JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), defending Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland champion, on the enjoyment of racing at Burke Lakefront Airport: "Cleveland was definitely one of my favorite races from last year. There's a lot of opportunity for...
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), defending Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland champion, on the enjoyment of racing at Burke Lakefront Airport: "Cleveland was definitely one of my favorite races from last year. There's a lot of opportunity for passing and the track's layout suits my driving well. One of the trademarks of Team Target over the years is consistency. Our team is making that one of our main goals for the remaining races. The Toyota-Lola is capable of finishing and winning. We'll be back in Winner's Circle soon, hopefully starting in Cleveland. Qualifying is an important part of the race, but as drivers have shown in recent years, you can win at Cleveland no matter where you start. I had a nice run of poles this season, so it would be nice to start a new one in Cleveland."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on his anticipation of racing in Cleveland: "I'm really looking forward to the Cleveland race. It's one of the favorite courses for the drivers because you can push even harder without the usual threat of hitting the wall like on some road courses and all street courses. We ran well here last year and finished second despite dropping to 15th for a pit-speed penalty. I think we will be competitive again this year, but we want to avoid the penalty. That really cost us a victory. The fans are great in Cleveland. You can tell they follow the sport all season long by the type of things they say to you or their questions. I'm glad we are able to come back this year. The Portland race put us in a strong position to go for the championship and we plan to build on that in Cleveland. Being in fourth place, only 14 points out of first, is good for the team. We have been working hard this season to improve on our pit stops and overall competitiveness. We had some DNF's at the beginning of the season that hurt us but the previous front runners in the championship have had their share of problems also so that helped put the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team back in it."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on regaining his momentum in Cleveland: "A racing season has its peaks and valleys and we've been going through some tough times the last few races. It's the type of thing that tests your resolve and your patience, but you've got to work your way through it. I have no doubt that we're going to put everything together and return to the success Team KOOL Green had earlier in the season. I like our chances to start turning things around in Cleveland. I still have fond memories of winning there in 1993, in my first season in the CART series, and I've had some pretty good races there over the years. One thing's for sure: There's loads of room for passing on the Burke Lake Airport track, and we're going there with the intention of making things happen."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the "openness" of the Burke Lakefront Airport road course: "Cleveland is a fantastic city and home to one of the best races on the CART circuit. There's plenty of opportunity to overtake and it's very open so you can take different lines, which makes for an exciting race. My statistics at this track, coupled with Marlboro Team Penske,s recent form on road and street courses, bode well for us; however, we need to stay focused on the task at hand and see how the weekend plays out. I look forward to spending time with my family in Cleveland and seeing the many friends we've made there."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his fondness for Cleveland: "Cleveland is a special place for me because it's the site of my first podium finish in the U.S. while driving in Indy Lights [third in 1996]. The track is a lot of fun, given it's wide which makes for a number of passing areas -- especially the first turn. It's also great for the fans because they can see most of the track from the grandstands. The track is bumpy so it's always a challenge for the engineers to find a set-up that can handle the demands of this circuit. Marlboro Team Penske brings a lot of momentum into Cleveland after winning the last two races and taking the pole in Portland. All of our hard work is starting to pay off and we just need to keep focused on the job at hand and come out in the points again this weekend."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), remaining optimistic in the face of adversity: "I get the feeling that as long as we continue to hang in there and keep working hard, Team KOOL Green is going to get some breaks. We weren't lucky last Sunday in Portland, when contact on the first lap set us back. But we managed to keep our composure, pick up a few points and build some momentum for Cleveland. With only three points separating the Nos. 6 through 10 drivers in the standings, any points you can collect are big right now. We ran into some bad luck in Cleveland last year with a throttle problem that ended our race. But we got to the podium there the year before (3rd place), so we do have some success in Cleveland. Being a fan of rock music, it's always fun to go to the city that has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Team KOOL Green wants to do some rocking of its own by getting back into the Winner's Circle at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), looking for some good racing luck this weekend: "I can't wait to race in Cleveland. You can really go for it. I am due for some good luck here. My airjack broke in 1997 when I was leading. I was leading again the next year and a yellow came out but my radio didn't work and I didn't hear the team call for me to pit immediately. The Cleveland race was one of my worst last year. I spun on slick tires trying to get to the pits in the heavy rain. I spun again on track and almost took Michael [Andretti, teammate] out with me. Then I spun across from my pit and the guys had to get the quick jack to bring me into the pit box. It was one thing after the other that day. For sure, the race is one of the most exciting for the fans. You can see almost the entire track from the stands. At one point last year, it didn't look like we were going to race here this year but I'm glad it was worked out because I am looking forward to the race this year. I think we will be competitive here based on how we have done on road and street courses so far this season."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Toyota Lola), on "turning it up a notch" in Cleveland: "No one is getting nervous because we all know we have the ability to win on any track, but with just over half of the season remaining, we think it's time to start putting together a good string of races and moving up in the standings. We all have confidence that the Toyota-Lola can win, so it's just a matter of time before we visit the podium again. I've grown to enjoy racing at Burke [Lakefront Airport]. We had some bad luck in Cleveland last year, so hopefully, I got that out of my system. This is a good time of year to start earning valuable points and that's our goal heading into the weekend."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on his comfort level in Cleveland: "I'm going to feel right at home on the track in Cleveland because we're going to be racing on the runway at Burke Lakefront Airport. The Player's team already got some practice in this regard when we took part in a speed showdown against a fighter plane on an airport runway in Bagotville, Quebec a few weeks ago. When we raced in Cleveland last year, we battled for fourth place right to the end before finishing seventh. That was our best performance on a road course last year, next to the podium we got for second in Vancouver. We've been improving every year at Cleveland and I'm confident that trend will continue this year. We've got a good shot at the podium in Cleveland."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on his past experience on the Burke Lakefront Airport runways: "Although it's going to be my first time on the Cleveland course in the CART series, I'm familiar with the layout from my days in [Toyota] Atlantic. That's going to help as the Player's team prepares for the Grand Prix of Cleveland. I know it's a track that is demanding on the drivers, both mentally and physically. The weather is usually very hot and that takes a toll on you as well. The physical training and mental preparation I went through in the off-season should come in handy for this race. I'm very encouraged by the fact we've been right in contention in the last two races, and only some bad luck prevented us from making it into the top six twice in a row. There's no doubt in my mind the Player's Champ car can compete with anyone and I think the Burke Lakefront Airport track, with its many open spaces for passing, will bring out the best in the car this weekend."
BRYAN HERTA (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), looking forward to his "unexpected" return to Cleveland: "I'm so glad to be going back to Cleveland. I was down in the dumps last year when they announced we weren't going back. And then, this year, when my full-time ride situation went away, it looked like I wasn't coming back after all. Like I said at Portland, these aren't the circumstances you want to get you back in a race car [replacing injured regular Tony Kanaan]. Tony's doing really well and will be back before too long. But in the meantime, I want to do my part to keep the program rolling in the right direction. We had a rough weekend in Portland, but it got better as we went along. I even turned the fifth-fastest lap of the race by the time all was said and done. So that's a good foundation to build on here in Cleveland. I love the track. It's probably the funnest time we have all year because it's wide-open, full-throttle racing. I felt very comfortable in my Hollywood/Mercedes by race's end at Portland. So we'll start fresh on Friday and be the contender we know deep down inside we are. Cleveland rocks!"