Gateway 100 at Gateway International Raceway Top-three press conference transcript August 9, 2003 Jeff Simmons (winner) Keith Duesenberg (winning car owner) Cory Witherill (second) Arie Luyendyk Jr. (third) THE MODERATOR: We have our...
Gateway 100 at Gateway International Raceway
Top-three press conference transcript
August 9, 2003
Jeff Simmons (winner)
Keith Duesenberg (winning car owner)
Cory Witherill (second)
Arie Luyendyk Jr. (third)
THE MODERATOR: We have our runner-up and third-place drivers. Couple notes here: Arie Luyendyk Jr., third top-five finish this season, fifth top-10 finish this season and certainly one of the more eventful days.
ARIE LUYENDYK JR.: Definitely.
THE MODERATOR: You have to feel pretty good sitting where you are right now after what happened this morning in warm-up.
ARIE LUYENDYK JR.: Yeah, and yesterday wasn't a great day, either. We were last on the timesheets in the first session, then we moved up to 10th, ended up qualifying seventh. So, we were a bit behind everybody. We didn't test here and that was really a disadvantage for me. It felt good to start the race in seventh and come out third because we had a great car on the long runs, but in traffic, it was a little bit of a handful. You know, we didn't have much luck this morning with the crash, and luck turned around for the race, I guess.
THE MODERATOR: And our runner-up today, Cory Witherill, started sixth, finished second. Fifth top-10 finish of the season. Good day all in all, isn't it, Cory?
CORY WITHERILL: Pretty much a pretty good weekend. At least we came here with a brand-new car. After the crash last weekend in Michigan, we pretty much destroyed that car. This week, we were still putting it together when we first showed up here. It's just a matter of getting comfortable with the new car, making sure the brakes and everything were set in. I wasn't really a 100 percent confident with the car, but I knew the crew could do an awesome job of putting it together. So, I just kind of believed that everything was going to be perfect, but still, I had little thing in the back of me saying, 'Be a little cautious.' So, that's what we were all weekend. It just started coming around this morning in the warm-up session. We were fourth quickest. Then during the race, I knew we were going to have a fast car, a potential car to win. And, I mean, during the race, you know, I figure we probably would have been fourth or better. But, obviously, there was a crash at the end there, and we took second place. Can't argue with that, especially with the year. We've been kind of struggling to get the good luck and the good finishing position. I guess this is kind of a payback.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open the floor to questions.
Q: Arie, take us through the process as you're putting the car back together. What happened in the warm-up, part of a four-car melee and putting the car back together.
ARIE LUYENDYK JR.: Well, Thiago (Medeiros) and I, I was using him to see what the car was like in traffic. We came through Turn 3, and as we were entering Turn 4, I got a call on the radio from my spotter saying that there was a yellow, car high, so go low. But he said it a little too late. It was a little bit of a late warning because Moses (Smith) spun, and Tom (Wood) collected with Moses, then Gary (Peterson) went into the wall at the same time. So when I came through there, there was just debris everywhere. Actually, a piece of debris got caught underneath the car at the same time I was braking, which sent it into a spin. Thiago actually made it through and was ahead of me. But if I didn't hit that piece of debris, I probably would have made it through, too. So it was an unlucky, unfortunate accident. The crew was able to do a great job in putting the car back together. We got a little help from Brian Stewart Racing with a rear wing assembly. The car was right on time. We rolled up right before the race, and I had enough confidence in the guys knowing that the car would be good. The car was actually great in the long run.
Q: It's been obviously a very dominating season by the Panther team and by Mark (Taylor). To get a day like this, for both of you, a lot of the drivers in the garage, it's like 'Yeah, here we are all, too?'
CORY WITHERILL: Yeah, you know, today is. But also, this is one track, it comes to handling, comes to driver skill and team knowledge. The ones that are on top of it, the drivers that are on top of it, they're going to shine the most here. All the other tracks you're competing at, we're flat all the way around. Anyone here could hop in one of these cars and go flat all the way around a 2-mile oval. When you come to a track like this, Phoenix, Homestead, where you have to set the car up, that's where it's going to show the talent, the team and the driver. Here, we were quick and everything. I have a lot of experience at this track, racing Indy Lights cars, a bunch of other stuff in the past.
ARIE LUYENDYK JR.: Everyone, especially for the championship, it was a break to have Mark Taylor go out. But when you look at our points system, it's actually kind of a disappointment because there's only 12 cars in the field. So when someone falls out, he finishes 10th, it's kind of like you don't make up any ground unless you're winning every race. The points system, it's hard to make up ground, but then again, it's hard to, you know, run away from everybody, as well. But Mark has done a great job this year winning I think four or five races. It's just hard to catch someone who is able to test everywhere and has an unlimited amount of money to deal with. For the smaller teams, especially for our team, it's very hard because we couldn't come and test here because of our crash in Michigan, and then you're just one step behind. So it was a relief that Mark fell out, just for the point system. But, then again, you never like to see anyone fall out of a race.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We welcome to the podium Jeff Simmons, the Gateway 100 winner, his team owner Keith Duesenberg. Jeff, you had a day, and the last time you were here your day ended early. You started well, qualified third, went out about 25 laps to go. Today a little better.
JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah. Back in 2000, running Indy Lights, we qualified third, were running second. I was actually lapping my teammate, and just lost it in Turn 3. I guess this track kind of owed me one. It was great that it happened today and with Western Union behind us. We had a lot of people from Western Union today supporting us. It was just a great day. I was so happy when I saw those guys touch. I knew something was going to happen there, whether or not it was going to be a pass, or they were going to dice a little bit. I saw Mark get high. I was just hoping that we would be able to come out of it better.
THE MODERATOR: This is your sixth top-five finish in the last seven races. You started in the top 5 every race this season, but this is the first time to Victory Circle.
JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah. I mean, you know, we've been in position to win several times. It just seems like things didn't quite go right for us. Little things sometimes, like a wire in Kansas, when we were running in about third place or so. You know, I made a mistake in Homestead when we were leading. That took us out of one. Other than that, you know, I mean, we really could have finished on the podium, you know, every race. It's just been little things here and there that have been holding us back. This is kind of great that we got it today. It's almost sort of fitting that it was -- that it happened so late and that two guys came together for us to get that win.
THE MODERATOR: Since you had the front row seat, take us through that.
JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, I saw Mark got held up in the traffic, and I figured he was, you know -- he would be all right anyway if he just took his time. Looks like he just pushed high in (Turns) 1 and 2, basically in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2. As he came back down, Brandon (Erwin) had a pretty good run on him. Looked like Mark tried to throw a little bit of a block on him coming out of (Turn) 2, and Brandon chose the high side to try to go around him. I think Mark kind of started to move up a little bit, and they came together. It was just a bunch of smoke. I slowed down right away to try to figure out which way the cars were going to go. I saw them separating, so I just shot through the middle before the hole closed. We made it through clean.
THE MODERATOR: Were you afraid when you slowed that somebody might find your backside?
JEFF SIMMONS: I knew we had a pretty good gap, I thought, to Cory (Witherill) running fourth. You know, I checked my mirrors several times. I checked my mirrors every lap. I knew we had quite a bit of distance to him.
THE MODERATOR: Keith Duesenberg, your reactions on the day.
KEITH DUESENBERG: I guess the first one is, 'Wow!' Great day. Really interesting weekend. When we got here, Jeff was sicker than a dog, to be quite honest with you. He's been sitting in the lounge. We even called a friend of mine, a doctor, to find out what could be done. A lot of fluids, a lot of interesting foods to get him back in there. Every time we put the belts on, tight on him, there was a little pain. But as a great athlete, you know, you persevere. You know, Jeff did a great job. We were proud of him. The Western Union team was just totally proud of the whole effort. My thoughts were it was a rough weekend. I guess it was a fitting finish because of some of the problems we had. But I'm proud of Jeff. I'm proud of the team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q: The injury or illness that you had to go through this week, Jeff, what was it?
JEFF SIMMONS: I'm not sure exactly what it is, actually. I thought it was the flu earlier in the week because on Wednesday I had about 103 degree temperature. The temperature went away fairly quickly and was pretty much totally gone by Friday, but I've had pretty intense abdominal cramping. I think it's some sort of intestinal virus, or maybe I got some sort of food poisoning. I'm not sure. But I've just been pretty sick. I've just been really taking it pretty easy this week. I haven't done anything but trying to drink fluids all day long.
KEITH DUESENBERG: I might add that Jeff's birthday was Tuesday, so maybe he had a bit of celebration that he's actually holding back on telling us.
THE MODERATOR: How old are we now?
JEFF SIMMONS: Are you really going to make me say? 27.
Q: What did they make you eat?
KEITH DUESENBERG: You know what, actually the doctor said drink not only water but Gatorade, Powerade, but also, believe it or not, potato chips. My guess would be to keep the fluids in him because, you know, the salt keeps the fluids in.
JEFF SIMMONS: Otherwise they just run right out (laughter).
KEITH DUESENBERG: Jeff won't eat any of that stuff. We're trying to tell him to eat potato chips. 'Yeah, right.'
Q: You've been consistent but under the radar all season. Do you feel this is the breakout, now you can go forward?
JEFF SIMMONS: I mean, I think that people that really, really know the series well, you know, are certainly aware that our team has been really a threat every single weekend. But certainly, yeah, I mean, I hope this is a breakout race, and I hope we can string a few wins together now. That, coupled with some misfortune for Taylor in a few other races, could bring us right back up there. It's not over yet. We're not going to look at it like it's over until it is. Hopefully, you know, the magnificent fashion in which we got the monkey off our back will really propel us forward.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations.
KEITH DUESENBERG: Thank you.