CART Champ Car post-race press conference transcript from Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.Com with Mario Dominguez, Roberto Moreno and Mika Salo ERIC MAUK: Joining us today, the third place driver, the third place finisher, the...
CART Champ Car post-race press conference transcript from Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.Com with Mario Dominguez, Roberto Moreno and Mika Salo
ERIC MAUK: Joining us today, the third place driver, the third place finisher, the driver of the #27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Mika Salo. Mika led six laps on the day, earns his first ever champ car podium in just his second series start, the first driver since 1993, Nigel Mansell, to pick up a podium in one of his first two series starts. This is also the first podium finish ever for the rookie PK Racing squad. Congratulations, pretty tough day for you. You started off, you lose a lap on your first stint, kept fighting and battling and here you are.
MIKA SALO: The first stint went not so greatly. I knew we had a fast car. But there were some slow cars in front of us and I couldn't get past them, and whenever I tried, I lost a spot every time. It wasn't going really well. And somebody came behind me and I started to let everybody pass but luckily there was a yellow flag and everybody went in. I got our lap back and was able to run flat-out laps when the leaders came in next time. It was going well, the team did a good job for me. They did all of the talking and planning. And just another thing was I screwed up yesterday qualifying, so I had to make it up today.
ERIC MAUK: A little later in the run, take us through a moment going down into turn one, Vasser is ahead of you and got a little loose, Mario Haberfeld is next to you and they get together, then you go down inside and make a nice move to get away from both of those, was that as close as it looked?
MIKA SALO: I knew before the race it was going to be just survival. There was so many crashes during the weekend since Friday because the bumps, and because it's hot, I knew it was going to be like this. So it's just keep your nose clean and you finish, you are very much better off. I can't believe we wound up third, but third is better than behind third.
ERIC MAUK: Just two races now and now you're up here in the third spot; how do you feel about the way things are going so far?
MIKA SALO: The test the last week helped me a lot. During Denver, it was not going to be good for me. I just didn't know the car, circuit or anything. It was going to be difficult and it was. I end up on the wall twice during the race, so it was not very good. In the test, we drove the car a lot and we found a lot with the dampers, and it suits me. I got some laps in and I was comfortable here from the day one. In the wet on Friday , we had the quickest time, we were P2 on Friday, and I just screwed up yesterday and hit the wall at the first lap and I couldn't get the lap time. So, it's been going well. And I don't think we are testing now for the next race, but I'm pretty confident with the car. One thing I'm uncomfortable is this heat. I come from the land of ice and snow. (Laughter).
ROBERTO MORENO: What's wrong with the heat?
MIKA SALO: Hey, you are born here. A nice day in paradise.
ERIC MAUK: Today's runner-up is the driver of the #4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Roberto Moreno. Roberto earned his first podium of the season, the 13th of his illustrious career, his best finish since his 2001 Vancouver win, and he is part of the first ever 1-2 finish for Herdez Competition. Roberto congratulations. How did you do it?
ROBERTO MORENO: I can't believe that this old man is still finishing second. (Laughter). All I can say, it's just a team effort that is starting to pay off. We have been working very, very hard since the beginning of the year. When we first started at Sebring, we knew that to achieve -- had to work very hard in developing the car and it's starting to pay off now. I think we should have had better results up to now, but, you know, circumstance did not allow us to, a couple mistakes by myself and we just didn't get there.
Now we pull it all together in one day. I always had a lot of trust in Mario. I always thought he was going to make it in a big way and make up for what a lot of people were talking, I knew that he could do it in a big way, and here I am next to him. I think it's a great pleasure for me to see that day next to him on the podium. It just gives me a bigger pleasure to be part of the Herdez Competition team. It's just been a class act from the team, which has grown at the beginning of the year, has hired a lot of very capable people and they are working hard to get there. Again, thanks for them and for the trust they have. We'll go to Australia and see if we can do the same.
ERIC MAUK: You did a real good job keeping your nose clean on a very tight track and warm day. Any anxious moments for you?
ROBERTO MORENO: At the beginning I got bumped in the back. I thought, "Shoot, my race is going to end on the first or second lap." When I see that Tagliani was next to me, he kicked me and got beside me I said, hang on, I just earned this race here, so we had a drag race through there, through around the bump area, and I made sure I didn't squeeze him on the wall. I won the drag race, so I made sure I was in front of him at the end of the straight.
But it was very, very good. I respect him and he respected me, except by the bump on the back, but I think that was just a little whoops. From there on, we respected each other and we got through these two corners. Very, very difficult to be side by side accelerating through that bump with the wheels interlocking each other there. Could have been a big one. Jimmy got me on the pit strategy somehow. I was really angry with that. I had a faster car, and on the start, he would hit the bump and back off big time. And I would catch him and at the end of the straight when I was ready to pass him, he would try to make his car a little wide. One of the restarts I made a good move on him and here I am, on the podium finish. I think that move was very, very important to get the podium finish.
ERIC MAUK: The winner of the Grand Prix of Americas presented by Sportsbook.com is the driver of the # 55, Herdez Ford Lola -Cosworth, Mario Dominguez. He takes his first win of the season and the second of his career, the other coming last year in Surfers Paradise. He led 28 laps on the day to claim the win. He moves up to seventh in the championship. Congratulations, how does it feel?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much. Well, it just feels amazing. It's unbelievable that this Herdez Competition team finishes 1-2. It's historic for our team. Like Roberto said, we have been working very hard along with the engineers. Roberto and myself have become very good teammates and he is a great person to work with. He has helped me a lot. Crossing that finish line and knowing that he was in second place and we had a 1-2 finish for the team, I can't describe the feeling. It was unbelievable. It was great.
ERIC MAUK: How big is that going into Mexico City in two weeks?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It's going to be huge. We're going to get to Mexico and it's great. It's the perfect way to go to Mexico and just show up as a race winner. Mexico City is a race that I know we can do well in. Winning this one gets everybody pumped up and it's perfect way to do it. Last time we won in Australia, it was two races away from Mexico City and it was great. I'm happy for the team, the sponsors, all of them have believed in us, have believed in this project and we are working hard on making it happen. I think from the beginning, we definitely have done very well this year and very happy with the performance.
ERIC MAUK: The pass on Darren Manning at Lap 106, you had a quicker car than his, how tough is it to be patient when you see that P1 right there front in of you?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: The thing is, he wasn't very fast today. I really didn't want the pressure of Roberto behind me, you know, and I didn't want him to be pressured by somebody else behind him. Because basically, that would have been a tough situation because Manning would have probably slowed us down. Even though it was really hard to pass, I kind of studied him in the first restart and saw that he was not very good over that bump on cold tires. So I hanged back a little bit, let him go and then to catch him on straight, and that's what I did.
Then on the braking there, he went on the inside, along the outside, he just went wide and I managed to get alongside him. So it was a great, great race. I think the pass was also pretty good. It's nice to pass him. Our strategy really today was to be patient, to wait for other people to make mistakes. We know this racetrack takes a big toll on the tires, the brakes and we know people are going to try to pass, it's so hard to pass, most likely there was going to be accidents, so we knew we had to be patient and just get good pit stops. That's really when I won the race, because the team gave me a fantastic pit stop -- I was ahead of Roberto and Taligani on the first pit stop.
Q. Mario, you personally and your team turned a corner this year, and this is your first podium in North America. What do you ascribe this change in the team and your career?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, really, when we started to work this year, there was a whole different mind set within the team. There was the mind set of developing a car that had never been done in the past. Roberto will tell you, when we first got to that first test in Sebring and he drove that car, he told everybody: "Man, this thing is not going to be easy to drive."
So having Roberto in the team helped a lot because there was two drivers, saying the same thing, working hard with the engineers, and they started to take the cars to some post-rig tests and that have been a big, big difference. We obviously have the disadvantage against Newman Haas or Players, and they have been doing that for many years. But we are on our way. This is only the first year. Like I said if we keep on working like this, pretty soon we are going to be at the top. We are on the top today, so what can I say? It really doesn't get better than this.
ROBERTO MORENO: Yeah, we can swap places. (Laughter).
Q: How surprised were you that everybody in the first three rows got clipped and knocked out, how surprising was that for you?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, you always expect something, people to go off in places like that here and there. You just start counting in a way and you are hoping that your steady pace will pay off at the end and then you can be aggressive at the end if you need to. That's the strategy that I took and it paid off. First we had a bit of a slow pit stop today, our fuel nozzle, would not come off. My mechanic waved me but he stopped me. I started and stopped, luckily, so we were able to get it out and I went. Something got stuck there. So, as I said, I took a steady pace and you don't get surprised. You are just hoping that you are not going to be the next one basically because in a place like this, it's so easy to make a mistake. Concentration level can go right down easily here, and you make a mistake. You miss a small breaking point, you are history. I took a steady pace and it paid off again.
Q: Roberto, can you talk a little bit about the way you've seen Mario develop as a driver since you two have been associated with each other?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, first time I saw Mario drive in Sebring I was very impressed with him. I said to the team owner, there is nothing wrong with this guy. He is quite good, driving a car as bad as it is here, he is quite good. I wouldn't have -- I would have changed this guy. I gave the team a little direction where they needed to look into and they did a great job of finding what it was straightaway. We have done a few more steps since then.
I was very impressed with Mario from the first day. And then I think Mario has developed very quickly in just his consistency because he could see what he was doing was right, he could compare it. He could improve things that any team driver does for each other. So you look at what the other one is doing, you see what you are doing good, you see what you can do to improve. I do the same. Having us work together has helped me and him. Me, because I spent a year away and I had only driven a Reynard, which has a completely different set up from a Lola. So I had to learn, as well, as the engineers of the team, the new setups, and made a few mistakes until we started to understand the car.
So Mario has been there. His confidence has grown a lot this year and he has shown great pace all the way through. I think I've seen the best overtaking in a long time from a driver in the few past races, and it came from Mario.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Thanks, man.
Q: Mario, as Roberto said, we have seen some of the best overtaking from you in the last few races and I think it's fair to say, you have been very aggressive in making passes this year, so much after Denver, the stewards had a chat with you. But at the same time, all along when I talked to the guys on the team -- when I talked to the guys on the team, Tom Brown in particular, he says, "We just tell him, keep doing what you're doing." And that's what you're there for. So can you talk about the support you've had from the team that way and just then coming into this race, where I needed to be patient rather than supremely aggressive from the drop of a green flag?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Like Roberto says, my confidence has been building the past year. It progressed, we've gotten a better car, every time we go on the racetrack we find something out, develop it better and we make a better car. And that in turn makes me more confident to drive and to pass people and to be aggressive with the car on the racetrack, because I feel that I have the weapons underneath me; that the car is giving me that strength and the car at least is allowing me to do what I want.
So, all of that, it's just been a team effort, really. You know, it's part of the whole team and like I said, you know, Roberto has been here. It's been great having him here, because I have to be honest with you, the team didn't believe me when I said the car wasn't here. They didn't believe me and then Roberto came in. So our opinions matched, and so the people opened their eyes and said, okay, we had better work on it, develop it.
We've worked very, very hard and built a good relationship with the engineers and Roberto and myself and the whole team. I am just very happy, very happy with what's happened here today, having a 1-2 finish.