CART Media Conference
June 26, 2001
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone, and welcome to the CART media teleconference. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to join us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver Max Papis of Team Rahal, who drove to his second career FedEx Championship Series victory as last Sunday's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 presented by Texaco at Portland's International Raceway. Good afternoon, Max. Congratulations and thanks for being with us today.
MAX PAPIS: Good afternoon to everyone who is listening.
T.E. McHALE: Max, the driver of the No. 7 Miller Lite Ford Lola, drove to his first victory since the 2000 season opener at Homestead when he finished 1.472 seconds ahead of last week's guest here, Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing. His victory was the first on a road or street course of his six-year FedEx Championship Series career, and it improved upon his previous best road or street finish of second in Australia in 1999. His best prior finish on a permanent road course had been third at Laguna Seca, also in 1999. In winning from the pole and leading a race high 69 of 76 laps, Max scored the third sweep of the maximum 22 available championship points during the 2001 season. Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske, had recorded the previous two 22 point sweeps at Long Beach in Detroit. Sunday's performance allowed Max to expend his run of consecutive points paying finishes to four, including 6th at Japan, 8th at Milwaukee, and 11th at Detroit. It marks the first time since the final four events of the 1999 season that has he scored championship points in four consecutive races. With his victory, Max gained three positions in the FedEx Championship Series championship. Heading into this weekend's Marconi's Grand Prix of Cleveland, presented by First Star, he stands 11th in the championship with 38 points. The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, presented by First Star, round nine of the FedEx Championship series, will be televised live by ABC-TV this Sunday, July 1st, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. With that, we'll open it up for questions for Max.
Q. I'm sure you are well aware of rumors flying around and things like that, that maybe you were at a point of driving for your job. Do you feel like some of the pressure has been lifted now? Do you feel a bit vindicated by what you did last weekend?
MAX PAPIS: Could you say again the question because I didn't really understand.
Q. There have been rumors flying around that maybe your job was going to be in jeopardy. And I was just wondering if you feel like some of the pressure is off and you feel a bit vindicated by your performance last weekend.
MAX PAPIS: I've never heard rumors. First of all, you know, I never rumors that my job is on the line or things like that, you know. I don't see the reason why my job should have been on the line. And second, I'm a lot better driver than just listening gossips. And I feel like every situation, people forget a little bit about what's happened in the past and look at today and the situation with that and I just feel that everybody on the Miller team did a fantastic job on Sunday. We came from being in the back to go again in the front. As I say again, I don't listen to gossip. I listen to what my team says. The team always gives me a lot of sport. And I think it was more, you know -- I'm kind of surprised you tell me that, because it never -- there has never been any rumor on the team or in any circumstances that I ever heard these things. This is actually the first time I hear it.
Q. Talk a little bit about going into Cleveland and the kind of challenges that track provides.
MAX PAPIS: First of all, Cleveland is like another Grand Prix. We're going to go there with a lot of effort, like we go to succeed, like we go to the other race courses and I'm going to attack it in the professional way I'm capable way of and in the professional manner that I've always been up to. You know, I feel that Cleveland is a very good race course. It provides a good show. And I feel that we have to keep doing a good job as we have been doing in Portland and keep believing in our possibility and working hard. As I said, I hope there is going to be a great attendance because it is always a special event. It's a race at an airport. It's a unique place to be. It's a very American way of interpreting the race cars, auto racing events, and it's a very special event.
Q. With that track, is it something about the surface, is it just the layout or what, where cars tend to get better as they go along there?
MAX PAPIS: I don't really get what you want --.
Q. What is it about that track? Is it the surface that you're on? Is it a little more conducive to your style or any kind of road course driver style?
MAX PAPIS: Which track?
MAX PAPIS: I don't really get the question. But Cleveland, as I said, it's a very special race track in terms that it requires a lot of skill. You need to carry a lot of speed into the corner. It's very technical, very wide. You can have different lines and you can interpret the track in a variety of ways. So I feel that if you give room to people that have ability to personalize the race track, to kind of make your own course out there. And as I said, it's so wide it allows a lot of overtaking. It's a strange race track. It's a street course, is how I see it. But as I said, it provides a great show and the raceway is very important.
Q. Max, what basically has come right here in the last couple of weeks with your side of the Team Rahal with the Miller Lite side? What pace did you guys finally get on, so to speak, as far as hitting it off everything with your team and stuff?
MAX PAPIS: First of all, I'm very proud of all the job we did in Portland. Everyone on the Miller team was working very professionally with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of intensity in order to achieve our goals. Portland has been in the past, you know, the trampoline for a lot of great drivers to go for the championship. I can recall Emerson Fittipaldi that won Portland, I can't recall the year, that won Portland for the first time, it was the first one he won in the season, and he went ahead to win the championship. Michael Andretti, Alex Zinardi, 1996. So I feel that I'm in great company. And as I look back in Portland, only great champions won, people with great determination. And I'm very proud to be part of this very selective group of people. To get more into the specific of what happened in Portland, Max Papis is the same driver who qualified in Detroit two weeks ago. He is exactly the same person. He is exactly the same person who sat in the car in Mexico and came home with one point, and he is the person -- I am a person with a lot of determination. I am a person with a lot of will to succeed. And on Friday and Saturday, we worked really hard on the car, and for the first time since the beginning of the season, we were able to find a setup in the car that was suiting my driving style the best. And it was proved, as I said, with a lot of will to succeed, a lot of determination that is inside of my heart, you can achieve the goals. I never give him, nobody in the Miller team give up. The first time we had a chance to prove our abilities, we just dominated and we destroyed their position.
Q. What I'm getting at is, Bobby Rahal made a lot of changes in the off season; one of them bringing in Mark Johnson and he brought in a couple of other guys. Basically he wanted -- I think he wanted to shake some things up, but he also wanted to get you and Kenny both feeling comfortable with your surroundings and the people around you. What has clicked right there, do you think, in the last few weeks on your side of it that's basically brought -- that kind of came to fruition there in Portland?
MAX PAPIS: First of all, there is nothing magic in auto racing. There is only hard work and being consciousness of your own weakness and of your own abilities on many sides of the team. That goes from the marketing to the mechanics to the engineer to the driver to the people, you know, that work every day on the team. You know, you're consciousness of your weakness and your strength. And Sunday, as I told you, I was able to get a good package in my hand, use it the best and to prove that Max is there all the type. Sometimes you cannot see with a number, you know, related to my performance, you know, what I can do, because sometimes I only finish 10th, 11th. But as I said, I fight in Detroit to get 11th, or I fight in Milwaukee to get a few points, the same way I fought then, I fight it on Sunday in Portland. The only difference we were able to get a better package together, thanks to all the changes Bobby has done and thanks to the will we have on the Miller team especially. As I said, there is nothing magic. Magic doesn't exist in auto racing, in my own words. It exists with a lot of will to succeed and a lot of determine. And that's what we have with the Miller team, I am very proud of all my guys.
Q. What I'm following up on, though, is, what you all found in Portland, does it now translate into a more comfortable pursuit of finding the sweet spot each weekend now, do you think? Maybe it's not magic, but did you find the magic button maybe a little bit, that you need to be comfortable now?
MAX PAPIS: As I said to you before, there is nothing magic. In auto racing there is only calculation and most of all common sense. We found a way to run the car that suits me pretty well. The only one time that I was able to perform as comfortable was in the winter testing at Laguna Seca where we went really fast as well. I gave a ring this morning to my engineers and they're there analyzing what happened on Saturday and Sunday and translating and reporting the things to Cleveland. And not only Cleveland, we're thinking forward, Toronto, Michigan, all the other race events. And I tell you, we have a lot of fire now. As I said, Mad Max is here and everybody should be aware of the situation, because now this is going to launch me into the fight for the championship and I am a fighter. Everybody knows. And I'm here to fight for my own -- you know, for my own position in the championship and to bring home the championship at the end of the season.
Q. You're a fighter, but your a lover, too, aren't you?
MAX PAPIS: I'm a fighter.
Q. Mark Johnson, in a nutshell, what has he specifically brought to Team Rahal? I'm not saying it was missing before necessarily, but what is it that he has brought to Team Rahal that you think has possibly made everyone better to a certain extent?
MAX PAPIS: First of all, there are certain technical and internal things that I don't feel I can share with everybody because they are very private things that we have within the team. But for you to get an understanding, we have -- what Bobby did, with Scott being the CEO, Mark Johnson being the director of operation, and a lot of new people on the team, just made everybody more consciousness of their own abilities. And good people -- just more consciousness about their own ability. And now it's time to deliver because we are the team. And here we are and everybody is very consciousness of the ability that we have in the team. And we're just working hard every day to improve our position. As I said, that comes from the driving -- it goes from the driver's side to the engineer's side to the marketing side to the technical side to the management side. And for sure, you know, having a partner like Mark Johnson on the team, co-working with Scott, they share a lot of race experience and the results when you've got professional people on board, the results are coming.
Q. Really, I wanted to ask you if you had any comparisons about those recent successes you've had as compared to what Kenny Brach had at the beginning of the season your team mate. Can you tell me a little bit about how your feelings are about finally getting some of the limelight a little bit, and is there any feelings that you have about the way Kenny was getting the attention early on and now that you've got some now?
MAX PAPIS: I don't care for attention. I am myself, and I have my own attention -- I mean, I don't care for the attention. I care for doing the best job I can, perform as a professional person. Of course, I was very happy for Team Rahal. When the situation was coming, I felt positive. I knew we had a good car and good equipment to do a good job. And I know that when I would have had my opportunity with the car setup and the way I wanted, I would have been able to prove my abilities. Well, it was just a matter of time. I feel that -- as I said, you know, me, I look at my garden, and I look at my own situation and I felt all the time very strong, very confident, and the only difference is that now a lot of people can see what I always have and believe in my heart, that I'm a champion and now the difference is that everybody can see. As I always said, the difference is only what I know inside of me and what I have inside of me cannot be proved all the time by a number. Unfortunately the number is what most of the people on the outside can see, but I don't need a race winner -- a race victory to prove that I'm a winner to myself, because I've done a lot of things in my career. This is just a confirmation with a number of my ability, and of the ability of all the team, not only me, because we are a group and we win and we lose together. And that's what I feel is the most important thing. I feel very honored of being able to share this success with a group of people that they appreciate and they know what it means to be a winner.
Q. You mentioned that this gives you -- you already had the confidence and you already had in your mind that you were a winner, how much of an improvement of your abilities does it help you that you've won on a road course now, in addition to winning on an oval?
MAX PAPIS: As I said, I always go out and I'm a professional person. I do my best. And I was very surprised that I won my first race in a short oval. I knew never would have thought about it. If you had asked me, if you would have put some money on where I would have won the race, I would have said on the street or on the road course. That's where I'm coming from. That's my background, more than ovals. I was pleased I won a race in the short oval. And I tell you, there are many short ovals, many super speedways, many straight road courses to come. I would say that inside of me I always had a lot of determination. And sometimes it's just nice to be able to put a number to what you believe in your heart. And the results especially can emphasize within the team. It's a boost for everybody on my team. It's a boost for everybody, for my mechanics and my engineers. They work really hard and they work big hours. And now they can go home and really feel that they're part of a winning group.
Q. Max, you are the master in endurance. You almost won the Michigan 500. You won in Brazil, the Homestead race. What do you prefer, personally, the oval or the race track, a regular track?
MAX PAPIS: I tell you, I feel very comfortable in both situations. When I came over to the United States, an oval was an unknown situation for me. And now I'm able to master them in the same way that I feel I can master a street and road course, and that I'm very proud of, especially because I had great teachers on the PPI team when I came over in the beginning of my career. I just feel for me it would be a great success to win 500 miles. But as I said, Cleveland is race number nine and I'm going to win there and I'm going to win all the races I can and bring the Miller car up there in front, because I feel that now we found our own way to be successful. Of course, you can dream and think you can win all the races, but I always go with a lot of determination to all the race events. And I feel that now I have better proof in my hand to prove my ability and prove the ability of the team. We will be able to be more consistent and to bring home more and more points that would count the most.
Q. Were you surprised with the performance of the car in the Portland?
MAX PAPIS: I always knew that the Ford engine was a very strong engine and the Lola was a good car. It was proved to me on some occasion when we tested and when we performed very well. We just couldn't find the right way of tuning the car for my driving style. As I said, I was not surprised about the potential we had. We just needed a bit of time to make everything work correctly and here was great proof. I felt this race was very much mine. I felt it was a great success. It was one of the best drive I've ever had in term of being calm, being aggressive, at the same time which was necessary, conserve fuel, use all the abilities I learned in my career, and it was great proof for me. This was one of the most charismatic successes I have had in my career, ability, smartness, and all the situations and all the abilities you need to be a champion at the end of the situation.
Q. This is the last race at Michigan next month, in July. I wanted to ask you what your opinion is of that race leaving Michigan and do you foresee the possibility that CART will become an all road racing circuit?
MAX PAPIS: First of all, it's the first time that we're not going to go back to Michigan again. I've never heard about that. I don't really know how to answer the question because I really enjoy -- I think 500 miles are very much American racing history, their part of the American racing history, so I feel every time in the Michigan 500 it's a great event. It's a place that intrigues me a lot for the characteristic of the race, for the endurance of the race, for what is required for the car to finish a race. You need to push very hard. The engine needs to be reliable. The Ford engine has proven to be very strong there. And I'm surprised because this is the first time I hear this. And on the other things of CART, I think all the political decisions and other things that CART is doing fly way above my head. I'm a race car driver. I'm very focused on doing my job at the moment, bringing my Miller car to the top three of the championship and fighting to win the championship. And these are my focuses. I leave the politics and other things for other people to handle it. They can handle it better than me because, as I said, my job is driving and providing the best show I can, and to all my race fans, and supporting my team in the best way I can.
Q. In your personal opinion, would you prefer to see an all-road-racing circuit?
MAX PAPIS: I think that CART has always been intriguing because it is a street course, a road course, short oval course, and super speedway, and for me this is what keeps a lot of enthusiasm in my driving. And I would like to see it stay like this.
Q. I wanted to follow up a bit on MIS. I'm sorry you didn't hear about that earlier. I'm just wondering, from a driver standpoint, after you've tested there a couple of weeks ago at MIS, are there any changes that you think need to be made at MIS to help open-wheeled racing there?
MAX PAPIS: I'm a race car driver. My job is driving and supporting my team. All the other situations are up to CART. I have faith that they know exactly what they're doing and what they want to achieve at the race track. I feel that it is not just open-wheel racing and NASCAR and things. It's just the way you want people to receive CART. And I know CART is working really hard in creating a better identify for CART in itself. And I have a lot of belief they are on the right path and there are good people on board, that they know a lot better than me what to do and what to say and what's the final project that they want to bring to the people. So I feel that I leave the job to the people that knows better than me.
Q. When your team was up here two weeks ago testing at MIS, did you learn anything in particular that might have helped you with that victory Sunday at Portland?
MAX PAPIS: No. MIS is a very unique place. It's like when you run in a super speedway, you just run for super speedway configuration. I could get a great jumpstart on everybody else in terms of getting the right feeling on the car and learning what I wanted over there, and here we are. I feel that the greatest change we did in Portland were just analyzing the data with the engineers on Friday, coming up with a good solution and proving that the win is within the Miller team. The ability of the success is within the Miller team, because the people that won the race in Portland, the group of people that won the race in Portland are the same group of people that were in Detroit the week before. So that means we have the ability. It's going to be up to us to make the best of what we have in our hand.
Q. Great driving this weekend in the rain. Given the results of last weekend, are you praying for rain again this weekend in Cleveland?
MAX PAPIS: No. We dominated the race with the rain and I think that was proof good enough for everybody that you have to be aware and consciousness of the potential of Max Papis and the Miller team in any condition. I just feel that the rain on Sunday emphasized my ability and the ability of the Miller team to stay calm, focused, aggressive. And every time the condition becomes difficult only the toughest guys come out, and we proved we were the best on the field.
Q. You have driven sports cars in the past. What do you think about the idea of a joint weekend of CART and ALMS racing together at a venue? Do you think that would be popular?
MAX PAPIS: That would kind of upset me because I want to drive a sports car, so I would have to drive both series at the same time.
Q. Suppose there's one race on Saturday and one race on Sunday? Would you drive both?
MAX PAPIS: I'll tell you, if they gave me the opportunity, I would drive Friday, midgets; Saturday, sports cars; and Sunday, champ cars.
Q. Do you think the two series would be a good match for each other as far as fans being interested in a joint weekend of the two together?
MAX PAPIS: I don't know about that. I know that CART is strong enough to produce a strong show by itself. I think if we focus on the hero we have in the series, on the manufacturers we have in the series, the sponsors we have, like Miller and Ford, that's plenty to boost the series up and make a great show out of it. You don't need anything else.
Q. Mazzaratti has made a statement to the press that they are looking at either coming to the CART series or the IRL?
MAX PAPIS: Who said that?
Q. Luka -- I can't pronounce his last name -- Montazable (phonetic), the guy who runs the Ferrari race program.
MAX PAPIS: You should learn his name. Luka Montazable.
Q. That's it. He has made a statement they are looking at both series. They're not sure which one they're going to come to. What do you think Mazzaratti coming to CART would mean, being they are Italian and you are Italian?
MAX PAPIS: For an Italian driver, being able to have an Italian manufacture in the series would be something fantastic. I know they are exploring and they are doing a lot of research on what they want to do in the future. And as I said, we're here. At the moment, I'm very focused on what I'm doing with the Miller team, with my Ford engine. I'm very proud of everyone in my team. But as I said, I'm very open-minded for the future. And as I said, there are a lot of opportunities to be checked and definitely another manufacturer in the series would do something fantastic, especially Ferrari/Mazzaratti.
Q. Has Luka talked to you about it at all, the idea?
MAX PAPIS: No.
Q. Has he asked you about CART?
MAX PAPIS: I've always had a good relationship with people in Ferrari. And I just feel at the moment, you know, we have not spoken specifically about that. But me and the Ferrari people have a close relationship all the time. Ferrari is the company that took me to the United States. For sure they know who to call when they want to ask things about the United States work.
Q. Coming into a road course this weekend and then you've got a week off and then you have Toronto and then Michigan and then Chicago getting into the tough part of the season. How do you prepare for something like that?
MAX PAPIS: I prepared for that this winter, with my training, with my diet, with the way I am. And I just feel that for every great athlete, for every athlete, it's not the last two days before the race that makes the difference, it's preparation all the way that brings you up to that moment. And I feel that I kept working really hard on my body, my brain, and with my team. So I feel that we have all the right cards to play our game and embarrass everybody again.
Q. Embarrass is true, yes. So basically your routine is pretty much set and you're comfortable with these races back to back without being overly tired or strung out?
MAX PAPIS: For me, it's no problem. I'm a strong driver. I trained very hard. I'm a strong athlete. And what I think is most tiring is for my crew, for my mechanics, for everybody in my team, especially for my mechanics. I have a lot of respect for them. They are my family. They are the people I care a lot about on the team. And I tell you, you know, the mechanics and the people that work for me in the Miller team on the car, they are the people that are closest to my heart because I have a lot of respect for what they do.
Q. The pop-off valve plate, did that affect you at all at Portland? It sure didn't seem to on the track, but did you notice any difference running it?
MAX PAPIS: I felt there were a lot of political issues related to that especially, and Ford has always done a tremendous job providing the best power and the best ability and best fuel management. And it was proven on Sunday. It was a fast race track with a long straightaway. We had to conserve fuel. We could perform at a high level. We had all the characteristics there. As I said, there was a lot of political things. Ford coped with them in a perfect way and provided me the best power to be -- as I said again, to dominate the race, not just win it.
Q. Max, Cleveland is fast but notoriously rough in some of those turns. Do you almost have to prepare yourself for Sunday's race knowing you're going to get sort of beat up a little bit during the course of it? Even though, as you pointed out, you're in tip-top shape, do you know it's going to be a rough day at the ballpark, so to speak?
MAX PAPIS: You point out something very important. All the time you know how many bullets you have in your gun and when you have to shoot them. For sure, you know, it's very physically demanding, but you have to know when to push hard and when not to push hard, when it's the moment to give 100 percent or when it's the moment to take it back. And I feel that every athlete knows when to give it all or give it 90 percent. And it is going to be very physically demanding on Sunday in Cleveland, and I felt I worked really hard in wintertime to build my body for this effort, so I'm ready for it.
Q. A couple of years ago CART did leave Cleveland and then decided to come back after some things got worked out. I was wondering, you as the driver have been there many times, would that have been a shame, because it is an extremely entertaining race for the fans every year, would that have been a shame to have walked away from that race track, or at least from that venue let's say, as far as what it means maybe to the fans and stuff?
MAX PAPIS: First of all, there are a lot of issues that I'm not aware of regarding the reason why CART wanted to leave Cleveland. I know that I really love the race fans over there. They give good support. It's a great race track, even if it's a rough one. It's a rough one in terms of pavement and everything. But as I said, I'm sure that CART just wanted to give you guys something to write more exciting.
Q. You talked a while ago about your team and stuff. You guys on Team Rahal, do you sense -- the team itself has one three of the last four races, probably could have won four of the last five, do you sense there is a streak there now that was not there last year or the year before last?
MAX PAPIS: Absolutely. The strength that is in Team Rahal this year is greater than ever in terms of a Ford engine, Lola chassis, managers, mechanics, engineers. We are -- we made a great step forward. And you don't win three races on eight events, or whatever it is, because you're lucky or something like that. You win because you are well prepared, you're a professional, and you work hard at it. And I feel that Team Rahal will prove the ability that we have, and definitely the team has been enhancing it's position.
T.E. McHALE: We'll let Max go for the afternoon. Max Papis, that's for being our guest today. Best of luck in the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, presented by First Star, this weekend.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you. I want to say the last thing. I was very glad, you know, on the whole event in Portland. I will say it again. It was extremely important for everybody on the Miller team because we came from struggling pretty hard, and not only this year, but last year. It was hard for us. We always believed in ourselves, but unfortunately we received a lot of criticism and it was very tough. But as I always said, we have a lot of fire in our heart. I was very proud of all the people on the Miller team, everybody at Ford, and we came away from Portland with a great success on and off the track. I say it again. Portland has been a trampoline for championship winning drivers. And I feel that now I'm going to fight to go and bring this championship to Italy and bring this championship to the Miller team and to the Ford environment. We deserve it and I'm working really really hard -- I don't know if you can work harder than what I've done in the previous situations, but I will keep working as hard as I did and even a little bit more because I feel that now we can go and we can be proud of what we did. We had a little black cloud over our head. The black cloud is gone. And it's time for everybody to be aware that Mad Max is here, he's back, and he's hungry to win a lot of races.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks, Max. We wish you a lot of luck with that.
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