CART Media Conference
April 28, 1998
T.E. McHALE: Thank you all for bearing with us today while we had a little technical difficulty getting the call together. We'd like to extend a special welcome to our guest this afternoon, driver Patrick Carpentier, of Player's Forsythe Racing. Good afternoon, Patrick, and thank you for being with us this afternoon.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Good afternoon. I apologize for being a few minutes late also.
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon again, Patrick, driver of the No. 33 Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes. Earned a first pole position of his FedEx Championship series career on Saturday when he toured the .946 mile oval at Nazareth Speedway in a track record 18.419 seconds, averaging 184.896 miles per hour, having qualified third at Nazareth last year, Patrick now owns his two best career qualifying efforts at Nazareth Speedway. He finished 13th in Monday's rain-delayed Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix presented by Toyota, his second-best finish of the 1998 season. He was 11th in the season opener at Homestead. Patrick was CART's 1997 Rookie of the Year, and his second-place performance in last year's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway stands at the best finish of the 13-year history of Bettenhausen Motorsports. Heading into the May 10th Rio 400, round five of the FedEx Championship Series, he is 21st in the PPG Cup standings, with three points. The Rio 400 will be televised by tape delay on ABC on Monday, May 10th, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. We will now open the floor for questions.
Q. Patrick, I just wonder if you would comment a little bit just on the -- I don't know, the growing pains I guess of a young driver coming into this series and the frustrations, you know, trying to establish yourself and build a name for yourself and also at the same time the responsibilities I guess of, you know, the series with the Bobby Rahals of the world starting to retire and things like that, trying to promote the new, young drivers coming into the series.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think that the series is more and more competitive, the FedEx CART Championship Series is one of the most competitive in the world now, with NASCAR and Formula One. I'm pretty happy to be part of it, especially with the pole we had this weekend. I was really happy with the big names, like Bobby Rahal, Unser, and all these guys. I think there's more and more kids that are coming to the sport, with like development programs, like Player's has one. Many team has. And more and more kids are going to be coming, and I think that it's just a generation change. Bobby decided that it was his last year, and he said to one of my friend that you don't lose any speed as you get older, you just maybe sometimes want to take it a little more easy on the racetrack but in the life itself. So he thought it was time for him to retire, but they're still extremely competitive. Does that answer the question?
T.E. McHALE: Before we go any further, I want to point out we will have a slot of time at the end of this teleconference for journalists who wish to ask questions in French. So we'll take some English questions to start, and we'll leave some time at the end for journalists who want to ask a question in French.
Q. How are you today?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Not too bad. The cold is a little bit better.
Q. That's good. A question I have. Quebec athletes are idolized in their province and particularly in race car driving. How much pressure do you feel? First of all, you're Canadian racing in largely American and -- European American, plus carrying the extra pressure of a whole province that watches and hangs on every race. Does that factor in at all when you're racing? Do you feel extra pressure at all?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, you don't really think about that. Sometimes you just want to perform and win so it makes your country happy and the people that are watching that are hoping you're going to get a pole or a victory pretty happy, so you always want to do the best you can and try to make the fans happy. But every driver in the series has fans, and when it's someone else that wins, then you just have to wait until it's your turn. But I live in U.S. now, so I don't see as much -- we get a lot of coverage in Quebec and people and stuff. I live in the U.S., so there's maybe a little bit less pressure from that, being away to the center of racing of the U.S.
Q. You are in the pole position, you're sitting No. 1, because of some fueling problems, you finished 13th yesterday. How frustrating was that?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It was frustrating, but compared to the first three weekends we had, I was extremely happy. A pole position doesn't happen every weekend with the FedEx CART series, and the Player's did a great job with the car. The car was perfect all weekend. We were fast in the race, we just didn't have the timing to the pit stop. We had to stop eight times total. We had problem with the fuel holes, and it was a shame, but at least we had very good speed. We were competitive, and I think the more the season will go, the better we'll be. We'll have more timing in the pits. But in the CART series, everything has to be perfect. The pits has to be perfect, the car, the strategy and everything, and we missed in the pits, but hopefully next time, we'll be good in the pits.
Q. Patrick, winning your first pole, can you tell us what it will do for your growth as a driver in CART?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think it's going to be very good. I had a lot of pole position and victories in former Atlantic, but it's been a while since we've had very good results. In the CART series, it takes some time to learn and a lot of testing. But the confidence plays a big part in the driver, and I think that coming into this weekend after the tests we did at Portland, where we were half a second faster than last year's pole position, I was very confident and very happy because I struggled a bit more on the road course than on the oval last year. And I've always preferred the road course before. So I think a good result on road course. I knew if we get some times and without any problems, gear box, and any of that that we had, electronics that we had early on the season, that we'd be quick. Because my engineer understands my driving. He understands what kind of car I need to be fast, and I think he understands it more and more, so I think that this pole position will only add up to the atmosphere on the team. And I think all the team needs is just to prove when everything goes right, then we can be up at the front too.
Q. If I may ask a secondary question. What do you think the team will now do to make sure that that fueling problem won't happen again? Will you do a lot of practicing?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah. I left this week, I'm on vacation this week at my parents' house in Quebec. The team is going to practice the pit stop. They're going to recheck the whole system. I know right after the race, they tried to put fuel in, they did a lot of tests and trying to find out what went wrong with the hose or the box where the fuel goes in or the vent or whatever it could be. So they're trying to find out. They didn't know for sure after the race, but I think they're going to work on it this week until we find out.
Q. So you think it was a mechanical problem rather than a manmade problem, a problem with --
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, we don't know yet, but I think it was more mechanical. That's what Tony told me that he thinks it's mechanical things that went wrong. But we're not sure what happened yet, so maybe we'll find out this week.
Q. Congratulations, Patrick, on your qualification.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
Q. First you had qualification, then the rain, then the race. Did that grade off the track, change the track conditions enough for you to feel it, sense a difference, or did you take anything away from that change in track conditions that you think you can use later on in your career?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It changed the track a little bit, but it didn't change the balance of the car, so the balance of the car seems to have stayed about the same. Our car was pretty good. At one point it was a little bit loose in the race, but characteristics were pretty much the same as the day before, so there was not much change. What we watch for a lot more than the track condition is the air density, and that had changed from Saturday to Monday a little bit, but the engineers know what to do to adjust the car so we don't feel the change very much.
Q. I'm wondering with the problems that you had during the race and when it's something that's occurring in the pits and you know it's not going to go away, is that at the point where you kind of become the team leader and try to make sure that the team knows that you're remaining patient with them?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yes. After the race, the team was a little bit discouraged because they thought we had a really good car, a podium-finish car, a top five, and we didn't pull it out. But there's a lot of new people on the team, and it always takes some time. Lee Dykstra my engineer, and Michael Cannon, they still have some stuff to learn, although Lee is really good and Mike. They were in Indy Lights last year. They've got some new stuff in Indy Cars now with engines and calibrations and all that. So we still have to learn on that. After the race, that's what I said to one of the guys from the crew kind of apologized and I said, oh, no, I'm very happy because I think that we can win. You don't get a pole position every day, and especially in that series where it's so competitive, and Player's has always had good race cars and always prepared good stuff. So it's just timing a little bit. But at least the speed was there and I told them that, you know, the speed is there, we only need to get timing. That's it. With practice, we'll get it to together. But at least this weekend for the first time this year, we showed we had really good speed.
Q. So with you taking that type of a role, is this yet another learning process in your development?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah. I've learned a lot this year since I've been with the Player's. They seem to be used to having new drivers. They brought a lot of confidence back in me that I had lost a little bit with the hard season towards the end of the year last year, and they always encourage and teach me some things. I have Richard Spenard that is the driver coach for the development program. He follows me around. He's been with me since I was 15. The only year I didn't have him was last year. And this year, he tells me like for qualifying, he told me something to do in Corner 3 and I did it and it was much faster. It's coming up all together, and I think we're going to be stronger on ovals. It's hard to be stronger than the pole position, but on road course, we're going to be stronger and stronger also. And probably next year we'll -- or maybe this year, too, fight for the championship.
Q. Congratulations on the pole.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
Q. Now, I remember last year when you were hired by Bettenhausen and Bettenhausen was on one of these teleconferences and he said, you know, I was amazed at that kid talking on the radio as he was going through a turn at full throttle down at Sebring. Now, yesterday I was on your Web site listening to you people and somebody's talking to you in Canadian -- I mean, in French, and who might that have been?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, that's the one I was just talking about is Richard Spenard. He helps me for the restarts and all that. Then he tells me who is gaining on me in which corners and what we need to gain and who to watch if somebody is coming behind. He's part of the Player's development program, but he was the owner of the Spenard/David Racing School and that's where I started racing with Jaques Villeneuve, and he's been teaching me since I was 15. He's been a very positive thing for me. Then he came to Portland, helped me a lot. Improved the driving and the car and everything. I think that it's a good mix between him, me and my engineering.
Q. I don't know what he was saying, but he was telling you some good stuff evidently.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, he tries to encourage me sometimes. He tries to tell me like in Corner 3, I was a bit faster than ever everybody else. I was losing a bit of ground in Corner 2, so he was telling me to keep what I'm doing in Corner 3 and try to get a little bit faster, and Jimmy was trying to try to pass me at one point. He said if you take that corner just fast enough, he cannot pass because he cannot make it to you before you come back. So a lot of stuff like that that's helping me in the race.
Q. I know you're coming to Gateway International in May. Compare that track with Nazareth a little bit.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It's very similar. I thought it was a very similar track. You have a long corner that's basically flat out in fifth gear or sixth gear depending on what you use to race, and it's a little bit bumpy but not enough to upset the car. And you come into Corner 1 and 2, which is banked a little bit, same thing as Nazareth where you have to slow down a little bit more and lose more speed. It's a pretty similar setup than what you're in at Nazareth, and we had good luck there last year. Hopefully it will be good this year.
Q. Good luck at Rio and get some of those zinc pills. They'll get rid of that cold.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
Q. Fantastic result on Saturday with the pole. Wonder if you had helium in your tires there to keep you so light around the corner?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it was one of my best qualifying effort, even including Atlantic. It was very fast. I did Corner 1 and 2 flat out. The car had a lot of grip. We made a small change just before we went out to qualify. The car was basically neutral perfect, and I could come up to temperature very quickly with the tires. So the first two laps, I took it a bit slower because at Homestead, my fast lap happens too quick and the lap after that was much slower, so I learned from that and I waited a little bit more and adjusted what we call a bonsai, a lap going into Corner 3 where I was braking all weekend. The car had so much grip that I decided not to brake going into Corner 3, and I just lifted the throttle a little bit and the car went sideways a little bit, but it had so much grip that when I came back to the power, it just balanced itself and we took the corner very fast, 15 miles an hour faster than what we did before.
Q. That was great to watch on the stats. Going into Rio, that's an oval, but it's kind of road-coursy. Can you talk about that a little?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I'm pretty happy to go back to Rio. Last year, we had a good run there. We were third fastest in the morning warm-up. It's a little bit like a road course. You have two very long straightaways, and you have corners which you rarely do on a oval, down shift for the corners two or three gears and then go back up to gear. It's like an oval with two air pits at each end of it, but a little bit wider, and it's been good for us. Last year, it was very bumpy, a lot of bumps on the back, so we can't lower the car as much as we would like to on other ovals, but we'll see how it's going to go there. Nobody test there, and last year it was great. We had bad luck at the start because we were involved in an accident, but hopefully this year if we get to qualify good, we'll get our pit stops straight and have a good race.
Q. Well, you have a good time on your holiday there and get better and have a good race in Rio.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
T.E. McHALE: We'll begin taking questions in French for those of you who wish to ask Patrick a question in French. If you wish to ask a question, press star 1, and again, French questions for Patrick, beginning right now. (Questions and answers in French.) We want to thank you all who joined us. We want to thank Patrick for joining us today. We wish him the best of luck in the Rio 400. Thanks all of you who are still with us and who stayed with us. Have a good afternoon.
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