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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

PJ Jones
May 4, 1999

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference for the week. We are pleased that all of you took the time to join us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver PJ Jones of Patrick Racing who posted a FedEx Championship Series career best finish of second at Sunday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway. A four-year veteran of the FedEx Championship Series PJ, driver of the Visteon Ford Reynard improved on his previous career best of 9th at Detroit in 1996. Good afternoon PJ and thanks for being with us today.

PJ JONES: Thanks for having me.

T.E. McHALE: PJ is in his first year with Patrick Racing after spending his last three seasons in the series with All-American Racers helping to develop the Toyota engine program. He enters the May 15th Rio 200 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ranked 9th among FedEx Championship Series drivers with a career high 17 points. The Rio 200, Round 5 of the FedEx Championship Series, will be televised via tape delay on ABC TV on Sunday, May 16 at 4 P.M. eastern time. As PJ is testing in St. Louis today our time with him today is somewhat limited so I would ask our callers to be sensitive of the needs of other participants as they ask their questions. With that, we will open it up to questions for PJ.

Q. Talk a little bit about -- Pat Patrick is not a patient man. He just turned 70 and he has always put a lot of pressure on his drivers and he said a couple of things teams earlier in the season, you know, we need to get this guy going. Did you feel -- because I was talking to McGee on the flight home and I said I think this maybe will calm Pat down a little bit. But did you feel a little bit of extra pressure that he has had such a winning tradition and he is kind of an impatient fellow?

PJ JONES: Not so much the pressure just from him, I mean, I put enough on myself, you know, I think that we got off to a slow start. I was hoping to get off to a little better start. I think that there is a lot of different factors that contributed to it. I think it took me a little bit longer to get comfortable with the new stuff that I had and swapping back and forth from Reynards to Swift and not getting a lot of test time in the car that I was going to race, I think contributed to it. Then some of it was just a lit bit of bad luck. I thought we had a better car than what we showed at Long Beach and we were in the Top-10 in practice and qualifying in Monterey, we just had a car that wasn't very good in the race. So I think -- I knew inside that we were going to have some good runs; it is just a matter of doing it and all the people thinking, oh, no, why did we hire him, you know, he hasn't done anything yet for us. But hopefully this is -- we turned the corner and we can stay up there in the Top-10 in points and hopefully sometime this year get a victory.

Q. As a quick follow-up, what did Patrick say to you after the race?

PJ JONES: He said, good job, but we didn't need that spin down the front straight-a-way.

He just wants to do good and I can understand it. He puts a lot of time, a lot of effort into the team and -- this is his hobby - not hobby, but this is his, you know, giant that he has got to keep going and keep all his sponsors happy and a lot of concerns, obviously.

Q. Tell me a little bit about your expectations going down to Rio and your feelings about the track and the challenge that you face, if you would?

PJ JONES: Well, in the past we have had some good cars there, you know, developing the engine last couple of years we haven't been able to prove it, but I think we have had good cars there and good handling cars, and I think that it is a good racetrack for me and I like it. I am looking forward to it. There is a lot of room to race; a lot of room to pass. And, you know, if we can just get our Swift handling for that track, I think we should be right there.

Q. Does the track, given the configuration, place any unique challenge?

PJ JONES: No, I think that, if anything, it might be into the advantage of the Swift, you know, there that you have to run a lot less rear down-force, you know, you run -- you try to take as much wing out of it there as possible to get down the straight-a-way and try and coax it through the turns and try to go as fast as you can down the straight-a-way. This car has very good rear down-force and if we can just, you know, get the right -- come out of the box with the right setup and just keep developing that all weekend long, again, I think we should be very good.

Q. What do you think of Gateway, PJ?

PJ JONES: I think that it is a tough racetrack for us. I mean, it is hard to pass; a little bit rough in a couple of places. I like the fact that 1 and 2 reminds me of a short track, kind of reminds me like a turn like in Bakersfield or Winchester, Salem or some place like that where it is kind of a short track turn and in Turn 3 and 4, it is more like a mile oval track. I like that part of it. The only downside of the racetrack, it is hard to pass for us. It is similar to like Nazareth in the fact that in the past, I mean, you really got to be patient and you really got to have a good car to be able to pass some people.

Q. But everybody said at Nazareth with the little wings you couldn't do any passing but you guys were doing some passing.

PJ JONES: Yeah, we had the car right and we were able to take advantage of it. The key there to passing at Nazareth this weekend was just in traffic, if you can get a slower car up there holding up some cars in front of you, that is really how all the passes were made.

Q. You think we ought to go back to the big wings?

PJ JONES: Well, I got mixed emotions. I like to slide the car around. I come from a short track background and, you know, I don't like to run around in these places flat. First of all, I don't think we need to run 190 miles an hour through Turn 1 at St. Louis, and secondly, I want to be able -- I want to have to brake and I want to have to lift and get back in the throttle. For that sake I say no. But I would like to have the feeling of the big wings and yet have the speeds and being able to lift with these small wings. So I don't know how we get to that point. But that would be the perfect situation.

Q. The obvious question has to be how did it feel to run up front? How did it feel to be right there to where you could win the race?

PJ JONES: I felt -- it felt great. I mean, you know, it has been a long time since we have had the stuff to run up front and be able to run right up there for the lead and the win and I was very excited. And it was, you know, we didn't start out on Thursday practicing, we didn't start out really good and Friday we just kept developing the car. We weren't that great on Friday. We made some changes on Saturday morning and before practice and everything seemed to come together. It had a decent qualifying effort and in the race the car was really, really good.

Q. Also in conjunction with this being Mother's Day weekend everybody knows about the influence that your dad had on your career, but what about your mom, what kind of influence, not only on your career, but you as a person did she have?

PJ JONES: A lot. Obviously my dad was, you know, more than the man -- obviously the man in the family, but the hard-core, you know, get-the-job-done-kind-of-guy. And my mom is much more on the softer side and taught us our manners, obviously, and how to present ourselves - I don't know if we learned very much. She was a big influence. I mean, she is the real supporter and takes care of us. And, the job she has done with my younger brother, you know, keeping him -- making the medical decisions she has and, you know, keeping him in therapy and getting to him where he is today after his accident in the sprint car, she is a true champion.

Q. Kept the family together?

PJ JONES: Absolutely.

Q. What did you learn from running at Nazareth that you might be able to apply down there at Gateway and perhaps down the road on some of the shorter ovals?

PJ JONES: I think mostly it is just about my car and how to go -- approach the weekend of how to set the car up. It was new for everybody this weekend. I think -- I don't know if we lucked out or, you know, if we were, you know, just hit upon something and kept hitting -- and continued to develop it and it worked out right for the race. We had a good car. I think that if we can just continue to tune the cars and have the same feeling that we did in Sunday's race for the rest of the races, I think we would be in good shape.

Q. I had heard some of the guys describing driving on that short oval, you know, without the wing it is like driving 180 in the rain. Is that a fair description or how would you describe driving with that loss of down-force?

PJ JONES: Well, I mean, again, I like it. I like to slip and slide and, you know, I like to have to be gingerly with the throttle and have to hook the rear tires up. I come from a lot of dirt track experience and to where that was very important, can't be bleeding the tires all the time. You can't sideways all the time. You really got to learn how to hook the rear of the car up. I really -- I like that feel. I would like to see us have places or a situation where it might be a little bit easier to pass, but all and all, I am probably one of the only guys that say that the wings weren't that bad. I think they are going to continue to get better too, obviously, the car manufacturers Reynard and Swift and Lola are going to be able to give us a little bit more down-force and probably make the feeling even better.

Q. How is testing going out there today?

PJ JONES: Not too bad. I have only run -- been in the car about -- only gone out about three times and we seem to be right there in lap time. We are working on some stuff with the car trying to get the balance a little bit better. It is a little bit windy here today. And, you know, we just barely got started, so if we can just hold the rain off and continue to develop the car, it should be a successful test.

Q. You had been doing a lot of testing in the early part and I noticed on the quote that you have been using a lot of Adrian's setup. Now in the Swift you have had to rely on your own workings. What differences did you find that you applied?

PJ JONES: Well, it was really -- I mean, if you took the setup off by Swift and you tried to run it on a Reynard you probably wouldn't make it out of pit road and you would be in the fence. You have got to make the car turn a lot more with the Swift than you do with the Reynard. Adrian had some very good setups in the first two races. I was new and had never raced on the tires before which is a big, big difference. And, you know, never been in that kind of combination with the engine and all that. When I came here I didn't try to make any waves and I really didn't try to push any issue. I thought, well, he likes it, and he is doing well with it; maybe I need to learn drive more like his driving style. And I tried and I learned a lot from it. And I think that we are not too far off in the way we like the car. I just like to be able -- I think I like a looser car than he does, and I think that has cut me out of a couple of the races in the beginning and I think that, just me kind of more thinking about my own car and what I really want. Because in the past I have had very, very, very good oval cars, so I think that I learned a lot in the last couple of races. We just didn't have some very good results.

Q. Going back to the Toyota engines that you used to run, were you a little surprised seeing da Matta up where he was?

PJ JONES: Oh, absolutely. I think he is a great race driver. I think he has got a great future in front of him. Obviously, Toyota is coming on strong with engine and they are getting there, you know, it is really unfortunate they have to do it now after I spent five or six years developing it, you know, that they are this close now.

Q. PJ, will you stick it out with the Swift the rest of the year or what do you think the plan is right now long range?

PJ JONES: Well, I think considering the way we ran this weekend I think that that is probably a pretty safe bet that we will continue to develop the rest of the year. If we come into a certain type of a racetrack that we really struggle or something like that, you know, I think anything could change. But I think -- you know, I think the team's future is with Swift. And I think they are doing everything they can to help us develop the car. They want to sell more cars to other customers and obviously they need to come out and make us as happy as possible because I think we are truly one of their customer-cars, or customers. I think that the car is going to be very good. We just have some fundamental things that we need to get a little bit better. Obviously it was good on Sunday, so, I can't imagine it being too far off in some of the other places.

Q. The old man watch the race on TV?

PJ JONES: Yeah, he said when I was spinning down the front straight-a-way he was about ready to turn the TV over.

Q. I am sorry I didn't congratulate you on the podium finish at Nazareth but that looked very good and as you just mentioned about your dad, I imagine he was just about having fits, was he?

PJ JONES: Oh, I imagine. I don't he would have wanted me in the room. He gets uptight if anybody tries to talk to him during the race and imagine us being that competitive and -- he probably didn't sit down very much. He probably had the remote controls flying around the room and just pacing back and forth.

Q. Working with the Swift, have you had any conversations with them about the Hanford device? I hear a report that the developer of it thinks it can be adapted for short ovals.

PJ JONES: Well, I have heard some talk about that and I think that one of the things is that the cars probably need more drag. And they are taking down-force off which is great, but I think they need more drag. They are so slippery right now through the air and they run so quick down the straight-a-ways that they need to be a little bit more boxy, something just to slow them down a little bit down the straight-a-ways and maybe then we can get a little bit more down-force back. But I am not an aerodynamicist. I think that it was one step CART needed to make to slow us down on the mile ovals; they made it. There is always a lot of opportunities to improve upon it. Maybe give us a little back or take some power away or put some drag into the cars.

Q. Do you think the Hanford device could put more drag in the car as well as opening up that hole behind the wing?

PJ JONES: Absolutely. But I don't know what it would be like in traffic on the short oval. I think you have to have a lot of consideration there. I don't know what the down-force characteristic of that versus what we are running now; is it quite -- how much difference in the down-force level is and how it is going to -- obviously, you don't want to leave a big hole or void, you know, behind you as you are passing through the air for the guy behind you not to have any air and create a situation where you can't even run behind somebody. So they ought to look at a lot of different things and get some people that are more educated in aerodynamics besides us.

T.E. McHALE: Thanks. We are going to wrap it up for today. PJ, I want to thank you for taking the time from your testing schedule to be with us today. We wish you the best of luck in the upcoming Rio 200 and during the rest of the FedEx Championship Series. Please tell Mr. Newey that I don't if we have ever done it any quick than we have done it today. .

PJ JONES: Thank you very much.

T.E. McHALE: Thank you for joining us, good afternoon.

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