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April 18, 2008

Oriol Servia

Alex Tagliani

Paul Tracy

Justin Wilson


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We just completed the first day of qualifying here at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Welcome. We have with us here our three fastest drivers from the session. Why don't we start actually first with Alex. Great to have you here. Obviously it came together at the last minute, but tell us about how excited you are to be here to run with the last Champ Car race.
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, I mean, it's very good for me. I mean, I'm very happy first to have the chance to race with the Walker organization. Three days before the truck left to Long Beach we decided let's do this. So not a lot of time to get fit in the car and the best circumstances.
But they have a great car, a lot of guys are working really hard. They're working both jobs. They're doing Atlantic and Champ Car this weekend. It was my first win in Atlantic in '97 in Long Beach in my professional career, so it means a lot to be here and at the last race in Champ Car.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously the three guys have run a lot of Champ Car races. Anything among that, your Champ Car experience, that you were able to go that fast today?
ALEX TAGLIANI: I don't know, you have pretty much the best of the best, like in the cars. Everybody proves themselves in the various different series. You know, it's a mix of good cars and putting the best laps you can on the track. Everybody is pretty tight and everybody has his own story, but so far, I think it's good for us, and I'm very proud to do this with Derrick for this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Oriol, why don't you tell us a little bit about what it felt like. Obviously you're driving in the IndyCar Series, jumping in the DP-01 again. Any different feeling? Tell us about that.
ORIOL SERVIA: Why do I get this question?
THE MODERATOR: Because you're the elder statesman; you're smarter than the other guys.
ORIOL SERVIA: No, as Justin was saying, it's a kick in the butt. It's really a lot of power. It's a great car. It's just a newer machine. It was designed later and differently, and it's not -- actually I don't think it's fair to compare it with IndyCar like we are asked all the time because it's just different rules and just a lot more fun. It's a lot more downforce and lighter and more power, so just a more performing and faster car.
But anyway, I'm sure times will change in the IndyCar, also, and we'll get to a faster car. All the drivers, we all want more power and more downforce and more grip, so it's just a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: Justin's lap today was 1:07.356, which was faster than last year's pole qualifying time, which was 1:07.546 in the McDonald's car, a slightly smaller gentleman who was driving it. Tell us a little bit, obviously you were so much faster than the other guys, even those two guys sitting next to you. Talk about that.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, well, we felt that the car was good, and I was very pleased with how it was handling. But we went out and did quite a quick time on the Black tires that still would have been good enough for pole, but we weren't sure what everyone else was doing down the pit lane. We didn't get a good pit selection so we couldn't see, so we decided let's go and see what they're like. We tried the Bridgestone Red tires and they worked great.
I'm just very pleased to keep up the tradition of the McDonald's car being quickest. Before the qualifying I thought it's a bit of pressure taking over this seat at a track like this where Sebastien has always gone so well. I'm actually quite relieved to have done as well as we have today, and I think we can relax tomorrow and work and get even quicker.
I feel I had a lot left and I made a few mistakes, but generally pretty happy with how things are going. It's fun to do one last race here at Long Beach.
THE MODERATOR: How did it feel being out there with 20 cars today?
JUSTIN WILSON: It was busy. It was hard to get clear space. I'm sure everyone is saying the same thing. I managed to get one lap where I could go for it, and I caught one car. But still nice to finish off the lap, and I was pleased. It was great to have 20 cars on the grid. It does make a difference, the more cars you have, the more of a spectacle it is, so I think this is going to be a great event.
THE MODERATOR: Just to remind media, the provisional pole that Justin got today guarantees that he will be in the front row for the race on Sunday.

Q. (No microphone.)
ORIOL SERVIA: I really do feel that, also. I mean, it seems there's a big crowd, and it just feels good. I don't know if it's related to also the TV ratings increasing in the first two IndyCar races or just because it's the last Champ Car race, I don't know. I think there's definitely a space in the world for open wheel, and it was empty; it wasn't filled in the last ten years, and that space is there, and we're just starting to take it back basically. People like open wheel as much as they like other sports, so it's just time.

Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: Unfortunately when you're on track a lot of the rules are quite similar. The one we have to watch out here is with qualifying you get 15 laps. With qualifying restricted so different you don't get into that mindset. It's actually harder when things are more similar, whereas when you do qualify in a completely different fashion, you remember how you used to do it.
There's a few things that took a bit of getting used to. One was adjusting to the power and the turbo lag and then the downforce built in the car. So there's been a lot to adjust to this weekend, going from one to the other. It was easy to go from the Champ Car to the IndyCar, but now switching back, it took a few more laps than I expected.

Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: I heard one rumor early, I don't know how true it is, of it possibly being rained out the whole weekend, in which case this race wouldn't count for points. We're hoping that's not true because we feel like we've got a good opportunity here to do what we're used to and get a few points before we go back and struggle on the ovals.

Q. (No microphone.)
ALEX TAGLIANI: Hopefully for them the race will count for points because they can definitely make up for what they can't on ovals so far. But for me it was -- on Justin's statement, it was quite harder to adjust not on the Reds or on the IRL, but a couple days ago PT was helping me installing stone in my house, now I'm a race car driver (laughter), so a lot more to adapt than Reds and IRL cars.
It's a fun weekend, I'm just enjoying it. I'm driving a great car, and it's been a long time. I didn't have a great car underneath, so I'm enjoying it.

Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I was going into my actual last time lap of trying to improve, and I felt a lot on the table in the first half of the lap. I made a mistake and went down the runoff at Turn 6, got spun around, came back out, and the next lap after that there was a car in the wall at 1. I was hoping that things had worked out. I had no idea how everyone else was going at that stage.
I knew there was a lot left, so I was a bit anxious to see the times.

Q. (No microphone.)
ALEX TAGLIANI: Pretty tough subject to talk about at the moment. I think there's a lot of things going on. First of all, yes, it's pretty sad for him. He's been racing for 40 years.
I mean, I was in the mix, as well, in this whole thing. You know, we tested at PKV Sebring, and basically everything seems to be okay, other than rumors. But I wish that this whole thing would have been at least treated a little bit more honest so I would have had a choice to make a month and a half ago instead of waiting.
And I think same thing for Derrick; he's been putting everything on the track professionally, and what's been happening to him, as well, I don't think it's fair. But I guess it's my opinion, and it doesn't count for much right now in racing.

Q. (No microphone.)
ALEX TAGLIANI: I mean, first of all, Derrick is not a rich person like Kevin or Jerry. His business is racing, and he did it quite well, with passion, and he needs to go racing with sponsors. Unfortunately there's a lot of things there that I can't really talk about, but I can say that he has not been treated fairly in this matter.

Q. (No microphone.)
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, maybe. When you're a driver you always look for opportunities. At the moment there is none in IRL, but things could change. I mean, the guys that have been jumping from Champ Car to IRL have been proving that they're pretty quick. On oval it's pretty much 90 percent the car. So far they're proving that they're a step up. Maybe it's going to open eyes on other team owners down there in the future. I don't know, but I don't even think about it right now. I'm having so much fun driving a good car that I'm enjoying every second.

Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: I think it's a combination of the two, like you said. Having cars run on the track on Thursday afternoon means that the car is in a much better condition when we go out Friday morning. We can run earlier, which was always the complaint, that we weren't on track in the first 10, 15 minutes. It allowed us to run much more, and our tires would last longer because we're not putting all that rubber on the track to make grip for later. I think that is a big factor.
And the fact that we've now had these cars for a year compared to last time here, so we've learnt a lot, we've validated a lot of things and were able to make the right choices much faster.

Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, that's one mentality, that you can throw them away after you're done. But I'm sure none of our team owners would be too pleased if you hand them back this pile of bits at the end of the race (laughter).
We're thinking of the bigger picture. Of course you want to score points, but at the same time, we're all racers and out there to race. You don't plan on crashing with anyone, or at least most of us don't, and you try and do the best you can. If you have a crash, you have a crash, but it's racing.

Q. (No microphone.)
ORIOL SERVIA: I actually don't think so. Sometimes we meet in other cities that really don't mix well with our rubber, but it seems to have not bad at all.

Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I mean, this track is like that where you've got the hairpin where you need to use pretty much the whole steering lot to get round, and then there's a few other places where the car is quite loaded up and you go over a bump and the back snaps out and you have to catch it. It keeps you busy in the car, but we enjoy it; it's good fun.
ALEX TAGLIANI: I have something to add. After Oriol's statement comparing the two cars, one of the panels will be for sale at the Palazzo Hotel in Vegas, so if you want to own the fastest open wheel in North America, help Derrick (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We'll end with that. Thank you. We have Paul Tracy here. He'll be taking your questions. Mr. Tracy finished -- was the eighth fastest time today, obviously in the top half of the field. Just to be clear on the field today, we actually had 19 cars qualify. Nelson Philippe had a car problem that didn't allow him to qualify. So first question for Mr. Tracy.

Q. How did it feel to be back in the car?
PAUL TRACY: It feels good to be back in the car obviously qualifying. Today didn't go as well as we wanted it to. It was basically mostly on me. I made a lot of mistakes in qualifying, just couldn't put the lap together. And then when I did on the last lap, I made a huge mistake in the second-to-last corner and I lost all the time we had. Ifs, and, buts, we should have been about third quickest.
So I'm a little bit frustrated. But it's been nice to be back in the car and kind of mixed emotions. I don't know where my career is leading me from here.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: I mean, obviously it was like a big cobweb, very mixed, and coming into this race, I was racing, I wasn't racing. I didn't know if I was going to race. It was in the hands of lawyers. And usually when it gets in the hands of lawyers, it gets even more messy. But Jerry's lawyer has been very good to work with, with my lawyer.
We made an agreement to race through this race. From here out after this race, there will be no contract between Forsythe and myself, which is disappointing, because it was my intention this year to go racing with Forsythe, and I think everybody in both series would have like to have seen that happen. But obviously that's his decision, his right to do that.
I've had a great career with him and won him his only championship, which was great. But we have some more issues to work out with how we end the contract, what is still left to figure out, but we've decided that we'll handle that after this race. But from after this race I'll be able to look for another ride. That's been the frustrating part is that I've wanted to go racing so bad this year and been held, and it's kind of put me in a situation where now there's nothing available, so it's kind of like stuck -- like Alex, he kind of got told at the last minute there was nothing, and I've been helping him fix his house and play Guitar Hero and stuff like that. So it's fun, but not the kind of fun I like all the time.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Well, this was my first-ever race here with Dale Coyne in IndyCar in 1991. It was my first-ever win here in 1993. You know, I don't know how I'm going to feel after the race. I guess it could be my last race here as an open-wheel driver.
I want to go racing. This isn't really how I want my career to end. I feel that I kind of woke up -- I had the support and the well wishes of a lot of you guys in the room here. I've talked to a lot of you guys on the phone, and I really just woke up one day about two weeks before the season was to start for the IRL and I realized I'm not going to have a ride; I'm going to be sitting for the year.
I've had to deal with that for the last month, so it's kind of set in now. You know, it still wasn't that hard to watch the IRL races. I thought it would be harder than it was. But I still feel a little bit detached from it because I haven't been a part of it, because I've never really raced in the IRL, so I didn't really feel like I was missing something and I was still gearing up for this race.
You know, I guess from here, I mean, I don't know what I'm going to do. I'd like to go to race for somebody, but like Alex said, there's nothing out there. I feel having missed a bunch of time last year with my back injury, and if I miss the whole of this year, it's probably unlikely that I'll be able to drive an IndyCar again. Just too much time out of the car.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: It's the same for everybody, whether it's NASCAR or -- the economy is bad. There's no money out there in Canada and even in the United States. The economy is bad, the stock market is bad. The industry across the board, everybody is hurting.
I mean, it's not cheap to run an IndyCar or NASCAR. You're talking $6 to $8 million. And at this time of year, to go out and find that, I've had a bunch of go-arounds with a bunch of different companies about doing it and everybody is interested in doing it, but their budgets were set in September of last year. To find a company that can stroke a check for that kind of money, they're a big corporation, a public company, and they just don't write out $5 million checks willy-nilly and send it in the mail to you.
That's been the frustration is most companies are into their second quarter, their advertising money is spent for the year, so we're really kind of talking about '09 now.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: No, I mean, that's even more expensive. I'd have to go buy equipment, buy trucks. The startup cost of an IndyCar team, you're probably talking upwards of $15 million.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Oh, it's pretty incredible today. I thought yesterday was a really good crowd for a Thursday, and then today it was probably 50 percent full, big crowds in the paddock, big crowds in the stand for qualifying, really like it was in the mid-'90s. I don't know if that is because of the anticipation of the new series or just the farewell for the hard-core fans that have been here. But tremendous fan support and a lot of well-wishes for me, which feels nice. Obviously it's bittersweet for me, but I hope that something will come about in the next couple weeks for Indy.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, it's something I would give consideration to, but like you said, it's not my first love. Open-wheel racing, IndyCar, Champ Car style racing is my first love. It's what I've done since 1991. I would like to continue to do it. Obviously I know there's a shelf life; I'm not going to keep driving for another ten years or anything.
But I guess for me I would like to do a couple more seasons and help the series establish itself. But like I said, I don't think I'm going to get the opportunity to do that. I'm looking at other things.
But really, it's been left so late now because I've been under contract until after this weekend that there's an opportunity to race maybe the Canadian race in NASCAR and the Busch Series and maybe do the GrandAm race that weekend. But it's not what I like doing; I like driving IndyCars.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, for sure. The team is motivated. Obviously I think we have a pretty good car. I didn't do a very good job today. The team did a good job and the team gave me a good car, but I let them down today on the track. I just couldn't put the lap together, and that probably just comes down to being Rusty. I haven't been in a car but for five or six hours about two months ago. So really on the track in the heat-of-the-moment qualifying-type stuff, I haven't done that since Mexico City, so it's been a while. A lot of guys have been racing already, done IRL races, they've been doing 24-Hour at Daytona, whatever, A1GP, stuff like that, so I was a little bit rusty today.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Well, I hope so, but obviously I haven't yet. This merger happened really in the last -- kind of in the last month before the season was going to start, and pretty much the teams on that side from the IRL had set their driver lineups, and a lot of guys were not really set here, but the main players were set, Justin, Graham, Will, Oriol, myself. Some of the teams from Champ Car were able to do the conversion to go to the IRL, but obviously Jerry has decided not to. That's kind of left guys like -- just Tag and myself, it's kind of left us standing with our helmets in our hands.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Obviously I've talked to just about everybody. I've talked to half the guys in this room dozens of times, and people know where I am and people know I'm easy to get a hold of. Tony George knows how to get a hold of me. If something were to pop up, I guess he would give me a call, but there's nothing available now.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Well, they're a personal sponsor of mine and they've been very supportive. Obviously we've pitched them on a deal, and like I said earlier, they're into the second quarter. Their budgets are spent. We have another meeting this weekend, but it's a long shot at best. They're going to continue with my personal deal, which obviously after this race when there's no income coming in, at least that's some income, which is always a help, and they've been great with me, a perfect fit as a sponsor for me.
But like I said, to come at this stage of the game, for a big business company to come up with $4 or $5 million is probably not going to happen.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: I'm not frustrated with the merger. Obviously I'm frustrated I don't have a ride. But I think the merger was the best thing for the sport and the best overall thing for open-wheel racing in this country. It happened all very late and it was kind of messy, but the end result, I think it's not perfect right now, but I think the end result is where it needs to be.
We can sit here all day and argue what cars it should be and what engine it should be. That doesn't matter now as long as it's one series and they can continue to work forward on doing the best possible job with TV and promotion and promoting the drivers and having a good field and a strong field instead of a divided one.
But at the end of the day, when it happened with Forsythe in the beginning we were going to do it, and then all of a sudden Jerry decided he wasn't going to do it. It's been frustrating for our team. All the crew guys, they're all looking for jobs, so it's frustrating.

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