Marlboro 500 Presented By Toyota "Quoteboard" GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on taking a different approach to this year's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota: "Last year at the Marlboro 500, our strategy was biased to win the [FedEx ...
Marlboro 500 Presented By Toyota "Quoteboard"
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on taking a different approach to this year's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota: "Last year at the Marlboro 500, our strategy was biased to win the [FedEx Championship Series] championship versus the race. The big difference this year is that we can play our cards to win the race, since we clinched the championship in Australia. It's an unpredictable race and it's not going to be easy by any means. We had a good set-up last year, and even though the aerodynamic rules are different this year which may affect our set-up, I'm confident we can be competitive and put on a good show this weekend."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on competing at California Speedway: "I really enjoy racing at the California Speedway - it is a very fast track. We had a good run going at last season's Marlboro 500, but unfortunately my race ended early [Lap 226 of 250] when I made contact with the wall. This year, we're looking to be there at the end and add one more to the win column [Castroneves has three wins in 2001], plus, I'd love to take home the million-dollar prize. I'm heading into this race in third place in the point standings [141 points - tied with Michael Andretti] which is a career best for me, so I really want to do well and finish in the top three in the championship."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Toyota Lola), on repeating his victory from last year at California Speedway: "For 500-mile races there are so many factors involved but there is no doubt you need your share of luck. You need to perform and have the speed at the same time but if the star is not shining on you that specific day you can be sure it's going to be very hard for you to pull off the trick. Hopefully the star is going to be shining on me this year again and I can finish the year in great fashion and collect a couple of beers for Christmas and New Year's."
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (Texaco Toyota Lola), on his expectations at California Speedway: "I finished fourth in the Michigan 500 earlier this season but it was still a good race for me. First of all, it was the first time I was able to finish a 500-mile race in a Champ car so I was happy about that but it was a difficult race for us, which made the fourth place even better. The race was pretty eventful because we had a problem with the airjack on the first stop. So every stop we made, and there are a lot in 500-mile races, had to be done with the 'quick jack' but we still managed to finish fourth as well as fight for the lead up to the last couple of laps so I feel pretty good going into Fontana. I think we learned a lot at Michigan that will give us a head start on Fontana. The car was more set-up for Christian or Michael's driving style and I had to work very hard throughout the weekend to get the car the way it was good for me to drive. Now for Fontana, we will have that work behind us because we will have a good baseline.
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola), on his oval-track success during the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season: "We've had a tremendous car on the ovals this year. To be honest, the Shell car was good last year, too. We came to Fontana on a mission. We had to lead the most laps and win the race to have a shot at the championship. We led the most laps but we had a mechanical problem that ended the day. With our success this year on ovals, I expect us to be at the front at Fontana. We thought we would come to the last race just like we did last year. But it didn't work out. I want to congratulate [FedEx Championship Series champion] Gil [de Ferran] and his Penske team. They did a great job all year. I always had a feeling he would be the one to beat for the championship. We just have to settle for second in the championship. We can go to California with no pressure, just race to win. We were fast at Michigan this year and only an incident with Max [Papis, Brack's teammate] kept us from a possible win. That's hard for both of us. I think both Max and myself could have won Michigan and I think we'll be right there now again. After the tough race at Michigan, I know Team Rahal is anxious for the California race. The team has been so close to winning a 500-mile race in the last three years. I have been fast and I know should have won a couple of those races. So, I expect us to be racing for the lead at the end again. The Fontana race will be an all-out fight. Plus, this will be my last race in the Shell Ford and I'd like to give Team Rahal a great finish with a win."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Lola), on the speed he has shown in past FedEx Championship Series superspeedway events: "We have been very fast at the superspeedway in the Miller Lite Ford [Papis has led 371 laps in the last five superspeedway races since 1999]. We just haven't had any luck getting to the checkered flag. We have been fast at both tracks, Michigan and California. I still remember the 1999 race at California. I thought I had won the race and Adrian [Fernandez] won a fuel strategy. We'll be ready for that this time. We were very fast at Michigan before Kenny and I got together. I am very focused on the Marlboro 500. I want to win a 500-mile oval race very badly. I grew up watching the Indy 500 on television in Italy. A 500-mile race is such an American tradition that winning the Marlboro 500 would be a great achievement for me. It has been one of my dreams since I started racing as a child."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the importance of a strong finish to the FedEx Championship Series season: "It's been a tough year, but I guess if we end up only winning one race, Fontana is the one to win. It would be a good way to end the season for everybody at Team KOOL Green, and there are a million great reasons why everybody wants to win at Fontana so the racing will be flat-out, no-holds-barred. It's a tough 500 miles and my luck this year hasn't been the best, so survival is the most important thing. Fontana is also our last race this year to raise money for the 100 Black Men of America program, so a good finish would mean a lot for them, too."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the demands of competing at California Speedway: "I certainly wouldn't mind ending the season with a million-dollar check, but this is one you'll really have to earn. Fontana is a big, fast track and 500 miles there really can take a toll on equipment. Team KOOL Green has given me great cars at all the oval races this year, so I think my chances to do well this weekend are maybe the best I've had. We've been on the verge of that first oval win for some time now, and it would be a fantastic way to finish off the year and set the tone for next year. We're also raising money for our partnership with 100 Black Men of America, and earning another win bonus for them, like we did in Cleveland, would make for a great day."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on setting the tone for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season: "Team Player's has made a great deal of progress this season, especially considering the fact we went through a rough period in the early races. Now, we're at the point where we go into every race as a strong contender. We've won a race and Team Player's has been on the podium six times. It would be great to cap the season with a win at Fontana, because that would deliver another message that we're going to be a major force in the 2002 series. Besides, the $1 million bonus for winning would be a nice reward for all the guys on Team Player's who have played such a big role in our success this year. The superspeedway at Fontana hasn't been too kind to me in the three years that I've raced there. Something always seems to happen to prevent me from finishing. But I expect to do well this year. Winning on the two-mile super oval in Michigan a few months ago for my first CART win adds to my confidence going into the Fontana race."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on taking care of unfinished business at California Speedway: "Things were looking so good for a podium finish at Fontana last year, when we were running third with less than two laps to go. But then the car got away from me, as it spun in [Turn] 1 and I ended up in the wall and came away with a sore back. It was such a disappointing finish to what was shaping up as my first podium in the CART series. But this time I'm going to Fontana with more experience under my belt and I hope that, like last year, Team Player's is in a position to win going into the last few laps. If that happens, I'm convinced we can get the job done. It's hard to believe that we're heading into the last race of the season already. I've been saying for the past few weeks that I believe I can get my first CART win by the end of the season. Well, it's down to one race, and I'm going to go all out to come up with a win, not just for myself but for the entire Team Player's crew. These guys really deserve it, because they've been so consistent in preparing a competitive car. The last two thirds of the season, Team Player's has been one of the top teams in the series and that's a major plus to build on for next season."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood Honda Reynard), on translating his oval-track success into a victory this weekend: "Well, it all comes down to this weekend for our second season together as a team. I all but promised [injured teammate] Alex [Zanardi] I would win for him in Australia last weekend and that didn't happen. Now we're back on the oval for one last shot at our first win. We've been strong on the ovals all year long. For sure, we were the best team on the track at Germany and England, and we were on the pole in Chicago, and in the top five at Michigan. In a 500-mile race, nothing is for certain. But I have to like our chances. Hopefully the [alternator] problem we had at Michigan is behind us. The hot weather in Michigan had a lot to do with that, and that shouldn't be a factor this weekend. Otherwise, it'll be the same story as always ... stay out of trouble and on the lead lap for the first 400 miles, and then go racing to the finish with a big million-dollar prize waiting at the end, and then send our trophy to Alex."
CASEY MEARS (Pioneer WorldCom Honda Reynard), on his return to California Speedway, where he recorded a strong fourth-place finish in his Champ Car debut last season: "I've been looking forward to this race since I got out of the car here last year. I had no idea if I would even have a ride, but I sure wanted another chance to do it again. It was a great day. We just hung in there and managed to not get caught up in all the incidents that were happening around us, and it paid off with a fourth-place finish. It sure would be nice to go one better and land on the podium, but there are never any guarantees in these long races. Even for the veteran drivers. I feel awful for making a rookie mistake at Australia last weekend. We were doing so well, staying out of trouble in all of our practice sessions and our first two races. And then I go into the first corner just a little too hot. I guarantee I won't make that mistake again. The good thing is, we are all working better and better as we go along. And I've been feeling more and more comfortable in the Pioneer-WorldCom car. Five hundred miles is a long time to get comfortable. Once again, it'll be a matter of being there at the end and making sure you have a shot at the front of the pack."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota), on overcoming the disappointment of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season: "This has been a very disappointing year for me and my crew. We came into the season very motivated and confident that we would compete at a higher level than before, especially with the addition of Toyota engines, but good luck just hasn't fallen our way. For some reason, I've caught a lot of bad breaks this year and I've had way too many accidents, which is something that I'm really not used to. If I can take anything positive away from this season it's that my Nextel crew have worked very hard in their efforts to provide me with a competitive car every weekend, and for the most part, they've hit that mark. We [my crew and I] will be participating in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge this weekend and winning that event [which carries a winner-take-all prize of $50,000] would mean the world to the guys. They work very hard all year and I think that sometimes their efforts are taken for granted. Hopefully, we can win that competition so my crew can at least walk away from the season with their heads held up high, knowing that they are the fastest crew in the series. As for the race, it's no secret that I really enjoy running on superspeedways and I've had some success in Fontana especially. The speed record that I set in 1997 at Fontana has been broken, but I've managed to lead laps there every year since 1997, so I fully intend to keep that streak alive this weekend. I just want to make sure I lead the last lap. My mentality is to never give up, so I don't intend to just 'show-up' in Fontana. We're going there to race, and to win."
SCOTT DIXON (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), on changing his superspeedway luck at California Speedway: "I would like to finish out the season with a solid performance in Fontana. Last year in Indy Lights I had to win Fontana to clinch the championship, which I did. This year I don't quite have that kind of pressure on my shoulders, but like I've said before, it's still important to finish strong so we can carry that momentum into the winter testing season. We haven't had a good performance on a superspeedway yet this year, so I'm hoping to turn things around this weekend. With Fontana being the last race of the year, I don't have to worry about anything other than going flat-out and trying to win that purse. I enjoy running on the big ovals because it seems to be a battle of attrition and physical endurance. I'm sure my engineers will come up with a good fuel strategy to keep us in the hunt for that final sprint to the finish, but I do need to qualify high to avoid what happened to us in Michigan. If you lose a lap on a superspeedway you're done."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (Target Toyota Lola), on an appropriate birthday celebration at California Speedway this weekend: "Sometimes it feels like the season just started, but then I look back on all that I've learned and experienced since I joined Team Target, and it seems like it was years ago. There are definitely a lot of things I'm proud of. I believe I improved a lot and it was obviously a great feeling to win a race [at Road America] in my rookie season. That was a feeling I hope to experience again this weekend. I don't think the other drivers will let me win just because it's my birthday [Sunday], so I'm going to have to work hard with my team and do what we can to get to victory lane. I've been excited to race on this oval ever since the Indy 500 [where Junqueira finished fifth]. I know our team has the experience and I have the talent to win one more race this season."
MEMO GIDLEY (Target Toyota Lola), on his growing comfort level with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team: "The last few races, I've felt very comfortable working with my Team Target crew and driving the car as hard as I can. I know that if we combine what we learn during practice and qualifying with set-ups and info from past years, I'm good to go once the green flag waves. It's a nice feeling to sit in that cockpit, knowing I have one of the best cars on the track and the best crew in the pits. Bruno has been a great teammate this year, but once we're on the racetrack, he's just one of the guys I'm trying to beat. I've raced at California Speedway before, so my present to Bruno will be some racing advice - drive fast."
BRYAN HERTA (Forsythe-Indeck Ford Reynard), on continuing his superspeedway success at California Speedway: "I am really looking forward to returning to Fontana. One of our best finishes of the year came in Michigan [fifth] on the superspeedway, so it would be great to top that. It's been an up-and-down year for us. It started out well, but the second half has definitely not been what we had hope for so it would be great to turn things around and finish it out on top."
ORIOL SERVIA (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), on his pleasant memories of the 2001 season, Sigma Autosport's first in the FedEx Championship Series: "I was hoping to come to Fontana on a high with some points in Australia, but unfortunately, that didn't happen. It was still a nice trip, but it would have been better had I finished. It has been a most interesting season! I am very happy that I participated and very happy with Sigma Autosport and the crew. They have done a great job and I think we can do one more great job before the season ends. Fontana is going to be a good race and it's a lot like Michigan, where the racing is great and exciting and it's tough to pick a winner. I like my chances there."
ALEX BARRON (Driving 101/Arciero-Blair Racing Ford Lola), on returning to his "home" race at California Speedway, where he earned a career-best eighth-place finish last year: "If you have a good car at Fontana it can be a comfortable and fun race. What I learned there last year and the positive momentum from [Australia] will help us for sure. I am glad to go back to Fontana and I want to get this car to the front and have a good finish for the team."