MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on Newman/Haas Racing's success at Road America: "I think that Elkhart Lake is one of the nicest race tracks in the world to drive. It's a true driver's track and just a fun track to ...
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on Newman/Haas Racing's success at Road America: "I think that Elkhart Lake is one of the
nicest race tracks in the world to drive. It's a true driver's track and just a fun track to drive. The fans are also unique to the track. They are up on all of the latest news in the series and are committed fans. We plan to give them a good show this weekend. We've had good setups there and real good results. I've won back-to-back poles there and [teammate] Christian [Fittipaldi] won the race last year, so it's been a good place for us. It would be nice to win the third pole in a row there, as well as win one more [championship] point. The championship is going to be really tight this season and we are just starting to see it really heat up. There is no room for any kind of misstep right now and our next challenge is Elkhart Lake. We need to maintain our lead and I think the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team has what it takes to win the Championship this year. We learned a lot from our test there and think we will be competitive this weekend. By no means will it be easy. The Penske team has shown that they have a good set-up on road courses, so they should be tough as well." CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on defending his championship in the Motorola 220: "Elkhart is a special place especially because I have always run in the top three there. It was nice to finally win at Elkhart because we had run well there for years, but the win eluded us. We came really close in 1996 but the engine let go with a few laps in the race. I would say that out of all the tracks we go to during the season, Elkhart Lake is the one where I am the strongest. It is one of the toughest tracks because of the length. To put in a 100 percent perfect lap there is tough because it is so long. I think it is one of the hardest places we go to. That is one of the reasons I am glad that I won there. We tested there although it was very short. I did 10 laps and then we packed up. At least I have an idea of how the car is and what area we will need to work on. We have a good set-up for the track so we should be fine. I was happy last year [following his victory], but I was real happy for the team that had stood behind me through all kinds of different conditions. They were always supporting me and that's really important. It's a nice feeling being the defending champion, but it shouldn't add any extra pressure, and if it does, then there is something going wrong. I think you should just go out and try to be competitive like we do every single race. Just because you ran well somewhere, it doesn't mean you are going to be competitive without giving 110 percent again. It gives you a little bit of boost coming in if you know you have always run well but you still have to work hard. There is no room for slackers in this series."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of Road America: "Elkhart Lake is my favorite track in America. The reason being it is one of the last few of its kind - a long circuit with a great variety of corners. They don't really make circuits like this anymore. If you take into consideration Marlboro Team Penske's road course performances and recent test at Road America, I'd have to say things are looking reasonably good for this weekend."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the Road America experience: "I really enjoy racing at Road America because it's a very long, demanding circuit with fast corners and the fans are very supportive of us. Unfortunately, I haven't had the results I've wanted the past two years, but after our strong performance at Mid-Ohio and a successful test here a couple of weeks ago, it looks like Marlboro Team Penske has what it takes to bring it home in the points this weekend. We need to stay focused on the job at hand, given the competitiveness of the CART FedEx Championship Series." PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on what makes Road America great: "As race tracks go, Road America is about as good as it gets -- fast corners, slow corners, long straights, and several good opportunities to pass. When you've got a good setup on the car, it's a real kick to drive. We're at the stage of the schedule where we really need to reach back for something extra to get back in contention. Even though we had some misfortune and weren't able to finish at Mid-Ohio, the KOOL car was running well and that's a positive that we can take into Road America. The recent setbacks are frustrating but they haven't shaken our determination."
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on maintaining the lead he lost late last year at Road America: "Road America is a great course and I'm really looking forward to getting back on a racetrack and starting a good streak. Last year, I led a lot of laps in Elkhart, so this year I want to do the same thing, except I want to stay in the lead. We've had a couple of disappointing races, so I'm looking forward to a good race to get some confidence back for our team. When we're behind on the racetrack, we never give up. The same is true with the points race. I don't care how many points we're down, we still believe we have a shot and we're not going to give up. We need to score a lot of points this weekend and hope for the best."
ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Ford Reynard), on building upon last month's successful test at Road America: "The Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a great test at Road America a couple of weeks ago, so I am very confident going into this race. It is a great circuit and I love to drive there. The track is one of the most beautiful in the world and with all the different types of corners and elevation changes, as well as the speed; it is very challenging and fun for the driver. It is a circuit where in my second CART race, in 1985; I qualified well and almost won the race. As far as the championship is concerned, that is something we have to take race by race. All the races for the rest of the season, beginning with Elkhart Lake, are important. That is the way it is when you have such a competitive situation like we do in the FedEx Championship Series. There are going to be ups and downs during the season and you just have to try and score as many points as possible whenever you can. If we can do that, at the end of the season the championship will be there."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), "I am looking forward to going back to Road America. I have had some very good results there in the past and it is my favorite track to drive. Last year, I almost won the race, but I made a little mistake with Michael [Andretti] and lost a place to Christian [Fittipaldi]. I think the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team has a good chance at Road America. We are carrying a lot of momentum going into this race. The Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team has been very consistent since the third race of the season and we have put ourselves into the middle of the FedEx Championship Series title hunt. I expect us to continue to be consistent. I also expect to win some more races this year. We just need to improve our qualifying, which I know we can, and then we can finish on the podium and win races."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his bid to return to the podium at Road America: "Road America is my favorite track in the CART series, although it's been feast or famine for me since I started racing there three years ago. Sandwiched between a couple of DNFs [Did Not Finish] is the win two years ago, my first in CART and first with Team KOOL Green. I'm hoping that if it follows the same pattern, this is the year for another win. The two-day test we had at Road America earlier this month was very encouraging. Our times were more than respectable and the Team KOOL Green crew was able to acquire some valuable information that should be a big help for qualifying and race set-up. The priority right now is to get that first win of the season under our belts. All of the guys at Team KOOL Green have done such a great job preparing a competitive car in recent races, only to be dogged by some bad luck that prevented us from finishing. We just have to keep plugging away, and if we do that we're going to have a race where everything falls into place."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on the importance of qualifying well at Road America: "Finishing ninth in qualifying at Mid-Ohio gets Team Player's into the fast group for qualifying at Road America this weekend, and that's an important factor. You don't want to be too far back on the starting grid at Elkhart Lake because with a four-mile track, it's often tough to catch up to the contenders if you have to work your way up the field. But at Mid-Ohio we improved throughout the weekend and that gives us something to build on. One of the things that pleases me about my season so far is that I've been able to get 35 of my points on road courses and 36 on ovals, so I've been pretty consistent in that regard. Now that I've managed to get back into the top 10, I want to maintain that consistency to continue climbing in the standings."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Toyota Lola), looking forward to competing at Road America: "I'm anxious to get on the track at Elkhart and just race and forget about some of the other things that have been going on. I've had some good luck at Road America in the past, so it will be nice to return there after a couple of tough races. We've had some good stretches and some disappointing stretches this year, but this team has the talent and the car to start a good streak in Elkhart and finish up strong. I plan to get back to that podium again in Elkhart. Team Target is still in a battle for a fifth straight championship, and no one on this team is going down without a fight."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Toyota Reynard), on his familiarity with Road America from his days as a competitor in the Toyota Atlantic Championship: "From my days in the Atlantic series, I always looked forward to racing at Road America, and I've had some success there in the past, including last year in Atlantic, when I won the pole and finished on the podium. This will be my first time at Elkhart Lake as a driver in the CART series, but Team Player's tested at Road America a couple of weeks ago and things went well. Our fast laps were right up there with the contenders and we came away with a lot of useful information that will help us get ready for qualifying and the race. We've had a couple of ninth-place finishes in a row and now we're looking to improve on that. If we can steadily pick up points in each race, we can have a strong finish to the season, which is one of my goals in this second half. Qualifying is going to be a key at Road America because it's a track where you don't have too many yellows during the race, so you have to try to make sure you stay close to the leaders."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), on changing his luck at Road America: "I'm glad to be at Road America this weekend, and I'm especially glad to get away from what turned out to be unlucky weekend Number 13 [last week's Round 13, on Sunday, Aug. 13, at Mid-Ohio, where Kanaan finished 13th]. Fourteen sounds a lot better, if you ask me! Seriously, this track asks a lot of the same things out of your car as Mid-Ohio, but even more so. It has a mix of tight corners and fast corners, but the straights are even longer. Horsepower is going to be even more of a factor here this weekend, on top of the usual need to have a well-balanced car. We had a good race car last weekend, but just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think we had a sure top-10 finish. We're one race further along, now. Each weekend we learn something, and it's a good thing we're right back at it this week on another beautiful road course. This is truly one of my favorite tracks."
LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), looking forward to competing at Road America: "As I said after the race at Mid-Ohio, I'm glad the race at Road America is only a week away, so we can forget about what happened at Mid-Ohio. Road America is a long course and fuel has to be managed well. This should be another great race and I expect to do a lot better here. It's a long race and I can't wait to get started."