MEDIC DRUG GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND PRESENTED BY FIRSTAR "QUOTEBOARD" JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), looking forward to his first race in Cleveland: "Morris [Morris Nunn, Chief Engineer] is very excited for me to race in Cleveland. He...
MEDIC DRUG GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND PRESENTED BY FIRSTAR "QUOTEBOARD"
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), looking forward to his first race in Cleveland: "Morris [Morris Nunn, Chief Engineer] is very excited for me to race in Cleveland. He loves the track and thinks I'll like it, too. I hear that it is an exciting layout with lots of passing. I think it will fit my driving style nicely and be a lot of fun. Right now in the season, we need to keep fighting for wins and points, no matter where we race."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Honda Reynard), on the special challenges of running at Burke Lakefront Airport: "The Cleveland race is one of the most interesting of the season. The track is so wide open that there is always lots of room for passing and being aggressive. After a disappointing weekend in Portland, all we can do is get ready for the next race. Cleveland always raises the blood pressure a little bit and that might be what me and my guys need to get back on track."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), seeking to take two steps up the podium at Cleveland this year: "I finished third here last year, so obviously I'm hoping to improve upon that. Besides I've already finished third three times this season. It's my time to get my first win of '99 for Team KOOL Green. We've been doing well by scoring points consistently in the championship race. With that said though, I truly want to stand on the top spot of the podium. I really enjoy racing on the runways at Cleveland. There are a lot of opportunities to pass on this circuit, especially on the first corner of the first lap. There's so much room going into Turn 1 that you can have four or five cars side by side when the green flag drops. You're constantly pushing yourself in this race, so it can be physically demanding. It's also usually hot enough to fry an egg on the runway. There's no shade to speak of. We'll be sucking back the fluids this weekend."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of Cleveland: "Cleveland is a fun race for me, not only because of the track but because of the city itself. There's a lot to see and do. It's always been a great sports city with the Indians, Cavaliers and with the Browns coming back. I also love going to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame or hanging out in The Flats to watch the boats pass by. As for the race and the track, I like it a lot because I like a fast track with good passing opportunities. You certainly get that at Cleveland. Though we can't test there, we know Team KOOL Green has got a good road course car. Dario and I showed that last weekend at Portland [Paul finished 5thand Dario finished 3rd]. The keys to doing well at Cleveland are really no different than any other race. You've got to have a well-balanced car, take care of your tires and have good pit stops. It's probably going to be very hot, so there could be a lot of attrition. As strong as we're running right now, I think that plays into our hands."
ROBBY GORDON (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift), on what makes racing at Cleveland so exciting: "When I think about Cleveland, I can't help but think about the race in 1995. I had a good chance to win, but we cut a few tires in the heat of battle and ended up sixth. Everyone was scratching and clawing, it was like a dogfight with no rules. Guys were going three and four abreast into corners that only fit one and they weren't letting up until it was too late. I had an exchange with [Jacques] Villeneuve where we both ended up racing each other in the grass because neither of us would give in. But that's the great part about this track, it's wide and there is plenty of room to run if you do end up in the grass. Guys are going to take more chances here because they're not worried about a cement wall taking them out of the running. The start is always exciting too, we've gone into turn one, which is practically a hairpin, five and six wide in the past - it's a mess, everyone's trying to make up 15 spots and someone always loses out. It's just a great place to race, the fans have a good view of the whole track and the city of Cleveland is a blast. I'm excited to be back, hopefully we can dice in the lead again and come away with some good points."
GREG MOORE (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on his fond memories of racing at Cleveland: "I have pleasant memories of the track in Cleveland because that's where I clinched the Indy Lights championship in 1995. "It's a tough place to race because you get quite a few of what we call 'ripple bumps' on the track, where it will be a smooth ride for a while and then all of a sudden it gets bumpy and you have to adjust to that. But the Player's team does a great job adjusting to the different challenges that each track poses."
GIL de FERRAN (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), on the physical demands of racing at Cleveland: "It is a very demanding track physically. I mean, I remember 1995 in my rookie year when I led that race almost until the end there and got in a tangle with a backmarker. It was a particularly hot day. Ir was my first year in the series. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of it. So, it is a tough track physically. We got a lot of vibrations through the steering wheel in 1996, and I finished with blown blisters on the palms of both of my hands. And usually, it is very hot there, which makes matters even worse."
AL UNSER JR. (Marlboro Mercedes Penske), on his bittersweet memories of Cleveland: "We'll be running the Lola at Cleveland, a track which has been good to me and has bit me. No lead is safe since there are so many places to pass. The key to winning at Cleveland is reliability, power and staying out of trouble."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), on his reaction to the 1999 Reynard chassis which he debuted in Portland: "The '99 Reynard is more aerodynamically balanced and has more downforce. It feels good, it's pretty, and it's new. The car was impressive in Portland, especially considering that this was the first time I drove it. We still have a lot to learn about the car, but I felt comfortable right away, and I think we have a good chance in the Cleveland race."
BRYAN HERTA (Shell Ford Reynard), on the anticipation of racing at Cleveland: "Cleveland is one of my favorite tracks on the CART circuit. Cleveland provides some of the best racing on the CART FedEx series and it is a fun circuit for the drivers. There are so many different lines to take in the corners and the racing is always great. I know all of the drivers get excited about coming to race at Cleveland. I know after the tough start I have had this year that Cleveland is high on my list of races."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), looking to build on Team Rahal's past successes at Cleveland: "We have had a good road racing setup at Cleveland in the past with Bryan [Herta, Papis' teammate] and Bobby's [Rahal, team owner and winner of the inaugural Cleveland event in 1992] runs and I've always enjoyed the Cleveland course. Coming from Europe and racing all road circuits, I have a fondness for the road tracks especially Cleveland. Cleveland is a little bumpy but the track is so wide that you can really drive hard. I enjoy the different lines that are formed at Cleveland and there is some great side-by-side racing. It's very fun to drive."
PJ JONES (Visteon Ford Reynard), on the passing opportunities presented at Cleveland: "Cleveland is a great race track. It is wide, which makes for great racing because there are so many opportunities to pass. For the fans, it's one of the best tracks to watch a race. The Swift [chassis] should be strong at Cleveland because it is bumpy and the Swift handles well on a rough track."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on continuing his run of PPG Cup points-paying finishes at Cleveland: "I've been in the points (9th last year, 12th in 1997) in Cleveland in each of the two years I've raced there in the CART series. I'm looking forward to going back there because we've been making steady progress on road courses and I believe a podium finish is a definite possibility. And then there is the track in Cleveland. It's really unique. It's appropriate that it's on an airport runway because sometimes you get the feeling that you're flying out there."
ROBERTO MORENO (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), on the unique challenges of Cleveland: "Cleveland is another horsepower track (like Portland) and we feel very comfortable with our Mercedes-Benz engine. It's also a circuit where you have to be very precise and brake late into the chicanes, so it really suits my style of driving. You have to anticipate the corners because some of the braking areas are blind. The airport circuit is extra challenging for the drivers because it's difficult to determine reference points for braking."
RICHIE HEARN (Budweiser Toyota Reynard), on his past disappointments at Cleveland: "Cleveland is a unique track in that it's so wide and flat. It's always been a tough place for me, though. There are no reference points, since it's so flat, and that makes it hard to find the braking points. It's also hard to see where the pavement and dirt come together. Since the track is so bumpy, you have to set the car up pretty stiff, which isn't very driver friendly. If you have a good car, though, there's plenty of room to pass. It can make for a great race."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on what makes Cleveland a unique road racing circuit: "Cleveland is like a street circuit, but the surface is entirely different. Plus, it's pretty flat, and these things make it hard to find grip. There's always a lot of action in Cleveland, with good passing all the time, so it's a really exciting race to watch. Because Cleveland is an airport [track], we can't test there before we race. All the teams have a blank page to some degree. We can test and prepare the car on other road courses, but it's going to take that first practice on Friday morning to really sort everybody out."
SCOTT PRUETT (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on Cleveland as "equalizer": "Cleveland is anybody's game. The track is flat as a pancake, with wide-open turns, which means lots of sliding around and great passing opportunities. Qualifying well is always important, but big gains can be made at Cleveland from just about anywhere in the pack. Race strategy, especially fuel management and pit stops, can make or break performance there. You can run really hard at Cleveland, but that eats up a lot of fuel. So, deciding how to maximize the fuel situation and when to come into the pits is a big part of staying our front."
TARSO MARQUES (Marlboro Mercedes Penske), on becoming familiar with the Burke Lakefront Airport layout: "I'm really looking forward to racing in Cleveland - I hear the track there is very fast. The Marlboro Mercedes Penske was quick in the Portland race, but unfortunately, we had a few incidents which set us back. Hopefully, we'll get in full practice sessions in Cleveland so that we can have a good qualifying session and a strong race. Of course, I've never raced there so I will have to spend some time on Friday learning the course. It's been a very interesting year for me."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on the challenges of Cleveland: "Cleveland is a tough track because it's so incredibly bumpy. We can't test there, which makes it more difficult to start with a set-up that will ride the bumps better. The circuit is so wide that passing is not an issue, and the average speed is really high for a road course. Also, there aren't any curbs, so you can actually make some pretty wild lines. Cleveland is a place where it's important to have a car that not only has good power, but also one that doesn't get upset by the bumps too much. Strategy-wise it's also an event where you can play a little bit with the yellows. We have seen in the past that some teams - rather than save fuel - stop one more time and end up winning just because they didn't have to run a low (fuel) mixture."