An interview with Mario Dominguez, Patrick Carpentier and Paul Tracy Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our top-three press conference today following a very wet and wild Honda Indy 300. We'll start out...
An interview with Mario Dominguez, Patrick Carpentier and Paul Tracy
Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our top-three press conference today following a very wet and wild Honda Indy 300.
We'll start out with Paul Tracy who finished third in the #26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, his fourth podium finish of his season and his first podium in Australia since his win here in 1995. The finish also moves him up to eighth in the season points standing.
Paul, what can you say about this race? It was a very tough race on you guys, very tough for everyone to understand exactly how the finish wound up, and actually a very devastating first lap accident. Tell us about the race from your perspective.
Paul Tracy: Well, it's tough. What can you say about nature? Out of everybody's control we came here to race. We're thousands of miles away from home, and we want to put on a show.
I had a pretty good car. It wasn't anything special. We're just trying to get around to the first pit stop. We made the first pit stop. I got out in front of Tony [Kanaan]. I thought we were in pretty good shape, then it started raining. It just got worse and worse and worse and worse and worse. I didn't really understand what was going on. My team didn't understand what was going on. We had a feeling that CART was going to try to get the half distance. We knew we had to do two pit stops. We were the only one who came in at a certain point to finish off our two pit stops. Mario [Dominguez] and Pat [Carpentier] had already done theirs.
I guess really it was thinking ahead and forecasting what CART was going to do. It was tough for me because I didn't expect the race to go as long as it did. It was dark. I had a dark visor. I didn't change my visor. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't see where I was going. Water was on the inside of my visor, the outside of my visor. I had a dark shield. I couldn't see a thing. I'm glad it was over.
Merrill Cain: You talk about the tough conditions. Do you rank this as the toughest conditions to race in?
Paul Tracy: The situation now, the track was flooding, you couldn't race in those conditions. I was having a hard time going around behind the pace car. Really the only thing I could say is Mother Nature is out of everybody's control.
I want to congratulate Herdez on their first win. A lot of racers go through periods of bad luck, good positions fall out of your hand because of luck, and today they had good luck on their side. They deserve this opportunity.
Merrill Cain: You've been in a race for several hours. We'll try to take a few questions.
Q: Paul, that horrendous first lap accident. Everyone was driving blind.
Paul Tracy: I didn't see it because I was in front of it. It's a situation where the track was wet, very wet. Once the spray gets thrown up off the tires, you just can't see at all. If you've ever been in a plane where you're flying in fog, that's all you see, is nothing, just a white blanket in front of you. Guys are going 150 miles an hour, a car is just stopped in the middle of the track. We're very lucky nobody was hurt.
Q: It's not the drivers' fault, but it was a pointless exercise. If you can't race, what's the point in just tooling around?
Paul Tracy: Once you start the race, you have to get a half distance, so the race is not officially over. That's how the rule book reads. We can't race tomorrow because we have a race in California next week. We had to get to the half distance point. I think CART did what they had to do to get to the half distance point.
Q: You guys race, deciding how to drive appropriately in the condition, was that not an option?
Paul Tracy: Absolutely no option at all to drive in those conditions. Not possible.
Merrill Cain: Congratulations to Mario Dominguez, driver of the #55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone. Thanks for joining us.
Mario wins his first CART race and becomes the first rookie to win a CART event since last year's event with Bruno Junqueira at Road America, the first win one for Herdez Competition, dating back to the team's days as Bettenhausen Motorsports. It also moves Mario into the lead for the Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year award.
You had some tough luck this season. This has to feel awfully good. A lot of things went your way at the end of the race. You have your first win in CART regardless. Talk about your effort this afternoon.
Mario Dominguez: Like you say, what goes around comes around. We had the worst luck you can imagine this year. All that bad luck just turned around and came together in this race. It was just a matter of wonderful strategy with the team. I'm very pleased and happy with the whole thing. After the first lap, we feel very fortunate. They brought the car around, put it together back again, which I think was an unbelievable effort. Just the most amazing pit strategy. And here we are, we won.
I am the luckiest man alive at this moment. I want to dedicate it to Team Herdez, the owners, and, of course, the sponsors. I think it will be the first of many. The team is working hard. We have a lot of work to do. Today we had all the good luck. Now we have to put it together and win more races.
Merrill Cain: Talk about the conditions of the racetrack today. Talk about some of the things you faced out there.
Mario Dominguez: It was very hard. At the beginning, to drive around, because I crashed the first time, and I didn't have any traction control. It made it three times harder than everybody else to drive around the racetrack without any traction control. Even in yellow flag conditions, the car was moving around a lot. At the very end, you couldn't see anything at all. It was hard.
I remember they told me to stay away from the pace car, as well. I can't stay away because I can't see where I'm going. I have to follow him to see where I'm going.
Unfortunately, the people in Australia didn't get to see the best show we can put together with Champ Cars, but we'll be back next year and make up for this one. I want to thank everybody that came to the track, even in this pouring rain, who stayed until the very end. I want to thank the Australian people. We had a wonderful welcome here in Surfers Paradise. It was great to come here for the first time and I hope to be back here many years.
Merrill Cain: Certainly want to recognize the fan support.
Mario Dominguez: The best fans I've seen in the world. All the races we've been to, the Australian fans are the most supportive, most excited, the best people.
Top three finishers press conference, part II