just to drive by."
Q. Justin, your thoughts on the track?
JUSTIN WILSON: "I think it's already been said, you know. Paul was spot on. You've got to be very committed on the track. All the corners are very long and high speed. A fraction on your way in is going to carry you through the corner and all the way down the next straight. The track is quite technical. You can't afford to give away anything. You've got to be perfect every single part of every corner and try to get the most out of it."
Q. You guys are 1-2, but it seems like everyone is going to be talking about the guy running third here. Does that motivate you?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: "It scares the hell out of me if he starts behind me if he started like this, but no (laughter). No, between Paul and Sebastien..."
PAUL TRACY: "It's okay, AJ, I like you. If it were Sebastien in front of me on the start, it might be a different story."
AJ ALLMENDINGER: "Or leaving the pits or guys at a bar together or something (laughter)."
"No, I mean, I think it's good. No matter who is behind you, as long as they're all behind you, it makes you happy. So, you know, hopefully Justin and I can do this tomorrow, as we started in Portland 1, 2. He's been beating me for a lot of year, so we're going to try to change that. So, yeah, I mean, it's a great start for the team."
ERIC MAUK: Thank you all very much. We set our final grid with qualifying tomorrow beginning at 2:00. Thank you.