An interview with: Kenny Brack, Cristiano da Matta, and Bruno Junqeira Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Welcome to our top-three press conference. Let's get started here with our champion Kenny Brack, as well as your second place finisher Cristiano...
An interview with: Kenny Brack, Cristiano da Matta, and Bruno Junqeira
Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: Welcome to our top-three press conference. Let's get started here with our champion Kenny Brack, as well as your second place finisher Cristiano da Matta, in today's exciting race in Mexico City. We will start with Cristiano da Matta, CART Series Champion here in 2002, driver of the #1 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone. Cristiano finished second today, the 11th podium finish of the season for him, the 18th of his Champ Car career. He scored at least one championship point in 17 of 19 starts this season, and he's finished on the podium in six of his last eight starts, including victories at Road America and Miami. Cristiano, obviously it's a great way for you to finish up your CART career here as you're moving on to Formula 1. Talk to us about the race, how it panned out for you, your feelings as you look back on your CART career.
Cristiano da Matta: For me it was a very tough race. I don't think I had the car that really deserved to finish the race second today, but I think that's where the teamwork comes into play. Many times during this championship, with the whole package, either one day the car wasn't great or the other day maybe the engine wasn't great, the pit stops wasn't great, and other days the driver wasn't great. There were always the other parts trying to cover the other people's not mistakes but weaknesses that very day.
Today I feel like the car wasn't a hundred percent capable of finishing in the top three. My crew just gave me a pit stop that I don't know where they came from with that. It was just so quick. I went from eighth position to second position. I give all the credit for the second place to the crew. I passed only one car on the track. Everything else was their good work. So what can I say? They've done a wonderful job the whole season. Today they just finished smoking all the other teams in the pit stops.
I'm just very happy - in two ways. I'm very happy for the team, having a second place out of my last race in CART, and the other way leaving a team that I got along with everybody so well, of course it's not a good feeling. On the other hand, I have a Formula 1 challenge in front of me that I'm really excited about. But today, if you just talk about today, for me the result and everything, it's not a very happy day.
Merrill Cain: Congratulations on a great season and great CART career. We wish you the best of luck next season. Certainly we'll miss you. Bruno Junqueira joins us now, finishing third, driver of the #4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, clinching second place with today's effort in the FedEx Championship Series points standings, winning a prize of $500,000 finishing second. I guess the tequila or cerveza is on him.
It's the seventh podium finish of his career and sixth podium finish of this season. Bruno has finished on the podium in every race he has started from the pole, including wins from the pole at Motegi, Japan and Denver. Bruno, talk about your effort today, finishing third. Has to feel great to wind up second place in the championship with the season ending in Mexico City.
Bruno Junqeira: Today was a tough race. But in the end I'm quite happy to finish second in the championship. I had a very good car all the weekend. But on the start, starting the pole is not that big an advantage. Tony got inside of me. I tried to outbrake him. I hit a bump, because I was in a line I never do it. I just lose my pedal, the throttle, and I couldn't lift the throttle to downshift. I was stuck in fifth gear and locked a little bit, then I went straight. It was a silly mistake. Then I came to ninth, and I was patient to go forward on the grid.
I had a very, very fast car, but unfortunately I wasn't able to pass people. My car wasn't that fast on the straightaway today. Once I got to run by myself, I could close the gaps. Our last pit stop for sure my crew did a good job, put me behind Carpentier. I knew the second place in the championship was between me and him. On the restart, I did a very good last turn, outbrake him in Turn 1. Then I just follow Cristiano, make sure that I'm going to finish in front of Patrick, guarantee the second place in the championship. That's quite good because Cristiano drove very well, but I am not ashamed to finish second in the championship.
Merrill Cain: Kenny Brack is your champion here in Mexico City. Driver of the #12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, his fifth career Champ Car victory, his first career win on a road course. I didn't realize that. Last CART victory for Kenny came in the Memorial in Germany last year. It is the first time the two Target Chip Ganassi drivers finished on the podium since Bruno won and Scott Dixon finished second in Denver earlier this year. With the win today, Kenny also moved from 11th to seventh place in the championship point standings. A great effort from you today, Kenny. I know we all felt great you were able to take home this victory.
Kenny Brack: Thank you. It's been a strange season. It's nice to finish this way. It's really, really fantastic to come here to Mexico and see, first of all, this facility with all the fans. It's really a track that has very high standards. It's been a pleasure to run here all weekend. For me and for the Target Chip Ganassi team, the crew of the #12 car, I think it's been fantastic, too, to finally get a victory. We've been so close so many times this year. We led a lot of laps, but not the last one. Today was finally great to do that.
For me, too, I mean, to win on a road course here, I thought I wasn't going to win on a road course (laughter). We've been good this year on road courses, but we haven't won. It's a fantastic feeling for me and the team, Target, Chip Ganassi and everybody. Thank you very much.
Merrill Cain: Couple notes here before we open it up for questions. It's the fourth time this season that Toyota has swept the top three finishing positions in a race, first time since Denver earlier this year. Kenny is the ninth different winner in CART this season, and it is the fourth consecutive year there's been at least nine winners in CART. The top five unofficially in the point standings winding up the season, Cristiano captured the championship with 237 points; Bruno Junqueira second with 164 points on the year; Patrick Carpentier in third with 145 points; Dario Franchitti in fourth with 138; and Christian Fittipaldi rounds out the top five with 122 points on the year. Let's open it up now for questions.
Q: Kenny, is it the last time we'll see you in CART racing?
Kenny Brack: I can't answer that right now.
Q: Did this victory rescue your season?
Kenny Brack: Well, we've certainly finished in a good way, the best way you can finish. Of course, going into the season, I had hopes to try to challenge for the championship, like we did last year. But due to various reasons, that hasn't happened. I'm certainly feeling very, very happy that we won here today. To win in Mexico, on a fantastic road track, it makes it all the better. I'm glad for myself, but also for my team. They worked very hard this year, the crew and everybody, Toyota, Target. It certainly makes up for a lot of the mishaps we've had. For sure, you can't compare it to a season when you have multiple victories and stuff like that. It's been a tough season, but it's a great way to finish.
Top three press conference, part II