CART Media Conference
MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART publication relations. We're happy to be joined today by two up-and-coming CART open-wheel race stars, one who has made his way up the cart ladder system and is starting to experience some success in Champ cars, and one who is on his way up in the development series. In just a few minutes we'll hear from Marc Breuers of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. First off on today's call we'll welcome in Townsend Bell, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Reynard Bridgestone for Visteon/Patrick Racing. Thanks for taking a few minutes to join us on today's CART media teleconference.
TOWNSEND BELL: Merrill, thanks for having me, good to be here.
MERRILL CAIN: Let's do a little introduction here. Townsend is a 27-year-old California native. He's coming off a very strong weekend in Portland where he finished fourth in Sunday's GI Joe's 200, marking his career best finish in Champ cars. He came very close to a podium effort as he challenged Dario Franchitti for third in the closing laps of the race. After a rough start to the season, Townsend has gotten it back on track in Portland. It was his second consecutive Top 10 finish. He enters CART's next race in Chicago leading the Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year award. He leads that race by 13 points over Mario Dominguez. We're happy to see him back on track and doing well. We'll open it up for questions for Townsend.
Q. Can you just talk about the Portland race, not only the start, must be pretty challenging for a rookie who hasn't run the festival curves in a Champ car, and talk about the start of the race, then later on when you went from third to fourth? I know you overall have to be pleased with your finish. Talk about how the race went for you.
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, you know, I've been on pole there three times in Portland in previous races and I've never won there because of the problems in the first corner. I never took the escape road there, and wanted to keep that in my hip pocket as an alternate plan if things didn't look good down at the festival turn. I guess we had three attempts that were waved off on. Of the fourth try, I had a decent run down the outside lane and went late on the brakes and actually got up in front of Christian Fittipaldi. As I started to turn in, it was clear he was not going to make the apex and starting to run wide. It looked like I was either going to get caught there in the gravel trap and likely get stuck, which has happened to me in the past. So there's really nowhere for me to try to make an effort to make the corner, so I opted to go just straight ahead and get things sort out on the other side. Turned out it looked like there were some cars getting together anyway. So we ended up back in sixth place for the single-file restart.
Q. How about later in the race? It would have been great to have your first podium finish, but just talk about the circumstances that led up from you going from third to fourth.
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, well, I think we passed Tagliani on cold tires to pick up a position, then I got Dario on the restart to get to third. He got a little loose coming off of the last corner there on the restart. And we had a pretty good run. Toyota versus Honda going down the straightaway there. Seemed pretty evenly matched. I went in a little deeper and just made it to the apex. Then I think we pulled out a little bit of a gap on Dario in the next couple laps. Once I had tires that were up to temperature, it seemed to even out. Then we came in for our final pit stop, and there was just miscommunication on the jack stands. Once they dropped me down, they sent me to go, and then they had me hold up, the fuel nozzle was stuck. When I got the clutch back in, normally I pump it twice to try to get any air out, and I didn't get a chance to do that on the retry there. When I let go of the clutch, it just killed the engine. So it was a little unfortunate, we lost about 10 more seconds, I think, in the pits, and then came out. I think we were sixth place at the time, but two guys were out of sequence and came in the pits and we ended up fourth in line. And I could catch Dario a little bit again on cold tires, and then he was really quick and didn't make any mistakes and the gap stayed about the same. You know, it's frustrating to have a podium kind of in hand there and have something go wrong. But, you know, on the good side, if we finished fourth with some issues during the race, that's I think a pretty good sign that we're on the right direction. You know, the Visteon guys have done a great job all year. At Japan we were running third and Kanaan ended up falling out. We probably would have finished second there. I packed it in pretty good. And so on pace, we've been right there. But learning how to get to the end of the race with a strong result has been a process over the last few weeks. And I'd like to think we're making some progress there. So hopefully momentum carries us through the summer.
Q. I know you had a lot of confidence in your abilities coming into the season. How much was that confidence shaken, if at all, through those first four races, a couple mistakes on your part, bad luck, you were knocked out of those first four races? Did you ever lose that confidence?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I think -- I mean, what tends to happen is when you get off to a shaky start like that, there's no shortage of advice available to you, whether you want it or not. So there was plenty of people telling me that I should do this or that. You know, generally if you start second-guessing your own gut instincts, your own abilities, I think it's a big step in the wrong direction. So I was just focused on keeping my head down, doing what I know works for me, and learning, try to learn quickly, and learn from my mistakes. And, you know, I think we've had a couple good race weekends here. We've had some problems, but, you know, in CART, it seems like from what I've learned so far in the six races we've done this year and the two last year is that there's chaos every race for somebody. There's either some big pit incident or something at the start or some kind of mechanical failure, and it's just so important to be strong. But most importantly, just hang in there and be there at the end. So, you know, I'm working hard to continue to do that. If the car is quick and I can drive clean races, like the last couple, I think we'll be right there for the balance of the season.
Q. Could you talk about running at Laguna, your home track? You're in seventh, you're behind Dixon. Even though all you had to do was hold your position, finish that high in your career, you were still trying to get past Dixon. Talk about the back and forth with your crew. They probably want you to bring it on in. You were still trying to move up.
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, again, it kind of goes back to second-guessing your own instincts. That's just how I drive. Dixon was maybe a second or so slower than I was there at the end. I think he was having some kind of handling problem. And our car was really starting to come to us. So, you know, I want to fight for every position till the end of the race. And, you know, in the back of my mind, of course, I know that I need to finish some races here. But at the same time, you know, with the car that much quicker, it being my home track, I certainly want one more position if I can get it. He was pretty hard to get by. I was a little frustrated there. But we had a couple close calls. But, hey, if you're not pushing hard, you're going to be at the back in this series. I don't want to get on that kind of rhythm either. So I'm glad I was pushing hard at the end, and it worked out. And hopefully we'll continue to have good finishes here.
Q. Looks like you're starting to have a good time out there.
TOWNSEND BELL: We've been having a good time - sometimes too good of a time, not finishing races. Lately it's been even better making it to the end.
Q. I was up in Montreal for the Grand Prix a couple weeks ago. Your name was being mentioned up and down pit lane. Any test drives planned?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, if you know something I don't, you can give me information. Right now we're just focused on -- CART has lots of races on the schedule. I think we've got a weekend off here this weekend, then we go back three in a row, then a weekend off, then I think four in a row. Merrill, correct me if I'm wrong.
MERRILL CAIN: I think you're right.
TOWNSEND BELL: So my immediate priority is getting results here and trying to get further up the finishing page. You know, Formula 1, there's lots going on over there I know economically speaking. I still keep in touch with the people over there and things that are going on. I was hoping to try to get to an F-1 race earlier this year, but it didn't work out with my schedule. We'll just have to see, you know, what happens over the next six months. But I certainly wouldn't close the door to an opportunity if it exists.
Q. The word up and down pit lane was that you were due for a win by Mid-Ohio.
TOWNSEND BELL: I'd like that.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the role of Jim McGee in the development of your CART career as a veteran guy who has been around since day one with Pat? Talk about his role and how he guided you.
TOWNSEND BELL: The key thing with Patrick Racing and the whole Visteon team is stability for me, especially with the first few races not going so well. You know, these guys don't get down in the dumps too easily, and they don't get overly excited too easily. I think that stability and consistent stability has made a big difference over the past few months for me. You know, I'm the guy that's new, that's got to figure everything out, that has to go through the trial and error process. You know, Jim has been pretty instrumental in helping to take away all the unnecessary distractions and help me stay focused on what I need to do in the car. I mean, he's been around the sport for such a long time, and he's had a lot of wins, had a lot of great drivers. There's very little that he hasn't seen or been through before. Again, that foundation I think has been key.
Q. Can I skip over Chicago and look ahead to Toronto. We know you were there with the Indy Lights series. I guess it will be your first tour of duty in a Champ car. The fact that you've been there in Lights is one thing, but can you talk about the adjustment you're going to have to make when you have the horsepower of a Champ car to work with on the narrowness of Toronto?
TOWNSEND BELL: I don't think it will be any different than going to Long Beach for the first time in a Champ car. We qualified pretty reasonable, I think five of six races in the Top 10. We were fifth in Long Beach and sixth there at Portland. I hope that the car will be as good or maybe even better with the things we've learned by the time we get to Toronto. I'm pleased that it looks like the aero rules are frozen and maybe some of the development slows down on the Lola, because we're one of four cars running the Reynard right now. For obvious reasons, further development of the Lola could have hurt us. We'll see where we stand. There's no reason to think that we can't be, you know, right there in the Top 5 again. If you qualify in the Top 5 in this series, you have a decent car in the race for setup, if a couple things fall your way, you can be right there at the front. Toronto is a great city. I won there last year. I think I had pole position, too, in Lights. It was a really smooth, easy race for us. I'd love it to be the same.
Q. Your thoughts about the idea of maintaining the turbocharged engine for the power source within CART. There was a possibility of a change last year, but now Chris has talked about maintaining that type of unique power.
TOWNSEND BELL: I'll be interested to see what the final specs are on revs and horsepower. I think it's great. I mean, like everyone else, the first Indy 500 that I went to was 1986, I think, and the sound of a turbocharged engine whistling around any of the tracks, Laguna Seca, Long Beach, some of the other CART events, that's what I fell in love with when I was a kid. I'm very enthusiastic about keeping the high horsepower, turbocharged, high revs, high technology, because I think that's what differentiates CART from other series in North America. So I'm pretty pleased about that. I'm just curious to know what's final specs will be once those are released.
Q. I think you talked about the transition driving the Champ car when we had you out here at Long Beach. I know the reaction of a viewer or an observer as your car goes by, it's electrifying. What is it like in the driver's seat with all that power?
TOWNSEND BELL: I think initially the best time to ask me that would have been after my first test at Mid-Ohio last year. But, you know, it's such an exhilaration, you're just amazed at both the down force and the braking potential, actually how easy the car feels to drive compared to Indy Lights because it's a little bit more of a purebred racing machine because Indy Lights had more an old-school engine that was pretty heavy and higher up in the car. As far as driving that last one percent on the limit, it's quite a step up in level of commitment. So what happens, though, through the ladder series, when you come up each step say from Barber Dodge on up to Atlantics or Indy Lights, each step along the way you develop a tolerance for the speed and the experience. So six months or eight months now after I first tested a Champ car, that tolerance level kind of comes into play. It feels pretty normal, and sometimes slow in some places, if you can believe that. It's only until you go back and drive. For instance, when I tested the CART car last year in Mid-Ohio and then we went to Chicago and did a test, then I did those two races in Europe, then I had to come back and get back in the Indy Lights car to finish off the championship. Boy, what a difference. All of a sudden Indy Lights feels like a four-stroke go-kart or something. It's really amazing to experience that tolerance level, that threshold be bumped up at each level.
Q. Essentially you're a rookie this year. I know you drove two races last year. What is it like not having a teammate to share information, share thoughts with? Is that difficult for you as a rookie?
TOWNSEND BELL: I think one of the big differences with my situation is that, you know, being with Patrick Racing, I have just about as much information and support and background data I think as any one-car team can have. They ran two cars the last few years. There's a lot of data from lots of the tracks that we go to. Probably the biggest handicap is that on the race weekends, a test day, the rate at which you can develop the car is essentially cut in half, assuming that the other driver is capable and other engineer is capable of developing the car in a direction that is consistent with the thoughts and the characteristics that I like. So that's probably the one handicap. But it makes us work all that much harder, and also as a team work harder to try to add another car for next year. I'd love to be, you know -- have a teammate, have that push. But I'll tell you, there's plenty of push I get from the other 17 or 18 drivers on the grid. I really think that all in all, as a one-car team, we're in a very good situation and I've got a good group of people to work with.
Q. You're one of the few drivers still running a Reynard chassis. Do you feel at a disadvantage or do you feel it's pretty close in performance?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, if you look at our race lap times from Laguna and Portland, we're in the same 10th of a second. We were second fastest at Laguna and third quickest at Portland within the same 10th. You know, that's one lap, though. There's, say, 110 laps in the Portland race. So I haven't seen the composite of all the racetrack times from the race, but I tend to think that we're right there. There's probably going to be some spots where the Reynard is better and some spots where the Lola is better. But, you know, until I test a Lola and Reynard back to back, you really don't have a good indication, except for the fact that the teams that I guess tested the Lola and switched haven't gone back. That can be an indication, as well. You know, for how competitive the times have been, I'm pretty happy with the package we have. A lot of it is up to what you do with what you get. If you look at Lolas at the back of the CART grid and Lolas at the front, you can say that some teams do a lot better job than others at developing those cars. I think that's the most important thing, is not to worry about, you know, whether you're absolutely in the right package or not, but take what you've got and make the most of it. That's what we're focused on.
Q. Alignment at the start of the race has been an issue for many years. Seems like the support series always comes down to the green flag and are aligned perfectly. For some reason the Champ cars, we never see that. Is it because the cars are more powerful or something? What is the reason why the Champ car drivers can't seem to get lined up?
TOWNSEND BELL: I don't know. Everybody's definitely going for it. I mean, we had I don't know how many attempts waved off, three attempts at Portland. So, I mean, the drivers -- you know, every driver in CART was a standout in the lower levels. You know, everybody thinks they're the fastest and deserves to be at the front. So sometimes things get spread out. I guess also if you have -- if there's a half second difference or a 10th of a second difference between the time the pole sitter pushing the throttle in a Champ car and the time the second place qualifier pushes the throttle, the difference in acceleration I guess of the cars versus Barber Dodge, you know, that 10th of a second difference wouldn't translate into as big of a gap. Who knows? You can get really scientific about it. I think the fact is that everybody just wanting to gas it at the start and beat everybody else. Nobody is all that worried about the aesthetic qualities of the start.
Q. There's a lot of questions about next year, what everybody is doing. Are you currently in a one-year contract? Do you know what you're doing next year? Is it still up in the air?
TOWNSEND BELL: I probably won't comment on that. I really prefer not to talk about it.
Q. In listening to you talk over the last few weeks about the first part of the season, am I right in saying one of the toughest things you've had to learn is patience?
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah. I think, you know, people have asked what the biggest difference is between the Lights and the Champ car. You know, I think the answer I've given most often is just the rhythm and the length of the races. We did 110 laps there at Portland, which seemed like a long time without a lot of cautions. The big thing is that each stint in a Champ car, if you run a full 30-lap stint, say, at Portland, that's physically and mentally about as draining as one Indy Lights race was. You know, the difference has kind of been preparing myself for three or four of those stints, or even longer if a Superspeedway race. You know, I've tried to make some improvements there. But I also try not to analyze things too much and get too into all that. I mean, I push hard from when the green flag drops, and you have to in this series. You talk to da Matta, Bruno, Dario, all of us were going pretty much flat out the whole race. I think that's great. That's the way the racing should be. Everybody is running full rich for the most part, just standing on it. You make some mistakes when you're pushing hard, and I made some mistakes early on. We also had some things that weren't my fault. But, you know, you never stop learning, and hopefully going forward here I keep learning and keep improving.
Q. I found it interesting, you were talking about -- when things aren't going good, seems like everybody and their brother or sister has a piece of advice for you. I find that a lot in my business. I find myself when somebody is telling me how a certain show should be, I'll start thinking about what I'm having for dinner, anything not to listen. Kind of get into that mode, "I'll keep eye contact but I'm going to think about something else"?
TOWNSEND BELL: I've been doing a lot of household chores, say, up until Laguna Seca weekend trying to keep my mind off of things. I end up sitting around in between races. One of the things that I'm excited about now is that we're racing every weekend, in this case we have a week break off. I mean, I love that. Whether you do good or you do bad, knowing by Thursday you're getting ramped up for another race weekend is great for me because even now we had a decent weekend up in Portland, and a pretty strong result. But I was hoping that we could be racing again this weekend, whenever, because I love driving those cars and love competing against all those guys. Whether I do good or bad, there's no substitute for getting back in the race car in terms of satisfying my urge.
Q. Last two races you made steps forward in each one of them. You make one more step forward, you're on the podium. Have you thought about visualizing what it's going to be like standing on the podium?
TOWNSEND BELL: You know, I'd like to think that we've been on podium pace a couple times now, in Japan and at Portland this last weekend, and even at Laguna, we got taken out there in the start, went to the back of the pack. We were still pretty quick towards the end compared to everybody else. I'd really like to start thinking about winning races. Not to say that I haven't thinking about that all along. You know, it's really tough. The closer you get there to the front, Ganassi, Newman/Haas, they both have really strong cars right now. Those guys are going to be tough to beat. But it's nice to know that we've been mixing it up with those guys as a one-car team. We'll just have to see what happens. There's, again, so many variables, so many things that play out during these races. Kenny Brack had his wheel fall off. You just can't plan on that, but you've got to be prepared to capitalize on it when it happens. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and prepare to capitalize on those circumstances when they come up.
Q. I'm sure you practiced holding the trophy over your head.
TOWNSEND BELL: We're clearing out space on the shelf.
Q. Can you talk a little about your experience coming up in the CART ladder system, typically as an instructor in Barber Dodge, how that may have helped your career?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I never was an instructor for the Barber Dodge. This whole Skip Barber terminology can get a little confusing sometimes. They have in the school series what's called the Formula Dodge cars, then their top level series is the Barber Dodge Pro Series, which also has instructors. I wasn't an instructor in either of those. I was an instructor for about six months in what's called their Three-Day Racing School, which is in the Formula Dodge race cars. That was a lot of fun, met a lot of great people. But it really didn't give me enough time to work on making it to the next level in terms of going out and raising sponsorship. While I enjoyed the experience, it tied up my days a little too much. So it's a great group of people that work there, and they've been a big part of developing a lot of the drivers that are in the top levels today. So I routinely try to get back over to that side of the paddock and say hi to not only guys I raced with a few years ago, but also the instructors both at the Barber Dodge Pro Series level and the Formula Dodge level and even the Skip Barber Three Day School. Sometimes we get back out there for events with sponsors or friends of mine, and I'll swing in and say hi to everybody because they're a big part of the reason why I'm here.
Q. We've talked the last two weeks with everybody about the ladder system. Do you think the changes this year, the ladder system, is a great deal better than it's been in the past? Do you foresee this is really the way of the future for up-and-coming racers?
TOWNSEND BELL: No doubt that both CART and Skip Barber have done an excellent job to help develop a clearer picture for up-and-coming drivers and for fans, a clearer picture of what exactly the ladder is. I don't think that it's been a huge step in just one year here. It's something they've been working on since I've been involved back in '97, and something that's progressed quite impressively each season to the point now where it's really clear that if you want to get into the CART series and you're just starting out, that the path from go-karts to Champ car is pretty well laid out. With the right ability and the right amount of desire and hard work, the path is right there in front of you.
Q. Can we talk about sponsorship? I believe in Lights, you were heavily involved, as all drivers are, in gaining sponsorship for your efforts. Can you talk about what you do in that, how much time you spend in those endeavors each week?
TOWNSEND BELL: These days very little. I don't have really any sponsorship that I've brought with me to the Patrick team. They've got a long-standing relationship with Visteon and Bridgestone and all of the sponsors that are associated with the CART program. To tell you the truth, it's been a wonderful transition from pounding the pavement and spending long hours working on that side of the equation to where things are today, where I just spend time worrying about going faster in the car and helping to develop the package we have. I also have some people that help me with the business side of things these days, when I used to do it primarily on my own. But it's the biggest challenge, you'll probably hear that. You should ask the same question to Marc Breuers who is going to be talking to you later, because he's coming up through Barber Dodge right now. He's had to go out and raise money just like I did for Barber Dodge and Indy Lights. When I moved to Indy Lights, I was with a wonderful team and team owner, Bob Dorricott, the whole Dorricott Racing team. They were a big help in taking some of the load off my shoulders in terms of the budget and providing the infrastructure to take care of sponsors and the like. Again, I don't spend much time on that as I used to, but it's certainly been a huge part of why I'm here, with a lot of great companies along the way.
Q. Do you think in the Barber Dodge, Atlantics, that some assistance or more attention needs to be paid to that aspect?
TOWNSEND BELL: There's several components to that whole situation. You always hear lots of talk about which drivers do a better job of getting sponsorship or drivers from which country have an easier time getting sponsorship. Let's not forget also that the teams in the lower levels, let's say in the Atlantic level now, the teams also I think need to make just as much of an effort as the drivers to gain the sponsorship. You know, the less an Atlantic team has to rely on the level of a driver's budget, the more power they have to pick the best drivers available. It would be great if we had a situation where every Atlantic team up and down the grid had full sponsorship. These guys that are 19, 20, 25 years old are all hired for their ability, get paid a salary, and they're full-time racers. That's a vision that I think everybody should try to keep in mind, that as a professional racing series, both team and driver take on that challenge together and ultimately I think it would be great if the teams had the money and the drivers were just there on talent alone.
Q. Maybe CART next year will look at a support program for the Atlantic series, as well.
TOWNSEND BELL: You never know.
Q. During the CBS broadcast it was suggested that a few years ago a driver could enter CART and he would have a couple, three years to prove himself, but suggested that's perhaps not the case any more. You have to prove yourself the very first year. I'm wondering if that is what you are feeling in the CART series and maybe specifically at Patrick Racing?
TOWNSEND BELL: You know, I put a lot of expectations on myself. I really haven't felt a lot of that pressure except from what I expect of myself and what I know I'm capable of doing, what I know my team's capable of doing. So, you know, it's tough. It's part of I guess being in a professional sport, is you're expected to produce. And I don't have a problem with that. That's why we get paid a lot of money and that's what it's all about. So I don't think I'd want to be part of an organization where everybody was patting me down the back the whole time and giving me two or three seasons because that's not really the mindset that I take. I think what's happened, though, is with a smaller car count in the last year or so, you've got more guys that have won races and that are fast that are kind of looming over your shoulders, and every one of the cars in CART, seems like everyone is very talented, all the teams are very capable. You know, you've got fast guys at the back of the field some weekends, and the same guys can be at the front the next weekend of the. With Max Papis and Oriol Servia, Roberto Moreno, all these guys pounding around, it keeps you on your toes for sure.
MERRILL CAIN: Before we let you go, I would like to ask you one question, if you wouldn't mind. We have Marc Breuers from the Barber Dodge Pro Series coming up next. As a driver who has come up through the ladder system, what advice do you give up-and-coming drivers like Marc? What do you tell them to try to make that step to the next level?
TOWNSEND BELL: One of my favorite pieces of advice from the Barber Dodge and the Skip Barber family, is from this instructor, this guy named David Loring (phonetic), raced Formula Fords a long time ago. His advice was always pretty simple. It was, "Go fast and take a lot of chances." He always said that with a smile, but I always took him seriously. That would be my piece of advice to pass on.
MERRILL CAIN: We appreciate you taking some time with us this afternoon. We're all happy to see your progress over the last few weeks of the season. We wish you the best of luck coming up with the CART Grand Prix of Chicago, the weekend of June 29th and 30th. Enjoy your weekend off. Thanks, Townsend.
TOWNSEND BELL: It's been my pressure.
MERRILL CAIN: We now welcome in Marc Breuers of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. We appreciate you taking some time with us this afternoon and joining us on the CART teleconference. Welcome in.
MARC BREUERS: Thanks, Merrill. Glad to be here.
MERRILL CAIN: A little bit of background on Marc. He's a 26-year-old driver from Philadelphia who currently ranks third in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. He had a career best finish of second at Lime Rock on Memorial Day this year. It's just been announced that Marc will participate in CART's Driver Development Mentor Program, which will allow him to spend some exclusive with a Toyota Atlantic team and key team personnel during the CART weekend in Chicago coming up in a couple weeks.
Q. When you're involved in the CART development ladder like you are now, you have your own style and you don't emulate anybody, copy anybody, but maybe who with the Champ cars, the CART FedEx Championship Series, whose style do you think you may be closest to at this point?
MARC BREUERS: I'll be honest, it was sort of ironic that Townsend was on the call earlier. We're very similar in age. He's sort of been a mentor, always that step ahead of me. I look at that and have taken a lot of his advice in the past. He, in fact, has given me the advice of go fast and take chances, as well. Townsend is very, very aggressive. You know, the Barber Dodge series is very much of a developmental series. I certainly think I'm getting to be a little bit more that way. I think earlier on me my career I was a little bit more patient and calm and realizing I need to have a little more aggression level out there. So I definitely would say I'm looking towards -- a little bit more towards something like Townsend. Another fellow would be Jimmy Vasser, he's sort of always very, very consistent. He's always been there. I've always sort of looked at myself and said that's the kind of the driver that I am.
Q. Now that we've got the series involved in the CART development ladder, I suppose when you went up to some of these guys, maybe you didn't know them, introduced yourself, a cold introduction was okay. Now that you are part of the system, do you find that the CART guys may have a little more time for you? Do you find as a rule they're pretty open to sit down and chat with you?
MARC BREUERS: Yeah, you know. I've really gone pretty far out of my way to go and talk to a lot of the Atlantic team owners as well as some of the drivers. Of course, you know, a lot of my old racing competitors are now in the Atlantic series, so it's a little warmer introduction there now than it has been in the past. But I've also had the chance to meet some of the personalities in the Champ Car Series, and they really are all pretty warm and open, even if you are coming in with that cold introduction. You know, they recognize that -- I think they've all been in that spot once before, and I think they take the time out when they can.
Q. From the descriptions that I have from some of the course observers around the track, it was a very exciting race, run very cleanly compared to what can happen. Can you tell us a little about your race there?
MARC BREUERS: Sure. I started up on the front row. I took the provisional pole in first qualifying which kept me up there. Of course, all we hear about is the malay that happens in the festival corners. I think we did not escape that, but I happened to. I was very fortunate to come out of the festival corners in the lead. A few of the other competitors, I think actually Julio Campos, who was on pole, spun there, and a few other people ended up in a gravel traps, put us under a yellow flag pretty quickly. The remainder of the race was actually run fairly clean.
Q. What about your competitors in this series this year? A lot of them moved on last year, but there are new ones coming up. Who are your biggest competitors this year?
MARC BREUERS: Well, I mean, certainly stand out in the satisfactory is AJ Allmendinger. He's done very well in the past. There are a lot of very young drivers in the series, a lot of rookies, like you said. Many of my competitors have moved on. This is the first graduating class from the Skip Barber National Series which didn't exist when I ran in the smaller cars, in the amateur series for Skip Barber. I'm a full product of their system. I mean, I started day one in one of their racing schools and ran in their Formula Dodges, amateur series. But, you know, there are a few young guys. Their competitiveness and speed is certainly there. At that point it's the maturity level and being able to be consistent throughout the season.
Q. Looks like a number of them have taken the advice of go fast and take chances.
MARC BREUERS: It has. I guess maybe being a few years older than them, I realized that you need to be consistent and fast. Sometimes the wiser choice is to take one spot less and finish the race, which actually happened up at Portland. We had one car that got into a big accident trying to make up a bunch of spots. But turns out everybody was all right. Just keep going from there.
Q. Are you paired with another driver or are you sharing a coach with another driver?
MARC BREUERS: I am. I work with Josh Brown as my engineer. We've done a lot of winter testing. It's really helped my personal development. I do work with Julio Campos, as well.
Q. In the developmental series, this is a situation to where every race becomes that much more important because it's almost like minor league baseball: when you do well, they notice, but unfortunately when you don't do well, they take a double notice.
MARC BREUERS: I would agree with that. You know, I mean, I'm looking at this obviously as a career. You know, my hopes are to be in the Toyota Atlantic series next year. With the CART mentor program, I'm going to get a chance to go out and get a little bit more exposure there. But it's true, you know, I go out and I look and didn't get the result that I really wanted in Portland, and now I have to wait a few weeks before I can prove myself again. But it really does come down to proving yourself every single weekend.
Q. How do you handle that?
MARC BREUERS: Well, you just have to push through it. I mean, the one thing that I've learned, I mean, Townsend touched on this, as well, you know, a race car driver's job is not just to drive a car quickly; it's to be able to make good decisions, have good judgment, be able to find sponsorship money, be able to satisfy a sponsor in terms of public appearances, things of that nature. To be a high-caliber professional driver, like Townsend who made it up to the top, you've got to be multi-dimensional. You've got to be able to really handle quite a bit of pressure. And I think that's just part of being a professional athlete.
Q. Is part of that pressure also the learning curve, learning how to keep that pressure within and produce despite everything going on around you?
MARC BREUERS: It's true. And, you know, I've gone through a couple of weekends particularly recently where, you know, there were a lot of external pressures, things that weren't specifically related to actually driving the race car. You know, while you can put them out of your mind the time that you're in the car, it's being able to either insulate yourself from them or not let them get to you and still stay focused on the things you have to accomplish over the weekend.
MERRILL CAIN: You drive the No. 4 Sonoco Dodge Reynard. You have a relationship with Sonoco as it sits right now. Townsend talked about the importance of the sponsorship, having that relationship. How has that been for you? Are you comfortable in doing that? As a driver, what is that like?
MARC BREUERS: I've been very fortunate. I've had some success there. People always ask, "How did you get that? How did you get that?" Kind of joke, but it really isn't that much of a joke. I mean, I knocked on the door on the right day. You know, there was an opportunity there, and we worked it out. It didn't just happen overnight. It took some effort. We worked out a program that was beneficial for both myself as well as for Sonoco. I think I've been certainly very, very happy with them, and I think they're pleased with my performance both on and off the track. You know, we are learning together as we go along, and hopefully we can make a go of it and climb the ladder together.
MERRILL CAIN: Certainly great experience for you.
Q. Are you from the Philadelphia area?
MARC BREUERS: That's correct.
Q. I'm from the East Coast myself, based in the northeast here. It's not known to be a racing capital of the world. How did you get started in racing growing up in Philadelphia?
MARC BREUERS: You're absolutely right. One of the toughest things that I face around here is almost educating people on racing and what's really involved with it because it's probably -- it seems to me at least that it's the least popular area in the country for racing. But I got started literally by going to Skip Barber Racing School. I was a young kid and bought a car when I was 15, took it apart and put it back together. Some of my other friends had done that. They taught me how to heel and toe. I sort of had fun with it. "You got to go to racing school." Off I went. From then I just continued on and pursued through it go-karts and pursued it through school. About four years ago I really decided that this is what I want to do. I went and I taught, just like Townsend did, I was friends with him when he taught at Skip Barber. I taught there for a year, and it helped quite a bit, really helped solidify my knowledge of vehicle dynamics, how to drive a car, what was really going on. But much like Townsend, I also realized I wasn't actually getting the opportunity to race and actually go out and find the money to race. You know, it's been a great progression up through the Barber system, the Skip Barber system. Right now I'm at the top of their system looking to carry their name onwards.
Q. The Andrettis are in nearby Nazareth. Did you ever have any discussions with them in terms of advice, things of that nature?
MARC BREUERS: I haven't. The interesting thing, there's a go-kart track not too far from us, and Michael's son Marco runs at the same go-kart track I do. I have run into Michael on occasion there, sort of said hello. But it's been more on I guess a more formal basis than anything.
Q. Have you had the opportunity to actually race Marco?
MARC BREUERS: No. He's in a much different class. He's just starting out. He's pretty young.
Q. How were you steered toward open-wheel cars?
MARC BREUERS: Honestly, I think it was more by accident than anything. I was never exposed to anything else. Based literally on my peer group at home, they said, "You need to go to racing school, it's a lot of fun." Off I went to Skip Barber which at the time was running a Formula Ford. That was my entry into auto racing. That's all I've ever done, open-wheel and the go-karts. I've really never been exposed to anything else. My family is not involved in racing in any way. None of our friends are either. It's a bit of a lonely battle I fought for a while to even get this far.
Q. When you are carrying the flag, as you are, you tend to capture imaginations. Hopefully your career will take off and we'll see you racing the Champ cars soon. Philadelphia will be piling on to the bandwagon.
MARC BREUERS: That's right. I look to kind of get the word out here in Philadelphia and make sure I get some local coverage. I've gotten a tremendous response from people. I keep a newsletter up for local people and we do special events when the Barber Dodge races are on television. I've really gotten a tremendous amount of support. You go out and try and do something a little bit different, a little bit special. I think it does capture people's imagination. They really do look forward and share in your excitement. It's been pretty neat.
Q. In looking at racing this year, the open-wheel cars have been so much more exciting. Is there an upswing on the way where you guys in the open-wheel circuit will catch the wave? Maybe it takes a while for the word to get out. The level of racing seems to be far more exciting than stock cars.
MARC BREUERS: Obviously I'm a little biased, but I think so, too. I've gone -- I naturally go to all the Champ car races, been to a few Winston Cup races. My heart lies with the open-wheel. If we could get some people to just take a look at this, they'd be thrilled beyond belief. I hope you're right on the upswing side of open-wheel racing. Naturally that's what I'm hoping will happen. I think with a little luck, with Chris Pook being in charge of CART right now, I certainly see some changes happening. I think it's all going in the right direction. I think we're doing the right thing.
MERRILL CAIN: You're obviously doing the mentor program, coming up the Chicago weekend June 29th and 30th. You said here today that your aspiration is to make it to the Toyota Atlantic level next year. Have you given a thought to some of the questions you are going to ask when you get to Chicago and what you hope to gather from the mentor program?
MARC BREUERS: I've certainly got your basic questions. I'll be honest, over the last few days, most people don't necessarily realize this, but the last -- I guess I came home yesterday and spent most of the time on the airplane and some further time last night doing more post race analysis, just taking notes and writing down everything, figuring it all out so that it's logged for the next time I go to Portland. It was my first time there. I'm sure I'll have some more time to think about the questions I'll ask the Atlantic guys in a few more days.
MERRILL CAIN: I'm sure it's going to be a great opportunity for you. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago. We appreciate you joining us on the teleconference today. Wish you good luck with the mentor program. We'll keep an eye on you in the Barber Dodge Pro Series .
MARC BREUERS: Appreciate it. Very excited not only to be on the teleconference today, but really to be embraced by the CART community and to be in the CART mentor program really means a lot to me.
MERRILL CAIN: Good deal. See you in Chicago. We'd like to thank both Marc and Townsend Bell for being a part of the teleconference today. Next CART FedEx Championship Series event is the CART Grand Prix of Chicago on Sunday, June 30th. Race will be aired live on CBS television 3:30 p.m. eastern time. Have a very pleasant afternoon.
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