August 11, 2002
MERRILL CAIN: Michael Andretti, of course, finished third today No. 39 Motorola-Honda-Lola-Bridgestone. He finishes third today earning his first Mid-Ohio podium since 1996, the two-time Mid-Ohio winner took his third podium of the season with a third place run today. That gives him 74 points of the year and moves him into a tie for 6th in the Championship. I guess if I could just ask you to make a general comment today. You had some great runs here, but today was one where you hung around, you got what you could out of it and turned in some good points.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think that was about it. We just pushed it, pushed it hard, just tried to hang in there tried not to make many mistakes. Team Motorola guys did a great job in the pits, you know, when you have races like that and you have a car that's halfway decent and you start in a position that's halfway decent, if you do all that, I think you are going to just -- you will be able to get on the podium most of the time. That's what we did today. Hopefully we can continue to do that the rest of the year. The car was pretty good. It wasn't great. But it was okay. It seemed like I struggled a little bit on the first part of the stint and then as we went about mid-stint, I started to get quicker but by then the guys they pulled me, so that is where I had my problems which was a little unfortunate. But other than that, though, everything was good. I am happy with the podium today.
MERRILL CAIN: We're joined by Christian Fittipaldi who brought home second place today. He scores his fourth podium finish of the season, matches his season best placing with a second place run; marks his best ever finish here at Mid-Ohio. Christian has also earned 74 points on the season with today's effort, that ties him with Michael for 6th place in the Championship run. Talk about your day this afternoon. You felt that you had a had a bit of a slow pit stop on your first series of pit stops or else you may have had more for Patrick but you still give him quite a run at the end there.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: We actually had physically a full pit stop. We had a 14-second stop on the first stop and that definitely didn't do me any good; especially because the top 3 came in altogether and we had a shot of going from second to third. I think that really cost my race today. Today was all about tracks position; whoever was in front, I think, the top 3 cars were running exactly the same pace, and whoever was in front would have stayed in front. Unfortunately it didn't go our way, but I am happy. I am happy to finish a strong second. Especially after coming two races where I didn't finish at all. And I guess now only thing I can say is that I have eight more chances to try and win one more race at least.
Q. In a race where there wasn't a lot of passing, I think you did make a couple of places on the first lap or two. Then also you got a run -- Bruno right before -- I think the first pit stop. Can you talk about both of those things.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Pretty uneventful stuff really. I just had a good start. I think I passed two cars in the start. First turn actually I went up probably about four turns into the race. Then on -- I just hung in there and Bruno made a mistake and I was able to get by him. I really didn't pass him. He just made a mistake. I don't even know 8, corner 8, I think.
Q. Christian, talk about the frustration of not being able to overtake on a day like today when you thought you had the best car?
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: I think it's pretty obvious to everyone, it's not only in CART, but Formula One pretty much has the same problem nowadays. The cars are running pretty close. Downforce is a huge factor right now and the competition level, it's so tight that when you are running behind someone it's very, very difficult to be on top of him. The only real goal I had at Pat was on the first lap of the race when we came out of the key hole, like if I was a little bit closer to him I would have really been very, very late at the end of the straight. But I was maybe half a car length too far away. My car was very quick on the straight. And unfortunately I didn't make it. Apart from that, it's a pretty difficult race after that because you are running behind people. Obviously you are sliding more, so you are giving your tires a much harder time than the guy that's in front of you that's running in absolutely maybe nice there -- it's hard. So today it was all about track position, that was it. Not a lot to say.
Q. Whatever happens next year with your team -- is Carpentier somebody -- he doesn't have a ride yet. Is he somebody that you'd take a look at?
VOICE: He has been doing a really good job lately. We haven't made any decisions yet. We have talked to a lot of guys and yeah, we would definitely talk to him. It's not Michael that's going to talk to him. It's Leslie that's going to talk to Pat. You need to ask Leslie. It is not Michael.
Q. You have driven a thousand races. What is it like to be in third driving your rearend off and not making headway on a day like today?
MARIO ANDRETTI: No, I don't know it's no different than any other time. I didn't have the car that they did, and it was track position like Christian said, to be honest with you, we're making a big deal about it, but I don't remember -- I don't remember a whole lot of passing here anymore. It's a difficult place to pass. So to say it's just this year, I think is not fair. I have been a lot of times running the end of the race and I just couldn't do anything with the guy in front of me. To be honest with you, the end of the race I was more concentrating on running good clean laps and keeping Junqueira away from me so he couldn't get a run on me.
Q. When you guys saw Cristiano go out and spin out out there, what were you thinking at that point? Were you looking for the opportunity to move up?
MARIO ANDRETTI: Absolutely. When you see that now you are thinking, all right, we have got to take advantage of this. That's what we try to do. I am sure everybody thought the same thing. I said this -- actually I think it was about three races ago, everybody said the Championship was over and I said there is no way it's over. We're not even halfway through the season. I think now you are seeing, you know, we're all, I think, making a little bit -- we're gaining, we're getting a little bit closer to them, and you know, they have been having a little bad luck, so, anything can happen yet.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Obviously everything is so wide open and you get a couple of breaks underneath you if you do like three, four good races in a row then obviously everything changes for you. Sure he has a huge point lead right now, but we still have eight more races, and eight more races, what, 160 points, that's -- 117 -- I am very bad at math. So 176. So we have 176 points out there, and the same way it went well for him the first half of the season where he won four races, maybe we can get some someone that's going to win four races in the second half of the season and him not finishing four races, and the whole thing changes completely. That's one of the nice things about this series is that the winner scores a lot of points and things can change very, very quick here.
MERRILL CAIN: Don't look now but it's only a 27 point lead now too over to second place.
Q. Michael, I know your plans aren't finalized for next year yet but how many cars will you hope that your team could run?
MARIO ANDRETTI: Well, I think our team has the potential to run four cars, if we had to. If we were able to get that done, but right now, we're just working on trying to at least get one. It's tough out there right now with sponsorships, so we're pushing hard and you know, we're getting close on a lot things but we have nothing solid yet.
Q. When do you expect to hear on their decision?
MARIO ANDRETTI: We're hoping soon. We thought we would know by now, unfortunately we didn't get an answer yet. We're hoping within the next couple of weeks we will know more.
Q. Christian, you probably have an interesting perspective now since obviously your plans are decided for next year and you can kind of sit back and not exactly relax, but obviously you know, you see things from a different perspective now. Can you talk about your outlook for the rest of the year and how a race like this and a weekend like this goes when you are not running around talking to team owners and worrying about sponsorships?
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: It's amazing how people suddenly start walking into (inaudible) motor home over the weekend and drivers that I hadn't seen like in about six or seven races suddenly appear out of nowhere and it's amazing how one person's move can change like a bunch of things out there. But I still think that we have a small shot at the championship. It's going to be awfully hard, but if it's not the series, then I still think that we can finish well like in the Championship, in the top 3. I am going to fight for that until the very last moment. Apart from that, I am probably driving -- I am testing already in about two weeks or so, so it's not that we're not moving on the other side. So I am going to be pretty busy this second part. I am going to be having to drive a lot of different cars, but my full focus is still over here and I still think that we can do an excellent job here. We still have eight more races and things can finally maybe go my way over here.
MERRILL CAIN: We're now joined by Patrick Carpentier. Obviously great run for you today. Been a great weekend for you. Talk a little bit about the race, you pretty much led from start to finish even though there were a couple of laps in there because of a pit situation. Faced some pressure from Christian at the end, but you were able to hold on.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Both of these guys were running really fast. Christian gave me a lot of pressure, at the beginning of the race - actually I think we were a bit lucky at one of the pit stops because one of our guys missed the wheel, and I thought he was going to come out up front, but something happened in their pit stop, I could see the guy at the back of the car trying to send it out. That's how Cristiano got up front and that's how he didn't get up front. So you always need a little bit of everything and then after that, my guys did a really fast pit stop. I was up at the front and it is important here, I think, to stay at the front. It's a course that's tough to pass and Cristiano almost got me there, I went a little bit wide on that corner, at the top, in corner 2, and going on the back straight there he had a run and he tried to outbrake me and I went really, really really deep. I think I brake at the last count and I didn't even know I thought I was going to make the corner but he tried to go deeper and just lost the back end of the car. So -- and after that I was pushing really hard. I knew Christian was coming back behind me and Christian was also really strong exiting on the back straight and that's where I was worried because that's one of the best passing zones. I was trying to keep ahead of them before I was getting to that corner, so they didn't have a chance to pass, but it worked out well. Team Players gave me a fantastic car and it was a good weekend.
Q. Talk about your confidence right now. Two out of three races to win. I mean you got to be feeling good and looking forward to another road race next week?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: A lot of people wrote the Reynard chassis off the beginning of the season. I think the Reynard, like Cristiano said, is not as consistent from track to track compared to the Lola, but this track here, we knew was going to be very good for us. We tested fast, at 105.7 and we thought we were going to be -- the car was going to be fast over the weekend. And we think it's going to be very fast at Elkhart Lake, so, hopefully we get a good weekend there, and then we'll see when we go to Montreal. But I think -- we think Elkhart should suit the Reynard chassis very well.
Q. Patrick, you started from the pole and won the race now on a road course. Your second road course win. Do you feel a little more favorable toward road courses --
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah actually I am really starting to enjoy them. (Laughs). But no we'll see what is going to happen in the future. At the moment I am with nobody, I am just driving it, enjoying it and fighting for the Championship. As for what is going to happen, I have Alan that has been with me for a while. Alan, he's going to run around and see people and see what is up for next season. I am a race car driver. I hope I can find something here. That's where I want to be and I think that's where the best drivers in the world are. So that's where I'd like to be but we'll see. I am looking also on both sides, but man, I had a blast today and I had a blast in the last month. If I could keep going here I would love it.
Q. Patrick, on the restart in the middle of the race there was that -- they waived off looked like there was -- can you talk about coming -- I think coming up the hill towards the --
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah -- no, I was wrong. I was wrong there. What happened is that I kind of panicked because I thought I didn't clean off my tires enough. What happened is after the cone I kept accelerating and slowing down tried to clean the back the rear tires, and the guys behind me almost crashed. So they gave me -- they always give you one chance and the next time after that I was really careful to focus a little bit more and make sure that I got the tires ready before that.
Q. Pat, on the restart looked like it took three, four laps -- there was one time on television when we saw the whole side, it got very loose, just maybe talk about how on restart for you how when things straightened out how fast you were.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I'd say the first two laps of the restart, two, three laps, I was really struggling to clean my front tires off. These guys seemed to be really fast, and after that between 3 and 18, 15, 20 laps, my car seemed to be faster than their car. So I could pull away from them a little bit. I was trying to pull away as hard as I could because I knew that towards the end of the stint that these guys were going to be coming back. My car was always getting a little bit loose at the end and these guys seemed to be really, really fast. So I was just trying to get away before they could catch me at the end. And Cristiano almost did that at one point.
Q. Is your agent Alan sitting there and with every lap led is your price going up?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Ask him, he's right there with the green shirt. (Laughs) I hope so. I don't know. We'll see what is going to happen. It doesn't matter to me. I am not -- I am not going to lie if I say that I am not looking for as many, many millions of dollars. I am looking to drive a car that's going to win races and that's what I want to do in the next season. Sorry, Alan. (Laughter). I said I am not looking for 10, but eight will do (laughter).
Q. Pat, can you give me an idea of when you knew that Cristiano had lost it when he came up behind you going into the 90 degree right, when did you know that -- I am sorry, when did you know that he was gone? Did you see him any through the mirror or did it take a moment?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, I -- like I always do, I saw him coming, I closed my eyes and brake really late (laughter) and when I opened them there was a puff of smoke at the back this way I don't feel guilty. Because I don't see it. But, no I saw him coming and he seemed to be going towards the inside and then I stopped looking because I was going pretty deep into the corner and I just did my thing and I tried to let the it go and when I got around the corner once I was going up the hill I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw his car going like this, backwards and I said, oh, that doesn't look good. Well, that looks good. (Laughter). But, yeah, it's sad, but as long as he's okay. That's fine.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much congratulations on a great race. We'll receive you next week in Road America.
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