CART Media Conference
ANNE ROY: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is an Roy. I am the communications supervisor for the CART Toyota Atlantic Series. Thank you all for joining us this afternoon. I would like to start by introducing the drivers who are with us here today, then we'll proceed with questions from all of you. We have two drivers from Dorricott Racing. One of them is with us, the other one is in his race car right now. They are testing at Portland. Obviously, Jon Fogarty was lucky enough to be pulled out of his car, find a phone, come and join us. They did have to keep Alex Gurney in the car. Unfortunately, we will not have Alex Gurney with us this afternoon, but Jon Fogarty is with us. I thank you, Jon, for joining us, for taking time. First, let me talk about Jon Fogarty a little bit. He's driving car No. 32 for Dorricott Racing, sponsored by Thomas Fogarty Wines and Vineyards. He's driving the new Swift 14. He is our points leader right now. He's got three points over Michael Valiante, who stands in second. He's the only driver to finish on podium in each of the first two races. He finished first in Monterrey, Mexico, and third in Long Beach. Thank you for joining us, Jon.
JON FOGARTY: Thanks for having us.
ANNE ROY: Alex Gurney will not be joining us. We will introduce Rocky Moran, Jr., who is driving car No. 4 for Sigma Auto Sport, again in the new Swift 014. Rocky is in his fourth year in Atlantics with us. He's third in points with 21, that's 14 points behind Fogarty. He's a member of our inaugural CART Toyota Atlantic All-Star team that we get in the year 2000. Rocky is known as the guy who just keeps right on plugging. He just hangs right in there. In the year 2000, he was the only driver to finish every lap from every race. He's earned his first win with us last year at Laguna Seca while driving for Cobb Racing. In Monterrey, Mexico, he finished sixth and fifth in Long Beach last week. Welcome, Rocky. Thanks for being with us.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: Thank you, Ann, it's a lot of fun.
ANNE ROY: It's nice to have you guys. If no one has any objections, we will move on to the questions from some of our media folks who have joined us this afternoon.
Q. For both of the drivers, can you compare this year's new Swift chassis with last year's? Is it improved? How much? What's the difference?
JON FOGARTY: I can get into it a little bit. We did our testing program this season with last year's car. It was actually Rocky's car that he won Laguna with. We had a pretty good car right off the bat. Got comfortable in that car pretty quickly. Then we were able to shake down the new car. It was pretty apparent right off the bat that the new car was more rigid, a little more stiff, added a little more security in some of the quicker corners. Unfortunately, our test track doesn't have too many fast corners, so we weren't really able to tap into that right away. Hopefully, this weekend right now we're testing up in Portland, which does have some quick corners. It should become apparent how much better it is through the fast stuff, although we don't have data from the old car. But it's nicer to drive. The gearbox is easier to deal with. It's just a little bit more confidence inspiring, I would say.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: I kind of agree with that. I got to drive the Swift 008 for a long time. I ran it the second half of '99, 2000, 2001. I've gotten to put in some decent hours so far in the 14. Pretty much similar deal. They've generally made it a stiffer chassis overall. The tub has been reinforced, stiffer trunnions. The tunnel configuration is a little bit different. The bodywork itself is a little bit different, a little bit easier, nicer to work on. It's got increased head protection over last year's car. It's pretty good. Seems to weigh about the same as last year's car, so the weight is pretty similar. As far as driving it goes, the biggest difference for me was the improved gearbox. The gearbox on the 008 was pretty finicky, pretty lightweight. They really beefed it up this year. I think reliability-wise it's going to be a much better car than the 008. The overall stiffness you feel I think really is going to become more apparent at tracks that are quicker, Laguna, Road America, or ovals where there's going to be more support, the car is not going to be flex around in the middle of the corner. Overall, it's different in a lot of ways, but it's not all that different to drive. It's just a little stiffer chassis overall.
Q. The stiffer chassis helps the setup be quicker?
JON FOGARTY: Yeah, in general, you know, stiffer is better. It's better to have a tub that's not flexing around as much. It's not night and day. It's not like you get in it and completely can't believe how much better it is. It's real subtle. But I think at the quicker tracks, it's going to be a lot nicer.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: It allows you to really keep a better handle on what the shocks themselves are doing. The suspension is doing most of the complying with the road rather than the chassis. Nice from that perspective.
Q. Rocky, are you still flying?
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: Yeah, I am still flying. I've gone up a couple times since my little incident.
Q. I saw the live coverage on that. You started jumping up and down with your friends.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: Yeah. That was a great day. That was a totally great day. Quite an adventure. I don't recommend crash-landing airplanes to too many people.
Q. You've been with several teams last year. How does Sigma compare to those teams? Sigma looks like they gave you a really good car. How do you feel this year?
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: Overall, it's by far the best team that I've been with. We've got a great, great team. It's headed up by Jim Griffith who obviously has a lot of experience in the Toyota Atlantic Series. He was the engineer that basically won the championship with Buddy Rice, he was behind the Lynx cars when they were so successful. It's good to be working with someone that has a reputation like that. The team is really well-organized. It's definitely a young team. Funding has been pretty tight, tighter than we thought it was going to be. We're a little bit behind. I had an injury, you know, prior to the season that put us behind a little bit. Right now we're probably five or six test days behind most of the other teams. We're just playing catch-up. This little break between Long Beach and Milwaukee is good for us. I'm excited. Like you said, definitely the best shot I had. Unfortunately for me, the competition this year is a big step up from the years past. This year if you're a few 10ths off, 4 or 5/10ths off, you can be as far back as 9th and 10th, 3rd or 4th last year. That adds a little bit of complexity to everything. But I'm excited. I think as the year goes on, we're going to continue to get stronger.
Q. Rocky, I don't know the full story on the airplane incident.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: In a nutshell, my buddies and I decided to go out and have our hundred dollar hamburger. We were on our way back home, tried to put the landing gear down. The light didn't come on. My buddy looked out the back, noticed that the right wheel didn't come down. The front wheel did, the left main did. We basically circled for about thre and a half hours, burning off fuel, going through all the emergency procedures. At one point my buddy was hanging out of the window trying to knock the wheel down with a tow bar. My other buddy was in the back, ripping out carpet, trying to take out panels from the plane. I was doing steep turns, stalls, I was flipping the plane trying to get gravity and wind to pull it down. Tried everything we could. Meanwhile, a bunch of the media helicopters, all the southern California local news helicopters gathered all around us. It was all over the news. All my friends kind of figured out it was me. Finally ended up having to land at Jon Wayne Airport with just two wheels. The right side landing gear wouldn't come down. Basically bellied it in, once the air (inaudible) bled off, skidded off the runway, hit a sign. We jumped out, were dancing around. We all got interviewed on the news. Turned out to be a pretty crazy, fun night. But there was definitely some tense moments.
Q. Too bad with all that publicity you didn't have a sponsor to hang on the side of the airplane.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: That would have been perfect (laughter).
Q. When did this happen?
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: This happened I think about January 10th, roughly.
Q. Sigma Auto Sport, the team in the CART series came off the big podium finish at Long Beach. I was talking to Max afterwards. He talked about the fact that he hoped the good run they had at Long Beach would just filter energy all the way through the team, including the Toyota Atlantic Series.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: Yeah, yeah. That's really cool. I thought it was awesome that they pulled a third out of Long Beach. They started pretty far down the grid. Had a good fuel strategy that got them up there. Once Max was up there, he did a good job of defending his position, especially considering he had Kenny Brack on him and I think some cars that were a bit quicker than him. I think that's a really, really cool thing for the Champ car team in particular. I think that just boosted everyone's momentum for the rest of the season. It's just cool because I think they're fourth in points. Although the Atlantic side hasn't been that stellar yet, we're sitting third in points. At least we have a good shot once we get our side of the thing going to jump up and try for the championship. It always makes everyone happy to see Max doing good, too. It's pretty cool to be part of Atlantic, to be part of a Champ car team and an Atlantic team. We're like the only team that's got that going right now. It's definitely a cool thing to be part of.
Q. Isn't it odd that one of the teams that is trying to get a foot hold in auto racing and quite frankly financially you're nowhere close to some of the front-runners, even in the Toyota Atlantic Series, but yet it's the only team that is fielding a car in both series.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: Yeah. I think you just have to attribute that to Tom Wieringa. It's kind of been his vision to pull something off like this. He wants to prove that the ladder series does work. I just hope that some of the other CART team owners that didn't think they had enough money to do it can realize they probably can do it if they go for it. Hopefully Tom is kind of paving the path for that. It's one of the most important things about CART is to make sure that the Toyota Atlantic Series works and the champions of Toyota Atlantic get lodged into Champ car. I think what he's doing is great. It's definitely taking its toll. Financially it's a very hard thing to pull off. Tom is working double overtime to make it happen. I definitely support him in that. I think it's pretty cool.
Q. Does that make you work harder knowing that Tom is having to work as hard as he is?
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: I work to my best ability no matter what, I really do. But it's cool to be surrounded by a group of people that have the same mentality and, you know, are working that hard. It's really, really neat.
Q. Rocky, can you talk a little about how you came up in motorsports? Obviously you come up in a racing family. Did that influence you to race or is he like many dads that let you decide on your own?
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: He completely brainwashed me (laughter). Basically he put me on a little ATC when I was about two years old, then I had a go-kart when I was three. I was definitely playing around on toys just for the fun of it before I really knew what was going on. As I grew up, he honestly wasn't one of those little league dads that forced it on me. We've always had a good relationship. I was always competitive in all the sports I played, just really took a liking to go-karting. He obviously raced in the GTP and Indy car era. I always thought it was really neat all the racing he did. Basically started go-karting when I was 10 years old. Just absolutely loved it, totally enjoyed it, it was my favorite thing to do. I did it up until the time I was about 14. My dad really helped me to get into motorsports when I was young, in the open-wheel stuff in particular. I was going to the Skip Barber School and Barber Dodge Pro Series at 14. Ended up running Barber Dodge from 1996 to 1999, three and a half seasons. Then I got an opportunity to move up to the Toyota Atlantic Series the second half of the '99 season and have been here ever since. You know, basically everything I've done has pretty much been over here in the US in the CART-sanctioned feeder series.
Q. Jon, how about your background other than your family is into wine, which is always interesting to me?
JON FOGARTY: I've always been into any sort of speed sport really. I wasn't raised in a motorsport family. I did like Rocky, had an ATC-70. Broke a good number of bones riding that thing. I was into BMX racing when I was real young, too, five or six years old. Got into motorcross when I was a kid. I raced 80s over at Bay Lands Raceway in the Bay Area for a few years. Really didn't have much of an avenue into auto racing. I was pretty much just living a normal life as a kid until my brother got into auto racing, my oldest brother Tommy. In high school, he convinced my parents to put me through the Skip Barber system. I went through the school when I was about 15 and actually didn't start racing again until my freshman year of college where I started racing Formula Vs in the West Coast racing team. I did pretty well there. Then went into the Skip Barber system full-time. Did two years in their two-liter series. Joined with the pro series, raced with Rocky for a couple years. Then Indy Lights last year. Now I'm here in the Toyota Atlantic Series.
Q. Seems like both you guys speak to the success of the CART ladder system.
JON FOGARTY: The Skip Barber series, the pro series is pretty darn effective building your skills, not necessarily your skills, but you have to put in so much effort there because it's so competitive and everything is so closely matched. Yeah, I have to attribute a lot to that.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: I think like 40 percent of our field is Barber Dodge guys right now, like a reunion class.
ROCKY MORAN, JR.: It is. It's pretty cool.
ANNE ROY: Thank you very much, Jon, Rocky, members of the media. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. We will all see you soon.
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