CART FedEx Championship Series: Grand Prix Americas
Topics: Grand Prix Americas
MERRILL CAIN: Let's get started with our top-three press conference following today's final qualifying session for tomorrow Grand Prix Americas in Miami. We're joined by Tora Takagi who qualified third this afternoon, driver of the #5 Pioneer/DENSO Special Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone. He takes his best qualifying session of the season, bettering his fourth place starting spot at Rockingham Motorspeedway in our last CART FedEx Championship Series event. He placed third by virtue of yesterday's qualifying time, a time of 62.039 seconds, a speed of 80.485 miles per hour. Tora, talk about starting up front in the third spot. Interesting session out there for you today.
TORANOSUKE TAKAGI: Today Scott did a good job. If Scott placed second, I'm first on pole. I'm lucky.
MERRILL CAIN: Scott Dixon, driver of the #44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he will start second after leading Saturday's qualifying session with a time of 69.786 seconds. He earns one championship point for leading the session today, giving him 82 points for the year. Scott, an excellent session for you. You've been quick all weekend long. You had the top session today. Talk about the conditions for you compared from the beginning of the session? Did it improve very much to the end of the session.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was a big improvement pretty much every lap. That's basically why we stayed out, just in case there was going to be a lot of red. We knew if you keep going, you're going to keep being at the top of the charts every lap. That's what we tried doing. You know, basically the circuit was very good, apart from I think it's the 4, 5, 6 area, it was just terrible. The first few laps, going through there, following someone, all that stuff was just coming up. That's why the cars were all black, all over the visors, too. It was a lot of fun; some of it wasn't.
MERRILL CAIN: You are in a unique position because of the wet qualifying session where you didn't have to hold to the 15 number of laps. Talk to us about that. Were you guys aware of that, talking about that, did you take advantage of that?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, for sure. We knew all about that. We sort of looked into that at other races. We knew we could keep carrying on till they stopped the qualifying and then declared it a dry track. We knew we could do as many laps as we wanted.
MERRILL CAIN: Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, wins his third pole of his CART career, the first of the season, taking the top spot with Friday's time of 61.264 seconds. Tony, I guess home cooking seems to agree with you. A few nervous moments at the end when the times kept dropping. You felt confident you were going to take on top?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, they never declared a dry session. If Scott could do that time, I wouldn't even race, I'd say home (laughter). For me, can't complain. Was an easy day. I did five laps this morning. That's it. I told Morris, "I could be at the beach. At least I have some fun." But I wanted to run. Obviously, they didn't let me. I think was a smart decision. Sometimes you cannot be very smart. If I was going out, I was going to try to go as quick as I could to see, you know, just in case something happened tomorrow, some weather problems. But as my hometown, I kind of control the weather a little bit. I guess tomorrow is going to be dry.
MERRILL CAIN: Tony, talk to us about the importance of starting up front. You didn't have a lot of qualifying laps, as you said, here today. Does that mean you have plenty left in the car tomorrow?
TONY KANAAN: Hopefully I have 105 laps in my car left. The setup, it's been good since day one. I don't think anybody made too much changes. You know, we're just trying to adapt for the racetrack. The car was good out of the blocks. This morning I scuff all my race tires, so that's what I was working on, so I don't have any problems starting the race tomorrow, if something happen in the warm-up. You know, it's been a fairly smooth weekend for us. I've been having terrible weekends during this year, so this one was the smoothest one and the easiest one. I'm pretty excited. I think we have a consistent car. Starting in the front, obviously it's a huge advantage here. The race is a long race. You can always play pit stops and strategies, you know, keep the car on the racetrack. It's going to be a good battle between the three of us here and the guys in the back playing strategy-wise. People are expecting a lot of yellows, like they did in Denver, but I don't think it's going to happen. Obviously, a little bit more than Denver, but let's see what we can do.
MERRILL CAIN: Let's open it up and take some questions.
Q. Scott, you said you were having trouble with the track. Was that the patch coming up? Did have you any close moments?
SCOTT DIXON: Pretty much. There was a couple close moments, obviously only the black stuff. All it was is just standing water there. But it seemed to like pull the sealer off they had on there. It was just like a black kind of like jelly stuff. It was kind of like thick paint. That's why it was so slippery. You could see it on the tires. It would go all the way through till 7. It was slippery all the way through there.
Q. Scott, the turn with the big banyan tree that seems to be so tight, what does it feel like going through there?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know which one that is.
Q. Turn 3, Bayside. Talk about going through there, and even the visual effect of going through there.
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's generally, as you're going through, when it's sunny, there's a lot of light coming through, then no light. I think also it can get pretty greasy through there. I think there were some leaves and stuff falling off. The corner itself is kind of wavy. It's hard to go through there very fast. The car moves around a lot. It's very bouncy through there. I don't know, it's kind of fun. But you come up to 16 pretty fast, too. It's sort of breaking at the end, as well.
TONY KANAAN: About the tree, we can't even see the tree. It's just a tough corner. It's tight. Like Scott says, sometimes the tree leaves some moisture on the track. It's really bumpy. I thought in the beginning we could make it flat all the way down, but right now, at least myself, I have to lift. It's not because of the tree, obviously. It's because of the surface over there is so rough that the car hits the ground and brings the wheels up in the air.
Q. Do you really have an idea what you're going to have through that loop down there? Apparently, the concrete will help, but now you don't know whether the resin on the rest of the asphalt is going to hold you up. Do you anticipate if you had a dry day tomorrow, that would be tolerable?
SCOTT DIXON: I think the easiest way to see what's going to happen with that stuff is with the race coming up. They're going to sort it out with nearly a three-hour race. I think they're going to destroy it. I don't know, it would be nice if that was all concrete. It would be kind of good. The circuit would be great. I think they did a great job with what they had last night. It was obviously a lot better this morning. I don't know how long it's going to hold up.
TONY KANAAN: Obviously, I haven't run, but I think with what Scott said, the resin that they took out of the asphalt, that's what was making it slippery. I'm hoping they wash it all out right now going with the cars and we have a little bit more grip. This morning, the concrete patches, they're great, but after that it was worse than yesterday because they put some sealant around the concrete obviously to set the concrete down. As we go with the car, you carry that and take that extra resin around the corner. It was very slippery going into Turn 6. Hopefully they wash that out. But after the three-hour race, I want to see. I'm hoping they tear that thing apart so they can put concrete all around. Would be a lot better for us. They would have to work all night (laughter).
Q. Is this the toughest track that you guys have been on this season?
TONY KANAAN: It's the tightest one. Yeah, I would say, because of a combination of a lot of things. Denver was tough, too. I would say as tough as Denver. Again, I think with the time they had, they did a great job. We are always going to complain. They're going to have to make it better. Yes, they do. A month ago was nothing here, nothing. I asked Chris Pook in England, "Is there going to be a race in Miami?" I came back, and it's all done. So, yes, they have to make it better, but it's one of the toughest ones. I can't say it's the toughest one.
Q. Do you enjoy that challenge?
TONY KANAAN: We always want something easier. But, yes, I do. Obviously winning a track like this, with the grip level we have, it's been so tight, it's nice. It's the most difficult situation we can have. So, yes, I enjoy it.
Q. Between the tightness of the track and the surface problems, the narrow areas, do you think this is predominantly going to be a 1, 2, 3 race, nobody passing each other?
TONY KANAAN: I don't think you guys are going to see too much passing, honestly. I think you're going to maybe see pit strategy and people passing each other in the pits. On the track, if the guy doesn't want to let you by, I mean, either you're going to crash or you're not going to make it. I don't see people passing a lot.
Q. Do you think that makes for a good race or does it detract from it?
TONY KANAAN: Not really. Running with these cars so close, lap times are so close, we've been so competitive, it's not because of the track, it's you're not going to see any passing anywhere. I don't see any street courses or road courses, even some of the ovals, that you see too much passing. When you're running apart from each other like three- or four-tenths, that's maybe one corner. Maybe that corner you gain the four-tenths from the guy behind you, it's a corner he cannot pass at all, even if you have a Formula Ford car against a CART car. It's just a matter of the competitiveness of the series. I mean, it's the top level. I think it's a great series. It's up to the engineers and the drivers. We're making it so competitive that it's hard to pass. I don't think it's a downside, it's just everybody is so capable that it's making the cars run so close. If they want to make a change, it's up to the engineers to try to find something else to make those cars to be able to pass each other. But when you run a few seconds apart from each other, from first to 18th, it's tough to pass.
MERRILL CAIN: Gentlemen, thank you very much for a great qualifying effort today. Good luck in the Grand Prix Americas tomorrow.
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