Champ Car World Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Topics: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
ERIC MAUK: Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to welcome you to our top three qualifiers press conference, our final qualifying session for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will take place tomorrow here beginning at 1 p.m., the opening round of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. I am joined by our top three qualifiers, as well as a very special guest, who we will get to in a moment. We'll start with our third place qualifier on the day, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Mario Dominguez. Mario put up a quick lap of 1:07.803 seconds, 104.491 miles per hour. Mario, first time out with the new team. Starting third. How do you feel about the way it went?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I'm really very, very happy considering I didn't know anybody on the team until Thursday. This is our second day working together. It's been a real crash course, to say the least. Also not really being able to test at all in the off-season, I just got one day with my old team HVM a couple weeks ago in Sebring. I'm very, very happy. It just shows how professional Forsythe Championship Racing is. They have done it in the past with other drivers. It just shows that if you're with a good team you can be very fast. I'm also very happy for Paul Tracy, who got the pole position. He's received me very well. So happy to be here.
ERIC MAUK: This is Mario's best ever starting position here at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Starting outside of the front row, yesterday's qualifying leader, driver of the #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno puts up a top lap of 1:07.644 seconds, 104.737 miles per hour. Bruno, another strong qualifying event here at Long Beach. How do you feel about the way it went?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I feel well. I think the PacifiCare car was strong again today. I think Tracy got a really good lap and just ahead for a tenth of a second. The car was running really good. I mean, was very, very close. I had two tries, and both outings I ran 676. I ran four laps on 676, 677. That's pretty much what I could do, maybe a tenth quicker. But Tracy had a great car and great lap. Well done for him. But tomorrow is the race. Tomorrow is where it counts most. I hope we can have a great race car and I hope we can do great pit stops, great starts, and great strategy to finish strong the race tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: The polesitter for the 31st annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul Tracy is the two-time defending winner of this event, he has won four times overall. He wins his second Long Beach pole today, setting a new track record with a time of 1:07.485 seconds, 104.983 miles an hour. That breaks the track record held by Gil de Ferran, set in 2000. That's a five-year-old track record that went by the wayside today. This is Paul's 23rd career pole, as he is the leader among active drivers anywhere in North American open-wheel racing as far as poles, among his other various accomplishments. Paul, 1:07.4, that's a back-breaker of a lap. How do you feel about it?
PAUL TRACY: It was great. We used our Bridgestone options yesterday because we felt at the end, like I said yesterday, we had an opportunity to try to better the time set by Bruno. It didn't happen. So really we only had one opportunity today. We wanted to go out there and really just get a baseline feel of how the car was going to be on the standard tires. I did a good time on standard tires. We were close to Bruno and Sebastien with standard tires. We didn't make any changes. We just made a small wing adjustment. We knew if I could get the right lap and time it right that we could do the lap time. I had to find the right space. As I was on the lap, the splits on the dashboard weren't working very well, so I was kind of flying a little bit blind in terms of what my pace was. I kind of just went by feel instead of watching the splits. I came around, and it was a 4. I tried for one more lap at the end and did a 5 on the final lap. Really didn't know where I was. I came in before the session ended. I had to sit for 20 or 30 seconds. Bruno and Sebastien were both on their final lap. That's always a little bit of a nail-biter. But it was good enough. So I'm very, very happy for the Forsythe team.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. It is now my privilege to introduce the executive director of Bridgestone Motorsports, Mr. Al Speyer, who will issue a brand new award that we have started this year on behalf of Mr. Tracy.
AL SPEYER: Thank you, Eric. Good afternoon, everyone. It's a real pleasure to be here. One of our new elements of our Champ Car sponsorship this year is the Bridgestone Pole Award. I think many of you know about it, but I'll just do a brief review. The Pole Award, something we instituted this year, and at every race there will be a flag presentation out in pit lane, which I was fortunate enough to just do here with Paul. We'll also be part of the press conference, presenting a trophy. Maybe the biggest part of the Pole Award is $5,000 goes to the winning driver at each event. There's also a $2500 donation that goes to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps at every event, and also $2500 that goes to a local charity. Here in Long Beach, it's the Grand Prix Foundation. That's at every race. Finally, as a season-ending award, for the driver who gets the most pole positions throughout the season, there will be a season-ending $20,000 award, and going along with that will be a $10,000 award to the driver who has the most poles crew chief. We've got some money behind this. It's a great pleasure to have Paul kick this off for us. As the final element of this, I want to present Paul with the trophy that goes along with all of this. (Applause.)
PAUL TRACY: I want to say thank you for Al and everybody at Bridgestone. They're huge supporters of the series and have been for many years. We're very, very happy to win this first award. Hopefully we can continue on. It's for a great cause for the Hole in the Wall Camps. I think I can speak for all the drivers, they're very happy to donate as much money as we can to help some kids that need it.
ERIC MAUK: I'd like to reiterate our thanks to Bridgestone and to Mr. Speyer for coming up with this award. Real quick, first time out of the box, Bridgestone hangs a new track record on the wall at Long Beach. How do you feel about the way the tires performed today, Al?
AL SPEYER: You know, we've been very happy with the tire performance here. I guess we've got a fair amount of experience here at Long Beach. We've been working on the alternate tire concept for a while. I think we'd like to get a little more difference between the performance of the standard tire and the alternate tire, but it's something we have to approach step by step. I think these guys can tell you better than I can what the performance is like.
ERIC MAUK: Paul, could you address that.
PAUL TRACY: It was great. Like I said, the performance of the standard tire is great. I knew we did a good time on the standard tire, so I knew I could go probably half a second quicker on the option. You know, that can also play with your head a little bit. When you do a time on the standard and you know the other tire is better, sometimes you tend to overdrive trying to find that extra time. You've just got to find the right pace, and I was able to do that.
ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and take questions from the media now for our top three qualifiers.
Q. Paul, times getting better at the end of the session. Were you surprised setting a record today, so much improvement?
PAUL TRACY: No. I think we talked about it yesterday. I felt that being as close as we were to the lap record yesterday, I didn't think we could break the lap record because you're talking about now from 2000, the cars from the year 2000 till now have about 150 less horsepower than they did then. But, again, the cars, like we talked about yesterday, they're so finely refined, the setups are so critical, you're really just massaging more and more speed out of the cars every year. It's creeped back up towards lap record time. The tires are better, as well. This option tire is faster than the standard. I mean, there's a couple things that go into it. But, I mean, we really understand the cars and know what makes them tick now, and that's why the times came down this year.
Q. Given the number of rookies, did you have any traffic issues with any of these guys at all?
PAUL TRACY: No.
Q. What was it like out there?
PAUL TRACY: No. I had two nice clear runs. I came out of the pits with one other guy and left enough room for him to get away, so I had room for myself. For me, it was just two nice clear runs with no traffic.
Q. Paul, what is it about this place that brings out the best in you?
PAUL TRACY: I don't know, you know, if it's so much anything about this place. I was definitely very motivated for the team. The team is very motivated. We've had a really good off-season in testing. I've said this over and over again to a lot of the journalists. I guess for me it gets frustrating sometimes when you pick up some of the journalism mags and the people say that the Forsythe team has lost their way, maybe not motivated. You know, we want to dispel that rumor. With Mario coming in, I think, like he said, coming in with no testing, just jumping in the car, I think we've provided him a really good car. You can't just get in a car and go fast unless the car is good. We've worked really hard over the winter. Gerry has spent a lot of money allowing the team to develop the car. I think it really paid off today.
Q. Paul, you heard from Mario talking about working with you. You were a little concerned a couple months ago whether you would even have a teammate.
PAUL TRACY: I didn't really know who it was going to be. I thought it was going to be Rodolfo. In the last minute, it was Mario. You know, Mario and I have a great relationship. His first win, I was on the podium with him. I congratulated him and told him that he needed to cherish it. It was kind of a strange race, the way it all happened. I said, "Hey, it doesn't matter how it happens, you still have your first win, and that's all that counts." Him and I have had a great relationship from that point. We're here to work together. I think we have some advantage now with Mario coming in now that he's got test days left. We can continue to test on into the season when other teams have stopped now. After this test in Portland, we'll still have five or six days left of testing for Mario. I think that really puts our team at a good advantage later on in the year.
Q. Mario, stepping into a car, not knowing anybody, having so little time, what differences did you notice? Was it a big eye-opener when you came in as far as how good this car was?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I have to say the HVM team had a very competitive package, as well. It's a very good team, as well. We worked for the past three years really making that team, developing it. It was good. But Forsythe just has something special about it. I think it's a lot of experience. I think it's a lot of confidence. And they know exactly what they're doing, let's put it that way. They know what to do, when to do it. They're not basically testing things around. They've been great to me this weekend. Everything I've needed I've gotten. Like Paul said, I think it's a team that can definitely put a competitive car up at the front. I believe that Paul and I will be a force to be reckoned with this year. I'm really proud to be his teammate, as well, because he's got a lot of experience. There's a lot of things I can learn from him. I think we'll do a great job together working towards making the car better all the time.
Q. Last year Paul got you with the push-to-pass. What are you expecting this time around?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I first expect a clean start. That's the best way to start the season. I think not just me, Paul and Mario, but the whole grid can do a clean start. That will be really important for the Champ Cars to have a nice good first couple of laps. It's a long race, and a different strategy, for sure. If Tracy had some wheel spin out of the last corner, I'll be just right there to pass him (laughter). If he does a good start, I'll just tuck behind him and I hope I will have a car that can make some pressure on him.
Q. Paul, you seem to be a little bit more placidly relaxed this weekend. You were just married again. Is that any element? Can you talk about that?
PAUL TRACY: I don't know. I got married to my girlfriend Patty last week. We've been together for two years. I felt it was the time, the right time for me to step up for her. You know, I'm in a good state of mind right now. I feel really confident about the team. I feel confident about how I'm driving. When you have that feeling, that's when good things come together. It's difficult to keep that on a year-round basis. But the season has started off the way we wanted to start. We're competitive. We've been quick in every practice session. Tomorrow's going to be a difficult race. It's a different strategy than what we've been playing with the last couple years. Very easy to make a mistake on strategy tomorrow. We just have to play all the cards right and hopefully we can come out on top again.
Q. Bruno, it's been 18 years since Newman/Haas won here. They've obviously been competitive just about every year. What is it going to take to get a Newman/Haas car to victory circle?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: For sure, finish the race in front (laughter). I think Newman/Haas has always been competitive, at least that I can remember the last three years. 2002, Cristiano was really good here. Last couple of years, I was on the podium. So we had really fast cars; just a matter to win. I mean, just everything should fall on the right place. I've been fast here. I've also been fast in Denver, that won the last couple of years. Also been fast in Cleveland, and some other tracks that we won the race in a row for a long time. It's just a matter of everything goes right. I hope tomorrow can have a great race. Going to be working hard to have a Newman/Haas - and I hope the PacifiCare Newman/Haas - car on the top of the podium.
Q. Is it true that you gave Paul the pole position as a wedding gift?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No. I'm not that nice with him (laughter). I like him. But it's funny, he got married Saturday. So Sunday morning I just had my ride, it was like 10, 10:30 in Miami. That's, I don't know, 8:30 in Vegas. He called me. I said, "Wow, you wake up so early." He said, "Hey, I just got married." I don't know, I think he was already hang over from the party (laughter). I mean, Paul and I are good friends. But for sure on the track, I want do beat him and he want to beat me. I respect him a lot on the track. I think he's -- at least I think he's one of the best drivers that Champ Car has ever had. Can show for a lot of wins, poles, and his title. But more than that, I mean, I don't know, 15 years that he's racing the series. All the 15 years he's been competitive. He's winning races, winning poles. That's pretty hard to keep that motivation and the speed for such a long time. I admire him a lot, but I want to kick -- I want to beat him as well (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: The family press conference hour. Appreciate that.
Q. Paul, have you ever won from the podium?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, 2003.
ERIC MAUK: You started second.
PAUL TRACY: I started second?
ERIC MAUK: Yes.
PAUL TRACY: I guess it's a good position to be in. I don't know when the last time I scored a pole here was.
ERIC MAUK: '94.
PAUL TRACY: I didn't win that year. I won in '93. You know, 11 years since I scored a pole. So I've won many times from not being on the pole. I guess it really doesn't change anything for tomorrow. It just puts us in a good mood today and puts the guys in a good mood. But we still have to work hard for tomorrow and figure out what we need to put on the car for tomorrow to be good for a 30-lap run.
Q. Mario, since you're so new coming into the team, how close are the setups between the two cars?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: They're very close. They were pretty close yesterday, a little bit different. Today we got a lot closer to Paul's. They're pretty much the same actually. It's a very good car they developed over the winter. When I got here on Tuesday, Paul and I arrived at the same time, and he told me that they've done a lot of good testing over the winter. So I was very happy to hear that because he definitely looked very confident. Here is the proof. Right away I jumped in the car and I can be fast.
ERIC MAUK: Before we break up for one-on-ones, I'd like to introduce Luis Frank, one of our regular journalists on the Champ Car tour. He's going to make a presentation on behalf of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcast Association.
LEWIS FRANK: On behalf of ARUBA, I'd like to present Champ Car racing with a trophy in appreciation for it being a sponsor of our 50th anniversary here. Thank you very much. Thank you to Champ Car for our support.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you.
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