CHAMPCAR/CART: Mario Dominguez press conference, part II

An interview with Mario Dominguez. Part 2 of 2 Q: Is it almost appropriate that you guys would win the way that you did? If it was basically a speed win, everybody says the driver wins. Now everybody can truly say the team won. Mario ...

An interview with Mario Dominguez.

Part 2 of 2

Q: Is it almost appropriate that you guys would win the way that you did? If it was basically a speed win, everybody says the driver wins. Now everybody can truly say the team won.

Mario Dominguez: Of course, the team won. Even in other races, the team is a big part of it. I would be like a quarterback in a football team. I cannot do it by myself. I need everybody around me working and helping me out. Unfortunately, motorsports sometimes is a bit unfair because people only get to see the driver in the race on the TV, but they don't see the days, hours, weeks and months of hard work that the mechanics, the engineers, designers, everybody puts into a race weekend. It's just unbelievable.

Like I said, this team was very motivated. We needed a result like this to cheer us up and to lift us because there had been a lot of hard work and no payback. Like I said, we have had all the bad luck breaks. Finally we have a good one.

Q: Lot of phone calls from home?

Mario Dominguez: You won't believe it. I've been doing interview after interview, even from Australia. People call me at 4 in the morning for interviews here and there. Right now, as I've been talking on the phone for this little time, I've probably gotten five calls on my phone for interviews in Mexico.

Q: Nice to be popular.

Mario Dominguez: It's good. Everybody in Mexico is happy. It's definitely a win for Mexico. Luck was on our side this time.

Q: It was a great character-building weekend. How do you feel about it? Mario Dominguez: It was great. As you say, it was character building. We had a hard crash on Friday. We just had a tough weekend, then the crash at the beginning of the race. I just felt so bad. All of a sudden we come away with a win. It's just an unbelievable turn of emotions. I'm just so happy for the team and for myself and for the sponsors. Really, there was a lot of need for a result like this.

Q: I had somebody describe the race weekend as somewhat akin to World Rally competition - survival of the fittest.

Mario Dominguez: It was unbelievable. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to drive under those yellow flag conditions. It was hard. First of all, you couldn't see anything. It was raining so hard, the car was floating around, it was slippery. Cristiano da Matta spun under yellow flag conditions. That shows you how hard it was out there. He's the best driver, and he spun.

Q: Talk about Fontana. How do you adjust to the change to a Superspeedway?

Mario Dominguez: I'm looking forward to it. It's a Superspeedway. The team has a very good oval setup. Tom Brown is a very good engineer on ovals. We've been fast on ovals. One of our best results were in Japan, that very fast oval there. We were fourth place with 10 laps to go. Unfortunately, it got taken away.

This race in Fontana is something we've been looking forward to. It's just nice to know when I'm going to get to that track, my car is going to be fast. We've been looking forward for months.

Q: Everybody talked about the race, how surprised you were. Can you fill us in on some of the background of how you came to get to CART, where you started in Mexico, what series and where you've run and how you feel that's prepared you for this?

Mario Dominguez: Well, I tell you, my way to CART has not been easy. I started racing 16 years ago when I was 10 years old. I started racing go-karts. I was three times national champion there. Then I won a scholarship to go run the Formula Russell Mazda in California. I won the championship there back in '92. I got a chance to drive one Indy Lights race back then. From then on, it's just been a struggle. I've been driving for different various teams in Mexico, very low-budget teams, Formula 3, Formula 2 - all kinds of racing in Mexico. I was able to get wins here and there, but obviously not all the time. The teams were under-budgeted.

Finally in '96, Herdez Competition, which was really the best racing team in Mexico, it would be like racing for Newman/Haas Racing in CART this year, that's the way Herdez Competition was in Mexico then. They hired me to race Formula 3000. Right away I started winning with them. We won the Formula 3 championship in '98. They took me to Indy Lights. We won our first race there, then ran two years for a Mexican team. Then we ran for PacWest last year in Indy Lights. Had a few podiums, a couple pole positions, a decent season overall.

I did a test two years ago with team Herdez Competition in Sebring in the Champ Cars. The test went very well. I was very fast. Team was very happy with me. Last year I got the best call of my life where they said they were thinking of putting me in the car this year.

It's been a struggle, to say the least. I could definitely write a book about it.

Q: Looking ahead to Fontana, how have you prepared for it? You haven't been on a high-speed oval this year. Any way that you prepared for this or practiced for it?

Mario Dominguez: Well, not really. Actually we get about half an hour of (Champ Car rookie) practice in the morning on Friday. That's the only way you get prepared for it.

Believe me, Japan was very high-speed oval, and so was England. It would be something similar to it. It won't be that different.

Q: You're going to be probably going 25, 30 miles an hour quicker aren't you?

Mario Dominguez: I think in Japan we were having a top speed of 218, if memory serves me right. I think it will be like 230 (in Fontana). It will be quicker. At that speed, 10, 20 miles an hour is a lot.

Merrill Cain: You talked about how much of a team win this was, how everybody in the team had a hand in it. That certainly has to feel good. The team was formerly Bettenhausen Motorsports. What does this mean to the Bettenhausen family? A long struggle with this team to get to the point it's gotten. What do you think it means to them as they sit back and watch you take the checkered flag?

Mario Dominguez: Well, the team is now Herdez Competition. I had the opportunity to meet Tony Bettenhausen a few years back when they were negotiating for having Herdez come on board as a sponsor. Michel Jourdain was the driver. I tell you, he was one of the nicest persons, human beings, I've ever met. Himself, his family, Larry, his friend that unfortunately passed away on the plane. They were all unbelievable, so nice, such big hearts.

I was definitely thinking of him that night after that win. It was something that I knew he'd be happy about because he started this team many years ago. It's his legacy. It's something that Tom Brown and I were talking about yesterday about him. I think Tony Bettenhausen will definitely be happy to know that the team that he started won a race. I'm happy to be the driver of that one for this team, their first race, and also the sponsors in Mexico. Team Herdez has been sponsoring this effort for many years, I think since 1994, Champ Cars, they started out with Carlos Guerrero. I'm just so happy I was the one that gave them their first win.

Merrill Cain: Ford had a 1-2 sweep. Great performance from the Ford-Cosworth engine, with you taking first and Patrick Carpentier taking second. Talk about the Ford engine, and your thoughts about next year when Cosworth will be the exclusive engine supplier.

Mario Dominguez: I enjoyed working with Ford very much this year. Not only with the engine, they're just a wonderful company. They've been very supportive of me. Not to mention that I got a Ford Expedition from them. I love that car. I drive it in Indianapolis. Next year I think it will be great that all the cars will be running Cosworth. It's just going to be more and more competitive, a much more reliable series. It will be very good. It's a quality engine that you need for a series such as CART.

Merrill Cain: You made a comment post race about the fans in Australia, how it said so much about them that they stuck through the rain. Over 100,000 fans were on-site on Sunday. Many of them stayed till the very end. Talk about that. You said it was probably the best fans you'd ever seen.

Mario Dominguez: I think they're the best fans I've seen really. It's unbelievable. That race is so huge in Australia, you won't believe it. It's just like a huge festival. The whole week, ever since I got there on Sunday, it was like a party. The fans stuck through the rain. They stayed there. They're just excited about it. They love the racing. They love their motorsports. They love the whole Champ Car weekend there. It's a wonderful event in Australia. I was told it was huge, but I never expected anything like it. The enthusiasm they have is just amazing.

You should see, in between the practice of the cars, they have like shows on the tracks, motorcycles, planes flying over doing air shows, fighter planes. They really know how to put on a show down there. They have bars inside the racetrack. People are partying, dancing. It's just like a huge festival. It's like a big party. I'd like to go and watch the race one of these days and just have fun.

Merrill Cain: You won't get away with that as defending champ next year.

Mario Dominguez: Not next year. In a few years when I retire, I'll definitely go watch Australia and enjoy it.

Merrill Cain: Mario, congratulations. Great win for you and your team at the Honda Indy 300. See you this weekend at California Speedway.

Mario Dominguez: Thank you very much. See you this weekend.

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Mario Dominguez press conference, part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Mario Dominguez , Tony Bettenhausen , Cristiano da Matta , Tom Brown