An interview with Will Power, Franck Montagny and Mario Dominguez THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to the final press conference for the Champ Car World Series. It's fitting to start off with one of the great drivers in Champ Car World Series...
An interview with Will Power, Franck Montagny and Mario Dominguez
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to the final press conference for the Champ Car World Series. It's fitting to start off with one of the great drivers in Champ Car World Series history, Mr. Mario Dominguez, who finished third, earning the first-ever podium finish for Pacific Coast Motorsports, who were a team that started with the Champ Car World Series last season.
Mario, obviously it must have been gratifying to have such a great performance. Tell us a little bit about how you turned it on there the last few laps.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Good afternoon, everybody. It was an amazing race. Everybody was racing really, really hard.
At the beginning, I lost a couple positions. Then I started passing people. The team gave me a great -- pretty much feedback on how much fuel I had to save, and I think I did pretty good also saving fuel.
So that, together with some hard driving, allowed us to get on the podium. I passed, I believe, it was Tagliani for third, I believe, the last few laps, so that was very exciting.
I think part of the success here was two things; one, the most important thing is I had so much support in this race -- it's incredible. It's almost as if I was racing in Mexico. When I'm going through the grandstands, everybody was screaming my name. So that was great; that just made me feel very good. It's amazing the support I get here, so I was happy to give all the fans here that cheer for me a good result.
The other thing is that Pacific Coast Motorsports, it's their home race. They're based not too far away from here, about an hour's drive. I'm just so happy. Seeing everybody's faces from the team, so much happiness on their faces, makes me even happier. I'm just very happy to be here and honored to be on the last Champ Car podium ever.
We'll see what the future holds for me now. I think I will try to do IndyCar in the future. It's looking good, but I don't have anything certain yet.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us a little bit about ... obviously you've been in Champ Car for many years. Tell us what you think Champ Car was all about and how you feel about how it's ending.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I started racing Champ Car in 2002. It has been my childhood dream to race in Champ Car.
It's a very sad moment right now that this will be the last Champ Car race in history, but I think in the end, the best thing for open-wheel motorsports in the U.S., open-wheel racing, was to get reunited. The fact now there's going to be an IndyCar Series; it's really going to take a different projection from now on.
The future is very bright. I think there has to be only one series; that was proven before. Even though I'm very, very sad that Champ Car is finishing, is ending, at the same time I'm happy because I'm sure in the end the fans are going to be the winners when they're going to be watching one IndyCar race all the time with all the stars, with all the great teams, with all the great names out there in one same race.
I hope to be a part of that, as well. But it certainly is a sad feeling because this is where I made my name, where I made my career, and this is what gave me whatever I have. The future starts right now for me.
THE MODERATOR: Franck, first Champ Car race, pretty easy, right?
FRANCK MONTAGNY: (No microphone.)
THE MODERATOR: Our champion today, who won two races in Champ Car last season, Will Power. An extremely dominant performance. He was leading -- took the lead at the first corner, led 81 of 83 laps, the other two laps were led during a pit switch. Obviously, I would say, based on what I saw last year, the most dominant performance I've seen from you. Would you agree, and maybe walk us through that a little bit?
WILL POWER: Yeah, we had problems all weekend that we were ironing out in the car, and in qualifying we had a gear problem, so we didn't really get the most out of the session. We pulled it apart, and it was broken.
But for the race, I knew it was very important to get a start, because if not I was going to get hung up behind people. I know it's very tough to pass around here. So I had a really good start, and from that moment on we got good fuel mileage, and it was a pretty -- the middle sector, I saved good fuel and had really good speed to pull a gap from Tagliani, and then in the last probably 15, 20 laps, I just cruised very easy.
I knew that Franck was catching, but I wasn't going to risk anything. It was a very I didn't want to throw it in the wall. I'm just so happy for Kevin Kalkhoven, Aussie Vineyards, Craig Gore, all the guys that made this possible for me. You know, I'm really happy for the team. When you consider all the work they've done over the past couple months with the merger, these guys haven't been home, haven't been seeing their families, and they've been working late nights, midnights, getting up at 5. What better way to pay them back than with a win.
THE MODERATOR: You're now fifth in the championship, IndyCar Series. Obviously you'll be racing next week in a different car. What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?
WILL POWER: Looking forward to the road circuits and the street courses (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Actually you won all your races on street circuits, didn't you?
WILL POWER: Yes, I did. Road courses, as well. But it's understandable, these other teams had five years to develop that car, and it's just a fight, I guess, amongst the Champ Car guys at the moment, but I think we're going to halve that gap by the mid-season or after Indy, and by the end of the year we'll be a little closer.
But it's going to take this year, and you still won't be beating them next year. It's when the new car comes it makes it definitely easier for us.
THE MODERATOR: We have microphones for questions.
Q: Will, you said up in the victory stand that you were very relaxed once the race got going today. This place tends not to be a place where you can relax real easily. Was the car just that good?
WILL POWER: Yeah, the car was nice. It just all fell together, you know? It was just a relaxing race. I was very focused on what I was doing. At the end there, it was just, "Don't make any mistakes, bring it home." Actually an alarm came up on the dash. I was like, "OK, I can't believe it, five laps to go or something." But it was nothing.
What I was hoping is that there wasn't going to be a yellow because on the restart it's always a little tough because your tires get cold and then you spin the wheels, and then if someone behind you gets a run, you can throw it away. But it was a good race. I really enjoyed it, and I'm glad to enjoy my last Champ Car race.
Q: Will, did you have anything for Justin, given he went out really early? Did you think he was going to be dominant?
WILL POWER: You know, we were both going to be there saving fuel. It was game on. Yeah, I mean, he was very quick, quick in qualifying, although I wasn't that worried about it because I knew we had more out of the car in qualifying. Yeah, Sebastien was very good at saving fuel, but I caught on to what he was doing last year, and I was able to equal him. Justin, I would say, was probably going to do a similar job and was going to be -- it might have been a tough race.
Q: Franck, you only maybe had an hors d'oeuvre of American racing rather than a full dinner, but I was wondering, you compared it a little bit with cold tires. How does it compare to racing in European circuits?
FRANCK MONTAGNY: (No microphone.)
Q: Could all of you guys comment on the difference between the Bridgestone reds and the blacks and how that played in, especially toward the end, because your teammate fell off quite a bit at the end, Will?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I was on the blacks at the end. I used the reds in the first stint, and they were pretty consistent. I thought the reds were better, to be honest. The blacks didn't have quite the bite that the reds did. I think if I had it again, I'd probably use reds in the last stint, and it would maybe give me a half second or so.
Q: Franck, could you take us through the incident with Graham Rahal? It actually sort of began at the end of the back straightaway when he tried to pass you and you ran side by side into Turn 10. If you would just go through that.
FRANCK MONTAGNY: (No microphone.)
Q: Will, you're going to be the answer to a trivia question from now on, the guy to win the last one of these. Does it mean anything special that you will go down in history as the guy to win the last Champ Car race?
WILL POWER: Yeah, ever since I've joined Champ Car, my career is good. I was given a great opportunity by Craig Gore, and I took the ball and ran with it. So you know, for me, I love Champ Car racing, I love the cars, I love the engine. You know, it's great to win here in Long Beach for the last Champ Car race. It is pretty special, to be honest.
Q: Will, I'm wondering, starting with the merger in late February, then going to Graham Rahal's historic victory a couple weeks ago and then Danica's win last night, and then today we even had a female in the Atlantics win. Is it safe to say that open wheel racing might be getting more play, more publicity, than it ever has?
WILL POWER: Yes, definitely. I watched that race where Danica won. I felt really happy for her because she was smarter than the rest. She saved more fuel, and she won that fair and square. It's great for the series.
Yeah, and I saw that Simona qualified second in Atlantics; that's very impressive. She was at Walker's when I was there, and I was pretty impressed with her. It didn't surprise me to see her up there, and I was really happy to see that she had won, as well.
It's great for open-wheel racing, and with the unification and everything, I think, yeah, it's going to get a lot of media coverage.
Q: Mario, you haven't been in a car for a while. This was a hell of a race for you. How quickly did you get back into the swing, or when did you feel this weekend that you had knocked the rust off?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I haven't been in a car for six months at all, to be exact. So it has been a while. But believe it or not normally when I haven't been in a car for already like two to three months when the season ends to when the testing begins in January, it takes me a while to get used to. It takes me at least one day to get up to speed. But it's funny: The first session I drove here on the track, it's as if I had been in the car yesterday. The first session right away I was fourth. Every session here I've been in the top four, a couple times second.
We made a mistake in qualifying. That's why we didn't qualify as good. But I think the car had it in it to finish on the podium, and so did I. It's certainly not a coincidence that we finished where we are because we had been running strong all weekend.
Q: Will, you touched on this a little bit in your opening comments. Can you talk about what this means for your owners to get this victory? They've been in the news quite a lot lately. What does it mean to get this last victory?
WILL POWER: I'm sure they're extremely happy. I'm happy to give them a win. Kevin Kalkhoven has put a lot into this series, Craig Gore has put a lot into this series, as well. You know, he's run the Team Australia program for three years now, and to give these guys the last win here at Long Beach, you know, is a real feather in their cap.
THE MODERATOR: On a quick note, Kevin actually is going to be coming in here after the three drivers are completed.
Q: Will, I'd like you to explain a little bit about the start because you were alongside Justin Wilson. Did he get just a slower start and you got a better one? Can you talk about that? You passed him in the first turn, I believe.
WILL POWER: Yeah, and I think Tagliani bogged down. I saw that I think I went outside him, I can't remember. But he got a bad start. And Justin must have spun a bit too much. I got a really good start, perfect start. Yeah, and it was just a matter of out-braking him in the first corner, and that was that. I was happy. You know, going down there I said, I'm going to get this lead, I don't care what happens (laughter).
Q: Will, for those of us who weren't in victory lane, what was it that you exclaimed so loudly as your celebratory thing?
WILL POWER: I think it was, "Yeah."
Q: I think it was something else.
WILL POWER: Oh, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. That's Australian, "Aussie Aussie, Aussie, oy oy oy."
Q: Mario, one of the things that was working, I think, for you well this weekend was your relationship with the new engineer, Gerald Tyler. Again, can you talk a little bit about that, that you sort of seemed to have clicked right away?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: That was great. Honestly, I had never met Gerald before in my life until Friday, but I knew who he was. I certainly knew who he was, and I knew what he had done in the past. We had raced against each other in Indy Lights when I used to race Indy Lights, and he just pretty much won everything. He was impressive.
So when Tyler called me up and said, "Hey, I have an opportunity, would you like to work with Gerald Tyler?" I said, "Absolutely, that would be fantastic." I'll tell you what, we did great because he had never really engineered one of these cars. He had no experience, and me not driving in six months, so we just clicked right away, obviously. We got a lot of good support from Chris Lerch, as well, the other engineer from Alex Figge's car. So I think it was the whole combination of Chris' experience and Gerald's and my chemistry that clicked this time, so that was very good.
Q: Will, looking ahead to next week, you'll be back on an oval. Do you look at that as an opportunity to get better or do you look at that and think, "Oh, my God, I don't really want to do that?"
WILL POWER: It was hard at Homestead because you were just flat. You're qualifying on new tires, and you're still 4 miles an hour off. We got some bits, and I think we're going to hopefully halve the gap. And then you've got the month of May, which gives the team some time to do a little bit of development and get me accustomed to ovals. We've got plenty of time there.
I'm not going to say we're going to be up there, but we're definitely going to close the gap. At the end of the year, it would be nice to be cracking around the top 12, top 10, once we get all the bits and everything, and I get used to it.
Maybe the shorter ovals also will help us, as well, because it's not all about rolling speed. It's not all about having a really good aero package or the bearings and all the stuff they do. Yeah, I'm looking forward to the Indy 500.
Q: You mentioned that you're looking for a plan for next year to stay here in the IndyCar Series. Do you think that a result like tonight might get you a ride for the Indy 500 or maybe later on this year?
FRANCK MONTAGNY: (No microphone.)
Q: Obviously, road and street courses are a part of IndyCar Series next year, and they're talking about at least six races. What would be your favorite or most sought after six road or street courses for the circuit next year?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: The favorite road courses? For sure, I would like to see on the calendar Mexico City, which is looking good, I think; obviously Long Beach. I love racing in Toronto, Canada; I think that's a fantastic race. I would love to see a race the race in Cleveland, that's always been very historic, as well. I remember I used to go there as a spectator just to watch it, and there's a lot of sports. Now that there's IndyCar, I think it'll be very good. Houston, obviously Australia, there's something special down there.
WILL POWER: Plenty of Sheilas, too.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: That's right. I think that's it. Those are the ones that I would like.
Q: Will, does that sound good to you or how would you change that?
WILL POWER: That sounds pretty good, actually. I'd like Australia to be a points race. That would be really nice. But Mexico City, that's one of my favorite tracks; Toronto, I had a win there, so I really enjoy that circuit; Road America, that's an awesome track.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, I forgot that one.
WILL POWER: There's plenty there.
FRANCK MONTAGNY: (No microphone.)
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.