CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Top three finishers transcript (part 1)

Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript From The Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate Presented By Banamex Sebastien Bourdais - Race winner, 2004 champion Bruno Junqueira - Second place AJ Allmendinger - Third place Carl Haas - Newman/Haas...

Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript From The Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate Presented By Banamex

Sebastien Bourdais - Race winner, 2004 champion
Bruno Junqueira - Second place
AJ Allmendinger - Third place
Carl Haas - Newman/Haas Racing co-owner
Paul Newman - Newman/Haas Racing co-owner

ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we will go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate presented by Banamex, the season finale and Round 14 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

We will have our top three finishers with us today. We are joined by two of those top three at the moment. We'll start with our third-place finisher, the reigning Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year, the driver of the #10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, AJ Allmendinger. AJ finishes third today. He moves up to sixth in the points. As I mentioned before, he won the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year Award. This is his second podium finish of the year. AJ, you end the season on a high note. It has to feel good for you.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, this weekend has been great overall. We made a mistake in qualifying yesterday with the car setup, and that's what put us back in seventh. I figured we were probably third quickest in qualifying yesterday, too. But overall, I mean, the team has done a great job throughout the whole year, rookie team trying to learn the series, finding out how difficult it is.

Today, you know, we just got through the turn one wreck and after that, saved some fuel early on, and then the car was absolutely amazing throughout the first two stints. That's what allowed me to get in third and get to the back of Bruno. Then the last stint, the car just had way too much understeer. But, overall, I'm thrilled with the finish. It's a great way to end the year. And also important to start next year with a lot of momentum. So I think this will do that.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us about that first pit stop. You made up two spots on that first pit stop. Tell us a little bit about that.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, Sebastien and Bruno had kind of got away, but Justin and Jimmy and Oriol were kind of staying close. So basically all I did was sit behind Oriol for about 20 laps and just save fuel the whole time.

Then I was able to get around him and got to the back of Jimmy right as he pitted. But being behind Oriol for that long and saving that much fuel allowed us to do basically two laps longer than most people, and then we also short filled during the first stop to get ahead of everybody. And after that, we just had to feed out right to pull away from Justin and catch Bruno.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us what you saw on that first turn of the first lap. It looked like a little bit going on ahead of you.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, overall, everybody, the last couple years, has shown it's aggressive to get into turn one. You go from such a wide straightaway into such a narrow corner. It just looked like I think Jimmy was on the inside of turn two in the left-hander, and then Paul was on the outside. Looked like Paul tried to squeeze down on him and tried to stay ahead of him. Jimmy really had nowhere to go, was up on the curb, trying to miss him. They just got together and Paul spun. Overall, it was good for me.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Our second-place finisher, the driver of the #6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno finishes second, earns the 10th podium finish of the season for himself, the 26th of his career. He is the first driver, first Champ Car driver, since Johnny Rutherford in the years 1974 through '76 to finish as the Champ Car series runner-up in three consecutive seasons. Bruno, you gave it everything you had, came up just a little bit short. How do you feel about the way it went?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I feel a little bit frustrated, for sure. Finished again second in the championship. So still a great result.

But I think this year I drove perfect, made no mistakes. Maybe I didn't have much speed in qualifying, but I had seven of the fastest race laps, and half of the race I was the fastest car out there. But unfortunately, I didn't win the championship so I'm kind of frustrated. Sebastien did a very good championship. I have to congratulate him, not take anything from him.

But was a close battle, close championship. Well done for Newman/Haas, 1 and 2. Today's race was kind of hard. I think we didn't find the right -- today my car didn't have the right balance, and I had way too much understeer, especially on the alternate tires. I couldn't follow Sebastien. I made a mistake going into 14, so I decided that I was taking too much risk to follow him. So I save a little bit of fuel and let him pull away, and just try to see if we had any problem. I said, I'm set for second, and let's see.

He spun, he almost wrecked. Was very lucky to keep the car on the track because turn 14 is very wide. So he was lucky that he could return to the track. After that, I mean, when I put the last set of tires on the hard compound, my car was feeling better, and I start to get close to Sebastien. And both of us, we got traffic. So was a shame because they didn't penalize the people that didn't let me and Sebastien race. It was pretty shame because the last 10 laps I was racing traffic instead of racing Sebastien. Other way, I think it was a good season and I'll work harder next year.

ERIC MAUK: Take us through the first turn on the first lap. Did that go about the way you thought it might? Just give us a little insight there.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think me and Sebastien did a very good start. I didn't want to take any risks in start. I gave Sebastien turn one. He was inside. I said, Okay, it's a long race, and I will have a chance. And I knew that he needed to have a problem for me to win the championship. So I keep running second and waiting to see if he had any problems. So, unfortunately, he didn't. Or when he did, he was very lucky not to crash. So that was it.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. (Question for media in Spanish)

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: He asked if we have any possibilities about Formula 1.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: For myself, I'll only go to F1 if it's the right opportunity. But at this point in my life and in my career, I'm solely focused on Champ Car. I got a lot of goals I want to have completed in Champ Car, and that's many victories and many championships. If Formula 1 was ever an opportunity, I would only do it if it was right for me. But that's not even in my plans right now.

Q: AJ, I know that the team -- I was talking with Carl and Jeremy this morning, they sort of broke off and said, "We got to figure out what we can do today to get up front." That strategy in that first run, was that sort of played out ahead of time? Was that planned the way you started the race, or did it sort of develop as the race went on?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, for me, my engineers, Chris and David Brown, you know, they have many different strategies for different situations. You know, if there was something that -- if I crashed in turn one and I had to go to the back, the strategy might have changed. But overall, we knew we had a good car, and it was just a matter of getting through turn one. And then after that, just saving as much fuel as possible in that first run.

Like I said, it was good for me to really pace myself and not really have to press Oriol that hard because Justin and Jimmy weren't getting that far away from us. Once they started to, that's when I immediately pressed it and got around Oriol. But that was basically the strategy that we had set for us in that situation, if it worked out, getting through turn one and being clean.

Q: I would like to ask AJ, during your second pit stop, you entered a lot earlier than the leaders. You were a second away from surprising Bruno when he went out of the second place. Do you feel the results would have been a little different for you if that strategy would have panned out?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: No, because for us, that's the strategy we had to do. When we went long in the first stop, we short filled to make sure that I got out ahead of Jimmy and Justin. So, no, I can't say that if we'd have filled full, that I wouldn't have even gotten ahead of those guys and then there would have been no chance of getting around Bruno. So that was the strategy we went on. It was fine because the way it worked out, I was able to put a faster lap on the new tires and have a chance at Bruno. So I don't think it would have been any different if we would have went just as long as Bruno.

Q: Although everybody probably focused on Bruno trying to catch Sebastien, I mean, in that last stint, AJ, you weren't all that far behind Bruno. Did you think you could catch him? And, Bruno, were you aware that AJ was also closing on you at some stage, in the traffic and what have you? Could you talk about that from your perspectives.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, for me, I thought after the second pit stop, we really had the chance. But we just missed the setup just a bit on our harder compound tires, and I had way too much understeer in the car. And Bruno was able to get away from me the first, I dont know, five laps after the second pit stop. And for me, I was kind of focused on Justin, making sure I kept the gap with him. I was able to do that.

And then I really started pushing hard once I saw Bruno in traffic. But, you know, I mean, if the traffic wasn't there, I think he would have probably had a bigger gap on me. My car got a little bit better at the end, but it wasn't going to be good enough to get around him. I think if we would have had the setup -- if the setup would have stayed the same after the tire change, I really had a shot at him, because the car was really good on the second stop, I guess. So overall, it was more just trying to keep the gap with Justin than trying to catch Bruno until he got in the traffic.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: For me, it was the opposite. I mean, my car was not very good on the alternate tires. And I tried to save fuel on the first two stints, then I could go longer. And after I saw that Sebastien spun, we put the hard tires, and my car was good. I thought I could even catch Sebastien. But then I catch traffic.

I knew that AJ was getting close to me on the second stint, but I knew that he had short fuel, as well. So he was running like 3/10ths faster than me, which he maybe had like four or five laps short of me on fuel. So I knew that he was running faster because he was lighter. So I just -- I had to push, not make him get too close to me, until he stopped. After I did my third stop, I pushed hard. I put some fast laps, and I was able to pull away from him. And, unfortunately, I got traffic. That made the thing very, very hard until the checkered flag.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Carl Haas , David Brown , Johnny Rutherford