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Champ Car World Series: Road America

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Grand Prix of Road America

Champ Car World Series: Road America

A. J. Allmendinger
Sebastien Bourdais
Bruno Junqueira
September 24, 2006


ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN

ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference, Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America, round 12 of Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. I'm currently joined by two of the top three finishers in today's event.
We'll start with our third place finishers, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien led a race-high 28 laps, ran the fastest lap of the day, ended up in third. His championship lead is 58 points heading into the year's penultimate event down in Surfers Paradise, Australia. His 10th podium of the year, 34th podium of his career.
Sebastien, tough day for you. Twice you had leads of 10, 12, 15 seconds. In the end, you had to settle for the third spot. Tell us a little bit about it.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think you said all about it. Just about the most frustrating day for the McDonald's team. When you have that dominant a car, it just seems unreal that you can actually lose it. Just shows how uncertain these races are when the yellows come at the wrong time, you catch a dumb ass at the wrong time. That's that.
I was really upset because losing three full seconds in the inlap to a guy that's running around five seconds off the pace is not acceptable at that level of racing. It still happens. That lost us the race. Just very unhappy with the situation.
In the meantime, you know, we were looking forward to go racing and show everything we had. We did that the whole time. Just a wrong timing prevented us to win that race.
Right now we're not really thinking about the championship because from there on, as long as we take the start of the race, even if it goes bad, it's still pretty much wrapped up. We'll have to delay a little bit the happiness. Right now I guess I'm going to have help people understand why I'm not smiling, I guess.
ERIC MAUK: Take us through the final restart. Did you have anything at all for these two guys?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think the car was fast enough. You know, when it's your teammate in front of you, it's always complicated. To pass two cars in two laps is pretty unrealistic. Just had to try and hope that Bruno was going to get the job done, was just going to sneak through. Didn't happen that way. Just had to settle for third.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
Today's runner-up, driver of the #2 Hole in the Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. He finishes second. He led 12 laps here today. His third podium finish of the year, the 31st of his career. His fourth podium finish here at Road America.
Bruno, a little vindication for you. You were fast in the dry weather practices. Unfortunately qualifying set you back a little bit. Came out here and ran very strong today, finishing second.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, I mean, it was very entertaining race for me. I did a very good start from 10th. I was already behind A.J. I don't know which position, but maybe eighth or seventh. Someone hit me on the exit of turn one. I spun. Andrew Ranger hit me big time when I was spun, hit me sideways. Lucky didn't damage much of the car. A little bit of the under wing at the side pod, between the side pods. I started from last, the restart from last. I was passing guys. I think I went up to eight. I think I passed like seven, eight guys on the track, not using the 'push to pass', trying to save it.
I decide to give a different strategy on the second stop, to stop really early. I said from here can finish fifth, but to have such a great car, let's gamble a little bit. Even so, stop early than anybody. I knew I couldn't get clear track and run fast. So we did that. Luckily the yellow came on, put me in the lead. I couldn't believe it.
Then when I took the lead, my car was so good. I said great. I think it's my day, my lucky day. I open a gap like on the three restarts on Nelson, very good gaps. I was like five, six seconds ahead. I was not pushing as much. The car was just perfect.
Then there was a guy, I think Nelson Philippe has lost a wheel. Then they call me in earlier because they thought a yellow was going to come. When I came out of the Canada corner, going to the bridge, I see Nelson in the middle of the track trying to survive. Then I had to slow down, brake, put second gear. Maybe I lost four, five seconds on that. That was the inlap. On that, I lost a lot of time. For sure that gave the opportunity of A.J. do one extra lap, pass me on the pits.
Then I knew that I had more 'push to pass', but my car start to have so much understeer, I don't know if it's something on the under-train broke because the car was good before, became really bad after the last stop. I think something broke big time there 'cause especially on the high-speed corners. I just try to the 'push to pass' on A.J. but wasn't close enough to pass him. I finish second.
I'm quite happy with the result, especially after turn one. But after being leading, at one moment I thought I going to win again Road America, but didn't happen. Anyway, was a great day today. I'm very happy that Katherine didn't get hurt because when I looked, the car was pretty nasty. That's a very fast corner, so I'm pretty happy with that. Pretty happy that Cristiano had a chance a couple of days ago to go back to Miami. That's the most important thing.
Again, very, very happy after not racing here in 2005, race here in Road America, that's my favorite track. I love to race here, so I'm very happy with that.
ERIC MAUK: Today's result boosted Bruno up to sixth in the championship standings with two races to go.
Tell us a little bit about the mindset, how you recover, how you get refocused after what happened in the first lap. You've had more than anybody's share of incidents, bad luck incidents, not of your making, starting with Long Beach in the first turn.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think I had like six or seven races I was taken out in the first lap. I that's more than my whole (indiscernible) here in racing. Seriously, I'm usually a guy that get through no problem. I don't know what's happening.
In the warmup, my car was so good. I was very confident. I said the only guy that can match my speed is Sebastien. They were like a second and a half clear of the field. At least a second. I said I can get through the field today and I can get a great result.
Even when I went last after the stop, I said to myself, I going to pass people, I going to get through the field. For sure is really hard because I had the run on everybody, and everybody was using the 'push to pass'. I didn't want to burn it passing the slower guys too early in the race. So I had to pass people like bullseye moves. I had so much like nice passes on people early on. But I think the big thing was take a big gamble in the second stop, stopping early, getting lucky.
I think in the end I need to get lucky a little bit, you know. I mean, not unlucky. But A.J. got even more lucky in the end. But, I mean, I'm happy with that.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: The winner of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. A.J. led seven laps today, but led the most important one, got his fifth victory of the year. The first U.S.-born driver to win here at Road America since Michael Andretti in 1996. Also the first U.S. born driver to win five Champ Car races in a season since Michael that same year of 1996. More importantly, A.J. you staved off elimination. You still have a title bout going.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Just trying to maintain it. I think that's all we can do. Obviously, Sebastien and Bruno showed all weekend in the dry that they probably had the cars to beat. It took a little bit of luck with the pit stops, the yellows to come by.
I mean, it really just shows that the whole Forsythe Championship Racing team, what they're made of. At the beginning of the race, we had nothing for Sebastien. I was barely trying to hang with Dan. Seemed like we kept making some changes, kept trying to play the tire strategy right, which tires were going to be better on my car, whether it was the reds or the blacks. Just kept plugging away.
Came up the front straightaway P1. How the heck did that happen? I couldn't believe it. You know, I mean, the last two laps were probably the toughest that I've ever had in a Champ Car. Just to hold on against guys that I knew, A, were a lot quicker than me, and, B, had (indiscernible) pass me. I tried to hit my marks. Fortunately we came away with it.
ERIC MAUK: You've talked before, you've been in the situation before on the last lap, every little creek, every little bump, this last lap takes about a week and a half to complete. How tough was that?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I wasn't hearing anything in the car because I was more focused on trying to hold the guys off. I mean, I knew after about the middle of the race, after I think the second pit stop, I probably had the easy speed for third, but it was going to take some luck to go ahead around the guys and hold them off.
I mean, I think we probably -- the worst corners for us were probably the most important corners on the track. Getting on the front straightaway wasn't very good, through you the carousel wasn't very good. Those corners, I just tried to make sure I hit every mark possible, tried to get back to power as soon as possible, hold them off.
You know, up until basically the start/finish line, I didn't know I had it because just it's such, as you said, a long racetrack, such a tough racetrack to get around. It was so hard the last two laps to hold on. More importantly, it was hard to think about it for a half hour before the last two laps, too, what we were going to do.
And the Packers won, so that's all that matters.
ERIC MAUK: Your thoughts on keeping the title chase alive.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I think Sebastien said it, it's still going to be tough to really come back and get him. He's going to need some bad luck. Montréal killed us in respect for the points. You know, you never know what's going to happen. If we can just go out there and try to win the last two races, at least try to beat him for the most wins during the season, you never know what's going to happen.
If you win the race, you're going to get the most points. All you can ever do is worry about yourself. Everything else is going to take care of itself. If we come up short in the championship, finish second, it's still been a fantastic year no matter what, because after four races this year when I was like 80 points back, and jobless, I didn't think I was actually going to be in contention for the championship.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
We have a three-day attendance figure for this event, 61,031. Considering the weather we had the first two days, pretty impressive. Unofficially, top five in points: Sebastien leads with 338, A.J. is second with 280, Justin third with 269, Paul Tracy moves up to fourth with 183, Nelson is fifth with 182.
We'll take questions from the media now.

Q. Bruno got talking about being stuck behind the tripod. Did you get held up by Nelson?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I pitted two laps sooner. Same thing, I didn't want to get caught out. We were running more laps. Actually right at that point I went back to back setting my fastest laps of the race.
I never got checked up by him. But I pitted two laps early as well to avoid getting caught out by the yellow. I think I caught him at the kink, which is always fun. Just off the racing line. I mean, it worked well for me. Look at that. I had no problem with that at all. I think I'm going to take Nelson and buy him a drink tonight.

Q. You've been through this before, but when you see an accident like Katherine's, then have 40 minutes to think about it, how do you get back in the car?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I think fortunately enough, right away we were told she was all right. I think it's the accidents where you know it's bad or you don't know anything about the person because they don't want to release it.
I think I heard Bruno say it, I had the same thoughts, as soon as I passed the accident, I was on the radio asking if she was okay, because it looked pretty bad. Thank God she's okay. 10 minutes after I was out of the car, they told me she already walked in and out of the medical center. That's good for her, for sure.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think everybody had the same idea. When we saw the car, it was only the top left, rolled over. It was looking pretty bad. Didn't really understand what happened. Then also when we knew it was the rear wing that flew off the car on the top flap, I guess it's something that you're glad to be at Newman/Haas and Forsythe, I guess. Stuff that doesn't really happen very often with us. It's not that it can't happen, but you just feel very lucky to be in a great organization.

Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Pretty much top speed. Got to be 180 or something like that.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, I think for me I was shifting to seventh gear in the kink. Probably right around there. It's fast enough to hurt when you crash.

Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: My thoughts are, man, it was an awesome victory today. That was exciting. I look forward to my truck race two weeks in Talladega, then I really look forward to going to Australia. That's my plan.

Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: No, I still think I suck here. I think I got fortunate (laughter). Can't say I honestly got around this place in any lap today and thought, Oh, that's a lap there, that's magical. But it's a tough place. I mean, I think it shows the guys that have experience here are the ones running up front. I don't have a lot of experience here. I'm learning each lap. This is one of the places that I think it really shows where the guys that have experience, years in Champ Car, especially experience at Road America, really shine because there's so many little nuances to get around this place. Off camera, there's a lot of places that are slippery, some places that are gripped up, hard to get your car set up for and hard to get around the place driving it.

Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Still don't know where I'm going.

Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: That's a good place to go. I think I'm going to start using that as my answer.

Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I think everything that you've learned at Champ Car you throw away and restart from the beginning, then go drive in NASCAR. They're as different as can be. A truck almost has the same power as the Champ Car, but it weighs probably 2,000 more pounds, got a little more roll in it. I think that's probably the hardest thing for an open-wheel guy to go over and learn, is how much roll that the trucks have, whether you're getting in the corner and you think the vehicle is getting loose, it's really not. That's kind of the nature of it.
I think that's the most difficult for sure is just really finding the right edge of that. I mean, there's as different as can be.

Q. A.J., could you talk about your Victory Lane declaration that you want to defend American soil from the French.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I can't let that happen. I had to try like crazy. All I read the whole time was, you know, it would be great for Sebastien to clinch on American soil for Champ Car. Wasn't great for me. I didn't like that idea.
I mean, if he has to clinch it in Australia again, that's what happens, then at least I held it off for one race. You know, you never know. You just got to keep fighting. I know you keep telling me that. My dad is leaving. Bye, dad. Where is mom? Mom is short, my height. By mom, love you guys. See you tomorrow, Tuesday. They're coming to move my house.
What were we talking about?
ERIC MAUK: Packers.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: How did my Fantasy team do?
ERIC MAUK: How it always does: losing.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: That sucks. That ruined my day. I'm done talking.

Q. Sebastien, your reaction?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: My English is not good enough to answer that (laughter).

Q. (No microphone.)
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I have no idea. You'll have to look on the car. The only thing that's really strange, I felt the car was good throughout the whole race. Just after the last pit stop, looks like the car changed the balance. Was a little bit oversteering. After that, start to be understeering at max. Usually the track gets better and builds up understeer, but not like that. I don't know what's happen, if some part flew off. But for sure the (indiscernible) was a little bit broke. I don't know how much. I think actually not -- I didn't win the race because of that. I mean, I think even the way the car was, I think I was fast enough to do it once I was leading. Shame we got traffic and it stop early because of that. That was pretty much the race.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, I think to be honest, in the warmup, maybe I could finish second because me and Sebastien had like equal cars. I think I could get by everybody but him. I finish second. If you tell me at the beginning of the race I'm going to finish second, I would be, Oh, that's great. You tell me like 15 laps to go, I'm leading the race, You're going to finish second, I'd be, Come on, why? I want to win.
Lose the lead in the pits is kind of frustrating. I think Sebastien is feeling the same way.

Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I got happy on the 'push to pass'. I told Cosworth I was going to take them all out for drinks if they would have gave me a little bit more on the restart. They said no. I mean, I was out -- I think after probably like 15 laps to go, 20 laps to go, I was still behind Justin, I didn't get a very good start. With how bad my car was handling in the beginning with the understeer, I had to use it a lot just to get the exit to get the shot out of the corner to make passes. It's a chance I had to take. Then when Sebastien was behind me on the restarts, I kept using it just to make sure, trying to get around Justin and trying to hold him off. I was out with 15 to go.

Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We lost the race on the inlap, period. When I exited the pits, A.J. was coming right there, and Bruno wasn't very far off. On cold tires, cold day like that, there's just no chance. You exit the pits, you don't stand the chance if you don't have three seconds' advantage over the guy by turn five, you're done. That's pretty much what happened.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, the only thing about me and Sebastien is no team out there -- the only team out there not crashing each other. I know he's fighting the championship, so I take extra care. But I felt at that moment I didn't try anything difficult. I was side by side to him when I went to brakes in turn eight. As he said, he was on cold tires. I had a very clear run on him. At that moment I was trying to get around A.J.
ERIC MAUK: That will do it. Congratulations, gentlemen. Thank you.



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