Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand Am Road Racing
January 13, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this special edition NASCAR Grand Am Teleconference. Joining us today are drivers, Scott Pruett and Jamie McMurray, who will be competing for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Scott has made his mark on the Rolex 24 history book. Winning overall three times, while winning in his class a record eight times. January 30 and 31 Scott will be joined by Memo Rojas, Marino Franchitti and Justin Wilson, in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW Riley.
Scott, what did the team learn this past chilly weekend that will help Ganassi win its fourth Rolex 24 in the last five years?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's a good question. The only thing that we were really able to do over the weekend were get all the drivers through the car. With those crazy temperatures that we had, the freezing temperatures, it was very difficult to do much work with the car, and any work you did was in a situation that you probably wouldn't be the same set of circumstances when you come back for the race, because the temperatures are going to be quite a bit higher.
So we are confident going into it that we were happy to put some miles on the new BMW engine package for us and everything ran flawlessly. All the drivers did a terrific job with Justin and Marino, as well as myself and my teammate, Memo. So that was -- under the circumstances, that was the best we could get out of it. As well as looking at the great picture of the snow men the Ganassi Team made.
THE MODERATOR: Jamie McMurray's only appearance in the Rolex 24 is when he finished fourth with Ganassi in 2005. This year Jamie will co-drive the No. 02 TELMEX/Target BMW Riley with Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, and Dario Franchitti.
Jamie last week's test was the first time in a Daytona prototype in five years. How did it feel to get back and what are your thoughts looking forward to the Rolex 24?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Those cars are so much of fun to drive. It took me the whole first day just to get used to the cockpit of the car. It's so much different. The steering wheel has what looked like 500 buttons on it, but it's only four or five. And the way the tach works and everything, it took me a while to get used to all of that, and where all the switches are in the car, and just get used to the mirrors and everything that's different about that.
But the cars drove pretty good. Like I say, they're a lot of fun to drive around that track, and I really enjoy it. So we had what I thought was a pretty good test. For me it was good to get back in the car and just get some seat time and get comfortable before getting back down there for the race.
Q. Why the switch from Lexus to BMW this year?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, the biggest reason was that our TMS Team, Toyota Motor Corporation or TMC, decided they weren't going to continue on with the Lexus brand in the Grand Am Rolex Series. And that gave us the opportunity to look around and pick and choose what we felt was going to be our best engine moving forward with the opportunity with that manufacturer.
All said and done, with Steve and his group and BMW looked like a perfect fit. And the guys made -- we made the decision actually quite late. In a couple of weeks we did the changeover from the Lexus to the BMW engine probably late November, into the first of December, and then came for that test the first week of December.
So we've been extremely pleased so far. The drivability is incredible from what we've had. The durability and reliability has shown to be terrific, and we're looking forward to the 24 here in a couple of weeks.
Q. Is there -- you race, obviously you race the top level of NASCAR. But you spend a lot of time in carts. Now you're spending -- you need more time going left to right in here. Do you think that it's a big advantage to you to be doing this? And also, do you think that you're better at adapting to all these things than say the average driver?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I'm doing this because I want to do it, and it's fun. I'm not necessarily doing this to make myself better for the Sprint Cup racing. Though I don't think it hurts to do more road races.
But this is such a different type of race. It's about staying on the track and just kind of putting in consistent lap times, not necessarily the fastest lap times. Then racing with the GT cars, there is such a discrepancy in pace that you spend most of the race kind of judging how you're going to time out those passes. So it's a lot different of a race.
Really I'm doing it just because I want to, and I think it's fun more than anything.
Q. Your full-time job is really adventure on the track. Does that spoil any of the off-track adventure that you've done over the years? All the time that you've been racing cars? Is
SCOTT PRUETT: Not at all. We're real pleased with -- I'm real pleased with all aspects of the Grand Am Rolex Series, especially being involved with Chip Ganassi which is a terrific organization. It is exciting now to make that new venture with BMW doing the stuff on track as well as doing some stuff off the track for them and with that opportunity and with Grand Am as we've seen.
We all are feeling the pinch with the economy. I've been quite, you know, vocal with a lot of people that I talked to that 2009 is going to be easier than 2010.
There were a lot of carryover contracts for 2009. Doesn't make a difference if it was the Grand Am Rolex Series or Sprint Cup. I think everybody's feeling that pullback from a lot of sponsors. And we're looking to put on the best shows that we can throughout 2010 and we're excited.
Especially with the Rolex 24, because this is a race that everybody wants to come to. You get guys from Europe, IndyCar, NASCAR, just to name a few. And this is the first big event always, Motorsports event always, as we start out the new year. Everybody wants to be a part of it.
It's great fun. It's great racing. It's hard core road racing and getting that opportunity with all these different drivers to really get together and go do it. It's a little bit of a different frame of mind, too instead of just two drivers, now to work with four. It's a true team. I think that element's a lot of fun. Because you get to know new guys or reconnect with other guys that are off doing their thing for the season.
Q. Over the years have you done anything like Brian Vickers jumps out of airplanes. Have you done anything thrilling and exciting? Is it different for you because you do this for a living?
SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, I think it's funny. We were at dinner the other night and all the guys with Dixon and McMurray and all the drivers were talking about going up in jets and planes and doing aerobatic stuff. That piece of it is still exciting.
You get up in a jet or aerobatic plane, that's still pretty intense. We're other used to working in one dimension. When you go up in some sort of aircraft, you're working in three dimension space, and the G's and what's taking place, it gets you out of your comfort zone, that's for sure.
Q. This is a special race. It's very different because there are so many different people who aren't in the normal series. Does that change the way you want to race this race?
SCOTT PRUETT: No, it doesn't. I think the biggest thing that it does is, actually two things -- one, it gives us the opportunity that I was touching on earlier, for each team to have three or four drivers, and they can be, you know, let's say within their, you know, the Ganassi umbrella, he's bringing his NASCAR guys as well as the IndyCar side of it. And that is a lot of fun.
But there is also an opportunity of drivers coming from Europe and other series to come and get involved. And you work together as a group, those three or four.
I think for the series, not only you know when you get guys like Jamie and Juan and Scott Dixon and Jimmie Johnson and some of the other guys, there are a lot of people who may not see our series or may not pay attention to our series that much. They'll be reviewing it more. We're seeing that every year. More exposure and more coverage and more excitement.
With a lot of the series kind of on the downward sort of growth in 2009. We saw pretty much across the board with spectators and with TV ratings on the way up. It just shows that our series is in growth. And these opportunities to bring in other drivers from other series who bring their own group of followers and fans is nothing but a great time.
For drivers to come and get the year started off with an opportunity like this at Daytona. It's not high pressure. You've got to get out and go and go hard. But it takes place over 24 hours, and you get a lot of track time, and you get a lot of focus of what you're doing, and really get you a lot of seat time. Then you're off and back to the respective series.
Q. In an endurance race, do you race the other cars and the great drivers who are on the other teams? Or do you race yourself and have a pace that you want to go at to get to the end of the race?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, you race your own pace, but your pace better not be too far off whoever is the fastest.
We've been in a great situation where we've been one of the teams over the last five, six, seven years that are pacing the race on or certainly within the top three. So you need to be in a situation where you are running fast.
That's one of the things we've seen develop over the past, especially within the past three or four years, where these cars have become so robust. In days gone by there was always something you had to be careful with the car.
The transmission you've got to be careful with, the engine you've got to be careful with. Where nowadays, you run hard. You run hard the whole time. You're running 90% the whole time. You need to be careful in traffic. But as far as the car's concerned and how you drive it, and how hard you run it, it's surprisingly aggressive for going 24 hours.
We've seen in the last three or four years that we're doing this with no problems whatsoever. I think that says a lot about the focus of the series and the rules they put in place for these cars.
Q. You're a bit of a race fan also, and the times that you've gone to the Rolex 24, has there ever been a driver that you really wanted to meet and never had a chance to meet and maybe when you met that person you become became a fan and not just a driver?
SCOTT PRUETT: I've been very fortunate to meet most everybody that I've really wanted to. You know, it's been -- whether it's Dan Gurney or Mario Andretti. You know, I think between Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti, I've really been incredibly impressed.
You look at the cars they drove, especially early on -- these guys were men. These were not very safe cars. Incredibly fast. And they were doing it with a complete spectrum, whether they went to Indy or they went to Daytona or maybe off to Europe all in the same year. Driving all different types of cars. I just think that's incredible that these guys did that.
You look back to the '60s, and the '70s. I look at those cars nowadays, I'm thinking I wouldn't even get in one to drive one. They scare me the way they're put together. They're just dangerous. There is either a fuel tank right behind them or between their legs. It's incredible, absolutely incredible what they did.
Q. Phoenix has announced that they're going to extend the race this spring by 63 laps, and California's going to cut back from 500 to on 400 in October. Wanted to get your reaction on one track increasing their laps, and California decreasing theirs?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I haven't heard that yet. And the Phoenix race, though it's a pretty short race, it seemed in the car that it took a while to run. I don't know that it did TV time. But it seemed like you were in the car there. For Fontana, I'd be for the shorter race there. It seems like that race takes forever to run.
Yeah, I think it is what it is. It's the same for everybody. So I don't really have an continue on either one of those. It's the same for everybody.
Q. Apparently Phoenix will start in the day and end at night
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I don't really like doing that.
Q. Would that be cool?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, it's hard to start in the day and go into night. The vision is what you struggle with there, because typically the sun is setting. And Phoenix has built like a barrier or stands to try to shield that getting into turn one. But you can't see anything there for 30 minutes when you start in the day and run into the night.
So not a big fan of that. But the length of the race is kind of irrelevant.
Q. Is California shortening to 400 is extremely welcome?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I tell you what, that seems like a long race. You run that, and it's 250 laps we had been running there, and it seems like it takes forever. And you can see the scoring pylon every time you go by, so you know how many laps are left every time you go by.
Some of those races you don't have that, so you kind of lose track of how much time you have left. But at Fontana you can always seeing the scoring pylon so you know how much time there is left.
Q. On the Grand Am front, would you like to run more of these races? How fun of a series is this to take part in?
JAMIE McMURRAY: The Grand Am is a great series. The cars are a lot of fun to drive. They have great braking, and the high speed handling is awesome. I mean, I would really like to run the Watkins Glen race that they have every year in conjunction with the NASCAR weekend.
So, yeah, I would definitely run more of these. It's a fun car to drive. I heard Scott say something earlier about having more than just one driver, I kind of like that. It's something I wouldn't want to do every single week, but I think that's fun when you have more than one driver and you're kind of sharing that role.
Q. Rolex Grand Am changed the point structure to kind of give a limit of how many points you lose if something happens early and you get far behind. Is that going to change anything either on how you attack the race or how your crew prepares for the race at all?
SCOTT PRUETT: Not really. Now we're always focused on the season without a doubt. And if you lose or have a problem, and we have. Back in '04-05, our first year, there was an incredible amount of rain. Some pretty horrible set of circumstances, and it was a pretty tough race. But with the points the way they are, it's difficult to catch up. You've got to have just a flawless year.
It kind of emulates what NASCAR does as well to kind of keep the points so it really rewards those guys that are finishing consistently, you know, top three, top four. That's the way we focus it.
So with the 01 car different from the 02 car, not only do we absolutely want to win the 24 Hour, the Rolex is the biggest race for us. We start out with that race and just having that crown jewel is huge for the whole season.
It's like IndyCars. You want to win the championship or you want to win Indy 500. With NASCAR you want to win Daytona 500 or the championship as well. That's the way it is with us.
With that being said, we also are focused, you know, on the championship. And typically what happens is in that race uh-huh your group of guys and your group of drivers and the crew. Hopefully you'll be limited to just a few minor small problems throughout the race.
Or in our case we haven't had any problem whatsoever the last two years, and you're going to finish up at the front. That is one thing we see with Ganassi and their preparation and the cars and so on.
The only thing new for us this year will be the BMW power plant. But we've seen real good consistency in our testing and with the results they've achieved over the last three to four years in the Grand Am Series as well.
So we're cautiously optimistic, but ultimately with the 01 car, we're going for another championship as well.
Q. With the switch to the BMW engine, I know you only had one chance this weekend and the conditions weren't perfect. But could you compare that to the -- I know you had to switch over, but what is your initial impression?
SCOTT PRUETT: The drivability is incredible. From the time you put your foot on the throttle, even if you're in pit lane and drive off, you almost don't have to give it any throttle to get it up and going. Where conversely with the Lexus engine, at the other end of the spectrum, where you had to give it a lot of gas, it wanted to die, didn't want to get going. That was the same thing on the racetrack.
We really had to keep it up on the pipe. If you got it out of the working range, it was incredibly difficult to drive. So we had to adapt our driving style. We had to adapt a set-up.
What we're seeing for top, top speed, we're running the same gear and same down force drag numbers. If anything we might be a little bit less on top, maybe a mile, mile an hour slower. But with the drive ability and the grunt up off the turn, it's going to be an upgrade for us.
Q. Juan Pablo and Scott Dixon are two of your team's, you know, social media gurus there on Twitter. Are we going to see Twitter updates from either you, Scott or maybe you, Jamie? I'd like both of you to answer that question
SCOTT PRUETT: Go ahead, Jamie.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I only heard the second half of the question.
Q. Juan Pablo and Scott Dixon have some pretty active Twitter accounts. Will we see Twitters from you guys?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, actually I just started my Twitter account about three days ago. And you know, it's weird. It amazes me the people that will try to be perceived as you but, yeah, I started doing that yesterday, so you'll see updates for me.
Q. Okay, what about you, Scott?
SCOTT PRUETT: I'm still a little old school. So I'm sure I'll get up to speed here, but I'll have to have my oldest daughter help me with my Twitter account, because I know they're very active on that.
Yeah, I think we're going to -- with a bit of luck, you know, potentially we could be doing the same thing.
Q. Of course the social medium, that was a great thing when Scott did that during the IndyCar Series, and it gives kind of an insight into what Juan Pablo thinks of the Sprint Cup and things like that. So just wanted to get that for the listeners, because we have a Twitter contest going on.
Q. Just finished the holidays with various successes and failures. How did your fitness survive the holidays?
SCOTT PRUETT: Great. I typically take about a month off at the end of the season. And I didn't this year. I just kept at it. I've just -- I don't know. I mean, I guess the reality is, you know, as I've gotten adding on some of the years, you know, I just don't want anything to slip through the cracks.
I don't want to have any part of me looking back and saying I should have been doing this or should have been doing that. So with that, I maintain my intensity for weight and cardio and all the other stuff that I do to stay in shape. So I've been very fortunate to have been healthy. No setbacks. And just hard at it.
There always seems to be this new intensity, especially as you lead up to the Rolex 24. Before you go to the test, probably between Christmas and New Year's, and then after the test, you know, for a lot of the guys they've gone there and gone Oh, my gosh. I've got to get up to speed, because that is a long race.
Q. There was a time when Scott Pruett was the young gun, and shall we say now he's not. Do you feel any pressure from some of the young guys that are coming on board now? So much younger. To maybe take a little more time in the gym to increase your stamina?
SCOTT PRUETT: No, I don't. You really have a good gauge by the time you spend in the car. One of our most difficult races last year was our last race where he we had record temperatures in Miami. Our cars typically are incredibly hot to drive. I was in there almost, gosh, a little over two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. You know, the car temp was 120, 118, 120 or just a little over.
Had a great race there. Had a great season all last year. Felt like we were in a position where at least we had the car that could go out and run up in the front and win. So prosecute just self-examination side of it, I'm just going top keep doing what I'm doing and keep that intensity.
You know, there are a lot of young kids out there or younger drivers. They're all working hard, we're all working hard. You know, it's a testament to say look at what Mark Martin's done last year, and what I can continue to try to do.
You know, just more than anything else, I absolutely love it. I still absolutely, you know love going to the racetrack and part of that is you can run up at the front.
Q. How do you put that enthusiasm into the kids books that you write with your wife, I believe?
SCOTT PRUETT: That anything's possible. I think that's the biggest thing that I have learned. You know, starting at 8 years old, racing go-karts and just from a regular old middle class family, struggling to make ends meet every month. Now I've been very fortunate to compete in NASCAR and IndyCar and Grand Am. Won a lot of championships and a lot of races.
If you would have looked back, you would say there is no way that kid could have done that. So we try to put forth that you've got to believe in your dreams and go after them.
Q. Who have you got in the NFL Playoffs?
SCOTT PRUETT: I like the Colts. I always have liked the Colts. I think a piece of that comes with Indianapolis. I want to see those guys go all the way.
Q. What's it like driving in the same car as Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, and Dario Franchitti?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I'm just super excited about getting to be teamed up with those guys. Chip, you know, his team has done so well in the Grand Am Series over the last few years. You know, to get to be with the driver lineup that they've put me with, I'm just very honored, and I want to make sure that I am not the guy that messes it up. So I'm excited about it.
Q. Hurley Haywood's the all time winner the Rolex 24 with five. You've got three now. What are your thoughts on catching Hurley?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, overall, yeah. I mean, I've won more races than he has in class. I'll keep doing it. What is this? His last race? And he's got me by a good, I think 12 years, I think. So I've got a few more years to catch up to him.
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