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January 28, 2018

Filipe Albuquerque

Joao Barbosa

Christian Fittipaldi

Bob Johnson

Dayton Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our prototype winners in this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona, drivers of the No. 5, Action Express Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPI. We're joined by Felipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and team owner Bob Johnson.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Pretty exciting to say the least. I think it started out as a 24‑hour sprint race. The pace, as everyone saw, was obviously pretty intense. And then I really do believe that the fact that we had very little yellows, that compromised a lot of the machinery out there and it really put a lot of stress on all the cars and some cars started dropping off and the whole race took a slightly different dimension or different path to it.
And even ourselves, we had to baby ourselves I think the last six or seven hours of the race. We had a slight overheating problem in the engine‑‑ very slight, very minor. In the end it work out fine. But what was most amazing to me is that in a fraction of minutes or one hour it went from a sprint race to an enduro race, like it swapped ends pretty big.
And I can't say enough for Mustang Sampling, Cadillac, Action Express. Congrats to the Whelen car also on our 1‑2 finish. That was awesome also. And as Felipe and Joao and myself have mentioned, especially after what happened to us last year, we sort of waited for this moment for maybe 365 days. And here we are again and we did it. So thanks everyone.
JOAO BARBOSA: Actually, it was very exciting race on our side for the last five, six hours. But just the expectation of this race before we even started was amazing. It was a great show. All the names, the teams, the drivers that were here, we definitely knew this was not going to be a for sure a long shot an easy race at all.
I mean whoever won the race, they would have to really deserve it with all the teams and drivers that were out there, trying the same goal.
But Christian just mentioned, we waited for a long time to try and get the opportunity to get kind of a payback out of what happened last year that we were so close. But it just goes to prove Action Express put one and‑‑ two positions, the Mustang Sampling Cadillac was simply great.
But this race has a lot to do with also the guys that work behind the pit wall. If you were inside that pit wall for the last six hours, you would see how it turns and how not easy this was. Luckily we had a few laps we could manage perfectly all the way to the end. But the last six hours we had to manage a slightly overheating problem, like Christian said, slightly. We had to manage a lot.
We had to really feed the throttle very smoothly and not use 100percent of the potential of the car. And the guys did (indiscernible) all the calculations what we needed to do to bring the car home.
And we just did it. It took a lot of effort. It was a great team effort from everybody at Mustang Sampling with great support from Cadillac. And it was just an unbelievable win.
FELIPE ALBUQUERQUE: They said a lot already, but I must say that from the start of the race until the last, well, big part of the race was a very, a lot of fun with battling, with Penskes with the Mustang Sampling Whelens. And all the cars was a lot of fun, and during the night as well was a sprint when everyone was getting excited with the cars that were out there.
And I was getting excited as well, having fun. I had some fights with Helio that I was at certain points laughing in the radio there because I was just having fun. But I think everyone got overexcited, went too much, because I think the machineries were breaking down, all of them, almost.
So the Cadillac was the strongest in the end. It was not fun for no one, for me in the last six hours with Joao and Christian, and for you as well because my steering wheel was like a Christmas tree with water temperature flashing up and oil temperature backing off and trying to be away from the slipstream of everyone but still pushing but not pushing. And thinking, well, it's going to last, like, an engine, lasting six hours on overheating mode?
I don't know. So especially after last year, exactly one year ago I left this exact point very devastated, very sad with the situation. And definitely what does not kill us does make us stronger. We stick together. We work hard. We came on here. We qualified well.
We did a hell of a race, always on the top, leading most of the laps. And then all of these flashbacks were coming in my mind. And start picking like my mind was getting me tricks, like noise, weird noise of the engine, like, okay, it's going to fade out now.
But I tell you what, I was really thinking that the engine was dying but it didn't. So it's a great new engine this Cadillac. I'm really happy about it. And not only just for the team for everyone, it became a personal thing. Especially from last year.
THE MODERATOR: This is Action Express' third Rolex 24 Hour win. They also won in 2010, 2014. They have 19IMSA wins now. They've run 12,250 laps in the Rolex 24. That accounts for over 43,000 miles. Mr.Johnson, congratulations. Your reaction to the win today.
BOB JOHNSON: The first comment I want to make is to say how I feel about our other Team Cadillac members that didn't finish the race. The Konica Minolta 10 car and the Spirit of Daytona 90 car. It was terrible to see them have to drop out.
I know how hard everybody works to come to Daytona for the 24 Hours. We certainly do. We know the other teams do the same thing. And to be not able to finish is really devastating. It was hard enough on us last year not to win the race at the very end. But to not even be able to finish it I can't even imagine how those guys feel so my hat's off to them.
Obviously we couldn't feel better. With first and second, that's just an amazing accomplishment. We've been fortunate to do that at some other tracks but never in the 24 Hours. So that's really just over the top for me. And it's all attributable to these guys right here and the amazing job they do and the car, as well as all the guys back in the shop that work so hard up in North Carolina. And then here for this gruelling week that just takes so much effort from them. So I just thank them for all that they've done.

Q. Does anybody know exactly what was going on with the engine, why it was overheating? Have you gotten any explanation?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I can assure you one thing: We had from plan A to plan Z. And this meets our method of working in the team. We go to every single race, as Gary Nelson always mentions, like expecting to win. Sometimes it doesn't go our way. And when it doesn't go our way, we regroup and we try to understand and learn from our mistakes and make it better on the next one.
And Action Express and Cadillac they had from plan A to plan Z. And what if this, what if that, we can do this, we can save this. Like it was a combination of a million of different factors. But we don't know exactly what was happening.

Q. Bob, you shattered, your team shattered the race distance and lap record in this race. How proud are you of this team for doing that?
BOB JOHNSON: I couldn't be prouder. It's absolutely amazing. The pace of this race was unbelievable. I mean, so few yellow flags that I just couldn't believe it all throughout the race.
So to be able to be there at the end especially with both teams is just amazing, beyond my expectations, really. So pretty amazing. But we're an endurance team. We look forward to the challenge.

Q. Mr.Johnson, with Chip Ganassi Racing and Roger Penske, we have team owners who are not even active as IMSA team owner also and NASCAR and IndyCar. Do you plan in the future to go a similar way to open another team in another discipline?
BOB JOHNSON: I doubt it very seriously. I've got all I can do with our two teams, and I'm spending probably more time than my family wants me to spend up in North Carolina. So I also have a home here. But I have a home there and I spend too much time up there as it is. No, I'm going to stick with what we're doing.

Q. Felipe, can you talk about, you're the one guy up there who hasn't won this race before. What's it like with all kind of the pressure on you there at the end and do you feel like you carried anything over from the last couple of years in those last, in your last stint?
FELIPE ALBUQUERQUE: I won it in the GTD in the first year. So I thought it's pretty easy. And the last five years, it never happened. And especially when I joined this team, like, this is a great team. And I want to be here and these guys are winning. So the first time I went here with them, it's like 2016, I was leading. And we had a driveshaft problem. Like damn it.
Then last year I was leading again and I lost it in the last 7 minutes and damn it again. So I thought I have a ‑‑ jinx it. So when I was going in again, when I was seeing Joao driving I was super nervous because it's not in my control whatsoever. When I was inside of the car I knew exactly what I had to do. But I was always thinking about those last finishes when it's me driving and, like, okay, tell me when you're going to fade out.
Like, it's been six hours and I know it must be like around the last 30 minutes, 15 minutes. But then somehow the engine kept going, kept going. And seeing the 31 and 54 getting in the same lap as me, like, okay, it's going to be it and then the water temperature was going higher.
And yet I won and I was very emotional and I just think for me it was, yeah, breaking the spell and I think persistence and working hard and sticking together with this amazing team that kept believing in me and knowing that what happened last year was still, it was nothing with me.
And they still put me in again there in the end. It was very comforting and just made me strong and a better guy today. Yeah, it's going to be for sure a much better season.

Q. For the drivers, Bob says he's very careful with the dollar as a team owner. How does that translate to the team and how do you feel about Bob as the team owner?
 JOAO BARBOSA: You want me to answer that with Bob in the room?
I mean, I'm very comfortable to answer that with Bob in the room. It's been amazing, especially, personally they've been by my side since 2010, even before that and when I decide to move all my family here, they were right there. They're a big family, they're a big part of my life as well.
Like you said, Bob looks after every dollar but he spends it in the right place. And sometimes you see, like, a lot of teams with flashy clothes, they have all the jackets and they have the nice things and everybody has their own golf cart. We don't. We have to walk and the bikes and the flashy colors and all that.
We keep asking, but we never get that. It's like he has a lot more important things to spend the money on. And 100percent agree. Maybe not like the flashiest one; we like all kinds of fancy stuff. But what it takes the race car to make it go fast, he doesn't spare a dollar. So it's an investment.
So he does a great job putting the budget together, which is never easy‑‑ I talk with him quite a few times about it. But we're spending the money where it needs to be spent and the results are showing.

Q. We're watching the monitors here on the TV and the clock was winding down. And the announcers on the TV were saying if he slows down then the race is over. There was like 14seconds left. But he passed the finish line and had to go another lap. Were you guys aware of that?
JOAO BARBOSA: Yeah, we were aware of that. But in the situation that we were in, like Felipe was saying, there was the 54 and the 31. They just got on the lead lap and they were pushing. So if we weren't sure if something would happen that we had enough room if we slow down those 14, 20seconds to give us just a lap, if that would be okay.
So we played, tried to play it safe and to go that extra lap, not to just lose 20seconds for nothing and risk the end result.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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