IRL: California: Pre-race quotes

FONTANA, Calif., Monday, March 18, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Yamaha Indy 400 on Sunday, March 24 at California Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order): ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Blair Racing ...

FONTANA, Calif., Monday, March 18, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Yamaha Indy 400 on Sunday, March 24 at California Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order):

ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, resident of Menifee, Calif.): "Fontana has been good to me. It's a local track for me, and I'll have a lot of family and friends there for support. I've been fortunate to have driven there before for good teams and had good cars there. It's a long race, and there's time to come back if you have problems early on. Drafting at Fontana is important to be able to finish at the front. I finished ninth there last year racing for Larry Blair. I've been successful there in the past." (Does this stretch of consecutive races in consecutive weeks, Phoenix on March 17 and Fontana, Calif., on March 24 have any effect on you or the team?): "It does not pose any problems. However, it is always beneficial to stay in the car and race than having long spans between races or seat time."

BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm really excited about coming back into the Southern California market. I spent so many years at Ascot and all the tracks in Southern California in my sprint-car and midget days. There were times that I'd be in Southern California almost every weekend. It's great to finally get an Indy Racing League event in Southern California, where we can put on our racing for the California fans. Fontana will be a challenging racetrack; Again, a high-speed superspeedway. I think we'll see great side-by-side racing as we always do on these tracks. With relocating our team to Phoenix, we're glad to see this 'Western swing' - it puts a few races a little closer to home and makes it a little bit easier on us. For us, this somewhat offsets the times we have back-to-back weekends in the Midwest."

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "The only way to win races in the IRL is to be great every race day - and it's going to be that way all year long. We'll keep working on our product to help us win races. Fontana is important for the league and for our sponsors, Purex and Aventis. They want to make a larger market impact in the West, so it's good on all fronts for us to perform well there."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner): "While we've raced at California Speedway before, it will be a totally new experience for Marlboro Team Penske with the IRL cars. I'm really looking forward to running on a superspeedway. We hope to have a good setup given we've been testing there, but you never know how things will play out on race weekend. I really enjoy going to California so I'm looking forward to our weekend there."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "California Speedway is the site of great results and fond memories for me. I won my first CART championship there in 2000 and set the world closed-course speed record (241.428 mph) during my qualifying run at the Marlboro 500 that same year. This venue is a very different animal than Phoenix, where we raced last weekend. It's a superspeedway, and we are flat out all the way around. In terms of championship strategy, I see it in the same light as the other races - Marlboro Team Penske needs to be there at the end and put points on the board."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Rookie of the Year): "I love Fontana. It's fast, and it's a great place for us to race these cars. The last time I raced at Fontana, I was on the pole in the Indy Lights race (in 2000). Unfortunately, there wasn't a very happy ending to that day as I crashed on the last lap and finished seventh. I finished second there in Indy Lights two years before that, so obviously that has a lot to do with why I like the place so much. We didn't have a whole lot of track time when we tested there last month. We lost an engine, and that took a lot of track time away from us. But we all know our way around there. The team has raced there for a few years in the CART series, so the place is very familiar. It will be interesting to run on a superspeedway the very next week after we run on a 1-mile oval (at Phoenix). But I think it's better than if it was the other way around. We'll get our feet wet and hopefully get a good result at Phoenix, and then we get to stretch our legs on the big track at Fontana. Hopefully we'll be able to start up front and finish up front."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League champion) (About racing at California Speedway compared to a short oval): "I think you run real close together. You've got to have a lot of speed to be able to run fast there. But there is setup involved to it. I don't think that the skill level is any different from one track to the other. It's not like Fontana is completely easier to drive, it's just a different track. The shorter tracks, you have to time passes, be able to move in and out of traffic real well and have a good, set-up car. The others, you have to be a little bit faster, you have to rely a little bit more on horsepower, but then again, you really have to time your passes and make sure that you make the move at the right point in time. You have got to watch how close you get to other cars and just be able to sit back, relax and know that nothing matters until the last 20 laps of the race. And if you have a car that's fast enough, you can go from the back to the front in that amount of time."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light Life Fitness Tae-Bo Delta Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): "It is new to the Indy Racing League, but we've had two successful days of testing. Southern California is a beautiful place, and it is always special to win the inaugural event. The California Speedway is wide, very fast and absolutely smooth as glass. From a driver's point of view, I envision competition as close as it can get with cars traveling three abreast and in large packs, slipstreaming providing incredibly close racing." (About racing on consecutive weekends, especially since the tracks are so different): "I am blessed with absolutely the best team. My Coors Light team has three days to convert to a 2-mile superspeedway setup, and I am confident that the transition will be done perfectly. They will do whatever it takes to get us back in championship contention."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, resident of Alta Loma, Calif.) (About consecutive races at Phoenix and California Speedway): "Having Phoenix and California back-to-back presents a number of issues. For starters, they are two totally different tracks. I hate to say it, but we're starting to get into the dog days of summer when it comes to racing. The schedule moves on, and you have to be ready and prepared to compete every race. It becomes demanding. With these two races, the guys can't go back to the race shop, and that presents its own problems. We'll have one car set up for Phoenix, and the other set basically for Fontana. That's really what you have to do. Fortunately, we tested extensively at both tracks last month, so we know what the cars respond to. But it's difficult to change the cars back and forth if we were faced with having to do that - there's different suspension and different aero packages." (About racing less than 10 miles from home): "California is a home event for me, which is great, but running in front of the home crowd can be a positive and a negative. Obviously, it'll be great to have my friends and family there cheering for me - the other side to that is I have to get tickets for all of them! It's a good problem to have, I suppose. Plus, that'll give me even more motivation to win. I'm looking forward to it. The California Speedway should produce an extremely exciting race with our IRL cars, not to mention a fast race. Our aero package is going to make it interesting. I anticipate a lot of passing and very high-speed passing, at that."

ANTHONY LAZZARO (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Fontana will be a great preparation race for Indy since it is a 400-mile race. Not only do you have to be fast, but you have to have great race strategy, great pit stops and make it until the end. Clearly, Fontana will be a flat-out drafting race versus Phoenix, where you will be in and out of the throttle. I'm ready for the back-to-back weekends. I wished we raced every weekend."

ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year): "I have always loved the big tracks, and I don't think this one will be an exception. Although I have not tested here, I believe this will be a track in which the drafting game is very important. I think I have figured out the drafting game. As for the setup, this is going to be a game of horsepower and for the engineers getting the drag out of the car. I have a lot of faith in my Comptech Chevrolet and John Hayes, my engineer. It is really great that we have expanded to the West Coast market. I think the fans out there will love the great racing that the IRL provides."

RICK TREADWAY (No. 55 Airlink Enterprises/Spade Motorsports G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to the West Coast swing. It's going to be great for the league, fans and sponsors. I didn't get to test Fontana, but the team ran with Arie (Luyendyk) so we have excellent information. I really like the bigger tracks, and it should be a flat-out race. The bigger tracks have produced great racing for the fans, and Fontana will be no exception. I have lots of friends in California, and I'm really looking forward to having them at the track supporting me. I'm expecting a great weekend with lots of fun for everyone."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing