CART media teleconference presented by Worldcom June 4, 2002 An Interview with Paul Tracy. Part I: Tracy on Milwaukee win and Indy 500 Merrill Cain: Good afternoon and welcome to this week's CART media teleconference. I am Merrill Cain...
CART media teleconference presented by Worldcom
June 4, 2002
An Interview with Paul Tracy.
Part I: Tracy on Milwaukee win and Indy 500
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon and welcome to this week's CART media teleconference. I am Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We are happy to be joined today by Mr. Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green who took the checkered flag Sunday at the Miller Lite 250 in Milwaukee. We hope to hear from Michel Jourdain, Jr., of Team Rahal, who was scheduled to join us first on today's call. We had some problems reaching him in Mexico. We're certainly happy to be joined by Paul. Thanks for joining us on the call this afternoon.
Paul Tracy: Sure.
Merrill Cain: I guess it has been, what you'd say, an interesting couple of weeks for you to say the least. On May 26th Paul finished second in the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 or so we thought. Controversy surrounded the conclusion of the race as it appeared Paul passed Helio Castroneves before a caution flag was displayed following an accident on lap 199 of the 200-lap race. Team Green protested the finish, only to have the protest denied initially. Yesterday the team announced it was formally appealing the decision, so the saga continues.
In the meantime, Paul and his team remain focused as evidenced by their performance on the track this weekend. Paul won in Milwaukee for the third time in his career Sunday at Miller Lite 250 and as the driver of the #26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone he sits tied for third place with Max Papis in the CART FedEx Championship Series points standings heading into this weekend's action at the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
We will open it up for questions for Paul Tracy.
Q: Congratulations last couple of weeks, Paul.
Paul Tracy: Thank you.
Q: Basic question about sort of the state of CART right now. It seems before the Indy 500 IRL was taking a lot of punches at CART and Chris Pook has come back sort of punching pretty hard back on sort of a PR campaign in the last week or so. What is your opinion on what the state of CART is right now after all the doom and gloom stories of the last few weeks?
Paul Tracy: I think we have a great product and Milwaukee was a good race. We had a pretty good crowd there. It wasn't sold out, but it was a good crowd from Milwaukee. The first three races have been strongly attended. They have been challenging races, and I think Chris Pook is out there trying to get the job done. And yeah, we have been taking some blows from the IRL, and I don't know if it was a good idea or a mistake scheduling the whole month of May open because, you know, at the start of our season with having two races or three races spread out by two and a half months, it is hard to keep the average sport fan's attention when the races are that spread out. I don't think it's a bad thing to have some other races scheduled in the month of May to try to keep the interest alive with the CART circuit.
Q: Does the outcome of the 500, does that affect the division between the two circuits at all? I know there has been some talk trying to find some peace between the circuits. Does it create a gulf after what happened?
Paul Tracy: I don't know. I think it's still drives a wedge between the two. It would be nice if everything got back together, but Tony George has really no interest in merging with CART. He wants to have the whole pie to himself and no matter what it takes. There's interest from our side to merge. We have made- you know, we have put the olive branch out many times and it gets snapped in half. That's just kind of the way it has been going.
Q: Just sort of "it is what it is?"
Paul Tracy: Yeah.
Q: What has the last two weeks been like for you?
Paul Tracy: It has been good. I can't complain, you know, I know in my heart that we won that race in Indy and I guess the toughest thing is swallowing your feelings that you want to put out. But that's what I have had to do and to leave it up to [Team owner] Barry [Green]. And Barry feels that we won the race and has told me that he won't push the envelope on this thing if he didn't feel 110% about what our finish was in the race.
I guess from that standpoint I mean, I had a great race in Japan with dominating the race and we had a mechanical failure. The month of May didn't start out very well, but obviously we had a great race there. I feel that we won it and that gave our team a lot of confidence. And then we came to Milwaukee, I guess, a little bit disappointed, but also charged up because we were getting the results we wanted now and went out and dominated the race in Milwaukee. Hopefully we can keep putting these bricks in place and you know, building what will ultimately be a Championship.
Q: In all the years that I have watched you race and talked to you after the races and what have you, the one thing that I have always seen is that when you have something that you feel has gone against you that shouldn't have, you tend to put the bit between your teeth, so to speak, and really hit the grindstone a little harder. Is that a pretty fair assessment and is that how you are feeling right now?
Paul Tracy: Yeah. I mean, I am definitely motivated- I was definitely motivated to do well this weekend you know, I have had to really bite my tongue a lot in the last week. But I feel that I am so confident in what we have, you know, with this appeal that I just don't want to, you know, say the wrong thing and you know, we have just got to let the system go through its course. Playing this thing out, like Barry said yesterday, playing it out in the media is not going to win us the war. You might win a battle, but you won't win the war. So we need to do it the right way.
Q: I have got to think that holding your tongue or biting it has got to be the toughest thing that you have ever done as far as you- because you have always been one that you feel something and you say it?
Paul Tracy: Yeah. I have said how I feel about it. But I am not going to point my finger at any one person. The only thing that I have focused on is letting my actions speak in this last week in the race car. And letting my feelings out in the race car this last weekend and had a great race at Milwaukee.
Q: Congratulations first off on your win in Milwaukee on the weekend. I was wondering, with your success on the CART tour and Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani making a name for themselves, how do you feel about the future of Canadian race car drivers and the program and the racers coming out of Canada?
Paul Tracy: I think it's good. Obviously Pat has been around for a while and this is Alex's third season, you know, with the races that we have coming up, you know, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, we are looking- all of us are looking for good results in Canada. There are some new drivers coming up through the ladder system. Michael Valiante from Vancouver, he's a great young driver. I have watched him from go-kart up until now and he's up in the Formula Atlantic ranks, he should be there in the next couple of years. I think the future is good for Canadian drivers, and there's opportunity.
Q: I have a question for you not so much affecting the Canadian drivers coming up in the series, but you've obviously been involved with go-karting and one of your former go-karters - still currently a go-karter - A.J. [Allmendinger] has had a lot of success here in the Barbara Dodge Pro Series. He won last weekend. He's still the point leader in that series. Can you talk a little bit about that development and also the ladder system that we have got going on now in CART and the clear steps that it takes to get to the Champ Cars?
Paul Tracy: He's a classic example. I picked him up in go-karts, he was kind of running from his parents and didn't really have any money, and he was a guy that was a front-runner, but really didn't have an opportunity and I was able to pick him up about two years ago and start him on my kart team and he did really well for us and got our product really kind of - he kick-started our product line to show that we were competitive as a product, and show that he was a good driver and he won a scholarship to the Barbara Dodge National Series, which is really the first rung of the ladder of the kart. The go-karting is the first rung of the ladder but the Barbara National Series is kind of the rung and he went on to finish second in that Championship, and then obviously now he's moved up into the Pro Barbara Dodge class and he's won the first two races so far this year and is leading the Championship. He just had a go-kart race last weekend for us, kind of stepped back in the go-karts and won a race there. He's getting off to a great start this year and he wants to win the Championship in that and then hopefully move up to Formula Atlantic next year.
Q: Congratulations on two good wins, Paul.
Paul Tracy: Thank you.
Q: A couple of years ago people said there was a new Paul Tracy out and how much you had matured. I think we see a real new Paul Tracy this year in maturity, particularly the way you have handled this past week. What has contributed to this?
Paul Tracy: I think the big thing that's really helped me through the whole thing is I have got the support of a lot of the media on this. I have got the support of almost all of my peers and racing teams that I come in contact with in the past and friends in racing. And the big thing is I have got the support of the fans. I got an overwhelming response at Milwaukee when I qualified, went out to qualify and driver introductions and I had hundreds of people come up to me and give me gifts this last weekend- the true winner of the 500, those things help the whole process. That kind of helps me just kind of put a lot of those things to the side and focus on my job instead of dwelling on what happened.
Q: Are you undergoing a new exercise program this year that keeps you fit?
Paul Tracy: Yeah. I have been really working hard this year. I have said it before, the last couple of years, 1999 and it 2000 were good seasons for me, and I am a bit of a creature of habit and I kind of do things the same way over and over again. 2001 was a bit of a disaster season for me, and I really sat down with myself and had to think about what I needed to do to raise my game, to be a race winner again and a championship contender, and the team sat down and they decided what they needed to do and everybody went at it in their own ways throughout the winter and the couple of months off. We have come back and obviously we started off the season really good.
Q: How is your team doing this year in the karts?
Paul Tracy: Real good. We just won a race last weekend, finished in the top-three at basically every race this year, so things are going well with the kart program. A.J. who drives kart for me, who is also running the Barbara Dodge Pro Series, has won the first two races of the championship and he's leading the points in that. So he's doing really well.
Q: Do you foresee yourself sometime in the future stepping up to Atlantics for perhaps even CART, as a car owner?
Paul Tracy: No, no, I have a hard enough time just running a go-kart team. That's almost too much of a headache for me. I am not really the team-owner type. The go-kart team is enough problems.
Q: Last week [Team KOOL Green teammate] Dario [Franchitti] spoke on this teleconference about his feeling about the IRL cars, their speed and their power. Do you kind of echo his thoughts? I think he described them- he didn't say these words, but he kind of described them as an interesting Indy Light car.
Paul Tracy: (Laughs) Well, Dario has a good way of putting things, but I guess that similar formula is what we are going to next year, that style of motor, so it is what it is. It's not - by any means a 300 or 400 horsepower engine. It's got 650 to 700 horsepower. It's not a 900 horsepower engine like we are running right now, but you know, once you get the thing up and rolling and get it up to speed it will still do laps, like at Indy 230, but it just takes a little longer to get it there. Really, it is what it is. We are trying to reduce the speeds of the cars, and really the only way that you can do that's by taking horsepower, bringing it down.
Q: Well, it's going to be an interesting year. I will see you probably Thursday out there at Laguna. You take care.
Paul Tracy: Thank you.
Q: Talking about support, Alex Zanardi was on teleconference last week he said as far as he was concerned you were the winner at Indy. Have you heard that before?
Paul Tracy: Yeah, and I feel the same way. Obviously Barry feels the same way and he filed the appeal. I just have to really let things take its course.
Q: You touched on this a bit with your talk of changing your fitness regimen. The last time you won two races in a row was Vancouver 2000, and then you didn't win again until last Sunday. I wondered what happened after that round in 2001, and how you dealt with it internally?
Paul Tracy: Well, it was frustrating last year for sure because I started off the year pretty well and I had two podiums, a couple of top-four finishes in the first four races and things started out really well. I think last year in the first four races I scored 60 points. I was leading the championship and until the end of the year, the next 17 or 18 races I only scored another 60 points. It wasn't for a fact that we were not quick anywhere. We had plenty of opportunities where we were fast. It just seemed like every time we got something going, bad luck would strike us. We would have engine blow-ups or a bad pit stop or I would make a mistake, just little things that would just hamper you and would just let it kind of slip through your fingers- very frustrating for everybody. But I think, though, sometimes when you have a couple of good seasons, sometimes it takes one that doesn't go so good to kind of re-motivate everybody.
Q: Most KOOL Green cars didn't suffer, but do you think the limits were stretched with Michael Andretti being kind of a teammate on board?
Paul Tracy: I think it did. Definitely last year was a building year for the team. Obviously Michael finished good in the championship, but he was just kind of consistent. He wasn't the fastest guy all the time. He just was scoring points more consistently than me and Dario.
Dario and I were pretty disappointed with how we finished the season. The team has worked really hard over this last winter to get reorganized and get prepared, to make the proper attack, running three championship contenders and I think we have done a good job this year because Michael has a win, I have a win and Dario was leading the championship, so can't complain.
Tracy on Laguna and The Appeal Part II