Erik Mauk: Welcome to the today's press conference with the top three finishers in the Grand Prix of Monterey Round 7 of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We're joined by the second and third place finishers now, third place today goes to the driver of the No. 3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth Lola Bridgestone, Paul Tracy who earned his 4th podium of the season and his first at Laguna Seca since 1995. This is Paul's 52nd career podium finish and moves him within eight points of the series lead. Paul, first half of the race you were all over Patrick; you had a little rough going in the pitstop there.
Paul Tracy: I was trying hard to get by Pat. It's difficult here because there's not really anyplace where you can really get up behind somebody and he made a couple of mistakes and one time I said: Ahh, I am going to go and then he started coming across the track. He ran wide instead of coming across the track at me. And I backed out of it. And I thought my best opportunity was going to try to beat him on a pitstop.
We came in on the second stop and I think we had a better stop than Pat but the guy from Fernandez came out, he was looking right at me and he put his tire way out in the corner of the box to make it difficult for me to get out, so I swung out and I hit the tire and then got going and went down into Turn 1 and I tried to go on the outside of Pat on cold tires and I locked both front tires up really badly and made a huge flat spot on the tires, on the front and that was it. I was struggling from there on. I had very bad braking and very bad handling and a bad vibration. I tried to hang on as long as I could and I ended up understeering right off the track in Turn 6 going up the hill and almost hit the wall. Bruno got by me there. Then I was -- I backed up to his teammate, Sebastien, I was able to keep him at bay, but I think ultimately he had a problem. And then from there, just struggled around and came in on the last stop. Last stop was clean; fresh set of tires and the car was good. I ran the same time as the leaders, but I was 20-something seconds behind. I had a big gap to Michel and basically just settled for third and get some solid points.
Erik Mauk: Once the tires heated up later on you were pretty quick. Did you feel you were quicker the later you went?
Paul Tracy: I think my car was good at the end of the stint. It was okay at the beginning. Pat was pretty fast at the beginning and the middle of the part of the stint he'd pull away from me a little bit. But I was really trying to play on not overusing the tire. In both stints, at the end of the stint, I was on him for the last five, six laps. I just couldn't seem to find a way around. I mean, I tried every which way and I had a lot -- there were a lot of lap cars that were kind of playing into it, so I was trying to set it up the right way but it just never seemed to happen. And Pat got it, you know, he was in a hurry to get by the lap cars. A couple of times he took to the dirt and took to the outside and tried -- you know, he wasn't wasting any time, so it was going to be difficult for sure.
Erik Mauk: Congratulations, nice run. Our runner-up is the driver of the No. 1 PacifiCare/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno matches his season best finish with a second place run earning his fourth podium of the season and the 11th of his career. Bruno moves into second place of the Championship; and also earns his best ever finish here at Monterey, Laguna Seca. Congratulations, tough run there, the last part you came out about three-quarters of a second behind Pat and did everything you could but didn't quite make that up.
Bruno Junqueira: It was a really tough race, I don't know what happened. Now I saw on the tape on the first start and they waved it off and on the second stop I think, Patrick, I don't know, because he was worried, but he put the power down much, much earlier than the starting cone. Going outside of the last turn and I guess passed by Paul and then Paul made a mistake, pass him, but there's no space for two cars in the Corkscrew. I went half off the track, but then I was just following Paul and Patrick. I decided to make more pressure on Paul and I lost the front from half of the first stint and had a flat spot on my left front and by the end of the car, my car was really bad and looked like a Flintstone car.
I kind of hung around, the two Players had a big lead on me, and then once we got to the first pitstop, we put stickers on, then the car was very, very good and it start to lay down some very fast laps, I was nine seconds behind Paul and Carpentier. Then I start to pick up on them and after, ten or fifteen laps I was just close behind Paul and then I thought on the last pit stop, see what happened and as Paul said he had a problem after the second stop. He was very slow and I start to put some pressure on him, but even if he was slow it was really difficult to pass him. Then I was waiting for him to make a mistake. Then he made a mistake; then I start to push hard because I was like seven seconds behind Patrick. Then I caught Patrick again. Patrick was driving very well. He made no mistakes. We were coming to the pits for the next pitstop and he almost crashed into the pits. It was close and I almost crashed behind him because there is no space. The only time he made a mistake and there was no room for me to pass him. Then we came out of the pits and Newman/Haas team did a great pitstop, Patrick's team, was close, maybe I was a little bit faster, but not enough to get a run on him. Well, it was important to finish second in the Championship -- to get points for the Championship.
Erik Mauk: Moving into second place in the Championship seems like you have done everything except win so far this year, your second 2nd place finish of the year. Are you feeling pretty good about the way things are going right now?
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, it's kind of strange, I think. Everybody thought that I would be winning a lot of poles and winning a lot of races and so far, I think at least half of the races I was fast enough to get the poles and fast enough to win the races, but it didn't happen. I finish 2nd, 3rd; I had some unlucky things or not, you know, very close wins like this race. I don't know, the luck just didn't knock on my door, but at least, we're working hard and if we keep consistently fast and consistent in finishing the races we're going to win some races this year and we're going to get some poles. Just have to keep working hard and keep focused and I know that we have very good drivers and very good teams like Player's and Michel and my teammate, and I have to keep working hard. I think we're able to get a great result if we do that.
Erik Mauk: Congratulations. We're now joined by the winner of the Grand Prix of Monterey, the driver of the No. 32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth Lola Bridgestone, Patrick Carpentier who led all 87 laps today in taking his fourth career victory and his first of the year. Patrick beat Bruno to the line by 0.844 seconds, marking the third consecutive CART Champ Car race to be decided by less than a second. Was also the fastest race since 1997, an average speed of 107.986 miles per hour. Patrick, congratulations, nice run, how does it feel?
Patrick Carpentier: It feels great, and one thing to note is we finished that close and there was no yellow flags, so it was a pretty good race. I hope the fans enjoyed it. For me, it was felt like I stole a car and I had a bunch of policemen running after me and I was looking in the mirrors and these guys were really, really close. When I got out of the pits, seems like for the first part of the stint my car was better; then Paul was trying to get away every time and when I got to halfway then these guys, Paul and Bruno were faster than me. So I was just trying to stay ahead of them, and there were a few back markers which made it more interesting, and it was a fun race. I really liked it. My guys did a really, really good job in the pits. The series is so competitive now with these cars and I think there's so many good drivers and these guys are really aggressive and everybody is, and to win, it takes everything to happen right and we had it today.
As far as the first start goes at Milwaukee I thought that the start was not fair. I thought they shouldn't have given the start. Bruno was behind me and I knew he was trying to play a game there and to get a good start, so I just kind of slowed down when he accelerated. I want to make it obvious, but Paul helped me to make it really obvious. He hit me at the back and my car went up in the air, didn't get the green flag; then the next start I left a little bit early, but it was a good start. We always try to pull a fast one, but it worked out and the end we ended up winning the race. It was really fun. I really like what the series has done with the car, no traction control, you see those changes and makes it really interesting.
Erik Mauk: No easy trips down pit lane for you today, twice you come in with Paul right on your tail then the last one with Bruno. Take us through those.
Patrick Carpentier: I think Paul was the closest one I could see and didn't get the ruler out, didn't have much time. I thought he was going to pass me inside there where the apex was and it was really close. These guys were coming in a little bit harder. Then one time Bruno was behind me I said, oh, this time I am really going to come in hard and I couldn't make the turn so I almost hit the cars and Bruno almost got me to the inside. So it was pretty happy there was no more pit stops after that.
Erik Mauk: This is also the first victory for team Player's here at Monterey Laguna Seca, the top five in Championship points after seven races, Michel Jourdain Jr. is still your points leader with 89. Bruno is 6 back with 83. Paul is 8 behind with 81. Patrick moves into 4th, he has 70 points now and Sebastien Bourdais, 5th with 53. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Question: Pat, did you see Paul when he locked the brakes behind you and were you aware of his vibration problems or your team telling you that he was falling behind?
Patrick Carpentier: No, actually we don't -- I don't talk about what the other guys are and what the team was telling me they could see on the lap times when I was looking in the mirrors and just trying to drive hard to get away and it was not working. They were just telling me to calm down and do what I had to do. But I think starting position was pretty important and pretty much finished the way we started. But it was a good race and for us -- it's hard for Michel but for us it was a little bit of luck to get the pole position and it helped us tremendously today. So we got it and managed to stay ahead. I made a mistake in front of Paul one time and lost a lot of time and I thought he was going to give a try and he just backed off and he was pretty nice. And let me go by there. But it was good.
Question: Pat, you spoke yesterday about how difficult the last five or ten laps of each stint was going to be. Just keeping the rear tires under you. We could see just watching from here in the press box everybody was really, really loose. How difficult was that segment of the race in particular in each stint?
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, it was difficult at the beginning. At the end we had newer tires and it was better. We adjust the car so that there wouldn't be such a problem but early on the first stint Paul was definitely faster than me towards the end he probably -- he saved his tires more than I did and I was a bit rougher on it and I was paying for it at the end of the stint. So it's tough. Without the traction control you got to -- it's how much throttle you pull it and if you don't save the tires you are going to pay for it at the end of the stint. Whereas, last year, you just stood on it and everything -- the engine did the job for you. So it's a bit more difficult but it makes it for so much better racing.
Question: Pat, you are coming into Portland next weekend with the Festival Curves. Gordon talked about tires. Talk to me a little bit about what is going to happen there; particularly as the race goes on and on and on because you are pulling an awful lot of horsepower on those things.
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, we'll see how it goes. To be honest with you, every weekend is different. It's so competitive. If you are struggling really during qualifying you are going to start 10th instead of 1st, 2nd or 3rd, so it's a very tough series, but it's going to be tough for everybody to go in that corner and everybody is going to have to save their tires quite a bit. But to be honest with you, that last corner before the front straight is very similar to what we have at Portland down at -- whatever you call that, the funnel down there, corner 1 and 2. It's very similar, so we have an idea of what kind of situation we're going to get over there. But again, it depends so much on what kind of setup you have on the car and how good the car is. Some of these guys that don't have a good setup here, they were going backwards really, really fast. Some of the guys that have better cars actually survived quite a bit more.
Question: Paul, obviously third place isn't as good as first or second, but after the last month of getting three points, I think in three races whatever it was, feel getting back on the right course and healing some wounds?
Paul Tracy: For sure, I mean, the last three races have been pretty difficult to swallow because we have given up 30, 40 points in the last three races, which is tough to swallow, look at the end result, you know, when we start off so strong and then you are running strong in two out of the three events, you know, top 2, you know, quickest -- one of the quicker cars, our goal this weekend was to try to just basically like you said, stop the bleeding, we need to have a good finish, finish in the Top-5 was our goal. We had an opportunity to challenge for the win. I tried every way I could, without, you know, using the chrome horn or anything like that (laughs) but I was giving it -- trying every which way, you know, it made for an exciting race.
Pat was in the dirt. I was in the dirt. We were trying all kinds of different lines. Again with no traction control, like Pat said, near the end of the stint Pat was having more trouble than me, the first two stints, until I flat-spotted the tires. So I am a little disappointed with 3rd because I felt, again we had one of the better cars on the track but it's exactly what we needed going into this stretch of races June and July, typically, I had good success here early in my career, but I haven't had any success since 1995 was the last time I was on the podium. That's a long time ago. So to come away with a good podium, our goal is to come away with a good result in Portland and not a track that is particularly great for me. If we can come away with two solid finishes and going into Toronto and Vancouver, Cleveland, Elkhart, those type of tracks are the ones that really suit me and I run really well at. So that's our, you know, our short-term goal is to get through these June, July, August, and really try hard at the tracks where we know I -- they are tracks where we know I run really well at.
Question: Somewhere during the middle of the race or so, I guess it was when Bruno was behind you your team asked you to pull out 2/10's of a second more. Was that a bit of a shock? I don't know how fast you were going.
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, sorry for my response if you were listening to the internet for the kids. It was not the one they were expecting. I am just trying really hard and I couldn't get two more tenths. I was just trying and trying and trying but I was doing for me that was pretty much it and it was coming really fast and 2/10 was quite a bit. But at the end when he got behind me he scared me enough that we got a little bit more than 2/10 and the tires were better. But every lap is like a qualifying lap, you are just trying hard, trying hard and the team can go, well, can you give me two more tenths, it's like -- that's what I am trying, to give you 2/10.
Question: Talk a little bit about -- you referenced this once coming into the pit lane I think the first time with Paul behind you almost didn't make that turn and then with Bruno, just coming in too fast?
Patrick Carpentier: No, I came in with Paul and I don't know how he -- I thought I was braking pretty late. I go, I am good. I look in the mirror I see him over the curbs and he is coming in to pass me. I am like oh, man. Next time I come in Bruno is behind me I said, this time I will do it too, but I couldn't turn. I just couldn't make it. I almost hit the tires. It was pretty close, the front wing was really close and the engine bogged down, I had to push the clutch and go for the throttle and go again. And he almost went by. Like I said earlier, I was pretty happy that was the last pitstop because I was starting to hate that entry quite a bit.
Question: For Paul, with the situation leaving the pits with Fernandez' tires being put down I know you had no control over that but were you happy with CART's call to not call a penalty?
Paul Tracy: Well, I think it was fair what CART did because -- I watched the guy. I was watching my guys change the tires, everything was going good, I am getting ready to go, I am watching the guy, he comes walking out with a tire looking right at me and then puts it down right out in the corner of the box to make it difficult for me to get out. I was like oh, God, I am watching the guy do it and he's watching me and he just sets it right out in the corner of the box.
I think CART realized that it was way far out from where it needed it to be and you could just see him just do it. So just not a courteous thing to do, you know, and the pits it's give and take for everybody, these pit stops are small here. If one guy is coming in and another guy is coming out you give each other a little bit of room. This guy, he gave me no room at all. I tried to get out and I hit the tire as I was coming out and I think CART looked at it very closely and made the right call because it was pretty obvious to see what he was trying to do.
Erik Mauk: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. That wraps our press conference. Thank you for attending. Gentlemen, congratulations.