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Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Penske Racing


Interview with Emerson Fittipaldi
June 3, 1993

Q. Emerson, congratulations on a great win this past weekend. You've had almost a week to reflect. Reflect back on what that victory meant to you?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I think was the best race of my life. I mean, what else can I say? That I'm very excited, was fantastic to be able to win second time Indianapolis. I had incredible reaction. The reaction I had from the press, from the fans was bigger than my first win. I was surprised. And incredible reaction Europe as well. Must be the, I think the participation of Nigel on the series and Nigel participating in the Indy as the -- from the one defending champion. I think he created, I think it geared up a lot of interest in Europe and was incredible coverage in Europe.

Q. Emerson, congratulations. Could you tell us a little bit about the restart on Lap 185. According to ABC you were about four tenths of a second behind before the restart. Then afterwards you continued to pull away until you had more than a two and a half second lead. Did you have enough car to catch Nigel even without the restart?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I would say if we didn't have that restart would be very difficult to pass Nigel. But I had the a quicker car than Nigel, was running stronger than he was at that time. I was charging on him a lot. And I would say that if Nigel would hit traffic and get himself in the turbulence of any other car, then my chance would be greater to pass him. But would be difficult, not be easy, the last few laps to pass Nigel.

Q. Congratulations, Emerson. The thing that struck me watching the victory celebration among you and the crew afterwards was it seemed very, very warm. I think the perception of Penske's operation is that it's very, very efficient and methodical but it seemed almost like a family celebration. Can you comment how the victory, I guess, is a reflection of how Penske runs his celebration?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I think, you know, the whole, I've been working with Roger for the last three years. And I think he use the right expression, we are more than a team, we're like a family. We know each other well. We can count on each other on the team. And Indy is a very special event because you spend there four weeks of the month there working everyday at the racetrack and the garage, with the engineers and the mechanics. And you build up a special relationship with the month at Indianapolis. Between ourselves the whole team, we have to help each other. There are tough moments that you go down; the car is not running so well, the next day the car is better. Everybody get excited. I think the celebration was a fantastic feeling to everybody on the team. And Roger knows how to operate a team. He's the best. He manager and best owner I ever work together.

Q. Congratulations, Emerson, a great job. One question I had, everybody was talking all month about the horsepower of the Ford. But at the end it seemed that the C engine was more than holding its own. Do you feel that the C is on equal footing at this time or was it a factor of just having the chance he dialed in late in the race?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I'm sure the engine was very powerful, my engine. Is a very interesting they build up the image that the Ford be running much stronger than us. And if you go back since Australia this year, the first three races of the year, every race you have been running at the race, sometimes we qualify not to squeak but race we always running together with the Ford. And that show that we are there. And what I was surprise in Indy is that we had so many contenders to win the race; like Meinaco could won the race, Raul could won the race, Nigel could won the race and I could won the race. And myself -- but we are very strong in end of the race. We are -- the engine was running solid. The car had a great handling, you know, everything was working well. And I think that's how comes the results. I was in the right place the right time during this race.

Q. Emmo, are you tired of talking about it yet? I mean you must be going nonstop with this stuff and do you see a point at which you might be?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I think that's part of winning Indy and when I won in '89 was the same, you know. I have to give myself to this situation now and take as positive as I can. But at the same time I have to remind that tomorrow I'm testing, practicing for Milwaukee. We have the championship going on and we will try to win the championship. This year is amazing competitive in the car series. And, you know, I have to give hundred percent myself to the team, to the sport to be able to continue winning or have a chance of winning. And, you know, it's tough because only few days apart Indy and Milwaukee.

Q. If I can just follow-up a Detroit question. There was a lot of, well, there was some complaining about the new course on Bel Isle being too narrow to pass and too many spots. Your feelings about it?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I enjoy driving there. I think it is a great layout. Was difficult to pass but I think they done a great job compared to the city -- the track Downtown. Even for me I will miss Downtown. I had two wins in Downtown. And I think the Belair track -- Bel Isle track, sorry, not Belair, the Bel Isle track is outstanding design for road circuit, for street circuit.

Q. Emerson, congratulations on a great run. While the changes in the track and the cars seem to have accomplished their purpose in they did close racing several drivers, and Arie is one that came to mind says he can't recall having so many moments in the race. Was that the case for you? And can you talk about the one moment you had with Mario on the next to last restart?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I think first the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they achieve the number one priority, that's to try to make a safer race, safer racing track. And I think they, by the statistic it prove was safe track. It made more difficult to pass people, to overtake people. On race situation when you're behind traffic you lose the down force of the front wing, your car would start pushing and then you have to have a momentum coming out of the corner on the guy ahead of you to be able to draft him on the straight. There was the only way that you could overtake people at Indianapolis. And I remember when I dropped from second place when I pit on the green and then the yellow went immediately after, I just lost a lap to Mario. I come out I was 14th. To recover my position was very, very tough. And we are trying to use every opportunity that was available to pass the guy ahead of you, you have to take it. Because you don't know when the opportunity is going to come back to you. And that's exactly what's the toughest time I had in the race was, one of the restarts that Mario was leading, I was second and Nigel was third. Nigel had -- he did a very good start. He comes behind, he pass me four to one then he pass Mario on the outside. Now Mario had to back off coming out of turn one and then I had a momentum with Mario and I could go on the short shoot of his inside. I knew the opportunity was there, available. I had to take. That could be very difficult to pass Mario again after that. And then we went side by side in turn two. I was on the inside and Mario on the outside. And we were so close his front wheel, he got right behind my front right wheel. I mean the cars were just really close. And was a risk I had to take. And Mario was trying to hold myself. And I spoke to Mario Sunday night and he was very concerned that we could touch. But it didn't happen and I was able to pass Mario. But we are trying to take any opportunity that was available to pass and use it because you never know when you could do again.

Q. Emmo, congratulations again. You mentioned a few minutes ago that you had to remind yourself that you had to start practicing for Milwaukee. How tough is it to get your momentum going again and concentration again to the next race when it comes that close after a big victory like Indy?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I think is very difficult. It is very difficult for others, reasons you have to celebrate and you have to do all the PR, you know, I give an example. This morning I went to pick up my daughter from school and they are doing the flag presentation in the morning, the American flag, and then the principal of the school call me and I had to do a speech, they give applause to me and they were very, very nice but I lost just about hour and a half with my very tight schedule. And things like that is great to do and I was very, very happy but, you know, I have to remember that tomorrow I'm driving racing car again in Milwaukee.

Q. Emmo, just going over not just Indianapolis but just the end of last year and end of this one. You've won four of the last ten races here. Are you -- you consider yourself rolling now and not just the end of last season, end this season, in terms of championships and other things you want to do and how does that relate with what's happening with the Chevy and also the PC, what is it, 16, 17 now, the whatever number chassis that is, is everything kind of coming together now?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I think we've, the second part of last season is reflecting the beginning of this season. I had a great performance last year. And I would say that I'm very, very pleased the way the car is working. On the street circuit we had a great run in Australia. Paul won the race in Long Beach, we are very strong and short over in Phoenix and we are very quick in Indianapolis. It shows the car is consistent fast on different types of tracks. That's, I'm really looking for the championship because it looks we can be quick just about everywhere. Actually to me it looks very similar to the 1989 season where I was consistent quick most of the tracks. It is always difficult to have a year like that, to have equipment that you can have that type of consistent on any track. And I'm looking for a great season this year.

Q. Just to come on the tail end of that, does that mean you can around a gallon of orange juice every week now?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I hope so. But we all have to remember, I mean, I think the Indianapolis 500 this year shows exactly how competitive Indy car racing is. I mean at any race there are about seven, eight guys can win and that the competition be there, you get very tough competition. But we'll be there as well trying to win. I hope -- I have to drink a lot of orange juice.

Q. How did winning in '89 help you to deal with all the PR and everything you've been going through in the past few days, is it different than what it was in '89?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: It helped, yes. I think the experience, I know I have to do it. And the one thing that surprise me the reaction from this year's win is it's bigger than in '89, to my surprise. Not just on the States but outside of the States a lot of coverage all over the world. And I was surprised with the press reaction and the racing fans outside of the States as well. That's something that creates, builds up a pressure on me now and demands a lot of time from the time I have available. But I have to cope, I have to do it. I try to do as much as I can and to do the best I can.

Q. Emmo, I have one other question. Does this victory now put your mind to any thoughts of retirement in the near future?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: No, Dick, really, I actually, I think the other way. Just it gives me so much motivation to me, so much more desire to continue racing. I feel -- I look now even further down in the road to the day of retirement. There is no estimated time, nothing, I'm just to enjoy so much this sport. I haven't thought anything about the Indy 500 after winning the race of retirement. I think the other way. It is going to be even more difficult for me for the future.

Q. Emerson, in retrospect, how do you feel about some of the media's focus and most of it came from the print media on the drivers in the Indy 500 that are of foreign birth?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I think it shows that the Indy car series, not just the Indy 500, the Indy 500 is our number one event. But there is a very big interest international about Indy car race. And the reason is it's the best, the most competitive series in the world, the best TV show and the best racing that you can watch. And I think every driver or every successful driver in different parts of the world see a desire, see a challenge to come one day and race Indy car racing. I was on -- Monday after the race my nephew, Christian, who is very young, he just start Formula One and he finish fifth in Monte Carlo a week ago, he call me immediately after the race to congratulate me and he, I know back of his mind, even he is sitting Formula One, he's driving Formula One, as soon as he can, he would like to come to Indy race and be here. I think that's what's happened now. People from all over the world.

Q. Emmo, if I can go back. Can you point to anything that kind of kicked in at the middle of last year for you that got everything kind of rolling to the way you like it?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I think Cleveland was a key race last year. That was my second win. I had the one, I had the win in Australia. Then we really had a real struggling from Phoenix to Cleveland, actually. We couldn't get the car working well. And Cleveland was the first time really we manage to make the car work. And I think since Cleveland last year we have this really good performance, good motivation, the whole team, Roger himself, I think everything is rolling the right direction. But that was the key race last year, Cleveland.

Q. Emerson, a Fresno native, Tim Racecup, is a member of the Penske pit crew team. Can you tell us, in general, how the pit crew performed and, you know, to what degree of help to your success at Indy?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I think we all know that to win Indianapolis not just the driver, but you have to have everything on your side. And the team is a key element for the result. I consider myself that we have the best team in Indy car racing. The best operation. And the best people. Every pit stop was perfect. They knew exactly what they were doing, except myself. I misjudged a stop in Roberto Guerrero's pit and they are not very nice to me. I just want fuel and a set of tires, they give some funny signs to me and try to get me away from there. But I think every pit stop was perfect. Every crew member, they practice, they knew exactly what they had to do. They really pro. I think that's what counts. Even a race -- like mid-race when I dropped on that wrong pit stop at the wrong time I stop, Chuck, who is the team manager and works with me on the radio call me and say, Emerson, you still can do it. I mean the motivation from the team was still there. Even though I was running at that time eight ninths, Chuck say you still can do it, just go for it. I think the crew is very, very important.

Q. Emmo, outside of Nigel, of course, were any of the rookies particularly impressive under fire at Indy this year?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I think Nigel was very impressive. He had a great performance, an outstanding performance for the first time. I would say there was the French guy, Greco, he was running quite strong for the rookies that I saw this year. He was very impressive to me.

Q. You talked about how Nigel would have been hard to handle toward the end had it not been the re-stop. What about Raul Boesel, it looked like he was running strong all day, and had he not had the penalties, do you actually think he would have went on to win the race?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I think Raul was doing an outstanding race, he was running very strong all day. He was penalized twice and that took away his chance for the lead. I think, like I told before, I was in the right place at the right time to be able to win the race. And, you know, Indy car race is so competitive. And Raul is one of the top guys, he had good chance. He was strong everyday from the day they opened the track to the race day. He was very consistent strong there. And when you see someone going through the month of May going strong consistent, you know he's going to be a contender for the race. And he was one of them.

Q. Talk about the overall race plan, you mentioned that you had a couple of problems in the pits. But from the race plan that you had at the beginning of the race, did your team pretty much stay close to that or was this a major adjustment?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: No, we, you know, our strategy was to do good start and see if I could stay with the leaders and happened from the beginning. We had, we planned to run strong as possible the whole race. And I think the number one concern that you have in Indianapolis is not to be lapped by the leader, you know, if you are lapped by the leader, the yellow goes on, you have trouble. And that's was my concern. When I pitted on the green and the yellow went out and Mario, was the leader at that time and I was second, he nearly lapped me. And Chuck call me on the radio and say, Emerson, he is only three seconds behind you to lap you. And I knew that I had to keep Mario behind me because if he lap me then I could lose any chance of winning the race. But we have a very good strategy the whole race. We -- I had overdrive on the gearbox and I could save some revs on the engine when I was able to do that. I have a shorter fifth that I could race when I need to race using more revs on the engine. We all prepare for the race. And we had a very good set of tires. The last set I put on the car was the best. I show the speed I go two laps to finish the race I did the quickest lap. I mean the whole car was consistent quick the last few laps of the race.

Q. Emerson, in '89 you just ran away early and hit and did pretty much the same thing in 1990, even though the tires cost you there. But this time it seemed like you cooled it then were there at the finish. Have you changed the way you drive these 500 milers and has Rick Mears had any influence on that?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, it looks from the outside that I was trying to save the car or the equipment for end of the race. But really when I was going through traffic I couldn't move faster than I was moving because the new layout of the track is really difficult to pass. You have only one line, one groove. Rick Mears had great input on the set-up of the car, he had -- he was a great help the whole month for May. Any more questions?

Q. No more.

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Okay, thank you very much, you guys. And I'm going to see some of you guys in Milwaukee and it was nice to talk to you.

Source: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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