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CART Media Conference

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Paul Tracy
May 11, 1997

RON RICHARDS: I am down in Rio de Janeiro where we concluded our race here just a little bit ago, the Hollywood Rio 400. As many of you know, Paul Tracy ended up coming away as the winner and a pretty exciting finish. He had been racing with several -- for several laps with Bobby Rahal toward the end and Rahal ended up having to stop for fuel. So, Paul ended up in the winner's circle. Greg Moore was second, Scott Pruett was third, Alex Zanardi finished fourth and Raul Boesel was fifth. For Paul, this his 12th career win, second in a row; he want at Nazareth a couple of weeks ago. Why don't we just move into the question and answer mode. I think Ron Martin, I believe you are on the line. Why don't we go to your question first.

Q. Paul, you battled so long to try to get that victory back. Now, two in a row. When you saw the checkered flag waiving, what was going through your mind?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I was just so happy for the team and it was a great day for us. We had that spin early. We didn't know the green was coming out and I had spun the thing, and we dropped back through the field a little bit. But, we kept our cool. The crew guys did a great job and put us back towards the front. You know, the Mercedes engine just makes great fuel mileage and we didn't have enough straight line speed to get by Bobby, but we knew that he was light on fuel because he pitted before us, a couple of laps before I did. I just had to push and push him. And, finally he ran out of fuel going into Turn 4. That was a big huge relief for me. That was a cat and mouse game. I knew that I had to keep a lot of pressure on him to get him to run out of fuel.

Q. So that is what you were doing, you were trying to push him into the fuel position?

PAUL TRACY: I really was. We were in a fuel situation ourselves. And, having had some time to talk to the crew guys and see what we had, the car was bone dry when it got back to the pit lane. There was no fuel in it. If I had -- I tried to make a pass on Bobby on the restart and having thought about it now knowing, I wouldn't have finished the race either on fuel. I was sitting in Bobby's draft, saving fuel; knowing that I had to save some fuel to get to the end and using him as a tow, which saved us full, and also pushing him to drive faster in the open air. And, he used more fuel than I did. And, that is what got us to the end.

Q. You spoke of your spin earlier and then you had a little bit of an incident with Moreno and then you were three abreast practically coming out of a pit spot. What were you thinking? Were you, boy, I wish the Brazilian sun God would shine on me because so far today is not going as exactly as planned?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I didn't think it went bad. The incident with me and Moreno, there was no contact. We just went in. I had a run on him and we went real deep on the breaks. I was just on the inside of him and I could see he -- the car was stepping out as he got into the turn. And, when he got -- tried to get it rotated in the turn, he lost it and the rear came out. I didn't have any contact with him. Just he was driving the car hard and just lost it on the entry. But, we -- I think we had a good race. There was a mistake on our part. We didn't know the green was coming out. CART surprised us with that because they went green without really informing everybody because of how long the yellow was. And, I was coasting around in 6th gear at about 40 miles an hour trying to save fuel for the end of the race. And, they went green and I dropped it down to second gear, cold tires. And, the track was kind of sandy in that area. There was some light sand on the track and jumped on the throttle and just lit him up and spun it around; kept it running. Didn't really lose a lot of spots. But, I was definitely aggravated at the time. But, hey, first pit spot, came back around, we jumped back up to fourth on the pit spot. So, it was a great a job the crew guys does.

Q. Which win is sweeter, the win at Nazareth after a long drought, get a win, or this second win this year that maybe indicates to you, hey, guys we can really win this championship?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I tell what you. Every victory is sweet. But, I think Nazareth was really sweet because we really had to fight for it. This one, I feel sorry for Bobby that he ran out of fuel. We pressured him and made him run out of fuel. But, you know, when things are going right for you, I don't know if it is karma or good things happening, when things are on your side, then good things happen. And, I think we were fortunate today. We drove a smart race. Our pit spots were clean. Our strategy was good. And, the end of the race with Bobby was all strategy. If I had been leading, I would have ran out of fuel. And, I just kind of sat in his tow and pressured him and pressured him and made him run out of fuel. So, it was a great victory and every one is real special.

Q. I am still trying to understand a couple of things about the start of this race. Can you tell me what you were able to see, if anything, and what also is your understanding for why the race wasn't red flagged and restarted?

PAUL TRACY: I don't even know why then went yellow right away. I think somebody spun in the back on the start. I think somebody touched somebody. I am not sure exactly what happened, but someone got together on the start; that is why it went yellow. Sure took us a long time to get going.

Q. Yeah, it did. And, from where we are, we haven't seen the end of this race yet. But, there were -- it seemed like there were three yellows in a row at the beginning before the race actually got under way for any length of time.

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I wasn't involved in any of it. Maybe somebody had touched each other. I don't know what the reason was for that. I just wanted to go racing.

Q. Paul, congratulations, first of all.

PAUL TRACY: Thank you.

Q. Good to see somebody who can hit me in a CART race, actually win another kind of CART race. And secondly, can you point to anything in specific that has made the difference for your team? Now you have won two in a row after such a long drought.

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think we were just ---the confidence level of the team is up. The confidence of everyone is up. Mercedes guys are up; getting a little bit more race fever; giving us more revs of and Goodyear is confident just coming out, we were tweaking the tires a little more trying different pressures. I think it is a combination of everything. Everything is falling together. Everything is gelling and, you know, it shows in the level of performance from our team. Everybody is up. The car is working good. Everybody is working well together.

Q. Out here on the west coast we haven't seen the race at all yet. Can you give us a clue as to why you have won and Al finished 7th?

PAUL TRACY: Well, it was a big gamble at the end on fuel. We came down to a yellow with about 38 laps to go and we could only run 33, 34 laps on a full tank of fuel. So, my guys, we elected - we went to the leanest possible position we could do. And, I was trying to save fuel by lifting off early and coasting through the turns. And, we decided to go for it. We were right there. We were second. We were going for it and Bobby stayed out. He went for it. Al came in and took on a little bit of fuel and that dropped him back through the line and he was able to recover a couple of spots, but just not enough time.

Q. Paul, congratulations from Victoria BC

PAUL TRACY: Thank you.

Q. Really neat to see two Canadians on the podium.

PAUL TRACY: Tell you what, it is great. Greg drove a great race and lucky I didn't have to battle him at the end. I was just concentrated on Bobby. But, Greg came through the field. He came -- dropped back a little bit after the pit spot, but came back through.

Q. What was the most significant part of the race other than taking the checkered flag for you?

PAUL TRACY: I think the most significant part of the race was really the gamble that we took on not coming in to drop a little fuel in the thing and go. We thought we could make it. Our car makes really good fuel mileage, but also having Bobby in front of us -- I almost at one point on the restart, I thought, okay, he didn't get off the turn on the restart, and I made a run at him to try and pass him and I thought I didn't really have enough and down the straight-a-way. He was very quick down the straight. And, I thought, well, I will just sit here and just ride and sit in his draft and make him drive as fast as he could to try to get away from me because my crew guys had told me that he had pitted about 3 laps before me. So, he was a couple gallons less than me. So, my plan was to sit in his draft and push him to drive hard and we crossed the line. He ran out of fuel on the last lap. When I crossed the line, we had some time to look. We had .4 of a gallon left in the car when I hit the checkered flag. And just made it in back to the spit, and, it was out of fuel. So, we just had enough to finish the race. If I hadn't been behind him drafting him and pushing him, I don't think we would have made it.

Q. Fantastic, we have already given you the big headline.

PAUL TRACY: Thank you.

Q. What does this do as far as the standings go for Mr. Tracy, if you have got that info handy?

PAUL TRACY: I could tell you right now: I am leading the points, which is nice. It is where we want to be.

Q. Okay, Paul, that was my general question about that. How good is a short track car is this Penske Mercedes you are driving this year? Is it is as good as any as Lites cars that you have driven or the past Penske cars that you have driven?

PAUL TRACY: I could tell you this car is as good a short oval car as we have ever had. But, this is really not a short oval. It has got long, long straights and tight turns almost like a road course. We are working on -- we have got a couple of things we need to work on, straight-a-way speed and maybe shutting some down-force speed. We have so much down-force in the car from -- in our short oval configuration that we are a little slow on the straight-a-way as you could probably see on TV compared to Rahal. So, we have got such a good car through the turns and on the short ovals, I think we are really going to do well. But, the bigger tracks with the long straights, we need to try to eliminate some down-force.

Q. So you think you might have something for these guys at St. Louis and Milwaukee?

PAUL TRACY: Oh, yeah. Looking at St. Louis, it is pretty much exactly like Phoenix PIR layout, but a quarter of a mile longer and I know how good my car is at Phoenix. We tested out there in the winter and Phoenix is one of my favorite tracks we went to. I really liked the layout. And, I think we will have a really good car there.

RON RICHARDS: As a point of reference on the points Paul is first with 65. Scott Pruett is second with 61. Alex Zanardi is third with 55. Then it goes down do Michael Andretti with 51 in fourth place. So that is the top of the points anyway. If there are no other questions, then we will sign off from here. But, thank you for joining us. And we will see you at our next race in St. Louis in a couple of weeks at the new Gateway International Raceway.

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