CART Champ Car media teleconference transcript with Series Champion Paul Tracy and Australia winner Ryan Hunter-Reay on Tracy's securing the championship and Hunter-Reay's first career victory at Surfers Paradise, Australia. Part 1 of 2 ERIC...
CART Champ Car media teleconference transcript with Series Champion Paul Tracy and Australia winner Ryan Hunter-Reay on Tracy's securing the championship and Hunter-Reay's first career victory at Surfers Paradise, Australia.
Part 1 of 2
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone in the media that joined us today for a very special CART Champ Car World Series Media Teleconference with the winner of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Also joining us is the latest winner in the Champ Car World Series, driver of the #31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone for American Spirit Team Johansson, Ryan Hunter-Reay who took his very first Champ Car win this past weekend, a 1.547 second margin of victory to win at Surfers Paradise. Ryan, thank you for joining us today.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thanks for having me on.
ERIC MAUK: Now that it has been a couple days has it all sunk in to what you accomplished at Surfers Paradise?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's starting to sink in. It is just -- it's such an honor to be among the list of Champ Car winners finally and this has been something that I have dreamed of something since I was eight years old and just all the hard work that's gone into it, you know, finally we got one in the win column at the top level of open-wheel racing in America. So I couldn't be happier at the moment.
ERIC MAUK: Taking a look ahead at this weekend, heading into a big super speedway where these cars can really get out and stretch your legs, it ought to be a very exciting race; obviously one that you have seen from a lot of different angles having come up through the CART Ladder System. Your thoughts heading into the Fontana race.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Actually, the good thing is we have actually did a testing there, two days of testing actually, a day and a half, really, and I really haven't tested that much this season and everywhere we have tested we have done fairly well. Now here we go into Fontana having some miles under our belt, and I am quite comfortable with the track and it's always been a great event. My teammate is the former champion of the race, so I look forward to it a whole bunch. Hopefully we'll get that Reynard on the top of the podium again.
Q: Paul, considering everything that's going on in Southern California now, I guess you experienced it firsthand trying to fly back to Vegas. Would it be a huge disappointment if they did have to cancel this race; especially in light of you already having wrapped up the title?
PAUL TRACY: Well, you know, I think we hope that it's not going to get cancelled because there's still some other people in the championship that are fighting for position but I think what -- the most important thing is we need to think about the safety of the fans. I drove through there yesterday because I couldn't get a flight. I had to drive back from Los Angeles and really the fire is only about ten miles away from the track, one of the fires. The smoke is very heavy in the air and it's basically almost like being in fog. So the air quality is not good. I think the most important thing we need to worry about are the fans in the stands and the drivers on the track and you know, -- I didn't spend any real time because I was driving, but I understand there's a lot of falling ash that's coming out of the air and all of that's going on the track.
As far as I know right now, we're planning to go ahead, but it is all going to be a very touch-and-go subject. We just have to wait and see what is going to happen; how much the winds make the fire progress more. It is just too far out right now to make a decision.
Q: You say you give 110 percent every time you go out on the track, but with the championship wrapped up is it going to be hard to get up for this race?
PAUL TRACY: No, I mean, I am always up for a race. Really, this last race for me, you know, I got such a big help from my teammate, you know, I was basically out of contention at Surfers and my teammate started pretty well back in the field and Patrick Carpentier, he was moving up to the field and ultimately led to Bruno's crash by putting a lot of pressure on him trying to pass him and Bruno crashed. I kind of owe him, so I am going to go work this weekend and we're going to try to get Pat in the winner's circle again this year for the second time and see what we can do to help him out.
ERIC MAUK: Pat hasn't needed much help on the superspeedways in his career. He has a win at Michigan and finished on the podium here last year in what was the fastest race ever in Champ Car history won by Jimmy Vasser at over 197 mile an hour for an average speed.
Q: Paul, looking ahead to next year, you look back at the most recent champions, none of them are around. You are in a position to come back next year. Is that your intention to come back next year to defend your title and go for No. 2?
PAUL TRACY: Absolutely. I have made my career in Champ Car. I have been a supporter of Champ Car and I am looking forward to coming back next year and having the #1 on the car, driving for Jerry Forsythe and he's one of the principle guys behind taking over this company and hopefully moving it into the next dimension. I think him and Paul (Gentilozzi) and Kevin (Kalkhoven), they have got a lot of big plans for the series. They plan to keep their star drivers and keep their up-and-coming drivers like we have with Ryan and A.J. (Allmendinger) coming up and really make this into something that a lot of people can be proud of.
Q: Ryan, there was some talk earlier this year that Atlantics weren't really a good proving ground for Champ Cars which obviously the statistics with a lot of guys that ran Atlantics dispel, just your feelings in general on the preparation? You didn't have a lot of time in Atlantics and you a great race in Mid-Ohio, you win the race at Australia, did you think the training ground was sufficient?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. I still do. I always have. When I have been there on equal ground with the guys that come from Europe I think I have stood my ground and more, you know, Mid-Ohio you can't really think anything at Mid-Ohio, it wasn't a fluke for sure. It is a tough track and there's passing opportunities there. We ran a great race and finished third. Then when it came down to it in Surfers, I had to protect my lead. I went side-by-side with Jimmy (Vasser) once into the chicane and several times throughout that race with the conditions and everything like, that I mean, it was a very trying race, so I just think around the -- the whole season has shown that Atlantics is a viable proving ground for guys coming up since A.J. and others, for sure, it's been more so.
Q: Paul, when you look back over the last few years you talked about a few moments ago the fact that you would get so close just couldn't quite get over the hump. Did anything change in the way you approach a race mentally or the championship mentally, or physically, anything change at all that you think pushed you over that hump this year?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I kind of touched on it earlier. I think the biggest factor was when I came to this team is that they allowed me to put together like I said, the people that I was comfortable with and believed in me and you know, I went out there and won the championship the way that I drive. That's racing to the maximum every weekend. You can say I did it my way because I didn't go out there and race for points, or cruise around to collect points. I went out and gave it everything I had every weekend and sometimes I won and sometimes I failed.
It was definitely at the end of the season the last five races was just -- there was a see-saw battle. Bruno would have a big weekend and then I would go home dejected and say okay, I have got to come back next weekend and I have got to raise my game another level. I'd come back the following weekend and win. Then I'd say, okay, I got him now, and then I am sure he went home and said the same thing to himself and would come back the next weekend and win. So we both, every weekend, responded back and forth, almost like -- like a sporting match. We just raised our game every weekend in the last four, five races.
Q: Interesting that you would mention you didn't race for points you always raced to win. A couple of weeks ago Bobby Hamilton Jr. after winning in Memphis said that fans don't pay money to watch a guy points race and trying to run third and fourth. Sponsors don't put millions of dollars into a car to watch a guy run third and fourth just to be in the points. They want to watch them race to win. In a sense are you saying that that not only do you race for yourself, but also for what the sport really is and that is entertainment?
PAUL TRACY: Well, everybody has got their own style of racing. For me, the way I have driven my whole life, is to go out there and try to win and try to do -- put it all out on the line every time. I had guess you can't -- a leopard can't change its spots, I guess. This is the way I am. As much as people told me throughout the year you have got to do this and you have got to do that, I can't change the way -- change what my natural instincts are. Some people are guys that will not take risks and go out there and finish in the points every weekend. Some guys are natural risk-takers. I guess that's the category that I am in. I go out and I give it everything I have. I take chances. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don't. But it's hard to teach -- hard to change your -- what your natural instincts are.
Q: I know how much your mother follows what you do and supports you. Some could say she rides every lap with you in that car. What has her response been to Australia?
PAUL TRACY: Actually I haven't even talked to her because I haven't even been able to get a hold of her. She's in Florida. She's going to be at Fontana on Thursday. I talked to my dad. He's just overjoyed. My sisters and stuff, and I had aunts and uncles at the race, so I haven't actually been able to get a hold of my mom.
Q: Ryan, not only was this win great for you but apparently the way it breaks down for the whole team, to be standing on the podium together, what did that mean?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: That was huge. Just all the ups-and-downs we have gone through this season as a new team, you know, former champion in Jimmy and myself being a real young rookie, just the whole extremes of it all, then it all coming together in a race like that, so much drama, and Paul winning the championship the same day, couldn't be any happier for him, for a deserving champion, congratulations to him. Just to do it for American Spirit, a rookie team, with some Reynards, with the slim budget, everything like that, it's unbelievable really. I can't describe it. To hear the American National Anthem up upon the top step of the podium was just -- was a feeling that I have never felt in my life. I am on a high right now but I am ready to go back and do my job this weekend here in Fontana.
Q: Paul, just wanted to give you big congratulations on posting that #1. I imagine you will personally put it on your car for next year?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, for sure. We would like to -- I want to run that number next year. I think that's what everybody's dream is, is to run that number. We have had -- the team is having some discussions with Newman/Haas, if they will relinquish the number for this last race since it's Player's last race and finish the season off for those guys with it like, that which would be nice.
Q: Wondering if Jerry would have anything to say about removing the lucky #3 off of one of his cars, as he's so fond of anything with 3?
PAUL TRACY: I think he would like to have that #1 on there for sure.
Q: Just wanted you to comment, were you surprised about your tearful display after the race and also just also by the reaction of the media in general about your open display of emotion because you are known as being an aggressive and tough competitor....
PAUL TRACY: Well, for me, I just told myself I wasn't going to lose it and then once I got my hands on that trophy I just -- everything -- all my emotions came out of me. Basically you know, a 13-year ride of emotions. Everything, like I said, after the race, I mean, everything that happened in that race was like, you know, just a flashback of my whole career, packed into two hours. Starting off good and then bad and out of it and back in it and then champion. It was just a very emotional day for me and the whole team. They have been working hard for eight years to try to win another championship. Finally it all came together.