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CART Media Conference

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

A.J. Allmendinger
Patrick Carpentier
August 12, 2002

MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon everyone, thanks for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations. And we're happy to be joined by two of the shining stars following this weekend's CART action in Mid-Ohio. In just a few minutes we will hear from AJ Allmendinger who was crowned the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion on Sunday. Leading off today's call however we welcome in the champion from yesterday's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, Canadian Patrick Carpentier. Thanks for joining us.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thanks for having me.

MERRILL CAIN: He completed a perfect weekend at Mid-Ohio on Sunday by taking the checkered flag after having won the provisional and final pole positions. And he also led 89 of the 92 laps in the race in route to his second victory in three races. With the win Patrick jumps to second place in the seasons points standing with 95 points. And I think we can safely say now that the championship battle is on as Pat has closed the gap to 27 points on the seemingly unbeatable Christian da Matta with 8 races remaining on the schedule. Pat congratulations on a remarkable weekend and you even showed after the race that you don't go back on your word as you followed through on a bet you made earlier in the weekend. You went back out on the track later in the evening and actually ran down pit lane wearing nothing but a checkered flag and a smile. That really took some guts. We hope you didn't catch a cold. How did that transpire? Could you tell us that story real quick?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I'm not sure I want to tell that story. But it was fun. I waited until everybody left the track and then that thing went around North America or everywhere actually pretty fast. So everybody was kind of waiting for that. All the interviews I did after the race asked if they were going to see me naked or something. And every time I said, hey, let's go, let's do something. And we did it. And we laughed. We had a good laugh doing it. I'm not sure the picture looks that good, but hey, we had good fun. And I said I would do it. But next time I'm going to think twice before I say something like that.

MERRILL CAIN: Before you put your foot in your mouth. You get creative points for the most creative use of a checkered flag. Let's open it up to questions. We have got a full slate of media on the call for you today, Patrick, so let's begin. Do you have a question for Patrick.

Q. I spent a lot of time with Patrick this morning again, but maybe you can talk about the approach to the next race [Road America] and do you think that the car should be quite good there also?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think the car and the chassis are going to be good at Elkhart. We thought it would be good at Mid-Ohio and it was very good. So we're really happy about that. And Ford-Cosworth has been doing a fantastic job lately. So I'm really proud of how they have been coming up and supporting us. So I think it's looking very good, although it's very hard to say because it's so competitive. In Vancouver I was 16th. We won the race before and this race we won again. So hopefully we can keep going on that fast streak. But the CART series is so competitive that it's hard to tell beforehand. I think the chassis is going to be a strong chassis there and we should be up at the front.

Q. I talked to the doctors that you guys work with [CART Director of Medical Affairs, Steve] Olvie and [CART Chief Orthopedic Consultant, Terry] Trammell, and Trammell said that you've been to his house so many times that you know where they keep the towels there. But I'm curious, can you tell me some stories about working with those guys. I know they're pretty important to what you do.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think they're the most important guys. I think they're some of the best doctors in North America. And the CART series is actually extremely lucky to have people like that around. Actually the reason why I know of Terry's house is because I've broken so many bones that I spent quite a few weeks there having him fixing me up. These are two great guys and two doctors that have so much knowledge and have been around racing for so many years. They understand racing injuries, which sometimes can be fairly different than any other injuries. Sometimes you can hit the wall at 200 miles an hour and nothing seems to be apparent from the outside. And you can feel pretty well. But your lungs can collapse or something. And they know everything about that and anything that can happen. So they make sure that you get the right tests and they make sure that everything's okay. I think if Alex Zanardi is still alive today, it's almost a hundred percent because of what these guys did on the track before they brought him to the hospital. They had to do a surgery right there on the track and perform a lot of stuff that I don't think too many doctors can do on the spot. So I really hang my hat to these guys and they have helped me many, many times and they're great characters and very nice people.

Q. Can you imagine functioning in your job the way you do without them?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I would be afraid to think about that. That is something I would have in my mind. And it's something that I'm not sure I would like to do. Because with these guys, if something happens, you know you're going to have the best treatment possible. And if that fails or something, I think nobody else could have almost done better than that. So they're really important to the CART series and CART has one of the best medical packages in place in any sport right now.

Q. First of all congratulations and happy birthday tomorrow.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah. Thank you very much.

Q. You're welcome. Okay. Now you've got two wins in the last three races, but no contracts still. What's the situation, Patrick, with negotiations for 2003? Are you close to signing with Player's or are you close with another team? Where are you at?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Actually, we're getting closer. But nothing really specific at the moment. We're talking with many teams. And as you know we're looking at everything right now and I'm having a blast where I'm at right now in CART. And I'm really enjoying it. But we will see what's going to happen in the future. I think for anybody anywhere at the moment with the economy being what it is, sponsorship dollars don't really come that easy. So that makes it difficult for any kind of series that you, or anybody wants to enter. So we will see what's going to happen. But at the moment my agent was there this weekend and a lot of stuff actually opened up that did not before the weekend. So it's really looking good. A lot better than what it's been in the past few months and I know I'm going to race next year but I'm just not sure where I'm going to be. I'm going to be on a competitive team and also one that can make we win races.

Q. The two wins- does that take your mind off the contract situation and it becomes secondary, because obviously you're in a better position now than you were three weeks ago.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Oh, yeah, for sure. But I don't know right now. I tasted the victory and I just loved it. I just love the way things are going with this team at the moment. The engineers and the mechanics and the guy, I think for the first time since we have been together, have never been so close and it's a big challenge and everybody is behind me as far as the mechanics and engineers are concerned. They're all behind me and they're pushing so hard for me to succeed. I'm in a tough situation but right now I think I'm having the best time of my life. I really am enjoying what I'm doing.

Q. Just following up on what you were saying on how everything is going so good, but is there just the slight bitter sweet aspect to it? I read some quotes I think it was in a story this morning that these guys are doing a great job knowing that I'm not going to be there next year. It seems like in your mind you have already sort of left the team, but at the same time your closer to the team than ever. Is it kind of a strange situation there?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: It is a strange feeling, because with my guys, the mechanics and I have a really strong bond. If it's the last year then let's give it our best shot and let's see what comes out of it. But let's have fun and let's enjoy it. But it's fantastic to live through that. It's like a little bit of a story that is being written and it's fun to be part of it. But as far as next year, I don't know. I don't know exactly where I'm going to be or if it's somewhere else at the moment. But right now everything is up in the air. And I want to talk to a lot of people and actually my agent was there this weekend and he talked to a lot of people. And it's looking really good.

Q. Can you look ahead to this coming weekend? To the following weekend, you have the home race here in Montreal. With the two wins in the past three races behind you, you must be feeling an at an all time high in terms of your confidence. Plus, I would think this is a track that's well suited for the Reynard. It's a fast track but a smooth track with hard braking. Those seem to be the qualities which bring out the best in you and the qualities that the track has. Can you talk about your confidence level and how the car will perform?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: We don't know yet. That's one of the questions we have. We don't really know how the car is going to be. But I think the team is coming up with some new stuff as far as suspension goes and coming up with some new stuff with the engine or something like that. But you know they're going to come up with a couple of things that we think can make the car a little bit faster. Hopefully they can come up with that for Montreal. They're not sure where they're going to come up with that, but it's going to be before the end of the season. Hopefully we can get it soon. But right now the car is really strong. It was strong at Mid-Ohio. We think it's going to be strong at Elkhart Lake and we're hoping it's going to be strong in Montreal. But Montreal is kind of a street circuit because the track is extremely slippery. The corners are fairly sloped and you have hard braking and hard acceleration. So we will see how it goes. And maybe the Reynard will be a very strong there.

Q. And your confidence level? Has it given you a boost in terms of your confidence, the fact that you got two out of the past three?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, it's very good. It's very good for confidence. But even if I'm extremely confident I think if the car is not up to the challenge with [Cristiano] da Matta and these guys, it's going to be tough to compete with them. What's been raised more than just my confidence is, is because I've always pushed the car pretty hard. I think it's just a team confidence. Everybody knows what they need to do and [Player's/Forsythe Racing Technical Director] Bruce [Ashmore] is really guiding the team perfectly and [Chief Engineer] Michael [Cannon], the engineers and all these guys. And everybody does a hundred percent of what they should be doing in every department. And that's why we're that fast. My engineer also seems to be getting extremely confident and I think that that's helping a lot.

Q. Patrick, how are you and congratulations and happy birthday?


Q. Sorry, I missed your race on the weekend. But hey, maybe that's the reason you won. I wasn't there to bother you. My question is, with the contract situation, do you feel you've backed Player's in a corner with two wins in the last three races? I mean, they're going to take a lot of criticism in Quebec particularly if you're not signed back with them for next year. How do you feel about that? Can you talk about that?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I'll talk about Paul [Tracy] first. I think I know Paul Tracy so, he is a well liked driver. Pretty much an all-around kind of guy. Whether it's Montreal or Quebec or Vancouver. He's a fast driver and he's been pretty spectacular at times. And I think that the question that a lot of people ask is not why did they hire Paul Tracy, because everybody knows why they hired Paul Tracy. And a lot of teams wanted him and they wanted him to be a part of the Player's team for the coming season. But it's just that at a point that for me when the team's coming together, and I've had the strongest year with the team at this point in the season in a long time. And we seem to be looking like we may have a shot at the championship. And it is my best year ever. I feel I'm ready to win races and win championships. I'm ready to battle at this level and with my experience and everything, what I've learned I think is starting to pay off. So I think the timing is not very good. But sometimes that's life. Sometimes I've been with them for five years, which have been really wonderful. We had a great time and I can remember some stories and I still laugh about it and how it was fun. I would say that without them I don't think I would be where I'm at today. And they brought me up in racing actually like nobody else did. Sometimes they were hard and sometimes they were really encouraging and sometimes just different. But with all that put together, it's really, it really made me more mature. It's made me grow and made me extremely strong mentally. And I'm always the same, it doesn't matter where I'm at on the grid. I always keep working the same. So no, it's good for that. But as far as what's going to happen or if I'm going to stay there, I think it's a thin choice. A lot of drivers don't stay five years with the same team and I've been fortunate to do that and now I think maybe it's time to move on for both of us. Or maybe it's not. We will see in the next few weeks. I don't know more than you.

Q. From what you've just said in the last minute or so it sounds like you're talking in past tense that you've already decided that you won't be with Player's next year.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: It's certainly looking that way. I think that that's the way it's heading. And that's the way it's going to be. That's actually everything we're doing and everything we're working on- to move on.

Q. There's been some speculation that you're going to replace Christian at Newman/Haas Racing. Can you give us any hint about that?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I've talked to [Team owner] Carl [Haas] this weekend. And I had a good discussion. We talked about a few other things. But it's just funny because it just started as a joke. One of the one of the guys that works on the team there, Kenny, he came into the trailer and brought a sheet of paper. It was in my locker and it said here's a peak at your future. And I looked at the paper and it said Newman's Own, it was a salad dressing. I thought it was pretty funny. [Team owner] Paul Newman came just before the race and said we will give you a case of the salad dressing next year. And then he went to his car. So, but we will see what's going to happen. I don't know. It's a pretty good area of discussion right now with all the teams. We're talking in couple different series and looking to see what's going to happen. What's been happening lately should help me, I think.

Q. Hundredth start and you probably got this win. I got a couple things to ask you about here. It seems to me that after the race the longest time that I was talking to you about this whole thing you more or less intimated that even though there are possibilities of you jumping, I think a lot of us have already painted you over to the IRL or something, but if you could, you would like to stay in CART and stay in this series, is that accurate?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yes. It's not done. Nothing is done in the IRL at the moment. I'll just say, I'll answer it this way. I'm really enjoying what I'm doing now. I really enjoy these tracks. There were a lot of people yesterday that came to see us and it was a fun race. And I think this series that has 18 drivers which are some of the best drivers in the world. I think both series have good and bad sides. But right now the only thing I can tell is at the moment I have nothing firmed up. I like ovals and I like road courses. And for me I win my paycheck in life trying to win races and being a race car driver. And that's what I intend to do for the next six, eight years. And if there is no opening for me in CART, and I cannot do it there, and I would being assured that I would be with a top team that would support me and give me the equipment to win races, then I would go somewhere where I believe I can win races.

Q. Can you explain what happened? It seems that since you more or less have told us that you probably won't be back with Player's next year, all of a sudden this team catches fire. Was there some pressure taken off with you and Michael and [Team Manager] Phil [LePan] and everybody on the team saying, as you said before, let's just play this string out here, it looks like we're reaching the end of the line. Did that relieve some pressures so this team finds cohesion?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yes, I would agree with that a little bit because there was so much stress in Toronto and so much pressure. We had so many problems working up there. It was one of the toughest weekends that the team has ever had. And it was just very difficult. I think it made us grow up and then knowing that I most likely will be gone next year, and not knowing what's going to happen, the only thing I can control is how I drive the car and how I can get involved with the engineering department. And we just want to give the best shot we can. If I can win it for Player's, whether I'm there or not, next season, it would be fantastic. It would be a way to say thank you for the five years that we have had together. But it was a bit of a relief. Because right now I seem to be in the mood where I don't really care what happens. The only thing I can say is that I care about how much effort I put in and how hard I drive and the rest of it, like my friends say, just put it in someone else's hands and let's see what's going to come out of it.

Q. Some of the problems you mentioned in Toronto was the traction control seemed to be a problem there. But is that solved today and is that one of the reasons why the race looked so easy?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I agree with you and that's one of the things I forgot to mention. Since the beginning of the season we have ran at the front a few times, we were second in Milwaukee, we were running second or third in Japan and got disqualified. We could have almost won the race. We could have finished, not win the race, but finished in the top three. And in Mexico at the first one there. I didn't pay attention. We didn't communicate and I didn't look at the board and it was half and half of a mistake on myself and the team. We missed that and then in Chicago we had another problem. We had so many mechanical and different kinds of problems and bad luck, so it seemed like we're doing really bad. But most of the race we seemed to be right up there at the front. Lately we seem to be able to eliminate all the small problems and the small details that kept us from being in the front. And that's the reason why we're at the front now. I didn't even think of problems at Mid-Ohio. And we didn't have problems. So when you have that, you have a perfect weekend. I wouldn't say we're not going to have problems for the rest of the year. It happens to everybody. But when you have a really good weekend like that, it certainly helps. And it was the same thing at Cleveland. And just look at Vancouver. We were running in the top-seven most of the time, and in the morning practice I crashed the car in the wall, we had to go to the backup and we had a problem with the backup until the race came and we figured out what it was more for the race. But it was another thing that kept us from qualifying at the front. And the CART series, if you want to run at the front these days, during the race, you have to qualify at the front. Because every lap, even if there is a hundred laps it's all qualifying laps and it's all high speed and it's who is going to be the fittest and who is going to be the toughest that is going to be there at the end.

Q. Can you think of a better way now of being the hottest driver in the series of going into Montreal? It's going to be a party. Unbelievable.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: It's good. It takes pressure away for sure. It's good for me. It's good for Player's and it's good for the fans. I think it's fantastic. With the team we have so much pressure and I can understand it. When you have a sponsor that puts so much effort into it, too, because the guys, I think they just wanted to win races. They wanted to win, they wanted to taste victory and it was not happening and it was tough. It was always something. And then to see that happening, I think there's a lot of stress relief coming into Montreal and it's certainly looking good and it's a lot of fun. If we can have a good weekend at Elkhart, oh, man, it's going to be crazy. But it's going to be good.

Q. Pat, when you saw that checkered flag getting ready to start waving in front of you, considering everything that has gone on this season, what were you feeling inside?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I was just really felt a deep satisfaction inside myself. I was very happy. We kept the race under control. The guys had fast pit stops and we ran a good race. My engineer talks to me and just says the right things these days and motivates me. And we had- we have a good relationship. But I was just really feeling deep personal satisfaction inside. But for some reason the biggest satisfaction I had was the first day on Friday. To me it's like relief. A lot of stress and sometimes frustration comes out and then it just got better and better over the weekend. And it was perfect.

Q. When you look back over this weekend, you talked about the fact that it just seemed like everything you did was right. When you look back over this weekend and compare it to things that have occurred not just this season, but everything that led up and over the last five years of being up-and-down, up-and-down, do you all of a sudden say, okay, this is how we're supposed to do it. Now I've learned the way this works?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah. But I cannot want to say that. Because I remember in Atlantic we started running well and then I started telling people, oh, I do this and it's because we do that that we're so fast. And then from then on to the rest of the season it was one of the worst seasons I've ever had. But I don't want to say anything, I just want to stay in that mood. But I really think that really with the way this team operates and the people we have around us, with [Technical Advisor] Tony [Cicale] and Bruce, and Michael and Terry, I think these guys are all extremely brilliant engineers and really good people. And I think that Michael has also done a pretty good job lately with the team and it's where this team should be. And that's how I used to race in Atlantic and that's how I used to run my races and that's how I enjoy myself. Right now I seem to really enjoy myself. Maybe because I just am at a point where it doesn't matter to me, I'm just happy to drive the car and I love driving the car and I'm happy when I go back home. I'm happy to go to the next one. But for some reason I don't seem to have the pressure like I used to put on myself before.

Q. And now the important question that everybody else is afraid to ask, so I'll go ahead and ask, and I guess it's something that's been asked of a lot of Scotsmen over the years that wear kilts. What did you have on underneath that flag?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I'll just remain quiet with this one because I don't want to say what I had underneath that flag. I had what every guy has.

Q. Going into Road America it's almost twice as long as the other venues you go to. Do you approach that differently because each lap is a little longer?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah. I like tracks that are extremely demanding physically. I really do. I like Mid- Ohio, I like Cleveland because I trained very hard this winter. I'm really in good shape physically. If I have the car that can do it, I think I can maintain the qualifying rhythm throughout pretty much the whole race. And Elkhart Lake is a little bit less physical because you have such long straightaways, so you have time to relax for sure. For me I think it's better if it's more physical. But I like that track. I think it's a fun track. I've always really, really enjoyed myself in high speed corners. And that's what Elkhart Lakes is made of. So hopefully we get a good weekend there. It's looking good because the Reynard is a good chassis and we're going there to fight. So we will see what happens.

Q. And looking a further weekend down the road, Montreal, there's been some speculation about the top speeds of the Champ Cars as compared to the Formula 1 cars. A number of people say that the Champ Cars won't reach the same speeds as the F 1 cars. And obviously they're quite a bit different. But they seem to be down a bit on horsepower as compared to the turbocharged cars. What do you think?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yes, I think my engineers calculate that the top speed will be very similar, within a few miles an hour. We think the CART car is going to be pretty much as fast as the F 1. But as for the lap, we think that F 1 car is going to be faster by about five seconds. So we will see what it does. But it's not the same thing, it costs a few million dollars to have a car in the CART series and it costs a hundred million dollars to have a winning car in Formula 1. So it's not the same category. It's not the same technology that we use. The races are really good in the CART series. And Formula 1 is more of focused on technology. I think with an unlimited budget and the use of carbon fiber brakes, they can use a lot of stuff which make the cars about three or four hundred pounds lighter than the Champ Cars. So they can go around corners and under braking, which is where you make the most time, you have low speed corners. So they can brake a lot later than the Champ Cars. And that's where they make their time.

Q. And actually on that comment, late braking, and whatnot, this last weekend that you made a spectacular late braking maneuver which caused da Matta to be put off his game. And I was looking at some of the tapes and you seem to be doing that quite consistently around Mid-Ohio. Can you talk about that a little bit?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I like that track. I think you have to be fast there and you have to go into the corners fairly deeply. And that's where I seemed to be successful and I made better time in the Reynard. But sometimes when you try to go hard into the corner and you don't have the car to support it. The speed at which you come out is slower. And then you lose time on the straightaway. But no, it was good. My car brakes really well. And da Matta, I knew was going to try me, because I saw him coming in the mirrors. And I just broke really, really, really late. Actually where I broke at I was not even sure if I was going to be able to make the corner. And I tried deeper and he didn't make it. But I was pretty lucky that he didn't hit me when he spun. And I didn't know quite exactly what happened. Because where I broke I kind of needed to be looking forward more than backwards because it was going to be tough to make the corner. Then once I made the corner I looked in the mirrors and I saw his car backwards in the sand. And it was a big relief because he was starting to put a lot of pressure on me.

Q. Well congratulations begin and good luck this weekend.


MERRILL CAIN: Thanks for joining us on the CART teleconference today. Again, an excellent job this weekend. We look forward to seeing you back on track in Road America in just a few days and have a great birthday tomorrow. We wish you happy birthday on your 31st.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thanks, guys. Okay.

MERRILL CAIN: We now welcome in AJ Allmendinger, newly crowned champion of the Barber Dodge Pro Series, the official entry level in CART's Ladder System of driver development. We appreciate you joining us on today's call.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Thank you. I'm actually in a pay phone in a hotel in Chicago, so sorry if it gets a little noisy.

MERRILL CAIN: There you go, that's dedication for you. After producing five wins, three pole positions and seven podium finishes in eight races, AJ sewed up the Barber Dodge crown in Mid-Ohio by finishing third in Sunday's race. This season has been such a whirlwind for you. I know it's been kind of a rollercoaster of emotions for you. How did you celebrate winning the championship?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: The year's been great. It really actually hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe that this early in the season I was able to get it done. And last night I just went out with couple of friends that I'm traveling with and we had some fun and just relaxed. I kind of basically thought about the whole year. But I know now it's going to make the last races fun because I can relax and just solely go on for victories.

MERRILL CAIN: Good deal. With that we will open it up for questions for A J.

Q. What do you have plans for, for next year? Are you looking at - obviously you'll be looking for Atlantics but are you looking working on another Barber deal in case you can't go Atlantics or will the sponsorship be enough to make it through Atlantics?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I'm actually working hard on the Atlantic stuff. I feel that especially with the way the year's gone with the five victories that if I come back, it can almost only go down from there after the year I had already this year. But I'm concentrating on trying to get a deal done. I've talked to a lot of teams and sponsors about possibilities. So it's really looking good for a chance to run it. It's just a matter of finding the right sponsor and finding the right team that I'm going to jell with for next season.

Q. Well at least you've got two more races you can show yourself and do that with. Is Elkhart Lake one your favorite tracks?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I had a great time last year there. It's an exciting track - long and fast. There are a couple of great corners that are made for passing. But yeah, I like the track. Last year I kind of struggled with some of the practice. We had some problems. So I'm really looking forward to getting back there and practicing on Thursday and then going from there and trying to do what I've done all year.

Q. What are your two favorite corners there?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I would actually have to say the corner at Turn 1 and then I guess it would be Turn 4 after the back straightaway. You go through Turns 1, 2 and 3 and the hard braking and that's a first gear corner for us which makes for great passing. And then the kink is just amazing trying to go through there flat.

Q. Obviously there's a lot higher profile in Barber Dodge now over the last two years since it's been apart part of the CART system. I would expect from that there's a lot higher degree of media attention, and obviously the fans get exposed to it a whole lot more. Now I know you were karting before you got into Barber Dodge and you may not be able to answer completely, but I guess talking with the team people, have you noticed a larger increase in the fan appeal and the press activity?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Definitely. I think it's great that the series gets to run at most of the Champ Car races and because of that we got a lot of press. I know we get a lot of the Atlantic people look at the drivers in the Barber Dodge Pro Series now. A lot of the Champ Car teams are looking. And because of that the fans get exposed to it. The series this year I think, just from the couple of races I saw last year, has drawn so much of a fan base. It's amazing. People are keeping up on their favorite drivers and looking toward them to the future of CART. And because of that it makes it exciting to race in front of the huge crowds that we have had. It makes it fun to go out there and win races and have the fans look at you. And especially it makes it a lot easier to talk to an Atlantic team because they already know how you are because they have been watching the series.

Q. I understand that Paul Tracy has played quite a pivotal role in your career. I just wanted to talk about your history with Paul and also what your ongoing relationship is.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well I met him midway through the 2000 season. And since then our relationship's just been growing. I'm now getting to basically be at every race that he's at that we're running and he's watching me during the weekend. I can go to him for advice and then just career advice too. In talking to the right teams, talking to sponsors, he plays a big part in that as well. And I definitely can say without him I don't think I would be where I'm at right now. He's been a big influence in my racing career. I thank him so much for it. I just look forward to continuing that through the Atlantics and having him watch me and then hopefully it would be awesome to have a chance to race against him hopefully in 2004.

Q. So you drove for a season and a half on his karting team?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Actually I still run with him. I ran a few races this year and will go to the Super Nationals. And I still race on his karting team. I love doing it because karting is so much fun and it keeps you in such great shape. So I think that's a big part of the relationship that's growing. I am still doing it and I know he's very pleased with how that's going and it's fun.

Q. When you look back over everything that has occurred this year, is there any one thing that's stood out that you said, okay, here's what I've learned this year in the Barber Dodge Series that will help me.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean it's just not one thing, it's a bunch of things. It's started off with on the technical aspect of being able to work. I said it before and I'll say again, I thank [Barber Dodge Pro Series Lead Driver Coach] Barry [Waddell], and I give him so much credit for being able to work with him this year in the series, just learning what the car technically had and learning the difference between when the car's good and when the car can be perfect. I struggled with that coming into the season. I could drive the wheels off a car no matter if it was good or bad. But I never knew when it was perfect. So I learned this year when it's not perfect I can come in and make a change in order to make it to where I want it to be. So that's been probably the biggest learning curve that I had this year. And basically just the way I carried myself, the media exposure that I get and then how to take that and use it to my advantage. I feel every race I grow a little bit in my driving, just learning more and more. I feel since I got back from New Zealand I'm almost about 10 times further ahead on the learning curve because of all the stuff that goes into the Barber Dodge Pro Series. And I look forward to trying to take that to the Atlantics next season.

Q. It's interesting you touched on something I want to go a little bit deeper with it. You said perfect. Is it almost like having a car to a point that you just can't make it better, but in years past if you screw the car up because you try to make it better. But just knowing where that fine line is of, okay, that's it, let's leave it alone, let's drive it.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Exactly. My biggest problem was I got to the point where my times were quick and I thought, okay, right there. The car's good. Let's not touch it. But now I know by some of the set up stuff that we have done when the car is perfect, so that if it's not and I'm still playing, but if it's not I can make the car just a little bit better and take me to the top of the time sheets. And at the same time, like you said, when knowing it's perfect not to touch it and just leave it for the rest of the weekend. And I have been able to do that a couple times this year. Where early I had the set up and Friday morning I really don't touch the car for the rest of the weekend on and it's worked.

Q. I know that you participated in the CART Mentor Program this year. You spent some time with the Toyota Atlantic Team and Hilton Motorsports. I know you got to experience a lot of that, including working with the team, working with the drivers, debriefings, team meetings and all those things. But you're also doing a little bit of coaching as I understand it for one of the drivers in the Formula Dodge National Championship. Have you got to see things from the other side of the coin and how does that help your driving?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: First the CART Mentor Program is great because I got a chance to be with a great team right there and learn the aspects of what they go through on a daily routine and during the race weekend and what the drivers have to go through. And the learning curve that I got there, it helped a lot because now I have an opportunity, when I get to run the series next year, I'm that little bit ahead knowing what the driver goes through and what the crew goes through and just everything that they do. And at the same time I've always liked taking drivers from karting where I feel that I can help them and I see talent. So, I've been doing a little bit of coaching for [Formula Dodge National Championship driver] Bert [Frisselle] and actually Brian, his brother in the regional series. I go to their races and I just got done with their last national race. And Bert actually ran the race in Mid-Ohio in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. So I've been trying to help them out as much as possible too. And it's fun for me and it really actually gives me pleasure when I see that I can help improve them just a little bit more.

Q. Certainly giving something back that probably Paul Tracy gave to you?


MERRILL CAIN: That's great. AJ, I want to thank you for joining us today. Again congratulations on another strong performance and a great run for the Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship. It has to feel great for you and I know your season is not done yet, you have a few more goals you want to accomplish. We appreciate you joining us this afternoon.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well thank you for having me. Anytime.

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