Pre-Race Quotes for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on teammate Christian Fittipaldi's testing accident Monday afternoon at Gateway International Raceway: "I am really ...
Pre-Race Quotes for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on teammate Christian Fittipaldi's testing accident Monday afternoon at Gateway International Raceway: "I am really disappointed for Christian. He was running so strong this season and was really going to be a contender at the end of the year. It is a shame that Christian won't be racing here [at Detroit] because he would have been really quick, as he was at most tracks this season. I am really looking forward to the Detroit race. It is always an important race for us because it is Kmart and Ford's hometown. We have been working hard to get our cars working well on street courses and were competitive at the last street race in Toronto. My two race wins in Detroit were very different. The 1990 win was like a dream race because we almost lapped second place. That was very different from my win in 1996 when I really shouldn't have won the race. I was in second place behind Christian and he got a little wide on the last restart and I got by him. He rightly should have won the race. Qualifying will be very important in Detroit because it is tight, as most street courses are. Passing will be at a premium. We need to really focus on finishing the remainder of the races. If we can be consistent like Christian had been and can be there at the end of the race, everything else will just fall into place. It would really be nice to win the championship after all that the team has been through this year."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on Monday's testing accident at Gateway International Raceway, which resulted in subdural hematoma which will sideline him indefinitely: "I don't remember the accident but I remember everything right up until the accident. I can remember everything ... including what the car was doing. The first thing that I remember after the accident is waking up in the ambulance. It may come to me later like it did after my accident in Milwaukee (1998; mild concussion). [On missing the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit] "Right now, I am very happy that the accident wasn't worse. Of course, I am very disappointed to miss the Detroit race and any other race that I miss. Having a good run in Detroit was important for the team and my sponsor, Kmart. Roberto [Moreno] will do a good job for the team. The clot is getting smaller and that is good news. My season was going great until the accident but I am certain we can pick up where we left off."
ROBERTO MORENO (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on replacing Fittipaldi at Detroit: "I feel very badly for Christian, he was having such a good year. But I'm happy Carl [Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing] still has my number. I am in much better shape than I was the last time I drove for the team and will try to do my best for Carl and the entire team once again. I have more experience in CART than I did when I first drove for Newman/Haas Racing and have proven myself."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his recent run of success in the FedEx Championship Series: "Everything is going good at Team KOOL Green right now. All of the elements are there - great engines and tires from Honda and Firestone, Tony Cicale and the rest of the team have a good handle on the chassis setup, and I'm driving as good as I've ever driven. Now we need to take maximum advantage of the current situation and score another win. The Detroit circuit certainly offers a challenge, especially since we don't get to test there prior to the race. But Team KOOL Green has shown we're the team to beat on the temporary circuits. We've been fast at all of them and finished one-two a couple of weeks ago on the streets of Toronto. Another finish like that would be just fine with me, although I'd like to be on the top step of the podium this time. I've won in the Motor City before  and I'm aiming to do it again."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his success on temporary street circuits in the FedEx Championship Series: "I've had great success on the temporary circuits like Detroit, having won at Vancouver, Houston and Toronto. And we didn't do too bad here [at Detroit] last year, finishing fourth. Team KOOL Green obviously has a good setup for these types of circuits, and when the car is right I really enjoy driving them. But we can't rest on our past results - no one else is - and we've got to score maximum points if we want to stay in close contention for the
"The Belle Isle track is unique. It has characteristics of both temporary and permanent circuits. It's close to the city and run on regular roads like a temporary circuit. But it's not all 90-degree turns, rather you've got a good mix of fast and slow corners like you'd find at a good permanent track. I know I can get around this track quickly with a clear path in front of me. As a rookie, I led this race for four laps and I had the fastest lap of the race by over a second."
GREG MOORE (Player's Forsythe Racing Mercedes Reynard) "This will be my fourth appearance at the Detroit Grand Prix and I experienced many memorable moments at The Raceway on Belle Isle. My victory in 1997 was quite exceptional as I roared past Mauricio [Gugelmin] and Mark [Blundell] after they both ran out of fuel on the final lap. It was very satisfying because we led that race for quite a long time and it allowed us to record back-to-back victories. I expect a good result again this year because the Player's team always runs well in Detroit and we qualified on the pole last year."
AL UNSER JR. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), on the importance of starting up front at Belle Isle: "Although the improvements made to Belle Isle last year created another passing area, it's still a tight circuit, so qualifying will be key. We're going to run the Marlboro Mercedes Lola, which had top-10 finishes in its last three races, so we're hoping for good results in Detroit. The team is really giving it their all. We were able to run up front at Michigan Speedway a couple of weeks ago, and we just need to maintain our momentum and put some points on the board."
MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Reynard, on overcoming the disappointment of the July 25 U.S. 500, where he ran out of fuel while leading the final lap: "I am proud of what the Miller Lite team and I were able to accomplish at Michigan. After the race, [team owner] Bobby [Rahal] told me it had been a long time since he had seen someone able to dominate at Michigan like we did. The performance of the car and my crew just confirms everything I have said this year that we have the potential to be a dominant team in this series. Getting a taste of running up front has just made me hungrier and increased my desire to win. Running at Detroit will be very different from the last race at Michigan. The course at Detroit is fast and it is a place where the driver can make a big difference in the performance of the car. It is one of the tracks that I like best. Last year I was able to hold the provisional pole [for Arciero-Wells Racing] in the developmental car. This year, I am looking forward to attacking this course in the proven package we have at Team Rahal."
MARK BLUNDELL (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), on returning to FedEx Championship Series competition following an eight-race absence due to a small fracture of the seventh cervical vertebra sustained in a May 4 testing accident at Gateway International Raceway: "I feel fine. I've got no problems or pain - no issues whatsoever. I've lost a bit of height because of the vertebra collapsing, so I'm a bit more aerodynamic in the cockpit. It was all intentional, as you can believe! I just need to get my neck muscles back up to speed, and the only way to do that is to get back in the race car. Two and a half months with no physical exercise is a long time. I'm working out, but it won't happen overnight. I'm as fired up and determined as ever. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm like a bulldog. I'll keep tussling with something as long as it's there. Detroit's not the easiest place to come back, but what I may lack in physical fitness I'll make up for in determination. I'm all set and ready to return. Plus, I'm out from under my wife's feet, so she's pretty happy about that!"
TONY KANAAN (McDonald's Championship Racing Team), on the challenges of Detroit, and his success there: "I am looking forward to going back to Detroit. I had a lot of success there in Indy Lights in 1996 and 1997 [winning both events from the pole], and had a strong run in both qualifying and the race last year. It's one of my favorite circuits, and we have a good setup for the street courses. I am going to Detroit with the same frame of mind that I went to Michigan -- to give 100 percent and hope that pays off on the track."
ROBBY GORDON (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift), on his fond memories of Detroit: "Obviously, I only have good things to say about Detroit - I won there in 1995 from the pole and probably drove one of the best races of my life in doing so. I named my dog, 'Phoenix,' after the first win of my career, and now that she's pregnant, I'm thinking the first puppy will probably be named, 'Detroit!' Actually, I need to get on it, it's going to be a big litter and I need some more names. [It would] Be great to have 'Detroit,' 'Detroit2,' 'Mid-Ohio,' and 'Chicago' all barking in the backyard! [On the importance of consistency at Detroit] Detroit is a tight track, most street circuits are, they made some improvements for last year to give us another area to pass, and those helped the racing quite a bit. It's the kind of place where you need to be consistent in the race and not make mistakes because track position is so important. The guys are so hungry out there to make a pass that with the slightest bobble you have someone sticking a nose in to push you aside. All this as you're bumping and sliding between the concrete walls. It's a tough place, but it's fun, I always look forward to Detroit."
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola), on the unique challenges of The Raceway on Belle Isle: "Passing is without a doubt the biggest obstacle to overcome at Detroit. In order to pass on Belle Isle you really need to have your car working well all the way around. There's one really good spot for overtaking, coming off of the high speed corners, but you really need to have everything working together coming off of the high speed turns in order to get the jump on pass. When you are able to come out of those well, then overtaking should be easier. I think that the re-design of the circuit last year helped. The track is still very bumpy-like Cleveland- so that's another avenue where you have to be on the ball and make sure that the car isn't dancing around on you."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Mercedes Reynard), on the importance of qualifying at Detroit: "It's important to qualifying in the top-10 on road courses and that's especially true in Detroit because the track in very tight and there aren't many passing opportunities. You want to make sure you're in a good position to move up quickly in the race. Even though we struggled a bit in the past at Belle Isle Raceway, I know we can put in a good finish because everyone on the Player's team is committed winning and we know that a podium finish is within our grasp."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on his bittersweet memories of Champ Car racing at Detroit: "First, I'd like to welcome back Mark [Blundell, Gugelmin's PacWest Racing Group teammate]. The team has always had its ups and downs at Detroit. The race was an important turning point for us in 1997 [when both Gugelmin and Blundell led the race until running out of fuel consecutively on the final lap]. The track is a bit different now. The changes they made in 1998 helped make another passing zone at the end of the long straightaway. It's very important to qualify well at Detroit. It's also a track where you need a lot of mechanical grip and good front end direction in order to place the car tidily in the corners. I enjoy street circuits, and I particularly enjoy racing in Detroit. With the water and the park, it's a very scenic course. I'm looking forward to going there."
BRYAN HERTA (Shell Ford Reynard), on the challenges of competing at Belle Isle: "The biggest challenge to Belle Isle is passing. The course is fast but it is fairly narrow, which makes passing very difficult. Therefore qualifying is critical to a successful weekend. The best plan at Detroit is to start up front and let everybody else worry about trying to pass you."
GONZALO RODRIGUEZ (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), on making his FedEx Championship Series debut this weekend: "Detroit will be quite a challenge for me since I have only spent one day in the Marlboro Mercedes Lola [during a July 27 test at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course]. I was pleasantly surprised at my test at Mid-Ohio because I think we ran well for our first time. I was comfortable in the car and the team was patient with me. Pit stops will also be a challenge because in all the different series I've raced in, we've never had pit stops, so I will go to [Marlboro Team Penske headquarters in] Reading, [Pa.] this week and practice with my crew. With all these factors, I must say I am a bit nervous about my debut. It's the fulfillment of one of my biggest dreams to drive in CART, and to drive for a team like Marlboro Team Penske, which is the winningest team in the sport, makes it even more exciting."