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CART FedEx Championship Series: Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland

CART FedEx Championship Series: Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland

Michael Andretti
Patrick Carpentier
Paul Tracy
July 14, 2002


CLEVELAND, OHIO

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I was pushing hard. All of a sudden I wasn't getting lap time. I assume maybe that's why. I think I dropped off like a half a second a lap. I know losing that thing probably loses you about 400 pounds of down force so it's a pretty big deal.

Q. Can you give us a comment on Patrick's win?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I'm really happy for him. I am just mad he had to pick this race to do it. He drove a great weekend. His qualifying run was pretty phenomenal. He really pulled it out. Then he ran a strong pace in the race. He deserved to win.

Q. Your last one was with the Reynard. Patrick was with the Reynard. Wish you had a Reynard again?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I've got to say, I think we hopefully finally have a good hold on this Lola. I think we're finally getting it to hopefully suit my style a little bit. We made big changes the last week. They really seemed to work. So hats off to Team Motorola engineers for giving me a good car this weekend.

Q. How close a run was it with the engine?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Real close. I didn't think I was going to finish. Last three laps, the thing was just limping. So we just -- I just tried to short shift and coast through the corners. We did get enough to bring it home.

Q. Despite what happened today, do you see anyone catching Cristiano?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah. It's not over yet. There's a long, long way to go. We saw he had bad luck today. He could hit four of these in a row and all of a sudden it's a new ballgame. One thing, you know, you can't get too confident in this game because things can turn around real fast.

Q. Was this as rough a second place as you've ever in the 299 starts you've made?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was a tough one. First, the pace is just phenomenal. We were running 58-second laps around this place. That's what we were qualifying at last year. G forces that you pull here are really unbelievable. So physically this track is tough. Then you add 15 more laps, and you have yourself one heck of a long race.

Q. Talk about extending the race?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it's crazy. I don't know why they're doing it. They say TV. But I think there comes a point where they have to look at the physical element. I just don't think that was a good rule. I'm hoping they don't do that at a place like Mid-Ohio.

Q. What can you tell us about your plans for next year, IRL (inaudible)?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: (Inaudible). I do have a lot of balls in the air right now. We'll have to see what comes down. There's some things that can happen pretty quick, and there's some things that may take a little while. There is no plan at the moment. Everybody can put out whatever rumor they want because that's all they are, is rumors.

Q. What about plans for Marco next year?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Marco, actually he just qualified second. I just found out today he's racing in South Bend. Hopefully he has a good race this weekend. He'll do CART this year and maybe we'll look at Skip Barber stuff for him next year because he'll be 16. He's getting of age. It's a little scary.

MERRILL CAIN: Michael, we'll cut you loose. We appreciate you coming up, taking the time with us. We'll await or third and first place finishers, Patrick Carpentier, today's champion, and Paul Tracy. They'll be here in just a second.

PAUL TRACY: I weighed 179. I weighed myself now when I just got out of the shower, I weigh 172. That's how hot it was.

MERRILL CAIN: Let's resume our top three press conference. As you can see, we are joined by Paul Tracy, a very slim and trim looking Paul. Driver of the #26 KOOL Honda/Lola Bridgestone, he takes his second podium finish of the season and first since his Milwaukee win earlier this year by taking a third tote today. The podium is his third here at Cleveland, giving him 50 points on the season, the 11th consecutive season in which Paul has scored at least 50 points in The CART FedEx Championship Series. We'll open it up for questions for Paul Tracy.

Q. Yesterday you were not very happy about your car. I would even say you were upset.

PAUL TRACY: Yeah.

Q. Today everything has changed. How can you explain that?

PAUL TRACY: I wasn't so much unhappy with the car because we had a great car all weekend. We just, for whatever reasoning, in both qualifying sessions, we made a lot of mistakes. We didn't get the tire pressures right, didn't have the right amount of fuel, you know, traffic, people blocking, just all kind of compounded itself on the first day and on the second day. So that was very frustrating because I had a good car all weekend and I was at the top of the list, you know, for most of the sessions, in practice, very strong. So we made some changes this last night to Michael's setup to try this morning because he was really very happy with his car, and obviously he qualified really well. We put the same setup that Michael had on. The car was really good this morning. You know, I made a good start, I was going along. It was going to be hard to pass Tony on the track. Then we came in and did our pit stop. We had a problem with the right rear. I lost three positions on that stop, which was frustrating because I think we -- if we would have beat Tony out of the pits, we could have chased up towards that next group of Michael and Dario at the time. We got 12 seconds behind or so. The next stop, it was good. I beat all three of those guys out. I was about 12 seconds behind Michael. I was chasing, chasing, chasing, and got it down to about three seconds. On the third stop, we had to use another qualifying set. We had a sticker set on the second round. The third set was a qualifying set. I struggled a little bit with that set of tires. And Michael was able to open the gap back up to about nine seconds. And then the last -- after that, I just decided he's nine, ten seconds in front, it's going to be hard to chase him down, as well as pass him. The race was long. I radioed in at the third stint. I said, "How many laps to go?" They told me 40. I was like, "Man, okay." I just decided I'm going to go as quick as I need to go to hang on to third place because we need the points. You know, it was a good day for us.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: It's great. He was frustrated last week in Toronto, said some things in the papers that I heard about. I actually gave him a call and said, "You know, you have to be careful of that because I've done that before." You need to be careful. He's looking for a ride. He's not confirmed yet. This is the best way that you can solidify yourself in a team, is to win races. But being critical sometimes is not -- when things aren't going well, being critical is sometimes not the right option.

Q. The team has to be pretty happy with getting two or three drivers on the podium. Comment about that. Also you must be pretty happy getting adjusted to the Lola package now.

PAUL TRACY: I am very happy. But it's such a long race today, I'm glad we didn't have mechanical problems. I guess a lot of guys had problems mechanically, either engines or problems with their cars. The three leaders in the points went out, and obviously Cristiano went out quite early, and Bruno. So that's been our biggest stumbling block, is the mechanics of the car, the reliability of the car. We're finding the speed out of the car quite quickly. The hardest thing is to have reliability when you change packages in the middle of the season.

MERRILL CAIN: We're of course joined now by the champion of today's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank, Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard Bridgestone. He had his second career victory today, his first ever on a road course. His only other win came on an oval, Michigan last season. This is the first win on a road course for the Player's/Forsythe team. That last win for Player's came in 1997. The win is also the first of the year for the Ford-Cosworth powered car and the first since Max Papis won at Laguna Seca last year. Patrick also won for the most laps led in the day today. That gives him 62 points in the season and moves him into a tie for fourth place for the championship with Michel Jourdain, Jr. Patrick, this one had to feel particularly good for you. Your second career victory couldn't have come at a better time for you. I know you faced a lot of internal pressure lately. A good result for your team.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, for sure, you know. But he wants to win. Player's, he's putting a lot of money in the budget. We expect to win. We have been struggling since the beginning of the year. We had a lot of problems, mechanical and things. Toronto seemed to be -- I think it was one of our worst weekends we had since I've been with the team. Seemed like nothing was ever going to happen. I didn't expect that this weekend. But I don't know if it made the team go up and myself and everybody. But we came this weekend and we had absolutely no problem. Ford-Cosworth did a fantastic job with the engine. They gave me exactly what I wanted. They worked on the traction control and stuff like that, really improved it for this track. It's a track that suits me a little bit more. They had great power. The team in the pits did a perfect job. The guys were really fast and the car lasted the whole way. It was completely the opposite of Toronto, actually. It was one of my best weekend. And I'm pretty happy. Actually, I'm more happy to get this win on a road course than I am on an oval. So it was good for us and it's my first one. I'm going to sleep on that tonight.

MERRILL CAIN: Quickly want to run down the point standings as they stand right now. Cristiano da Matta in first place with 120 points in the season. Bruno Junqueira second with 70 points. Dario Franchitti in third with 64. Patrick, and as we said Michel Jourdain, Jr. tied for fourth with 62 points, followed by Kenny Brack with 60 points.

Q. Can you talk about the length of the race? Good, bad, how you feel?

PAUL TRACY: It's a long race. Even a hundred laps is a long time around here. We're lucky that it's not hotter because normally it's hotter than this, more humid. You know, there was virtually no yellows other than the first one. We went start to end at full rich, as fast as you can go. It was definitely a long race, and I was tired at the end. Anybody that says they wasn't tired is full of crap because it was a tiring race. You know, this track is a bumpy track, and it's fast. It puts a lot of strain on you. It's a long time.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, it was actually really, really tough. At the end my hand still pretty red. You know, I think it was a really long race. The last 15, 20 laps were pretty painful in the car with the bumps and the steering wheel and stuff. These car are pretty heavy, so it's tough to handle in the corners. Yeah, like Paul said, we're lucky it was not as hot as, say, Chicago, because it would have been really tough.

Q. Describe your race from the start. You said for you it means as much as for your first win in the last year in Michigan.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it's different this time. I don't think any win can replace the first one you get. But just really happy. It seems like this one happen when it was least expected. At the beginning of the race, I was not too happy with my start. Dario got a better jump than me. Then we had a system failure for three or four laps. Everything was locked out on the dash. I couldn't see the gears. I didn't have any PC, nothing. I thought it was going to be a long race. For some reason they explain me what to do with the buttons to reset the whole thing. It finally came back before the next restart. We had it work perfectly well from there till the end of the race. I was just running to catch Dario at the front. He was running a good pace. Some laps I could catch him, some laps he was getting away from me. We kept playing like that the whole time. When I saw him pit a little bit early, I thought that was pretty good, because I just try to drive really, really hard. We had a clear track. We did some good laps. After that we came back in front. These guys were catching me a little bit at the end, too. But from what we gained early on in the race, we had enough of a cushion to drive really hard, but not too hard.

Q. Leo said after the race all weekend you had a fire -- he said somewhere low in your anatomy. Can you tell us why you were fired up this weekend? Is it because of what happened last weekend?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think I was the same as last weekend personally. I don't think there's any change this weekend. Last weekend we had a problem in the car every 10, 15 minutes, so that makes it very tough to get going in the weekend. We had problems on every qualifying, every practice session the whole race and the morning practice. So it's difficult to do anything. This series is so competitive, if you miss one session, you are already behind. It was very tough. And this weekend we came, and everything was perfect. I mean, Team Players, the team were a little bit (inaudible) because I got to a point where I said last week, "Whatever's going to happen is just going to happen. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't." Maybe sometimes when you want something so much, it seems to get away from you. When you stop wanting it so much, it makes it easier to happen. That's the difference with me. But I think there's a difference with the team, too. Was one of our worst weekend. I think everybody grew from that. I think Ford-Cosworth put even more forward this weekend. We had a lot of guys, they did a perfect job. We just had no problems, zero problems. I think my guys were the fastest in the pit lane. So that helps, too. So was good.

Q. Your contract is up. Your thoughts on what this is going to do for your negotiations?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. Actually, I'm not in a hurry to settle it. We'll see what's going to happen. I'd love to drive for Player's next year. I got some other meetings this week that are extremely important to me for next season, too. So we'll do that and we'll just see what happens. I think Team Player is going to start to come through more and more. It doesn't matter. I bought a boat a couple weeks ago, so I'm going to go on that, go to Vancouver, that's it.

Q. Paul, can you talk about what you saw in the first turn starting off?

PAUL TRACY: I didn't really see anything. I was on the far outside. I didn't really see what happened on the inside. It's so hard, you know, to see. When there's a car beside you, you can't see what's over. I got myself to the far outside and breaked on the line and deep, turned in on the outside. When I came out, I started -- I was 11th, when I came out of the corner I was sixth or seventh. Kind of avoided all of the first turn stuff. I've been pretty lucky that way here. Didn't really see.

Q. Pat, your last contract was kind of late. This one is ongoing. Do you feel pressure when you're not racing to get the results to help you get what you want?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: No. Whatever happens happens. We'll see what's going to happen. No, for sure, Team Players is like a family and I've been with them for five years. For sure I'd love to come back. I'll only come back if they're happy to have me back. I don't want to force my way in.

Q. Paul, we asked Michael about next year and Pat. What about yourself? Do you know anything at this stage, how things are beginning to percolate for you, Team KOOL Green next year?

PAUL TRACY: I don't know anything yet. I had a conversation with Barry last night. He wanted to let me know what's going on. He basically told me he doesn't know what's going on. I'm pretty much open right now to talk to anybody. I've been putting that off, giving Barry the opportunity to put the program together because my loyalty is to Team KOOL Green, so I'm waiting. But the clock is ticking now. The time, the next couple, three weeks is the time you move. You know, I want to be in CART. I've stated that all along since, you know, the beginning of the year. That's where I want to be. You know, I would hope that Team KOOL Green is going to be in CART. That i don't know. Barry doesn't know. But I'm waiting to find out. Like I said, the clock is ticking.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Me and Paul are starting our own team (laughter).

Q. (Inaudible) end of August would be fine with her because that's when they get the budgets together. Is that too late for you?

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, a little bit. That's a little long for me. That's a month from now. You know, my contract renewal or option date came up the first week in May. That's something I was able to negotiate through performance. You know, I've been waiting since the beginning of May. I've been without a contract next year saying, "Give me a couple weeks, give me a couple weeks to put a program together." I've been waiting. I haven't been going around the back of other people's buses trying to find a deal yet. I'm prepared to wait a little longer. But, like I said, the clock is rolling on.

Q. There was still about a hundred laps left, but was there a since of relief when Cristiano went out?

PAUL TRACY: I didn't even know he went out. I saw that he pitted early. I thought he was doing a different type of strategy. I thought he was doing a lighter fuel load strategy or something. I didn't know what the reason was for.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Man, I was so disappointed (laughter).

Q. When we arrived here Thursday afternoon, I bumped into you and Pierre at the airport. Pierre said you were on the airplane saying jokingly, "I'm going to blow da Matta off this weekend." It happened. How serious were you about it at that point?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: What you're telling me is I got to be careful what I tell Pierre now. No, I'm very happy. But I'll be honest with you, Cristiano was fast. If his car wouldn't have broke down, man, to catch this guy would have been extremely tough. I was driving everything I could out of the car, and he was pulling away from me and Dario and everybody. As more laps were going, the more he seemed to start putting a little more and we were starting to struggle, just trying to keep up with him. 'll be honest, he would have been hard to beat. But it's a team thing. Everything counts, the car, the preparation. For once this weekend for us, we had everything going. So it was good.

MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much. Congratulations on a great race. We'll see you in a couple weeks in Vancouver.



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