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Champ Car Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Champ Car

Champ Car Media Conference

Ryan Hunter-Reay
Paul Tracy
October 28, 2003

ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone in the media that joined us today for a very special CART Champ Car World Series Media Teleconference with the winner of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford and the holder of the Vanderbilt Cup for the first time in his 13-year career, the driver of the #3 Indeck/Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone for Team Player's and PF Racing, Paul Tracy. Congratulations, Paul, thanks for joining us today.

PAUL TRACY: Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: It's been a couple of days, been a long flight, a couple of days to sit back. As the whole thing sunk in on what you have been able to accomplish this year?

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, it's just -- everything is happen something quick right now, been so busy with media after the race and a little party on Sunday night and flying out in the morning just got back, yesterday, arrived yesterday morning and all the flights were cancelled out of LAX. Had to rent a car and drive to Vegas. Been a little long couple of days. Been a couple days to basically turn my laundry around and head back over to Fontana.

ERIC MAUK: For the media on the call, we have definitely got Paul on the whirlwind tour. He's over in Vegas now and doing satellite media tours and doing some appearances over there. He gets one day off possibly on Wednesday. Then come on over to Fontana and get ready for 500-miler. Talk about California Speedway a little bit, a place where you haven't had a whole lot of success in your career; never qualified any better than fifth; never finished in the Top-10 over there. What is about that place?

PAUL TRACY: I had a lot of mechanical failures there and I am really just very happy that we were able to complete the Championship run before going to Fontana because it would be so -- it has always been a difficult race for me. But it's not from the fact of not running well there, I have never qualified that well, so to speak, but I always was at the front because of the Hanford winning. It's always very easy to move your way to the front. But we're just very satisfied with Player's/Forsythe Racing, that we were able to wrap it up and really have the moment wrapped up early.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations from everyone at Champ Car. Real quick, just a look at what Paul has accomplished this year: Seven victories - one of just six drivers to accomplish that in a Champ Car season; six poles; he's led 658 laps which puts him in Top-10 for a single season with laps led. He has earned over a million dollars first time since 1995 and again 226 points in just 18 starts this year. He's led 18 times this year in the Series' 18 races. Let us open it up for questions.

Q. What do you think the problem has been in California? Same mechanical possible or different every time?

PAUL TRACY: Pretty much I have a lot of engine failures. I had one crash in the inaugural race there and then every year after that I have -- had suffered an engine failure which happens at those type of races. I don't see that happening so much this year now that we have the Ford-Cosworth motor. It is a 1,200 mile motor, but when you had all these development engines, Honda, Toyota, Ford, all of that, we were revving the things up to like 16,000 RPM and running them at the max all day and stuff would let go. I just really had a lot of engine failures at that race.

ERIC MAUK: Informational bit for the media on the call, obviously the big story out here in Southern California are the rampant wild fires that are going through the country side. Champ Car and California Speedway have a very close eye on what is going on out here and as of right now everything is still a go-ahead for the King Taco 500 on Sunday. Although if there were any situations that would pose any kind of threats to the drivers' safety or anyone involved, we would most certainly take a look at that and see if the race needed to be altered or postponed in any way, but as of right now, everything is still full speed ahead 100% for this weekend.

Q. PT, at the start of the race when you got tagged, did you think here we go again, I have got this thing pretty much in the bag; now we're going to have to fight, just kind of seems like that has been kind of the trend this year because you had so many good races and then had some pretty big disappointment early in the race, were you thinking keep the engine running, how bad the suspension -- what were you thinking?

PAUL TRACY: Really just a whole range of emotions. I started -- before the start of the race I had a good warmup and I was confident that I could make a good start. I knew going into it that there was going to be some type of a team strategy play from Newman/Haas and obviously that became a factor at the first corner and the way the start went off, Bruno led the thing away from -- instead of the pole position guy leading it away. So when I got spun around at the first corner, I mean, from being -- going from being confident to having a good result to really pissed off, and then just trying to work my way back to the field and then I had Tag spin in front of me and then drive into me. I backed up into another car and damaged the suspension trying to get out of the accident to really just disappointment after that, that knowing that okay, we're pretty much out this race, I am going to lose a lot of laps, I don't know if we can fix the car and then you know, then again later in the race seeing Bruno crash to being elated, you know, just unbelievable feeling of happiness. I had every range of emotion that you can possibly have in a two-hour time period.

Q. With all the races you won, all the poles, all the laps you have led, some of the guys that have gone to us on the side and said we weren't there to challenge him. Does that taint in your mind in anyway the Championship because you are one of the guys who can look back to say I beat everyone when we were altogether too?

PAUL TRACY: I am not trying to take anything away from what Scott has done or what anybody has done over there, but I mean, from my standpoint, I have driven the maximum effort that I think I have in my whole career. The competition level is still tough, Top-5 or 6 and really the guys that -- maybe the guys that are saying that they are not even driving anymore. They are all retired. So I mean, I am not trying to take anything away from what anybody does over there, whether -- if you are a Champion at the top level, you have to work hard at it.

Q. Way back when you and I were racing out at Goodwood and whatnot, did you ever think you would be where you are today and conversely did you think it was going to quite take so long?

PAUL TRACY: You always dream of winning Championships, but as the time went on and things, you know, you keep trying and keep trying and I have always given 110% effort all the time into my driving and every time it is time to go racing and qualify, I put it all out on the line. I don't think anybody can take that away from me. But there comes times in your career when you think man, I won all these races, but am I have going to win a Championship, how do I do it. Finally now it's come. So I am just relieved that it's come. It taken a long time, but you know, it is worth the wait.

Q. After obviously you are just absolutely full of emotion, on a real roller-coaster during the event for all the stuff that we have already talked about, but when it got quiet and you ended up back in the hotel room, what went through your mind?

PAUL TRACY: I think -- I guess really -- I don't feel that much different as a person. I guess from my standpoint now that I have got the Championship, the weight of the pressure that people put on you saying well, you haven't won a Championship; when are you going to win a Championship - well, they can't say that anymore. So I don't have that pressure on me anymore. I have won tons of races and led tons of laps and I am in the Top-5 in every category of everything that there is to do, but people would always say: Well, you haven't won a Championship. That puts a lot of weight on you. That just felt like it has been taken off now.

Q. The one key to this team finally succeeding in getting the Championship obviously was to get you on the team and then you were able to get them into a different chassis. But the season before that the Player's team was almost synonymous with having some sort of mechanical problem that let them down. That didn't happen this year. Why do you think that is and do you think that's probably the big turning point with this Team that got you to where you are?

PAUL TRACY: I think one of the key things is that the people behind the team, that are behind the scenes Bob Bexon and Jerry Forsythe, they believed in me for a long time as a driver. I worked with Bob who was running the KOOL -- he was in charge of KOOL when I joined Team KOOL Green, then he moved back over to Player's after about a year and a half. From that point in time he was a big believer in me and wanted me to come to Player's, but I was, you know, always in the middle of a contract and just didn't come together. We tried a couple of times, but it just wouldn't come together. Once I came to the team, they basically told me whatever you need, or you feel you need, to win the Championship just tell us what you need. I have never been in a situation with any team where they basically said to me, who are the people you want, what are the cars you want, who are the guys you want to work with. It's always been come and we will tell you what you are going to do. I guess they allowed me to get the people around me that I was comfortable with and obviously getting Tony Cicale and then Todd Malloy on the team who worked with me at Team Green, people that I am very close with, I struck up a good relationship with Neil Micklewright. Him and I get along very well. And then my other engineers Mike Pawlowski, I have got a great relationship with him and all of us just clicked and really that was the difference. They just put a whole package around me of what I thought that I needed and it all worked out.

Q. There's been so much great Canadian talent that have won championships and won races around the world. The name Villeneuve is certainly synonymous. I know you are a proud Canadian and I know some people make too much of that. I know you don't. I know you are very proud to finally kick this thing with a Canadian flag in there is very special to you?

PAUL TRACY: It really is. Having won the races in Canada and won two out of three in Canada this year and top it off with a Championship is a great feeling. I can't wait to -- I will be up there next week on Thursday to do a media tour up there and just can't wait to see what the response has been like.

Q. Obviously your first start, you started the season off with two wins in a row. Can you look back on the middle of your season and see what went wrong and how -- would you have liked to have wrapped it up a couple races earlier?

PAUL TRACY: I think looking at how the season went, I mean, we had basically my career has always been hot/cold, hot/cold. It's never been kind of luke warm the whole time. We started off the year with three wins and we went to Europe and had basically three races. We scored three points. We had a mechanical failure, gearbox failure in England; went to Germany and we were uncompetitive. We chose the wrong aero package to go there. And then came back to Milwaukee and we were running up front and we had a wheel fall off after the last pitstop. That's kind of how the season went. Then we would go hot and cold; then hot and old cold. There were a few races, the middle there, where we scored some third and fourths, but it wasn't just on even keel the whole time.

ERIC MAUK: Now joining us is the latest winner in the Champ Car World Series, driver of the #31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone for American Spirit Team Johansson, Ryan Hunter-Reay who took his very first Champ Car win this past weekend, a 1.547 second margin of victory to win at Surfer's Paradise. Ryan, thank you for joining us today.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thanks for having me on.

ERIC MAUK: Now that it has been a couple days has it all sunk in to what you accomplished at Surfer's Paradise?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's starting to sink in. It is just -- it's such an honor to be among the list of Champ Car winners finally and this has been something that I have dreamed of something since I was eight years old and just all the hard work that's gone into it, you know, finally we got one in the win column at the top level of open-wheel racing in America. So I couldn't be happier at the moment.

ERIC MAUK: Taking a look ahead at this weekend, heading into a big super speedway where these cars can really get out and stretch your legs, it ought to be a very exciting race; obviously one that you have seen from a lot of different angles having come up through the CART Ladder System. Your thoughts heading into the Fontana race.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Actually, the good thing is we have actually did a testing there, two days of testing actually, a day and a half, really, and I really haven't tested that much this season and everywhere we have tested we have done fairly well. Now here we go into Fontana having some miles under our belt, and I am quite comfortable with the track and it's always been a great event. My teammate is the former Champion of the race, so I look forward to it a whole bunch. Hopefully we'll get that Reynard on the top of the podium again.

Q. Paul, considering everything that's going on in Southern California now, I guess you experienced it firsthand trying to fly back to Vegas. Would it be a huge disappointment if they did have to cancel this race; especially in light of you already having wrapped up the title?

PAUL TRACY: Well, you know, I think we hope that it's not going to get cancelled because there's still some other people in the Championship that are fighting for position but I think what -- the most important thing is we need to think about the safety of the fans. I drove through there yesterday because I couldn't get a flight. I had to drive back from Los Angeles and really the fire is only about ten miles away from the track, one of the fires. The smoke is very heavy in the air and it's basically almost like being in fog. So the air quality is not good. I think the most important thing we need to worry about are the fans in the stands and the drivers on the track and you know, -- I didn't spend any real time because I was driving, but I understand there's a lot of falling ash that's coming out of the air and all of that's going on the track. As far as I know right now, we're planning to go ahead, but it is all going to be a very touch-and-go subject. We just have to wait and see what is going to happen; how much the winds make the fire progress more. It is just too far out right now to make a decision.

Q. You say you give 110% every time you go out on the track, but with the Championship wrapped up is it going to be hard to get up for this race?

PAUL TRACY: No, I mean, I am always up for a race. Really, this last race for me, you know, I got such a big help from my teammate, you know, I was basically out of contention at Surfer's and my teammate started pretty well back in the field and Patrick Carpentier, he was moving up to the field and ultimately led to Bruno's crash by putting a lot of pressure on him trying to pass him and Bruno crashed. I kind of owe him, so I am going to go work this weekend and we're going to try to get Pat in the winner's circle again this year for the second time and see what we can do to help him out.

ERIC MAUK: (Inaudible) He has a win at Michigan and finished on the podium here last year in what was the fastest race ever in Champ Car history won by Jimmy Vasser at over 197 mile an hour for an average speed S.

Q. Paul, looking ahead to next year, you look back at the most recent champions, none of them are around. You are in a position to come back next year. Is that your intention to come back next year to defend your title and go for No. 2?

PAUL TRACY: Absolutely. I have made my career in Champ Car. I have been a supporter of Champ Car and I am looking forward to coming back next year and having the #1 on the car, driving for Jerry Forsythe and he's one of the principle guys behind taking over this company and hopefully moving it into the next dimension. I think him and Paul and Kevin, they have got a lot of big plans for the series. They plan to keep their star drivers and keep their up-and-coming drivers like we have with Ryan and A.J. coming up and really make this into something that a lot of people can be proud of.

Q. Ryan, there was some talk earlier this year that Atlantics weren't really a good proving ground for Champ Cars which obviously the statistics with a lot of guys that ran Atlantics dispel, just your feelings in general on the preparation? You didn't have a lot of time in Atlantics and you a great race in Mid-Ohio, you win the race at Australia, if you think the training ground was sufficient?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. I still do. I always have just when I have been there on equal ground with the guys that come from Europe I think I have stood my ground and more, you know, Mid-Ohio you can't really think anything at Mid-Ohio, it wasn't a fluke for sure. It is a tough track and there's passing opportunities there. We ran a great race and finished third. Then when it came down to it in Surfer's, I had to protect my lead. I went side-by-side with Jimmy once into the chicane and several times throughout that race with the conditions and everything like, that I mean, it was a very trying race, so I just think around the -- the whole season has shown that Atlantics is a viable proving ground for guys coming up since A.J. and others, for sure, it's been more so.

Q. Paul, when you look back over the last few years you talked about a few moments ago the fact that you would get so close just couldn't quite get over the hump. Did anything change in the way you approach a race mentally or the Championship mentally, or physically, anything change at all that you think pushed you over that hump this year?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I kind of touched on it earlier. I think the biggest factor was when I came to this team is that they allowed me to put together like I said, the people that I was comfortable with and believed in me and you know, I went out there and won the Championship the way that I drive. That's racing to the maximum every weekend. You can say I did it my way because I didn't go out there and race for points, or cruise around to collect points. I went out and gave it everything I had every weekend and sometimes I won and sometimes I failed. It was definitely at the end of the season the last five races was just -- there was a see-saw battle. Bruno would have a big weekend and then I would go home dejected and say okay, I have got to come back next weekend and I have got to raise my game another level. I'd come back the following weekend and win. Then I'd say, okay, I got him now, and then I am sure he went home and said the same thing to himself and would come back the next weekend and win. So we both, every weekend, responded back and forth, almost like -- like a sporting match. We just raised our game every weekend in the last four, five races.

Q. Interesting that you would mention you didn't race for points you always raced to win. A couple of weeks ago Bobby Hamilton Jr. after winning in Memphis said that fans don't pay money to watch a guy points race and trying to run third and fourth. Sponsors don't put millions of dollars into a car to watch a guy run third and fourth just to be in the points. They want to watch them race to win. In a sense are you saying that that not only do you race for yourself, but also for what the sport really is and that is entertainment?

PAUL TRACY: Well, everybody has got their own style of racing. For me, the way I have driven my whole life, is to go out there and try to win and try to do -- put it all out on the line every time. I had guess you can't -- a leopard can't change its spots, I guess. This is the way I am. As much as people told me throughout the year you have got to do this and you have got to do that, I can't change the way -- change what my natural instincts are. Some people are guys that will not take risks and go out there and finish in the points every weekend. Some guys are natural risk-takers. I guess that's the category that I am in. I go out and I give it everything I have. I take chances. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don't. But it's hard to teach -- hard to change your -- what your natural instincts are.

Q. I know how much your mother follows what you do and supports you. Some could say she rides every lap with you in that car. What has her response been to Australia?

PAUL TRACY: Actually I haven't even talked to her because I haven't even been able to get a hold of her. She's in Florida. She's going to be at Fontana on Thursday. I talked to my dad. He's just overjoyed. My sisters and stuff, and I had aunts and uncles at the race, so I haven't actually been able to get a hold of my mom.

Q. Ryan, not only was this win great for you but apparently the way it breaks down for the whole team, to be standing on the podium together, what did that mean?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: That was huge. Just all the ups-and-downs we have gone through this season as a new team, you know, former Champion in Jimmy and myself being a real young rookie, just the whole extremes of it all, then it all coming together in a race like that, so much drama, and Paul winning the Championship the same day, couldn't be any happier for him, for a deserving Champion, congratulations to him. Just to do it for American Spirit, a rookie team, with some Reynards, with the slim budget, everything like that, it's unbelievable really. I can't describe it. To hear the American National Anthem up upon the top step of the podium was just -- was a feeling that I have never felt in my life. I am on a high right now but I am ready to go back and do my job this weekend here in Fontana.

Q. Paul, just wanted to give you big congratulations on posting that #1. I imagine you will personally put it on your car for next year?

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, for sure. We would like to -- I want to run that number next year. I think that's what everybody's dream is, is to run that number. We have had -- the team is having some discussions with Newman/Haas, if they will relinquish the number for this last race since it's Player's last race and finish the season off for those guys with it like, that which would be nice.

Q. Wondering if Jerry would have anything to say about removing the lucky #3 off of one of his cars, as he's so fond of anything with 3?

PAUL TRACY: I think he would like to have that #1 on there for sure.

Q. Just wanted you to comment, were you surprised about your cheerful display and also just also by the reaction of the media in general about your open display of emotion because you are known as being an aggressive and tough competitor....

PAUL TRACY: Well, for me, I just told myself I wasn't going to lose it and then once I got my hands on that trophy I just -- everything -- all my emotions came out of me. Basically you know, a 13-year ride of emotions. Everything, like I said, after the race, I mean, everything that happened in that race was like, you know, just a flashback of my whole career, packed into two hours. Starting off good and then bad and out of it and back in it and then Champion. It was just a very emotional day for me and the whole team. They have been working hard for eight years to try to win another Championship. Finally it all came together.

Q. Pivotal moment in your career that you can -- just quickly that you gravitate to?

PAUL TRACY: Can you say that again.

Q. Pivotal moment in reflection of your career,your highest point ---

PAUL TRACY: There's a lot of highs. Really, I mean, there's so many race wins and there's so many places that I have achieved great things. I can't really put my finger on one thing that's the pivotal moment. But I mean, this is -- the end goal is the Championship. Now I have achieved that. I am hopeful that my motivation is still high. My -- I feel I am driving as well as I have ever driven and like I said, I am motivated to continue driving. So I think I am right now at 34 I am in the prime of my career. I feel like I can win more Championships.

Q. Paul, bottom-line this for me: What part of this Championship was you know, the right out of the package and everything coming together, what part of it was the team that -- the people that you put around yourself?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think it's a combination of everything. You have got to have -- the package is important. The Series is very strict on what you can and can't do. Obviously the rules are very tight, so the Series has somewhat become mostly a spec Series, it's put a lot more -- everybody has the same engine. Everybody has the same tires. There's nobody with a horsepower advantage or a fuel-mile advantage or a different turbo that's better, so -- or whatever. So it's put a lot more into the driver's hands and the team's hands. The team that does the best job will ultimately end up winning races, and the driver that does the best job. So that's what gives me a lot of satisfaction is that you know, I can't say, well, we didn't -- you know, our engine wasn't as good as so and so engines or he had better this or better that. Everybody else pretty much has the same stuff. I can say that myself and our team, we just did a better job than everybody.

Q. The day hasn't been announced yet but looks like you will have a real home game in your area out by Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Your thoughts about going out there and running.

PAUL TRACY: I think it's going to be great. They have been talking about it for years and years. It was actually one of the reasons why I moved out here because I felt that I thought that we were going to be racing out here about five years ago and we would be doing a lot of testing. So it cut down on a lot of travel in the winter because this -- this is a good climate out here for testing. If that all comes together, I think it's going to be a great race not only for Champ Car but also for the city of Las Vegas.

Q. Ryan and Paul, No. 1, I wanted to find out if either of you had any challenge or any kind of obstacles you needed to overcome getting to Los Angeles to Australia because of the tires? I know some of the airports were closed and some of the roads have been closed. What kind of things have you and the team gone through to get to L.A. for the race?

PAUL TRACY: I am back in last Vegas now. I just arrived in L.A. yesterday morning. My flight was cancelled to Vegas so I had to rent a car and drive from the 10 to the 15 and then right through San Bernadino and there was fires on either side of the highway in the hills. A lot of smoke and a lot of helicopters flying around and fire trucks and you can see a lot of trucks going up and down the fire roads up and down the side of the mountains. I can see firsthand, pretty catastrophic.

Q. Anything that you could have imagined though?

PAUL TRACY: When you are over in Australia and the -- you know, you don't really get a sense of what is really going on over here until you see it firsthand. You just -- nothing is the same seeing it in person.

Q. Ryan, what about you?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, big questionmark for us since the race is ended on Monday, I heard that airport might be closed. That wasn't the case, but I am in L.A. quite frequently flying in, you couldn't even see the ground coming in. That goes to show you I have been watching some of the footage in Australia, the tires, and like Paul said, the biggest concern is just for the people right now that are going through all this. Racing comes second to it all. We'll see how it goes. We are here, I just got in about an hour ago, and I just talked to my team manager and said something about the city government having a meeting about it today. So I guess we're all sort of just waiting see what the word is.

Q. Were your flights cancelled at all or was any equipment left back, cars, was there any problem transporting any of that stuff over?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: No, I think everything is here. Everything is fine for the most part. From my understanding so far.

Q. Are either your two teams planning on doing any kind of -- providing any kind of donations for any of the families or victims of the tires or anything like that been talked about between the teams?

PAUL TRACY: I haven't actually had a chance to talk to Jerry Forsythe about that issue yet. But he's coming out on Friday and I just really -- we have to see what happens there with the race and what is going on. As far as that's concerned, I haven't had a chance to talk to him about that.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: No, not at all really. I haven't -- I just got in just now, so you are the first people I am talking to actually.

Q. Paul, I was wondering if you have any concerns about the sponsorship issue for next season or are you leaving that up to the people in charge to sort that out?

PAUL TRACY: As far as I know I mean, I know that they have something lined up. I know that Player's will retain it's half ownership in the team and continue to do, I think they are going to continue to do hospitality, which they are allowed to do, to entertain clients, certain customers, and as far as I know on the sponsorship, they have a program lined up for next year. That will be announced after the season is over and everything is in step for Player's and they get their maximum exposure and then make an announcement in the off-season.

Q. Obviously looks like your CEO's reign is going to end in a couple of weeks. You have had a couple of run-ins with him this year. Give me your overall opinion how he's done in his two years as CART CEO?

PAUL TRACY: I think he's done a really great job. He took over the situation and really I have had some people say he's like -- like a guy who showed up at an accident scene and was able to save the thing at the site and now we need to move it to the next level. And continue to build from here. The thing -- CART was really in a bad way a couple of years ago and he came in and he took it over and made things happen. Got the teams to stay and for the most part, a lot of the drivers to stay and brought some new drivers in and new teams and facilitated a lot of the deals that have come together. Now with the changing of ownership and new direction going in, it's time for him -- he is prepared to step aside and just consult and move on.

Q. What is the biggest obstacle the new ownership is group, do you think, will face in the off-season and going into next year?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think there's not a lot of obstacles. I think they have got a schedule pretty much planned out. It will be 15 to 17 races in big markets. They have a game plan of what they want to try to do with Motorock. Really, now it's just taking it to -- taking the marketing and the promotion to the level that it needs to be at and that's what it's all about. I think the product is good, you know, the races are good, the venues are good. It just needs to be marketed and get the awareness out there.

Q. Just made it in under the wire here. Congratulations to both of you. Paul, obviously it's been a rollercoaster race and season and thirteen years, couldn't be happier for you. Really glad for you. I missed the first part of this. You sort of touched on it that Fontana will be the last race for Player's in a sort of semi-direct role with the team or as the main sponsor that's not allowed to be on the car at this point. To win the last Championship for them and also ultimately the first Championship first CART Championship for Jerry Forsythe. Can you talk about kind of what that means for you?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, it means a lot to me because when they hired me on the team that was the objective and I along with that -- you missed a lot of the conversation earlier, it's really the only team that I have ever been involved with when I joined the team basically they said, tell us what you want, whatever you need, we need to win this Championship and whatever you want or think you need, tell us and we'll get it for you. It's really the only team that I have had that has allowed me to do that and place the people around me that I had confidence in and they had confidence in me, you know, from Tony Cicale to Todd Malloy to all the engineering staff was basically hand-picked to go around me and people that I have worked with in the past. Really, I mean, along with that, now they have given me all this freedom to do that, now I have got to deliver. So there was a lot of pressure that went along with that and constant pressure throughout the year. We started off the off-season not so great testing -- I wasn't as quick as I wanted to be, but everything was coming together and then we started off the season with three wins in a row and as the year went on, I mean, you know, you build confidence, but then you get towards the end of the year, the pressure just starts to build. Every time that we would have a good race then the last few races, last five or six races, was really just a racheting effect of our team against Newmann/Haas and we would respond and then they'd come back the next weekend and raise their game and they would respond, and then we would come back the next weekend and, we would raise our game every week. With that, the pressure built every week. To finally achieve that in Fontana the way the race went, it was really -- the race was almost like a recap of my whole year .

Q. Ryan, obviously it's kind of been an up-and-down season for you too in the sense that there were some races where things clicked, the Reynard worked and obviously Mid-Ohio being one of them and Mexico City even though you know what I mean, even though sometimes the results weren't there, for example, Mexico City, Portland and another place where you didn't necessarily get the results, but at least in the one qualifying session you were right there although again -- you ended up losing it. But I mean, those sorts of things, can you talk about how kind -- how that -- how the sort of the -- you know, the little -- or the -- the, I won't call them minor, but the sort of the sporadic successes kind of helped you and the team, you know, keep your heads up through the course of the year when, as I said, you'd be -- you'd go to place like Mid-Ohio and be really quick, but then go to the next couple of races knowing that you really didn't have much of a chance?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, that has been tough, just all the ups and downs with this new team. We got everybody together just a few days before spring training and hadn't done much testing at all. I think that has been a factor to some of our sporadic results, but like you say, when we had it right, everything came together and we did a great job in Mexico City, we were quick. Some places the Reynard just wasn't competitive. But then again, you know, I don't want to hide behind the Reynard too much just because in some places we were way off the pace when other guys at Conquest were on it. It's been a big learning year for everybody involved. Probably not Jimmy, but he's had to adapt quite a bit to a team like this, with a very tight budget and everything. It's been tough in a lot of ways but that makes the success of this past win that much better when we both get on the podium like that and for me to get up on the podium for the second time this season with this team is just such a great honor. It's unbelievable.

ERIC MAUK: That will bring a close to our media teleconference today. Again congratulations on your accomplishments. We'll see you guys this weekend. Thank you. Media, than you very much for attending today.

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