Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand-Am Road Racing
July 26, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We wanted to bring in two true Indianapolis Motor Speedway veterans. Eliseo Salazar, he's going to co‑drive the No. 64 TRG Porsche GT3, and Paul Tracy is going to co‑drive the No. 77 M&M Snack Mix Speedway Ford Dallara for Doren Racing. And Eliseo is a veteran of F1, Cart and IndyCar. Finished third here in the 2000 Indy 500, won an IndyCar race back in '97 at Vegas, and this is his third Rolex Series start this year.
Paul, 2003 Champ Car World Series champion back in '02 here for the Indy 500. Finished as the runner up in one of the most controversial finishes in the 500's history. All together, 31 career IndyCar and Champ Car victories for Paul. We'll start with an opener from each of you and take some questions.
Paul, you first.
PAUL TRACY: It's good to be here at Indy. Obviously, I didn't run this year's Indy 500, but when you get a chance to run here in anything, it's a great opportunity so I want to thank Doren Racing and M&M Mars Company for sponsoring us and being here this weekend.
It's an exciting weekend for GRAND‑AM. From coming here from the test, it's going to be an extremely exciting race. It will be a lot of beating and banging and passing. It's going to be a fun racetrack for the GRAND‑AM cars.
ELISEO SALAZAR: I would say it's an understatement to say that every time you come here to this center of racing, you know, it's unbelievable. As you mentioned, I've raced six times here, twice around the front row and finished in third, fourth, sixth, seventh, so I've had good success here.
And this is a very special year because I did a Round of the World Rally Championship in Argentina. And I believe I became the first driver to do Formula 1, IndyCar, Le Mans, Dakar and WRC. So I couldn't miss the chance to run backwards in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Q. Paul, we've seen you in GRAND‑AM for three or four races this year. What are the chances of seeing you back here for a full season in 2013?
PAUL TRACY: Well, we're working hard on that. We've had with Doren Racing this year I got kind of called the week before the 24 Hours of Daytona, and he had told me, look, I'd like to you come drive there. So I don't have a full season package, we're running last year's car. So we're not going to be the most competitive out there, but I've been able to secure a relationship with the Mars Group through the sponsorships we've had so far this year with Combos, which is a Mars brand, and now M&Ms this weekend.
We've entertained some people from Mars at all of the races. So hopefully that's a building block for him to plan to build new cars over the weekend.
Kevin put a new car on track for the 24 Hour, and hopefully we can secure a full season of sponsorship and be out there full year next year.
Q. Paul, you tested here in that car. Even though it's a year old, how was the car on this track?
PAUL TRACY: It wasn't too bad. The new car is a better car. It's been more refined. The downforce numbers on the new car versus the older car is about 18% more downforce, so that doesn't really affect the cars as much here, because you basically peel everything off the car that you can to get down the straightaways here.
So we're not, in a place like Daytona or here where you have such long straightaways and such slow corners, not really relying on the down force level that you would at Watkins Glen, per se.
So we tested here the infield track is very, very slippery. You're not running a lot of down force on the car. The car is very trimmed out for the long straightaway. So I think we're pretty‑‑ we can be pretty close timewise to the new car. We're not going to put it on pole by any means, but I think the gap between the two cars is much closer.
Q. Paul, given what you've talked about for the possibilities of next year, is that where you see your career headed now with sports cars and have you closed the book on open wheel cars?
PAUL TRACY: I think for me I have to be realistic. Since the merger from Champ Car to the IRL, I was able to compete somewhat every year a partial season. Five to seven races a year. I haven't done any this year. They have a new car in the IRL, so I'm a complete year behind. So I've really focused my attention on trying to go sports car racing.
I love the GRAND‑AM Racing. I've always enjoyed doing it. I think it's very competitive. That's not to say I dislike ALMS, but there is a big separation from the LMS between the front prototypes, the Audis and the other cars. So you really are competing here on a much level playing field very much like NASCAR is.
There are a lot of good drivers and a lot of good action on the track and good racing, so I enjoy that a lot. I feel when I come here, I've got a chance to do well. So this is where my focus has been to try to put together a program to run in GRAND‑AM.
Q. Paul, you were here at Indy when Indy was the only race at Indy. Maybe that helped the mystique. I know Chip was in a little bit ago and said everything that's come on since has sort of added to the thing. Do you have any thoughts on that?
PAUL TRACY: Obviously I raced here a long time when I first started. My first race was in '91, and Indy 500 was the only race that they had. So it takes a lot of capital to keep this place the way it is, and only having one race a year probably doesn't generate the kind of money that it takes for the Speedway Corporation to keep the level that this track needs to be at to be the pinnacle of the world. So they've brought in other races.
I think they've brought in more excitement for the fans, now that fans can come to Indianapolis and see any type of racing they want, road racing, stock cars, IndyCars, Moto GP. So I think it's great. It's a great track. It's one of the best facilities in the world, and why not use it for what it's intended for, and that's for all forms of Motorsport.
Q. One of your old rivals, Sebastien Bourdais will be racing against you tomorrow. Have you talked to him at all about GRAND‑AM? I asked him in Toronto, and he said he looked for you at Watkins Glen and he couldn't find you.
PAUL TRACY: I didn't see him there, but whoever he was driving with spun me out at Watkins Glen in the first corner.
ELISEO SALAZAR: Maybe it was him.
PAUL TRACY: I got my mark notched off for that car this weekend. But all kidding aside, I didn't get a chance to see him. As these races get pretty hectic, you get so wrapped up in what you're trying to do, especially tomorrow. We have one practice, qualify, race all in one day. So there is really not a lot of time to chit‑chat and socialize with people.
Q. Compare this track, Indianapolis, racing‑wise to Millville, New Jersey's track in south jersey, please?
PAUL TRACY: The track and infields are fairly similar to each other. The track in New Jersey was narrow and slippery. It had a lot of slow speed hair pins and switch backs. This track is on the infield part of the track, it's pretty similar. It's slippery, and it has a lot of first gear hair pins and corners where you're switching back on yourself. Then it leads out on to the oval, and that is a totally different thing you're coming through turn one backwards and the car is sliding and dancing, and you're already up to 165 miles an hour in the DP car going through the corner backwards.
It's a fun track. I think it's going to be a great track to race on. The traffic and timing things are going to be important because it is so slippery in the infield, you can't really get off line to get around GT cars. It's pretty tricky.
So timing things, and making your pass the right way is going to be important in the race.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
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