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An Interview With Adrian Fernandez, Carlos Contreras and Jorge Goeters

 

February 28, 2006

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HERB BRANHAM: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone, and we welcome to this week's special edition of the NASCAR weekly teleconference which focuses on Sunday's NASCAR Busch Series event in Mexico City, the Telcel Motorola 200 presented by Banamex. This will mark the Series' second visit to the Rodriguez Road Course.

Today as our guests we have three NASCAR Busch Series drivers who are also natives of Mexico city, Jorge Goeters, who will join us in just a few minutes, Adrian Fernandez, and Carlos Contreras.

Some quick information on our three guests. Jorge Goeters, driver No. 66, Scotiabank Xtreme Gel Ford, captured the Busch pole last year at the inaugural Mexico City race. This week he's racing for Brewco Motor Sports as a teammate of '94 Series champion Dave Green. He's also working to start his own Busch Series team with his brother Eduardo. Goeters is the reigning champion of the Desafio Corona series, Mexico's premier stock car touring series.

Adrian Fernandez is well known as one of Mexico's popular athletes. He's the driver of the No. 57 Lowe's Chevrolet. He finished 10th in last year's Mexico City race. As he did last year, he's driving again for Hendrick Motor Sports, and he's joined this year by teammate Kyle Busch.

Carlos Contreras, he's the driver of the No. 14 Goulds Pumps Dodge. He drove for several seasons in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and was runner up for that Series' Rookie of the Year honor in 2000 behind Kurt Busch. He started 8th at Mexico City last year, ran in the top 5 most of the way before some late race mechanical problems.

Gentlemen, let's start off with a brief opening statement from each of you regarding your chances in this week's race, and then we'll go right to questions. I believe we're still waiting for Jorge, so Adrian, you had a great chance to win with the event last year. What's your outlook for this weekend?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, I'm very excited to go back to Mexico and race again in NASCAR. This time the car is a lot more than what I had last year. Also Mexico will be able to be more familiarized with the car. I think it was a great successful event, so I'm looking forward to putting a good show with Kyle Busch and represent Lowe's in the winner's circle.

HERB BRANHAM: Carlos, you have to feel good coming back after last year's strong run in Mexico City.

CARLOS CONTRERAS: That was a very sad year last year. I'm very happy to be back again in Mexico racing the No. 14; the Goulds Pumps car is very good. We have a different model program than we ever have. We know the track, Adrian, he knows the track, so I think this year, some of the Mexicans, we can win the race.

HERB BRANHAM: I believe we're ready to go to questions.

Q. Good morning, and thank you so much for coming on the call. This is for both Adrian and Carlos. You've experienced NASCAR on both sides of the border. How is it different in Mexico and how is it the same to experiencing a race here in the Busch Series?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: You mean in terms of public?

Q. Well, both the running of the race and your side of it as a driver going through the whole process of getting to the track and getting everything done, but then also with the public and their reaction to your racing.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, for me specifically it's going to be a great weekend. I'm also racing the GrandAm Series, so I'm going to be splitting those two races with our fans. We've been racing for a few years now, and even though it's a hard week and a lot of appearances and a lot of time to spend with your fans, it's always a pleasure to be there in front of them.

You always try to do the best you can. Like I said, we have a great team. We are going to go in to try to maximize our time with the fans, with our team on both sides, so we can get the best results. Always when you're running at home, you always have more pressure but also more energy to be able to get the best you can. Most of the drivers from Mexico have experience on the road courses, so like Carlos said, I think we have a good shot at winning the race from any of the Mexican drivers.

CARLOS CONTRERAS: Like Adrian said, it's going to be a huge event in Mexico. Last year was a very good for the people, for the fans. It was a very good event. So I think this year it should be better.

You know, it's hard to say who is going to win the race. I thought last year that we probably one Mexican could win the race and see what happens, and all the Mexicans had problems. This year, like Adrian says, he has very good equipment, Jorge has very good equipment, and we have eight Mexicans, so I hope to I don't want to say nothing this year, but we'll see.

Q. Last year was NASCAR kind of perceived as a curiosity in Mexico, and can you tell the difference that people are now anticipating and following NASCAR more in Mexico?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: That's a process that doesn't come from one night to the next day. I mean, it's going to take time to get our fans educated. They've been watching Formula cars for a long, long time, even from the days of Pedro Rodriguez, Pedro Ricardo Rodriguez, our Mexican hero that competed in Formula One and other types of racing.

The transition toward NASCAR or sport cars, more NASCAR, was very limited. But I do believe that having Mexican drivers, especially the known drivers, is going to help NASCAR translate into them easier than if you wouldn't have them. You need their stars, their home drivers, and I think that's going to help the process to get them educated better, the knowledge of the cars and learning about the competition.

These cars are different; they are not easy cars to drive and it's hard to understand great racing, close racing, long races, something they are not used to seeing. But I think this year will be a lot better, and I think it will be I think we're on the road for NASCAR to become more and more popular in Mexico.

Q. Do you think it'll take a Mexican driver running full time in the series for fans in Mexico to truly follow it?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: To follow the season? I do believe that. I think that's a must situation that has to happen because, I mean, there's a lot of racers that are doing just so many races, and if you just have a driver for so many races, there's not going to be continuity.

Carlos is pursuing his career in NASCAR, and Jorge, they're young drivers that have a lot of interest in NASCAR. This is a process that will take time, but I believe that eventually we will have a full time driver in NASCAR.

There's also another thing, that if you're in NASCAR but if you're just running and you are not successful, then that's not going to it's going to help but it's not going to do the ultimate thing. Eventually what you need is to have a Mexican or Mexican drivers competing in NASCAR at top level and be competitive.

We all learn from past experience, and myself particularly last year, that you may be able to be fast on the road courses, but it's going to take you more time, especially for drivers like my case, that most of their careers have been done in open wheel racing. I have been winning a lot in open wheel racing, but when you translate that to NASCAR, it's totally different. You need a lot of time. You need a lot of races.

You know, I think you minimum need two years to be able to start consistent competitive in front. But that's what it takes. These guys got the talent. They can get the support and the people to believe in them to better for the future, and I think that would work.

Q. Carlos, how difficult has that process been, that you want to run in this Busch Series full time? How difficult has it been for you?

CARLOS CONTRERAS: Well, Adrian said everything. I spent three years in the oval track series and I'm still learning. The oval tracks are so difficult. You know, road course, like Adrian said, I'm a road course driver and I know the road course, but the oval track, it's very competitive. NASCAR is the most competitive series, even with Formula One, a road race, 43 cars fighting each other. So it's hard.

I spent three years, I have 78 races with NASCAR, 70 Truck Series, 8 Busch Series, and I'm still learning.

Q. I'd like to ask both drivers, last year's race was very popular in Mexico City. Is there a difference do you think between the Mexican fans and U.S. fans?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: In terms of what, how they support the series?

Q. Basically what I'm asking, do you think the home town attraction brought the crowd out for the NASCAR racing, or is it just the stock car racing that the Mexican fans are interested in?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think it's a combination. They're always interested in a new thing. Anything that's always new is good in the first year. The key thing is to keep it for the following years and keep it for the future. It's like a business. You know, you may be very successful your first year because it's the new thing to do, but I think the key thing for the series is to be successful for the future. So the key there, like I said before, it's about the drivers, the Mexican drivers.

It's happening in Formula One. Look how popular Formula One is right now because Alonso, the Spanish driver, became a champion. It's about the drivers. Obviously, for example, Tony Stewart and all these drivers in NASCAR, it would be big, but it wouldn't be as big. But obviously NASCAR has created this. So it's both ways.

Mexico is anxious to learn about NASCAR, but they're expecting to have their drivers represent their country.

Q. Carlos?

CARLOS CONTRERAS: Adrian is right. I will be honest with you. Adrian, he's our superstar in Mexico. But I'll be honest with you, we have a lot of Mexican racing fans. So when Champ Car comes to Mexico and races Adrian or some Mexican drivers, the people are very excited.

Last year when NASCAR raced in Mexico and Adrian announced he would race Mexico, the people was very excited. So this year, I think Adrian, he will probably I don't know how many people how many people we had last year, I don't remember, but I think this year it should be better and better and better every year.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think Jorge is on the phone, too.

JORGE GOETERS: I am here.

HERB BRANHAM: If we could get a quick opening statement, last year's pole setter coming back. How confident do you feel?

JORGE GOETERS: For me it's very exciting because nobody thinks that I can make it, so it's huge for all the Mexican people, we expect a veteran is going to get the pole, so when he makes a mistake and everybody knows it, they think we are done with it. No Mexican driver can be there, there is huge like me, like I can make very clean laps or a very good moment very good for Mexico especially because they expect there is going to be a Mexican that can fight for the win.

But in the race it's completely different. I made a lot of mistakes at the track so it cost me a lot of positions. I blow my engine, so I was not very good for myself.

This year is completely different. I was practicing with the team two days in January, and I was expecting better places in the race. I think I have more experience in the pit. I think I was more complete like a driver. I think the race is going to be tough, the competition is tough, everybody knows the track, the team was there last year, so Adrian is not going to make mistakes and Carlos is going to be better. It's going to be a really, really great race for Mexico.

We think we can break records with the assistance of the Mexican people.

Q. It's great talking to all of you. Jorge, since you got the pole you can start there, but could you take us through the track? Now that NASCAR has this statistical looping information, we're getting more information on the turns and where people are passing and where they're going fast and what turns are quickest, but can any one of you take us through the track itself there?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, I heard that it's going to be modified. I don't know if that's a fact, but that they were going to make it tighter. I don't know if you guys heard that. The chicane last year that they put right on the front straight was very, very fast, so fast that you needed to make sure you were precise, otherwise you could have an accident, so they were going to make the chicane a lot slower. So that's going to be new for us. But last year it was very fast, it was a tough year.

Basically you just lift a little bit back on the power. But these cars positioned from side to side are not good, so you always have to anticipate where the car is going to be able to make a smooth transition.

Then you go to turn the first corner at the end of the straight, and that's the second gear. That's all second gear, those esses that we have there. That's always about momentum, about trying to keep your line. Any time you try to rush into the power or get too quick on the brake, things like that, you lose your line a lot of times.

The back straight, coming into what would be the new section, what used to be the Presidential Corner as we used to call it in Mexico, that's the new section, that, to me, the only problem with that corner is it's not a completely straight corner so it's very difficult to pass. To be honest the opportunity is to pass on the chicane in that straight; the rest is pretty tough.

So that section that I was talking about, it's a little bit turning to the right, which makes it a little bit tough to pass because if a guy puts the car in the middle you don't have an opportunity to go to the inside or outside to make a legitimate braking maneuver.

All the effort will be the Altada that we call it, which is start from slow, and all the esses, each corner starts getting tougher and tougher and tougher. It's basically impossible to pass there unless a car makes a mistake.

And then coming into the last corner, which we call the Peraltada, that's a corner that is also tough to pass unless the guy also makes a mistake. You can do it on the inside, but it's not easy. You saw an incident with Michel and Carl Edwards, so it's very easy to cross there. You don't have a space to really make a pass. And then you come into the main straight.

With that, as I said, in essence you really have one good opportunity to pass, when you are in the same level as the other guy. Obviously if the other guys are a second ahead or two seconds, then that's a different thing.

Q. Do all of you agree that they should change the chicane? Do all of you agree there needs to be changes there?

CARLOS CONTRERAS: I agree with that. They think we want to stop the cars because at the end of the straight, as Adrian says it's very fast at the turn, one, we need to slow down considerably for the safety of the racers.

Q. I'll start with Adrian. How are you?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Good. And you?

Q. I'm doing fine. Over the years, you and I have talked, and I remember a day when you were trying to open the doors for open wheel racing to go to Mexico. Now you're there with NASCAR. This has got to be personally for you just a wonderful feeling to see the growth in Mexico of U.S. based race series.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, I am. I am because we want to make sure that Mexico has drivers for a long time, and the only way to do that is to keep supporting the next generations and the next generations, and that's a process that we all, as the drivers, should be responsible for it.

In the past we had very successful famous drivers from Mexico, that unfortunately some of them died, others did not continue or did not translate into anything when they retired.

So here we all Mexican fans, Mexican people really love racing, and I want to see we want to see different generations to follow us after we retire. For me to see drivers that continue coming through the young Formula and to see them progress in their careers, it's always a pleasure, and if we can for any reason do anything to help them, either with sponsors or by being there, and the credibility of the racing that you're doing for the other drivers, it's good. We have to work very hard to keep the Mexican drivers afloat and have sponsors get interest and have opportunities for them.

Q. Speaking of opportunities, what a great opportunity for you this weekend, racing in both the Rolex Series and the Busch?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It's fantastic. I needed to race when I got injured in Australia when a car landed on top of me and I broke my T2 vertebra, and now I'm back and replacing some of those races that I didn't do in front of our crowds. It's a nice thing.

Q. Question for Carlos, and Jorge, you can answer this, as well. My Spanish is terrible.

Listening to the three of you talk, it's almost as if the eight hometown Mexicans will be battling against the rest of the field to make sure a Mexican wins the race.

JORGE GOETERS: I don't know, it's tough to answer if a Mexican can win over there because, you know, in the race the car change and everything change, but we are trying to be considered the constant and at the end of the race to fight for a checkered flag.

We think we have the possibility to do it, Adrian, Carlos, Michel, myself, we know we are going to fight to the end, but we don't know if we can win.

Q. And Carlos, in a sense do you feel like maybe this track owes you one from last year?

CARLOS CONTRERAS: Well, last year, I thought last year was a nightmare. I was running 6th. So this year it's completely different. Jorge, like Jorge said, the competition is very hard, very strong this year. There's a lot of drivers that will race with us again.

This year for sure it will be hard for us Mexicans to race, but remember, we have excellent drivers, like Adrian said. Jorge won the pole, and with Adrian and Michel and myself, we have a good opportunity.

It's a long, long race. If you don't make mistakes and your car is perfect for the race, you can win the race.

Q. If I can ask one more question for Adrian, you and Paul Tracy getting to race side by side again, any memories?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, that will be fun. I think what Paul Tracy will find out now is everybody has bumpers. It'll be easy to in open wheel racing it's a lot different than NASCAR. Paul is a fantastic competitor. I'm very happy for him to be in Mexico. He's going to, like I'm doing, race the GrandAm Series and the NASCAR series, and I think he always puts a great show. He's a great competitor. I'm sure he will have some contact there, but he's really excited to race. He's going to be strong.

Like they were saying about the Mexican drivers, I do believe we have more chances this year than we had last year because we understand more about the cars. Last year we all were new, and especially we understand more about what to expect. We should definitely do well.

Q. Jorge, can you give us an update on your plans for Busch Series racing after this weekend?

JORGE GOETERS: Yes, I am making a deal for the next races of the complete season. We are making a deal with Mr. Jay Robinson. We are working very hard with him to find the money for make a better team, but we are ready to race with him in Vegas. So I think I can start my rookie season over there.

Q. So you'll start so you plan to run the rest of the year starting with this weekend with Brewco and then starting next weekend with Jay Robinson; is that right?

JORGE GOETERS: Yes, that's right. Brewco gave me an opportunity for this weekend so I'm very happy to be with them. Then I have to change teams and go with Jay Robinson. I'm very proud to be part of his team. He invited me for the season, so we can do very good things together and I can learn.

Q. Do you have a sponsor that's going to be on that Jay Robinson car?

JORGE GOETERS: We have one, yes. It's Gel Xtreme. It's the one that I'm going to have in Mexico City this weekend, but we are looking for some others.

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