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Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Sports/Touring Car Racing Topics:  Grand Am Road Racing

Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference

Scott Pruett
June 1, 2010

J.J. O'MALLEY: Welcome, everyone, to today's special edition NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference. Joining us today is Scott Pruett, who was going for his fourth consecutive victory yesterday in the Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock, but had problems on the very first lap of the race and got last-place points.
Scott, how important is it going to a track where you've had great success, Watkins Glen, to get that championship momentum back rolling again for you and in the TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley.
SCOTT PRUETT: It's good to be here and welcome everybody.
It's just one of those things. Real unfortunate what took place and disappointed what took place over the weekend in Lime Rock. You have to shake that off, get that behind you. We've had so much success at the Glen, especially for the Six Hour, we're the defending champions. We've had a lot of momentum. Real pleased with the way things having going all season except for the last race.
You have to get on with it. The Ganassi team, left them an hour ago, they were getting the car fixed because there was quite a bit of damage, turnaround for the Glen. I know it will be in good shape. We're going to go up there and see if we can put that thing in Victory Lane.
J.J. O'MALLEY: We'll open the floor up for questions.

Q. Give me a quick lesson. Forgetting the damage to the car, under normal circumstance, the car setup and certain parts and pieces, how much different is it for a 2:45 race on a short track like yesterday versus what you're going to run on the Saturday? Do you have to swap out brakes? What is different?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's a great question. What we found from over the years, as we look at the turnaround for the TELMEX car for this weekend, is nothing. That Six Hour now has turned into a sprint race. You can't really consider it and look at it going into an endurance race. You look at it purely as a sprint race.
We have the small brakes on the car, not anything like we'd run for the Daytona 24 Hour. The focus is going fast right from the start. With the robust ability that we've seen and the durability of these cars, there's no reason you can't run 'em hard for the whole six hours. They go and run fast. They're incredibly durable.

Q. You've been in a NASCAR racecar on a hot day. We heard so much yesterday about how beastly it was for two hours in a Grand-Am car. Are those cars significantly hotter than a NASCAR car because of their construction?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, the biggest thing that we see is the fact that we are completely enclosed in our car. The windows are closed. Everything is closed. So that generates a little bit more heat.
The reality of it is on hot days, I don't care if you're in a NASCAR car or one of our cars, they're hot. They are hot. It's a little easier on your body when you're doing an oval in hot conditions than when you're stopping, braking, shifting, manually physically working hard all the time in a road course.
When you look at the NASCAR cars going to Sears Point, Infineon on a hot day, then yes, I would say both are incredibly hot and difficult to drive. I think the only thing that we have, the NASCAR car has different, when you're doing an oval, you're not doing as much work inside the car, shifting, braking, turning right, so it's not quite as physically draining on you.

Q. What is a successful Grand-Am driver like you to do to remain in favor with the boss with the NASCAR, IndyCar guys this year?
SCOTT PRUETT: We've had an incredible season. We were hoping to carry that through Lime Rock. With an Indy 500 win, you're hopeful to get our win, at least finish on the podium yesterday in Lime Rock. That didn't happen. So hopefully we can turn things around, try to make a three-peat for the Six Hour. We've won it the last two years. Nothing better to come through and do that.
Ultimately our goal is no different than a NASCAR team or the IndyCar team. We look to go win our biggest race of the year, which is for the NASCAR guys the Daytona 500, for the IndyCar guys the Indy 500, and for us the Daytona 24 Hour. Then our next goal is to go win a championship, do whatever we can to win a championship and help BMW win the manufacturer's title.

Q. The NASCAR component of Chip's operation was the last one to really round into the form it's in now. What has it been like to watch that internally? What is the competition within the drivers? Do you get a sense from him if he has the satisfaction of having one car running well, but to have three humming right now?
SCOTT PRUETT: I think it's been incredible. It even started last year because I saw and actually participated on the NASCAR side. They were finding their way, trying to get the right group of people together, the right mechanics with the right crew chief with the right driver. You really saw that coming together last year.
In fact, Chip was in a position at one point to win a Grand-Am championship, an IndyCar championship and win a NASCAR championship, which I thought was incredible. Now to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500, going after championships as well, I think it's been incredible.
For a team owner, when I get around to it, I think any team owner, one, that can win a Daytona 500 and an Indy 500 is incredible. Do it in the same year is awesome. Going after championships like he does, I think that says a lot about our organization and how well it works together because we do work together, even though we have the IndyCar, the sports car based in Indy, and the NASCAR team based down in North Carolina, there is still a camaraderie and a transfer of engineering data that any little piece and part, some of those things that seem minute, we try to cooperate across the board to try to make all of ourselves be better.

Q. Not the race you wanted to have at Lime Rock. Obviously Bob Stallings said what he said during the race. He said you guys took it to heart. How much heart did the Chip Ganassi take it?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, I mean, there were a number of things that came together. The whole set of circumstances was I thought kind of ridiculous. Here we came into it trying to win a fourth race in a row. Crazy enough, Bob came to me before the race, said, We hope you crash. I'm sure he did it in jest. Still, for his driver to run into my teammate, the whole thing... Then for what Fogerty said in the interview, that he meant to do it, that's just not the way we play. That's not the way we race.
We shake it off. We get it behind us. Now we put our focus on Watkins Glen. The guys are working hard today, yesterday as well, getting our car turned around, because there was a lot of damage on it. Everybody is incredibly supportive from Steve and BMW and TELMEX. You rally together as a team and you try and rise to a new level, to a competitive level, focus on your next race, get on with it.

Q. You had Ryan Dalziel come within seven points of you in the points standing running the same chassis and engine panel as you are. In the middle of the season, are you starting to wonder is he going to be able to catch up to you or are you confident enough to extend that championship lead and possibly win the championship early?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, first, I like Ryan a lot. He's a friend of mine. I was happy that they finished second, especially with BMW, our hopes to win them a manufacturer's title. I mean, I think it's great. I think it's great to see what they're doing with Starworks with Bill, that whole organization.
I'm confident that we just got to do what we know how to do. We've been very successful in the Grand-Am Series with the Ganassi organization, with TELMEX. Now that we've added this new component with BMW, we're excited.
Watkins Glen has been a great racetrack for us. Memo loves it. I love it. We continually run very well there. Just plan on doing the same thing when we go there in about four days.

Q. Everyone just drools at the thought of having a rivalry like the one you have with GAINSCO. Have you ever had a rivalry like this with another team, other drivers? You've been at this for so long, I don't remember you being in something this heated before.
SCOTT PRUETT: Oh, yeah (laughter). I'd say probably the most famous and the most long-lasting was between Willie T. Ribbs and myself. We actually had physical confrontation, verbal confrontation, numerous confrontations on the racetrack. Yeah, it was really ugly for a long time.
I mean, it's all part of racing. When you have guys competing with their heart and soul and really wanting to do the best they can, sometimes things just happen, like with David and myself, then they blow over. Sometimes you get in situations where, you know, it just happens that guys end up getting this rivalry going.
This rivalry with the 99 car has been kind of ongoing since they came to the series. We had that ugly incident leading to what kept us winning the championship back at Salt Lake City a number of years ago. It just kind of continues to sometimes just sit there and fester and other times bring it to a head like we saw last weekend.
You have that in racing, you always do. When those guys run up at the front, they're unfortunately or fortunately, I know the fans absolutely love it, I hate to be involved in the middle of it, but I know that the fans love seeing that kind of controversy on the racetrack, those things happen. Hopefully we can try and stay out of it.
But, you know, things happen. That's just the way it is.

Q. How do you manage it in a series where nobody can get away from anybody?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, it's just one of those situations where, because of what Grand-Am is trying to achieve, when you have cars that are so competitive anyway where we are running wheel-to-wheel, fender-to-fender the whole time, there is a bit of give-and-take. Hopefully you can do that wheel-to-wheel, fender-to-fender, and sometimes one driver might take more than his fair share, then unfortunately you have incidents. You move on to the next race.
For us, with the Ganassi organization, we're focused on the next race. We've had great success at the Glen. We want to go back and just focus on doing that, having good success.

Q. Along the lines of the Ganassi banner year, does that bring extra confidence to your team or give you extra pressure?
SCOTT PRUETT: Extra confidence and excitement. I watch every race that I can the big Ganassi organization is in. Whether it's a NASCAR race, I'm watching Montoya go after it, certainly sit back and watch what Jamie does. Winning the Daytona 500, all the races. I watched it right till the end on Sunday night as well. I watch the IndyCar races with our guys. It's exciting. It's part of our team, our organization.
Because everybody is so close there, we do try to share as much technology as we can, no matter how it cross blends itself. But to be part of that organization, with Chip as an owner, who is incredibly involved in every aspect, you'll see him at every Grand-Am race he can make, every IndyCar race he can make, and NASCAR. You saw him at Indy on Sunday, then at Charlotte down on Sunday night. He really wanted to make it to our race on Monday, but just physically couldn't be there with all the obligations he had with winning the Indy 500.
He called, Wish you all the best, tried to be there, but just couldn't because of the obligations of the Indy 500.

Q. As far as the rivalry that you kind of mentioned, you see some retaliation in NASCAR, do you think perhaps some fans, some other than fans, some critical of seeing where somebody's temper comes through, do you think some of those people really don't quite understand the nature of a racecar driver, that you're not built the same way as a lot of other folks are, you have a fierce desire to win?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, you know what I always say is when you're doing something, I think you can take any professional athlete, when you are competing at the highest level, there is a lot of emotion and pressure and stress and excitement. I mean, all those words that you can think of all mold together at one moment or for 2 hours and 45 minutes, the length of that race.
When something happens, if it's minute, it can be something you try to brush off. When it's something big, sometimes you just get swept up in it and you can't help yourself.
You try and manage that as best you can. But we're still human. When any professional athlete, we still have that human form to us. We're not robots. We can't shut it off, turn it on, make it happen when we want to or not. Sometimes your cup runneth over and you're overwhelmed with emotion. We see guys in different motorsports throwing helmets, getting in fights. They look back on it and they have this remorse, What was I thinking? You weren't at this moment because you were so overwhelmed with emotion.

Q. Obviously on TV yesterday we saw the tore up splitter, nose, radiator, front suspension damage. What kind of put you out yesterday? You had a lot of that fixed, but there's obviously a lot more, right?
SCOTT PRUETT: There was, no question. It really tore up our car. What we need to continue to do within Grand-Am is that should have been just a quick on-and-off from Memo. He did get shoved off by the 99, but unfortunately there was so much sand right there that it just grabbed the front of our car and ripped it off, everything from the bulkhead forward, the splitter, radiator, nose.
You don't see, but underneath the nose, just from where the bulkhead is back, there's an aluminum skin that goes underneath the whole car. By rule we have to be a flat bottom. What happens is it actually rolls that back like an aluminum can so it gets this aluminum rolled back where your feet go. We were out there trying to fix it the best we can. Brake ripped off, nose ripped off on the left-hand side, brake lines, ripped up bottom of the car. When they cut it off, you can actually see the ground where my feet go.
We tried to do whatever we could to get it back in the race. Memo had to get his points for a half hour run. I had to get my points for a half hour run. If there was any way we could have kept going, we absolutely would have, especially given the fact we really wanted to learn what we needed for a setup at Lime Rock because we'd never been there before.
As we move forward, I know that Grand-Am is continually looking at that, how can we make the tracks safer. What happened yesterday is going to cost our team about $100,000 in damage. We just don't want to have as an organization.
So you look at places like going to the Glen where they continually pave those areas where they had runoff of sand and gravel and so on, they found it a lot more effective to come in and pave those areas than it is to leave them in rock. The racing stays better. The cars don't get damaged. We see, even if a guy has an issue getting off track, he can continue on and finish the race.

Q. They've made some changes at the Glen where they added SAFER barriers in the last corner. Have you had a chance to learn about them at all or have an opinion about them?
SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, you know, Watkins Glen is one of those tracks, every time we go back there, they make improvements. I just touched on a few of those. They have seen how effective paving those runoff areas are, maintain the integrity of the race, limit the number of cautions. They paved down in the bus stop down the back straight. They paved some areas in there so you're not going to get off there and parked in the sand. Some of the SAFER barrier stuff. Especially that last turn coming on the front straight, we've seen some horrendous hits in there in a number of different cars I've driven there in the past. They've improved that area with SAFER barriers and crushable material.
I think that's one thing I really enjoy about going to the Glen. They're so progressive all the time at trying to stay as far ahead as they can with safety, doing the right thing.

Q. With the SAFER barriers in the last corner, the cars aren't getting grabbed by a tire barrier anymore.
SCOTT PRUETT: The thing was, with tire barriers, until they started belting them, you could actually split them or shove underneath them with the nose, where we're not seeing that with the SAFER barriers. You can continue on. The SAFER barriers, you'll tend to glance off of.
We always made the comment when we saw tire barriers, if you get into those, they reach out and grab ahold of you, suck you in, where the SAFER barriers kind of deflect you instead of grab ahold of you and cause more damage.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much, Scott, for joining us. I know it's been a busy day yesterday, getting ready for Watkins Glen Saturday. I'd like to thank the members of the media for taking the time to join us. We appreciate your coverage.

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