CART FedEx Championship Series: Miller Lite 250
Topics: Miller Lite 250
MERRILL CAIN: We are privileged to be joined by Mario, Kenny and Adrian this afternoon. We'll start out with Mario Dominguez, driver of the No. 16 Lola Bridgestone. He was third fastest on the day. He had a time of 22.586 seconds, a speed of 164.491 miles per hour which was set in the morning session. Mario is the current leader in the Jim Truman Rookie of the Year standing. He will be looking for his best start of the 2002 season tomorrow, looking to better his previous best of 12th in Monterrey, Mexico. Tell us about your day.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, the day has been pretty good. We started out with a very good car. We tested here two weeks ago and we feel very comfortable. We are just working different changes, trying to set up on the car. Overall, we have a good car. So hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow when it matters.
MERRILL CAIN: Second overall today in practice was Kenny Brack, the No. 12 Target Chip Ganassi Toyota Lola Bridgestone. He was second fastest with a time of 22.535 seconds at the speed of 164.864 miles per hour, that was also set in the morning session. Kenny, of course, is the defending champion of the Miller Lite 250, winning last year's event. He led 130 of the 225 laps. Obviously, you know your way around this place pretty well. How did it feel out there today.
KENNY BRACK: I think it's very slippery to begin with. Generally it feels good, same track as last year. Just got my setup that I had last year and I'm trying to remember everything and tomorrow we'll hope it's the same. (Laughter).
MERRILL CAIN: Couple other notes on Kenny very quickly. He will be looking for his seventh career CART pole position and fifth on an oval. He parted on the pole here last year after qualifying was rained out Saturday here last year. Our overall fastest qualifier, fastest practice session today was posted by Adrian Fernandez of the No. 51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola Bridgestone. He was fastest in session this afternoon with a time of 22.021 seconds, speed of 168.712 miles per hour. He will be looking for his second pole position of the season to match his effort at the season -opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. Tell us a little bit about your afternoon. I know you said that you talked after the practice session that you really felt the practice and your test session at Milwaukee really paid dividends here today.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: We took the whole month of May to just basically catch up on all of the little things that the team needed to, get organized. We had a good test and then we came here. Actually, two days before, we got rained out, and then we tested and it was a very good day. We were pretty competitive. Then we came here and the car felt good straightaway. So basically we just have been tuning the car to the conditions. When we tested here, it was high 50s, low 60s, so conditions were very different. Walking on the track, there was not much of a line, that you could try different lines. So the car, we've basically been just making little changes to adapt it to the conditions, and now the car is just working fantastic. I haven't got any of my laps have been just like -- feels like the car is working well, and that's what you want in an oval car. I hope to keep it like that for the weekend.
MERRILL CAIN: Adrian will be looking for his second oval track pole position tomorrow on qualifying, which is first on the short oval. His previous track pole came in Michigan in 1998.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Basically it's the same car we had here in testing three weeks ago. Of course, you don't put the car up the second you test it, because you don't know conditions so you tune in a way that you have some push. The car felt pretty good and after that we just kept changing. It's basically just communication, you just tell the engineer what the car is doing; in my case, Don Halliday, and he just keeps changing. Some things work and some other things don't work. I've known Don for many, many years. We were together as a driver/engineer with Tasman (ph). Don has a great personality. He's a guy that you can know -- one of most important things is that you become a friend of him and he becomes a big friend. He's a great friend of Kenny, and that's the type of guy, when there's a lot of things going wrong or whatever, he keeps everybody focused and calm and talks to everybody and teach them. That's a huge attitude of Fernandez Racing. Basically that's what I saw when I brought in Don and I cannot do it on my own and Don cannot do it on his own. The things that Don brings to the team is huge, in just teaching everything and calming down and working with us. The first few races was very difficult. Everybody is new. You can have the best driver, the best engineer, but it just takes time. But the combination seems to be working. I'm glad that he's on the team and that we are just starting to get the speed that we were looking for.
KENNY BRACK: I think this oval is very challenging because it's very different from one end to the other. It requires a lot from the car, from the setup. Normally it's pretty exciting racing. It's going to be interesting to see this year how everything will be with the different wing configuration. I think it will be a very exciting race. For sure, it will be very, very busy. I do enjoy them driving but I do used to enjoy it more in the old days. I'm old now. (Laughs). In the old days, I remember here, we used to go side by side through the race. Nobody's fault, it's just technology, the cars are going faster. And I think not just this, but all the series, some tracks like in NASCAR you don't see them side by side anymore. The speeds that you are carrying, the technology of the tires, in our case with Bridgestone, they get better and things like that. It's still fun. Here, it's no different to make a pass -- when you make a pass, it's a great feeling.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It's hard to pass. I definitely like to drive here in a race where you have a lot more grip, more downforce on the cars. I think it's very challenging. For a driver standpoint and an engineering standpoint, to go fast on the one-mile oval, because on the oval, your car has to be very good in order to be fast. You have to work very closely with the engineers. It's a great challenge for the whole team.
KENNY BRACK: So far we have not seen any problems. I'm sure that there's a lot of work to take on a third car, not in the middle of the season, but still when the season started. But if anyone can do it, it's Ganassi because it's a team that does very deep research. I think they will be able to do it. They run cars at Indianapolis and everywhere. I don't think it's going to be a problem, to be honest with you. I haven't seen any indication that it will be.
MERRILL CAIN: Obviously, you guys have had some good success in the first race of the year. Adrian, you've had good success. How important is it to show the rise of the Mexican drivers, what does it say about the talent level.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I feel really good to have Michel and now Mario in the series. To get here was tough and then to maintain ourselves for so long. That's the thing, to get the TV there and to get the fans excited, I think it's a recognition of Quaker State, they have worked with us for many years, in promoting CART, in promoting ourselves, Gigante, to give the other brands, the confidence to get into the series with the Mexican drivers. Having them here and seeing now Michel that is doing good, it's fantastic. Mario is new, but now he's doing good. You talk about experience, and once he get there we will be very competitive, a little bit like the Brazilian drivers. It's a great market in Mexico. They really love racing, and you'll see, Mexico is supposed to be -- like Monterrey, you'll have three times the crowd that you saw in Monterrey. It's something started a long time ago. So I feel a big part of this build process and I'm very proud to have them here.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I think it's great that the Mexicans are showing something that years past in motor sports we were not able to do. Adrian, he opened the doors for us, for us drivers to come race here and create a big fan base in Mexico. CART series is loved by all the Mexicans, big CART fans. And now I'm here, and hopefully in the future there will be a lot more. Maybe we can get like a Brazilian kind of thing where there's a lot more Mexicans racing and winning. You can now look at the lower classes of racing like Formula Atlantic, Barber Dodge, things like that, and there's Mexicans racing there. Now, if you look back ten years ago, there was nobody, excepted for Adrian and Michel racing and maybe one guy or something in Lights, there was really nobody. Now it's just gotten popular to that point where we are coming up. Hopefully, one of these days it will be awesome to have like a Mexican podium, or two guys on the podium. That would be very good for Mexico. I think the Mexican people would be happy.
Q. What do you think of the Indianapolis 500?
KENNY BRACK: I think it's a judgment call, it's like a referee. It's a situation where an unexpected situation arises and you have to take a position within a few seconds or maybe a minute or so and you take a decision. If it's -- I don't know, a few hundredths of a second one way or another, it's one of those things, I guess. You can't really -- the decision was taken and you have to say that he is the winner and maybe there are some people that think that Paul was ahead of him. Perhaps he was, I don't know. But I don't think you can blame anyone. But, you know, Indy, that's the thing with that race, stuff like that happens. Helio took a chance. They were never in contention all day to rye to win the race, they were like ninth, and then all of a sudden they stay out and then you have an accident with two laps to go and there you go. Robby Gordon tried to do the same thing when I won, but there was no yellow. You take your chances there and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: If there is luck, you know, Helio had it all on Sunday. A race win is a race win and you take it however you can get it. Obviously, he won it fair and square by playing a strategy that nobody else did.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: For sure, even if you know on the track that you didn't pass him, you will say, yeah, that you passed him. (Laughter).
Q. Honda has announced they are going to go to IRL next year. You are a Honda man; what are you doing to do?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: We are committed to CART. What happened to Honda, I feel very sad about it because it's something that we didn't know ourselves and that's sad. Unfortunately the way it was handled, it was bad, and that's the reason why Honda is not -- I hope that CART can show next year so we can -- everything that CART is and have a great year and have them back for the following year.
Q. Are you confident CART will be here next year?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I have to be confident. I have to be pass positive. It's no good to be negative. If we are going to be negative, we're going to pack now and go home. I've been in this series for a long time and I love this series. The reason is there have been a done a lot of mistakes, not because it's not a good series. You have the best combination of track and everything. It's very unique. It's unique. IRL is the same as NASCAR, but it's just the same. This is different. We are not Formula 1, not NASCAR, not IRL, we are something in between. It is something that we don't have, and should have all the right to be successful. Unfortunately, it was handled wrong and that is why we are in this situation. Chris (Pook) is doing a good job and I hope there is enough time to get everybody rolling for next year and prove that we can do a good job again and we convince these people, like Toyota, like Honda, to come back to us.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, that's a question -- that's Chris's job. As an owner, I have to make sure Fernandez Racing is stable and it's fine, and I have to take care of my sponsors. We are looking to -- right now we are looking into a second driver for next year. So we are working flat-out. That's why I can't worry right now. Of course, Chris has all of our support and we are working with him in everything we can. You know, we just hope that there will be enough teams.
Q. Kenny how would you feel about going back and doing nothing but ovals?
KENNY BRACK: I think that you have to look at it as racing in the end and racing wherever you have an opportunity as a driver. I think personally discussing it now is a little premature right now. I think that CART is building relationships with manufacturers, too, and we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I race in both series. I've got friends in both series. I like both series. To me, I race wherever there's a competitive car. But, you know, I'm in CART right now and trying to make that a successful challenge.
Q. Is it a feeling of been there, done it?
KENNY BRACK: It all depends on the series, I guess. I enjoyed going to Indy a lot this year. Basically, it was like the Super Bowl of racing; nearly everybody was there. We had NASCAR, CART, IRL, Formula 1 tried to qualify, there was a lot of people there. You know, that's fun, too. But I don't make any such decisions in June. You have to wait to see what happens and where there will be good opportunities, basically.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I think CART is on its way up. For example, one of my dreams is to go and race Formula 1, but to tell you the truth, my favorite series, my overall thing would be CART because you can do everything. You can do short ovals, you can do road courses, you can do street race, you can do Super Speedway. You just have so much variety. And it's competitive. Everybody says Formula 1 is boring. You always know who is going to win; there's only one or two teams. IRL, it's only ovals. If you do ovals all the time, I think it gets boring, as well, and just CART has the biggest variety. They have the best drivers as far as I'm concerned.
KENNY BRACK: CART is a very demanding series, from both a team and driver standpoint, you have to be good on four different types of track. Yeah, we race those type of tracks from one weekend to the next, and that's just a lot of emphasis on the teams and drivers to be able to switch between different types of racing and stuff like that. It's a unique marketplace in racing because of that, I think. In my eyes that's the strongest point CART has against NASCAR and IRL and Formula 1 and all of those other series because no one has that.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: And that's why I'm mad this is happening to CART because this should never happen. You know, right now, we are very comfortable and we had a good lead on the track today, but once you start getting greedy, that's when things starting to come down. That's the problem, you have to be careful, you always have to keep your feet down and look for better opportunities and take care of your baby. You know, this is something that has been there for a long time, a lot of cars and everything. That's why we are here and this should never have happened, absolutely never.
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