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Champ Car World Series: G.I. Joe's 200

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  G.I. Joe's 200

Champ Car World Series: G.I. Joe's 200

Adrian Fernandez
Alex Tagliani
Paul Tracy
June 22, 2003


PORTLAND, OREGON

ERIC MAUK: We are joined by the 2nd and 3rd place finishers of today's race. Start with the 3rd place finisher today the driver of the No 33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth Lola Bridgestone, Alex Tagliani takes the 3rd spot earning his 2nd podium finish of season and the 7th of his career. He ran the fastest lap of the race today on lap 95 and moved into the Top-10 in points. Alex, another podium finish. Did you think you had this kind of speed coming in to today?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Actually, yes, I think after Laguna we worked really hard on analyzing every data from the car and we found some major problems. After that we were confident coming here that we were going to be quick and we worked on the car all weekend long. It was competitive, just at the beginning we didn't want to go on intermediate setup so we stayed full drive, but we started conservative at the beginning of the race just in case. The car had a ton of understeering and I was losing ground form the leader. We made some change in the race and after that the car start to get quicker and quicker. And at the end I was able to run a really quick lap time. It was just a little bit too late so -- and in the pitstop the guys did no mistakes; everything went really well. We're still working on the car to be able to be quicker on the jacks, and quicker down, and little things here and there. So we definitely improving race after race and I am sure that if we keep at knocking on the door like this we'll have our chances.

ERIC MAUK: Couldn't tell if the rain was causing you guys any problems. Experience any problems with wet weather out there?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Well, at some point it was like some sprinkles, but I lost the car going in Turn 6 and I went over the curb, it was more caused -- I didn't know actually, I didn't know if it was the rain or if it was oil from another car and some guy experienced the same things so it was basically the oil, and that was the most surprising moment that I had in my race. Not so bad. I had a race very normal race. I just think the pace was really quick and you know, I wish I would have start with the car a little bit more aggressive from the get-go, but after that, just no chance to pass or to do any kind of move because everybody was doing, you know, everything right, no mistakes in the pit, no mistakes in the tracks, so it was quite a fast pace.

ERIC MAUK: Today's runnerup is the driver of the No 3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth Lola Bridgestone, Paul Tracy. Paul led a race high 43 laps of the day and is moved back into the Championship lead with his total of 99 points after eight races. This is Paul's 5th podium of the year and his 53rd of his career. Also his best ever finish here at Portland. Where do we start?

PAUL TRACY: Alex's race was pretty boring. Mine was exciting. (LAUGHTER) I had a lot of stuff going on today. Bit of a handful all day.

ERIC MAUK: Start of race three times you came through there --

PAUL TRACY: Really, I don't mean to throw down, but I mean the guys doing starts, I mean, he's done five bad starts out of seven or eight races so far this year. You know, we tried at it four times and the fourth one I got screwed. So, you know, it's one of those things, I mean, we're going to have to sit down with the Chief Steward and talk about it. The guys at the flag is throwing bad starts. Everybody is trying to make the good starts, but he throws the green when it's maybe not appropriate. So, I thought the second and the third one were good starts, but I guess the field behind us was ragged, they said on the radio; it's not the front row's fault that the field is ragged. We were lined up good, so...

ERIC MAUK: First pitstop came out in front, I believe for a lap, then ran into some problems.

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, it took me a little bit. I was a little bit slow on the cold tires - more than normal - and we had a hard time getting the tires up to temp, I think because our pressures were so low because we wanted to be faster at the end. Michel on the 2nd lap made a big lunge down the inside of me from about five or six car lengths behind me and the brake (inaudible) I saw him, I looked in the mirror and saw that he was coming and I didn't move over or block or anything, I left him room to go and went into Turn 1 side-by-side and, you know, went into the festival side-by-side; when we got to the next corner he just turned across in front of me. When I was there, we locked up and he spun around and I kept going and, you know, so it was really just one of those things. I left enough room for him. But when it came to the next corner he just turned across in front of me.

ERIC MAUK: All and all still a big day for Player's and a lot of things that could have gone wrong, you still walk out here with the Championship lead.

PAUL TRACY: That's what we were looking for. I am disappointed mostly in myself. I made a mistake at the end and kind of gave away the victory to Adrian. I got into the last corner a little bit too deep, and locked the inside tire and ran a little bit wide, I came off the last corner really slow and Adrian was four, five car lengths behind me and just got a perfect draft off of me and again, I saw him coming and didn't try to block and left him room and he went down the inside of me and away he went. So ultimately at the end he was very fast and I couldn't match the pace that he had when he was in front of me, but I think if I hadn't made the mistake I'd a been able to hold him off the rest of the race.

ERIC MAUK: Questions for the media.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: I thought the penalty was going to be for something in the first corner. I didn't even know because I had lost radio contact. I could just barely hear the team. I was just watching my pit board. (Inaudible).

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Where I was pitted I don't have -- I don't reach 50 miles an hour by the end of the thing so I don't have the speed limit turned on so I was just going however fast as I could. I am not looking behind me. When the team tells me to go, I go, I assume it is clear and go out onto the track as fast as I can go. I wasn't aware that I was getting the penalty for that. I thought the penalty was actually for what happened in the first corner with me and Michel. I accepted the penalty and needed to pull out. At the time I had a two and a half second lead on Adrian and I pulled out five and a half seconds on him and came in and did the last stop and got back out in front of him with the stop, five-second stop.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: The front wing was damaged, front wing was broken, so it made the car understeer more and I was quite quick before that, going up into the first stop, you know, Michel got a little bit away from me a couple of seconds. Right before the first stop I got right back on him. I felt it was quicker than Michel but it is just so hard to pass when everybody is basically running the same speed, but I had damage to the front wing, the front wing end plate was broken and the side skirts and the end plate were broken. Probably missing some front aero that is why later on in the race I wasn't able to run as quickly as I think as Alex and Adrian. Their pace was pretty quick at the end. My last set of tires I was kind of struggling.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX TAGLIANI: There's a lot of things, I mean, at the beginning we were able to be fairly quick. We had very good qualifying speed, but you know, refueling the pit stops, the air-jack, you know, the little strategy everything is getting a lot better so we don't lose as much in those areas. We were working on the car trying to learn the Lola and change of engineer at the certain point into the season cost us a little bit, but then in Laguna that little problem that we had and when we found out -- I am also happy that it happened because without that we were never working on the area that we were working on the car right now and made us more competitive. So it's kind of good and there's still so much more to come to be able to improve this car for us, but you know, we have everything we need. In our truck I don't think we're lacking anything compared with any other team. We just have to get some testing behind us and you know, I think more the season will go on, more competitive we will be and if we can still be consistent, I think we're going to have a chance to be on the podium more often.

ERIC MAUK: Real quick, got two weeks before we go to Cleveland, you guys on planning -- you have tests planned between now and then?

PAUL TRACY: I am testing, I think, at Elkart Thursday. Pat is at Mid-Ohio Tuesday, Wednesday. We have some things going on. A weekend off with these two hard races -- these are probably going the most physical races we have at Laguna and Portland. Long and high speed corners. Be nice to have a weekend off. Do some training and be ready for probably one of the toughest races we have in Cleveland and it be during the night it's going to make it even harder.

ALEX TAGLIANI: I think I will be in Elkart next week and after that we have a day in Mid-Ohio as well, a couple of days of promotion in Mexico.

ERIC MAUK: We are now joined by the winner of the G.I. Joe's 200, the driver of the No 51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth Lola Bridgestone, Adrian Fernandez. Adrian takes his 8th career victory and his first as an owner/driver. This is Adrian's first victory since Surfer's Paradise in 2000 and moves him into the Top 5 in the Championship points standing after eight events. Congratulations. How does it feel to be back on top of the podium.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It feels really good. It feels like I am a lot lighter now. I am just so proud of the team fighting, you know, just believing in the team and trying to get the team to work with how we wanted. We made some mistakes in the last few races, but we put it altogether this weekend. The car was very fast in the last pit stops -sorry - the last set of tires. That was the key because I managed to push pretty hard, Paul, to the point that he made a mistake coming into the last corner. That was the key. I didn't come as close as I wanted, but I was not going to give up. I say whenever he brakes, I am going to brake later. With these new rules I like the rules because you know, if I was in his position I'd have to stay in my line, I just break-up (inaudible). These rules about not moving not one move is really, I think it makes it for better racing. You just have to drive very precisely all the time and little mistakes like that will cost you, and, you know, it will cost you the win or whatever. But that's part of racing. In the past you used to have to block and all that, and I think now it give you more opportunities for real racing.

ERIC MAUK: Running second after the incident between Michel and Paul, (A) did you know Paul was going to have to serve a penalty and (B) leading into the pitstop how did that affect you how ran before that.

ADRIAN FERNDANDEZ: I saw them fighting there in one of restarts and obviously they were quicker than I was in the first two, three stints until I got my last set of tires and I think we learned a lot today for the future because that last set of tires was fantastic. I was like a second quicker. So we learned a lot there and when I saw Paul you know, having his problem with Michel, I didn't know what the problem was there, obviously Michel was out, at least the chances being there because we pass him around. Then we get into the pit they didn't tell me anything. My team didn't tell me anything. I think they didn't want -- there was nothing we could do, but I could see that-- I thought Paul had a problem in the pitstop because I was very close to him, so obviously that was his penalty. But at the end of the day that was not going to matter anyway because there were so many yellows at the end that I was going to catch him anyway, whatever lead he had. And with the tires that I had, I managed as you see in the first restart I was not able to stick with them but in -- since I have my last set of tires I was right, you know, right there with Paul, and they couldn't stay with me on the back. So those set of tires were the key for me. That was really what gave me my win. The Bridgestone tires gave me that beautiful win and I managed to push very hard and I managed to have great restarts and it was good. At the beginning it was freaky with those restarts, I don't know how many starts we did, like five or six. I had a good one, a bad one, a good one, a bad one. At the end of the day, I managed to keep my position which I was happy. I saw somebody trying to make a move on the inside I say I hope he doesn't really get -- because it is one of those days you think there's a gap you see a lot of gaps and there's no grip, you know, and sometimes you know, I made mistakes like that, and everybody (inaudible). I think everybody realizes that it's better to make it through the first corner; not just make it on the track.

ERIC MAUK: Three years putting this team together, building it basically from scratch. What does it mean to the team to get this win today.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It's fantastic because this team started from nothing. We didn't have nothing. We didn't have no people. It was just Paul, myself and obviously at that time it was Honda which was a big part of what we did. And you know, we started hiring people, good people behind us and from there we start to build it to the point that we have 50 people now. It's not easy, sometimes a lot of work, you know, it's like having a lot of kids sometimes (laughs). I have to be there and sometimes their personalities don't match some other people, obviously, results like this are going to make them believe in themselves more and believe in what we have. But when the results are not there it's very easy to point fingers at each other and you know, that's something that I was trying to stop and trying to make everybody work together because we have the talent and we put some new systems in place and some were here this weekend, the first weekend of the year, so it was fantastic to be able to win because I mean, we started -- we actually here in Portland had some of our first meetings planning this team and now to be able to win against teams like Newman/Haas and Jerry Forsythe team and Bobby Rahal, teams that have been there for so many years, for me, it's fantastic it. A lot of people thought that my career was over and that I was just focusing on other things. A lot of people told me that I should retire, and things like that. The owning has been part of the circumstance that happened but I wanted to continue to be a driver and to have a team that can give me the tools eventually to win races like now. So I may be 40 year old, but 20 years in the heart and I still want to win and want to do it for many years more.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Questions for Adrian.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I was having a lot of pressure with the sponsors and obviously I am not cheap and (LAUGHTER) you know, when you are not getting the results that you plan to do, I mean, when we (inaudible) it's not like you suddenly forgot how to drive, but I suddenly faced with a lot of things that I didn't expect it. And that was the hard part. It's been two years -- I mean, if you think about it, I mean, the first year I had several engine problems in the first year, it's easy to keep complaining and whining but it's the reality. We have seven engine problems in the first year. We could have finished 7th or 8th in the Championship. Second year we had some problems with the engine also and also we have some engineering problem; then we have my freak accident. That really took me out of everything. It took my strength. It took my heart. It was difficult. Then we have to get David Watson, but I didn't really had an opportunity to work with him. (Inaudible) we managed to get -- we signed David, but basically were new to each other. We were starting to work each other to what we were doing and at the end of the day we start doing it and things were not clicking exactly the way we wanted until just recently when we started to understand the car, and made a huge mistake in Europe that really cost us. We shouldn't be this low on the points. We should be up there, and Germany was a joke, you know, I mean, it made a basic mistake on the aerodynamics. That was hard. It was hard on David and it was hard on some of those guys and it was trying to -- starting to get very hard at that time. We came back and we talk about things and everything, and that's why this win, after what has been happening, something, is fantastic. It wasn't a win that everybody fell out. We won on the racetrack. We were fast at the end and great pit stops. The guys didn't do a mistake. I drove well. Focused. I mean, it was fast fast fast, and I was very focused. I was not making any mistakes. Just the last two laps I say, I don't care how long -- how far I am from Paul I am going to slow down a little bit. (Inaudible).

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I had spent so much time in therapy and training that you can't imagine. When I came here the steering wheel was so heavy, and I said to the guys, something is wrong, I can't drive. I trained three hours everyday. I used to go to physical therapy every Monday and R. Johnson, he's coming to physical therapy with his knee, and we are good friends and I learned from his things and he's learned from mine and we have therapy every morning. And the problems like probably have for the rest of my life, those are crashes from breaking my hip but it's getting stronger, getting better, so it's something that I just have to keep working on it and eventually it will get better. I always tell people that have problems when they break something I say you go to physical therapy, that's the key to recuperate, the closest to 100%.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think because of the problems we have out at the start from the beginning I think (inaudible) I think some of those starts should be good. Just never going to have the right start, but I think now everybody knows what to expect. Everybody knows the game. I knew what to expect. Sometime I pull out of the -- I was in first gear almost stalling, first gear I was so slow, so I have to get out because I didn't want to hit him, because we were so close to each other that if he would brake I was going to hit him. Trying to avoid that, I just pulled out and I don't know, from what I could see from around me, I mean, I think two of those starts probably should have been good. I had one there, but really bad, which I am glad came from a yellow. My other was I was right there. Obviously Paul was trying not to lose his position but I think (inaudible) it's just one of those things that -- I have even told him it's one of the things to avoid is problems, it's tough to make the guy qualify (inaudible). All these games and all those things, you just disappear. But the rules are the rules and so far this is the way they are, and I lost a race actually to Paul in Milwaukee on my restart, and I backed up exactly like what happened to Tagliani and I lost like three pole positions and that's a race we should have won, we dominated the whole weekend. Today it happened to us. Paul made a mistake and it was also because we were pushing him because he knew that we were right there.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Then he should get penalized because that's part of the new rules. You can't make any moves. I think he just behaved like a Champion he didn't do anything, and obviously was up to me to make the pass and (inaudible)I brake even later, my car was good, good on the braking. My car was good in that respect. I mean, he knew he was in trouble and it was up to me to make it happen.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Oh, yeah, as soon as I saw his brake and I came closer than ever to him then, it is now or never because you know that he made a mistake probably going to do another mistake, so for people to make those mistakes and at the level that we have at our racing you just have to go for it. (Inaudible).

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations, Adrian, thank you very much.



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