CART Media Conference
MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today on this week's CART Media Teleconference. I am Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations. We are privileged to be joined today by Bruno Junqueira of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the pole-sitter for the 86th Indianapolis 500 scheduled to be run on Sunday, May 26th. We'll also hear today from Mike Hull, managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing who helped with Saturday's pole winning effort, and a man who also knows a little bit about bringing home a win at Indianapolis. First off, welcome in Bruno. Thanks for joining us today. Congratulations on winning the pole at Indy on Sunday.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Thank you very much. It was awesome.
MERRILL CAIN: Definitely was awesome. Bruno is in his second year of competition in the CART FedEx Championship series. He finished 16th in the Championship standings last season and finished as runner-up for the Jim Truman CART Rookie-of-the-Year Award. This season, however, Bruno has started off very strong earning his second career CART pole at Motegi, Japan just a couple of weeks ago and capturing his second career CART FedEx Championship Series victory at the Twin Ring Motegi Bridgestone Potenza 500 also a couple of weeks ago. Bruno ranks fifth in the current season points standings with 23 points, through three rounds of competition. He won the pole on Saturday with a winning speed of 231.342 miles per hour, and he's no stranger to Indianapolis, he finished fifth at Indy last year. We'll also say hello out to Mike Hull of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Thanks for joining us today.
MIKE HULL: Thank you. It's good to be with you guys.
MERRILL CAIN: Mike is in his 10th year with the team and he's in his second season as managing director after starting many years as team manager at the very successful Ganassi team and has won four consecutive CART titles from 1996 through the 1999 season. With introductions out of the way now we'd like to open it up to questions for both Bruno and Mike.
Q. Mike, Ganassi Racing is sort of famous for "We share," everybody gets the same information. Explain Bruno's performance relative to the other guys of Indianapolis; did the track change that much? Did you guys try to change the car to keep up with it and miss? How do you explain it?
MIKE HULL: Indianapolis is a unusual place, first of all, as you know. And I think in this case what happened at Indianapolis last Saturday was something that was very unusual, first of all, we had a driver who was ready to capture the pole and he did that. He had the same information that Jeff Ward and Kenny Brack had and all three guys had shared information all week with our cars, and I personally believe that the racetrack was closest to the warmup for Bruno, and he took full advantage of that. And as the day went on the track changed slightly and our other two guys, as well as a lot of other people, took an opportunity, took the opportunity to try to knock Bruno off the pole. Bruno, Kenny and Jeff tried as hard as everybody else did and couldn't get it done. So I think that Bruno did something that is very difficult in racing. He did four laps consecutively better than anybody else did or anybody else in the world could do on that day, and he was fully supported by everybody on the team.
Q. Mike, first of all, the rest of the CART teams that are already in Indianapolis are spending a lot of May testing - not that it matters to you - but do you think that that will give them any sort of edge once June gets here? Bruno, you took to the ovals pretty quickly. You won the pole at Motegi last year, as I remember right, that might have been your first or one of yours first ovals. Anything about them that you like or that you were able to master them fairly quickly?
MIKE HULL: We actually tested yesterday at Milwaukee with Bruno and Kenny. So we're trying to take advantage of the time that we have to use our resource. Each CART team gets, depending on the number of drivers you have on your team, you have a prescribed number of days that you can use during the year to test, and we had purposely run all but yesterday beforehand knowing that we were going to run at Indianapolis. I think any time you get to run, if your team is capable of producing the product that you need so that you will be able to use that given day, you will learn something. So the teams that are testing now will have learned something although yesterday we did something that was unusual, we ran at Milwaukee under very nice weather conditions and the guys that all went to Mid-Ohio got rained out. (Laughs) So we were pretty happy about that choice, I think we owe that to the Farmer's Almanac, and we think we'll be ready for June.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I got the pole last year in Nazareth, my first oval race. About ovals, I have to thank team Target, especially Mike, that they give me a lot of oval testing before the start of 2001 season. Then I had time to learn about it and the team Target give me a good car. I think oval is a lot about having a good car. And driving, I just love high speed corners and oval is where you can find the highest speed corners, it's really fast, and I think I adapt quite well especially to run myself on the ovals. On my first oval on the pole, but I had to learn how to run the race, run in traffic with the oval rules; had to learn how to be patient; how to make a good setup for the car because it's really different, how is the car by yourself, and on the race, we felt traffic and turbulence. That thing you just experience that you can learn. I think during last year I start to improve. I start to do better oval races, and this year, I think I am capable with the experience I have to win some race or to get good results. I still have a lot to learn because just my second year racing oval I did like six or seven oval races last year, but now I have a reasonable experience to do well.
Q. Bruno, if you could talk about I guess that progression on ovals, being on a pole is not new for you but being a pole-winner of the Indy 500 and everything, have you already started mapping out in your mind how much different this is as opposed to other ovals that you have been on?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, Indy is a very unique place. First because it's the longest oval that you race - it's two and a half miles. It's four corners and it's pretty different of the other ones. It's really high speed and the corners is not too much banking and that made it really, really difficult. The weather and the wind plays a lot withy the track as well and it's very difficult. On the race you must be really focused and patient to do a good race. Long, long -- last year I think it took four hours and 45 minutes and it was stopped for because of the rain, then it is really difficult race. On a long race like that the pole is not that important. It is more to win the poles to give the team a boost of confidence and to give myself. This is the important thing of the poles. But for sure, I am going to try to win the race. I won Motegi. That was not a long race like Indy, 300 miles, and Indy is 500. I will try to use the same strategy there I use in Motegi. I hope it will do well for me.
Q. In terms of your speeds you have been saying pretty much all week that you thought that speeds could get over -- that the pole speeds could be 231 and 232. What did you kind of know about that? What kind of gave you that gut feeling besides, say, some of the testing? Was it just the way the track had was -- with the regrinding and everything how that was working for you in testing, is that something that just kind of just carried over?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think on testing I did some qualifying simulations and I knew the speed I could do. I think Friday I ran 231.5 as the fastest speed. Then I thought the pole would be something around 231 because I knew that I could improve a little bit and I don't know the other people, and Saturday morning proved the car a little bit. I think 231.6 in the morning practice and that's what I did in qualifying, my first lap was 231.6 and I got average 231.3. I did what was expecting. Luckily nobody break by Helios 232. I saw on practice Helios doing 232, but I don't know with happened with him but he couldn't do this speed on qualifying, then the 231.3 was enough to be on the pole.
Q. Wondering what kind of approach you will take to the start of race and how important will it be to stay out in front? You did mention it being a long race. How will your strategy play out for the start of the race?
MIKE HULL: It's good to start from the front because you are not going to have much traffic some of the laps, but I know after some laps I don't know how many but like 15, 20 laps going to get the benchmarkers; then it is going to be traffic until the end of the race. One thing I know that I am not going to be leading out the 200 laps. I think it will be really difficult if I can lead out the 200 laps. When I stopped from the pole, it's difficult because you cannot go forward, you are already on the front. Then the only thing you have to try to do is keep on the front. But I don't have to worry or to be too much desperate if for any reason I lose the first place in one situation of the race, but I have to try to keep my car in a good shape and prepare my car for the end of the race to be in a good position. I would prefer to be leading the race after the last pit stop but to be in a good position. Then I can try to win the race.
Q. I guess for, Bruno, again last year you sort of came to grips with racing on ovals, both at Nazareth and with the pole and then I believe actually your two best finishes in CART, outside the win at Road America, were at ovals at Milwaukee and Fontana. Then obviously you -- a very strong run at Indianapolis. But the win at Motegi, I mean, did that -- was that sort of like the final sort of step in sort of really giving you confidence in terms of knowing how to manage not just get on the pole but how to manage and win a fairly long oval track race?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, I think winning Motegi was really good because in Nazareth I prove that I can be fast and be on the pole. I think Fontana, especially, I proved that I can keep it up. I think until 5 laps I was leading the race, I had a chance to win that race, I was close and then I knew that maybe I could win. But I think in Motegi I proved myself and I proved that, yes, I can win an oval race. And I think what -- I think the good thing for me, after Motegi I realized that what I learned last year was really worth it because I learned how to set up the car; how to be patient, and how to race in ovals. That's something totally different from a road race, that you should do in the best years of my career. I was really pleased with that.
Q. Mike, you have obviously sort of worked with a lot of different drivers over your long and illustrious career. Buttering here. And again, looking at the starting grid for the 500, everybody and you know, rightfully so, was quick to jump on the fact that well, geez, four of the guys in the first two rows are from Brazil and obviously Castroneves, defending Champion there and deFerran, defending CART Champion and obviously there's certainly a Brazilian tone to the grid there, but another way to look at it too is that again you can kind of make it -- depends on how you -- what definitions you use, but by and large, again by my definitions I would say probably of the 24 people that qualified last weekend, probably 18, 19 of them really sort of came from a road racing background. That has kind of been the pattern over the years that road racing people have tended to adapt fairly well to oval track racing. I wondered if you could perhaps offer any explanations for that.
MIKE HULL: Well, I don't know if it's stranger than fiction, David, or whether there's a pattern here - I think that generally first of all, Indianapolis 500 always brings out the best in everyone, and it always brings the best people to race here, historically over the years it has. I mean, if you look just at pole-sitters over the years, how many world champions or former world champions have been on the pole at Indianapolis, if you think about that. It always brings the best out, the best competition, the best competitors. A young guy that's an accomplished road racer that's really fast, escapable of driving a loose car, what we call a loose car. That's very difficult to drive on an oval. And what normally happens with young guys in particular is they will hit the fence a lot learning how to drive on an oval, or they will be slowed down by their team until they figure it out. And it's much easier with modern rear engine open-wheel race cars today to tune that out of a fast guy, than it is to start the other way around where a guy is comfortable with steering the front of the car. And I think that is probably the thread that's in common these days, between all of these race drivers wherever they come from, you know, starting in go-karts or intermediate or small Formula cars, 3000, Indy Lights, and so on. Look at Robbie Buhl, he's qualified next to Bruno. He did a heck of a job on Sunday. Where did he come from? You know, he obviously is a very accomplished oval racer.
MIKE HULL: But his roots were in American road racing. Look at Bruno, he's a very accomplished road racer, from a very similar background, with no oval experience or until what he referred to a few minutes ago, what we did last year was we spent an awful lot of time in the preseason, we spent more of our time on ovals than we did on road tracks because we knew that he could road race. We just wanted him to help him understand what it meant to run an oval car on a full load of fuel as opposed to a light load. That's really the difference. But if you look historically over the years I think that that's the common thread and probably the ultimate definition of that's -- what Jim Clark did - the people that are older who have read anything - realize what Jim Clark did when he came here and particularly th year that he ran here and the next weekend he ran in Milwaukee. So I think that a road racer is capable of driving on an oval and I think we had an oval racer last year driving our car that would be capable of running at Long Beach. So, you know, it's just a matter of the ability the guy has and how much he wants to apply himself toward winning for the race team that supports him.
Q. Hopefully I think we would all look forward to seeing that oval racer racing at Long Beach sometime soon?
MIKE HULL: Yeah, okay (laughs).
Q. Bruno, I know the president of Brazil knows about Formula One because he didn't waste any time getting off a comment about what happened on the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday. But with your countryman Helio Castroneves winning last year, what is the sense within Brazil about the Indianapolis 500 and the more success by Brazilian drivers, is it becoming a bigger deal down there and as you were growing up, what did you know about that event?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think th Indianapolis 500 start to be a big deal in Brazil late '80s when Emerson start to race that. I think Emerson bring the American race to Brazil; especially when he won in '89 I think everybody was watching that race and '93 again, I think since then Indianapolis 500 is a big followed race in Brazil.
Q. When you walked into the building for the first time - people talk about, Bruno, a sense of the history that is so powerful. What was the experience for you? I would suspect you were very curious about it but I mean, when you went in the first time and looked around and they showed you some of the sites there, what was your reaction?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Pretty good. I live here in Indianapolis; I know how this city, how the people from the city love this race and how the city transforms on the month of May and I know how much the tradition with this race. I really like it. I think the tradition of the race, plus the race itself because the track is really unique, is really difficult, and the rules to get into the race and the way the race is, make it really special for each driver that drives the race.
Q. It's interesting now with the rainout, Bruno, that everything is going to be compressed down with the bump day and the second day of qualifying comes you up. I know you have a nice view of all this from your rearview mirror, but how frantic do you think it will be on Sunday with the one day to get everybody else in to fill up the rest of the field?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It is going to be pretty exciting because there are like, I don't know, there are like five or six drivers that can win this race, they are not on the race yet, you know, Arie Luyendyk, two times won the race, both Team Green's cars and both A.J. Foyt's cars, Mario a little bit, on doubt about whether he is going to be in the race. There are so many people that are not in the race yet, I think Sunday is going to be really exciting. I think this whole week is going to be exciting. People waiting for the weather, preying to get the good weather Sunday. I think -- luckily I am not going to be too worried about that, I am going to be worried about the race.
Q. First question, Mike, I want to talk about tire management and the fact that with the grinding of the racetrack there has been some talk regarding the fact that tire wear may go away faster than fuel evaporation, so to speak, talk about that?
MIKE HULL: I know there's been a lot of talk about that and we made the comment or I made the comment to someone the other day about that. I think that we'll find out this week, Ron, about where we stand with that thing. We didn't think we were too bad last week but we didn't devote a lot of time to running full loads, you know, full simulation, fuel -- race management simulation. We concentrated last week on being ready to qualify, and we'll start tomorrow running with full loads of fuel with our three guys and I know a lot of other people will also. And the race car is set up in a different way for 200 pounds of fuel. So we'll adjust the setup and we think that Firestone has done a pretty good job of having tires ready to race the race, so I know that Arie made a comment the other day about only being able to go to 20 to 30 laps and we really do hope that Arie and a bunch of his friends stop right there and we think we'll be okay.
Q. The other thing that I have noticed is the fact that with Jeff Ward running in the Indy Racing League, and the other drivers from the teams from the CART FedEx Championship Series, that -- I think Vasser and them ran at Fontana, but they really have no history of these cars and they seem to be having trouble getting a handle on the cars. How big of an advantage has it been to have Jeff Ward running and maybe pick up information leading into the month of May?
MIKE HULL: I think the more that you have an opportunity to work with your product the better you are going to be. And you are right, there are some people that you would expect who have been faster than they have been. I thought Vasser's guys with Team Rahal did a really good job with him all week. They figured out what their Dallara needed and they got themselves in the race. They did a good job of it. Greens have a good group of people and they will get in the race and they will do a good job on race day because they are a quality group of people. But I think that running Jeff in the IRL events at the beginning of the year is a big advantage because we have been able to work with the product. And running the last two years at Indianapolis has been a big help to us also. We have a working relationship with G Force that has been built over three years now. And we have a working relationship with our engine builder Comtech, Doug Peterson and his guys at Comtech, we have supported them from the start and they have supported us. So we have a good working relationship and that's what we do as a team, we support the people and work hard with the people hand-in-hand to get through the process here. So not to say the other people don't, but that's how Chip Ganassi Racing really functions, and Jeff Ward, Bruno, and Kenny have worked together like they have been together forever and I think that's part of our culture here. So that probably helps the program also, so we'll work hard to get the most out of it and I think working with the IRL all year long is a help.
Q. Bruno, has this hit you yet? Has the significance of the historical matter of the fact that you are the pole-sitter for the 86th running of the Indy 500 and that is something that will never go away and forever and ever you will be introduced as that?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, no doubt, but I am really pleased to be that, but I am a human being. You want to get to the next step, now I have to prepare myself to see if I can win the race.
Q. Mike, a couple years ago Juan Montoya used the same G Force and went out, was pretty dominant at the 500. How different is the setup on the car for Bruno than it was as compared to Juan, did they have similar driving styles and are they using similar setup? Might we see the same type of performance as we saw two years ago?
MIKE HULL: (Laughs) I will try to answer all those questions maybe in reverse order. We would like to have the same performance with Bruno (laughs) a couple of Sundays from now because that will help Bruno be introduced as the Indianapolis 500-winner instead of the pole-sitter. The car itself that -- the gen -- I don't know, the geniology of the car, Mark, from two years ago is quite significant. The car has changed a lot, and it's followed the development of the additional horsepower that we have available to us now versus two years ago. The tires have changed over the last couple of seasons, and then G Force themselves have learned a lot about their race car. In each year when you get the update or the development kit from them for the new year, that incorporates what they have learned from the previous year. So really the only thing that we have in common as a race team between Juan and Bruno is the fact that they were both test drivers at Williams. And we have a completely different setup now. I mean, it is a whole different game, and we approach it the same way. Their driving styles are very similar to answer your second question there, I think in line, and we want to go out and work as a team to have the same results.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: (Inaudible) same setup, because I think 222, 223 on the qualifying. If 222 will be far away to get a spot on the grid.
MIKE HULL: We would be going somewhere else if that was the case.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah.
Q. Another question for you. You have the opportunity to work with engine manufacturers in CART and now they have a lease engine deal and I believe you pretty much get the same engines as all the other teams using the same manufacturer, you have had the opportunity to work with the IRL and you are working with a - I call it - a rebuilt shop, so to speak. Could you tell us the differences in working with the IRL engine rebuilders and what options you have as a person buying the engines or at least -- or leasing the engines, whatever you are doing, is it the same or is there a difference?
MIKE HULL: I think to answer your question, I think the average team, if it were involved on an equal basis on the lease program, in other words, financial -- if everything were available equally, let's say on a financial basis to every team on the grid, based on what the engine manufacturers have done, over the years, I think you are better off with a lease program because the development is spread through all the customers on an equal basis. And a guy that -- every guy, no matter how large or small his team is, he's going to have the same development parts in his engine as the next guy does. That's the biggest difference. In terms of performance on race day, I don't think there's a large difference in performance on race day. But I think overall, the degree of comfort you have as a race team, is a lot better if you have a lease program because you know that the manufacturer is going to support you as well as everybody else on a weekly basis and you don't have to be constantly be going back wondering what is going on. Now with our program with Comtech we have pushed those guys very hard for what we can have as a race team. They work very -- work closely with General Motors and the guys at General Motors have fully supported Doug Peterson for a long time so we feel assured that we have the same parts in the kit with what they have, let's say, I don't know how to say it, as Buddy Lazeer (phonetic) or Sam Hornish's Motors, we feel we have the same parts that those guys have in their motors. But we don't know for a fact that that is the case, but General Motors assures us that that's the case. We work hard with our guy to make that happen. But the growth of what we do with the manufacturers helping us lease program does really, really push that program along.
Q. Bruno, how would you rank -- I came five minutes late. I hope nobody asked this question yet. How would you rank your Indy 500 pole versus your two wins in CART? Is this your biggest achievement so far or do you view winning the races a bigger achievement?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: My biggest achievement is the next one that I am going to get.
Q. You have had one year's experience in the IRL chassis and setups and all. How much does this car differ from the chassis you are running in CART and what changes do you have to make in your setup basically to get it to run?
MIKE HULL: I don't know, we're looking at each other. I don't have a clue. We'll let Bruno go first because I don't have a clue.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: The cars are pretty different apart from having four wheels, they are quite different. Champ Cars, they have more power and less downforce. That means they have less aerodynamic pressure to keep the car on the track. That means for a simple (inaudible) fuel, the Champ Cars are faster on the straights and the IRL are faster on the corners. This make the setups of the car a little bit different for just two things: (1) because of the downforce and the engine combination and (2) because they have different suspensions, angles, different roll bars, a lot of things are different of the Champ Cars; then you cannot really make -- exhaust the same setup. The suspensions are different and everything. But in the end I would say, apart from the cars are a little bit different, in the end still have to drive for your cars and the principle for a driver's standpoint is pretty much the same.
MIKE HULL: I will add to that and say, the obvious difference between an IRL car and a CART car is the configuration as Bruno referred to, but the thing that's in common between the two is the interchanges that the driver and his group of guys have. They work hard on the given day to optimize that package of parts. And what you view on your television, or in person, is a motor race, based on the fact that you have optimized your car. And it's quite unique or interesting for our guys to work together because we're able to -- we're not a one-dimensional team at this point. We're a multi-dimensional team and we get to learn a lot more and move a long a lot further in the mental process for what we like to do. We think that it improves our race team to be able to do it.
MERRILL CAIN: Let us open it up for questions. If you do have a question for either Bruno and Mike indicate that right now.
Q. Bruno, I just wondered if there were times last year whether you wondered whether you'd even last a year with the team or be back in year?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think racing and life is a circle. One day you are up, one day you are down. And I think you will have to manage your -- when you are on your high side to not be too -- you have to continue to work hard to keep on your high. When you are down you have to try to work out to be up again. I think life and racing, especially racing like this, one day you are really -- do really good; one day you real do really bad. A good driver is the one that manages to stay high as maximum as possible and when he goes down, has a lot of power inside, belief, and to go on the track again and do a good race. That's what I try to do.
Q. So you did have some down times and you were able to fight through it?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, for sure, last year I did some bad races. I wasn't feeling happy with myself, but luckily I had an opportunity to come back this year for team Target and we're working hard to do much better than last year.
MERRILL CAIN: Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us in the CART Media Teleconference this afternoon. We look forward to seeing you in action on May 26th at Indianapolis. We wish you the best of luck there. We'll be keeping a close eyed on you; look forward to seeing you at the next CART event, Miller Lite 250 at the Milwaukee Mile on June 2. Thanks again, Bruno and Mike, for joining us this afternoon.
MIKE HULL: Thank you, Merrill.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA:Thank you.
MERRILL CAIN: Thanks, we enjoyed it. We hope you did too. Stay tuned for further information on CART teleconferences coming up in the next couple of weeks. hanks again for participating and have a wonderful afternoon.
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