CART Media Conference
T.E. McHALE: At this point we will be joined by team owner Derrick Walker and driver Gil de Ferran of Walker Racing winners of Sunday's Budweiser GI Joe's 200 presented by Texas Havoline at Portland International Raceway. Gentlemen, good afternoon; thanks for being with us today. Gil, driver of No. 5 Valvoline Cummins special Honda Reynard recorded his third career FedEx Championship Series victory Sunday and jumped into the thick of the points race in the process. The victory moved him from 7th to 3rd in the Championship with 71 points heading into this weekend Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by rookie Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing continues to lead with 90 points followed by Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green with 85. Sunday's victory brought Gil his third podium finish of the season following a runnerup effort at Japan and third at Milwaukee. He has scored FedEx Championship Series points in 6 of 8 starts and also recorded a pole position at Japan. Gil's victory at Portland was the first in the series for GoodYear tires since Michael Andretti won the 1998 season opener at Homestead 26 races earlier. Walker Racing in its 9th year in the FedEx Championship Series owns a FedEx Championship Series resume which includes four victories and 9 pole positions. Gil and Derrick first joined forces in 1997 when Gil earned runnerup honors in the Championship to Alex Zanardi. The team has also campaigned a second car on a limited basis this season which rookies Naoki Hattori and Memo Gidley sharing driving duties. Gidley will be in the cockpit this weekend in Cleveland. The Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by First Star Round 9 of the Championship Series will air live on ESPN this Sunday beginning at 2:30 P.M. eastern time. With that, we will open it up to questions for Gil and/or Derrick.
Q. Gil, can you talk a little bit about when you first saw the Cleveland track and what your thoughts were of it as a racetrack and how that might have changed after you had success there. Derrick, if you could talk a little bit about Wally Dallenbach a little bit after that and his time with CART?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, actually even before I went to Cleveland I saw the track over the TV even before I went there the first time in 1995, you know, I used to watch Emerson race there and I saw him winning races there before and I thought it would be kind of a nice place to drive at. There is no doubt that the one when I turned up at that first time that all my expectations were confirmed. So it wasn't really a great surprise as I was kind of familiar with the track to begin with.
Q. Is didn't surprise at all that it being an airport and all just seeing it as a different track compared to everywhere else?
GIL de FERRAN: No, it didn't surprise me because, as I said, I saw Emerson race there before in the past and I remember a particular race I was thinking he was battling with Nigel Mansell all the way through the track so it is kind of a track that stuck in my mind, put it this way.
DERRICK WALKER: The current status is that there have been a number of people shown interest in that position and the small committee that has been formed to look into those applications have got to meet again now that there are some names on the list and, you know, move forward with the process. It is going through the process right now. To say exactly when and who that applicant might be, it is too early to say. It is a hard job to fill and really defining what that position really is going to be in the future is also another aspect of how you move forward; whether the duties as Wally has evolved in the job; whether those duties stay as they are or whether you split some of the responsibilities; some of those things are organizational issues that are also being considered at the same time. But it is no doubt going to be a very hard position to fill because Wally not only does it so well, but he has got a huge amount of experience that is hard to replace.
Q. Gil, congratulations on last weekend. Obviously been kind of a long drought for you, but things had been -- looked like they were picking up lately. Did you feel like this win was, you know, was on its way or were you beginning to wonder if you were ever going to win one again?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I thought it was on its way since 1996. I felt confident that we could achieve success. I felt that way for quite a while, but really since we started working this January with this new group from GoodYear that is now involved in our program, I got, you know, I got a sense that we might get this right sooner rather than later. The year started pretty well. We were running up front most of the races. So in my mind it was really just a matter of time.
Q. Question for both Gil, if you could take this first, I just wonder your thoughts on with so many foreign drivers, whether that affects the perception of the series? Do you think that race fans in America are more interested in local guys? Is it harder for them to identify with the foreign drivers?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I myself never felt that way. I mean, the American fans have always been quite welcoming to me. I was actually just reviewing my e-mail and everything this morning and 80% of it is here. So I personally never, never felt any animosity or isolation or anything like that. So it is really hard for me to comment. If anything, I would probably disagree with you. The other thing is I mean, the reason why you have so many young drivers from all over the world joining the series is that this series is extremely successful. You have young drivers all over the world thinking trying to find a way to further their career, or trying to reach an objective and they see CART as a place that they want to be. So that is why you have such an influx of international talent.
Q. Derrick, could you talk about that, especially from, you know, that marketing standpoint, is that become a drawback?
DERRICK WALKER: I think a few years ago it might have been considered, might have been more of an issue that was brought up, but I think it really -- the nationality of the other driver doesn't really have to be a problem in the big scheme of things. I think what does tend to be a problem is that our drivers -- some of our drivers may not be as well known as some others and so it is an identity issue. I look at the situation where Target took Alex Zanardi and they might have heard of Alex Zanardi, but the public at large probably wasn't that much aware of him and they created advertising that went into the Target program, I think that actually made Alex a very household name in motor sports, the people that watched it. They identified with him and they supported him. So I think it is really about marketing our sport and supporting the players in it that help break down this nationality issue that can appear to e a disadvantage. But I agree with Gil, I think one of the pluses of our series is that it is so competitive, it does attract foreign competition and I think the real sad part about it is not that northern drivers are racing here, but the infrastructure, the support of the Feeder series commercially and from a series point of view needs to be stronger so that it is equal opportunity in a sense and that American drivers have the background that they need to compete at these levels because if a driver in Brazil wants to race in a major formula when is he coming up in his career, he doesn't stay in Brazil and do it, he goes to America or he goes to Europe and he gets training in other series and builds his experience level up and then can compete at a very high level in major sports. So if ever there is a problem, I think it is more the structure, the infrastructure. It is not just whether there is an Indy Lites or Atlantic Series; it is about making those series commercially attractive to sponsors that see a benefit to be promoting in these series that support an American driver or Brazilian driver or whatever. And so I think there is several issues going on here. But I think if you take a personality and he does what he did on Sunday, and he has exposure to the audience, I think the nationality becomes very much the secondary issue and it becomes more people to people, which is really what sports are all about, I think.
Q. Do you see the development being increased more of an emphasis placed there on the development series in the American racing?
DERRICK WALKER: Yeah, the desire has always been there. It is the age old problem with anything, it is finding the resources to be able to do that, and we, no doubt, in open wheel racing, we have got a bit fragmented over the last few years with the things that have gone on. And I think when you point towards NASCAR, they have had a distinct advantage with the continuity and with less, you know, separation of the series and confusing of the messages and diluting the resources that are available, I think the desire is there and CART deliberately bought Atlantic and Indy Lites with the view that they needed these properties to be strong not only from a profitability standpoint, but needed them to be strong to support the overall mission of CART and that has to have good drivers. It has to have Americans; it has to have Brazilians. It has to have anybody and everybody that is competitive the best of the best. So the infrastructure is there; it is finding the financial resources to get the series up to the level where it does what it needs to do.
Q. Gil, can you take me through the process of what went on Sunday and just a little bit about the driver's mindset when he suddenly is told, hey, the schackles are off, you got to race; these other guys got a speed limit. And then, Derrick, if you will address whether this won't lead to guys more reconsidering the strategy when fuel is an issue. There are certain tracks I presume that this would be much more advantageous to go ahead and unleash the driver and just make the extra stop.
GIL de FERRAN: Well, how long have you got? (laughs).
Q. Take as long as you want, but I understand what you are saying. But just -- had to be sort of exciting, I assume?
GIL de FERRAN: No doubt about it. There were distinct phases in my mind as far as the race was concerned, you know, the first phase was prior to the second pit stop and the second phase was after that, you know, and I think the one that was crucial, it was really the one after that. And that all started by when we went into the pits, you know, the crew -- I came in second right behind Juan. I had a great inlap, so we were like, I think, four seconds behind him. And by the time I went into my pit box, I couldn't have been more than three car lengths behind him. And then the guy did a fantastic stop at the pit, so I came out first and Tracy second and Montoya third. I was having a lot of problem on restarts and even the start of the race with cold tires. But Tracy wasn't all that quick, I thought. So the fact that he was between me and Montoya really helped me on that first lap on that restart. So that gave me enough of a breather to get my tires up to temperature and then, you know, I was leading the race and Derrick was telling me, okay, you got to save fuel, save fuel, and there was no way I was getting anywhere near the fuel mileage that he was asking me to do. It was kind of embarrassing, actually. That was -- that just wasn't happening. Then he took the decision to say okay let's go and push hard. I kind of responded the best I could. All I was thinking about -- it wasn't really, really about the gap or about any possibility or any spin-off from that strategy. All I was thinking about at the time was drive as fast as I could and make no mistakes because any mistake I could make, if I lost like a second, a second and a half on a quick slide or something like that, that could have just killed me there. So I was concentrating on driving fast and precise and the gap was going to be whatever it was going to be. I was not -- only part I could do is to do what I was doing. So I emptied all my mind about everything, strategy, concerns and everything else and just drove fast. It was kind of nice to be in that position because in a lot of races you are in a position where you have to manage the fuel, you have to manage the tire consumption or you always got to restrict yourself in different ways. This race; especially that phase of it, it was fun because the tires were very, very consistent and, you know, when Derrick said okay go to position 8, I said, yes, this is fantastic. It was a fun thing. Then basically by the time we opened about 20 seconds, I knew that that would have been there, thereabouts I would have been okay because even if I came out behind Juan, you know, or whoever it was, I knew that we still have to keep saving fuel and I have plenty of full. I was feeling pretty strong by then. Then the last part of the race psychologically for me was right after the stop as I came out in front of him still about six seconds to go, six seconds ahead and about seven or eight laps to go, I really felt totally comfortable then because I said -- I thought, you know, there was nothing really to worry about and I just cruised.
Q. Congratulations to you. Derrick, could this make your people reevaluate the way this thing is approached or was it a rare circumstance?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, there may be certain situations where it will make people think about it in the future, certain race tracks might lend itself to it. But we did a little bit of review before the race and try and think of anything and everything that might happen. We knew that the gap that we needed to have -- at the time we made the call. I knew Gil could outrun harder and would run harder but we didn't know (a) what the opposition was going to do or (b) if there was going to be a yellow that would catch us at the wrong time and the wrong place. And, also, in full credit to GoodYear, we hadn't really run the tires that far and when you look at the decision that we made to go do it, there was a certain element of risk in all of those situations. For us the tire clearly lasted and Gil, you know, took full use of it and we opened up a heck of a gap. I suppose what was a surprise to me was that we were able to run that quick consistently right to the end because we didn't know that, as I said and the fact that all the other teams just let us do it. I mean, I was amazed nobody thought about coming after us. I was probably not worried about anybody by Montoya; thought he was probably potentially the only one out there that we maybe couldn't have handled if he had arose to the challenge. But, fortunately, Chip had another plan in mind and was running a different strategy and we managed to pull it off. But there will be some places where people will think that way and try to have a go at it. Hopefully you got everything there to do it because it is not always possible that everything works quite the way you plan as you well know. It was a very satisfying result because everything just clicked. The crew did a fantastic job in the pits; Gil ran the socks off of it and the tires were just right there to the end, so it was a good result for everybody. Of course, it has been awhile, as was mentioned for Valvoline and Cummins, you know, and our other sponsors that, you know, it is a well long overdue shot in the arm for them to see us up there putting it away where we sort of kissed a few times but never actually pulled it off. So it was a good result all around for us.
Q. Following up, would Cleveland necessarily be one of those kinds of tracks where it would behoove you to take the schackles off and go ahead and make the extra stop?
DERRICK WALKER: Oh, no, Gary, somebody would be a real dummy to try it there.
Q. Why is that?
DERRICK WALKER: I am not going to tell you that. (laughs).
Q. I am a real dummy for listening to that. Hey, thanks.
DERRICK WALKER: I don't know, we will see.
Q. For you guys, was it a bigger victory for Valvoline, GoodYear, Walker Racing or the driver, how do you rate it?
GIL de FERRAN: Who are you asking this?
Q. You could be honest for a change. Step up.
GIL de FERRAN: I don't know really how to answer that. I guess it was both for all the parties involved. It has been a long drought as somebody said earlier. I certainly felt a lot of personal satisfaction for myself. But to be honest, I know Derrick is on the line and is listening to this. I am going to say it anyway. I was -- I really wanted to do it for Derrick. We have been together now for almost three years and I know how hard this guy works in the success of his race team. He is one of those guys that wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning and goes to work at 5 and works all day long and puts everything he has got into it. For me it was a special satisfaction that I was able to win a race for him.
DERRICK WALKER: Thank you. I appreciate those words. In answer to your question, it was the victory all around. We couldn't have done it with all those entities and all that was provided to Gil and without his input it wouldn't have happened either. So it was a win/win for everybody. It was a good result all around. I mean, everybody -- you could turn to everybody and say somebody got something out of it because it was long overdue and everything worked.
Q. I mean, from the standpoint that Valvoline, if they don't get a victory, are they thinking about leaving or is your contract with them up at the end of the year? Is it a huge kind of a thing in that respect?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, our contract is up with Valvoline in the sense that we need to renegotiate one; either that or continue on apart. Surely when you put some results on the board it can't do anything else but help. Valvoline is going to decide what it needs to do from a business perspective and emotional results that happen at the weekend, our emotional results. Hopefully they come out into being real pluses to their program and benefits to the bottom line which is what they have to look at. We hope that there is just -- they are going to be with us next year and hopefully we can continue to develop the kind of results that we did at the weekend and keep them motivated to be supporting us, because without them, we wouldn't have got this far really.
Q. Gil, following up, having Long Beach snatched away with I think a lap or two to go, might have been the throttle linkage - I can't remember - then getting beat by a foot or two at Portland and as successful as it looked like you were going to be in 95 and 96 you -- nothing has really earned in racing or -- nothing is really -- that is not the right word, but nothing is expected it is -- just -- it seems like in this case you were owed something; maybe finally it came through?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I am not one really to believe that anybody is owed anything, as you know me, because you know me quite well. But there is no -- there is no denying that, you know, that I do get extreme satisfaction from this win because not only we had a few situations where it seemed everything under control and all didn't work out quite as planned right at the end. But we have been working extremely hard. A lot of hours in testing and in development; a lot of hours talking to GoodYear engineers, to Honda engineers, to our own engineers, to try to make this work. When you put so much into it and finally got what you were hoping for in the first place, it is a real sense of accomplishment for me. Was I nervous at the end of the race when I thought we had it all done; all I had to do was finish the race? To be honest, I wasn't very nervous until half way through the last lap and then I started thinking, oh, my God, it is going to really happen or something else is going to go wrong again. But obviously nothing else did. So there you go.
Q. I was wondering about the decision to stick with GoodYear when everybody else around you was migrating over to Firestone in year's past, how do you feel about the GoodYear program as it stands and obviously you mentioned the changes they made in personnel, do you think those really bode well for future success? How difficult has it been to stick with the program that a lot of other people seem to be abandoning in recent years?
DERRICK WALKER: It has been hard. Probably been hard more on Gil than it has been me because he has been driving his socks off and the team had been working really hard and as we all know nowadays, you can't really have one piece of the jig-saw puzzle missing because the whole things goes nowhere. The tires are an extremely important part of the whole puzzle. It is well documented that GoodYear has struggled a bit with getting the competitive package. With the Formula 1 program coming to an end and the moving of those engineers into the program that was already there, that focus has really helped a lot. We know that it is a matter of time. Unfortunately it takes a while and so we have been working as hard as they have, trying to make sure that we are ready to take the opportunity when it arises. And I think on Sunday they showed again that they are capable of producing a competitive tire. However, every weekend is a different race and a different tire and we are not over the hill yet. So we have clearly got a lot to do. But GoodYear is motivated and they are focused on that victory. So that kind of commitment has kept us still part of the program. We have a contract with them and although people were migrating from their program to other tire manufacturers, we decided that jumping around really wasn't in our best interest; that we had this relationship; they were committed and so the best thing we could do is totally support them. And in one sense the less teams they have, that means the more for us. So we have obviously benefited in some small way from the fact that there are less teams. But at the end of the day, the product has to be there and you know, we just try to do whatever we can to give them the platform for them to make the choices. Gil spends and the team, they all spends a tremendous amount of time with the GoodYear engineers in trying to give the data and help the process that goes through developing these tires and I think we have benefited that on Sunday and we need to have more of those. And I know that is their goal and we see that it is just a matter of time before they get it back consistently.
Q. Working with some of the new Formula 1 personnel that Derrick mentioned, have you seen a difference, maybe a renewed commitment or is it just a matter of things sort of falling into place? It was going to happen sometime and it happened to happen last Sunday, but with the new personnel, have you seen a change in the relationship the productivity out of the GoodYear team working with yourself?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, as Derrick explained some, I think GoodYear's program this year has been totally refreshed, not only by the addition of new engineers that some of them came from the Formula 1 program, others came from other areas of the company. But also by a complete redesign of the way they manage everything. They have a lot of new design tools to help them produce tires and I am sure if you interview somebody from GoodYear they will be able to explain and in a little more detail what is going on. Obviously right from the start we started intense testing for this year. I started early in January, but some of the other guys, I think Penske started September with Newman Haas back then. And as soon as I was exposed to the program this year, I definitely felt more confident about it as I explained earlier. But there is things you have to -- development process is something that takes time. I don't care if you are designing tires or anything because you have to make a design; you have to make evaluation. After the evaluation you have to make a redesign, then you have to build the new piece and then you have to reevaluate. So it is a process that takes time. So I felt confident, however, I knew it would take some time. How long -- how much time, it would be hard for -- it was a hard one for me to decide because it would depend on, you know, the amount of success or number of success on redesigns that they would have on the product that they already have and how fast all these new people learned the new ropes. But obviously they have made progress rather quickly and my only wish is that GoodYear management keeps giving this group as many resources as they can have. Because it is really a development race and they have the brains. All they need now is the resources to compete with the competition and to develop faster than the opposition.
Q. During this last year the knock on GoodYear it was better on ovals than on road courses. Obviously you won on a road course this past Sunday. Do you think that GoodYear has now at least gotten up to speed on road courses? In other words, through all the efforts that you have talked about, that they give you a comparable effort on a road course ovals, street course, whatever?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, I think if you based Portland on -- you know, if you based your answer on Portland's result, you would have to say they have made quite a lot of gains on the road courses. We have still got an awful lot of road courses to go yet. So we probably need to see a few more before we say which product is better than the other or are they both about the same. I would say, if anything, right now and correct me if I am wrong, Gil, that we probably feel that the oval needs, you know, as much of a focus as the road course did when we came out of last year. The ovals are, you know, as much if not more so in some cases a bigger challenge and the compete figures don't rest so you got to have them both. What do you think, Gil?
GIL de FERRAN: I agree. I think that they both need to continue to be developed and I don't see anyone product -- I mean, the road course or the oval having an advantage or -- I don't think we any further ahead on one than we are on the other.
Q. I just want today go back earlier, Derrick, I think when you were asked how this developed that you went with the strategy you did, you had mentioned that before each race you review possibilities and that you had established how much of a gap you would need, I guess, to allow a fast pit stop for fuel. But I am not clear on whether this was strictly necessity being the mother of invention or whether this was something that you'd often consider doing?
DERRICK WALKER: It is actually something we do at every racetrack is to try to have a mental pic -- it is more my benefit than for anything else, to have a mental picture of where you are on the racetrack and when you come into the pits, -- how where it's going to position you when you come out time-wise. And so I pretty well had that number in my head. Now at the time we were -- as Gil says battling a long trying to get this magical fuel mileage that we needed to get to do it in two stops; plus obviously hold the position that we had and we weren't making any gains any way, shape or form on that because to run the car that quick, it was just taking that much fuel, so we either had to back off like everybody else did and ride along and hoped that we were going to just maintain where we were or improve where we were and to do that without racing somehow seemed pretty unlikely. So it became -- I don't know, the penny just dropped halfway through the race or coming up lap 55, I said to myself, well, why are we doing this, I wonder if we try to pull out of a bit of a lead; if we have got to make another stop maybe we get a bit of enough gap and we can come out and I was thinking maybe we would get third or fourth, something like that, thinking points. And, well, maybe we could pull it out. Of course, at that time, you really don't know what your opposition is going to do, whether they are going to follow you when you start picking up the pace, or you know, how much of a gap you can actually create. Of course, if you run harder when you are on a race like that, everybody is thinking about keeping everything together and not using up your tires or your cars or making -- just put yourself in the box. So I really didn't know. It was a real gamble to say, well, this is all going to stay together. Gil is going to pull out a second, two seconds a lap, and we are going to have 30 seconds to come in and take on actually 3 seconds worth of fuel; let's go do it. It was a real gamble. And, of course, I couldn't say very much to Gil on the radio about it. He knows enough about when I ask to do certain things, he can figure it out as quickly as I could. So we really didn't need debate, well, do you think we need to roll the dice here and try and pull out a lead, and maybe a yellow will catch -- I will say sorry, we shouldn't have done it and we will sit back in the tent or wherever it might be - we didn't have a lot of time to talk about it and we hadn't actually talked before the race, well, here is what we will do, we will try and get a big gap and do a quick stop and come out and finish the race. It was really just -- I thought when I said to him to go to position 8, the richest mixture that he'd twig it right away and I wouldn't have -- he wouldn't come back to me and say, what are you doing now. He knew exactly what I was saying. Then it was a question of what are these other guys going to do to challenge here, if they figured it out that quick, or can we get a big enough gap before they figure it out; then what are we going to do. So it was very much right up 'til the end. Sort of saying, don't dare believe you are going to pull this thing off because it look so easy, but in reality, we were saying God, I wonder if this is the right thing to do. But everything worked, which is really the message here is that Gil drove that pace; didn't make a mistake; the guys did the pit stops perfectly - engines, tires, everything was just right on the money. And you know, left him for dead. One of those magic moments when it happens.
Q. Had you ever done that before successfully or a second questioned, do you remember a CART race being settled this way?
DERRICK WALKER: No, I don't remember one settled -- I mean, we have had mistakes which turned out to be magic strategy. I remember back in 1990 where we were hailed as winning mid-Ohio with a Porsche program. I think it was 1989. Basically during the refueling stop there wasn't enough put in. It was a mistake and the car went out half tank and he was running so fast that everybody was blown away; nobody could keep up with him and Teo (Fabi) actually opened up a huge gap and so we were able to come in and take another fuel stop and still go out and win the race. So it was more by accident than it was by design. This one was a designed one which had the same result.
Q. You had to open the gap....
DERRICK WALKER: Yeah, he did that and better than most.
Q. I'd like to ask Derrick Rick a couple of things. First of all, a win like this must be kind of extra satisfying because you managed to outsmart everyone else.
DERRICK WALKER: Well, thank you for your comments. Well, you know, I don't know if it is outsmart. There was opportunity there. There was really two choices and, you know, one choice would have had some results; other would have had the results that they did. So I don't know if I was feeling particularly brilliant when we were -- it was really fairly obvious at the time that if you were going to go along do what you are going to do, there was more of a risk staying where you were than actually trying something different. How much different of where you would have ended up, trying that something different, was a bit we didn't know. But clearly we weren't really going anywhere. So, in our particular situation we had, as I say, two options and it worked. But the brilliance of it all is when everything that you want to work, works; you can't say to Gil, by the way, you got to pull out 30 seconds and do it. He got the message right away and he went about it in his own way rather than me saying well, we need another two seconds, run a little harder or whatever; his mind set was, you know, I got to go. He said, go, go. So I am going to go the fastest I can go and keep it in one piece. Likewise you turn to the team and say, look, guys, we got to get three seconds, no more - the total time might have been 4 or 5 but the actual amount of fuel was 3 seconds worth. So it's got to go in and got to get out and can't miss the beat, otherwise we will just lose it. You ask for that, it happens. So if that is brilliance, then it is all the components working. Everybody takes a share on that.
Q. Follow-up to that is more a seasoned thing and that was to ask you how much reassessment did you have to carry out after last year in the sense that 1997 Gil had come so close to winning you have been second in the championship, and then you see a season where that kind of tails off and you have to settle for being down in 12 -- what did you address heading into this year that has managed to get the results again?
DERRICK WALKER: Over the winter time we had a lot of discussion, a lot of analyzing of what went on and what didn't go on. We have really thought that we just needed to add one or two things to the program that basically the program was a very good one. We needed to add a little bit more support on engineering to help analyze the data and Chuck came on board to assist us there. Just tightening up of the whole thing and keeping ourselves focused on what we had and that it would work and it can work and when you look at what went wrong last year, that should have went right, you couldn't help but think that somehow it just wasn't your year. I mean, certain things happened, certainly the tires were still developing and not developing quick enough, but there were certain other things that happened that were just down to being somehow in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pieces that would go wrong that we were to a large extent were out of our control; the nucleus of people and Gil's motivation to stay driving and drive consistently throughout a bad year, a good year, I mean, has never wavered and so we didn't think it was necessary and as the result on Sunday showed, it was correct. We didn't need to tip the place upside-down to turn it around. It was all there. It just needed a bit of watering and a bit of luck coming our way and a chance to show what we can do and that presented itself and we rose to the challenge. But we really -- beneath it all, we have been kind of like a sleeping giant. We have felt for a long time we have a lot of capability, but it is maybe not one of the best kept secrets in racing and it's never had a chance to show itself. But for one reason or other, we came into this year feeling that we had a lot of the pieces already in place.
Q. Derrick, tell the feeling what it was that last half a lap - Gil already described it, but how did it feel to have that load off your shoulders?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, I didn't unload until actually he took the checkered flag, tell you the truth. You have all been there so many times before and how quickly things can change. I never really think in terms of winning until it actually happens. But once it happened, it was just, you know, just a magic time to feel that, you know, everything had worked and the team was really happy and it is good for the Valvoline and Cummins. We had the president of Cummins sitting at the scoring stands throughout the race helping us. For him, the company has supported us right from -- since we started; for him to be there and experience the benefits of his investment was a lot of fun. It was good to see him in the winner's circle with us. It is just, you know, a feel good that you don't get very often and when you do, you love every minute of it.
Q. I saw in St. Louis devastation your eyes and in the team's. Derrick, your pit stops seem very, very precise now. What have you done in practice to make them that way and to overcome the problems that you had earlier?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, it is funny that you should say that. I have heard it from one other source; that question came at us. To be quite frank, we have always been fairly diligent about our test, our pit stops. We have practiced a lot and I have always felt we have had a very good package in our teams when it came to pit stops. The unfortunate situation at St. Louis was a timing issue that caught Dave Stevens our refueler, our vent guy, in a position where we run him over. Thank goodness, in fact, he is doing okay and he will be back at work soon. But right after that, obviously we did work a lot harder. The guys took it upon themselves to just work a lot more, put a lots more practice into the pit stops because not so much as that they needed it, we had a different person doing the vent from that point on, and so there was a need to make sure the whole team rehearsed that. But also having something like that happen, it sharpens everybody's attention to the dangers that happen in a pit stop or can happen in a pit stop and the risk that you run. So it has probably highlighted the team. I'd like to say that we have been doing pit stops like that for a long time; it is just we haven't done that quite so dramatically with a race win. We haven't been winning too often so it hasn't shown, but the guys have been on it for a long time. I am glad you started noticing.
Q. Well, I have noticed that you always had good pit stops just it seems just a little bit better just this weekend.
DERRICK WALKER: I appreciate that. I will pass it on to guys. I am sure they will be pleased to hear that that is the way they are regarded.
Q. Gil, Cleveland has pretty high average lap speed; I think Wisconsin is the closest. They are always cornering, always at high speed, hanging in long corners for a very long time and I wonder if that track, more than any other -- maybe even coupled with the vibrations poses more physical demands on a driver or maybe you in particular than any other racetrack or where does it fit in terms of physical demand for a driver?
GIL de FERRAN: It ranks very high up on the totem pole, that is for sure. It is a very demanding track physically. I mean, I remember 1995 in my rookie year when I led that race almost until the end there and got in a tangle with a back marker, it was a particularly hot day. It was my first year in the series. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of it. So it is a tough track physically. I mean, we got a lot of vibrations through the steering wheel 1996, I finished with blown blisters on the palms of both of my hands. And usually it is very hot there which makes matters even worse.
Q. We were predicting the high 80s this weekend.
GIL de FERRAN: So I hear unfortunately.
T.E. McHALE: We are going to wrap it up this afternoon. We want to thank you all for being with us. For those of who you took the time to stay with us for the entire call, thanks for being along today. Gil and Derrick, thank you for joining us and we wish you the best of luck in the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by First Star coming up on Sunday and through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season.
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