Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dodge Motorsports: Teleconference with Patrick Carpentier

From Dodge Motorsports...

Patrick Carpentier, (Driver, No. 22 Zellers Dodge Charger)

What are you looking forward to this weekend? “I am looking forward to going back to Montreal. I haven’t raced there in a couple years, but I am really looking forward to driving these cars in the Busch Series let me tell you. Forty-three cars coming into that tight corner one there is going to be a good show for the fans. We tested yesterday a little bit and things went pretty well. We’re really happy and now we’re looking forward to it. I’m really looking forward to go there. I think the guys are going to like the city there.”

How different is racing a stock car compared to some of the other cars you’ve raced? “From the Indy cars it’s a world apart. You’ve got so much downforce in an Indy car that you can’t compare. With the Grand Am I was pleasantly surprised. It’s very close to what I am driving now in the Rolex Series where you sit on the left side. There was a high-speed corner where we went testing yesterday at the track in Kershaw, North Carolina. I was impressed with the speed that these cars can take the fast corners. It’s unbelievable to carry that much weight around with the car and not a lot of downforce. The grip that the car had was unbelievable. For me, I really had a good time yesterday. We didn’t drive too long because it rained most of the day. We only drove like an hour but it was enough to see what the car felt like. Because I have done the Rolex and stuff it feels like a world apart now.”

Are you ready for the bumping and banging that comes with driving stock cars on a road course? “I was in the shop this morning having mirrors inside the car because you see nothing out of these things. Man, how do you know who is inside you and outside you and all of that stuff like that so we kept adding mirrors this morning. I know you have spotters, but I always feel more comfortable when you can see what is on your right side, so we kept doing that this morning. The guys were like, ‘Huh, that is the first time that I’ve seen that with mirrors.’ It’s good.”

Can you talk about the adaptability of race car drivers in general? “I think once you get to a certain level whether it’s a guy that comes from Indy or NASCAR, if you get to the ovals, I’ve done a lot of ovals in different series and the Rolex and CASCAR and this and that, then you end up getting an idea of what any car should pretty much feel like. For me what the concern is that it’s so competitive NASCAR now a days. For a race in Montreal I don’t know if the brakes, how you need to save the brakes because it is a very hard track on the brakes. The tires and stuff like that is my concern. To do a quick lap and stuff like that I think you can do it. Paul Wolfe, who is chief mechanic on the team, yesterday made some changes in the car and we gained over two seconds in one change and then we were right up there with the times that Robby Gordon did at the test last week at the track. I was pretty happy about that but my concern is the race. When you enter the race it’s always a different story. That is when experience comes into play a little bit. There are some guys there that really know their stuff. For me there is always a learning curve and right now I am trying to shorten it as much as I can, but we’ll see how it goes in the race.”

Do you think motorsports champions have common traits and abilities? “I think so. I think if you can see it with Montoya you know. He drove Indy cars, F1 and now with NASCAR. He did pretty well last weekend at The Brickyard. Tony Stewart was in IRL before he went to NASCAR. I think the guys that run fast, and are champions as you’ve called them, whatever series they do whether it’s F1 or anything, if they are in a good car surrounded with a good team they’ll do well in pretty much any kind of circuit. They’ll adapt to the track very quickly. It’s like Montreal, a lot of guys don’t know the track but come Thursday before lunch time everybody will know the track. Everybody will know the little tricks here and there. They’ll have caught up with the guys at the front. It’s guys that really can adapt very quickly that can do any type of car or race track that they are in to if the equipment is good of course.”

What is the response you’ve gotten from the people in Montreal? “It’s been fun. You know what we did for Zellers, one of the sponsors on the car, all last week we did pretty much all of the stores in Quebec trying to bring more attention to the race and bring people into the race. I was amazed. I would say that three quarters of the fans that came in and we signed autographs for, in a few places we signed for like two hours, and we had to stop the line at the end because we had more people coming in. I was amazed because most of the fans coming in were NASCAR fans, not necessarily a Carpentier fan but just NASCAR fans. They were happy that I was getting into the series and that. A lot of people follow NASCAR and I was really impressed with that. NASCAR brings a huge fan base with Montreal and that. I did a few races with Indy cars and stuff. I think if we put it together we’ll have a good crowd. You have guys like Robby Gordon, Carl Edwards and all these guys that are coming to Montreal. They’ll attract a lot of people. The response has been amazingly great.”

Who is the driver that you would most like to beat in the Busch Series? “There is probably going to be like 42 of them that I would really like to beat, (Laughs), in the series. To run in the top 10 or the top five with these guys I would love to but it’s so competitive. I’ll try and run up with these guys and just have a good time with the fans and the people. That is what I want. If I can do that it would be great. You always want to beat the best of them, so we’ll see who runs fast in Montreal. There is nobody in particular that I would like to beat. I would more like to run with the guys, battle with them and have fun and run. Whether you finish the race first, second, third, forth, whatever, or wherever you finish just being able to enjoy it and battle with these guys. That is what I would like.”

Are there some keys to the Montreal track that you think will help you based on your experience there? “Yeah, I thought it was going to help me, but then they went and put a test day on Thursday, so everyone will know the track. Before I knew they were going to put a test day on Thursday I was like, ‘Oh, this is good nobody will know the track and we will only have a couple practices.’ Now with the test on Thursday I think it is going to be pretty much a level playing field.”

You’ve raced some of the other open wheel folks before. What are your thoughts on them? “I am still racing them. They are all in the Rolex Series now. The prototype series. The Grand Am. I am going to race that on Friday also. I have raced a lot of guys. There is Michael Valiante that is going to be there. I don’t know if it’s finalized yet or not, but all these guys and Robby Gordon, who I raced in CART at the time. It’s quite a few guys. It’ll be good to talk with them and race with them again in a different kind of car.”

Do you ever see yourself running in the NEXTEL Cup Series? “I would love to. For me what I love the most is hopefully with the sponsors with Zellers and Dodge, hopefully we get a good race, a good showing and they love the crowd reaction and what’s happening there. Hopefully that puts us into the Busch Series. I think I need to do a few races and a few runs in the Busch Series just to learn the do’s and don’t’s of how the guys race on an oval and a road circuit. We’re already talking I might be back in a Busch car on an oval this year, so it’s looking a little bit better.”

Did any of the NASCAR fans that you’ve met say that they have ever attended a NASCAR race? “Yes, Watkins Glen and New Hampshire. A lot of guys have been to quite a few races. The most popular one that I saw, because there are a lot of people that go from Canada to Florida, is Daytona. A lot of people went to a Daytona race. They have their seats reserved there and they go every year. That is the one that I heard the most.”

Do you expect a lot of wrecks due to a small amount of run-off space on the road course? “A lot of people are thinking that there are going to be quite a few wrecks on the track in Montreal, but they had a race last year with NASCAR Canada and it was not to bad at all. The show was fantastic. The guys on the last four or five laps kept passing each other and they kept fighting all the way to the finish. It was one of the most exciting races that we’ve seen so in the Busch cars it’s going to be exciting. I don’t think that you are going to see as many crashes or things that people expect. There is only one place near the pit road, they call it the Quebec wall, where if you miss the corner you are going to be in the wall like a street circuit. The wall is right there by the track so I’m sure you have to be careful. The other corners you have a little bit of run off area and you can come back on the track.”

What is a realistic goal for this weekend? “I’d like to be a top 10. If I’m top 10 then I will be happy with that. That is a good goal. I’m aiming higher than that. I hope to be in the top five, but realistically a top 10 after this long race I’ll be happy. For me I really want to try to show well and do well. I’m hoping to a little bit. We tested well yesterday and our crew chief Paul Wolfe made some changes that were really encouraging. He told me that maybe in Montreal we’ll be able to set it up well and if I race well we’ll end up there, but top 10 I would be happy with that.”

Do you see NASCAR as being in your future? “I don’t miss the open wheel. I’ve gotten calls from Rahal and a couple other teams that have wanted me to get back into it. I said, ‘No, we are going to focus on Busch.” I would like to spend a couple of years, I really like driving this kind of car. For me I like the ovals, I always have. I don’t want to do the ovals in the IRL anymore for safety reasons and I want to do it with NASCAR. I think the cars are a lot of fun. When I did CASCAR, NASCAR Canada, last year on the oval I had a blast. We’re aiming for it. We already have talks about doing an oval this year in the Busch Series, so that would be great. There seems to be a lot of interest from the sponsors to come in for next year, so hopefully we go that route.”

How important is it to be the top Canadian in Montreal? And which Canadian is going to be the toughest to beat? “I don’t know. Michael tested last week and was very fast. He is in a good car. I think he is in Juan Pablo Montoya’s car that he had in Mexico when he won the race. He is going to be fast and you can not undermine the experience of a guy like Ron Fellows who is going to be very fast. Not only is he going to be very fast but he is very patient and he really understands these cars. He is going to save his car all the way to the end of the race. I think he is going to come in at the end of the race also. I don’t know, honestly it all depends on the teams that we have and how good of job they do on the track over the weekend. It’s going to be really hard to tell. I would say Ron Fellows with his experience is going to be tough.”

Have you talked to Paul Tracy about how to bump guys out of the way? “No, not very much. I know from Paul that he has bumped me a couple of times. I haven’t talked to him. I have talked to Robby Gordon. I have talked to a few guys and they kind of explained to me a little bit racing in the Busch Series. I am trying to get as much information as I can from the right guys who will tell me the truth.”

Is there a voice that tells you since Montoya won at Mexico with little experience that you can do the same in Montreal? “Yes, but I don’t say it to loud. I don’t want to pressure myself. It would kind of be a dream comes true for me. It would help us motivate the sponsors for us to keep running in the Busch.”

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