NASCAR Media Conference
Topics: NASCAR, Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200
Michel Jourdain, Jr.
February 27, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this special NASCAR teleconference in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Busch Series race, the Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 in Mexico City. We have a great lineup of guests today: Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain, Jr. and Boris Said. Today's call will include members of the international media, so there may be questions and answers in English and Spanish. We'll be translating the opening remarks, the various driver introductions and the instructions for the international media on the call.
Adrian Fernandez will be with us for the first approximate half hour, followed by Michel Jourdain for 20 minutes, then Boris Said for the last 10 minutes of the teleconference.
Adrian is one of the most famous open-wheel racers in the world. He's competed in this event the past two seasons in his native Mexico City. Once again he's going to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in the race.
With finishes of 10th and 12th, Adrian, in this event the past two seasons, what is your outlook for a victory this time around?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Firstly, thank you for having us here. It's a great opportunity for me to get back and race in front of our fans. I think we have a great opportunity. If you look at our races, the last two races with Hendrick and the Lowe's car, we were very competitive in both occasions. In both occasions we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we always were competing for a win.
I feel that this year will be the same. Hopefully with a little bit of luck, we should be able to win this race, which for me will be so special in front of our fans. It's always just a pleasure to race here with so many good drivers, all the NASCAR community, which I have enjoyed tremendously in the last few years.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll open it up for questions for Adrian.
Q. Each year that the NASCAR series has been coming to Mexico City, we've talked about you selling everyone from the president of Mexico on down on auto racing, how the country should be behind it. Does this race give you special pleasures?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, it does because, I mean, you know, this race is special because it really get a lot of the Mexican drivers together and is in an international event. Even though NASCAR is still very new to our fans, I think they've been embracing NASCAR pretty well. Obviously having the Mexican drivers there, you know, their apprenticeship has been in the high in the last few years.
Obviously, there's a lot to learn in NASCAR. You can compare it to open-wheel racing, which they're more used to that. There are a lot of drivers, a lot of teams, rules are different.
I think, you know, they're getting more used to it. So every time we come here and beat the best of the best in NASCAR in front of your crowd, try to be competitive, be competitive in front of your people, I think it makes it very special.
Every time I competed here, I remember 2001 when we brought the first race into Monterrey, the welcome that our fans got us when we got there was unbelievable, overwhelming. After so many years of racing outside Mexico, suddenly racing an international event in front of your crowd, seeing the support you have from them, it was a very special. It's been very special ever since for me to come here and race in front of them.
Q. Do you think so far the Busch experiment down in Mexico City has been successful? Are the fans really coming to see stock cars or to see you and the other Mexican drivers?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Mexican fans like racing. If you put a good show for them, a good event for them, they will be there. It's tradition for Mexico, for Mexicans to like racing from the times of the Rodriguez brothers. But I think they like the competition. Obviously I was saying the other day in an interview, you can't compare NASCAR on a road course compared to what we used to race there, especially on these racetracks where we have had Formula One, Champ Car, different cars. They like competition. They never seen so many cars together, obviously having the Mexican drivers.
I think they follow both. Obviously if you can have a Mexican driver competing constantly in the series, like Juan Pablo is doing right now, obviously that would help even more.
Q. One big goal of this race was not to just build a fan base in Mexico, but to also to build a bigger fan base among Mexican Americans in the United States. Do you see that happening at all? Do you see this Mexico City Busch race having any effect in this area?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I don't know. I don't know because I don't see the numbers. My experience in NASCAR two years ago, what was six races that I competed in, obviously it was a very short time.
When I see a lot of fans in the United States that follow us, I mean, I would say 50% of them when I see them they know what I've done in NASCAR, what I'm doing right now with the LeMans series. Obviously I always say that continuity is the best thing they can have for the sport. If there is continuity in the Mexican race, it will be successful and get to be known. Obviously, it is important to have a Latin driver that can be consistent there. That can remind our fans and the Latin community that there is a presence, a Hispanic presence or Mexican driver in that respect.
I think in general it has worked. But, you know, we do definitely need a constant driver committed completely to the series to be able to make it a whole success.
Q. When you look back at the Hermanos Rodriguez, they were very good. Clearly that talent you have clearly demonstrated, Luis Diaz demonstrated. Driving talent exists in Mexico. What will it take to see a successful Mexican driver on a NASCAR circuit, whether it be Busch or Nextel Cup? Despite some attempts, none of your brethren have risen to the level.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: What happens is all the experience we mostly have in Mexico is open-wheel racing. Like I have said before, I had a great opportunity, I was lucky to be able to meet people like Rick Hendrick, everybody at Lowe's, to be able to -- they embraced me, they make me feel so good at NASCAR when they gave me the first opportunity to race in Mexico. After that I try some races in Busch. I had the opportunity to compete the whole year.
At this stage for me, for Adrian Fernandez, it was not the time for me to commit to something totally different because I was realistic of what I was going to face. At this stage of my career, I was not ready to commit for that. It was not fair for Lowe's or for Hendrick.
So what happens is it takes time. You have seen it. You have seen it with Paul Tracy, with Scott Pruett, Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain. You'll see it with Juan Pablo. You're so used to different cars. What I think it will take is it will take the new generations need to start at the same footsteps they do in NASCAR, and that's Sprint cars, super-modified, all the schools that Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, all these guys have had. That's the type of cars you need to drive to be able to get the feeling for NASCAR. Until you don't have that type of schooling, I think it will be difficult for somebody to just jump there and be successful. It will take a long time. Maybe you will not have the sponsor or the patience for them to support you for that long.
Obviously the drivers that are more recognized in Mexico, like myself and Michelle, Mario, all that, it's hard to make a career at NASCAR be successful at this stage. It will be hard to find somebody that will have the patience to go through the whole stages because basically you have to almost start all over again.
It's the new generations I think will have to create the schools here in Mexico and have Sprint car races, have these little ovals, dirt racing, just the roots of NASCAR that makes these guys successful is what we need to have for these young Mexicans.
Q. Is that on the horizon in Mexico?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I don't know. I mean, Carlos Slim has been very supportive in creating young generations. I haven't heard anything like that. I believe something like that needs to happen for them to be successful, or send drivers very young. Obviously to create those series in Mexico may be a lot because it's so different. You don't have the infrastructure and all that stuff. You have to send them probably to United States, get them in the roots of NASCAR right from the beginning. You have to send them quite a few. From there, you'll get the new generation.
For example, when I went to try and race Formula One, the roots was, you know, open-wheel racing. I was racing here. I went to Formula 4 in England, then Formula 2000, Formula 3, then Formula 3000, then Formula One. That was the way to get to Formula One. That's what right now I think probably we're missing, to get them well-prepared. I think once somebody hits big, it will be a consequence to everybody which had get benefit from different sponsors in Mexico. But that will take some time. Everything takes time. The success that we got through CART, open-wheel racing, our name here in Mexico wasn't overnight. It was from my days of Europe, then Indy Lights, quite a few years in different stages of my career in CART, racing against great drivers like Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, all these great stars. That's what really made my name because I was racing against the best in the world those days.
Q. You've raced in Montréal and Mexico City back in Champ Car. What race has the chance to be the better venue of the two?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: For whom? For NASCAR?
Q. For Busch, now that they're both racing there.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: You mean which venue will be better for these cars?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think both races are good. Montréal is a good track. Obviously I don't know what they're going to do on this long straights because especially coming into the pits, that's a really, long, long, long straight, close to what we have here in Mexico at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
I think both tracks offer a different variety of corners and challenges for the drivers. I'm a little disappointed they took the chicane here in Mexico, to be honest. The chicane, remember we have here in Mexico, it was a great opportunity for passing. Maybe I'm concerned a little bit that the opportunities for passing may be reduced a little bit.
Q. How about as an overall environment for the fans?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: You're talking about two different worlds. Mexico, you know, we're all about the party. I think you talk to everybody, I think Mexican fans, our people are always -- they welcome everybody with open arms. I haven't heard anything but good things about people that have had good experiences here in Mexico. Everybody I talk to in NASCAR, they like to come here because everybody has treated them so well.
Montréal, it's like an European city. I love it. Very romantic. That's a place I would bring my wife. It's just a beautiful place. It's a race that I would like to race also. It's just so beautiful.
The racetrack, it's in a beautiful setting right on the little island there. It's just a gorgeous place. It would be difficult to see a NASCAR car around there, especially when you've seen Champ Car and Formula One. But I think the show is going to be quite extraordinary.
Q. Focus is everything to winning at high speeds. Do you know why you can focus in high-speed traffic when so many on public highways have no clue about focus and safety?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, you know, in a race car, if you don't focus, if you lose concentration for a 10th of a second, you're on the wall, you're going so fast. I remember people used to say, Isn't it boring on an oval because it's just two corners? It's not boring, believe me. You're on needles and pins trying to hold on. You're going so tight and so close, you can't get distracted.
What happens on freeways is everybody gets in a pace, and the freeways are so wide and so long, they become a little bit -- you become bored there. There is nothing to keep your attention because you're not going fast, there is no distraction. Obviously, in Mexico it's another thing. If you get distracted, you're on the wall. That's why we came good drivers here (laughter).
No, but freeways, obviously you have to pay attention. But a race car driver, he's always on the limit of the car. You get distracted, you crash. Freeways here, you're not at that level. Obviously that's why they're always trying to implement safety so there is no issues. We get distracted. I get distracted. It's so easy to get distracted.
Q. A question about the fans in Mexico City. Has NASCAR caught on a little bit more? Can you see more and more of the Mexican people maybe getting into stock car racing in the last couple years?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, I do. I see more fans looking into NASCAR, watching NASCAR. We also have a national championship that is with NASCAR cars. It's organized here, it's televised. You do have more following. People are starting to understand more. Like I said before, it's something that will take time, right? This is a country which has been basically dominated by open-wheel racing. In a way, fans, that's what they've been seeing, Champ Car for many years, following ourselves for many years, then bringing them here, Formula One came here a few years. Now they're starting to understand.
When I was a kid, I used to watch NASCAR and stock cars on TV, but it was nothing that you will follow but probably the Daytona 500 and things like that. I think now that there is more Mexicans that have been on and off there racing. Now that we have the race here, I see that the fan base has grown and I believe if NASCAR keeps doing what they're doing, everybody here in Mexico does a good job, eventually you will have a good base fan. It's just continuity. It just takes time. Success will not come overnight.
Q. I understand of course that you will be the favorite of the crowd because are from Mexico. How will the crowd at the race respond to Juan Pablo Montoya? Could you help me understand, is he very well-known in Mexico? Does he have a fan base?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes. I tell you a little bit story, short story. I know Juan because I race against him, right, in CART for many years. We had a great battles. In those years that he was in Champ Car, which I think was two or three years, I can't remember, but we have great battles. That was the best years that I have. One year he won the championship. The following year I almost won the championship myself, came second. He came sixth, I believe. Then, you know, he went to Formula One. We kept in touch.
Then he invite me to a celebrity race, a charity race event in Cartegena in Colombia. I didn't want to go. I went there and met my wife. I marry her. She's a Colombian girl. I met her through Juan Pablo. Thanks for him inviting me there. I wouldn't have met her.
My wife is very good friends of Connie's, Juan Pablo's wife. When I went to Colombia, I didn't realize how famous I was myself in Colombia. I didn't understand. Basically it was the years we raced together. Everybody on TV, Jorge Koechlin made us very famous in Latin American with his extremely good style of narrating the races in Spanish, got us really famous there.
I think I'm as well-known in Colombia was Juan Pablo is well-known in Mexico. I believe he will have a good welcome there. I think people are excited to see the Adrian Fernandez and Juan Pablo Montoya fight again. It will be exciting. I haven't been competing actually since the last race we did in Cartegena in go-karts that time. It will be exciting. It will be good to race with him here.
Q. I know you still have your IndyCar. Any chance of seeing you at the 500?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I don't know. Right now it's not our priority. It's so tough. I was very competitive in 2004. I mean, we were so strong. We should have won that race. We were so strong through practice, through the race. In 2005 we did a partnership between my team and Morris Nunn. That was so difficult. For me it's so hard to go there into an event, you know, just putting a car together for just that event, without racing the other races, to be competitive. It will be really difficult for me, myself. As a team maybe we will, but at this time we don't know yet.
HERB BRANHAM: Adrian, thank you very much for joining us. Best of luck to you this weekend. Really been a pleasure.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you, my friend. All the best for everybody.
HERB BRANHAM: We're now joined by Michel Jourdain, Jr., another open-wheel expert. He has 23 NASCAR Busch Series starts, most recently competed for Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
You've had a little bit of bad luck at this event in Mexico City the previous two years. This year you're in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford. How does that help your confidence?
MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: First I want to say hello to everybody. Thank you for this.
Yeah, like you said, I think the last couple of years here in Mexico City, we've been very, very competitive, very fast, but both times someone has taken me out. We've been fast. Hopefully this year I'm very confident that we'll have a very fast car. Hopefully we stay at the front and nobody is able to hit us, you know.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll take questions for Michel Jourdain, Jr.
Q. Can you talk about the language barrier between Spanish and English in stock car racing.
MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Especially for me and a guy like Adrian, Juan Pablo, the language barrier between Spanish and English, especially in stock cars, there is a lot -- most all the mechanics and crew chiefs come from the South. It's a very weird or different English than what we are used to. That definitely is a little bit of a barrier, especially on day-to-day working. You know, when you are in the shop, talking to the engineers and the mechanics, sometimes it's hard to understand some of their words.
Also for us, that we come from the open-wheel racing, like something that A.J. must be struggling with, the way they describe things about how the car is doing, what the engine is doing, it's very, very different. It takes a while.
Now for me when I go to the 24 Hours of Daytona, I feel like I'm having to learn the language again because it's difficult to get used to it so quickly. When you're racing stock cars, you're doing it every weekend.
Q. Could you explain a little bit about what is the most difficult thing for a Champ Car driver to adapt to when driving a stock car.
MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Well, at least I don't know for everybody, but for me I think what was the most difficult is going to so many different tracks, and they are so different. For us, when we were racing on a mile-and-a-half track, for us they were all the same. You were running the same setup, you run flat out everywhere. I mean, maybe the race there was a little bit of differences.
You know, here every track is so different. You take a car that is different every weekend. When you have a car that works really good, you might use it five or six times a year. All those things is just so, so hard. These stock cars drivers, the guys that have been doing it forever, they get up to speed so quick. They show up to a track they have not been in a year, their out-lap is like a qualifying lap. At least for me all those things were very, very difficult.
So learning the tracks, learning each car, how the car needs to feel to go fast. Also the car changes so much from the start of the race until the end of the race, so you need the experience to know how the car will change, so how you need to start the race to be good at the end. So it's a lot of things.
Q. The crew chief that you will have for the race this weekend at Mexico City, is that also a Southern person from Roush Racing or is it someone who speaks Spanish who you've worked with in the past?
MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: No, I don't know exactly where he's from. I understand him. Actually for me now, I think is different. I've been racing in the States now for 10 years. I spent like the last two years spending a lot of time in Charlotte. I know Drew, who has been my crew chief, I know him well. I talk to him all the time. I understand him. I'm not concerned about that at all this weekend.
HERB BRANHAM: Michelle, thank you so much for joining us.
MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Thank you so much. Hopefully to see you this weekend or hopefully we get to do another conference call after having a good result.
HERB BRANHAM: Our final guest today on today's special NASCAR teleconference, a guy who is increasingly becoming one of the most popular drivers in all of NASCAR, Boris Said. He won the pole at Mexico City last year, finished second in the race. He's going to once again drive the No. 1 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports. Boris has two top five finishes, including that second place last year in two races at Mexico City.
Boris, give us just a quick overview of why you've been so successful at Mexico City. Of course, road racer first and foremost, but Mexico City, good track for you the first two years.
BORIS SAID: Yeah, it's been real good. I mean, the biggest reason is just my background is all road racing. I've been doing pretty good on the road courses in NASCAR in general. I've been in really good cars the last two years, first with James Finch, I think we qualified second and finished fourth maybe. You know, now with Ray Evernham, his equipment, whole organization, it's as good as it gets. I feel pretty lucky to be in that kind of equipment.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll take questions for Boris Said.
Q. With your race last year starting on the pole, not finishing, what is the one thing you'd like to change this year that will improve your race?
BORIS SAID: Win. I mean, that's the only thing, we've just come up short. First year in Mexico, we pitted right when the yellow came out. It was a close call, but it was one of those things where we thought we were right, NASCAR thought different. We had to go to the back with 15 to go.
Last year we had a really good car. We actually got some debris on the grill at the end. Was running around 300 degrees the last five or six laps. It just wouldn't really run.
Hopefully this year we can have the same kind of race last year just without any bad luck.
Q. Adrian mentioned the lack of the chicane there this year. Any time to ponder that?
BORIS SAID: Yeah, I thought that was the best part of the track for me anyway as a driver because it was really fast, you had to be really precise. It scared you a little bit. I'll miss it, I guess.
You know, I don't think it will have that big an effect on the racing. Turn one will still be the best passing spot on the track. The only thing I don't really like about Mexico, if I had to say one bad thing about the track, they don't have any really, really fast corners. That chicane was really fast. I'll miss it.
Q. How would you describe a classic Mexican driver?
BORIS SAID: I would say, I mean, there's two that come to my mind. There's Adrian Fernandez, really fast, really polished, has that movie star look. Then you have Jorge Goetters, kind of like me, he's a little rough around the edges, kind of the scrappy dog look, but still is a really good drivers. I guess you got two different ones that come to mind.
Then you have the Michel Jourdain, who is the James Bond of Mexican racing, all suave and cool, great guy. It seems like if there was a Mexican James Bond, it would be him.
Q. What should they be doing in order to have more Mexican drivers competing at the highest level, Nextel Cup or Formula One?
BORIS SAID: Boy, that's a good question. I don't know. It's tough to break into. It's just such competitive, tough racing. You need to be around. I think it would help if people from different persuasions, they need to come to America and need to immerse themselves in short track racing. It seems like that's where all these guys are coming from, local short tracks, midget racing, things like that. Something I never did, for sure. I didn't start racing till I was 25. I think the younger they start, the better.
Q. NASCAR has proven over years it's a very strong and competitive motorsport racing in the United States. Do you think NASCAR really needs to expand or to go to another countries to expand? Do you think NASCAR really needs that or it's something that can give NASCAR some more strength?
BORIS SAID: I think for sure Mexico because, I mean, in America, the Latin population is growing. It's the fastest growing population. I think it's good to go down to Mexico 'cause there's just a lot of fans down there. It expands the whole thing.
Canada, I don't really know. I'm not qualified at all to run the ship at NASCAR. I have no idea. Personally my background is racing overseas, in China, Japan, all through Europe. I like it. I like experiencing different cultures and things like that. So personally I like it. As far as should they, I'm not even qualified to answer that. I hope they do because I like going.
Q. Do you see far the day that Nextel Cup comes to Mexico City?
BORIS SAID: It sure seems like a possibility. When you see some tracks struggle, there's so many tracks that have two dates, maybe in the future they'll take a date away so they can add a date. The biggest problem now is their schedule is the longest schedule in any kind of sports. To add races is very tough. It's already really tough on the crew and the mechanics, all the people that have to get these cars ready.
Q. What do you like best about racing beyond the borders of traditional U.S. stock car racetracks?
BORIS SAID: I've liked the fact that you experience a lot of new things. When I've gone to Europe or Japan or China, it's just things that you see on TV, but until you experience them yourselves, you just don't know. For me it's just experiencing new things, new cultures, meeting all the people. I'm a big eater, so I like trying all the different kinds of food in the different countries.
HERB BRANHAM: We're ready to wrap it up, Boris. Thank you so much for taking time out. Really appreciate it.
BORIS SAID: No problem.
HERB BRANHAM: Best of luck this weekend.
BORIS SAID: Thanks.
HERB BRANHAM: This concludes our teleconference. Just wanted to tell all the media that, as always, we at NASCAR appreciate your coverage. Thanks for joining us.
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