MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard), on the challenges of racing at Belle Isle: "Detroit is tough because there is virtually no passing. The track is narrow with no real straightaways, so it's a difficult track [on which] to make passes.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard), on the challenges of racing at Belle Isle: "Detroit is tough because there is virtually no passing. The track is narrow with no real straightaways, so it's a difficult track [on which] to make passes. Qualifying will be important here, like it is on most of the street courses, and your track position will be key. The ambience is nice at Detroit with the park setting and the surroundings, but don't let that fool you, it's a tough track."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his fond memories of racing at Detroit: "Detroit is definitely a place that I will never forget because I got my first Champ Car win there last year. I hope to climb the fence again, since that is where the tradition started! Marlboro Team Penske is looking forward to returning to Detroit and trying to repeat what we did last year. The particular challenge at Detroit is to cope with the concrete patches in the corners, and, of course, to find a place to pass because it can be very difficult to pass there. The key is to be consistent - you don't need to be the fastest guy but if you are very consistent you're going to be one of the contenders."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his hopes of success at the next three FedEx Championship Series venues: "We're going into a series of three road/street courses [Detroit, Portland and Cleveland] where we ran well last year, so our hopes for a good showing are above average. With respect to Detroit, we had a good run at the last street circuit, Long Beach [de Ferran and teammate Helio Castroneves finished third and first, respectively], which bodes well for Marlboro Team Penske. We need a good result to move up in the CART FedEx championship point standings."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on returning to road-course competition after three consecutive oval events: "I'm looking forward to getting back to a road course like Belle Isle after racing on ovals the last couple of months. We've had a couple of tough races recently and it's time to get back on track. It's not like we haven't had a good car - the Team KOOL Green crew has done an awesome job of getting the car right no matter where we are. We've had some good luck in Detroit before, so hopefully we'll get the results this weekend that will show just how strong the team is."
JIMMY VASSER (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard), on the importance of remaining in contention for the FedEx Championship Series championship: "The next four races are going to be very crucial to the championship race. The Patrick Racing team cannot afford get too far behind the leaders. It hurt us not getting the points we would have at Milwaukee. But that is in the past and I don't like to dwell on the past. I am looking forward to getting back on the track and racing. We need to win some races if we are going to contend for the championship. It is as simple as that. The Detroit street circuit is an interesting track to drive, but it is a very difficult track to race because it is so hard to pass. I always enjoy qualifying at Detroit, which is obviously a key to success on that circuit. Over the last two years they have added some places to pass, but there is no substitute for qualifying up front at a place like Detroit."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola), on the Newman/Haas Racing team's improvement on road courses: "We worked hard to improve on our road and street course setup in the off-season and at Long Beach we proved that our car was strong. We definitely had the chance to win the race [da Matta finished second] and we were fighting for the win. We won the first road course race [of the season, at Mexico] and finished in second on the street course, so we are going in the right direction. Detroit is a track I enjoy a lot. It is one of the most challenging street courses for me because usually the street courses only have slow turns, but this one has a couple fast turns and a couple of blind turns, too, so it's challenging for the driver. It is what a driver expects from a racetrack. It's tough to pass and it's usually a low fuel mileage race, and there's a lot of skill involved in being successful on Belle Isle. It's tough to race in such tight parameters and it's very easy to get anxious behind people and make a mistake by trying to be too aggressive.
"It's a place where you've got to have a lot of self-control and not let your emotions take over. After being taken out of the past two races, I hope everyone has a lot of self-control. The first step is to start as far forward as possible in Detroit and we plan to work hard to do that. On race day, our cars have been very good and I want to be able to show the potential of the team. The engineers at Newman/Haas are very good. Maybe they can create a force field for our car before the race."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of racing at Belle Isle: "I've always liked racing in Detroit - the circuit seems to suit my driving style and Team KOOL Green kind of has a knack for doing well on the street-type circuits, so we should be fast this weekend. We've certainly been competitive all year, but we've just been running a little short of racing luck. We were 1-2 here in 1999 [Franchitti won and Team KOOL Green teammate Paul Tracy finished second], so maybe this will be the place to turn our fortunes around. It would be good to get some momentum heading into this string of six races in seven weeks."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood Honda Reynard), on his return to Detroit after sustaining a fractured left forearm during a qualifying accident there last season: "I always have done well at Detroit during my career. I had a lot of success in Indy Lights [wins at Detroit in 1996 and '97], and I'm really looking forward to going there because, after last year, I have some unfinished business to take care of there. Detroit is where I have had my most successful runs in America, and then last year I had the biggest downside of my career. I'm going there with my mind clean and to get my first win for Mo [Nunn]. I'm much happier to be back on the road courses. This part of the schedule has always been my turning point. I always have done well in the second part of the season, starting with Detroit. Last year, I was turning some pretty hot laps before my accident. This year, we've done very well as a team since the first race, so my expectations pretty high for the second part of this season."
ALEX ZANARDI (Pioneer-WorldCom Honda Reynard), on the importance of qualifying well at Detroit: "Detroit is a street circuit that I like very much. It is very, very difficult. It is certainly important to start up front because it's traditionally very difficult to overtake somebody. For me, it will be a little more difficult since I will still be in the slow [qualifying] session. But I'll try to take advantage of my experience there and try to build a good car for a good practice and a good qualifying and a good race. I'll keep my fingers crossed. In the bigger picture of things, it is my duty to try to get out of the slow group this weekend. Starting at Detroit, if I can get out of it, I'll be in good shape for the rest of the season, I hope. In reality, it can turn out to be not so much a big disadvantage at Detroit as at some other places. I feel pretty confident, like we were going to Japan, that for some reason we could do well here. And we showed we could do well at Japan. So we'll have to show our stuff again this weekend."
ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Ford Reynard), on turning his FedEx Championship Series season around at Detroit: "The Visteon/Patrick Racing team has not gotten off to the kind of start that I had hoped for, but I am very confident that we will get things going in the right direction. I have a lot of confidence heading into the next four races. All are on road or street circuits that I have performed well on over the last two years. I think we have good baseline setups for all four races and I am looking forward to getting back on the podium and back into the FedEx Championship Series points race. Detroit is a bit of a tricky place. You have to qualify well because it is so difficult to pass. They have added some passing zones, but the keys still remain to qualify well, have a good race strategy, save fuel, and have good pit stops. Last year, I qualified tenth, but was able to get up to third place because I saved fuel. I am still learning how to save fuel with the Toyota engine and I am going to talk to Jimmy [teammate Jimmy Vasser] a lot this weekend about how to do that because it is so important at a place like Detroit."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Toyota Lola), on the importance of doing well at Detroit, hometown of his sponsor, Kmart: "The Blue Light is coming home. Since Detroit is the home of Kmart, maybe I will have more fans cheering for me now that the Blue Light is back. Everyone likes the new paint scheme. I even dyed my hair blue for my first race with the new paint scheme in Long Beach.
"It would be nice to win the race not only for myself and the team but also for Kmart since they have been with the team for 14 years. Passing is pretty tough in Detroit so there is an added risk. We are pretty confident about being competitive in Detroit after running well in Long Beach. We have a lot of street races during the season and it would be nice to have a good set-up for all of these races. Street races are tighter than the road courses and it just adds another different element to our racing. It is going to be very important to be in the fast group for qualifying on street courses because if you are in the fast group then you are running against the guys who are in the top 10 in the championship. Also, on street courses the track changes every five minutes so you have to be in the quick group and you especially have to use the last five or 10 minutes of qualifying very well because that's when the track is the quickest. It has been a goal of our since Long Beach to make sure we were in the top 12 so we could be in the fast group when we got to the race in Detroit. We accomplished that goal but by no means are we happy with the results so far. Having our race end while we were in fourth place in Milwaukee was a big disappointment. We could have moved up from ninth place in the standings instead of down to 11th place now."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) on regaining past successes at Detroit: "I have had a lot of success at Detroit in the past, but the last two years haven't been the best. I had the visor go into the turbo last year, and broke my wrist the year before. I'm looking forward to a good result this year! It is going to be difficult in terms of qualifying because I have a penalty that I have to serve [from Long Beach, when he caused a red flag at the end of qualifying]. We are also in the first qualifying group, and the second group is always quicker. If we didn't have those electrical problems in Nazareth and Motegi, we could have been in the top 13 in points and that would have made our job easier this weekend. We need to try to qualify as far up as we can, and run well in the race. If we have a good car, hopefully we can do some good things. I like the street courses. We have been running a lot of ovals lately, and it's a nice break to get back to road racing. I personally enjoy them more."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota), on continuing his scoring streak: "I'm coming off a couple of points-paying finishes in Japan and Milwaukee, so I think the Nextel team is starting to gel at the right time. It will be nice to get back to racing on a street course after a few oval races in a row. Since 1997, we haven't really put on a good show in Detroit, so we're definitely due. If I can start qualifying better than I have been so far this season, our chances to remain up front will obviously improve. I anticipate a close race with a lot of action for the fans and I'm looking forward to returning to Detroit. The track is definitely challenging and I plan on staying consistent and gathering up some more points."
SCOTT DIXON (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), on returning to the streets of the FedEx Championship Series: "I'm looking forward to getting back to some street course racing even though I've had pretty good success on the ovals so far this year. I think Detroit is one of the more challenging and difficult street courses we run on all year. I haven't had real good luck there in the past in Indy Lights, but with Toyota power, we should be good. My Powerware Panasonic crew has been working really hard in the shop for me, and with the great pit stops they've been giving me, I'm sure they will put me in position to score some more points."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on building upon last year's strong finish at Detroit: "You can always expect a tough, physically demanding race on the Detroit street course. It's a track with 14 turns, so you really have to be at the top of your game. They widened Turns 3, 4 and 5 a few years ago, and that has opened things up for more passing. I didn't have that much success in Detroit until last year, when we finished fifth. That matched my best performance on a road circuit last season. It's been a while since we've had a road-course event, so it's going to be fun to have that change of pace in Detroit. We had some encouraging signs in our last race in Milwaukee that Team Player's may be starting to build some momentum. We were able to finish strong and during the race, we had the second-fastest lap. All our off-season testing on road courses produced some positive results, and with our next four races being on road or street circuits, we're going to have the opportunity to put the data we gathered last winter to good use."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on last year's successful run at Belle Isle: "Last year in Detroit, my teammate Patrick [Carpentier] and I finished fifth and sixth, [respectively], which to me shows that Team Player's prepared two really fine cars for that street course. There's still room for improvement, and the goal this time is for both of us to reach the podium. It's been a few years since a Ford-engine car has won in Detroit, the home of the Ford engine, so it would be fantastic if Team Player's could produce a victory for them in their own backyard. Even before we got into the points for the first time in Milwaukee, I could sense that things were starting to turn around for us. The Milwaukee race got the monkey off our backs and did a lot for our morale. We were disappointed with the results earlier in the season but we never got discouraged because we all know that we have a car that is competitive. With six races in the next seven weeks, we're going to have the chance to show just how competitive Team Player's is."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (Herdez Ford Lola), on his enjoyment of Belle Isle: "I am excited about coming to Belle Isle - it's a track that I like a lot. We had a good car setup at both Monterrey and Long Beach, so I think we should be able to perform well in Detroit. What will probably help the most is that, for the first time this season, I will get to qualify in the 'fast' group on Saturday. This should definitely help us to get into contention. The Ford-Cosworth engine is proving to be very strong; we are getting good power, driveability and fuel mileage, which is very important nowadays. We are hearing that the rain is going to follow us from Milwaukee to Detroit but I don't really mind. What is most important is that the conditions be the same for everyone during qualifying so that one group doesn't get an advantage over the other just due to the weather."
SHINJI NAKANO (Avex/Alpine Honda Reynard), on the importance of qualifying well at Detroit: "I like this track, and I am looking forward to this weekend. It is tough to pass, so qualifying is very important. You need a good race car, but I think the qualifying setup is more important at this track. We are going to work hard on this. I have confidence in the car, and I think we are going to have a good run this weekend. I was not in good shape at Detroit last year because of my accident. [Nakano missed three events following a testing accident at Milwaukee. Detroit was his first road-course event last year.] This year is no problem."
ORIOL SERVIA (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), recalling the first podium finish of his FedEx Championship Series career, third at Detroit last year: "I'm looking forward to this race not because I finished third there, but because I think we'll have a strong package on the streets like we did at Long Beach. It's a little bumpy, but not too much to where you will have trouble. It's the home race for Ford, and I hope to have a great run for them and the team."
TORA TAKAGI (Pioneer/DENSO Special Toyota Reynard), on returning to his road racing roots: "I am looking forward to going back to a road or street course after running three or four ovals. I will be able use my braking and road-course skills so we will hopefully have a better finish in the race. We will also be having a good warm-up for this weekend's race as we will be testing at Mid-Ohio this Wednesday so I will be ready to attack Detroit on Friday."