CART FedEx Championship Series: Honda Indy 300
Topics: Honda Indy 300
MERRILL CAIN: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our top three press conference today following a very wet and wild Honda Indy 300. We'll start out with Paul Tracy who finished third in the #20 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, his fourth podium finish of his season and his first podium in Australia since his win here in 1995. The finish also moves him up to eighth in the season points standing. Paul, what can you say about this race? It was a very tough race on you guys, very tough for everyone to understand exactly how the finish wound up, and actually a very devastating first lap accident. Tell us about the race from your perspective.
PAUL TRACY: Well, it's tough. What can you say about nature? Out of everybody's control we came here to race. We're thousands of miles away from home, we want to put on a show. I had a pretty good car. Wasn't anything special. Just trying to get around to the first pit stop. We made the first pit stop. I got out in front of Tony. I thought we were in pretty good shape, then it started raining. It just got worse and worse and worse and worse and worse. I didn't really understand what was going on. My team didn't understand what was going on. We had a feeling that CART was going to try to get the half distance. We knew we had to do two pit stops. We were the only one who came in at a certain point to finish off our two pit stops. Mario and Pat had already done theirs. I guess really it was thinking ahead and forecasting what CART was going to do. It was tough for me because I didn't expect the race to go as long as it did. It was dark. I had a dark visor. I didn't change my visor. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't see where I was going. Water was on the inside of my visor, the outside of my visor. I had a dark shield. I couldn't see a thing. I'm glad it was over.
MERRILL CAIN: You talk about the tough conditions. Do you rank this as the toughest conditions to race in race in?
PAUL TRACY: The situation now, the track was flooding, you couldn't race in those conditions. I was having a hard time going around behind the pace car. Really the only thing I could say is Mother Nature is out of everybody's control. I want to congratulate Herdez on their first win. A lot of racers go through periods of bad luck, good positions fall out of your hand because of luck, and today they had good luck on their side. They deserve this opportunity.
MERRILL CAIN: You've been in a race for several hours. We'll try to take a few questions.
Q. Paul, that horrendous first lap accident. Everyone was driving blind.
PAUL TRACY: I didn't see it because I was in front of it. It's a situation where the track was wet, very wet. Once the spray gets thrown up off the tires, you just can't see at all. If you've ever been in a plane where you're flying in fog, that's all you see, is nothing, just a white blanket in front of you. Guys are going 150 miles an hour, a car is just stopped in the middle of the track. We're very lucky nobody was hurt.
Q. It's not the drivers' fault, but it was a pointless exercise. If you can't race, what's the point in just tooling around?
PAUL TRACY: Once you start the race, you have to get a half distance, so the race is not officially over. That's how the rule book reads. We can't race tomorrow because we have a race in California next week. We had to get to the half distance point. I think CART did what they had to do to get to the half distance point.
Q. You guys race, deciding how to drive appropriately in the condition, was that not an option?
PAUL TRACY: Absolutely no option at all to drive in those conditions. Not possible.
MERRILL CAIN: Congratulations to Mario Dominguez, driver of the #55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Thanks for joining us. Mario wins his first CART race and becomes the first rookie to win a CART event since last year's event with Bruno Junqueira at Road America, the first win one for Herdez Competition, dating back to the team's days as Bettenhausen Motorsports. It also moves Mario into the lead for the Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year award. You had some tough luck this season. This has to feel awfully good. A lot of things went your way at the end of the race. You have your first win in CART regardless. Talk about your effort this afternoon.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Like you say, what goes around comes around. We had the worst luck you can imagine this year. All that bad luck just turned around and came together in this race. It was just a matter of wonderful strategy with the team. I'm very pleased and happy with the whole thing. After the first lap, we feel very fortunate. They build the car around, put it together back again, which I think was an unbelievable effort. Just the most amazing pit strategy. And here we are, we won. I am the luckiest man alive at this moment. I want to dedicate it to Team Herdez, the owner, and, of course, the sponsors. I think it will be the first of many. The team is working hard. We have a lot of work to do. Today we have all the good luck. Now we have to put it together and win more races.
MERRILL CAIN: Talk about the conditions of the racetrack today. Talk about some of the things you faced out there.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It was very hard. At the beginning, to drive around, because I crashed the first, and I didn't have any traction control. It made it three times harder than everybody else to drive around the racetrack without any traction control. Even in yellow flag conditions, the car was moving around a lot. At the very end, you couldn't see anything at all. It was hard. I remember they told me to stay away from the pace car, as well. I can't stay away because I can't see where I'm going. I have to follow him to see where I'm going. Unfortunately, the people in Australia didn't get to see the best show we can put together at Champ Cars, but we'll be back next year and make up for this one. I want to thank everybody that came to the track, even in this pouring rain, stayed till the very end. I want to thank the Australian people. A wonderful welcome here in Surfers Paradise. It was great to come here for the first time and I hope to be back here many years.
MERRILL CAIN: Certainly want to recognize the fan support.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: The best fans I've seen in the world. All the races we've been to, the Australian fans are the most supportive, most excited, the best people.
MERRILL CAIN: Questions for Mario.
Q. How difficult was it to get back into the car after the accident because you had no place to go? I heard Keith didn't want to tell you about your possibility of winning. When did you realize you might be a winner?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I kept thinking I could win here if such and such strategy happened. To tell you the truth, we had so much bad luck, if there's one guy that's not going to win this race, it's me (laughter). Like I say, the bad luck turned around, became good luck, and we won. It's unbelievable. It's really unbelievable. I was very frustrated after that first lap, first straightaway. I could not believe it. First of all, I was worried about the other drivers, but they were okay. I could not believe that my luck, that I was not going to be able to keep on racing. All of a sudden, when I got out of the car, I saw the car wasn't too badly damaged, the team went on a mission to repair it. I've got to give it to them. They fixed that car. They left it perfect. Steering wheel might be a little bit crooked (laughter). They say, "How is the car?" It's perfect, great.
Q. You said it was great strategy by your team.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: At the beginning, we were at the back. What you want is to push your window further and further, be able to have the most amount of laps. They did a very good job actually. I'm glad I didn't say anything on the radio because they would be slapping me now.
Q. Frustrating win this way?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It's not frustrating actually. A win is a win; you take it any way it comes. We had so much bad luck. We had opportunity for podiums this year. It was stuff happened that has taken it away from us. It's not the best way you want to win. But a win is a win, and you take it no matter what. I was talking to Paul Tracy. You know how many times I had my car break down when I'm in the lead, this and that. So congratulations, just take it. Of course, the team deserves it. The team won it by their effort to rebuild this car after the first lap.
Q. Can you tell us how you saw the accident at the start? You were in the midst of that.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Couldn't see anything at all. We started accelerating from the hairpin. I couldn't see anything. I was barely on the throttle. All of a sudden I just saw from like here to where you're sitting a group of cars across the track. Didn't have time to get on the brake. Even though I was going slow, I was pretty hard hit.
MERRILL CAIN: After 17 rounds in the series, the top five in the point standings are: Cristiano da Matta 218, Bruno Junqueira 144, Dario Franchitti 135, Patrick Carpentier 131, Christian Fittipaldi with 116 on the season.
Q. Was there a point when you found out you were going to win the race, before the finish?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Actually, the one lap before the race, I figured, "I think I'm going to win this one." I wasn't still sure. Like I said, I still couldn't believe it. I asked the guys. I want to cross the finish line, get the checkered flag, because you know never know what can go wrong. I asked, "Does this mean we win the race?" They were ecstatic on the radio saying, "Yes, we won."
Q. How are you going to celebrate tonight?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: We're going to celebrate the Australian way, mate.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you. We will bring up Patrick Carpentier. Pat had a very good afternoon, finishing second. Driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone, finished second today for his fourth podium of the season. It gives Patrick 131 points on the year and moves him to within four points of third place in the standings. Pat, we got the other drivers to talk about the conditions of the race today. Start off talking about that and obviously a great run for you to come in second place.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, a little bit lucky. But just one question I wanted to answer. They said Mario Dominguez did not like really deserve the first place. This weekend Michael was starting beside him at the back, and I was starting beside these guys, too. I don't think anybody was deserving that place besides the guys that were at the front. We had some weekends where I qualified up at the front, and like Fontana last year we were leading, we ended up at the back. Every weekend is different. You get conditions like this that were extremely difficult. We couldn't see absolutely anything at the start of the first time. Accelerating, I couldn't tell if I was going toward the pit lane entrance or the track. I could see absolutely nothing. I decided to move to the right to see where I was going. I was lucky. I avoided the crash. All these guys piled up together. After that they changed the procedure of the start which I think was fantastic because it was a lot safer. We did the start. After that, they decide to stop the race because we couldn't see a thing. For me it was difficult because I could only see the light at the back of the cars, only when you were getting really close to them. It was too tough conditions and a lot of crashes would have happened. I think, like they say, there was no right decisions. But I think the decision was right to have us run behind the pace car. There was no other way we could have done it. We were hoping it would stop raining and maybe start again, but it was too dangerous.
MERRILL CAIN: The competition department had to make a lot of tough calls. From your perspective, do you feel everything was done that made the race as safe as possible?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think in a race like that, whatever you're going to decide, if you would have stopped the race five laps earlier, I would have been pissed off. You stopped it five laps later, so I'm pretty happy, but someone else is pissed off. That's the way it is. Some races are lost because of that. Today we get second place, which I don't think we deserve, but we got it. I think it's part of racing. The main thing, the crash, that was one of the biggest crashes I've seen at the start. I was not too interested in seeing a second one on another restart. I think it was the right decision.
Q. If this had been Formula 1, the drivers probably would have boycotted the race. Was there any talk like that after the crash?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No. We knew when we went and talked inside the tents, we had to race. The people come to watch the race. It seemed like it was going to stop raining. Everybody was pretty happy. Went on for 10, 11 laps. We shortened the race, we decided to shorten it to 50 laps, and the pit strategy kind of stayed the same because it was a 20-lap window. We just said, "Okay, let's go and try to run as fast as we can," like every race. We have to race. Like you said, tomorrow we cannot do it. If it would have been an oval, everybody would have stopped, you wait till the next day and do it, like we did in Fontana in past years. We knew we had to race. We had to do it. It's a shame we had to do it behind the pace car, because the pace car won today. That's the way it is. That's the way racing is. One thing that's good is everybody is going to go home, which might not have happened if we would have kept racing.
Q. If memory serves me, I think you drove for the Herdez team when it was Bettenhausen. I was wondering what those guys are going through. What do you think it means to them and how you felt when you finished second?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: The first win is always -- we had ours last year, and it's always the toughest one to get. For them, when I was racing for them, we finished second at St. Louis. Paul Tracy just passed us at the end of the race. When Helio Castroneves was racing for them also. It's not the same as when you lead a race and go on and win. It's not the same satisfaction. At that level of racing, you take it however it comes. It came for them today. Sometimes to get your first win, you need a bit of luck. Maybe that's going to motivate the team and help them a little bit more in the future. Now they've tasted it, so maybe now they'll want it even more.
MERRILL CAIN: Thanks, Pat, we appreciate it.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
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