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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Scott Pruett
May 26, 1998


T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thank you all for joining us today. And a special welcome to our guest this afternoon, driver Scott Pruett of the Patrick Racing Team. Welcome, Scott.

SCOTT PRUETT: How are you doing?

T.E. McHALE: We're doing alright today. Thanks for making time for us this afternoon.

SCOTT PRUETT: No problem.

T.E. McHALE: Scott, the driver of the number 20 Visteon Reynard Ford enters Sunday's Miller Lite 200 at the Milwaukee Mile, following a fifth place finish in last Saturday's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis. His performance tied a season best previously accomplished in the Fed Ex Championship Series Season Opener at Homestead. Scott owns two career victories and three career pole positions in nine years in the series. And is one of four drivers to capture both a pole position and a victory last year along with Paul Tracy, Mauricio Gugelmin and PPG Cup Champion, Alex Zanardi. Scott has scored PPG Cup points in five of six career starts at the Milwaukee Mile, including the past four in a row. His career best at Milwaukee is a fifth place finish in 1989. His career best start is eighth, last year. Scott enters this weekends Miller Lite 200 ranked tenth in the PPG Cup standings with 21 points. The Miller Lite 200 round seven of the Fed Ex Championship Series will be televised live on ESPN Sunday, beginning at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. With that, we will open the floor for questions.

Q. Scott?

SCOTT PRUETT: Yes, sir.

Q. If we could jump ahead one week to the race here in Detroit, what if anything do you know about the changes that they've made here in the track?

SCOTT PRUETT: Actually, about two months ago I traveled to Detroit and went out to the race track, saw all the changes and everything looks to be very, very good. One of the biggest issues that had been with that circuit out on Belle Isle is that it is so difficult to pass. The race is just follow the leader up to this point. So as we go by start finish, we make the sweeper to the right and the sweeper to the left and now we have a good straight away where it looks like there is a good opportunity to do some passing. It also changes what used to be turns three, four, five, six as we go across the bridge out towards the straight away as it comes along the river there. That's from a driver's standpoint one of the biggest complaint we had about that race track, was the fact it was so difficult to pass. We made some changes and it looks like it is going to make for a lot better racing.

Q. Are you going to see a lot more activity at that front straight away, even though there is a 90 degree turn at the end of it?

SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, but what happens is it looks to be long enough where at least it will give the opportunity get up underneath some guy. Because of the track layout, it is almost impossible to pass anybody there. Even if you are quicker. And those opportunities where you do try to make a pass, it looks like half the time you wind up having contact with the guy and one of the cars go out. It definitely looks like an improvement. And I'm looking forward to going back there and competing in a couple of weeks.

Q. I hope you like that weather we had here for you the other day, your kind of weather according to your commercials on television.

SCOTT PRUETT: Exactly. Fortunately the weather was good for Saturday, we got the race in.

Q. You did good too.

SCOTT PRUETT: We finally got that monkey off our back. We were one for five, that's not very good. Starting 17th, working our way up to 5th. The car was good, the team did a great job. We were real pleased with the finish overall.

Q. All kidding aside, you did the original testing for the Firestone tires before they came back into racing.

SCOTT PRUETT: Yes.

Q. Did you still keep that edge or do you still do a lot of testing?

SCOTT PRUETT: We still do a lot of testing for them. They have been looking at using a lot of the teams to do the testing over the past year. I think what they are beginning to see is if you get too much information from too many drivers it is hard to pick your direction. And I think what they are going to do is go back to testing primarily with three -- two, three drivers where they have a real good relationship with from the standpoint of producing good tires, which would be myself, Zanardi, Greg Moore. This is -- well has been talked about. They can take that data, like they have done in the past and then be able to move forward more quickly on the development of the tire instead of -- over the past year what they are looking at is using probably ten different drivers to do a little bit of testing. But what was happening was they were getting a lot of different data back and it has been very difficult to make a clear decision on what tire they wanted. In answering your question, not to draw this out too far, yes, we do still do a lot of testing for them and it looks like we will continue to probably increase that amount.

Q. Speedway wing set up, what did you think about that?

SCOTT PRUETT: From a safety standpoint, it definitely slowed the cars down. From a passing standpoint, from a racing standpoint, it made it a little bit more difficult. This was the first time that we ran speedway wings on what I would consider a short oval. Even though Homestead is a short oval, it's still different from going to St. Louis. I think overall it was a good decision. I think as we learn more about it, we will continue to make it better and better.

Q. Scott, in 30 seconds or so what have you guys found in your oval testing program that might translate into a good result this weekend at the Milwaukee Mile?

SCOTT PRUETT: The opportunity to go test the Milwaukee more than anything else. We tried to test in St. Louis, unfortunately we sat and watched it rain for three days. And so leading up to that race the only track time we had there was driving in and out of the place. As the weekend went on, we only had one, really one and a half sessions, if you count the Friday session and warm up. We did have the opportunity to test the Milwaukee both Adrian and I. It looks like we made some improvements to our set up. We are real pleased with the times we ran down there. So as we look forward to this weekend, it looks like we should come out of the box pretty good.

Q. The most difficult thing about that historic oval is?

SCOTT PRUETT: Getting the set up right. We found over the last -- probably the last three or four years, our set up has tended to go loose. Which is the problem with most of the teams there. It looks like Newman/Haas and Penske, Greg Moore, they've always seemed to -- at least over the last two or three years -- run very, very strong there. With our testing we feel we are getting a pretty good handle on it and should be contenders this weekend.

Q. First of all, congratulations on a good run this weekend.

SCOTT PRUETT: Thank you.

Q. When you get into a situation, especially on the ovals, with the CART Fed Ex Series and you get on a short oval like this and the other one-mile ovals where trapping is such a problem and the field is so close, is there added pressure there to start finding that extra 100th of a second, one-tenth of a second, which could be the difference between starting first or starting 15th or 16th?

SCOTT PRUETT: Exactly. The difference is I was about a half a second off the pole time at St. Louis and I started 17th. If you are off a little bit, you are off a lot. Fortunately we've been with our relationship with Visteon, they being the new sponsor to us this year and the new technology they bring, we actually just started looking at some technical advances they are bringing to the team, some of the stuff we tested at Milwaukee last weekend. Bringing not just tenths of a second, but hundredths of a second, as we see, the competition is so very close. A tenth of a second is like an eternity. A hundredth is a difference between four, five positions. As we move forward and as all teams move forward, I know we are focused on any time, we can pick up any speed and we are very focused on that. And we are working very hard on it. It comes in small amounts, very, very small amounts these days, and you have to be focused. It is amazing because all teams and the drivers have to get the very last bit of performance out of those cars. And to do that everything becomes critical, the shocks, the springs, the set up, the toes, the cambers. And it's been amazing to me seeing that development over the past four or five years as the level of the competition just continues to get tougher.

Q. Physically, how have you been feeling offer the last year or two?

SCOTT PRUETT: Great. I was a little bit down after the past four or five races. It seemed like we couldn't get it right. Homestead, we came out of the box, ran strong, finished fifth. Long Beach, ran well there. We were in fourth until the last lap, ran out of fuel. Motegi, we ended up breaking two engines down there. Brazil, ran strong there, broke the shift linkage. Nazareth, caught on fire. It has been a tough season to get it going. But what's interesting is I've lead the championship the last three years up to this point, then things kind of trailed off. Now maybe we can turn things around and get a strong summer.

Q. It sound like not only have you got a monkey on your back but he's starting to bite you on your neck a little bit.

SCOTT PRUETT: He was. Fortunately I got him off a little bit after St. Louis, so...

Q. At this point, mentally has it been tough for you?

SCOTT PRUETT: Yes and no. No, from the standpoint that everything that's happened has been out of my control. It is not like I've been crashing race cars and making stupid mistakes, and putting the thing in the fence. You can't blame it on the crew either. Catching on fire was an issue where we had problem with the buckeye (phonetic), when it went in and cut an O-ring. We broke the shift linkage, which was a manufacturing fault from Reynard. We broke engines in Motegi, which was a Cosworth problem. The only one we can blame on the crew is running out of gas at Long Beach. But everybody is determined and focused and really pushing hard to turn things around. St. Louis was a good shot in the arm for us. We had a real strong run. The crew did a good job. The car was pretty good in the race, and we continued to make it better as we ran faster and faster. In fact, the closing stage was we were as far fast as anybody on the race track. Virtually the only time we had on the track was Friday, first session and then the warm ups. We were still working on our set up as the race was going on, trying to make improvements in the car. As we look forward to Milwaukee this weekend, I think we should have a good strong run. We had a good test down there. The car looks to be good and solid. Go down there and have a good race and get a good result.

Q. Do you ever look at the point standings and say, if I had not had these freak problems that we had, I wouldn't be looking at who's ahead of me in the top ten, I would be looking at who's behind me in the top ten. You could very well be in the top five at this point.

SCOTT PRUETT: Well, if -- and that's a big -- those two little letters have a pretty big meaning. If things had turned around we would be three or four in the championship right now. They aren't. We could say the same thing about last year. We could say if we didn't get run into at Vancouver and if things wouldn't have happened -- got ran into at Laguna, da, da, da, da. But the reality of it is that we are tenth in the championship. The good side of it is we have the potential to finish top three and four every race. We have to just turn that into results. The first step forward was St. Louis. For us as a team that was a real good shot in the arm for us as far as enthusiasm and excitement goes and we'll just carry that on to Milwaukee.

Q. Scott, with the new teammate, Adrian this year, how is it going? How is he helping you and how are you helping him out?

SCOTT PRUETT: Actually it has been going great. Adrian and I get along very well. The nice thing is that our set ups are very similar. Last year Raul's set up and my set up were significantly different. So all the testing he did and I did, it was very difficult to draw conclusions to make improvements for both of us. Where this year, we're able to move forward. All testing I do helps myself and Adrian. All testing Adrian does helps me as well as him. As we ran at St. Louis and most of the races, we start out with different set ups on the car, and look to see how we can make improvements and then we get together and look at those after each session to make improvements as a team as well. Our philosophy is if we can get both of the cars running at the front of the field, let the drivers work it out up there. So Adrian has been running very well. He's third in the championship right now and our relationship is great.

Q. Milwaukee, another bull ring?

SCOTT PRUETT: Yes, sir. No question about it. Getting the right set up and getting things hooked up at Milwaukee has always been one of those things that can make your day go good or go bad. Everybody is continuing to work hard at that set up and get a good race car. When you think of having 30 cars out there on that one-mile oval it turns into a bull ring real fast. The competition is close. It's hard to say who is going to be at the front of the field on any given weekend. But we are pleased with our test up there and we are looking to have a good run.

Q. Last year just before Vancouver, you and I had a long chat before the press conference at Planet Hollywood about gardening and what not. Are you still doing that stuff?

SCOTT PRUETT: Not as much as I would like to be able to. Time is pretty much of the essence right now. In fact, I am sitting in my office looking overlooking my garden as we speak, my garden being all the stuff I planted around hear and it's doing good. Not as much as I would like. Racing which is first and foremost and the new baby we have here, that's occupying most of my time.

Q. I have a question regarding what you would recommend to someone getting started in racing, would you recommend they take the road you did with the open-wheels through SCCA and Fords?

SCOTT PRUETT: It all depends on the age of the person getting started. The best road is go carts. In fact, I did my first race when I was eight years old and worked my way up over the years. It is a great starting ground. If you look at most of the drivers, whether it is Michael or Al Jr., J.J. Lehto, Gugelmin, those guys started racing go carts, Schumacher, Senna, they started racing go carts, that's the best place to start. From there, for me I just took whatever route I could, which led me to sedan cars back to open-wheeled cars. Fortunately these days having go carts and Formula Atlantic and Indy Lights Series, there is the opportunity for young aspiring drivers to at least get out there and race at the same tracks that we do. Get seen by the major league teams. Now we have more of a minor league and Double A, Single A, Triple A system to move up the ranks into the big leagues.

T.E. McHALE: Sorry for that little glitch folks. I was just about to open the floor for general questions. So if you would like to ask a question, you can press the key pad and signal the operator. At this time we will begin taking those questions right now.

Q. What are you looking forward to the rest of the year? We talked about the next two weekends, what about the rest?

SCOTT PRUETT: We are looking for first and foremost good results. It looks like the potential is there. Having a new primary engineer and second engineer, we are all coming to grips with our relationship, not from a personal level, from a performance standpoint. We have had great race cars, now we have to look at getting a better qualifying car. As we get into the season, I think that we will continue to get stronger and stronger. We are looking for great results. We are looking forward to our relationship with Visteon, which is a new sponsor for us. It looks like we will be continuing with those guys for three years and beyond. Now that we are getting off the old on the road courses, I think our performance will continue to get better as well.

Q. Maybe you both can pull wins this year since Adrian already has one?

SCOTT PRUETT: Maybe, thank you.

T.E. McHALE: Thank you all for joining us. Thanks Scott for being with us this afternoon. Scott best of luck in this weekend's Miller Lite 200 at the Milwaukee Mile.

SCOTT PRUETT: Thank you.

T.E. McHALE: Thanks again all of you who took the time to be with us today. And we'll talk to you next week.



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