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CART FedEx Championship Series: Miller Lite 250

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Miller Lite 250

CART FedEx Championship Series: Miller Lite 250

Adrian Fernandez
Max Papis
Paul Tracy
June 2, 2002


WEST ALLIS, WISCONSIN

MERRILL CAIN: Adrian finished second today, with the No. 51 Tecata/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola. He finishes second with his best finish of the season, fifth straight Top-10 finish at Milwaukee, and his best finish since Australia in 2000. He also moves into a tie for fifth place in the overall point stanndings with Michael Andretti. You started the race with something that probably didn't please you a lot, but it was interesting start to say the least, but you made a great recovery after falling back to sixth place to bring home a second place finish.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, for me it was absolutely out of control to have that flag wave green. It should never happen. Paul basically was setting the pace, so I was not going to let that happen. So basically, I was backing off, after coming in three and four, and as you can see, he was always in the lead. And basically, he started accelerating, and so basically what I did is just back off, and I think that there was like three cars in the start/finish line that passed me. So I don't think that was a good call. And Gene (phonetic) came to me and apologized and said that he made a mistake and basically that's where we lost the race. Because there was no way Paul was going to pass. Our pit stops was very good all day. The car was decent all day. It was very difficult, as you can see, to pass. So that was frustrating, because earlier in the pole I was in sixth place, and very obvious decision. The polesitter should be setting the pace. The polesitter should always pass in front in the start finish line. You will see there is like at least three cars ahead of me on the start/finish line. After that, basically we just kept working our way there and just keep cool and have good pit stops. The track really got really slippery. That was a huge part of it. At one point, I thought I was going to hit the wall coming out of four. I even closed my eyes; I thought I was going to go directly into the wall and suddenly it was very close. I realized in one of the yellows that the models (phonetic) were really, really high, higher than I expected. So basically at that point I have to rechange my lines and try to drive low, and any time you try to drive a little bit high -- not even high, you will get into a model (phonetic.)

MERRILL CAIN: Just to clarify, how the rule reads: Once the green flag is displayed, the front row driver can cross the start/finish line. That's the way the rule reads. We are also joined by Max Papis, driver of the No. 22 ROCKWELL FIRST POINT Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone. He takes his second podium finish of the year, finishing third today. He matches his third place effort at Long Beach, and this is his best finish at Milwaukee and the third straight year he has finished in the top eight here. Great performance. You made up 15 starting positions today, same amount of spots that you made up after starting at 18th in Long Beach, as well, so you're getting a reputation for coming from the back, aren't you.

MAX PAPIS: That's why they call me Mad Max. (Laughs). First of all, today was a great success for us. Again, we proved that with so little, we can do so much. We came over here with one car, with no spares. And it's very difficult to do win it out in qualifying, because in addition to everything , we trimmed out and we can't really afford it. If my car stuck out for one time, we would have been not racing. So I feel very proud of what we have done. The engineers and the mechanics, they work with so little and they can achieve so much. This is proof that we are a very strong, small group of people.

MERRILL CAIN: We are now joined by Paul Tracy who is your champion in the Miller Lite 250, driving the No. 6 KOOL Honda/Lola Bridgestone, he had 185 laps to become just the third driver to have won three times at Milwaukee, joining Michael Andretti who won five times and Tom Snead who won four times. His other wins came in 1995 and 1999. The win and most laps led gives Paul 32 points in the season and that ties him with Max, for third in the championship. Paul, obviously a great win for you, congratulations. You take home the champion flag and no controversy.

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, it's great. I'm very proud of the job everyone has done on our team. All the work that everybody does, really, you don't understand until you come to our shop and you see all of the cars. There's 19 cars on the floor, all being worked on. Guys are spread so thin. We've had so much heartache in the last year or so, with so many missed opportunities and things where you think you've got a hold of it and then it goes away from you. And especially after last week, after everything that's happened, to get a win, and a convincing win, it feels good to finally get on top of the podium.

MERRILL CAIN: Top-5 officially as they stand right now: Michel Jourdain, Jr., With 42 points; Dario Franchitti in second with 35 points; Max and Paul are tied with 32 points on the year and Cristiano da Matta is in fifth place with 29 points.

Q. Inaudible?

PAUL TRACY: The green light was on. (Laughter) I saw green last week and I saw this green this week.

Q. Did the aero package make passing easier -- last year, everyone complained about the turbulence, there did not appear to be a whole lot of passing out there today?

PAUL TRACY: The whole field was fast. At the end of the race when I came up the lap, it was Michael and Brack and they were both -- Michael caught me. He was one of fastest cars on the track in traffic, and he ripped me in about six seconds. And Brack was obviously fast; he was leading me. Those were the guys that were trying to lap. You know, it's a situation where you don't want to lose a lap, because if it goes yellow light after that, then you're out of it. The guys are going to fight you for that first lap and they are going as fast as they can go and you are going as fast as you can go. That's just how deep the field is. It's not like the guy at the back is three seconds of a lap slower. They are only going two- or three-tenths slower than what your pace. Is they are really not holding you up. It is just the way it is.

Q. Were you getting frustrating -- inaudible?

PAUL TRACY: I was getting frustrated with him a little bit because I put my nose inside of him four or five times and he turned across me, and I complained on the radio. And I think it was 30 laps I was behind him and they finally told them that you're not fast enough, and I was going a second of a lap slower than what my original pace was; and then he finally let me by and that was really -- then again, it went yellow right after that, so that kind of put him oust the race all together. It's just a situation where, in the drivers meetings we talk about it, you can fight for your first lap because that's the end of the race, really, for you. But it comes to a point where if a guy is beside you like four or five times and you turn in across him, it's not very nice.

Q. People are talking about the financial condition of your team. Will the prize money get to you fast enough to make a difference?

MAX PAPIS: I think that you should ask my team owner. What I do is I have -- I don't know if you guys really understand our situation and what we have been achieving here. We are third in the championship with a team that has never been testing. If I leave even single spare part -nothing, nothing. On the track, we have my car, that's it. The achievement, it's something special. It's just more than finishing third. With the conditions my guys are under, a lot of pressure, sweating up to the last minute, I don't think they deserve that, but overall that's what you have to work on and make it better. You have to go to the track believing that you can do it. Today, I really think that we had one of the fastest cars out there. In the last race start, I was very close to Adrian, but it was difficult to take a chance because I had a little bit of an understeer in the car. I was very happy of how the Firestone tires were working. I look at other people in the morning and I thought these guys going to go so fast that we are going to run into trouble, so I was pleased for my decision. Again, it was difficult to really be super brave. I could be just normal brave. (Laughter). But I am extremely proud and pleased. We really have to underline what these guys have done. I don't know how my car, you know, if they did it all together, and at the same time, if we would have finished in Japan where we would have gone to the finish and we were like fifth, third, something like that, maybe we would have won the championship. So I hope this shows something about the Lola. But nothing to take away from KOOL, they were one of the bravest cars and a great champion, as was proved even last week.

Q. Assuming last week's decision holds up, this doesn't make up for that, but this has to help a little bit?

PAUL TRACY: It does. But, you know, it's something that only time will tell what the end result of that is going to be. If it ends up the way it is now, then we still have had a great race and we put on a great show. The only thing that I can do is, like Max says, you have to believe in yourself and believe in your own ability and believe in your team, and always push to the maximum all the time. That's something that I always try to do, is I'm always pushing everything to the limit, I don't give up until the checkered flag falls. That's all that you can do when you live your life as a racing driver is give your best effort all the time. That's how guys stay in this sport for a long time. These team owners out here, they can see the guys who put out the effort and the guys who don't put out the effort, and I guess that's how I've been able to stay here for so long.

Q. Max, when you hear a team like Green has 19 cars on the floor --

MAX PAPIS: I would be happy to get any of them. (Laughter).

PAUL TRACY: I can give you some Reynards. I'll keep my Lola but you can have my extra Reynard. (Laughter).

Q. So what do you think you guys -- are you looking for more recognition to help get the program going?

MAX PAPIS: I'll say it again. The only thing that you can do -- this is a sport, and you look at it as a sport. You need to live it as a sport. That's what I do. And sports is passion, commitment and money; that one we don't have a lot. But passion and commitment, we have plenty. Hopefully, people will see , we are living in a difficult economy situation. You know, it's tough, not only in auto racing, everywhere, you look around, in business. So you have to accept that not all the time is gold, but you can make it and polish it and make it better. That's what we do.

Q. Do you expect your team to launch an appeal; do you feel that you should go to bat for you, for what you feel is rightfully yours?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I feel that they should, because I feel that I won the race. Obviously, the information that I've been told that Barry has is very convincing to him and his lawyers and our sponsors, and something that I haven't really wanted to look at because I saw it firsthand for myself. He'll make that decision tomorrow. But I feel pretty confident that he's going to go and do what he has to do.

Q. Which is what?

PAUL TRACY: I think fight it. Motor racing is not -- it's not a sport that's judged like figure skating or other types of sports where an official calls the result of a race. This is a timed sport where you have accurate times, you have track markers, you have so much technology that you just can't say, well, all of that doesn't count. It has to go by the way it is, and this racing is a timed sport. Everything is done off of time. We need to see all that information.

Q. It was said when the process was denied that the data clearly showed that the yellow light on your dash was showing at or before you made the pass. What do you say to that?

PAUL TRACY: What I say to that is show me that it was on and they are not willing to show us that data. So show me that the lights were on, show me that the in-dash light was on and then I'll take my second place trophy and go home and be happy with that.

Q. Obviously, you don't think you should?

PAUL TRACY: No, absolutely not.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Let me tell you something regarding this scenario. I really share a lot with Paul. At Fontana, it was a very similar call, you know. I felt I passed Luciano. They say I didn't. I didn't win the race, but for my knowledge, I think I won the race. I ended up losing $1 million by seven-thousands of a second and it was a very important race for us. So I share a lot with Paul his feeling at the moment. It's a numbers sport, it's a timed sport. That's it. It's not you should look around a little bit and change some of the rules because you cannot leave people in the unknown. I feel, too, that I won my race in Fontana like Paul feels he won his race.

Q. Adrian, you're disappointed at not winning, but can you talk about the importance of this day for your team, the results overall were the best you've ever had.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, it's like Max says, I feel the same way myself. Fernandez Racing is a very young team. It's not easy to put a team to that levels of Team Green and things like that, and to be able to do that in such a short is just fantastic. We had some really good pit stops and worked really hard to make all that happen. The team never made any mistakes all weekend. I think this team is just going up, big time. You'll start to see that, the way they have been working and the focus they have, and I'm just very, very pleased to see that develop to the point that we have it. We had a lot of pressure some from the sponsors and the fans, and I think we're starting to prove them wrong. I'm very proud of that.

Q. Adrian and Paul, Adrian you switched from Reynard to Lola this year and turned out to be the right move. And Paul you just switched and you said you've been uncomfortable with the Lola cars since Motegi. Talk about that.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: For us, basically, we made the decision on Dan Holliday and he recommended the car. It indicated a lot of extra work and at that time we didn't know the future of Reynard, so it indicated a lot of work on our side because it was a brand new car. And the Lola car is good. It's a very painful car to work on it, and you can speak to the mechanics. It's taken us quite a bit of time to make it finish races. Basically in that respect, we made the right decision.

PAUL TRACY: Same for us. For me, I'm still beginning to understand the car. I hope that the last two runs in the car has not just been beginner's luck. But like Adrian said, it's a much, much different car to work on than a Reynard and it's very compact and everything is crammed into a very small area. So it's much harder to work on and just to do general maintenance on the car is a lot harder than a Reynard because of the layout of the car. But obviously the car works very well. I have no complaints. Hopefully we can get more great results.

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