Mario Dominguez teleconference 2008-05-07

An interview with Mario Dominguez Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, Mario. Mario is a rookie in the Indy Car Series and, in fact, he and the Pacific Coast Motorsports team are preparing for their first...

An interview with Mario Dominguez
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, Mario. Mario is a rookie in the Indy Car Series and, in fact, he and the Pacific Coast Motorsports team are preparing for their first race in the series. Earlier in the season Mario finished third at Long Beach and he has previously competed in Champ Car for six seasons, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2002 and winning two races. Mario participated in the Indy 500 Rookie Orientation Program Monday and completed three phases Monday, and he completed the fourth and final phase of the program yesterday.

Welcome to the IndyCar Series. Tell us about the opportunity to come over to the series with the team and now compete in the unified series.

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, this is an incredible opportunity. Obviously very happy and very excited about the unification about the fact that we are back to the name IndyCar like it used to be 12 years ago, which is a household name.

And I'm just very excited to be here with Pacific Coast Motorsports, one of the former Champ Car teams that is also making the transition, and I give them a lot of credit. They got the car a week and a half ago, and the fact that we are here turning laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a complete miracle and a credit to their professionalism.

As far as I'm concerned, it's just a real dream come true to be able to drive here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's really been my dream ever since I can remember, and I am more than excited. There's hardly any word to describe what I'm feeling right now.

THE MODERATOR: This is your first time at Indy, and that is my next question on what it's been like the last couple of days. Can you elaborate, what's it been like to get on track and put some laps around this place?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It's been incredible. I have a lot of oval experience, and nothing that I've ever dreamed compares to this racetrack. Just compared to being here, there's just so much history here and so much tradition, that you can really feel it. To drive around this racetrack is just an absolute dream come true.

I've been here as a spectator a couple of times, and it's unbelievable. I've been to visit just the grounds a couple of times as well, and now it hasn't really hit me yet that I'm driving here, so it's fantastic.

THE MODERATOR: The team, obviously even Sunday could not get out on the track because as you mentioned, still putting the car together and doing everything they could in the last moments to get on track. What would be the goals for the month; what kind of expectations have you guys set, and what would make the month a success for you and for the team?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, obviously making the race is going to be the most important one, and it's not going to be that easy. You have everybody, all the best drivers and all the best teams now together in one series, and the competition is tough.

We have the potential, and obviously I would say a realistic goal and something that would make us have an incredible race and a great month would be to be the Rookie of the Year.

So that I think would be our main goal for this race.

THE MODERATOR: You mentioned earlier that you have some oval experience, and Indy obviously the biggest oval of them all, and we transitioned to some others, including Milwaukee that you've run in the past. Maybe talk a little about the fact that you've got some oval experience; are you excited about coming back and driving on some more ovals?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Absolutely. I think this is the best combination. I would not like to do ovals 100 percent of the time, just like now that we are running Champ Car the last year, we were missing; almost we weren't doing any.

I think the combination we have now is the best: When you have superspeedways, half-mile, one-mile ovals, mile-and-a-half ovals, street races, road courses, so that combination is the best. And it really puts the drivers and the teams and the engineers and everybody to a challenge, and it gives the fans a big variety of racetracks and things they can watch out for.

So I think we have the best combination again in the series.

Q: I have a question for you regarding Saturday's qualifying pole, I was wondering if you could maybe take us through what your expectations are, and what is the key to running a good lap there?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, I have to be honest with you. I don't think at this point in time we have a shot at pole position Saturday. We are years behind in development of cars. We just got the car a week and a half ago, and we will be competing against teams that have been developing this car for the past five years.

But I think qualifying on Sunday, on the first week of qualifying, we have a very good shot of doing that. It's not going to be easy, but I think we can do it.

I think what it takes to be fast around here, you need a car that doesn't have much grip. So you need to take a lot of aero out of it, and at the same time, it has to be steady. It has to be stable in the corners, because this place is tough. It can bite you pretty hard. And it's certainly a completely different oval to anything I've ever driven.

So to make a long story short, these cars have to be very, very much on the edge, all the time, and the driver has to put a lot of input driving it and has to use a lot of courage to be fast around here.

Q: What are your memories of the Indianapolis 500, anything that made you want to pursue a racing car career in general

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: As long as I can remember, I watched the Indianapolis 500. I remember once I was very little and probably five years old and my dad says, 'Hey, come watch this race.' He knew I liked racing, but why I liked racing, I don't know. He was not a racer, and he said, 'Come watch this race.'

And I said, 'What is it?'

'It's the Indianapolis 500.'

I said, 'What is that?'

And he said, 'It's the biggest race on the planet.' So ever since then, I got hooked.

And then Josele Garza, another fellow Mexican driver racing here in the mid 80s, and he got Rookie of the Year. So I remember watching him in that race, and he got to lead 13 laps, if I remember correctly. Honestly, ever since I can remember, since I was very young, just, you know, I've been wanting to race in Indianapolis. So hopefully my dream will come true.

Q: Being one of the drivers coming over from Champ Car, how challenging has your transition been preparing racing for Indy, and how long do you anticipate it will take you to get comfortable in your new car?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, it's been very challenging, not only for me but for the team, especially. Like I said before, the team just got this car a week and a half ago. So the fact that they were able to put it together and to bring it and make it a car that is raceable is incredible. It just shows how professional they are.

And as far as myself, I'm getting used to it very quickly. Yesterday was my first real day of running and I got used to it very quickly. I started to turn some decent lap speeds, and we started to change things in the cars so I could learn more about it, but it's difficult.

Right now, if you're asking a former Champ Car team to compete in the ovals, because obviously Graham Rahal gave us a lot of hope when he won in St. Pete on the street course. If you're asking one of the former Champ Cars to compete on the ovals against the teams that have been racing the series for the last few years, it will be very difficult, because they have been able to do a lot of development with wind tunnel and all sorts of development processes that these teams have.

But in any case, I think we have a very strong showing and have our own goals and like, for example, my main goal would be to be Rookie of the Year.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about, you had a chance to do some testing yesterday in practice; could you talk about some of the differences between the Champ Car and the car you'll be running for the Indy 500, maybe some of the different challenges this car offers you?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, they are actually different. The Champ Car was kind of lighter. It was turbocharged engine. And the gear box, they are both sequential gear boxes.

I think the main difference is the engines. One was turbocharged and this one was normally aspirated. I never got to actually drive the Champ Car in an oval.

Yeah, there's differences in the cars, but the good thing is that everybody right now uses the same car, and if you have the proper budget and the right engineers and you can do a lot of development, you can have a very competitive car.

Ideally, the ideal situation would be that next year the series would freeze the rules and you would have to buy spare parts and there would not be any more of that development that the teams do because that becomes sort of a money war, and then money becomes a lot more important. I mean, money always is in racing, but in this case, it becomes ten times worse.

Where in the other car, we had to run the exact same parts, and that was also the rules; everybody had to run the same thing. So you can change the aerodynamics of the car, so going into the wind tunnel wouldn't matter, or where doing a lot of things wouldn't matter, so it was certainly a lot cheaper.

Q: Who were your heroes in racing growing up?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, I've had heroes -- my biggest one probably Ayrton Senna, Rick Mears; one of my biggest heroes, Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti. I think they are on the top of my list.

Q: What were the feelings going out on the track for the first time when you hear all of the nostalgia; going out, what was your feelings?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It's hard to describe, but it was incredible. I felt like at that point in time I was one of the happiest men in the world because so many years and so much time of thinking I would get here and finally being actually able to do it was just fantastic. And like I said before, sometimes I don't think it has hit me yet, so I am actually here and driving around, and it's just incredible. It's such a different place to anything else I've ever been in any, as far as the racetrack is concerned, as far as the race fans and as far as the history.

Q: A follow-up question, they have paired most of the transitional teams, as they called them, the teams that came over from Champ Car with regular IRL teams. Who are you teamed up with?

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: We are working very closely with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Their driver is Max Papis, and that's been very helpful also. We get good feedback from what they are doing, and it gives us a baseline because none of us, neither the engineers nor myself have been at Indy before. Even though they are very experienced engineers, they had not been here, so the fact that we have been able to team up with them has been I think a big plus and a big help for this month.

We'll be running the rest of the season, we'll be in Mexico City, and I invited Senator Hillary Clinton, who was at the racetrack yesterday, to come and visit and she said soon, and she's been there before. The race is awesome and it's really creating a lot of expectation in Mexico. It's going to be televised on 96 JumboTrons around Mexico City, as well as TV. It's going to be huge, and it's a great project and I'm obviously very happy to be part of it.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Mario, thanks for joining us and that's great news about the JumboTrons. Hopefully you'll have a long race on Sunday, May 25th, and the fans down in Mexico City can cheer you on all afternoon.

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: That is correct, yes. It's fantastic, and I have a big responsibility, too, because this is the project of our country now, not the project of a company or a team or a driver, this is a big deal, so we'll do our best.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks so much and we appreciate it.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Max Papis , Graham Rahal , Mario Dominguez , Sam Schmidt , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Josele Garza