CHAMPCAR/CART: Tracy, Junqueira press conference, part II

CART Champ Car teleconference with Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira. Part 2 of 2 Q: Paul, you've been at it now for 13 years on the circuit and I was wondering if 13 happens to be a lucky number for Paul Tracy? Paul Tracy: I don't know. I'm...

CART Champ Car teleconference with Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira.

Part 2 of 2

Q: Paul, you've been at it now for 13 years on the circuit and I was wondering if 13 happens to be a lucky number for Paul Tracy?

Paul Tracy: I don't know. I'm not really that superstition about numbers, but definitely this year, a number that's been a big factor in a lot of things. At the start of the year, I changed back to the #3 and we won three races in a row a couple of times this year and a lot of things have been multiples of 3 for whatever reason. But something that people just bring these things up to me but it's not something that I really pay attention to.

Q: With all of your success you've had this year, is it at all bittersweet given the financial troubles CART has had?

Paul Tracy: No. I think now with what happened in Mexico City and I think the venues that CART is looking at in the future and the sale it's going through with my team owner, his partners and what they are trying to do, I think he can finally got the series points in the right direction. I feel that some good things are going to happen.

Q: There are some weekends you come in and you look like -- maybe it's your intensity, that you just can't be beat; it's like you are perfect throughout the whole weekend. You made some comment about how after the last couple of the races you've had poor results you've sat down and had meetings. Can you talk about what types of things everyone focuses on to get back into a winning mode, and if there's anything in particular that you can put your finger on to make the change?

Paul Tracy: I don't really know. I think maybe the only thing that I can really put my finger on is that Miami, I was very fired up to come in and have a good weekend, and we arrived at the track and came out to practice on the morning. Right away we had a problem with the car and we didn't get on the track, and then as soon as we got on the track it started raining and it just seemed like it all kind of just fell apart from there and things started to snowball. I went out in the rain and I crashed and everybody got on edge and kind of nervous feeling, like a tension on the team. The whole weekend didn't go well. I think sometimes it can go that way. I think it's important when you go to a race weekend to get started on the right foot and have a good run. If you come off the first practice and the car is good, then sometimes the whole weekend goes well. When you start off bad, it's sometimes difficult to recover.

Q: Bruno, there has been a number of times this season where you lost race confidence, but I know your aspirations if you win the championship would be to go on to Formula 1, I have a question based on the things that happened yesterday. I know particularly you had an offer a year or so ago to the IRL with Chip Ganassi and you chose not to do that. I was curious if you could say what those factors were, was it because of your interest in Formula 1 in the future, was the money, was it safety, what made your decision to stay in CART?

Bruno Junqueira: First thing, I like CART. I think of it as the best race series in the world. I think you have to be a really good driver to win this championship. You need to be a really good road driver, oval driver, and street driver. And for me, that was a big challenge. I had the chance to race in IRL and I had the dream to race in Formula 1. But in my dream of Formula 1, I was winning, and even when I was racing in Europe and I had some opportunities to race with some of the Formula 1 teams, I have a lot of respect for them, but I never had a chance to win a race until I came to race in America.

About IRL, I don't know, I was really happy with the opportunity to race for Newman/Haas. I think it was a good team and I decided to keep myself in CART. I could even make more money to race in IRL, but I prefer to stay in CART because at the end of the day, I do what I love, and for sure, CART is more safer than IRL. That's another thing, especially after Sunday's crash of my friend, Kenny Brack, then I think that discourages the other drivers. I think I have three of my friends really hurt this year, Dario Franchitti, Kenny and Felipe Giaffone. That's not my interest at this moment. That's the important thing that you put at the end of the day, that racing is dangerous but you have to look by ourselves.

Q: It must have felt a little strange getting into the car the first session with no tobacco logos on the car.

Paul Tracy: Not really. I knew that was going to happen before the season started, and I think it's a great gesture that Players has made and the team has made, to thank the fans for their support for the program that's been going on since 1963. I think it's very classy what they have done. You could show up with nothing on the car and they have decided to thank the people that have supported.

Q: Going into Australia, you've got a huge time zone difference, the traveling time I think is about 18-some-odd hours. Going there, it's not too bad because you have time to acclimatize and get ready for race week, but coming back to North America, it's a pretty short turnaround venue, how does that affect you; and obviously it affects all of the drivers, and how do you look after yourself to combat that?

Paul Tracy: Well, I think for me, it's always been a little bit harder to get back on to the time zone here. I think what helps the most is a lot of the drivers, every year there's a huge party in Australia Sunday night, and then everybody catches the flight on Monday morning and pretty much everybody is zonked out sleeping the whole flight. So you get about 13 or 14 hours sleep on the way back over because of your hangover, and by the time you get off the plane, you're pretty well rested.

Q: After the third win of the season you talked about how great the season was going but you said, "It's early in the season." So from that point to where we are today, look back and kind of gauge where you think the team -- how the team performed through the season.

Paul Tracy: Well, I think we've done a really good job. It's been up-and-down for us. I don't think that our trip to Europe went really how we wanted it to go. We made a big mistake engineering-wise on the car for Germany. But we felt that we were going to get maximum points in England with the downforce configuration. We decided to run, we kind of hooked ourselves in, let's try to win the road course, and let's finish in the top five or six on the oval and it didn't pan out that way. We blew up the gear box. So we really got hit hard twice. So maybe that was a little bit of a wrong thinking.

You know, there's been points in the season, a couple of points in the season where I've made mistakes, at Elkhart and Miami, but for the most part the team has done a great job. The car has been very reliable. I've had no mechanical troubles for the most part. Now at the end of the season, there's still two very important races to go, and like we had in Europe, you see you have bad luck, a 28- or 29-point lead, that could go away real quick. So we need to still continue to have good luck and reliability.

Q: Knowing that Paul could win, if he wins either Australia or Long Beach, there's really nothing you can do about it. I'm trying to sit here and think about how much pressure that must be for you, or is that pressure for you?

Bruno Junqueira: I mean, the only thing that I can do is try to win the races or try to do the best that I can and see what happens with Paul. I'm in a difficult situation because I don't depend on just myself. I depend on Paul to not do well on one of the races, but then I try to do what I can do, maybe try to win the race in Australia and see what happens, see if I at least have a shot at Fontana for the championship.

Q: Everybody is very familiar with the dangers of high-speed ovals, but after watching Sunday's incident with Kenny, does that make you guys just a little bit more apprehensive when you get in there and get behind the wheel at a place like Fontana?

Paul Tracy: That's a difficult question, because, you know, there's always inherent risks of racing, for sure, and things could happen. But I think what happened at Texas, it's just one of those things where the cars are fast, they are running 220-plus miles an hour, and running very close together. You really have to trust the other guy; it's not all down to you by yourself. When you're running in that close quarters with that many cars around you, if one person makes a mistake, you make somebody else move and next thing you know, what could have happened could have happened two or three cars in front, and it's a chain reaction by other people, to react to somebody else's problem.

I think probably the risks are always high on ovals, and if you have an accident, it's going to be a big accident. When you're running ovals every week, sooner or later, you're going to have an accident because it's inevitable. The odds are always there.

Q: Now based on what you just said, will there be any more apprehension, possibly with the two of you, seeing as we get still a fairly large amount of guys that will be in there that haven't had a lot of experience on the high-speed ovals?

Paul Tracy: Well, I could tell you, I'm very impressed with the job that everybody has done this year, at Eurospeedway in Europe, it was close quarter racing with high a downforce package and everybody was racing very close to each other. Through the course of season, the new guys and the rookies have done a fantastic job. I don't have any complaints about any of the drivers that we have in our series.

Q: I know that you were chosen as the Lexmark Indy 300 Ambassador for the Australian race, and I was wondering if having watched you under complete siege in towns where you have high social commitments to the media and to the event, that you're a little bit concerned about not having the time to yourself that you need to focus; will this give, perhaps, Bruno an advantage?

Paul Tracy: I don't think so. It really just involves the general things that we always do in Australia. There's always a morning luncheon press conference, and it really doesn't involve me having to do anything more than I would do out of the ordinary. Australia is always really good about that, and (Brett) Crusher (Murray) that runs the event down there, he knows how to treat the drivers, and that's the way he's able to get the drivers to do a lot of things before the race and make it such a great event because he doesn't overload people.

Q: In '95 you won, but the last four years, you've done pretty well qualifying for it, but you've done that with the Reynard chassis, and knowing how much you seem to have an affinity for the Lola chassis, obviously you said you really prefer it and like it, does that give you more confidence going in?

Paul Tracy: The last few years, my qualifying -- I think I'm a better qualifier now because they have equalized all of the weights with the cars and the drivers. So, that's really helped my qualifying this year. And I think I have a good chance. Any track that we've gone to, I've done well in qualifying, so we'll just have to see what happens.

Eric Mauk: That will bring an end to our press conference today. Thank you guys very much for taking the time to talk to people today.

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Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi