Manufacturers Meeting Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Friday, Sept. 10 Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe/Mercedes) Gil De Ferran (Walker Racing/Honda) Bryan Herta (Team Rahal/Ford) Robby Gordon (TeamGordon/Toyota) Q. Bryan Herta was asked...
Manufacturers Meeting Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Friday, Sept. 10
Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe/Mercedes) Gil De Ferran (Walker Racing/Honda) Bryan Herta (Team Rahal/Ford) Robby Gordon (TeamGordon/Toyota)
Q. Bryan Herta was asked about his plans for next year. A. I thought we were going to talk about engines, but OK ... There is going to be 20 races and I plan to be in all 20 of them, but I can't tell you who it will be with yet.
Q. Herta was asked if he had been told he was done at Team Rahal. A. I would say that is half-accurate. I would say that it is highly unlikely that I will be back, but saying that I have been told I will not be back is not an accurate statement.
Q. Gil De Ferran was asked how he keeps motivated for the rest of this season after the announcement he will be with Team Penske next season. A. I think it's exactly the opposite from what you see. Although I know my future lies somewhere else, I want to make absolutely sure that I do my utmost to bring (team owner Derrick Walker) the best result I can. Obviously, since the announcement the results have not been good, but I think that is more of a coincidence than focus or effort on my part. Being aware of the possibility (of not appearing motivated) I have been making a conscious effort for Derrick to finish up on a high. It's a tough thing, because I feel very responsible for all the guys on the team. I have struck a lot of friendships within the team ... with different team personnel, and I simply can't brush that aside and just forget about it. I feel that it is my responsibility - Derrick employs over 40 people meaning 40 families are involved in this - and I can't just forget about that fact.
Q. Gordon was asked about his future and speculation he might return to NASCAR. A. I can address this one for sure - I am definitely not going to (Felix) Sababtes. There is no Sabates. However, it's our job to find out what sponsors are out there and what they are interested in.
Q. Patrick Carpentier was asked about his future. A. I don't know yet. We are talking with Player's Forsythe and I think that is where I am going to end up for the upcoming season. We are still talking about a couple of things, but I think that is where I will be. It should be decided in the next week or two. Things are on pretty good terms and things are going well and I think things should stay like they are.
Q. Each driver was asked to evaluate his season to this point. Gordon: Obviously, at the beginning of the season, you expect to be competitive. We had some good runs right from the get-go - for example, Japan and Cleveland - those races were going real well, but we've started to miss a little bit here in the middle. We did play a little bit with Phase 6, we played a little bit with Phase 5 and that possibly could have hurt us a little bit. Toyota has done a real good job of getting the reliability in the engine and now we are working real hard on drivability where we can have more torque on low-end and pull out of the corners, and they've made up their mind on a plan for 2000 and I'm very excited about it. It's a better plan than '99 and hopefully it will be more competitive. Up until last weekend - and I know the Toyota people don't like hear this - but there is only one way to judge where you are at, and up until last week, we were tied with Cal Wells' best car in points. We made a bad decision in taking slicks when it was still wet and he pulled us by 10 points. That's not who we are racing for the championship, but that's where I was last year and he runs a good race team, so that's a good goal post. We'd like to score points. We've had five top-10 finishes this year and we hope to position ourselves to finish in the top-15 in points. De Ferran: It's been kind of an up-and-down season. It started well, and then I had a little bit of a dip and then my fortunes went back up again, and now they have taken a dive again. The last few races, we have not been able to finish races and that has really put us out of position for the championship. If you look at the last race where I did well - Cleveland - I was second in the championship and within reach of Juan (Montoya) and from there on, basically we did not finish many races. In Toronto, I was running well .We got penalized, and I ended up crashing in Greg's (Moore) oil. We didn't have a very competitive run in Michigan and I ended up in the wall as well. The catalog of disasters continued up until last weekend when I crashed in the first green lap. We are a little bit disappointed. We are happy from two standpoints: One, that I was able to bring Derrick out first victory together and disappointed for myself and for the team that we were not able to keep up with the challenge of the championship. There are four races to go and the best I can do is try to win one of those four. I think we have an opportunity, perhaps here and we will try to end the year on a high note. Herta: The season has been down more than up this year for me, and we've struggled at times and had a litany of problems and mistakes along the way. As Gil said, we have four races left and a victory or two at the end of the season is a nice tonic for the disappointment of the previous three-quarters of the season. Although I am not happy with where we are in the championship at this point in the season, I think there is still good opportunity to have good, positive things happen. If you assume that I will not be with Team Rahal after this year, I still want to go out and achieve the results that I think we are capable of as a team and try to put the car up in the front and get a couple of podiums at the end of the season would be nice - it would be really good. A good way to finish a bad year. Poor start, good finish is better than the other way around I guess. Carpentier: At first, we seemed to qualify in the top-10 pretty often, but never could put it together. Either I would make a mistake or we would have the wrong pit strategy. Something always happened. The team kept working really hard and I kept working and it seems to be slowly coming through. We had a good race last week, and I was pretty happy because it was in Canada and good for our sponsor, giving us a boost. In the last few races, we seem to be more consistently in the top-6 or top-8 of each race. I think it's looking better and better. If we finish in the top-10, I will be very happy. Q. Herta was asked if the success he has had at Laguna Seca gives him more confidence coming into this weekend's race. A. It's funny, because I don't feel any different, but time and again we seem to come here and have good runs. This morning seemed good as well, although we had a lot of problems. We had a terrible session. All kinds of things - gears were in one car wrong, and just all kinds of things, but I was in the backup car there at the end and I was able to get out and run a few clear laps and once we got everything fixed, the car was there. I guess it's good for your confidence - for me, the team, everybody to feel like we've got a shot to win the race, but that comes more from what happened on the track this morning than what happened in previous races. Just because you do well one year, doesn't guarantee you will do well the next. Now I think we feel pretty good about this weekend.
Q. The panel was questioned about last week's drivers meeting which involved some heated debate about driving etiquette. Gordon: Why do I have to go first? The drivers meetings definitely have discussions that are brought up that could be put to a stop right then, but people are allowed to speak. Obviously, you guys have heard about some of the guys getting mad PJ (Jones) getting mad at Montoya and (Dario) Franchitti. There are certain things that I believe have happened here with the series. My own personal opinion - In America, if a guy is on the lead lap, he can race as hard as he wants as long as he doesn't block. So, I am defending PJ here, because he was on the lead lap in both cases, at Mid-Ohio he was on the lead lap and at Chicago, he was on the lead lap, so I believe it his race track until the guy gets up next to him or until PJ blocks. I was in the same situation with (Jimmy) Vasser, where he told me it took him about 85 laps to get by me. I was like "Shit, we had a pretty good car at the end of the race." We worked on our car and we never blocked Jimmy once and he never got up next to me. I told him that "If you get up next to me, I'll let you go by, no problem." A lot of the discussions are over issues like that, and I believe a lot of the crying has got to stop, because publicly, it's making us all look bad. If Wally, just lays the ground rules, then those are the rules and that's the way it is. I know Jimmy brought over sheets of paper that showed he slowed down a tenth of a second a lap behind me, but the case is he never got next to me. So, it's not like they pointed the black flag at me and told me to pull over, because he never got within ten car lengths of me. You have to be close enough to pass. De Ferran: I am not so sure about any specific issues that Robby talked about because I haven't really witnessed them, so I am not going to comment on that. What I am going to say is that from time to time, disputes within the drivers are normal and last weekend was a particular was hot meeting, but they are not unusual by any means. I think by the nature of the sport, every driver tries to push the envelope of everything to the maximum they can, including the rules of what is allowed and what is not allowed to get an advantage over a competitor. Any driver worth his salt will do that in every situation that presents itself to him. I think what the Chief Steward and stewards at the meeting job is to draw that line. They have to say "that's allowed" and "no, that's not allowed." No driver is in the position to challenge the decisions of the Chief Steward. That's the underlying rule ... the number one rule of the Bible ... you can't be shown a black flag and simply decide he's wrong and just continue on. I learned that when I started racing go-karts. I guess sometimes all the discussion is healthy and sometimes it not, but what Wally (Dallenbach) says and what all the stewards decide is ultimately law and what goes. I've been reprimanded by him before and I don't have a problem with that. As far as the discussion about being lapped, there are different views about it, but ultimately what matters is what the stewards of the meeting decide. Once he makes that call, I know to shut up and accept it. The respect between the drivers and steward does exist. Herta: I think the exchanges in the drivers meetings, although sometimes more colorful than others, are important and healthy for the drivers. It's a forum where you can air out your anger or your frustration with your competitor and it's a lot healthier and safer way than to carry it with you into the race the next weekend. Those little arguments help diffuse what started as a small problem before it gets to be a big one. I really think the current issue with passing and difficulty has a lot to do with the generation of cars that they drive and the fact that it is difficult to pass. Some tracks are worse than others, but there is no place anymore where passing is easy. That's just an observation. It's a fact of the type of cars we have now and so the style of racing has changed a little bit. As a result of that, I don't think there are set rules yet. It used to be if you could catch a guy, you could lap him and put him back. Now, the cars are a little harder to pass and it's not as easy to do anymore. Because that has changed, the rules are changing and what is proper etiquette is changing. The way guys think about it now is different then when I came into the series, which wasn't very long ago. Carpentier: We have one chance to meet every week and it's the only time the drivers get together to discuss racing issues and if we tell you every weekend what's happening in those meetings, you'd have something to write about for about a week. But it's the way we improve the sport and everything that has to do with the series. It's a place we can discuss the sport, but another agreement that (the discussions) shouldn't come out of the drivers meetings, so I don't know how it always seems to get out. The reason that we keep the discussions in the drivers meetings is that it doesn't need to be outside. What the people see is when the rule changes or improvements are made in safety, and that is coming out of discussions at the drivers meetings.
Q. Panel was asked about any late-season incentive to participate in the Hawaiian Super Prix. Carpentier: Is it going to happen? De Ferran: I guess that whenever you race, you race to win. You race for nothing; you race for a lot of money. Big prizes can consist of money or anything else. For example, the level of anxiety that Juan and Dario are feeling this weekend and in the next few weeks will be just as big if not bigger than the big prize money in Hawaii. Having said that, sure ... I've never been there, so I am looking forward to a trip there, and hopefully we will finish in the top 12 and that will make us qualify for that particular race. Because that race is a new race on the calendar, I am sure a lot of drivers don't have contracts to go there. Carpentier: I'm going anyway. I'll by a ticket.