CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Top-three finishers press conference

CART Champ Car press conference with the top three finishers in the Lexmark Indy 300 Ryan Hunter-Reay, Darren Manning and Jimmy Vasser. Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, we will go ahead with the top-three finishers of the Lexmark Indy 300,...

CART Champ Car press conference with the top three finishers in the Lexmark Indy 300 Ryan Hunter-Reay, Darren Manning and Jimmy Vasser.

Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, we will go ahead with the top-three finishers of the Lexmark Indy 300, Round 8 of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car Powered by Ford. We saw a little bit of everything today.

We are now joined by the top-three finishers in today's event. First all this is a one, two, three sweep for the Reynard chassis today. (Applause) The first sweep for Reynard since Vancouver of 2001. This is also the first time that rookie drivers have finished one, two since Teo Fabi and Al Unser Jr. turned the trick in Pocono in 1983. (Applause).

We'll start with our third-place driver, the driver of the #12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone for American Spirit Team Johansson Jimmy Vasser who earns his first podium finish of the season and the 30th of his career, moving to third after starting 15th today, the finish moves him up to 11th in the season standings. Jimmy, congratulations, long way coming through the field rough day for you out there. Weather-wise and all that.

Jimmy Vasser: Really drove my way to the front today. (LAUGHTER). That was a crazy day. We have had a lot of crazy events here. Interesting to see when the promoters figure out that the rains come sometimes after 2 and our races are always at two or three, so we're always asking for trouble. It would be probably better to start the race a little earlier on in the day. The V8's they have windshield wipers and stuff maybe they can fare in the rain a little bit better than us.

We had a great day today. Obviously all credit to my teammate, first win today, it is a very special day for him and for our team, been some rough going a bit this year. Who'd have thunk three Reynard chassis on the podium, but I had a good time battling with Ryan there. When we finally figured we were up front 1 and 2 and there was a restart there, he said he was having some problems with his brake bias but he was -- from where I was sitting he was sideways everywhere, almost off the run-off, and trying to throw it away, I got side-by-side with him one run down into the chicane and I was the one on the wrong side. Run straight over the first chicane and I flat-spotted one of my tires tremendously and after that, it was kind of curtains for me with a big flat-spot. But it was good fun anyway. Ryan calmed down and did a great job. Unfortunately, for me I pretty much had second sewn up, for the team in a 1-2, but I made a big mistake coming on the back straight, got too close to the wall where all the water was still and I said even my grandmother could have passed me. His maneuver wasn't all that spectacular.

Darren Manning:  Give him some credit.  I can't make a pass, Ryan can't
win a race.  Come on.

Jimmy Vasser: He won the race, I gave him credit you can't make the pass. Great day for us. I had a great time. Two more cars in the podium, fantastic finish, and you know, always love coming to Australia. This is a great event. It's the benchmark for events for CART in the future we have always said that particularly for speed courses, but I really believe for events overall, I think the fans are second to none here and this whole atmosphere, the whole week of the Indy Carnival is fantastic and looking forward to coming back for many years to come.

Eric Mauk: You have been on a lot of teams, seen a lot of things, what does this do for a team, two guys on the podium on a rookie team; especially heading into a place where you are the defending Champion next week ?

Jimmy Vasser: I don't know what it does, really. We're going to find out, but I hope it rains sponsors on our team because we have been running all year long with our names on the side. We have got a great team in our team, American Spirit, the only two American drivers in -- other than Geoff Boss, pretty much in the Series, and, you know, I really like the theme of our team and the colors, I think it's fantastic. Very much like to have an American company jump on board and that would be a great conclusion to a good finish this season.

Eric Mauk: Couple more runs like this and they will start calling.

Jimmy Vasser: I will hold you to that.

Eric Mauk: Second on the day, the driver of the # 15 RAC Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone, Darren Manning. Darren earns the best finish of his Champ Car career with a second place run taking his first ever podium finish. Darren, congratulations. How do you feel about your day?

Darren Manning: Thanks. It has been a fantastic week. Getting here nice and early, the guys have been telling me basically all year that this was one of the races we had to come out to early and really savor the carnival atmosphere, the party atmosphere and how the fans treat the drivers here. Did that, came out nice and early, got lots of, you know, events in that I am not looking for, playing with tigers, swimming with dolphins, all these kind of things. And you know, me and Ryan, we were the first two out here and the first two to be leaving here, I am sure, so it has been great.

Eric Mauk: Talk about the end of the race. You made the past on Jimmy, you got to second place.

Darren Manning: Fantastic pass on Jimmy, can you say? It was great. Who would have thought it, really. We've been struggling for pace all weekend. In the dry we were about two seconds off the pace all weekend and we struggled to get our 14 spot any time throughout the weekend. So we knew we had to do something special in the race with strategy or we knew the rain was coming, so we just hoped -- I have been quick all year in the rain, coming from England it's pretty much a given really. So we knew once the rain was coming we would be okay, we made some good passes in the first few laps and got up to like seventh or eighth spots with good pit spots speed and during the race I made an early call. I think I was like only the second guy to pit for dry tires because -- the incident with PT and Tagliani and the Moreno which I was just stuck abandoned nearly, so from last to second I am pretty happy.

Eric Mauk: The winner of the Lexmark Indy 300, driver of the #31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgstone, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan claims the first win of his Champ Car career with a 1.546 second margin of victory. He gives American Spirit Team Johansson its first Champ Car victory and becomes just the second rookie this year to win a Champ Car event. Congratulations. How does it feel?

Ryan Hunter-Reay: Unbelievable, I have been telling everybody I feel like I am in a dream. I still do. I am not really going to click into it until later tonight.

Eric Mauk: Talk about those last few laps, Jimmy mentioned once you realized you guys were 1, 2 and you still had seven, eight laps to go, talk about those laps.

Ryan Hunter-Reay: It was tough for me being up there. It was my first time ever leading, doing all these restarts and everything. I had done it in Atlantics and stuff like that. It is totally different deal when you are on cold tires with a track that's wet here and dry in other places. It was real tough. I actually when we -- when it started raining, I had turned my bias to the rear, my brake bias to the rear quite a bit, just to prevent the fronts from locking and when it went dry again, I forgot to turn it back. Every time I came off the brakes the rear end would snap out. I was pushing, like Jimmy said, but yeah, the rear kept snapping out. Finally once I got my hands in there to turn it back to the front didn't have much of a problem with it.

So an unbelievable day. The guys did a great job, you know, we have had a lot of things this year really go against us - a lot of situations both Jimmy and I, that just the worst luck, things we -- things we just fallen into and hasn't gone for us. Now today it went for us. It's real great to have a 1, 3 here for American Spirit, both cars on the podium, it's just excellent to be up here on the last race of road racing of the year.

Eric Mauk: I imagine Stefan has forgiven you for the little bobble at the end of the race?

Ryan Hunter-Reay: He didn't care about that. We don't know need those road-course wings anymore. We're going to Fontana with the little dinky wings (LAUGHTER)

Q: What happened was that a victory croissant and also why didn't Stefan take your phone call in Baja?

Ryan Hunter-Reay: I am not sure, but no, he -- I talked to him after the race, yeah. No, I had started just screwing around on the last lap, I really didn't give a crap, tell you the truth. And ended up getting on some wet grass there, just got the end plate of the front wing, so, it's okay, though. Did it in style. .

Eric Mauk: Any other questions?

Q: Darren, you have been the sandwich all day. There was that time when Tagliani and you and Paul were all turning in the turn at the same time. Then you all came to a stop, then Paul backed into you then. Can you describe what happened?

Darren Manning: Well, it's a long story this one. PT -- it was pandemonium on the restart, we all had cold tires. PT was on a bit of a charge as he always is. He got on the inside of Moreno, and they both basically ended up colliding and I think Moreno maybe even touched Tag or something like that. Anyway Tag and Moreno basically spun and PT had nowhere to go and I was trying to go inside of them and they just all stopped and I ended upright in the back of PT, stalling, and then I couldn't get reverse, ended up stalling. Then PT just lobbed it in reverse and hit full gas. I thought he was coming right at the top of my head, he was on a mission and then he did a big burnout and wiped his rear corner out on Tag, so at least it put him a lot down so I got him anyway. Then he nearly, you know, then I nearly went a lock down, the guys were a bit too eager to try and get me bump-started. It was very wet. My gloves were wet, so we had two attempts to bump-start it. No problem. .

Q: Jimmy, as a former champion, talk about Paul Tracy. He has been around forever almost and now he's finally won it. Is he a worthy champion?

Jimmy Vasser: Absolutely. Amazing to think that he hasn't been champion before this. All the race wins, all the great teams he's been with. Paul Tracy is one of greatest drivers in the world. I think you all know that and he's a very worthy champion. What a rollercoaster day he went through today, from the cockpit I was thinking to myself straight away he was at the back, I felt so bad for him I just pointed him by, on lap two, and I knew Bruno would have been leading and he had his work cut out for him all day long and then, you know, then he got stuck with a lap down again is --is that the incident he had with Darren? You know, Bruno was up front again, probably going to go to Fontana the championship would have been possibly in the fate of just mechanical reliability. And then for what happened with the pits closing and then Bruno getting knocked out, all that, I am sure he just went through the wide range of emotions. I saw him afterwards in the podium, he seemed kind of stunned, but Paul is a great friend, a great driver, congratulations to him and the team, and you know, he is a very -- he is a get representative of the Champion for our Series, and we congratulate him for that.

Q: Is winning the title just as valuable as recent years?

Jimmy Vasser: Absolutely. Especially when you don't have one, right? The amount of work -- the Championship, yes, some top teams and drivers and have left the Series, but I think more drivers that stayed in the Series this year, it is still just as difficult to win races in this Series, that didn't go away. And the fact of the state of open-wheel racing this day doesn't take anything away from Paul's Championship. It's well deserved, been a long time coming, and you know, again, he's -- he's in a real good place right now.

Q: There was a wild race to watch. What was it like out there with the rain, the hale, the spin-outs, give us a sense of what it was like out there?

Ryan Hunter-Reay: It was crazy, the first time it started raining I couldn't see the front of my car. I couldn't -- we were doing what maybe 40 miles an hour. Couldn't see the front of my car. So it was, you know, you don't know if you are going to run in a car one second or -- and they have very bright lights on the back of them. That was quite scary, especially when that was happening I got the message in my radio that we're going green the next time by. I thought, oh, my God, this is another -- you know this is absolutely suicidal. So then they did a good job, called it off, I sat there in the pits for a second. Then I saw a golf ball size piece of hail land in my lap. I was like, oh. We went back out and it was tough for me, you know, being on this track, some of these veterans have been on this circuit have been on it last year when it was raining, been harder than last year, but being on a track that was drying and different conditions, different tires, slicks to -- wets to slicks, it was very tough for me. But we did a great job today, so....

Darren Manning: I agree really, it was very tough when it was really wet. They did a great job in calling it, to be honest, like Ryan said, you have to keep close to the guy in front to see his lights. If you drop back to try and give yourself some space and clean air there was none for a start. You have to keep nice and tight. They did a good job it was, like Ryan said, it was tough to begin with when it was wet and then it was drying out. I think actually made for a very good race for you guys to watch, as I am sure everybody stayed around to watch because the grand stands were still full. It was good.

Q: Ryan, you are in the lead a long, long time, not that many laps really. But it was a hell of a long time because the race would start, stop, start, stop. What did you tell yourself to stay cool out there because Darren was pushing you pretty hard?

Ryan Hunter-Reay: That's a good question. Actually Jimmy was pushing me pretty hard. It was tough because once you get a green and you just go -- you get into a rhythm. But just having to keep on popping in and out of that rhythm, it was pretty tough for me knowing that I was that close to my first win, especially after the first two restarts I had really good restarts, some issues with the brakes but last one I had a good restart, I started pulling away, so you know, it was great. It did throw in a bit of a curve for me, but took it.

Q: Jimmy last year you survived a mess. You were upside-down, car on fire, when that rain hit again this year, any flashbacks to that? What goes through your mind at that point?

Jimmy Vasser: No flashbacks or anything like that, just you know, I was thinking, man, if this rains here all the time and I actually thought you know, maybe we should start the race a little earlier (laughs), because the thunderstorms are in the late afternoon, and I, you know, it was a little bit of deja vu. Certainly I think that it's a treacherous situation even when it's not raining hard, the first restart after the break, couldn't see much on the front straight, you know, it was still visibility pretty minimal and you trying to maintain -- some of the guys can probably attest to this -- you try to keep some speed, you don't want to slow down too much, but you don't want to be, you know, flat against -- flat out because you don't know -- you can't see in front of you when the guys are going to slow down. So potentially with the way the track is laid out, when there's any kind of moisture on that front straight, at such high speeds, the visibility and the danger factor is really high.

Eric Mauk: That will wrap up our press conference. Thank you all for coming.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Geoff Boss , Jimmy Johansson