Indy Car Racing Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
March 27, 1996
BOB ANDREW: Thank you very much. Welcome, everyone, to the teleconference today. We are very glad to have with us Paul Tracy, driver of the Marlboro Team Penske. We are glad to have with us Paul Tracy driver of the Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes Benz entry. Paul is the defending champion of the Australia race which he is down under now preparing for. IndyCar-Australia can be seen in the United States this coming Sunday on ABC. And that race will be shown at 2 o'clock. We have Paul with us from the Marriott hotel in Australia. Welcome, Paul. We will get right to questions since it is very early in the morning for him. I was able to catch most of the names of the people, so if I don't call on you, please don't feel left out; jump in and ask a question of Paul.
Q. Paul, it is better with Roger's team the second time around? I know the first time you put probably more miles around Nazareth than, you know, the cops do along there patrolling around . How was your off-season? How has your testing been going since you came--
PAUL TRACY: Well, the car is going well in testing. Had a good off-season. We still have a couple of little needling problems that we had. We had some with gearbox trouble in the last couple of races, but it is something that we need to work on. Going to Seabring when I get back, I will be going to Seabring, Wednesday and Thursday and then Nazareth again the following Monday, so we still have some work to do.
Q. Paul, talk about the track there at Australia. How much a difference will there be off of last year to this year?
PAUL TRACY: I do not think there will be any difference. I don't think they have changed anything, so I mean, it is still the same course. I mean, they do a fantastic job down here. The finish of the course. Finish is first class; pretty much everything is in. All the stands everything is in. They are just finishing up and laying grass right now and they do a nice job.
Q. Do you have a different race plan being in the Mercedes this year as opposed to being in the Newman Haas car last year?
PAUL TRACY: I don't think so. I think, you know, obviously we have got to practice on Friday to qualify as best we can but this is a race that is real hard on brakes and gearboxes, so it is one of those endurance races. It is fairly long, 200 miles. It is a long circuit, so it is pretty hard on the cars.
Q. Last year you won the race at Surfers and you like street races, you told me once on the air.?
PAUL TRACY: That is for sure. I enjoy the street courses. This is our first street course of the year which is nice because we have been on two real fast ovals the first two races, so I mean it will be nice to get on a straight course and start getting after it.
Q. Is it for sanctioning bodies not just IndyCar to consider including the driver weight in the minimum weight so when you roll off everyone weighs exactly the same?
PAUL TRACY: I think it is something that they can look at. I mean, it will be nice for me because I am one of the bigger guys in the series, but overall, I think the series is pretty balanced -- we have got 3, 4 car manufacturers now. Obviously Toyota and they are just getting up to speed. I think overall, the rules structures, is made up quite well to make everything fairly equal. I mean, last year, I think the last race, I mean I think every chassis left the race at one time, I mean, it shows how competitive the series is between the motor manufacturers and the car manufacturers. It is quite equal.
Q. Follow-up on the gearbox. Is that a reliability issue or is it affecting your ability to get the gear you need?
PAUL TRACY: Well, it is just a problem we are having with the selector it's involving the gears to get banked around and chew up the gears. We had a problem down in Rio; all three cars failed, on gearbox failures in one practice session, so they are just need to beef some things up in some areas. It is a new gearbox this year and just need to strengthen in some areas, so it is not something that we could have done with this road trip. We are going to Brazil and Australia but we've got some new bits to try when we get back, when we go to Seabring.
Q. Paul, I wanted to ask you if you entered into an agreement with the IndyCar's International venues. You have been doing a lot of traveling. Does it kind of wear you out early in the season to be doing all of this?
PAUL TRACY: Well, it is not too bad on the drivers. I think it is harder on the crews; harder on the teams to get all this done, but I think it is what we need to do to promote the series. I mean, we have had fantastic support in Australia and judging by the way Rio went, we had fantastic support over there and also with Andre winning the race, I mean, it is just going to make IndyCar more popular in Brazil. I mean,, sure, everybody saw the crowd's reaction when he took the lead and won the race. They just went crazy. So I mean, that is great for IndyCar, and I mean, there was talk of going to some other places; maybe Japan, Europe. I think it is good for the series.
Q. Paul, as another person who has been called "four-eyes" most of his life and has worn glasses and has considered radial keratotomy -- you recently had that done. Had you noticed positives or negatives after that was done and you don't have to wear the glasses anymore?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I tell you, it is nice not having to wear them in the race car. Really, Brazil, it was so hot down there, I mean, normally I would have a lot of problems with my glasses getting water and, you know, from sweat dripping down my face, my glasses sliding off my nose because my nose would be wet from sweating and I mean, it was really nice not to drive with glasses. I mean, that is the biggest difference. My vision is as good, you know, there was a few little drawbacks at night; get a little bit of starburst from headlights from other cars but I can live with that, with not having to wear the glasses.
Q. Is it also easier from a glare standpoint from reflections from the back of the lenses?
PAUL TRACY: Not really. I mean, you know, the first when I first had it done, the first couple of weeks I had -- I was real light-sensitive on my eyes because of the surgery. That goes away. I mean, I think it is great.
Q. Can I ask about the Honda motors this year, they seem to be pretty strong. Do you think when it comes to road courses, it is going to be a little more equal with the Mercedes power plan?
PAUL TRACY: I really do. I think you know, Honda has always been strong. Last year they were very strong Indian Michigan. Obviously, they got good top-end horsepower motor. But they weren't as strong on the road courses and street courses we will see this weekend. This will be the first test for them; if they have been able to bridge the gap.
Q. Paul, do you notice any difference your second time around back with the Penske team? Is it different; more mature?
PAUL TRACY: I think everybody is glad to have me back. I think when I left some of the guys were disappointed that I worked with and coming back, I guess, maybe I have a little bit more responsibility in terms of testing and developing the car and doing a lot more testing than I have ever done. So I mean, from that standpoint, it has been a lot better.
Q. Paul, I had a question getting back to the Penske Team. Were you able to take any valuable lessons being with another team last year, being with Newman Haas. Were you able to learn from that experience last year? What were some of the things you were able to take away?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, every team that I have ever been with works in a different manner. I mean, I guess the main thing is Roger, he kind of runs his own operations and I mean, it is really a nice situation to be in. I mean, there is not a lot of red tape. With Carl, he had a factory deal with Lola. So he wasn't in total control of what parts you could build or development so you always had to wait on things. His factory Ford Cosworth which he works with Roger, a share holder with Ilmor. He has his own engine shop and we build our own engines. I mean, the development process is a lot quicker with Roger we were able to build parts quicker. There seems to be lot of red tape and waiting time, I mean, the parts are always coming. It was always something new to try, which is nice.
Q. But again, were there any positives about last year?
PAUL TRACY: Well, there were. I mean, it was a good team. I had a really fun time with my crew guys and you know, they were a good group of guys there and a good core of good people. I mean, I had a good time. We won two races and we had some disappointments, but overall, my year was -- I had a good year with them.
Q. Obviously, I don't care who would have been Michael's teammate last year. The fact that your last name was not Andretti probably caused a little bit of attention. Would that be a fair assessment?
PAUL TRACY: Obviously, Michael and Mario have a lot of heritage at Newman Haas. I mean, really, the focus was put towards Michael getting him. Towards winning a championship which in a lot of the testing went his way. That was a struggle. I wasn't used to my full effectiveness in testing and developing. From that standpoint, during the off-season, I wasn't doing a lot, and waiting, waiting to test and I think it hurt my performances in qualifying and practice, but overall, I think we didn't qualify as well in a lot of the races last year, but we were able to bring it towards the front and get some good finishes.
Q. The make-up of the Penske Team this year it's a little bit different than when it was when you were with the team in '94 you the three Marlboro cars. Now you have got Emerson with Hogan. How does -- is the way the team is made up now, is it a little bit easier to work with? I mean, or do you not notice any difference?
PAUL TRACY: I really don't notice any difference. I mean, really Emerson has the same crew guys, the same crew chief, the same engineer that he had in previous years and he still works out of the same shop. So really the only difference is the car is a different color and Carl Hogan is a part owner of the team. We still work together, we still debrief together and work off of each other's setups. I mean, it is really not any different. I mean, the car is just a different color.
Q. In light of Tony George's fiasco ÃÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½ your most recent fiasco about the name, have you heard any new names for IndyCar being kicked around?
PAUL TRACY: I haven't, but I would imagine it would go back to Cart. I really didn't see the point in changing the name from Cart, which they had since day-one with IndyCar. I mean, really they should have really never change the name knowing that they were going to get into a match and change the name. But I would imagine it would go back to Cart, which is something that everybody knows the name all right.
Q. Paul, just a follow-up on that. Your assessment, is this getting further apart regarding two sanctioning bodies. What do you see in the future that you might not have the same, previously?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think -- I didn't actually see the race in Phoenix, but judging from what I have heard from people that were there Solomon was there and Page, the turnout wasn't very strong and maybe that is a step in the right direction for all parties getting back together. Maybe Tony George seen the light a little bit. You know, we have had fantastic fan support in the first two races and had good races. I mean, Miami was a little bit of -- with the rain, the weather which you can't control, upset the race a little bit, but overall, we have had some really good races and I haven't seen a lot out of IRL we have seen a big disparity between the front running cars and the cars at the back. I mean in Brazil in practice we had 18 cars within a second and you can't get anymore competitive than that. We are getting fantastic support from the fans which is great.
Q. Are the two bodies growing more apart though do you feel?
PAUL TRACY: It is hard to say. I really don't know. I think maybe with what happened at Phoenix maybe is a step back towards the right direction.
Q. Have you had a chance to test the super speedway -- how does that compare to last year's?
PAUL TRACY: We haven't tested yet on the super speedway we are waiting for the weather to break in Michigan. Probably after Long Beach we will head off to Michigan, but from what I understand, they just got more snow in that area last week, during the week, so I mean, it really is a question of weather. I mean, it is -- we would like to get there, but we got to get there when the weather is half decent.
Q. On the subject of Long Beach, could you compare it to Surfers as far as setting up your car?
PAUL TRACY: Well, it is really not that much, there is not that much in common. The only thing that is common is that both circuits have long straightaways, so you run a lap low down for a setup and but we have got so many different types of corners here; whereas, Long Beach is only about 6 or 7 corners and one real tight hairpin. So, I mean, really the difference is we really run low down course like Long Beach.
Q. The time variance between the US and Australia, how do you cope with that and is there anything that you do in the days prior to the race to adjust yourself to Australian time?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I have been here since -- I left Saturday night and we left Saturday night, midnight, flew all through the night and arrived in the morning here, so I got a night sleep on the plane, so that made the adjustment pretty easy. I mean, the only thing is, you know, just the last bit of flight difference. I mean, I have been going to bed early and getting up early which is nice.
Q. Father of four children that wear glasses. Would you describe a little bit about that because I know there is a lot of athletes probably would be handicapped with wearing glasses and we would like to hear just what happened and how long does it take you to recover, your vision?
PAUL TRACY: When I had the surgery done, I waited about two or three years for it to be done and I know Emerson and Al had it done because they were -- their vision was getting poor, towards glasses, and they had it done and they were telling me how great it was and I was kind of skeptical about it and nervous of doing it because I wore glasses for so long, and finally, I mean, last year we had some really hot races in the summer and by the end of the race I could hardly see out of my glasses. They would be covered and dripping with water and dirt all over them. So in some of the races it was pretty tough to see after the race so I just said, I am going to do it. I went and had it done after the season was over and the procedure only takes about 20 minutes and, you know, the recovery time was about two days.
Q. Two days?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, the only -- really there is no pain involved. Just felt like I had sand in my eyes from the cut that they made. It just felt like there was some sand in my eyes, so it was really no -- really not that much recovery time at all.
Q. That had to be quite dramatic to be able to see without the glasses?
PAUL TRACY: It was neat. They put some drops in my eyes. The same day after I had it done, you really can't see anything. You have to drive home from the place. I came home and couldn't see a damn thing because of all the drops that I had in my eyes and stuff that they put in to dilate your pupils. I went to sleep that afternoon; got up; had dinner, you know, laid around the house and I thought "what have I got myself into, I can't see a damn thing" then I went to sleep that night; woke up the next morning and I could see. I mean, it was great.
Q. The doctors say anything about any motion for a couple of days, could you bend over or anything like that?
PAUL TRACY: No, there was no problem with that. I just -- I couldn't swim for ten days with the pressure of going under water with your eyes; just couldn't rub your eyes for about five, six days because they are still a little sore. Other than that, it was really no problem.
Q. Any change in your shaving techniques?
PAUL TRACY: No, not really.
Q. Wanted to talk to you about, you know, the rookie Greg Moore coming up from Indy Lights. He kind of rewrote that particular record book. Now that you are one of the, shall we say, grizzled veterans in the scene, what is your assessment of Greg?
PAUL TRACY: He is obviously very fast. I mean, no doubt about it. Fantastic job in the last two races and he has just been misfortunate. But that is part of learning and growing in the series. I mean, the amount of times that the races I should have won that I didn't win, I can count dozens of them. So I mean, he is going to get his turn. He has obviously shown that he is fast and he is right there.
Q. I'd like to know have you found any good restaurants down there? I am getting ready to go and I am looking for a good restaurant.
PAUL TRACY: Some fantastic restaurants here right in the hotel. We have a Benihana. There are a lot of Italian restaurants. It is a great place.
Q. I look forward to seeing you.
PAUL TRACY: Okay.
Q. Seems like Penske turned Long Beach into their personal playground the last couple of 2, 3 years. I know you wanted won in '93 and Al won in the couple of years. You guys got to be looking forward to coming to Long Beach?
PAUL TRACY: It is more of Al's playground there. He is pretty tough to beat there. I mean, he is obviously going to be the force there again this year. The car is working well. He is always tough to beat and no matter what car he is in, so he is going to be a major factor there, so I mean, hopefully he is the guy we are going to have to try to beat.
BOB ANDREW: Thanks to Paul for joining us and getting out of bed so early from Surfers Paradise. I would like to remind everyone that there will be a transcript of this available on Marlboro Racing News. Also we will have updates on all the practice times and also on available on Marlboro Racing News as they take place. If anyone has questions about that particular service, you can call me, Bob Andrew, at IndyCar at 810-362-8800. Again, the race could be viewed on ABC this weekend at 3 o'clock. Best wishes and thank you again to everyone for joining us.
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