NASCAR Media Conference
August 3, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and good afternoon everyone. Welcome to NASCAR's teleconference in advance of Sunday's road course race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.
We have a teleconference doubleheader for you today, two of the truly great road racers who are in the sport. We are going to open up with Boris Said, who is stepping into the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota this weekend. Boris is also going to race Saturday afternoon in two other events at the Glen, the NASCAR Nationwide Series event and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series sports car event. At about 2:20 or so we are going to swing the call over to Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 47 Clorox Kleenex Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series.
Boris, big, big weekend in store for you at the Glen, what's the outlook for you going in?
BORIS SAID: Well, I'm excited, it's going to be a busy weekends doing all three races. I started off by driving the No. 31 Whelen Corvette for Sonny Whelen in the Rolex race in the GRAND-AM Series and Robby Benton's 09 car in the Nationwide Series race, and a really good opportunity with me to kind of get reunited with Jay Frye, the team manager for Red Bull Racing, to run the 83 car in Sunday's big race, so I'm really excited.
I haven't touched that car yet, but you know, it's a car that's in the top 35. I don't have to worry about qualifying. I don't have to worry about the rain. I know I'm going to race Sunday, so that really puts me in a different mood or a different -- I've just never had that situation going to Watkins Glen before, so I'm pretty relaxed.
Q. How much are you sleeping in the preparation before the weekend, considering you'll be in the car for what seems to be like 19 hours a day.
BORIS SAID: I actually don't really sleep that. I usually sleep like six hours a night and that's about it. I'm definitely getting up early ear just because I've been exciting and I've been training a lot harder the last few weeks. Nothing really different. I'm used to running three races before, so it's not going to be that big a deal.
Q. You've had some pretty good cars in one-off races, how do you see the 83 car versus maybe the other ones quality-wise?
BORIS SAID: I haven't driven it yet, but I know the team, you know, it's an a-class team. They were in the Chase last year. Brian Vickers is a good friend of mine, and I've worked with a lot of the crew guys before when I worked with MB2 Racing a few years ago when I started in Cup.
I think it's going to be one of the best chances I've ever had, and the best cars; and the fact that I don't have that mental weight on your shoulders of making sure you don't screw up in qualifying, and you know make sure you get in the show of being a go-or-go-homer. I'm guaranteed in the show, so I can go there and work on race setup and go for broke and qualify.
Q. There are some good Cup drivers on road courses, like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, people that have won, but who are the ones that are coming along improving their skills?
BORIS SAID: No. 1 on the list and I've worked with them two or three times in a two-seater is for sure had got to be Kasey Kahne. He's come a long way in road racing. Kevin Harvick, I've worked with him in the past and he's come a long way in road racing. Carl Edwards, another guy I've worked with that's come a long way. So I think any one of those three guys, you know, could give Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart a run for their money now.
Q. I was wondering if you had any other Cup plans for this year, and also, you've been sponsored by other energy drinks before, does doing this -- did you burn any bridges, I guess.
BORIS SAID: No, I've been pretty lucky. I haven't burned too many bridges over the years. I mean, Red Bull is a great company. They have been racing -- they are in a lot of different kinds of racing. They are leading the Formula 1 championship now.
And there are no other Cup plans in the future but I'm hoping that if I do a good number job for Red Bull, then there could be opportunities in other forms of racing that they compete in and I'm hoping that they will give me wings like they say and I'll be able to get a good finish.
Q. Over the weekend, I heard you doing some analyzing of the X Games and sounded like you were having a lot of fun; was it hard for you to not be in the car competing, though?
BORIS SAID: Yes, its with a. Watching those 600-horsepower rally cars drive around the L.A. coliseum, they are capable of going 0 to 60 in 2.3 seconds on the dirt. They looked like a lot of fun. I definitely wanted to get in the Raleigh car but I kept standing at the big air skate board ramp and I actually went up to the top of it and I scared myself silly. I would never want to do that but the rally cars were a blast.
Q. I know certainly drivers have gotten better on the road course through time in the last few years, yet you see Tony Stewart has either finished first or second in like each of the last six races at Watkins Glen. What makes him so good, and is he -- is it fair to say he's the one of, or truly the greatest road racer in NASCAR?
BORIS SAID: I think so. I mean, he's one of the most versatile for sure. Everything he's got into, he's been real fast and he's been fast there over the years, but you've still got to look at other people like Jimmie Johnson. You know, he's been doing really good in the Rolex Series when he gets in sports cars and he was really, really fast at Sears Point.
So I mean, there's a lot of guys now -- I think it's that they have just put the effort in learning how to road race, and once they put the effort in, these guys in my opinion are the best racers in the world, so it's like, show a duck water, he knows how to swim and if you show some of those oval guys a few tricks about road racing, they pick it up pretty quickly and that's what we have seen with Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, and you know, now I think those guys have caught up to the Tony Stewarts and the Juan Pablos and the Jeff Gordons.
Q. You said you didn't have any time in the 83 Red Bull car, I was wondering how important it's going to be for you even though you know the cars already to have the first two races to reacclimate yourself with the track before you get in the 83?
BORIS SAID: I think any kind of track time is good and it helps you. By the time I get in the 83, I'll already have had a couple of hours of Rolex practice, so it's a completely different car and a completely different discipline, but I still think it will help.
Q. I'm wondering if you could compare and contrast your road race style in the guy that's coming on later in this conference call, Marcos Ambrose?
BORIS SAID: That's a good question. I don't know. I guess that's a better question for you guys. Marcos, I went over a few years ago and raced two V8 Super Car races in Australia and those guys are really hard racers. I mean, it's like the closest thing to NASCAR there is anywhere else in the world I think at how deep the field is and how hard they race.
I think Marcos Ambrose, I would consider him a very aggressive, hard racer, and I guess I'd like to consider myself that way, too; aggressive, but fair. But I think you guys have more opinions than we do of ourselves, so it's probably a better question for you to answer.
Q. There's always been a premium on track position on road courses, and in years past we have seen teams have a strategy of running the race backward where they are going to pit on designated laps that they establish in their mind, whether it be green or yellow, they have that number in mind before the race. Do you see that playing out again this weekend in both the Cup and Nationwide races?
BORIS SAID: Yeah, I mean, it's definitely -- I mean, I think Jeff Bodine started that years ago, and it works. The real question now is the green and white checker, and now that they are going to do it three times, that really puts a monkey wrench into that equation, because that could be, you know, easily another ten laps of racing.
And so normally we have pitted at Sears Point, you know, we pitted our car exactly to the number where, all right, we can make it, but if there's a green and white checker we are going to be in trouble and we took a gamble. But I think you'll see a lot -- there will be some guys that will gamble if they know they are in the Chase and locked in; they can gamble on that.
But I think guys more on the cusp, from 8 to 12 or 8 to 14, they will not be able to gamble so much on when they pit. They are going to have to have extra gas for the green and white checker, because if there is one green and white checker, there can easily be three. It's going to be a lot harder for those crew chiefs to make those hard decisions. I'm not even going to ask. When Jimmy tells me to pit in the Red Bull car, I'm going to pit and not even talk to him about it. That's a hard decision.
Q. Most drivers in NASCAR are compact; not small, not tall, but do tall drivers like and you say, Elliott Sadler, do you have special challenges and how do you work with that?
BORIS SAID: Well in the Nationwide Series, the cars are really tight. But the best thing NASCAR ever did was the COT car. Really good for tall drivers; Elliot, Michael Waltrip and myself, now there's plenty of room in the cars. It's not even an issue anymore.
But still, you get in a Nationwide car and you're just cramped up and you're like, man, I can't believe this is how it used to be all the time. Not only, as we saw in Sunday's race with Elliot Sadler's crash, they were big but also very safe, so you have to applaud NASCAR and all of the work that Brett Bodine has done to bring those cars out.
Q. When you step in a car that you've never been in before, how long does it take you to get acclimated to the car, what type of challenges are there when you're stepping in there for the first time?
BORIS SAID: Well, you might have a few issues getting the pedals exactly right for your footwork or where the steering wheel is, things like that.
But you know, right now, it's like when you go to meet somebody, you're wondering, well, how is the guy going go to be; and I'm just wondering the first few laps, the car is either going to feel real give or there is going to be something I don't like and we are going to have to come in and I won it.
Right now I am hopeful the car will be fast out of box and I won't make too many mistakes. I've already spent a day in the shop with Jim Elledge, and we seem to get along really good. He's a really smart guy. I've known him for years. I've just never worked with him. You just have to get acclimated to when I say, I need it to turn this much, you know, if it's a one through five, is my five like his five.
So you just need to get your communication working. Unfortunately you don't have a lot of time on a race weekend, but I've done it a lot before, so we'll just do the best we can.
Q. When you're on a road course coming up on a passing zone, how different do you drive that particular area when you're passing someone versus when you're about to be passed by someone or trying to keep someone from passing you, should I say?
BORIS SAID: Say that one more time.
Q. Like when you're coming up in a passing corner, how different do you actually drive the car, the way you get into the corner and out of the corner, when you're actually going to pass someone versus when maybe someone is coming up behind you and you're trying to keep them from getting around you.
BORIS SAID: Well, I mean, if you just say, turn one at Watkins Glen, for example, you're coming into a 90 right, if you're trying to pass somebody, you're playing a game of chicken. You're going down the inside and you're trying to wait for him to break, and you're trying to go that one split second further so you can start past him under braking.
Then it really depends. Then you're in -- you're kind of in panic mode getting the car slowed down and trying to not overshoot the corner and do everything you can to get to the apex under control, and then get off the corner and beat your guy out.
You know, if you're trying -- the guy not to pass, you might go that extra bit deeper on the normal line; or if it's the end of the race, you drive down the inside and make him do it the hard way around on the outside.
Q. Can you go over what your schedule will be this weekend, what you jump in first, how the practice schedule sort of breaks down?
BORIS SAID: Yeah, I mean, from 9:00, 10:30, we are in the Rolex car, the Corvette, and from 11:00 to 11:50, more reflex practice and from 12:00 to 1:50, we are in the Red Bull Cup car and from 2:00 to 4:00, we are in the Nationwide car, the Robby Benton car, and then 4:10 to 5:30, final practice in the Red Bull car. And then 5:40 to 6:00, qualify the Corvette and then 6:30 to 7:30, final practice in the Rolex car. That's Friday's schedule.
Q. Have you figured out how many hours you might be in the three cars over the weekend?
BORIS SAID: I hope a lot. I mean, I hope I get to run all the laps and finish all the races, so I hope a lot. I've done three races before at Sears Point, and it's you get a lot of seat time, so it's a lot of fun. I mean, this is what I've dreamed about doing, you know, for the last 15 years, is race really cool cars. So for me, it's just -- I wish I could do it every week.
Q. You mentioned before you worked with some drivers in two-seaters as far as road racing was concerned, who are some of those guys? You mentioned Harvick before.
BORIS SAID: Yeah, Harvick, Dale Junior, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards. There's been over 30 -- I think 33 of them was the last count.
Q. Sonoma is radically different from Watkins Glen; what will be the greatest challenges in racing at Watkins Glen?
BORIS SAID: Watkins Glen, I mean, it's a lot higher speed, and it's a lot more important to really have your brakes good. So you really need to be able to out-brake people at Watkins Glen. So hopefully that will be key. You need horsepower and good braking.
Q. So what kind of brakes are they setting up for Watkins Glen, do they vary the type of braking there, the brake set ups?
BORIS SAID: There's all different kind of brakes that people use. I've always used Performance Friction in the past and they have been really good to me. Basically, you know, when Red Bull hired me, I just said I'm going to run your car with whatever you have and we'll just see how it goes. I'm pretty sure that's what we are running.
THE MODERATOR: Marcos, thanks for joining us. Big weekend for you coming up. You've won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Glen last two years, finished second last year in the Sprint Cup event, at the Glen you're third back in '08. Big, big couple of days at the Glen. What's the outlook for you?
MARCOS AMBROSE: We are really excited about it. We are obviously doing the Nationwide race and the Cup race. Who knows how it's all going to play out for us, but we feel like we have got a possibility to win either or both races and pretty pumped up about it.
The MODERATOR: You're always right there, either winning or almost winning right at these road course races.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, that being said, we managed to win the last couple of road races at Watkins Glen on the Nationwide Series. We haven't quite got it done in the Sprint Cup Series. We are going to be chasing Tony Stewart and the whole team down there at Watkins Glen. We feel like they are going to be the car to beat as, well as Jeff Gordon. We have to put ourselves in contention and do everything right and hopefully the race will work out in our favor.
Q. Given how the race ended at Sonoma with the hard brake for you, how does that affect your approach to this weekend? Do you need a win, basically, to get over that?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well. If you guys stop talking about it I might get over it a bit faster.
Races come and go, and when you give one up like we did at Sonoma, no matter how it went down, no matter what the circumstances, it's never nice.
That being said, there's enough pressure to win at Watkins Glen without putting any more on yourself, so I think we are all focused on the job at hand. We can't go back and remember what happened at Sonoma. We've just got to move forward with it and not let it impact our weekend.
I want to win so badly that sometimes I get in my own way, and I think, you know, if I can guard myself from doing that again, you know, it will help us win the race.
Q. When you made your announcement last week, you listed one of your possibilities as perhaps returning to Australia to race. How realistic is that?
MARCOS AMBROSE: It's realistic. You know, I've spoken to a few people down there, and all have been well received, and it's actually been in the papers and on national television over the last few days, you know, obviously not ruling out the possibilities of me returning and where I would potentially go.
But my heart is in NASCAR to be honest with you. I've got unfinished business at this level of racing. I feel like I've become part of the sport but I haven't become a contender on a weekly basis, and I feel like I'm really -- if I left now, I would feel like I've got unfinished business.
I would like to stay here in America if I could, but if it doesn't work out -- I have take a risk right now. I have jumped out of the team that I had fully sponsored and I was contracted to drive for 2011, and right now, I don't have any contract on the table to sign. So there is a risk involved with that. I understand the risks and I am willing to take any outcome from this point and deal with it. But if I could, I would love to stay in NASCAR and finish off what I started.
Q. Given all you've invested, would returning to Australia be a huge disappointment for you?
MARCOS AMBROSE: No, not a disappointment. I've been privileged to be in NASCAR for the last five years and feel like it's been a great journey, and if it does stop today, I'm cool with that. If it lasts a bit longer and I get a chance to re-up and re-dedicate myself to the sport and hopefully get in a position where I can races and contend for the Chase, I would like to do that, too.
I feel lucky that I've been in NASCAR and I've got to experience firsthand being at the top level. Not saying that I don't want to stay around and do more of it, but I feel lucky to have even got this far.
Q. Watkins Glen, you've had a ton of success there, a couple of Nationwide wins, a third place and a second place finish over in the Cup Series; what is it about this particular road course that agrees with your driving style, and what's the hardest part, the most challenging part of this track for you?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, thank you. When you say stuff like that, it does look pretty good, but I don't think it's necessarily the track that gives me any advantage. I think it's just road racing in general. Road racing, big, heavy too powerful race cars suits my style, and I've been fortunate that I've done well in road courses on NASCAR, and really set me up with a lot of confidence to know what I'm looking for in that race car.
So I've got a good base setup that I carry to all the road course races. And I really know what I'm looking for. We don't have to muck around with trial and error, and I pretty much engineer it from the seat because I have such a clear vision of what I need to do to get around these places well. And I guess I lacked that at some ovals and other places we go to.
I think it's just a confidence thing for me. I know what I need to do to get out there to contend at the front and bust up the lap times and know what the car needs to feel like, and know with a good team around me like I do right now, I'm able to get what I need.
Q. Boris said rattled off a list of drivers that have come to him for road race racing tips, have any come to you over the last few years to get some tips, and how much information to you give them? Because you don't want to give away all your secrets.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Maybe Boris should come ask me for advice, too.
Everybody is asking me for advice, whether I'm talking to Boris and getting information off him or vice versa. I've had some Cup guys clearly, you know, I've helped. I've helped David Reutimann get some two-seater experience and get around some tracks and try to give him some fundamental tips on how to go road racing or how I do it. Martin Truex has looked at what I'm doing and taken a look at that and will probably take away with him some aspect of what I do.
I've got nothing to hide. If anyone wants to come up and ask me a question, I'll be glad it to answer it for them. But road racing and racing in general is a very personal thing, and what works for me doesn't necessarily work for anyone else. And you know, I'm just lucky that I've got some ability to get around a road course and know what to look for and have that confidence to really be able to get there.
Q. We've seen other drivers come over and have road course success, and you've had success on the road courses in the NASCAR Series; how much more difficult does it make it when you go to the ovals, or does it not make it more difficult at all?
MARCOS AMBROSE: That's a great question and it's really a question I'm trying to answer. Clearly I'm good on a road course; that I'm able to contend up there in the Top-10 with them on most occasions and run with them.
Yet, on the ovals I'm a little hit and miss. I have had occasions where I've run, qualified and run Top-5 speed; the other weekends where I don't run that well and it's a big question mark and that's really why I've made the decision to try and make a change. I feel like it's time for me to make a change, because I just need to change my environment to see if it's me that's the missing link, or whether it's everything around me.
So I'm looking for the answers to that question. I don't know whether there is any magic to it, whether it's just pure, hard work and driving the car flat out; whether it's road racing kind of back entirely to the feel of an oval race car and be able to set them up.
So I'm not sure what it is. Clearly I'm lacking something right now on the ovals on a consistent basis, and you know, not many road racers have been able to cross over. Some have, but not many, and I hope that I'm able to prove any critics wrong and get an opportunity here to really answer that question, not just for me, but for everyone else that watches what I do.
Q. In any of the races since Infineon, have you had to save fuel and actually done kinds of what you were doing at Infineon, except kind of with success, and is there any changes to the way you do that at the Glen after what happened at Infineon?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Not at all. What happened at Infineon was an error. Whatever circumstances got us to that point, yeah, we were short on fuel. We were three laps short. If it had been a green-and-white-checkered scenario.
We were trying to save fuel. I got greedy trying to save too much and we cost ourselves a win. It was a fundamental error, no doubt about it, and when you make a mistake like that, the worst thing you can do is stew on it, think about it and let it affect future performances.
I had a pretty hard couple of days getting over that weekend. So it's fine now and no one will give the race back to me. The race is gone and Jimmie Johnson is going to be forever known as the winner of that race, not me. So all I can do is look forward, not back. I'm looking forward to Watkins Glen just because I have a chance to run at the front. We have put a lot of effort into our road course program and I feel like we are in as good of conditions as we can be to contend for the win.
Q. Marcos, British accent survived in Australia and New Zealand and we butchered it in the USA. Do you think your accent has had any kind of effect in relation to your development as a NASCAR driver and how would you describe that?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, I'm not as good looking at Kasey Kahne, so I need something to lean on, right.
I feel like being Australian, when I first came to NASCAR racing, was going to be a disadvantage. It's been anything but to be honest with you. I think I've been appreciated for being -- sounding different, acting different, different attitude to the way I go about my business. It's an attribute. I'm a proud Australian and a proud Australian living in a great country, the USA. It's a great blend, and I've had nothing but good words said about, I guess, my attitude or way of life and I feel like I'm in a good place.
If I can go there and win races, I'll be known as the fastest Australian in NASCAR, so I don't mind that. I play up on it sometimes if I want to but in general, I sound like Crocodile Dundee and it works out pretty well.
Q. Driving on a road course compared to an oval, the spotters have to be spread out quite further, how much will the spotters be able to help you at Watkins Glen compared to an oval?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I've come from racing where I haven't had spotters; so the whole spotter thing for me on a road course is fairly new but I appreciate it. It helps me get a feel on what's happening around me, but at the end of the day, I don't necessarily use them as my beat -- as my eyes. I have to use my mirrors a lot.
I've got a good feel on a road course about where I should position myself anyway without the spotter needing to tell me what's going on. I think a spotter on a road course plays less of a role than what they do on a Super Speedway or intermediate oval where you're going so fast and the banking is so heavy that you physically isn't see in the mirror because you don't have time to or you can't take your eyes off the road in front or you can't lift your head.
There's a lot of things going on on ovals and road courses that you need -- on an oval, a Super Speedway or high-speed, downforce oval that you need a spotter for. Road racing, less so. I don't really use a spotter that much on a road course. Really just to reinforce what I'm already thinking.
Q. Outside of road courses, you've had some pretty decent runs on some ovals, Bristol comes to mind, Richmond comes to mind. Outside of a road course track, what do you see as a place where maybe you have the best shot at winning?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, it's been a rough year, and we expected that any track this year was going to potentially be a good track for us. We have had such a rotten year, our confidence is low, I'm low as to really to pinpoint any trace racks. Pocono has always been good to me; Bristol has always been good to me; Talladega, too.
So there are plenty of tracks coming up that we have run well at, but it's definitely been an underachieving year. No matter which way you put it, we can run well, but we haven't run to our own expectations. So I'm a little shy of giving you a direct answer on that, but I feel like if you're going to be a NASCAR driver, you need to perform on every single track and have a chance to win at every single track.
Q. Given that you and Tad's team kind of came up together in NASCAR, how big would it be to get a victory with that group before you part ways at the end of the year?
MARCOS AMBROSE: It's something that we have spoken about, a lot. We just wanted to finish off this year the right way with the right attitude together. It's been a great journey with each other. We are really proud of what we have achieved and it's been an awesome experience for both sides and we want to win a race in the Cup Series before we finish, because I feel like that's the only thing left on our to-do list that we haven't achieved together.
It's never easy making a decision like I've made, and obviously going through the issues and the repercussions of the choices that you make; so it's been a rough rode here the last couple of months. I feel like if we can get a win for them, Watkins Glen will be our best chance for the year. It will be very special for all of us, and you know, I'm proud of what we have achieved together, but I'll be even more proud if I can sneak a win between now and before the end of the season.
THE MODERATOR: Marcos, appreciate you taking time out. Best of luck at a busy Glen weekend for you.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Thanks very much, guys, hope you tuned in and hope we get that 47 to victory lane.
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