CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Podium press conference, Part I

CART Media Conference Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Post-Race Interview Sunday, April 14, 2002 An interview with: Michael Andretti Jimmy Vasser Max Papis Part 1 of 2 - Interview by CART's Merrill Cain Merrill Cain: We are going to get ...

CART Media Conference
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Post-Race Interview
Sunday, April 14, 2002

An interview with: Michael Andretti Jimmy Vasser Max Papis

Part 1 of 2 - Interview by CART's Merrill Cain

Merrill Cain: We are going to get started with our Top 3 press conference following today's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. We'll get started with Max and Jimmy as we await Michael Andretti.

Let's start off with Max Papis, finishing third today, driving the No. 22 Rockwell First Point Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Sigma Autosport. This is the first podium finish ever for Sigma Autosport, 10th podium for Max Papis., and his first podium result since he finished second at Fontana last year.

Max, obviously a great race for you, a great race for the team. Please take us through your day.

Max Papis: It is more than a good race. I mean, (it) is like a win for Sigma. (It) is the best ever result for them, (and it) is my 10th podium. Suddenly, I lost my voice because I was cheering too much (laughter).

You know, since Germany, we keep scoring points, I keep scoring points. I think it is just fantastic. We came over here without doing any testing from Mexico to Long Beach, and very, very little testing before then.

You know, we came here only with one car, no spare car. As I said again, this is just very, very good. This is proof again that Ford is a very, very strong engine. Despite anything, we have always been up there. I've always had the support of Ford.

To give the first podium to my team is a great satisfaction for my mechanics. I think that was very good teamwork. In the people, Gordon and David, my two engineers, they were there, did a very good strategy.

I tried to put a lot of pressure on Michael, in couple of restarts, but we didn't have really the speed to stay up with him. (I) slightly kissed the wall when Jimmy went by me, because I was trying to hang on. I was doing my best.

As I said again, this is a very, very, very special moment, and I just don't want to stop because third place is okay, but I'm looking forward to bring the first success to Sigma, and hopefully we can do it very shortly.

Merrill Cain: One other quick note on Max. This is his career best finish in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His previous best here was ninth in 1999.

Moving over to Jimmy Vasser, who finished second today, driving the No. 8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Rahal. This is Jimmy's third career podium finish here at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His others were a victory here in 1996 and a third place finish in 2000. It's his eighth Top 10 finish in 11 career Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach starts.

Jimmy, take us through your afternoon. You pushed Michael pretty hard there at the end.

Jimmy Vasser: Yeah, at the end. But at the beginning Cristiano (da Matta) got a good jump on me. I was blocking down the inside line going into one. It was a little bit slippery, the car was moving around a bit. He got a good run around the outside. He checked out. I really couldn't hang on at all.

I think Cristiano had the car to beat today. It was unfortunate for them, those guys. But that's the way it goes, right? (Laughter). We've all been there before.

The car ran flawlessly all day. Like Max said, I have to reiterate about the Cosworth engine. It didn't miss a beat. It's got great power. It's a very friendly engine to drive. The guys did a good job on the race car all week long. I mean, all weekend, since we came off the trailer, the Shell car has been fast. My teammate, Michel Jourdain, (was fast) as well.

I've been in here every day, probably echo the same things I said before. (This is a) great race team, good feeling there. You know, if we continue to put ourselves in the position that we did this weekend, and we had a good car at Monterrey, if we continue to do that, the wins will come. All you can really do is try to put yourself in a position to win.

You know, (we had) fantastic tires all day long.  I never had any tire
issues at all.  The Bridgestones had great, great consistency and grip
level.  I had no real problems.  I think we did the best we could with
what we had.  We had a pretty darn good thing.

At the end there, on the yellow, I think I could have--I definitely should have hustled around. Mike and Max came in. We had some poor radio contact all day. I heard some cackles on the radio. I wasn't sure. We were getting some bleeding through. At times it wasn't really my team.

So I wasn't --but I thank Brian for that. Always hustle around the pace car. For some reason I didn't. I didn't think that Mike and Max were there, were out there. I was racing with Kenny and the other guys, I was waiting for the pace car. The team instructed me to kind of lay up a little bit, save a little fuel, fuel-saving mode for having more fuel for the end, which in retrospect really doesn't mean anything because we had plenty of fuel anyway.

Just one of those things. Would have been close if I raced around. Max and I were talking, I think they had 30 seconds on us. We all came in two laps after that green. They had some clear track on hot tires. It would have been close, but I didn't even give it a chance. I held the field up for a couple of laps, let these guys have it easy.

But, you know, all in all, good weekend for Team Rahal. You know, like I say, if we put ourselves in that position, keep getting points, we'll get our wins. Keep our eye on the ball, which is the championship. You've got to get points to do that, so. Good weekend for us.

Merrill Cain: Couple other quick notes. Jimmy's second place finish and Michael's victory here marks the first time American drivers have finished one and two since Michael won and Bobby Rahal finished 2nd at Vancouver in 1996. Last time two Americans finished one and two in Long Beach was also in 1996 when Jimmy won and Parker Johnstone finished second.

We now move to your Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach champion Michael Andretti, driving No. 39, Motorola Honda/Reynard Bridgestone for Team Motorola. It's Michael's CART record 42nd career victory, he stands third on the all-time Champ car win list behind his father Mario who has 52 career wins, and AJ Foyt with 67 career wins.

It's his first Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach win since he took his first Champ car win in 1986, and it's the largest span between victories for a driver at one venue in CART history, 16 years.

Michael Andretti:   Wow.


Merrill Cain: It's got to feel great. It's been a long time, as we said, between victories here. It's got to feel great to get a win here where you have a long and storied tradition with your family.

Michael Andretti: It's such a big win. As you said, this place is special to me because it's where I was able to get my first win, as you said. Man, 16 years, wow (laughter).

Anyway, it's awesome, you know. You know, even makes it more special having Jimmy here for USA. We even have an Italian up here for the Italian Americans (laughter).

Also it's a very big win for us because we really wanted to do well here for Honda because they have a long streak of wins here. We kept that streak alive for them. So I'm really happy about that. Just one of those days, you know. Team Motorola did a perfect job on their strategy. When you start in the back, you have to do some gambling, and that's what we did. It paid off.

It was very close. I think we only made it by a lap or so. If the yellow had come out a little earlier, it might have really messed things up for us. So we were a little lucky. But I'll take it. I've lost a few that way. It was just a good day. This weekend has been a horrendous weekend for us. I think we really had a good car yesterday, but nobody will believe me probably. But I think we really did. I just never got a clean lap. Then I hit the wall. It was really disappointing.

I felt bad for the Motorola guys because they've been working their butts off, you know, getting the Lola ready for Motegi, getting the cars ready for Indy. I go and crash one for them. I really felt bad yesterday.

So hopefully this will help the morale a little bit, getting us ready for Motegi.

Merrill Cain: Margin of victory was point .466 seconds, second closest margin in Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach history. The closest finish was back in 1986, Michael's last win, .38-second win over Al Unser, Jr. It's the seventh consecutive Long Beach victory for Honda, first victory since Houston in 2001, 63rd CART win for Honda, and the first win since Houston last year for Reynard.


Questions from the Media: Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Al Unser , Michel Jourdain