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Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix of Denver

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Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Grand Prix of Denver

Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix of Denver

A.J. Allmendinger
Dan Clarke
Bruno Junqueira
August 13, 2006


DENVER, COLORADO

ERIC MAUK: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Grand Prix of Denver Sponsored by Bridgestone, round 10 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

We are joined by our top three finishers. We'll start with our third place finisher. He is the driver of the #14 CTE Racing HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for CTE Racing, Dan Clarke. Finishes third, earns the first podium of his young Champ Car career. First Champ Car rookie to finish on the podium since Andrew Ranger finished second in Monterrey last year. This is the second time that CTE Racing has finished on the podium this year. Nelson Philippe finished on the podium in Milwaukee.
Dan, you ran a good strong race, solidly in the top five. Right place at the right time. Here you are. How does it feel?
DAN CLARKE: Hasn't really sunk in yet. Yeah, as you said, we were actually running in sixth for the majority of the time. Engineer came on the radio about 10 laps to go and said the car in front of you was Justin. I couldn't see anybody. Three laps later I caught him and passed him. He was struggling.
That was a plus as well because by that time we'd already out raced Will through the pits. The rookie race is the priority for us, especially a weekend like this where we struggled so hard for pace. We really had to strategize, see where we could get some strengths. In the pit stop, it seems like we passed so many people. I didn't even realize we were sixth until about 25 laps to go.
Right at the end, came through the last turn after my engineer warned me of some contact. Sebastien and Paul were about to get into a little tussle. I was actually watching that after I went through the race. When I went through the corner I could see the screen. I missed that just like I missed the Tagliani and Tracy incident because I was walking back at that time.
Came on the radio to my engineer, and said, Don't you dare tell me that's a podium. We came so close two weeks ago. We came so close at Cleveland. We were actually running really strong in Portland, as well. It gets to the point you get kicked in the balls so many times, you think, Should we keep trying, because it hurts to be kicked in the balls that many times (laughter).
Now that we've actually achieved it, it hasn't sunk in yet. This is going to give us all a lot of confidence to keep perservering like we did today and maybe we'll have some more podiums hopefully before the end of the season.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good run today. A.J., you need to give him the memo on what to say in press conferences, what not to say.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I thought in British terms it was bollocks. That's what Justin used to say, or trousers or something, I don't know (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: Today's runner-up, driver of the #2 Hole in the Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. His second podium finish of the year, matches his season-high finish of second. The 30th podium of Bruno's career. He led 14 laps on the day, brought it home in second.
Good strong run, Bruno. Tell us a little bit about it.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It was a good race today. I'm quite pleased. Had some problem in traffic in qualify. Could be on top three, we were not. I started race, and I did a good start. I already pass Andrew Ranger and Tracy and Tag together. I was before. So I was making (indiscernible), everybody pit early. I was doing good mileage. I keep going.
I took the lead. I could put some good laps throughout the whole race. I was racing Sebastien, Tracy and Justin throughout the race. I passed them, they passed me. Sebastien passed me the end. It was a quite exciting, quite fun race for me.
In the end, Tracy and Sebastien get together, gave me a podium, so I'm quite pleased with that. For sure, Dan not going to lose anything because it's going to be on SportsCenter tonight the race. Fun. I'm quite pleased here in Denver. I have four podiums, two wins, one second, one third. That's better than my record in Road America here (laughter). I'm quite pleased here. I led the race every single time I race here. I'm quite pleased with this track.
This is a very difficult race today, especially on the red tires because I think they fall off so much. They start really good, and after they fell off so much of the pace. Everybody I'm sure that got real loose and was real hard to drive the car. When I got the lead, they said, Bruno, you got the lead, push, push hard. I had no tires to push hard. I was completely sideways going through every corner. You still have to try to save the tires.
I could keep a consistent pace. It was a hard race today, but I'm quite pleased with the result.
Very important after two really bad races without finish, so give some points, give the crew some confidence and myself. I think the next four races already did very well. Already won those races in the past, as I did here. I'm expecting very good results for me, the whole Newman/Haas team to finish strong this season.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good run today. As Bruno alluded to, he's led every time he started here. He holds the event record for total laps led by a Champ Car driver. He also is back in the top 10 with today's finish. He is just nine points out of what is a three-way tie for fourth place at the moment. The battle for fourth to tenth, which at the end of the season each one of those steps is worth $10,000 in bonus money, very tight battle going through there.
The winner of the Grand Prix of Denver Presented by Bridgestone, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. His fourth career win, fourth win this year. He becomes the first U.S. born driver to win four Champ Car races in a season since 1996. Michael Andretti won five, Jimmy Vasser, who won the championship that year, won four. That's the last time that has happened. He led 45 laps today. Earns his 13th career podium finish.
A.J., before we get into the second half of the race, which seemed to be fairly easy for you, tell us about that second stint. You really made some ground on that second stint today.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I think as Bruno said, a lot of people were struggling on the red tires. We just all weekend never really got our car to really work with the tires. So the first stint, I was pretty confident. Sebastien started on the new set of blacks. First 10, 12 laps, I was hanging right with him. We were easily pulling away from everybody else.
All of a sudden within a lap, two laps, the tires just went to junk and we were struggling. I was running like 64's at the end. Just a great call by Michael Canon, the whole engineering staff at Forsythe, to pull me in right there, instead of trying to run a couple more laps and pit with everybody else, because if we would have done that, we never would have had a chance at the second stint.
Great pit stop by my crew guys, as always. Once we got back out there, Sebastien was right in front of me again. I was just kind of pacing myself because the first five, six laps on the blacks were about the same as the reds. Then as Michael said, just stay with it. All of a sudden the car came alive. I could see Sebastien just really struggling hard on the reds. It was more than anything just a matter of trying to time the pass out right.
ERIC MAUK: A little trivia bit here. A.J.'s margin of victory 20 seconds today, that's the largest margin of victory in a Champ Car race since 1997. Alex Zanardi beat Mark Blundell at the US 500 in Michigan by over 30 seconds.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Where do you come up with these stats, Mauk?
ERIC MAUK: Tell us about that second stint. Was it as easy as it looked? When you're ticking off the last 10 laps, what goes through your mind?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: It wasn't easy at all. Sebastien was struggling, but he's a fantastic driver. He figured out how to get onto the back straightaway really well. It was getting tough to try to time the pass out right. That was probably where at that point my car was probably the most loose.
It was just trying to time it right. When the yellow came out, it kind of hurt me because I had to think about P.T. and Justin behind me again instead of just really focusing on Sebastien.
But I could see the last three laps before I passed him, I was getting decent runs on the back straightaway. I was making him use his 'push to pass'. He was getting into the last corner too deep. A couple times I put my nose into turn one to try to make an attempt. Finally I got a decent run on the back straightaway, really made him drive it into the corner hard. He overshot.
You know, I really -- I'd like to say it was all skill about timing the pass in turn one, since the Red Bull party station was off to the right in turn one. I was really trying to represent for my sponsor. So, yeah, it was -- I timed it perfect for turn one. That's all I was focusing for, was the pass in turn one.
ERIC MAUK: More importantly than the pass in turn one - possibly - you shaved 12 points off of Sebastien's lead, moving into second place. Talk about what this means for the championship?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: It's still going to be difficult. We're going to four tracks that -- well, I don't think there's really any tracks that Newman/Haas really sucks at. We're going to four tracks that they're really good at (laughter).
It's going to take a little bit of luck - maybe a bad race from Sebastien to really kind of get in there and put pressure on him. More than anything, I'm looking forward to going to Montréal and trying to keep the streak going, really just put pressure on him, try to get another victory for the whole Forsythe Indeck team.
ERIC MAUK: Unofficially top five in points, Sebastien, 275, A.J. moves into second with 243, 32 points our points leader, Justin Wilson slips to third with 240, we have a three-way tie at fourth between Nelson Philippe, Paul Tracy and Mario Dominguez, all with 149.
Questions for our top three finishers.

Q. A.J. talk if you could about the hometown thing. It's a big race for you to win.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, it was exciting doing the parade lap. The fans were going crazy and cheering for me. You know, I have to admit, the next lap I came around after passing Sebastien, I had to kind of take a look into the grandstand to see what they thought about it. They were just so excited and cheering for me, waving the American flag.
I mean, it really pumped me up when I saw that, to see how excited they were for me to get around them. To be able to win in my hometown, my second hometown race since San Jose didn't go too well, you know, I was just really pumped up and excited. All the people outside after the race cheering and high-fiving, stuff, it's a cool feeling to have that at these American races.

Q. Bruno, could you talk about the incident on the last lap. You're up here because of some unfortunate circumstances involving your team.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I was behind them. I didn't want to be too close because I knew Sebastien was going to try to pass Tracy (laughter). I just kept a good space. Actually, when Sebastien passed me in turn one, I did turn one and two outside on the marble. Next two laps I lost like five seconds. I just said three laps to go, let's just finish and see what's happen.
I looked that they went inside. Sebastien was on 'push to pass'. Tracy didn't have any 'push to pass' left. I cannot make any comments. I mean, I don't know whose fault is.
That's a kind of race accident. Maybe somebody's fault, I don't know. But two very aggressive drivers fighting for a good position. I think they (indiscernible) hit each other. I got lucky to finish on the podium. I got unlucky a lot of times this year, so it's about time to get something.

Q. A.J., I doubt that your team mentioned anything to you, but Paul Tracy had a potential fuel pickup problem where he might not have been getting the last five gallons out of the tank. I don't suppose you were told anything about that. You had no concerns, right?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: No. If they would have told me that, that would have freaked the hell out of me. The same on my car.
No, I mean, I just -- from basically once we pitted and got back out in the lead after Bruno stopped, I just asked my engineer, Just keep me updated on the lap times, whoever was second, was running so I could pace myself and run those. This track was so difficult. Obviously it was hard on the tires. In case a yellow came out, I wanted to have some tires left. I just kind of kept me in that. I just prayed to God for no yellows.

Q. Bruno, could you talk about the first part of the race where you went forever on one tank of fuel it seemed, what your feel strategy was in the early part of the race.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: The early part of the race, I was doing a mileage I couldn't believe. I never see the Ford-Cosworth doing that kind of mileage. For sure the altitude and less boost help here. But I cannot tell you guys, they said I was doing like --
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Give us a number. What were we doing?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I was really good mileage. Actually, in the end, when I got the lead, I had to go as fast as I could to try to get a lead. But I think everybody, as well, they stop early. They didn't went full stint because their tires was going off. My tires was going off, as well. I said, Leave me up here, I can hang around.
So it was really hard to drive on the red tires in a very loose car. I had to do it. That was it mostly part of the race. Running high 62's was like unbelievable on reds in the end.
At the end, when I pit, I just came out behind P.T. and Justin. Was just a trade -- actually, Tracy was behind me before the stop, Justin ahead of me. Maybe I lost a spot, but I got it back later.
ERIC MAUK: The results are official. There will be no changes in our finishing order today.

Q. A.J., could you talk about the ride you've been on with Forsythe.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Thanks for reminding me. That's good (laughter).

Q. You won four races out of six.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, it's a credit to actually the whole Forsythe Indeck team. Between my crew and my engineering staff, they just give me a real solid car every weekend. You know, at times we may not have the best car but they always give me a good enough car to at least be there, have a chance at the podium.
When you're near the podium or you're running on the podium consistently, you can get lucky or you can time it out right. I think probably Sebastien still at the end had the car to beat. It's just a credit to my team making the right calls at the right time and me pushing as hard as I had to at the right time.
You know, you get confidence in yourself and the team gets confidence. Whether you're doing anything different at that point, it just seems a little bit easier because confidence is just such a huge part of this game that we're in.

Q. Why do you think the reds went bad like they did?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: To make the race more exciting (laughter). I pass like three or four cars. Was very exciting because the tires are going off.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Who was it exciting for? You should have seen my car in the first stint. That wasn't exciting at all.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Neither for me. I think it was exciting for everybody but the drivers. I have to tell, this is one of the easiest track, the easiest track of the year to make a mistake because you don't have downforce and the car slides a lot. The regular tires, on the reds going north was so easy to put a wheel wrong, very, very easy. You had to drive like sideways all the time, like a go-kart, braking here, do the corners.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: 800-horsepower go-kart, it's exciting.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think that make the race exciting. But I hope next year the reds going to be a little bit better.

Q. Obviously this is one of the few weekends this year that CTE Racing, HVM struggled. You know, came through in the end. Did the car actually improve or were you just smart on tactics?
DAN CLARKE: Yeah, by the time of warm-up, we'd kind of given up trying to get ultimate speed out of the car. You have to think about the race. There's a few other variables you don't contend with until that point. Then by the time you do 97 laps in a race, eventually you're going to figure out the way you have to drive this thing around. Like Bruno said, the reds, they went away at the end. In the beginning 10 laps or something like that for me, it just sucked. The engineer all the time, Everybody is suffering the same, don't worry. I could see cars driving away from me. I'm like, What are you talking about, we suck.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Your engineer told you the same thing? You're running the same times as Sebastien. I'm like, Why is he six seconds ahead of me?
DAN CLARKE: You're doing the same time as the leaders. I can't see anybody. Then actually when the yellow came out, it took me right up to the very end to catch them up. It's unbelievable. He's like, Don't worry, you'll pack up, you'll pack up. By the end on blacks, we were quick. A few other teams struggled.
We can't complain that we had the worst car. We've had better cars this year. We've deserved podiums more than we have today. I'll take a podium any day. Actually, I can't wait to get back to the team because we have this continuing conversation that came up. It seems to be consistent between engineers and mechanics. It's about who will share drinks, who will share what they call backwash out here.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: God, we don't need that.
DAN CLARKE: I've been working for this podium all year (laughter). There's a golden rule actually, a special rule. It's when bubbly is involved on a podium. I can't wait to get back and capture my engineers. They're not trying to get away, but they're probably looking forward to it, yeah. I've saved half my bubbly for this.

Q. Dan, you started 13th today. Podium is really a great accomplishment. Going back to San Jose, you were in second place, you were following behind Sebastien, then had a mechanical. Can you explain what went wrong? Do you think you would have had a chance to ever challenge Sebastien in that race?
DAN CLARKE: I don't know. I've not raced enough with Sebastien yet to see exactly how many tricks he has up his sleeve with that car he drives.

Q. Ask Paul.
DAN CLARKE: I was looking at the information. We just posted fastest lap times a well before the gearbox started tightening up. At that point already the team were aware of a situation because they have the sensors. Whenever there's a problem, the engineer doesn't want to scare the driver, you just have to keep going. I was completely oblivious. Until right after doing the fastest lap, just started getting tighter on the straight. Next time around just wound up, then just lost drive. It turned out there was a full investigation within the team. A few people were keeping a low profile for a while. It was just a gearbox leak. The oil went out of it. It cooked itself. Ended up in the old hot pieces.

Q. Dan, could you take us through the last third of the race where you and Will and Nelson were doing well.
DAN CLARKE: I had no idea where Nelson was. I thought when I inherited the podium, I was excited, but your teammate's always your first competitor as well. I thought, he must be second or maybe he's won, I don't know. I wasn't even aware I was in front of him.
But I was battling really hard with Will. Had a bit of speed on him, but couldn't get past. When we did the pits, came out in front of him, ended up that we had -- I think we had a couple of 10ths on him each time. I got caught out a few times, made a few mistakes. Really just became a matter of focusing for the last 25 laps.
Then I got a message that Justin was in front of me. In a couple of laps, I was right on his rear-end. He was struggling. He was on red tires again. Somebody probably will get fired for that one.
I got past him. The last turn, I was going into the last turn on the last lap, my engineer told me there was contact, to watch out for contact. I came around, there's Sebastien and Paul Tracy. I came on the radio, just as I was crossing the line, said to my engineer, Don't you dare tell me that's a podium just handed to us like that. It was unbelievable. It still is. It hasn't sunk in yet.
I think karma probably has played a big hand today, after San Jose being kicked in the balls again. Sorry to stress that.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I have to tell one thing. I think these two guys, they have to race a year for Ganassi, they going to be much better (laughter). They going to run without money halfway through the season.
DAN CLARKE: To have it handed on a plate is brilliant. I wouldn't turn it down any day. I think it's just what we deserve as a team, especially after the weekend that we've had. Everyone has just done a solid job. The pit stops are obviously what gained us all the positions we did. I wasn't aware I was running sixth until the last quarter of the race.

Q. A.J. do you have any comment? Paul's volatile, been through this before.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I wouldn't say that.

Q. Any comment on what transpired? Sebastien obviously has his take on what happened. We've yet to hear what Paul thought. I know it's racing. What are your thoughts being his teammate?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: That's what I say, thank you. Just a couple more of those.

Q. Bruno, at the end when your teammate got by you, were there any team orders for points or did you let him go by?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No, zero. One of the nicest things about Newman/Haas, there is no team orders. For sure when he went to pass me, he didn't like completely pass me. I could have like maybe tried to make the corner and keep ahead. But already got together here in 2004. I kind of give him a lot of space. Then I got on the marbles outside. When I got the marbles, I went wide, then he had a chance to pass me turn two. Maybe if I was racing somebody else, I would play a little bit harder. But I was on the 'push to pass', didn't let him by. He was faster than me on that top. In the race, I was faster than him, I pass him.
There is no team order on the team. That's nice. The only team order is don't crash each other. That's what we try to do.
ERIC MAUK: All right. That will wrap-up our press conference. We go racing again in two weeks' time at Montréal.



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