IRL: Fontana: Pre-race notes and quotes, schedule

WHAT: Toyota Indy 400, 15th race in 16-race 2004 IRL IndyCar® Series season WHERE: California Speedway, Fontana, Calif., 2-mile D-shaped oval WHEN: Broadcast: 3 p.m. (EDT), Sunday, Oct. 3, ESPN. Green flag: 3:27 p.m. (EDT), Sunday, Oct.

WHAT: Toyota Indy 400, 15th race in 16-race 2004 IRL IndyCar® Series season

WHERE: California Speedway, Fontana, Calif., 2-mile D-shaped oval

WHEN: Broadcast: 3 p.m. (EDT), Sunday, Oct. 3, ESPN.
Green flag: 3:27 p.m. (EDT), Sunday, Oct. 3.

DISTANCE: 200 laps/400 miles

POSTED AWARDS: More than $1 million

CARS: Dallara and Panoz G Force chassis; Chevy Indy V8, Honda H14R Indy V-8 and Toyota Indy V8 engines; Firestone tires

TV: Race: ESPN (live), 3 p.m. (EDT), Oct. 3

RADIO: Race: IMS Radio Network, 3 p.m. (EDT), Oct. 3
Live coverage of MBNA Pole Qualifying (5:15 p.m. EDT, Oct. 2) and the race also will be available at www.indyracing.com/indycar.

<pre> SCHEDULE: (all times local; subject to change)

FRIDAY, OCT. 1 9 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups/45 minutes each) 1:30 p.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups/45 minutes each)

SATURDAY, OCT. 2 11:30 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups/30 minutes each) 2:30 p.m. Toyota Indy 400 MBNA Pole Qualifying 5:45 p.m. IndyCar Series final practice (all cars/30 minutes)

SUNDAY, OCT. 3 12:27 p.m. Toyota Indy 400 (200 laps/400 miles; ABC/IMS Radio Network)

</pre> PRE-RACE QUOTES: (Drivers listed in alphabetical order)

ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm very excited about running at California Speedway. I know Chevrolet has done some things and being my home track I definitely want to do well there. We're always trying as hard as we can, and hopefully everything will come together and we have a good race day."

ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to racing at California. We had a really good test for Chevy at Texas, and I think we found some positives to take to California. Our car has been getting better and better all the time, especially on the 1.5-mile tracks. We had a great car at Kentucky and a really awesome car at Chicago. If we can keep that going into Fontana and Texas and get a little help from Chevy, we'll be good." (About race for Bombardier Rookie of the Year): "I haven't given up yet. I need a little help from Kosuke (Matsuura). He needs to drop out of these last two races to give me a chance. All I can do is go out and run as best as I can and see what happens."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to competing in Fontana. There's always exciting racing at California Speedway because you can go three-, maybe even four-wide. We definitely should give the fans an amazing show. It will be a long race, so the most important thing is to make sure the Marlboro Team Penske car is reliable and can last the 400 miles. Last year, I won the pole, so hopefully, this season we can achieve similar results. We've yet to win a race at this track, so hopefully, this will be my year. The only disappointment for me is that we're out of the championship race, but Marlboro Team Penske has been working hard all year and we'll be looking to get our first win of the season in California."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I've always seemed to have a good run at the California Speedway. I won there in Indy Lights and in my first IndyCar (Series) season, I finished second there last year. It's definitely a place that provides lots of the exciting, close wheel-to-wheel action that the fans like. It seems like this season, and especially lately, there have been even more thrilling races because everyone stays in a bigger pack than usual. I think that's a result of the changes the IRL has made to the aerodynamic and engine packages, as well as the work our partner Toyota has done to remain competitive. You could see that there were gains made by Toyota at our last race, and we expect there to be more for the final two races of the season."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "I am really pumped for the weekend. The team has just been doing a tremendous job, and I think we have a good shot at winning both of the final races. We are on a roll right now. Fontana is a circuit that I know well. I have been successful there in the past and have won there before. The track holds a lot of memories for me personally, and this is also where (co-owner)Tom (Anderson) and I announced the formation of Fernandez Racing back in 2000. To return there with the success that we have had lately and with (teammate) Kosuke (Matsuura) battling for Rookie of the Year -- going back to where we started more or less -- is very satisfying."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to running at California Speedway, which is very similar to Michigan. There's lots of room to race. With the Toyota engine running better, we've picked up the performance of the Conseco car on the superspeedways, so we should be strong like we were at Chicagoland. The big thing is to try to finish the race this time. We found out the reason for the crash at Chicagoland was a broken halfshaft, most likely due to defective material because of the way it broke. I'm hoping for some better luck in the final two races of the season."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We're getting close to the end of the season, and for me the points battle for fourth, fifth and sixth with Adrian (Fernandez) and Helio (Castroneves) is pretty tight right now. We're focused on what we've been trying to do every weekend, which is to win the race. Hopefully, with the way the Honda engine has been performing and things we've learned recently, we can come up with a quick car that will get the job done."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 24 Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The track at Fontana is close to (Michigan International Speedway), but handling is a little more important (at Fontana). It's critical to have a good setup for the race. Even though the racetrack is big and wide open, the car has to handle well. It's easy to get lost. I've raced well in the past there, so I know how important it is to have a good car."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The second-place finish by the XM Satellite Radio team at Chicagoland gives us a little bit of momentum heading into the California event. Fontana is close to my home, and I will have a lot of friends and family at the race, so I'd love to have a good result there."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "California Speedway is special to me because I am the only Indy Racing League (IndyCar Series) driver to have won there. I'm looking forward to next weekend's race and going for a 'three-peat.' Toyota has been working really hard, and hopefully, we can run up front and get Marlboro Team Penske back to victory circle. The race is all about making the right move at the right time, getting through the first 380 miles and then fighting it out over the last 10 laps."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "California Speedway is the first oval I ever raced at; it's fast, wide and is where I won my first major championship, so I have good memories about Fontana and I want to win there really bad. Championship-wise, I want to keep my string of top-five finishes alive and make it 15 straight. I know that if I can get another top-five finish then I'll clinch the championship. But I'd like to win the race."

DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "We've had a nice little break heading to Fontana, and I feel rested and ready for the final stretch of the season. It's been up and down all year, but I've had some really good runs in the No.10 Toyota-Panoz G Force. I have gotten caught up in some bad luck near the end of races a lot it seems. I'm looking forward to Fontana because I think we can do well. The key is going to be to stay with the lead pack. Toyota has been working very hard at getting us a bit more, and we expect that to pay dividends in the last two races."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "Obviously, I am disappointed that we have had problems in the last two races and have not been able to finish. Hopefully, that kind of luck is behind us now. There have been many times this year when we had a chance for a good finish and it didn't happen, but I think we showed our potential. I am very confident for this weekend. We had a very good car in Michigan, the last big oval race, and I am working for a top-three finish this weekend. My focus is on good results in these last two races."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "I like the California Speedway a lot. It is fast, and it is different than Michigan or some of the banked tracks. It isn't as banked as Michigan, and the surface is a little rougher, so the cars tend to slide around more, and you won't see the bunched-up packs like that Chicagoland or Texas or even Michigan. Drafting is still important there because you are going so fast. I think our Centrix car will be very good at California. We have had some really tough luck in some of the superspeedway tracks. We were in position to race for the win at Chicagoland, and we got a puncture in the right rear. I feel good about coming to California. I think we'll be in contention to win. I'd really like to win this one for our sponsor, Centrix, since we have been close a few times this year."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): "It's funny about California Speedway. I have run a lot of laps around that place, but actually, this will be my first IRL race at the track. I did my first IRL test at Fontana, and I have run many test laps there. A lot of people think that California Speedway is like Michigan. Yes, it is a 2-mile oval, but there are many different aspects to California. The banking isn't as high as MIS, so you can't run three- and four-wide like at MIS. The wind makes a difference at California as the cars move around, and the wind also brings some sand or dust on the racing surface, so the cars seem to slide around much more than at MIS. I know I'd like California to be just like MIS this year, since we won at MIS. That would be pretty cool to win Indy, Michigan and Fontana. That is like the old Indy car Triple Crown. I think Al Unser Sr. was the only one to do that kind of season (in 1978 at Indy, Pocono and Ontario). We should be in pretty good shape with our setup, but we know this race won't be easy. It will be a crazy shootout again. (After the flip at Chicagoland) I was fine and was running a go kart two days later. Actually, the car has been fixed and is at the Rahal Letterman shop getting prepared. But I was OK after that ride."

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to the Toyota Indy 400. While we qualified decently last year in Fontana, we struggled with some handling problems during the race. I know that Toyota has been working extra hard to ensure they are very competitive at their home track, and that will help our situation. While we've had our fair share of disappointment this season, we look forward to finishing strong in front of many of our sponsors that will be in attendance this weekend. Toyota, Pioneer, Denso, and Takagi Industries are all located less than 20 miles from the track, and you can bet I'll push the Pioneer car to its limits in order to put on a good show."

MARK TAYLOR (No. 13Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "I am looking forward to returning to Fontana, and hopefully, we can repeat the speed that we had at Chicagoland. I have very good memories from Fontana where last year, I clinched the Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship with a race win. This year will be a lot faster and more exciting, for sure. We will be working hard on our car setup, and hopefully, be right there on race day. We showed what we are capable of in Chicago."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "California is going to be a good race. You expect it to be side-by-side like a superspeedway, but it doesn't always pan out that way. I think the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team will have to adjust our strategy accordingly, but we've been doing pretty well on the superspeedways lately. From an engineering standpoint, I think we need to find a little more outright speed to be able to contend for the win."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Sr. , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing