Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand-Am Road Racing
June 19, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate the media joining today. We are getting ready for this weekend's Grand Am trip to the great historic race at Road America, the Rolex race is Saturday. We also look ahead, anticipating in the following week, the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen in New York, round two of the inaugural North American Endurance Championship.
Today we are talking about Road America on Saturday and we are happy to be joined by Scott purity. He is the co‑driver of the No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley in the Rolex Series Daytona prototype class. Scott and his co‑driver, Memo Rojas, they currently lead the DP standings. They are looking for their third championship in the last four years.
Thanks for joining us and the best of luck this week. For an opening question here, maybe we can just ask you about your thoughts heading into Road America and then The Glen, two of the most historic road courses on the schedule.
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, we are looking forward to it. It's been a pretty hard fight so far with the TELMEX BMW. We feel like we've been behind a little bit on the aero side of things. Got a little bit of relief from GRAND‑AM to get 100 more RPM. Expecting a little bit more but we'll take whatever we can get.
Also, I know they are currently looking at the aero side of things. It seems like the Riley body work is certainly not nearly as good as the Corvette.
With that being said, it's always great going back to a track where we won last year. We ran very strong at Road America last year. I love going there. It's a beautiful track. Probably one most similar to the great ones in Europe, which Le Mans, which I was working for SPEED last week calling that race, just a wonderful, flowing, incredible racetrack that's so much fun to drive.
Hopefully we can get to the top of the podium; we have been second, we have been third and still looking for that win.
Q. Racing seems to be coming back around now. How do you see GRAND‑AM coming back to where it was in 2006, 2007?
SCOTT PRUETT: I see it making a lot of progress. That's a very good question, because we are seeing a lot of car manufacturers looking at getting back into sports, not just looking at it but taking those next steps.
Now, this is one of those things that takes a couple of years to gear up, and when you look at where you want to go racing, there's always really only two series that you want to do that. And if you want to look at where you get your best bang for your buck, and most certainly where the budget is realistic, not out of this world, I think GRAND‑AM is a perfect place.
So I know for a fact that what I'm seeing, because I've been very fortunate to drive for almost every manufacturer over the years, and some of them have mentioned to me: Where would you go racing? We want to get the best bang for our buck. We do want to get back involved in racing, but we are not in a position to spend $10, $15 million a year type of being back involved, but maybe 3‑ or $4million.
I encourage them to get involved in GRAND‑AM and certainly the prototype series, just having the opportunity now to do body work, similar to production cars, which is exactly what Corvette has done on the prototype side, which is exciting for me because now you're seeing that energy, it's been kind of flat with no excitement and potential of more cars and manufacturers, where over the last six months, I'm really starting to feel that buzz.
Q. Going to The Glen in a couple of weeks to reclaim your crown, when you look at what you've accomplished in that racetrack, what comes to your mind?
SCOTT PRUETT: We absolutely love, and not just we, but me, love going to The Glen. It's an incredible racetrack. I certainly preferred going there on the long track; six hours, it's just an incredible track to drive.
It's always met with some challenges, which we like. Sometimes there's a good chance of rain and sometimes you go up there and it's incredibly hot. So you're not sure what you're going to be met with but it's an incredible facility.
From what we've seen over the years of what that track has done to improve the competition level; so instead of doing gravel tracks, they have taken all of the raw esses (ph) and paved them now, so you can keep the integrity of the race going, you keep the competition close, and the amount of yellow flags have been diminished significantly.
Q. I know you want to talk about the upcoming race, but talking about The Glen, you've had so much success there, can you talk about what you've done up there that's made you so successful? You talk about it being such a unique course; what have you specifically done up there to be so successful?
SCOTT PRUETT: I think it's just every time we have been up there with TELMEX BMW, or I should say with Ganassi, we have always unloaded fast, and naturally whatever set up that we have tended to go up there with has worked well straight out of the box and we just do some minor fine‑tuning.
That, coupled with what the Ganassi team was able to do; we have quick pit stops. We are able to really‑‑ when you look at a six‑hour race compared to a two‑hour‑and‑45‑minute race, the strategy and the amount of time that you spend in the pits and all of that that goes along with the racing, but not the actual driving on the racetrack, all of those things have to come together in concert to really come out on top.
I think that's one of the things that Ganassi has been known for that we have been able to understand it and really take advantage of those longer races that put us in a position to win.
Q. Looking back at the season so far, the fact that you don't have a win, still leading the points, albeit very close, talk about the resiliency of what you've had to do this season and how that plays out for the remainder of the races this year.
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, it's been a fight. You know, incredibly disappointing, what happened in Jersey. That was ultimately not the way we wanted to end that race, and we should have been, you know, on the podium there. That's the downside.
The upside is we have been fighting hard. We have been fighting and strapping and racing as hard as we can to get whatever we can. We certainly don't have a dominant car by any means or any stretch of the imagination, so we are trying to do the best we can. And I think that's what happens when‑‑ that really shows the true ability of teams is when‑‑ it's easy to be on top or easier being on top.
It's more difficult when you have to continually see the end, and never give up. Just take it from the green flag right to the checkered, even as we saw at mid‑Ohio a few weeks ago, even those last few laps, we just kept trying to get back up on top of a nice car and see if we can make a pass there at the end. And it was close; we were trying hard. But that's what we do in our organization. We just never give up.
Q. Will the extra horsepower mean much of a difference for you?
SCOTT PRUETT: The extra RPM is not much. When we saw the Fords got significantly more than we did and they have been leading the championship; I think if nothing else, we should have matched with what the other manufacturer was doing. I don't really understand that.
However, anything we can get is better, and I know that they are looking at the aero side of things, as well. Given the side flanks on the front, it's really not a very good way to generate downforce. It's very dirty, and a lot of drag and just it doesn't work. We need to have something that is a lot more efficient.
I know that GRAND‑AM is looking into it, and we are hopeful they will do a study and give us what we need there, as well. Things certainly aren't as even as we would like to see, and you know, we are just going to take whatever we can get and just continue on.
Q. Where do you feel like you stack up going into Road America with a long straight, and a good variety of everything you've faced there; where do you feel like you stack up? Are there good places or bad places where you're going to be hurt worse?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, I think that most certainly we all know that Road America is a horsepower place. We have these incredibly long straightaways, and just big horsepower is going to put you in a better position. That's really‑‑ it's always been known at that place.
But also with that, you have to make whatever downforce you can as efficiently as you can, because that's just straight power, if you're able to generate downforce real efficiently, then that will let you go faster down the straightaways.
So I think on both sides we are lacking a little bit. We were able to come out on top with a victory last year. We have been pushing hard every race this year, just not quite on top of the podium.
Even as much as that 100 RPM will help us a little bit, the reality is we still need more, and you know, we'll just‑‑ again, as I said earlier, we are thankful for every piece we get and I know GRAND‑AM is continuing to look at the aero side of things as well as the horsepower side of things, and hopefully we'll get a little bit more.
Q. As I recall, you guys through a lot of everything but the kitchen sink at that car last year, and ultimately made it what it needed to be. Can you rehash a little bit of how much work you guys did before that race?
SCOTT PRUETT: You know, we still joke about that. I mean, it was funny, because we did the warm‑up that morning, and I came in and said, there is no way, I can get this car to victory lane. Just it's not working; it's not this; it's not that. We changed toes and cameras and springs. I mean, it was this wholesale change going into that race, because I just didn't feel we were in a position to do what we did.
It's funny you say that, because we were‑‑ at Mid‑Ohio we had quite a time between the warm up and the race and we were talking about what we were going to do for the setup, and we were joking that hopefully we can be right on top of things when we go up there and not have to do that wholesale change coming into the race. If we have to, we will, but hopefully we can go back there with the setup we ran last year and just make it better as the weekend progresses.
Q. I heard some noise over one of the TV shows at GRAND‑AM after Mid‑Ohio said that one of the teams said that you have to have a Corvette in order to win, but when you look at the points, you are on top of the points. Is that just sour grapes, or is that something that teams always say when they can't seem to put it together?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, I think, you know, it's been exciting for sure. I mean, I think I really have been impressed with what Corvette has done. I think that's exciting to see that you have this prototype that still has the look of a production car, and I think that's key. I think that's key for the future of prototype racing, especially within GRAND‑AM. I would like to see more manufacturers embrace that.
I think Corvette was one of the first or Chevrolet has been one of the first to really step up and take ownership of doing that, and I think the other manufacturers have been on the sideline kind of seeing how it was all going to play out.
I think as we look into the future, that you know, as we have seen so far, I mean, we were second off the pace. If you had a Riley standard body work, there was no way you could compete. And GRAND‑AM sees that. So I know they are looking into it.
NASCAR's philosophy has always been, we want to see great racing. We want to entertain the fans. We want to come down to the last lap with that shootout with that fight to the checkered flag, and they are continually balancing that. When things aren't right, they do re‑balance it, whether it's in GRAND‑AM or NASCAR. That's one of the things that you always know that there isn't going to be this big swing of competitiveness.
Now as a competitor, you always want it to happen quicker than it does but they will do their research and they will do their study and make judgment calls that they feel are going to be the best.
Q. You told me that once that when you get to about midseason before it starts to be winning time, and the team is kind of in a place where, okay, now we know what we have to do to get to the end and when it's the championship; are we at winning time now?
SCOTT PRUETT: I've been working hard trying to get that top spot on the podium for sure. We are throwing everything we can at this thing right now. We have had some great runs. We had a one a couple of weeks at Mid‑Ohio and looking for one this week at Elkhart and Watkins Glen back‑to‑back. I'm looking to get back to the winner's circle. It's been too long for TELMEX BMW not to be on top, and we are going to do everything we can to get there.
Q. We are going to Road America and the Glen, two traditional places in American racing. I wonder if there are‑‑ you've been to these tracks over and over again. Are there places that over and above the racing, are there places that you like to go, a hotel or restaurant or favorite place that you like that makes going there a little different before you actually go to the racetrack?
SCOTT PRUETT: There is. When you go to Elkhart, everybody know's Steven's without a doubt. Some people probably better than others that might close the place down; not me for sure but I've heard stories.
When you go to the Glen, The Glen Motor Lodge. I mean, great just tradition at both those circuits, it's incredible. And I was very fortunate to do the broadcast at Le Mans over the weekend, and you see that, that history and the incredible years of great cars and great racing, and you feel that same thing when you go to Elkhart Lake and when you go to Watkins Glen; just that history year after year after year of great circuits and great competition.
The Rolex 24 is right in that category as well, and to go there and compete as drivers and teams is just absolutely incredible.
Q. Is broadcasting in Scott Pruett's future?
SCOTT PRUETT: I think I've still got a few years left in racing, but I certain enjoy it.
Q. With Road America being more of a horsepower track like you talked about earlier, and I know you're still a little off on aero, is it still going to be as much of a story this weekend as it's been?
SCOTT PRUETT: It will be. It's really been the whole package. It's been horsepower, and horsepower really carries across into the downforce and how efficient you can make downforce.
What we are seeing with the Corvettes is it seems like the body work, they are a little more slippery or efficient on the way they make downforce. We are looking for a balance on it. I know that Riley is spending a lot of time, designing our body work, they spend a lot of time looking at options and things that we can do for our current body work to be more on par with Corvette.
So it's all of the pieces put together. It's horsepower and efficiency on how you make downforce, and also the other piece with Road America, you've still got to have mechanically a good car, your springs and shocks and the way that those pieces tie together, they have patches on some of the turns, so you have to be able to get over the patches and still be efficient on the mechanical side of things, making grip.
So it's one of those places you go to where all of those pieces have got to come together if you're going to get to the winner's circle.
Q. Is that something that happened at Mid‑Ohio, obviously you finished second and things looked a little closer in the race; did you find something mechanically?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's what we are leaning on is really trying to take advantage of getting as much mechanical grip as we can. The more mechanical grip, the more aero we can take out of the car.
If you look at the setups that GRAND‑AM does help the teams at the race, and you look at the amount of wing and spoiler angle that we have, those things that make downforce, we are significantly lower than everybody else, which is pretty traditional for us.
So we are having to overcome the horsepower side of things and take the downforce out and try to make it up mechanically, and it played out well for us at Mid‑Ohio, and hopefully we can do the same this weekend.
Q. I know there's a new motor that's in the works, where is that in the development process?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, I know that Steve Dinan and BMW were hopeful to have it introduced now.
Unfortunately through the development cycle, there's some things that Steve has not been happy with, some of the pieces and the parts that I don't remember exactly, but I remember there's a couple of things that he felt just weren't, from a durability standpoint, he wasn't ready to submit it, yet, to GRAND‑AM.
There's still some things. So his focus was to do whatever we canto ‑‑ as always. We need to have a durable piece before you introduce it. And when he's confident to do it, and same with BMW, they will, but I don't see that happening for still a bit of time.
Q. You touched on history. The natural question is, Grand Prix, it's a race where there's a lot of history but the race doesn't have any history‑‑ but it's going to be a big one, isn't it?
SCOTT PRUETT: Without a doubt. In fact, we were just testing there right after Mid‑Ohio. We did a test for Continental, which is the first time we've been on the track since we did that exploratory look back in 2009. It's just incredible.
I mean, when you go and just drive into the facility, you just drive into the track, you see Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it's just awe. I've been fortunate to compete there in the Indy 500, and many those races I have been very fortunate to be at the Brickyard.
And as a kid, I had always watched, like with my dad and brother, we watched and listened to the Indianapolis 500. That's a tradition in our home. You go there for the first time in our IndyCar and then NASCAR and now to go back with the Rolex Sports Car Series, it's absolutely incredible.
I joked that we have the Continental Series, as well as the Rolex Sports Car Series, and I joked with some of the guys from the GRAND‑AM, and I joked with the guys going, I don't think we are going to have enough pit space to put all of these cars in. Anybody that has ever wanted the chance to go race at Indianapolis, this is their opportunity. I'm seeing 100 entries for the Continental Series and I'm seeing probably 50 (ph) entries for the Rolex Sports Car Series. I could be wrong, but I'm just thinking, you know, this is going to be that opportunity for this incredibly historic racetrack.
Q. Now, Jim has won the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400. How bad do you want to win this inaugural for him?
SCOTT PRUETT: Bad. And for myself. Don't get me wrong, it's both. And everybody is going to be going in there feeling the same way. I mean, this is an historic race. Just that opportunity to go to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, just the years and the history that has invaded at that facility, it's just going to be incredible going there.
Q. When I think of the dynamic duo, the GRAND‑AM, I think of you and Memo, do you guys think like that? It seems like you get along really well and complement each other.
SCOTT PRUETT: It's been a great relationship, and we work very well together. We have a lot of fun together. We work hard together. We compete; we win as a team and we lose as a team no matter what happens.
It's really the camaraderie, not just between Memo and I, but all of our guys. There is certainly that essence of feeling like you're a team. I mean, it's one for all and all for one, and all of us have been together for a number of years. Unfortunately one of our guys, his mother had passed away at Mid‑Ohio and it rocked the whole team.
It was one of those things that was felt by all of us, and you know, it didn't take away from us going out there and competing, and if anything, made it a little‑‑ made us go out there a little harder for him and what he had gone through.
Q. One of the common things with Chip's team, is you and the chassis, Riley; how good are those guys when it comes to trying to squeeze everything you can out of a chassis and the aerodynamics?
SCOTT PRUETT: Really good. With the rules that we have seen this year, we are limited more on what we are able to do within the guidelines of the rules, where we've had more ability to do more things in years gone by. So I think that's been making it a little bit more difficult for us when we are going up against what Corvette has shown and what they have had to offer.
Again, I keep going back that I know, you know, more than anything else, Grand Am wants to see good, close, hard racing, and quality throughout. That's why we've seen a little bit of a rule change with the RPM for more us, I think 100 more for us and 300 more for Ford. I feel like things are coming but also NASCAR wants to look and make sure that whatever changes they make, they do a study so when they do make those changes, it's very well thought out.
Q. I want to follow up on the broadcasting thing. I can imagine broadcasting requires a different kind of preparation for you. You're a driver and you've done broadcasting before, but you're not a broadcaster quite yet. Is the preparation as intense as it is for getting ready for motor racing?
SCOTT PRUETT: No. Not at all. I so much enjoy doing the broadcast, and working with that group, typically with Calvin and all those guys, Dorsey (ph), the people and what we are doing on the racetrack and being a part of it, talking about what was going on in the racetrack, it's more of a reaction to what's going on on the track.
I look and see things differently than they do. I mean, I'm racing week‑in and week‑out. I've spent my life racing car. But you can see things unfolding, even before they happen. To comment on that and talk about those things, and to add another element to the broadcast that only a race car driver can do is a lot of fun.
That preparation is just going and doing it. There's not much study to it. There's not much stretch of, gosh, you're getting the right springs and shocks and the right tire pressure; all of those elements as a competitor you're stressing about until the green flag drops, and even after that, making changes during the race and making the car better, is a lot more difficult than just talking about it.
Q. When Pat Riley was in the booth doing basketball for the Lakers, he said he learned a lot that he took back to the sidelines with him as a coach. Do you see things you can take to the cockpit of a race car and make you a more competitive driver and the team a more competitive team?
SCOTT PRUETT: No. It's more‑‑ it's interesting. I've been very fortunate. I've been to Le Mans there once and won there once. There's an incredible atmosphere of history. The best way to equate it is the Daytona 500 or Indianapolis 500 of America, the history that these races have.
If I was to go back and compete at that race, doing the broadcast the last three years, there is things that I've seen and learned or I would approach things differently than the first year I went over.
With that being said, I can't see anything that I've brought forward from the broadcast that I can use for any of my competition currently.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and thanks to Scott Pruett.
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