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Champ Car World Series: Molson Indy Vancouver

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Molson Indy Vancouver

Champ Car World Series: Molson Indy Vancouver

A.J. Allmendinger
Michel Jourdain, Jr.
Paul Tracy
July 25, 2004


ERIC MAUK: We begin our post-race press conference for the Molson Indy Vancouver, Round 7 of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We are joined by our Top 3 finishers in today's event starting with the third place finisher, driver of the #10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, making his first podium appearance of his young Champ Car career, A.J. Allmendinger. Former player in the Atlantic Championship and the Barber Dodge Pro Series champion, first podium appearance, how does it feel to be in here?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Well, first of all, it's cool to be in here because there's a lot more people in here than there ever was more an Atlantic race. (Laughter). So I like that. It's just absolutely amazing. I'm so physically spent and tired and happy. The race was awesome. Both Michel and I didn't belong where we were in qualifying. We just never got a good lap in for qualifying. We knew we had a good car, just a matter of doing the pit strategy right. My RuSPORT team did a great job. The crew great pit stops. My engineers, David Brown and Chris Lertz, they just gave me an amazing car throughout the race. And actually gave me a little too much grip on last stint because I felt like it was going to rip my arms off the last 20 laps. You know, actually if I was two laps down, I might have pulled in because I was so tired, but I wasn't going go give up a podium spot.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us about the battle you had to hold on to third. Bruno seemed like he was pressuring you the last few laps.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, they were on the radio telling me to push to try to catch Michel, and I was slowly catching Michel and I knew if I was got to him, it would be hard to get around him. So basically what I did, knowing Bruno was catching me, with 20 to go, I just started trying to pace myself and save as much energy as possible. And once he got to me with five, ten laps to go, I had the energy saved up to go out and attack. And that's basically what I was able to do was once he got to me, I saved up enough energy myself, because really at that point, the worst thing about the car is probably me driving it because I was so tired. Once he got there, I just focused on doing eight, ten perfect laps, whatever it was, and really never gave him a chance, an opportunity to get around me and it worked out perfectly.

ERIC MAUK: A.J. takes over the lead in the rookie point standing for the Champ Car World Series this season. You come into the season, you talked about it before, 2002, 2003 championship-winning seasons, you are used to coming out here and winning, had not been the start you were looking for, have you thought about what this finish now means for you personally?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: The last couple of weeks, we've had great cars and the driver has been the weakest link of it. I've definitely thrown away two top five finishes and maybe one or two podium finishes by spinning out and running into a lot of tire barriers. But other than that, we just keep making progress each weekend. And that's what the goal is, not only with myself, but with Michel, and each weekend we get closer. Probably the thing we have to work on now is qualifying because we keep qualifying mid-pack, that's tough in the series; you can't keep getting away with that and having good results. But the biggest deal is just keep making progress. And as you said, with the rookie points lead, that's a huge deal to me because I've never been big on Rookie of the Year, but with Justin in the series, he's not so much of a rookie. So if I can somehow beat him in that, I know I've accomplished something this year.

ERIC MAUK: Our second place finisher earning his best finish of the season, second podium finish of the year and the ninth of his career, driver of the #9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Michel Jourdain, Junior. Michel, like A.J. said, you guys did not qualify where you wanted, but you fought all day and you got up here and you come away as the runner-up; how do you feel?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Of course, very happy. It's fantastic to be in the -- to have both cars on the podium. We are lucky we have two cars in the top five. I think we are just getting better. Like A.J. said, qualifying is what we need to improve a lot, but, I mean, we are getting better. Like we both I think we're giving up a lot of points the last races. I mean, I've crashed the last three races, so it's a lot of points. And feeling we were both running very good, but we make mistakes. But the important thing is we are both here. It's fantastic for me to be on the podium for the first time in Vancouver. The last two years I finished fourth, so this is great. And especially I always want to be on the podium and hopefully one day win this race. And to be with A.J. on his first podium is fantastic, too. So it was a tough race but fantastic to be here I think we both just went fast when we had to, but A.J. and myself, had a good strategy and it just was good.

ERIC MAUK: Explain the strategy on the first set of pit stops. A lot of guys in this room probably were a little shocked after the pit stop cycle through to find you guys in the top three spots, just the strategy behind that and how it worked out.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: We just tried to stretch it as far as possible, trying to pit after everybody else, and we were able to which was good. We came out of the pits, started pulling away from the Newman Haas cars. It looked like maybe they have a lot more fuel than us and maybe -- sorry, they had a lot more fuel and they were going to probably pit a lot later than us, so we just have to push really hard and they didn't. So we had a better car than them at that point. So I think I just went a little too fast. I destroyed my brakes, I did it on the second run and through the third run, I had to take it easy and make sure I finish the race. So this is just great and I'm very happy to be here.

ERIC MAUK: The 2004 Molson Indy Vancouver Champion, same as our 2003 Molson Indy Vancouver Champion the driver of the driver of the #1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, earning his second win of the year, the third win of his career here in Vancouver, joining Al Unser, Junior and Michael Andretti as the only drivers to win three times at Vancouver, 28th win of his career, Paul Tracy. It looked easy but you had a couple of heart-stopping moments at the end.

PAUL TRACY: The first part of the race was really going the way we wanted it to. I was able to basically build a two- or three-second lead on Bourdais. I was saving fuel and we were going to try to go longer than he did. We were making the fuel mileage that we wanted to, and then we had that late yellow about five or six laps before when he were going to pit. So that kind of threw a wrench into things, because I was just getting ready to wind it up and try to turn some laps. Subsequently, it went green. My car got the tires up to temperature really quick. I was able to pull away really far from them, about six seconds in the five laps before we pitted. So the car was working really well. We did our pit stop, came out and obviously for whatever reason, he got overtaken in the pits by the RuSPORT guys. By the time everything reshuffled, I had about a nine-second lead, eight-and-a-half, and really was just trying to maintain that. I was trying to conserve the tires and make sure that I could go fast at the end of the run. We were able to keep that lead and came in for the last stop. Everything went fine on the stop. They said good to go, no need to save fuel. Went out on the track, they said go, and two laps later, they said, you'd better save fuel. (Laughter). And then they said, well, just go as far as you can go because we're not going to make it on fuel. Obviously the calculations were wrong. Something happened during the pit stop, I don't know the reasons yet, but they were short by about seven or eight gallons. You know, they said, you've just got to build a 25-second lead to be comfortable to get in and out in front, and at the time we had about 11 seconds. So I just put my head down and just tried to turn qualifying laps every lap, and we were doing 61.7, 61.8 every lap for about 20 laps. Brushed the wall a couple of times and we built the lead up to 25 seconds, 26 seconds and pitted on that lap and then came out. And by the time I came out with some more fuel in the car, the tires were gone, I went from 101s to doing mid-63s the last seven laps. So really the last six, seven laps I was just hanging on.

ERIC MAUK: Second win of the year, you took a bite out of is Sebastien's point lead, gets you back in the thick of it. How important is that?

PAUL TRACY: That's great. I didn't expect Sebastien to have the kind of day he had, but obviously things didn't go well for him and that's exactly what we need. So, in the middle of it. And it's good to get another win in Canada and be back in the points race for the championship.

ERIC MAUK: Couple quick notes. Top five in points: Sebastien Bourdais is our leader after seven of races with 186 points; Bruno Junqueira is second with 159; Paul Tracy, now has 142; Patrick Carpentier falls to fourth with 134; Alex Taliani is fifth with 120. Today's attendance figures have been released. Attendance of 63,406, gives us a three-day total of 158,420 marking the 11th consecutive season that Champ Car has drawn over 155,000 fans to the Vancouver venue.

Q. Two questions, A.J. and then Paul, when you first got into a Paul Tracy car that many years ago in Las Vegas. Did you think you would be sitting beside him on the podium; and Paul, did you think he would be there?

PAUL TRACY: Let me tell you something, true story. I was trying to get this guy to drive for me. He says, you know, (speaking in teenage accent), well, you know, I don't know if I want to drive; how many tires you going to give me; how many carts am I going to get; are you going to pay for my travel (speaking in accent. ) (Laughter). Do you remember that?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Well, you know, I was just taking your lead. Hey, I'm going to have all of the hot girls with me, I was just trying to follow in your footsteps. (Laughter). I mean, when I first joined your karting team, the first race I came to, all your engineers told me: "All he asks for is new tires, A.J." . What should we do to the car? Put new tires on it. So, just, I'm following your lead, man.

PAUL TRACY: No, it was a great day for A.J. today. And it's really a testament, not to my karting team or anything like that, but to the whole ladder system, from the CART, from stars up through the whole system. A.J. has gone through the whole system right from the beginning to now, and it was a great day for not only him and also me but also the guy who runs my CART team for me, Tim Pappas, is here to watch and I'm sure he's over the moon.

Q. Wonder if the RuSPORT guys knew, were you surprised when Paul came into that last flash and were you told anything on the radio?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I was told on the radio that Paul had to come in, but I was fighting my own battle. I can look at the JumboTron and see who is three quarter of a track ahead of me. I wasn't too focused on what Paul was doing. My focus was trying to catch Michel, but knowing that Bruno and Sebastien were catching me, and once they got to me, just run clean laps. That's what I focused on. I knew Paul was coming in, but I never really thought I had a chance to overtake him.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: I didn't know, so. (Laughter).

PAUL TRACY: That's a good thing.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: I would have probably destroyed my brakes and changed the race. Now I'm probably glad because the last couple of laps were pretty bad.

Q. How worried were you -- and what happened when you hit the wall?

PAUL TRACY: I was really, really pushing hard. I was trying hard. The tires were getting worn. Obviously when you turn those kind of laps, qualifying speed laps for that many laps in a row, the car was starting to slide a lot and I got on the power and it jumped sideways and hit the tires on the exit of turn 6. So I was pretty lucky to get away with that because it was a big mark on the tire. You know, I felt it, and I was worried maybe the tire would go down in the next lap, but it didn't. You know, just had my head down just driving as far as I could.

Q. Three wins here now in the last five years, obviously you say you enjoy this track, can you talk about how much longer this race will go here, I'm sure you'd like it to go longer?

PAUL TRACY: I don't know what it is. I can't put my finger on what it is about this track that suits me so well. But ever since they changed the venue, stopped going down past the stadium down to the end, since they reconfigured the track, I've been qualified excellent every year and now won it three times and I've had dominant wins all three times. Could have won it four times if it wasn't for one year we had, again a pit stop problem, and I was leading the race by 17, 18 seconds over Dario and we didn't do the right strategy and I ended up finishing second behind him. So, it could be four wins in five years. It's been a great venue for me. That's a track that I really enjoy.

Q. I was kind of surprised at the beginning of the season when we had the rule change, getting rid of the pit stop intervals, but the drivers said, oh, you would prefer to keep them; how do you feel about it now?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think everybody wants it the way it was before. For me personally, for today, with the problem we had in the pit, if it had have gone yellow at the end, it was race over for me. We had a dominant car all day. We had to make another pit stop, and if you can't pit under yellow, it's over. So those are things that can happen. The leader, the guy in second place could pit two laps before the leader. And if it goes yellow, the leader goes to the back of the pack. It's not his fault; somebody else caused the yellow. That's the thing that's frustrating I think for a lot of the teams is that you really have to judge -- you can't really go off of injure own strategy if you're the leader. Whenever the car behind you pits, you've got to pit either the next lap right after because if it goes yellow you go to the back of the field. If you're further back in the field, you take a chance and try to go longer. But if it goes yellow, you're finished.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: I am the same with Paul. Today it worked for us, but still, I think today was a problem and like if it kept on yellow, yeah, perfect for us. But, I mean, it's not about Michel and A.J. it's about what's best for the series and for the show and the best, I think the best guys have to win, the luckiest -- or the smartest, the smartest and the best, not the luckiest. You just gamble when you are back, maybe as long as you don't get lapped, you come in early and you pray for a yellow, and if that happens, boom. Suddenly you are in the back and you find yourself in the front. So I don't think that's the way racing should be. I think the racing should be about the smartest and the fastest.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: : I disagree, Michel. I really think it should be about Michel and A.J. honestly. It helped me a lot. (Laughter).

Q. For Michel and A.J., usually a new team has a learning curve, and you are showing results pretty early. What do you think is the difference with you guys making this kind of progress?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I think really what it is, it's a great honor that with Carl Russo, that he's focused on what he wants out of the team, he brings on the right people. It's still very difficult, as at times we've shown. But, you know, he brings in all the right people for all the right jobs. It just makes the team a little bit stronger. And I know especially for me, a big deal was bringing Michel on board, because without him, I would have been a single-car team and I'd be completely lost, you know, not that I'm not lost already. I'd be completely lost, and with Michel and his knowledge and all of his experience; he's a great driver. So bringing him on board, it just helps everybody throughout the team with the engineers and the crew just to know a little bit more about the cars and what we want out of them and how to get to that point.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: For me since the first, since last year watching RuSPORT in Formula Atlantics, it was pretty amazing what they did. Like A.J. is saying, Carl has had an amazing vision as he's had with A.J. He's an amazing driver, very fast, and an amazing talent, but he's not only -- I don't know how many of you know him, but when you talk to him, he has a lot of confidence and I think he knows exactly what he wants and how he wants to get there, and that's pretty good. He's great to people and he just wants to get the best. It's hard, I think we are doing sometimes too much and maybe if we have done a things little simpler, probably we would have had a better start, but in the long run it's going to be much better. And I'm sure, what I always say, I think this team will see in five or ten years, just as we see in Newman Haas or Penske, only eight seasons and win a lot of races, so it's pretty good. I think that it's only going to get better.

Q. What did Carl say to you guys? He was pretty emotional out there.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: He was pissed off we didn't win. (Laughter).

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: He told you -- did he say you were fired?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Yeah, we have three races to win or we're fired. (Laughter).

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: He's not only a good boss but he's real mean -- no. I don't know what he told Michel, but he told me, this is where I belong and that means a lot. Before that, he told me to get my ass in gear and stop making mistakes. But, you know, he's a great owner because he's not just focused on just winning. He cares about his people on the team, especially the drivers, and just only for me, being with him for about two years now, he just basically told me, this is where I belonged and that he's proud of me.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Well, the same, very, very happy and told me that it was a great drive for both and he looked, like you said, very emotional. It was fantastic to see him and everybody on the team. You know, they work so hard. I felt glad when I came in because they had everything so organized and they have been working for months to set up everything. And in three days, they had to hire a lot more people, take apart one car to paint it, I mean everything, take the equipment. It was so hard for the first two or three races and it still is. We are still missing a lot of people and it makes the guys -- they work every day until 10:00 p.m. back in the shop. So, you know, it's just fantastic to see them do this, and I hope we have a good celebration tonight and many, many more this year.

Q. Paul, the last words you had for Rodolfo Lavin yesterday when we left here was keep Sebastien off your tail, and then the first corner you looked around and there was Bourdais. What was your thought there?

PAUL TRACY: I mean, Rodolfo, he was definitely keyed up for it today. I know he wanted to be up there. He stayed in third for a long time. But, you know, Sebastien is a great starter. He knows how to start. He knows how to get off the line. He's been in that situation before. So, he made -- he keyed off of me, and I was looking in the mirror behind me to see what was happening just to make sure everything was clear. I got the jump right away on Rodolfo. It looked like he spun his tires. Sebastien got away perfectly clean right behind me, and just basically followed me into the first corner. So, there really wasn't much that Rodolfo could do. He tried, but it's a learning process. It's his first time on the front row, he ran third for a long time. I don't know what happened, he got mixed up in some type of accident on the first corner, it looked like. And then ultimately in the end, his car, I saw was on fire at the end. But he's learning. He's learned a lot in the last six months, just working with our team. So, you know, as long as he keeps making progress, it's worth it for him and his sponsors had a good time.

Q. Paul, Dario won today in Milwaukee, wonder if you have any kind of --

PAUL TRACY: I talked to him last night on the phone. I was talking to him at -- we were judging the Miss Indy contest. (Laughter). And I called him and said, "Hey, you need to be here." He goes, "I'm working on it." So I'm glad to see that he's finally won his first IRL race. I'm very happy for him. I think it would be a big asset to the series if he was able to come over, which would be great.

Q. Your relationship with Lance Armstrong, his sixth Tour de France today, does it mean anything to you?

PAUL TRACY: I think it means a lot to a lot of people. I have a very limited relationship with Lance. I had dinner with him once. You know, it just the achievement that he has achieved is something that is arguably -- will never be done again. You know, it's just he's so dominant right now that it looks like he could go on and win another five more the way it is. Really, he's just I guess an inspiration to everybody, his commitment and his desire and his dedication and the way he goes about everything. He's a perfectionist. I don't think there's any other athlete out there that has that type of mentality and determination that he has.

ERIC MAUK: Champ Cars have next week off. We go to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, halfway point at Road America on the 8th. Thank you very much.

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