Erik Mauk: Thank you for joining us tonight for the top-three qualifying press conference for tomorrow night’s Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite and Argent Mortgage, the sixth round of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We are joined first by our third qualifier, the driver of the #3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone Paul Tracy, who will start third after putting up a time of 21.075 seconds in Thursday’s practice. This marks the fifth time in the first six races that our series co-leader has started in the top three. Paul, you went out and practiced today and ran pretty well. Are you disappointed that you didn't get a chance to better your position tonight.
Paul Tracy: I think everybody is disappointed. I mean ultimately we would like to be out there on the track tonight and qualify for the fans and a lot of fans were hanging around and waiting. I am sure that we could have gone well tonight, so it's disappointing because we wanted to put on a good show for the fans and Mother Nature didn't allow us to.
Erik Mauk: During practice today, did you work on qualifying or did you work on your race car with full tanks?
Paul Tracy: I worked on my race car in the early part, did some long runs and the car felt good. We tried a new set of tires and went pretty quick. But then later on tried another new set of tires and made a change and I brushed the wall and it was pretty near the end of the session, so that was it for us. But Alex did a great time in the conditions that were out there with the wind and the temperature was pretty warm and it was very windy and Alex did a really strong time. So we weren't capable of beating that with the way the car was set up. But we were going to change it for tonight and see what would happen. But to start third is still good.
Erik Mauk: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Now we move to the second qualifier, the driver of the #9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Rahal, Michel Jourdain Jr., Michel led Thursday’s practice with a best time of 21.040 seconds and earned his best-ever oval-track starting spot. Michel, how did things go for you today?
Michel Jourdain Jr.: Today, we didn't want to make too many laps. We felt yesterday night we did a long run and some new tires on too. We thought the track changes so much from the wind -- it was really windy this afternoon and with the weather there was so much temperature change on the track, we knew the car was going to be really different so we didn't want to change the car much for the conditions the track was in. Still, I mean, Alex's time was really, really strong. I don't know if anyone was going to be able to beat him, but obviously we were going to try, we were going to make some changes from yesterday for tonight. Hopefully we could improve. In the end, I am really happy starting in the front row, and see what will go tomorrow, it will be a long race.
Erik Mauk: First time you head into an oval track, front row, going on the outside, take us through your thought process, what you think about the first lap tomorrow.
Michel Jourdain Jr.: Well, I mean, it will be a very long race, so I mean, of course, to finish -- first you have to finish. We're coming tomorrow; hopefully we are going to try to win the race, but we have to be smart in the first corner and get through it and then let's see what happens. I just want to -- at least the car changes always so much, so the first thing is very important to have a good car and work on it in the first and go from there.
Erik Mauk: We are now joined by our polesitter for tomorrow’s race, the driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Alex Tagliani, who took the pole with a best lap of 20.882 seconds (177.914 mph). Alex, congratulations. I guess the question on everybody's mind is where did that lap come from?
Alex Tagliani.: Well, we had a very good car yesterday. We wanted to put new tires but we didn't at the end with the yellows, so we were 8th yesterday, and we were very looking forward for this practice today because we wanted to get up there in the sheet because everybody was concerned about the rain. So we went for qualifying time early and we were first, so in the middle of the session we stopped, came out of the car, we checked the car and took some data out of the car and we stopped for a half hour; then we went back on, and did a little change. The car was really good so I said, well, it's windy and it's kind of scary to reduce the push into the car, but the car feels good, so we went forward and continued to reduce push out of the car and put the new set of tires at the end and we did it. So it was just -- everything went well in that session for the team, the engineers, myself, and we needed a little bit of luck and we didn't have any traffic on top of that, so it is one of those practices when everything goes good.
Erik Mauk: It is a fairly well documented story, we talked a few times about how two, three weeks before the season started you were still getting guys on this team; now just six races in you guys are sitting on the pole. Talk about how that feels.
Alex Tagliani.: It's great, this race here is a place where Johnson Controls has the biggest headquarters, 500 people here and it was the best race to do it, so everybody was pretty excited and I am starting to work really well with the engineers on the team and we can see it that it's going pretty good, but even though you have one of those days that everything goes good, you know, we're still the kind of team that we really have to continue to work really hard to be able to compete like that all the time and be consistent in this competitive series. So it is good and I am pretty sure that they would have been nice to have a shot at the pole tonight in qualifying, but you know, I am probably the only guy that's really happy that it rained because you never know when it gets cold and the temperature changes, nothing is for sure, so we start on the front row and we have a good shot for tomorrow.
Erik Mauk: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. We'll open it up for questions.
Question: It is supposed to be colder tomorrow night, how will that affect things?
Alex Tagliani.: Well, it's also very different when it's cold, and the downforce level, and you have to keep the car under you and make sure that you make the right changes to start the race because if you start the race and the car feels uncomfortable, you know, you can go from first to last very quickly, especially on this track, if the car gets loose it's so short you could be last very quickly. So it's very important that we start the race with a comfortable car and work with it and see if we can finish up front. But I like better seeing where I am right now and working that direction than trying to still to play catchup.
Question: Does it make any difference here with the experience, the different experiences here? Guys who had been here with the high downforce, just an advantage to guys like Paul and those guys?
Michel Jourdain Jr.: I think that we got a little bit different from the guys that run here before or haven't, you know, I mean, I think it's just a matter of understanding how it works and all that. I think for Alex and for me, the group is a lot higher, but if your car feels good and you can run low and high, I think it's good. Obviously Paul and like Jimmy -- I think Jimmy was the one that won the last race, the last race, big win, and so I mean, sometimes I think it is just more about the rookies, I think -- they run in Germany but it's completely different because you have so much time in the straights here, you are turning pretty much all the time and things happen so quick and if you go loose here you end up, I mean, 10, 15 laps behind and you don't know -- so you go so much slower that you have to be really careful with everybody. So I think that's the biggest thing.
Question: Paul, you have brushed the wall slightly on the last two days, anything in particular that you are worried about at this track or a problem with that you are concerned about the race?
Paul Tracy: I was just giving it everything I had to try to do a quick time both times and I got up -- I was pushing a little bit and the car got up just a little too far into the grey and that was it. But like I said yesterday, it was pretty minimal damage for the speeds that we were going. I think in this wing configuration you have got a lot more room, a lot more margin, but again, like Alex said, if you go loose, bad handling now with these wings, it can really cost you. The older, the single element wing or the low down-force, the car was always not very good so as long as you hit the line every time and kept it on the line, it was very hard for a guy to pass you no matter what speed you were doing because as long as you stayed tidy and didn't miss the line you can keep a guy behind you. Now, if you are slow, a guy can just go around the outside of you very easily. It's very hard to keep a guy behind you who is running fast, so, the key is going to be keeping the handling good all night and as the temperature changes throughout the night you are going to be having to adjust all the time.
Question: Is this a two-groove race track?
Michel Jourdain Jr.: I think always when you are running with a quarter of a second difference it's very hard to pass but last year like Paul was saying, if you were running two seconds slower than somebody else, they can pass you. Right now, for sure, if you are running two seconds slower they will pass you very easily unless the marbles are very terrible which they haven't been so far.
Question: Alex, with this wing package your thoughts, do you like it, do you -- what do you expect about the ability to pass --
Alex Tagliani.: Sometimes it's maybe better that you try the big wings because you don't expect anything, you know, like Paul, he drives it and he expects to come back and have a ton of grip and if the car is bad he goes ohhhh, and I am like, all right it's cool, I never had that kind of grip, you know, so it's just -- but there's a big difference between 1998, the last year they ran big wings and this year. We have less power and there's a compromise that we're trying to do and the cars don't run with the maximum downforce now to be able to go the fastest lap time, so we're not completely maxed on the downforce and that's why it's not as easy to go on the outside here. So if there's -- you have to have a slower car in front of you to go on the outside; if there's two cars at the same speed it will be very tough to go on the outside of that car.
Question: You were saying that you guys went out there today thinking about the rain delay. Did you guys have that same thought?
Paul Tracy: I brushed the wall trying to do it on my last set of tires so I was giving it everything and my previous run before that was a 22.2 or something like that. 21.2, and then we put another set of tires to try to match Alex's time, and I brushed the wall. So I mean, that was everything I had in the afternoon in the wind and we just didn't seem to have it right in those conditions.
Michel Jourdain Jr.: For me, everybody was pretty quick last night so we thought it was going to be hard for somebody to beat them, actually Alex was the only guy that did it, so from what we could see in the weather they thought it was going to be clear, it was maybe going to rain and then be clear, a lot of areas we were going to get to run in qualifying.
Alex Tagliani.: In my opinion it was also a matter of luck too because from where the spotters stand sometimes they were saying well, there's 20 miles an hour wind here and some of the -- there was absolutely no wind, you know, the wind was quite a bit. Our problem was to try to get rid of the bush without scaring yourself going into Turn 1 because the wind was pushing the nose of the car down and that was it. We used the push into the car and went into that lap and it went well, the car didn't move that much, so you know, sometimes if you get that perfect lap where there's no wind you get lucky. I think that's why everybody was struggling. We were struggling with that wind as well, so we had a little bit of luck too.
Question: Will the cold cause problems with the tires tomorrow night?
Paul Tracy: I think just go as fast as you can. The only way to generate tire temperature is by loading it. The way you load it is by going fast in the corner and that's what these big wings allow us to do. I have seen the tire that we were running today. The tires -- it's gummed up, like it's very sticky, and when it's warmer so it's not that hard of a tire. I think it will be fine at night.
Question: Any worries about coming out of the pits on cold tires?
Paul Tracy: I don't think so. I think it will separate the men from the boys. (LAUGHTER) That's where the time is going to be made, down the outlap.
Question: How important is the warmup going to be a little bit more important than it usually is for figuring out what is going on or it is just too early in the day for it to make that much --
Paul Tracy: I think any time on the track is important to maximize what your best setup is and any time you get to run you always learn something, so we're going to be going into the session trying to figure out what is the best way to start the race as well as everybody else and then the race is going to be constant adjustment, you know.