Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand-Am Road Racing
April 16, 2013
J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Today we have the pleasure of being joined by three GRAND‑AM champions who have helped to account for nine of the last ten Daytona prototype team championships, Scott Pruett, Alex Gurney and Max Angelelli. All three have won in 2013, and they are one, two and three in the standings heading into Saturday's Grand Prix of Atlanta, GRAND‑AM's first race at Road Atlanta.
Let's start off with Scott. You are no stranger to Road Atlanta. You won one of your first pro races there in 1986. You also won in Trans Am and you've competed in Petit LeMans. What are your thoughts racing the Daytona prototype there for the first time?
SCOTT PRUETT: Thanks, and certainly excited to be here today on teleconference and even more excited to get to Road Atlanta. I think the history that's there and now the tie‑in with ALMS and GRAND‑AM, all those elements together are exciting and nothing short of the track itself. It's difficult, it's tough, it's one of those places where it's going to take a good balance of the race car to kind of get down through the esses and then obviously trying to blend how much downforce you run for drag down the back straight.
Excited to get there, and it's been a lot of years, but we can hardly wait to get on track on Thursday.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Alex, after a winless 2012 you've won at Circuit of the Americas and finished second at Barber to rank second in the standings, only two points behind Scott and his co‑driver Memo Rojas. Also your co‑driver John Fogarty extended his record by winning the last two poles. Alex, you and John have been driving together in GRAND‑AM since 2006, but I understand that you and John had quite a battle in your only race at Road Atlanta back in 1998 in your Skip Barber days.
ALEX GURNEY: Yeah, that's right. I raced at Road Atlanta basically my first professional season in '98 doing Barber Dodge Pro Series, and yeah, that one race in Atlanta, on the last lap of the race I was actually in a battle with John Fogarty, and I think I was in front. I think I was in about eighth place, and going down to that chicane, I was feeling the heat a little bit, and I overshot the brake zone and went out in the grass, and he got by me.
Hoping to have a little better showing this time, but anyway, I can't wait to get to the track. I think it's another one of these perfect road course races where the GRAND‑AM schedule just keeps getting better and better. It's kind of a dream for a road racer. This adds to that.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Max Angelelli, you've got a new co‑driver for 2013 with Jordan Taylor joining you in the Velocity Worldwide Corvette, and you've already won one race two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park, and you're a close third in the standings. You've raced Ferraris and Cadillacs there at Road Atlanta, so what are your thoughts race for the first time in a DP?
MAX ANGELELLI: It's a great racetrack. I really love it. I've had great success there, so I'm looking forward to it. It's exciting about us going there. It's going to be very exciting racing, as always, for GRAND‑AM, and the track is magnificent. I was looking at races early '90s from Italy and dreaming of the driving the Ferraris back then, and I did it and now I am back with Daytona prototypes. It's a year to make history and hopefully get a victory.
Q. My first question is for Alex. You guys have really been on a tear lately, and you kind of had a rough 2012. What's been the biggest change with you guys to get running so well?
ALEX GURNEY: You know what, believe it or not, not much has changed. I mean, we were obviously kind of refocused after a tough year. We had a lot of very strange kind of random and rare breakdowns last year, so it was more of a case of just kind of going over everything again and trying to understand those things.
Obviously the series has gotten just crazy competitive, more and more just better drivers, and the teams keep stepping up their games. We knew we had to bring everything we possibly could for this year, and we've had some luck on our side, as well, and just putting our best foot forward, and now we have our best start to the season that we've ever had.
We tend to get stronger as the season goes on historically, so I think things are looking good for the Red Dragon.
Q. Scott, you guys are leading the points right now, and there's been rumors of changing BMW engines. First of all, do you know if that's going to happen? And B, if you guys do, what's that going to do to your program?
SCOTT PRUETT: Yes, we are going to change, and it's been kind of a continual ongoing process with BMW and specifically with Steve Dinan. They have been going through all the development and even more so putting it through all the paces it needs to go through on the dynos to make sure we don't have any issues once we get it in the car, all the durability stuff. Steve says as of recent within the last couple weeks he's happy where it is now. We're hopeful to do some testing in the car, do some testing in May when we have kind of a four‑week break before we head to Detroit. We'll know a lot more after that point. It's going to be significantly different for us. It's a four and a half liter so it's a little smaller engine, and kind of the rev band and some other stuff, so it's going to be quite a change for us from what we've been using.
Q. Max, you have a new co‑driver this year, Ricky's brother Jordan. What's it been like changing co‑drivers, especially within the same family?
MAX ANGELELLI: It's been good. I mean, it was good last year, good this year. We know each other very well, so the change was really painless. They're both very good. They are very different, but they have qualities, and because we know each other so well, it was a very easy blend for Jordan jumping in the car with the team and for me to have him as a co‑driver. So it's been very easy so far.
J.J. O'MALLEY: We're in the position now where three of the most successful teams in DP history are running one, two, three in the championship separated by only five points. Starting with Max, can we each talk about how the season is going, how the championship looks at this point after three of the 12 races?
MAX ANGELELLI: Yeah, it's been very good. I mean, our team, our pit stop, race strategy, it's just performing so well. All three races they did a perfect job.
Then Circuit of America has been a bad result unfortunately for us, and that really shows in the championship points. It made me a little bit upset. But we got the first win and that's good, and we want to maintain this train for the rest of the season.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Alex, you seemed to have a lot of momentum on your side. How are things for the Red Dragon?
ALEX GURNEY: Obviously pretty good. We're definitely happy to get a win under our belt pretty early, so that was kind of a monkey on our back for a while, and I think that kind of did a lot for the team to now just be focused on doing it again and gathering points, you know, slightly shorter season with the 12 races. You definitely can't have a bad result anywhere in there. So we're just knuckling down and trying to be there at the end all the time.
I think we had a good shot at winning at Barber, as well, so we're pretty happy about our pace and where we are with the setup of the car at the various racetracks. So things are looking really solid for us.
Q. Scott Pruett, you opened the year with the Rolex 24 victory, going for your fourth consecutive championship with Memo. What are your thoughts on the way the season has gone so far?
SCOTT PRUETT: It's been interesting for us, and I think for a lot of teams, getting to know some of the new regimes specifically with Paul and how he doles out some of the penalties that he has. I think that with the blending of ALMS and GRAND‑AM coming together as they are, from the team standpoint and specifically the driver standpoint, I'm finding that it's taken a bit to learn what the expectations are and what they want from us from a driver standpoint, from a competitiveness standpoint, trying to‑‑ they're continuing trying to blend as we've seen from the start of the year with‑‑ I think they kind of overdid it with Chevrolet with too much restrictor and then they gave us some back restrictor and then took that away and then what happened with Ford. There are a lot of elements that are continually in play that all the‑‑ I think all the teams have had to really get their hands around and deal with.
Q. Scott, I interviewed you back when you were at rookie orientation for the Indy 500.
SCOTT PRUETT: A couple years ago.
Q. You're really into the Daytona prototypes, GRAND‑AM cars. What's the difference between‑‑ what did it feel like going back to the Speedway last year?
SCOTT PRUETT: It was incredible. You know, the Speedway has always been such an incredible place for me, even as a young kid watching the races and then going there in IndyCar and then going there in NASCAR and then going there with the Daytona prototype. We were really excited to get the BMW Telmex there for preseason testing even though it was about 106 degrees. We came short of being able to come away with a victory. It was a really crazy race with the rain and the dry, and I just think for me personally being involved with the Rolex Sports Car Series like we have, and this is going on my 10th year, it's incredible competition. I love getting out there and going head to head with these guys. There's incredible drivers, incredible teams, and just proud to be a part.
It's even more exciting being involved with Telmex for how many years we've been involved with them and with BMW, and I think for all the teams, especially with ourselves and GAINSCO and Wayne Taylor's operation, we're kind of the framework and foundation of where GRAND‑AM has started, and certainly those teams that people recognize year in, year out. And I think we're all just proud to be a part.
Q. Well, you're with a car owner that's very famous for the Daytona prototypes as well as the Indy 500. Have you ever given a thought of going back and doing a one‑off in the Indy 500?
SCOTT PRUETT: There's no way. I am so happy with where I'm at, and I can tell you from all the years I did IndyCars, when things are going great, it's great. And unfortunately you never have just a little crash in one of those things. They're always big and they always tend to hurt. To come back and do it, you'd want to be in a very serious operation to go back and win, and to do that as a team and specifically as a driver, it's something you have to gear up for, it's not something you can just step in, especially with the level of competition as it is, like just in our series. People don't just step in and win. It takes teamwork and it takes experience to be able to run at the front and win races. I'm proud to be a part of the Ganassi organization, everything that Chip has done, and most importantly just love where I'm at.
Q. What kind of race are you guys expecting at this inaugural race at Road Atlanta, dealing with GT traffic and racing with each other? And second, you guys are in different cars; there's a Riley and then the Corvettes. What do you think is going to be the strength of your car at this track?
MAX ANGELELLI: I'll start with the second question about the car. Actually all three cars are different, because yes, you have two Corvettes, but the GAINSCO uses the Riley chassis, and Velocity Worldwide Corvette uses a lot of chassis, so you have three different cars. It's going to be very challenging because of the racetrack layout. You have corners, slow speed scorners and a very long straight. It's going to be a little bit like Circuit of the Americas where teams will take different paths; more downforce, then you have to pay consequences in the long straight, or less downforce and you pay consequences on the slow corners.
I'm guessing that everybody will try different things during practice, and at the end of the day, the race day is going to be a close race like every other race in GRAND‑AM. You know, we normally work before the race more than in qualifying, so I'm expecting to have a really competitive car, and again, a close race, and hope to be a possible winner that day.
ALEX GURNEY: Yeah, I mean, I think Max touched on an important point. Road Atlanta has a pretty long back straightaway, and that kind of‑‑ you know, that's kind of a critical point as far as how you're going to race the track. What is our downforce level going to be, and we're always playing with that and trying to figure out what is the best level for the race, how quickly we're getting by GT cars and how is that going to play into the race, really.
So we're going to be focusing on that all throughout testing and try and get the balance right between qualifying and the race. There's some one‑lane sections, at least as far as I remember, kind of down through the esses, so traffic could be an issue and could play a big part in the race, so we'll keep on eye on that, as well.
SCOTT PRUETT: Pretty much the same thing. I mean, it's‑‑ whenever you go to a new track like this, even though it's not a new track for us to go drive at, it's certainly a new track for GRAND‑AM to go participate, and there's no track record of how things are going to unfold, how the traffic is going to be, how are you going to manage it, and I think just as we approached Austin for the first time, it's going to be somewhat similar to here. All of us are going to try and figure out is it going to be better to have high downforce or low downforce, that's always one of those things that we continue to juggle as teams.
I also think that the GT traffic is always a challenge, especially now there seems to be a little less differential in speed between some of the GT cars, some of their rolling speed through the turns is pretty high, and they actually want to start fighting you for some of the positions, some of the Ferraris and other guys, and that takes another element where you have to be careful. As some of these guys touched on earlier, especially with Alex, you just can't afford to fall out of any race. You just can't be in a position to leave any points on the table.
All those things come into consideration as well as you're trying to fight for the win. I always like going to a new track with a group of guys, and it's going to be an interesting and exciting race.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much, and thanks for joining us today, Max, Alex and Scott, and we look forward to seeing you Saturday at Road Atlanta for the Grand Prix of Atlanta.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|