Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand Am Road Racing
August 27, 2009
HERB BRANHAM: You this, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to a special NASCAR Grand Am teleconference this week. We're looking forward to Saturday's Montreal 200 in the Rolex Sports Car Series. That is going to join the NASCAR Nationwide Series at circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. Big event, big week of road racing.
Joining us today, we have Scott Pruett one of America's great road racers. He's the defending Rolex Series Daytona Prototype champion. Drives the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi racing prototype, with Alexis Riley. Drives that with Memo Rojas. Together they hold a four-point lead over Gaines co-drivers Alex Gurney, and Jon Fogarty.
Scott, only three races remaining in this season. How are you approaching Saturday's big event at Montreal? Big week in Montreal, running in conjunction with the NASCAR racers.
SCOTT PRUETT: Yes, thanks for having me on. And thanks to everybody out there listening. We really appreciate that.
You know, every point counts. We're getting down to, you know, to the end of the championship, things have been up-and-down for just about every team. The 10 car, the 99 car, as well as ourselves. So, you don't know what's going to happen until October, but it's been an absolute crazy season. One that I've never really season before. And, so with that, you know, as we come to the last three races, even starting a little before that. We were tied going into the championship at Watkins Glen. And you know, we ran hard trying to get the win, but our competitor, main competitor, the 99 and the 10 car were behind us. So we were already racing towards the championship, or at least points racing at that point.
So, there is a question of weather up here. They're talking about having some rain on and off the whole weekend. So that will add another element to it. You never know what's going to happen, but I can guarantee you, it's going to be a great race, and great fun, and a championship that's not going to be over until the last race.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks for those openers. We'll go to the media for questions now for today's teleconference guest, Scott Pruett.
Q. With three races to go and the tightness of the point battle, how does that affect your driving style or the strategies that your team devises?
SCOTT PRUETT: It's one of those that, both, it really depends on, you know, it's really gotten down to a horse race now between more between the 99 and us up until Watkins Glen. It was the 10, the 99 and us. So we were really focused on them. So you drive hard. First and foremost. You know, you try to get absolute most out of the practice in qualifying, and leading into the race, you're very and continually up to speed on those guys who race championships.
So as we went into Watkins Glen, for instance, even though the Krohn car was in the lead, I was not going to take a chance, an unnecessary chance trying to get by him. By Ricardo Zonta, and potentially have him put me out of the race. So when you're getting down to the end, you're really, you know, you're trying to do everything you can, but you're trying to be really smart at the same time. That's the same way we're going to approach this weekend. Our focus will be on the 99, not those guys. -- and those guys. We're not worried about anybody else out there. And we're trying to get all the speed we can through practice sessions and qualifying.
Q. One of the things I've been critical about your team and the 99 team in 2007 and 2008 was it seemed to be a bit of a magnet between you guys on track with a lot of body contact. Maybe not massive, but a lot of rubbing, per se. And it led to great racing, don't get me wrong. Very exciting stuff. But it seemed that you guys found each other more often than maybe I thought you needed to. Fast forward to this year, and it's been, in my opinion, as clean as things can be, as hard fought as things can be, at least from your guys end, was that a conscious choice to dial things back a tenth of a percent or is that how things have played out without any real intentional change?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's a really good question, because there has been no intentional change. Some of the contact, I think, early on, came from Memo just trying to find his way. I know the contact in Mexico City certainly came from that direction. And then last year when Fogarty ran into the back of me and caused us to spin, I think that was just him being a little bit over the top.
And you're right. I mean, we certainly had those controversies over the year. And we still, you know, there's still a pretty hard-fought competition between both of us. I mean, very serious, very hard core, and it's interesting you say that because we've, for the most part, haven't had that -- I mean, we haven't had really any issues with each other. There's been other cars we've had issues with, but not with each other.
We've got three races left. Hopefully we can keep it that way. But it's going to be hard-fought. It's certainly going to be a very tough championship right through Homestead, that last race.
Q. Moving ahead to Indy, how excited are you to get back to IndyCar, NASCAR there?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's a great question. I mean, I love Indianapolis. It's the epitome for me. Growing up, I always thought about the Indy 500, racing the Indy 500, being Rookie of the Year there. Going back in 2000 with NASCAR and just having an unbelievable race with Dale Earnhardt, Sr. My memories there are deep and great.
Now to go back with Grand Am on the road course is a dream come true. I mean, I love the city, I love the track. We're going to go there and run on two different tracks and the Formula 1 to see what would better suit our cars. I think that gives us in Grand Am the opportunity to have another 24 hours is actually our biggest race of the year, at least the way we approach it as a team.
Now Indianapolis, if we could get that secured as another track, I think that would be our second crown jewel. And the nice thing about Grand Am is we can go there with a number of different formats. We can go there a straight two hour and 45 minute race, or we can go with a six hour or a seven hour. Something that track has never seen before.
So that's the uniqueness of Grand Am and what we're able to offer up to the fans. Certainly, I just love being a part of it.
Q. I'm kind of thinking ahead of the game a little bit. But what circuit are you looking forward to driving on more? The Formula 1 or Moto GP? And what format of a race would you like to see? More of a sprint race or a six to seven-hour like you talked about?
SCOTT PRUETT: Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe the Formula 1 track is going to be a little better for us than the Moto GP. And I'd love to see a seven-hour race, seven or eight-hour race. Something that we start let's say at 3 or 4:00 in the afternoon and we go into darkness and really give the fans something exciting to see, and something like they've never seen before. I think that what we can offer up at that level is something that we could certainly promote and talk about.
I know all the drivers and teams would be excited about it.
Q. Fans may not quite understand when drivers talk about the talking about for the Grand Am and the prototypes like you've got.
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, the feel that you're trying to get out of the car, it's obviously feel and speed. But ultimately every driver has their uniqueness of how they like the car to feel for them. You know, how it reacts to the steering, how you feel the rear end is or the back of the car is, you know, kind of up through your butt. Feeling where you have the confidence in it knowing you can count on it.
And sometimes you can get into situations, let's say in the rain, knowing that everything's kind of a bit of a guess, and they didn't have that -- that confidence in learning how to deal with that end of those circumstances.
So that's one of those things that's even taken to another level within the Grand Am Series, because now you're trying to adapt a car to two separate driving styles because of multiple drivers. You know, two drivers for most of your three and four drivers or for the 24 for the longer races. And trying to get that car where both the drivers are confident and comfortable or as comfortable as they can.
So it's a challenge for the engineers. It's a challenge for the drivers, because I know that I'll modify my driving style somewhat mental and vice versa, which is pretty common throughout the whole field, and that is another aspect of our racing that is quite a challenge that we all work through.
Q. Road course racing, does that require more mental toughness than racing ovals?
SCOTT PRUETT: I think it takes more physically, because you're downshifting, you're breaking. But I've been to races whether it's been at Indy in '95 in IndyCars or Michigan where we went with the Marlboro 500 later that year, to some of the other ovals. I think it really depends on the race, and the set of circumstances. Because I've had races on both sides of it that were incredibly mental. And I couldn't sit here and say that road courses were more so than ovals or vice versa.
Just depending on the race, and the outcome and who you're fighting it. Because most of it comes down to a mental game racing wheel to wheel, defender to defender. Trying to figure out how and when am I going to make this move on a guy, and see if I can make it stick to come home with the checkered flag.
Q. I got a three-part mish mash here for you. We've got some NASCAR guys in the race this weekend. Do you let Carl and Marcos, particularly, do you look at them as contenders or weapons? Is working with Kevin Doran a big plus for them? And how much are you going to miss racing in the Nationwide race this weekend?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, let's talk about racing in the Nationwide first. I've had numerous opportunities to go and race in that with some good teams. And I had to bow out more personally because of the tightness of our championship. I just didn't feel that I was in position where I never want to look back on this race and say, Wow, I shouldn't have done that. So my singular focus is going after this championship without question.
So with that being said, now looking at Carl and Ambrose coming in to our series, I think it's good. It's good for our series. You know, we ran a team car with Scott Speed and Kyle Busch at Daytona. I think those guys enjoyed it, and it was exciting. And I think it's going to be the same thing here. So I know Carl real well. I don't know Marcos very well. But, you know, Carl will go out there and be a great editor and certainly won't do anything to disrupt the championship. But at the same time, every race car driver wants to go out and run, run as fast as they can. I think they're a great team with Kevin Doran, and we'll see, we wish him the best.
Q. I would now like to turn the conference back to Herb Branham.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and thanks to Scott Pruett. Always a pleasure. One of the true gentlemen in auto racing, best of luck at Montreal.
SCOTT PRUETT: Thank you, I appreciate that. Thanks guys.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to the media for participating today at NASCAR and Grand Am. We always appreciate the coverage.
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