CART Media Conference
March 16, 2000
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the first CART Media Teleconference of the 2000 season. We'd like to thank you all for joining us today for what we hope will be an informative, albeit, lengthy conference call. During the next two hours or so, we will welcome the top five finishers in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series, spending 20 to 25 minutes with each. We will begin shortly with Max Papis of Team Rahal. He will be followed in order by Michael Andretti of Newman Haas racing Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti. Both of Team KOOL Green and defending FedEx Championship Series Champion, Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. We thank you again for joining us today in preparation for the FedEx Championship Series opening event; the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, Presented by Toyota, March 26th at Homestead Miami Speedway. As is usually is the case, we have a large media turnout for our season opener call and limited amount of time with our drivers, as a consequence we would be grateful of those asking questions, please limit yourself to one question and a brief follow-up whenever possible. Thanks in advance for your understanding. We will begin with Max Papis of Team Rahal, fifth place finisher in 1999 FedEx Championship Series. Good afternoon, Max, thanks for being with us this afternoon. Max joins us off the most successful of his four seasons in the FedEx Championship Series. He scored 11 Top-5 finishes in 20 starts and closed the season with consecutive career best runner-up efforts at Australia and California Speedway respectively. He also recorded his first career FedEx Championship Series pole position during the inaugural Target Grand Prix at Chicago Motor Speedway. Max scored points in 14 of 20 starts overall, including 9 of the final 11. He led the series in laps completed with 2,650 of a possible 2,769, and in miles completed with 4,403.463 of a possible 4,652.675. He was also running at the finish in a series high 18 of 20 events and finished second to series Champion Montoya with 328 laps led. He finished fifth in the FedEx Championship Series with a career best 150 points. At this point we will open the call to questions for Max.
Q. You had a couple of busy months of testing Max, everybody has been hard at it, the Ford engine looks very strong and competitive, how do you assess the situation, do you think you will be able to get your first win this year Max?
MAX PAPIS: I feel that my first win should have come already last year, there is no doubt about it. But we have been building towards it as you saw, at the beginning of the season we had to be patient because I talk to myself first of all, I had to be patient because things need to come in place at the right time and towards the end of the season things came together and we were up there. What I really feel, you know, before thinking of anything like fighting for Championship or things of that, you need to think about winning. I have not done that yet. I won close. But I am very, very confident that it will be my time and I really feel that it would be very shortly. You never know, maybe Homestead, you know, you never know. I feel that I have been working pretty well towards the goal and that my goal this year, most of all, is being competitive and what I think happened my -- last year many Top-5 finishing. I feel that this year, these Top-5 I should get transformed more into podium finishing; that would, I think, would assess a pretty good season for me.
Q. Anything new this year that we can expect from Max except for a renewed determination?
MAX PAPIS: I don't think so because I am always the same person since I joined Champ Car. I have always been determined to succeed in anything I did. Sometimes my success, I could only say it because it was a 15th place finishing for PPI, 15 place qualifying for fifth place or 8th place finishing but that, for me, was a great success. Now all of you can see that is the difference. I really feel that, you know, I am myself and the determination is in me and I had don't feel -- I always push to improve myself every time because I always look for better things, better way of driving and learning and becoming a better person all the time. What you are going to see, for sure, is that what I can promise you, is that when I am going to be up there on the podium, you are not going to have a voting press conference.
Q. Can you explain what you mean by that?
MAX PAPIS: Have you been watching the first Formula I race press conference?
MAX PAPIS: You are not going to see that.
MAX PAPIS: You are going to see more interesting stories out of me, for sure.
Q. Is it possible to be a little too confident? Looks like -- I mean, there is 10 Ford powered cars and Bobby's crew is so good at setting up his cars. You are an exuberant person. Is it possible to have a little too much confidence going into this year?
MAX PAPIS: I really don't think so. There is a possibility of having too much confidence, but it is not within the team as well, I am sure. Even after spring training, I always say it is okay, I am first, but that doesn't pay anything, you know, but as you said, I really feel that everyone -- Ford has done a fantastic job, that is definite. Engine is new and I am very impressed how it is performing out of the box. You don't guys have to forget about it. It is a brand new engine. That way there is a lot of expectation, but I feel that if you build too much expectation around it, you get very disappointed. You need to get what it gives you and we know that within Team Rahal we have work to do. We are by no means, you know, we are not at the top of our performance. That means, that we are not weak, but we have a margin for improvement and we all know about it. And we try to do it all the time. So I feel that I can speak for myself and for my team, you know, we are pretty humble and we are humble and how I approach the season is like last year, just with more confidence because I know that, last year I was coming from the best place finishing was fifth. Now I have some podium finishing. So I know that -- I know that it is not impossible to finish on the podium. I know what is required to finish on the podium right now. I don't know yet what is required to win, but I think inside of me I know. So I start with more knowledge of our potential, but always in a humble way because I feel that arrogance is only when you drive. Outside the car you shouldn't have it.
Q. Hair color still blue or any other colors?
MAX PAPIS: If I -- sometimes like everyone else, I have to cut my hair, so the blue is gone.
Q. Max, how has -- has Kenny changed anything at the team? Do you share better than Bryan do you get more motivated with Kenny on the team? Any change in your relationship in that respect?
MAX PAPIS: I like Bryan very much. Not in the beginning of the season, for sure, when I joined the team, it was a bit difficult, antagonism for sure he saw me like a big antagonist, but at the end of the season we got along very well and I felt he is a very good guy, very nice heart, you know. Kenny is a very determined and I know him for quite many years. But to tell you the truth, I don't think anyone can change my approach more than myself because I am -- I push very hard myself and I always try to look at myself first, how I can improve. So it is nice to have someone that you know you need to really make your best, you know, to beat him, but that was very similar with Bryan as well. With Bryan you can never underevaluate him. He was always pretty good. Sometimes he was not very, very good in some oval in the race, but that was another deal. I know that Kenny, he is a determined person. I like him and as I said in the past, I like people that are honest and I think he is. Until he will be honest and straightforward with me, we are only going to have battle on the track. Off the track we have a common goal that is, you know, taking Team Rahal up there, you know, and beating everybody else and so that is how I think -- that is how I think about motor racing.
Q. Do you in these last few weeks before the season starts, do you kind of get anxious in expectations, so to speak for the season?
MAX PAPIS: I am, not anxious. I am a bit tired to test. I want to go racing and when you go testing, you know, you never know which tires the team has, other things, so, I am really anxious just to sit in the car and race against the best. That is what I am. But on the other hand, I am building with confidence, you know, and good approach to the first race, so what I really feel that I am stronger than ever inside and out, so I am going down there in Homestead with very similar approach that I had last year, just with more knowledge of our potential.
Q. The one thing that I have learned from you and about you over the years that you and I have known each other is that you seem to pull something out of each season put in your book of racing knowledge. Talk about that first year with Bobby Rahal and compare it to the couple of years prior to that, how much more was your learning curve expanded or was it?
MAX PAPIS: Definitely working for Ford and Bobby last year and everyone in Miller was a different game because I was competing for a Top-5 every race. But what I put in my bag of experience is that you need to take what is given and what is given means don't be satisfied is what you have, but a Champion, I think, is someone who knows when to take it and when to give it. I really feel that last year joining Team Rahal with all the up and down we had during the season, I learn to keep a steady emotion and to try to never let yourself down and actually come out of the difficult situation stronger than ever. That is what I really learned about it. More than ever, like when everyone as expectation on you, when everyone is waiting for you to do good result and everything, sometimes it is not easy when things, they don't come together to still know that you can make it and that is what I feel that I learned last year.
Q. I want to express congratulations to T.E., the Master of Ceremony. Secondly, the tough Michigan loss was actually positive to you? What did it teach you?
MAX PAPIS: Michigan was, as you just said, was a loss but was a win at the same time. It was a win within the team because we pulled together stronger than ever and we came out and we said: now we are going to show to everyone we have the because to do the job and we came back and we showed that. That is why I am so proud to Team Rahal because we could have let these things destroy our season, instead me took it, turn it around and came back hungry than ever and made it very special in a -- very special season after that. Other things I was very happy about it, it was that the people, you know, race fans and everyone could really see that who was behind the wheel, you know, that -- could see my personality and my will to win and succeed in the future and I felt really proud of all the people that came over to me and they supported me even after what happened. I promise that this year, you know, they are not going to be a situation like that. We are going to see many special events.
Q. You commented on the press conference following the Formula I opener. How about, I presume you watched the race, compare what people saw in that race to what the CART opener will be like?
MAX PAPIS: I thought that actually the F-I race was kind of exciting considering what happened in the race. But I really feel that, you know, CART -- you know, right now if you ask me who is going to be on pole, who are going to be the Top-3, I don't think anyone really has an answer on that because you really -- really inside deep in you don't know. So my feeling is that it is going to be, you know, you guys are going to have a lot of things to write about us after Sunday, but the most important things that I think you are going to see, you are going to see a very close racing and a lot of sport, a lot of sport and I really hope that this season, you know, is going to be held in a safe environment and in a more happy and more enjoyable environment than what happened last year.
T.E. McHALE: Michael has joined us. We will take one more question for Max Papis; then we will move on to Michael. One final question for Max Papis before we let him go for the day.
Q. From your standpoint what kind of new things has Don brought to the plate this year?
MAX PAPIS: Don is definitely a special person because he has a special heart. He came within Team Rahal and in a very special way, like in a humble way trying to help us in organizing our effort in a more focused way. That is what I feel that he contributed to the best for us. He is very knowledgeable engineer but most of all, he is extremely good person with people and I feel that as I always said, within Team Rahal, we have all the right ingredients and all the right people to be a real champion. We just need a little bit more self-confidence and a little bit more self-belief that we could be winners and we could be competitive every race and I really feel that Don being calm and being methodical, you know, is contributing in building this new mentality -- not new mentality, but this mentality that came along, I felt quite a lot during last year and I really hope to see it more and more during this year.
T.E. McHALE: Thank you, Max. Thank for joining us this afternoon. Best of luck in the season opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, Presented by Toyota, next weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway and best of luck throughout the season for you, Max.
MAX PAPIS: Thanks, everyone, and I hope I see you -- I am going to see you all down in Miami or wherever we are going to be and thanks very much for all the support you give me all the time.
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