PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on leading the FedEx Championship Series points race: "It's great to be leading the championship heading to Motegi, but everyone on Team KOOL Green knows that the only time it really counts is after Fontana...
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on leading the FedEx Championship Series points race: "It's great to be leading the championship heading to Motegi, but everyone on Team KOOL Green knows that the only time it really counts is after Fontana [season finale]. That's our goal, and we know we're only going to get there by taking it one race at a time. Next up is Motegi, and we're just looking to stay consistent. Our plan is to get a good setup on the car in practice, qualify as best we can and avoid making any mistakes in the race. If we can do that, and good luck continues to smile on us, we'll be there in the end with a chance to rack up some more points. I always enjoy racing in Japan. Twin Ring Motegi is an awesome facility and the Japanese fans are just incredible. They really follow the series and are very nice about asking for autographs and stuff. Motegi will always be a special place for me to race because it was the first place I turned laps in the KOOL car, when we went over there for a demonstration in late '97."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on turning his season around at Twin Ring Motegi: "I'd like to think we've gotten all of our bad races out of the way for the season and that we can get back on our game at Motegi. With it being Honda's home track and a Firestone-sponsored race, it certainly would be a good time to turn things around. But as bad as things have gone I've got to say I'm really proud of the guys on Team KOOL Green. They've not gotten down and lost their focus or any of their will to win. If anything, they miss the good times that come with winning and are that much more determined to get back on top. Motegi is one of the best racing events in the world in or out of Champ Car racing. The facility is second to none - and I don't just mean the circuit and garages, but the hotel, road course, dirt oval and Honda museum - it's just fantastic. And the fans always amaze you with their knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport. It really makes you feel good to be a part of this series and you want to go out and put on a great race."
BARRY GREEN, Team KOOL Green owner, on the first-class Twin Ring Motegi facility: "You just can't say enough good things about racing at Twin Ring Motegi. Everyone at Team KOOL Green looks forward to the race because the organizers always do a first-class job and the fans are as devoted to Champ Car racing as any in the world. What more could you ask for? Well, I guess a win would be nice for either of our drivers. Paul has got a good season underway and you can't score too many points. For Dario, this would be the place to get that first oval win and start putting some big points on the board this season. And for Team KOOL Green, it would be especially sweet to win the race for our partners at Honda and Firestone."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his past performance at Twin Ring Motegi: "In the two years we've raced in Motegi, I've achieved a reasonable amount of success. Given my record there and most recent form with Marlboro Team Penske, I look forward to another good showing. Our yearly trip to Japan is always a great pleasure because it's Honda's home and a lot of people associated with Honda come out to support us. The Japanese fans are extremely knowledgeable, polite and kind."
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his memories of racing in Japan: "Japan will always be a special race for me because it's where I scored my first CART points [with an 11th-place finish in 1998] and I had the fastest lap of the race [25.830 seconds] there last year. Marlboro Team Penske has been working really hard and overall, we're pleased with the progress the team has made so far this season. I look forward to racing in Motegi with Honda power this year. I'd love to get my first win there and give Honda its first victory at home."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on capitalizing on the strength he has shown at Twin Ring Motegi in the past: "I think the Big Kmart/Texaco/ Havoline team will be very competitive in Japan this year. We've done well in the race the last couple of years but have had a lot of bad luck so we feel we are due to win one. We built a big lead on second place in 1998 but I ran out of fuel on my 'in' lap due to a miscalculation. Last year, we were in second place on the last stop and second gear broke which cost us a podium finish at the least. We have had some bad luck in terms of equipment this year but we know the Ford-Lola combination is one of the best and we know the team is capable of winning. We just need everything to come together in Japan and get the ball rolling."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on last year's third-place finish at Japan: "I was surprised when Greg [Moore] spun on the last few laps last year but I was more than happy to move up to a podium finish from fourth place. We were competitive all afternoon in the race, though, so I am confident that we will be competitive again. I didn't run much in the 1998 race because we had an engine problem early on. I learned some good tricks during the race last year and I think we can capitalize on the experience this year. Not only did I learn a lot in the race but I think the team has learned a lot about the Motegi track and I think we can make an even better racecar out of the knowledge. I'm looking forward to running there and putting the Big Kmart/Route 66 car on the podium again."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on the disappointment of being denied his first career Champ Car victory at Rio de Janeiro: "After we were so close in Rio, a lot of people have told me to hang in there and not get discouraged. I appreciate their words of encouragement and, believe me, I'm not down at all. In fact, there were so many positives coming out of the last race that I'm convinced we're closer than ever to getting that first win under our belt. I know that winning the first one is always the toughest, especially when you're a rookie, but everything is clicking with the Player's team. I think the fact we were able to get the pole and lead for most of the race in Rio is a sign that we're right there. We just need to put in that extra effort and maybe get a lucky break to put us over the top. Hopefully, that will be at the Twin Ring in Motegi. I've never raced there but I know the Ford-powered cars like our Champ Car have won both of the races held there thus far."
MEMO GIDLEY (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on continuing in his role as a replacement driver for the injured Patrick Carpentier: "I look at the race at Motegi as another opportunity for me to perform to the best of my ability and try to contribute to a win for the Player's team. I wasn't sure how many races I'd have when Player's called on me to fill in for Patrick [Carpentier], but right from the start I was determined to give it everything I've got. I'm pleased with the way things have gone so far. It was nice to get into the points in Rio in my first-ever CART race on an oval track. Being up with the leaders at Rio gives us a big boost of confidence as far as handling the oval circuit at Motegi. When you come in as a replacement driver, you want to be able to contribute so the team can maintain a certain continuity in the driver's absence. With the help of the top-notch Player's crew, I think I've been able to do that. If I've scored a few points with people in the CART series in the process, so much the better."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Pioneer Toyota Reynard), on continuing the momentum generated by a fourth-place finish in Brazil: "I am really excited to return to Japan for a lot of reasons. We had such a great finish [fourth] in Brazil, matching our best ever. The whole Pioneer team is really pumped up to break that record as soon as possible. I'm looking forward to spending some time with Pioneer and Toyota at their headquarters. It meant a lot to me to be the highest finishing Brazilian in Rio, and I hope to honor Pioneer and Toyota by bringing home another special finish for them in their home country. And finally, because I love the fans in Japan. I can't believe how many fans remember me and the team from last year, so to see them again should be a lot of fun."
LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), looking to build on back-to-back points-paying finishes at Long Beach and Rio de Janeiro: "I'm really looking forward to Japan. I had a lot of fun at Motegi last season and it's a track that let's you fly. The first corner is really quick and you have to be careful all the way around. The fans are also fun. In many ways it's a lot like Brazil with the track and fans. They are like my countrymen, very passionate about racing. They are also polite and do their homework because they recognize us at the track. They are very exciting and a little crazy, too. As for the race, we are gaining momentum. Scoring two points in two straight races has been great and I feel we can only go higher with more time in the 2000 Hollywood-Embratel-Reynard car. The Mercedes-Benz engine has been a good one as has the car and Firestone tires. My expectations are higher and very promising. We want to show the fans a great race."