CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Paul Tracy championship press conference

Press conference with the winner of the 2003 CART Champ Car World Series Championship Paul Tracy. Eric Mauk: We are now joined by the winner of the Vanderbilt Cup, the driver of the ...

Press conference with the winner of the 2003 CART Champ Car World Series Championship Paul Tracy.

Eric Mauk: We are now joined by the winner of the Vanderbilt Cup, the driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Player's/Forsythe Racing Paul Tracy. (Applause). Seven wins this season, six poles this year, 26 wins for your career. Long time coming. Something you have been chasing for a while. How does it feel?

Paul Tracy: It just -- I am just really just so excited right now, I just don't really know how to feel. I guess you probably heard that from everybody that's probably been up here in the years before me, and just have worked so hard throughout my career and throughout my lifetime, my first championship as a professional driver was in 1990 as an Indy Lights driver and I have been chasing to find that feeling again ever since then. My first year to drive a Champ Car was with Dale Coyne. He gave me the opportunity; then Roger Penske and Carl Haas and Barry Green. Just been chasing that dream and chasing that feeling and, you know, I have seen a lot of people come, and seen a lot of people go throughout this sport. I have just always tried so hard and just kept trying 110% all the time, trying to get to this point in my life. It's taken longer than I wanted it to and there has been a lot of frustration, a lot of good times and a lot of wins and a lot of accolades, but there's been a lot of big highs and big lows and now to finally reach this point is -- I don't really know how to feel. I don't feel any different right now, but I guess to some degree it's like a big giant weight that has always been kind of on top of me that has been lifted off of me. I can say finally say that I am a champion (applause).

Eric Mauk: You took the scenic route to get there today.

Paul Tracy: Yeah, well, it was definitely very exciting and I guess in my 13-year career you could never ever say that anything that I have to do with has been boring, so from that standpoint, I guess that's the way my whole career has gone. It has been very exciting at times and always spectacular and today was no exception. Just kind of the way my whole career -- the way that the race played out today is basically a summary of my whole career, you know, big highs and big lows.

Eric Mauk: Can you tell us what your first thought was when you came on the radio and they said Bruno had crashed?

Paul Tracy: I saw him there. They didn't actually tell me that he had crashed. I saw him there. I looked at the car, it was pretty mangled up. I said, well, I thought to myself, it doesn't look like he's going to be getting that thing going. I waited and waited. I said, what is going on? They said, well, we'll wait to see if he's going to get out of the car. He got out of the car. They came on the radio and they said: You are the champion. I broke down for probably 20 or 30 seconds and started to cry inside the helmet. Then they said, okay, we got to get it together. We still need to finish this race and get points to really solidify it and make sure that it's for real. So my car, the drier part of the race in the last segment was pretty tough because the car was really handling bad. They changed the push rod, they changed the rocker, the front-end wing and everything was -- the car was just awful handling, so I just survived around the track and we were able to pick up that one point.

Eric Mauk: The organizers of the Surfer's Paradise race out here appreciate everything you did for them. You were the international ambassador. You did a lot of work for those guys. They are very proud of you and very happy you were able to get this done here today. A round of applause for the winner of the 2003 Vanderbilt Cup Mr. Paul Tracy. (Applause). We'll take a few questions for our Champion.

Q: Paul, you talk about crying. You have got a tough-guy image. We haven't seen this same emotion since Toronto. Could you describe, you got out of the car and did it sink in at that time?

Paul Tracy: Well, it sunk in but -- and once I got my hands on the trophy I just broke down and started crying. I had -- it's just been -- the emotions of the hard work and the sacrifice and you know, the ups and the downs that you go through throughout a career and some people never get to this level, some people never get the opportunity to win a race.

For me, I have won so many races and led so many laps, but I have never been able to get to this point. It's never all fallen together for me. It's just a big release of joy and it just feels like a weight has been lifted off.

Q: Paul, when you had the pit to get some running repairs, was it a case of getting out there at any cost?

Paul Tracy: Yeah, you have to run to the end. Weather conditions were so bad at the time that anything can happen in this race and this race has always been very chaotic and very strange and strange outcomes and for some reason this type of track just breeds that. We knew we had to get the car running again. We had to try to salvage anything that we could and I got to thank the Player's/Forsythe Team, I mean, today, they got me back on the track and this year they have got me on track, you know, the people that I work with, my engineers, Tony Cicale and Todd Malloy and Mike, the whole crew, everybody has been focused in the same direction and for me, I always come into every year always refocused and wanting to achieve what my goals are and this year, we just had the teamwork of the whole team, not only from my side working together, but also from Pat (Carpentier), I mean, we worked as a unit the whole year. It showed today, Pat started further back in the grid and he worked his way up towards the front because of pit strategy and today he was able to put pressure on Bruno and caused Bruno to go out of the race. That's what it is like to be a teammate. Frankly, he did it the fair way. I think what Newman/Haas did at the start was a little bit -- I haven't had a chance to talk to Sebastien (Bourdais), but it seemed kind of a little bit staged to me.

Q: Paul, Jimmy Vasser was in the conference before and he said he felt you are one of the greatest drivers in the world. Now your name is on that Championship with Vasser, Alex (Zanardi), Gil (de Ferran), just your thoughts about being in a group like that.

Paul Tracy: Well, it is what every driver works for. I have achieved so many goals, individual goals, and things that you don't really -- are not that big of a deal, really, laps led, and wins, and I am in the top five in everything, but have never won a championship until now and people always said, oh, when are you going to win a championship? Well, I have always been trying to win a championship but it's never come together. So now I am on that list of people that are champions and when I decide to finish racing, they can't take that away. They can't say, well, he led the more laps than anybody and won more races than anybody, but he never won a championship. Now I am the champion.

Q: A lot of times when a guy gets through a barrier of winning a race or a championship it kind of takes the pressure off and improves the performance in the future. Do you think we have seen the best of Paul Tracy?

Paul Tracy: I don't think you have seen the best of me. I think I am driving better and better. If I can continue to stay with this team, I still feel like I am in the prime of my career. I am only 34 years old. I know that I have five solid years still in me. For me, I don't have any lack of motivation from the day I started racing since I was six years old. Sometimes I am overmotivated and I try too hard sometimes. I don't think anybody can ever accuse me of not putting out the full effort and doing what it takes. I am prepared to keep working hard. I'd like to stay with Jerry Forsythe, that's a second championship for him; first for me. A second championship for Player's. They are pulling out of the sport now, but the opportunity that they gave me this year to come in, there was a lot of pressure that went along with it. They said -- this guy right here, every weekend, Mike, he would open his eyes real big and say "we have got to win this Championship. This is our last year we have got to win this Championship." And you know, it was in joking, but the pressure kept mounting and mounting and mounting; every weekend it got more and more. We just -- you know, we finally got there.

Q: Can you explain what was going on when you got caught in that melee and you had to guess it out there and that didn't work out too well?

Paul Tracy: Well, I was trying to pass Moreno. I had passed him on the restart and then we got to the first chicane. He short cut the chicane and went by me again. I am like, geez, what is going on here. Then I radioed in. He shortcut the chicane and then he went down -- went down to the far end of the track and he got all sideways locked up and Tag got all sideways and locked up in the rain and I got a run on him and got side-by-side with him going in the corner and then he didn't want to let me go and he out-braked me on the outside part of the track and he ran into the back of Tag on the way into the corner and then Tagliani was in front of me and started spinning around in front of me and I am like stopped, stopped in the middle of the track, and Tagliani did a half-spin and then just drove straight into me at full throttle and drove over the front wing and drove over -- onto the suspension and then I have got Moreno crashed into the back end of me, so I am sandwiched in between both the cars. So the engine is still running. I said, I got get out of here, I have got to get back to the pit. I put it in reverse and I guess I drove up onto Moreno's car.

Q: Darren (Manning)?

Paul Tracy: Yes, trying to get some room to get going again. Then drove off, broke the rear suspension, broke the push rod, the rocker and then limped it back to the pits. Then the team just had to fix it, and that was that.

Q: I am sure you don't really care at the moment, but for the record are you slightly disappointed today the way it turned out it was a bit of a grubby way to clinch the title?

Paul Tracy: I don't think it is a grubby way. Today was -- you know ---

Q: Sorry, maybe messy is a better term.

Paul Tracy: Well, I guess this is the way that it was all supposed to happen. I can't control what other people do. Today I kept my nose clean and I was taken out at the start from Sebastien; again later in the race, got involved in an accident that I really didn't have anything to do with. And then you know, what happened with Bruno was -- it was all down to him. The championship was there for him to close in on and it was his mistake. I guess that's the way, in the big master plan of everything, of what comes down from above, I guess that's the way it was all supposed to happen.

Eric Mauk: That will wrap up our press conference. You got three days to enjoy then we go racing next week.

Paul Tracy: I want to say thank you to everybody here that's supported the series, all the media that supported the series and we're going to be back here in the future. We're going to be racing here and we're going to be continuing to be racing. I am not going anywhere. A lot of the champions have left to go to Formula 1 and I want to continue to try to win some more championships here.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Carl Haas , Barry Green , Roger Penske , Dale Coyne