Day 7 -- Saturday, May 11, 2002 -- Pole Day Presented by Marsh Post-Qualifying Quotes BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The car had pretty good handling. I did good laps, good average speed. Today...
Day 7 -- Saturday, May 11, 2002 -- Pole Day Presented by Marsh
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The car had pretty good handling. I did good laps, good average speed. Today the wind is blowing, and Turn 4 is really difficult. One thing with ovals is you must be patient. I have to be patient. The car was really good. Everything worked fine for me." (About being the first car out): "I don't think there's a benefit. I did the best I could. There's more pressure because I don't know what time we have to do and how much to push. Maybe we pushed too much on the first lap. I could be more consistent. I think I did my best." (Compare this year to last year): "I think I have a week to practice myself, get to know my car. This year there were better conditions in qualifying for me. I've got experience, and I had time to practice. I'm just trying to do my job. I have the experience. I know ovals. I still have a lot to learn."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "That was the best car Red Bull Cheever Racing has had this week. We lost a little bit of speed from yesterday. We're not quite sure why. I'm really glad the car got faster and faster, and I was running flat the whole way around. We might have been a little bit conservative, but I was very pleased with the handling of the car. I was very pleased with the improvements Infiniti has made on the engines from last year. I was just sitting here thinking, after qualifying, of all the disasters we had last year and how smooth everything has run this year."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm a little disappointed. We weren't going to have Bruno's (Junqueira) kind of speed, but his run made me realize the track was good. I'm pleased with the run. I ran flat out and felt good with the car, but we missed it a little bit with the gears. We had a little bit of drama with our qualifying engine yesterday. We had to do some calibrations and do some guessing, but some guesses just weren't right." (About the speeds): "The speeds are incredibly impressive. We thought that if we'd come in here and run 230 (mph), we'd shock everyone. Now, 10 guys can go 230 (mph) and some go faster." (About winning the MBNA Pole last year): "It was neat to win it last year, but you're not going to win it every year. There are two races here: This is the first race, and the second one is in two weeks. Last year was awesome, but I came into May thinking about the race. We're really focused on the race."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This year has been very good so far. Every day has been good. We have struggled a little bit the last two days and have been a little bit anxious. I knew that I had a good car. Maybe not the pole car, but it was going to be solid in the field. We were taking anything higher than 228 (mph). That was our goal for today."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 39 Motorola/Archipelago Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was real disappointing. I thought we had a 227 and a half (mph) easy. I thought we were in OK shape. It's going to be very marginal. It's disappointing. I really thought we had a car that was capable of a minimum of 227 and a half (mph). To come out with a 226.7 (mph) is very disappointing. We just haven't been able to be as comfortable as some of the other guys. I think we're just missing something somewhere for the outright speed. Hopefully, we'll get in the race, and we'll just really work on the race setup, which is totally different than qualifying. I was actually a little loose. I was flat out. The car was hanging it out."
JEFF WARD (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I picked up a little push there the last two laps, which really killed me. I wouldn't want to pass my attempt and have to be a second-day qualifier. It's over with, and it is a good enough time that it's going to be pretty solid, and we don't have to worry about a better day where we could drop down. I will sleep easier tonight. Qualifying doesn't mean anything because there's no points, so we just get a good starting position in the race, and we know what we can do there. It's a long day. I picked up a push between (Turns) 3 and 4, tried to keep it off the wall. Both times it got really close. We can't throw that run away because we don't have a backup car. We have one of them, but still Kenny (Brack) has to go. We were pretty consistent this morning. You got different tires, different scenarios. We didn't quite pull the gear we wanted. A lot of things. That's why qualifying is so tough." (About being part of a three-car team): "It's great. The Chip Ganassi guys do a great job, and Target's support and the drivers are great, as well. We've been working really well together."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I just have to thank the Kelley Racing team, Corteco, Bryant, Firestone, Bosch, all my sponsors. We're in the Indy 500. I wanted to get this thing qualified. I've been in the second-weekend qualifying (situation) and missed the show. What's important is we're in the 86th running of the Indy 500, and we're in solid this year. I'm real proud of Tom Kelley, Jim Kelley, the whole Kelley Racing team. My engineer, Mike Colliver, John Worth, my crew chief, all the boys, they did a great job in preparing the car. I'm just really happy, what can I say? I should've been a little bit more aggressive, but I knew I didn't have a shot at the pole. Really, I was just after anything over a (2)28 (mph). Now we go to work on the car and making it last on the Firestone tires better than anybody else, and hopefully we'll be around at the end."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I was really looking for the pole. We've done many laps in the 230's (mph), but today we just couldn't do it. Obviously, something went wrong. I was flat out the whole way. It just didn't carry. We are in there strong with the Red Bull Cheever Racing Infiniti. I'm just happy to be in the show, and I am looking forward to the race."
ROBBY GORDON (No. 31 Menards/Childress/Cingular Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Obviously, everybody says they come here for the pole, and we came here for the pole. I haven't qualified worse than fourth the last three years here, so this will be our worst qualifying effort in four years. We'll just have to make sure our car handles well behind other cars. A lot of times, you can have a car that handles real good by itself, but when you're behind other cars, you have to get off the gas. We have to work on our balance." (About NASCAR vs. IRL): "It's definitely a different feel. These cars are so much lighter, with so much more downforce, and when you turn the steering wheel, they actually turn. It took a little while to adapt back to that. The first couple of days I was feeling loose just because when I turned the steering wheel, the car reacted. We worked on it, and we chose the narrow-track suspension. We thought that would be fastest. It is what it is, and we'll build from there."
RICK TREADWAY (No. 5 Airlink Enterprises/Spade Motorsports G Force/ Chevrolet/Firestone): "The car felt really comfortable. It was a little cool out there and pretty windy, so the first lap was a little squirrelly. The last lap dropped off, but we're not sure what happened. So we're going to have to look at the data tonight. All month, we've been surprising ourselves, so today we're pretty happy. I'm looking forward to my first Indianapolis 500. It hasn't sunk in yet. I've been sitting here on the sidelines all these years watching Arie, and I can't believe I'm in the Indy 500. Part of my dream has come true today: I'm in the Indy 500. Now I need to focus on my other dream: winning the Indy 500. Arie and his engineers deserve probably 95 percent of the credit for this. With all their experience over the years, they shared a lot of information with us. I've always known I could do it. It's amazing, when you get behind the eye of the tiger, what you can accomplish."
TONY KANAAN (No. 17 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Morris (Nunn) told me all along to be patient, and he's also told me all along to be consistent. Those are the two keys to being successful here at the Speedway. I think we were both of those things today, and it definitely paid off. I tried really hard to be patient all week, and I don't think I really, really got it until today. I went out for my qualifying run the first time, and it started to rain. I'm thinking, 'Great, I'm out on an oval in the rain. Just my luck.' I radioed in to the guys asking what we should do because it was definitely getting wet out there. We took the green, so if we come in, does it count as an attempt? Well, my team manager called me in, and the IRL agreed that it was wet out there and let me have a fair shot at it. Everyone was worried during the rain delay because we weren't as fast as we had been in practice. I knew I had a good car, so I told them to be patient. We kept it together and pieced together very consistent laps. All four in the 230s (mph). So far, so good, after my first week ever at the Speedway. This is just a great feeling to be in the show. I'm just thankful to Hollywood, and to Morris for giving me this opportunity. And especially to my teammate, Felipe (Giaffone), for letting me have his backup car because I was struggling with my primary car earlier in the week. He had an awesome qualifying run, too. Now we get to take a little bit of time to catch our breath. My guys have been working so very hard. We raced in Japan two weeks ago and came right back here and went right to work on the Indy 500. To make life even more difficult, they've been building me all-new (Lola) cars that we're going to start racing the weekend after the '500' at Milwaukee. First things first, a good result in the biggest race in the world here will definitely go a long way to energize this Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing team."
RAUL BOESEL (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's almost like you can't believe what's happening right now. For the time we had in the car, what we've achieved is unbelievable. To be here with this team and to be able to come together in a very short time was something I'm not sure anyone thought was possible. It's a good feeling for everyone on this team. They've had quite a few setbacks with driver crashes, and I know that's tough to overcome. I have to thank them. They have been so good. I did expect to be in the 230's (mph). This morning I felt quite comfortable in the car. From Thursday to today, we have really come a long way. We made a few adjustments to the car for this morning that really helped. I was confident we could get there, and I knew I had to add some, too. In qualifying, I normally reserve a little from me to try to make us faster. It's just such a great feeling."
JOHN MENARD (Owner, No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This team has gone through so much emotionally the last few weeks since Jaques (Lazier) went down. It's just such a hard thing to get through to get everyone on the same page emotionally with a new driver. Then to have the same thing happen with PJ (Jones), it's been the toughest month of May I can ever remember. But I can't say enough about what Raul's (Boesel) done and what my team has done here in such a short amount of time. Raul's obviously a professional, and he's done a hell of a job here. I think he's going to do an equally great job in the '500.'"
RICHIE HEARN (No. 20 Grill 2 Go Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Car Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone): "The guys gave me a great car to run with from the beginning. I'd rather work on my race setup than qualifying again. I probably could have gone a little faster and moved up higher on the grid, but that's not going to matter in the long run, so we'll take it and move on. It was really sketchy going into Turn 1, and it was hard to balance out the push everywhere else and trying to crank in more front wing. I got a little loose the first lap, but it was OK after that."
MAX PAPIS (No. 52T Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "To make the Indianapolis 500 is something I have dreamed of since I was a kid. I am happy to have made it, and my dream is to win it. It was really tough after losing the car yesterday. We didn't have much qualifying practice, and I'm sure if we would have kept the other car, I would be running up there like Tomas and Eddie. My guys worked really hard all night. We didn't get it in the first attempt, but then we changed it, and I drove it my best, and now you are going to see Mad Max in the race."
LAURENT REDON (No. 34 Mi-Jack Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I was concentrating on staying flat. I think I did three fast laps, but on the fourth lap I lifted in Turn 4 because of the wind. I did the best that I could, but I was expecting something better. That's the way it is. We'll see for the race, but I'm a bit disappointed. The owner, Eric Bachelart, has told me to do the best that I can, and I have tried. Next week on my days off, I am going to relax and work out, try to think about something different."
ERIC BACHELART (Owner, No. 34 Mi-Jack Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Today was good. It was a good, solid run, and we're in the show. We were hoping for a bit more speed altogether. Over the last two days, our car has not been as strong as it was earlier on. I'm pretty happy with the performance, and what's important is the race. It was a good run. We still have quite a lot of work to do just to get ready for the race and get the race car set up. There's quite a bit of work to do with the crew, and we'll be working on our pit stops. We're going to be busy, but it's good to be in the show."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We're pretty happy with that. After this morning, after I spun the car, I hadn't had any time in the car after that, but we had a pretty good setup on it. That's part of being a race car driver. You go to a track, and you might crash. You get to go to the next race, and you want to start off fast right from the beginning. So every time I get in the car, I try to take it as fast as I can go. I just didn't want to work tomorrow, that's all. If I got it done today, I don't have to work tomorrow. And I really didn't want to work next Sunday. I don't know anybody that wants to work next Sunday."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/ Firestone): "Today we accomplished exactly what we were aiming for in qualifications. There was still a little left that we could have taken out with trim, but that wasn't the point. We just wanted a steady, consistent car for qualifying, and it was perfect. Along with the great Infiniti engine, which had fantastic horsepower, and with the extremely fast and consistent Firestone tires, we had an unbelievable package. It's such a wonderful feeling to see everyone that is behind me, and it's even more exciting after the ups and downs of the last few weeks and months. It's unbelievable how hard everyone has worked at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to put our Allegra package together to get to this point. I've got nothing to lose, and I'm completely willing to give it my all for the greatest race in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Race Day is our goal this year. It's going to be a lot of work, but that is where Robbie Buhl will come into play. He is the most awesome teammate ever. Robbie is a first-class guy. He's very down-to-earth and will share anything and everything with you. I just took my pace, my time to get up to speed. I don't think I got up to speed as quickly as everyone said, but I'm a race car driver. We started with Robbie's setup from last year, and he did, as well, and we just went from there. I had to do some things to the car that we did at Nazareth because I like a little bit different feel than what he does. We were working on accomplishing that as the week went by, and yesterday, I only got 11 laps in. We were trying to put Robbie toward the pole, if not on the pole, so our efforts went solely to him yesterday. I was getting a little nervous last night. 226, I don't know if I can do it or not, but today we got together, got the game plan going, and we're right there." (About fan support): "It's awesome. I have continued support wherever I go, whatever racetrack I'm at. Fans seem to get behind me 110 percent of the way. I try to do as much as I can to sign autographs, but I'm a pretty busy girl. I try to get out every hour or so to get some autographs signed. It's a good feeling to know that there are so many people behind me. I think that is part of the reason I got my ride at Nazareth. It means a lot to Allegra, being a consumer product, to have the most popular driver with the fans to represent them." (About being faster than Al Unser Jr. and Robby Gordon): "I've been faster than a lot of these guys sometimes. I was second at Richmond and almost had the pole until my buddy Jaques (Lazier) bumped me out. But it's racing, and I am sure he will be faster than me in the future, so we'll keep tabs on it and maybe compare when we retire."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's definitely not where we wanted to be. I didn't want to be in that position, but that's all we had when we went out. We had some concerns about the weather, as far as the rest of today and tomorrow, but I felt we needed to get one in the show. We know we still have the backup car in the garage. So if we get put in the position of having to bump ourselves back in, then that's what we'll do. I've had to do it before, so we'll just have to see what everybody else has."
JIMMY VASSER (No. 19 Miller Lite/Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "The conditions really changed when we went out today. I think the air got heavier, because (Robbie) Buhl ran a 228 (mph) and (Laurent) Redon was in the 227's (mph), and they were a couple of mile per hour faster earlier. I thought we could run in the low 229's (mph) or high 228's (mph), but the conditions weren't there, and now (Helio) Castroneves is much slower, too. We weren't going for the pole anyway. We'll take it, and we're happy to have the Miller Lite car back in the Indy 500. I know we have a good race car since it has been so solid all week. We'll be much more formidable in the race than in qualifying. The one thing that I like about this Miller Lite team is that they have given me a car that has been great to drive. Mechanically, the car is sound, and we tried many different things. And that gives a driver a lot of confidence with a solid car. We're always looking for more speed. You never know what can happen in qualifying. You can have a super-fast car all week, and then weird things can occur on Pole Day. There are no guarantees for this race, and my team owner knows exactly what I am talking about. It is a bit of a relief to be in the race, and I think the team is (relieved), too, since they accepted the speed today. Being in a single-car team this year, we couldn't pinpoint some of the problems we had in the beginning of the week. When you have more cars on a team, you can pinpoint the problems much quicker. You have other cars gaining information for you, and that is big difference."
BOBBY RAHAL (Owner, No. 19 Miller Lite/Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "We thought we would be faster, but Jimmy was flat all the way around. I know he is disappointed, but with the way the weather has been this month, I think you can't risk waiting to qualify. I think we are comfortably in now, and we are going to get the car ready for the race. I am really pleased to be back here after seven years. It's good to be here with a guy like Jimmy, a very experienced guy with a cool head. It's a long, long race, and the engines are fragile, but I'll put our crew up against anybody on pit stops and strategy in a 500-mile race."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "No, we didn't hit the speed we wanted. I thought I could have had 229 mph, but I just don't know where the speed went. The Coors Light team always puts a lot of emphasis on the race, and we need to start working on the pole speed about six months ahead. I was really hanging it out there. We were flat out. We knew we needed a 229 mph to feel comfortable, but we just don't know where the extra 2 mph went. It was a disappointing run, and it would be nice to start up front, but at the end of the day, it is the race we're focusing on. I have a great engineer and crew, and they will do whatever it takes to get the Coors Light car out in front on Race Day. It would feel great for a second (Indianapolis 500) win. Having won the '500,' I'm hungrier than ever. It would be unbelievable to win again."
KENNY BRACK (No. 22 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We got the car in the show, but I don't know if it's going to be enough. It depends on how they do Sunday and next weekend. We'll see." (Was the weather the factor?): "Yeah, it is. The weather changed. We had a good day of running yesterday, and we felt yesterday afternoon perhaps we weren't as good as we should be. We changed this morning, something, but we couldn't get a balance in that short time, so we went with what we had, and I think it's a little too grippy right now." (You've got to be pleased just to be back at Indy, however.): "Oh yeah, it's good fun. As long as we're in the field, we'll be all right."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/ Infiniti/Firestone): "From this morning's practice, the track was 30 degrees warmer, and the wind had picked up when we went out for our first run in the early afternoon. We had to go back and adjust the car a little bit to do what we did, and then it took me a couple of turns to feel it out. You want to be smart. You want to be fast, but you don't want to be stupid. You don't always have a car capable of being on the front row here, but we knew it was possible. When we waved off the first run with a speed capable of making the race, that shows you the kind of confidence we had that we could improve. It was a good call by Dennis Reinbold. About the pole, you wonder, because it was close, but not quite special enough. We missed it just a little, and that's frustrating, but last night I knew we had the capable speeds. On one hand, it's oh so close, but on the other hand, maybe why not just a little faster. We knew we had a good car. Everybody's back from last year, from the Infiniti engine, to the Firestone tires, Purex, Aventis and our great crew of guys, but until you actually do it, and it's over, you've always got a little doubt. This week is the longest week of the year. I wish we were racing tomorrow."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "When we went out on our first run, it wasn't as fast as we would have liked, so we took a chance and waved off and came in to make a few changes. Unfortunately, the car was slightly slower on my second attempt, and we had to take the time because we were concerned about the weather. I was surprised because it looked like the Marlboro Team Penske car was fast enough to win the pole based on how we've been running all week. It's too bad that it didn't work out. There's no way I can be disappointed with today's results because we're in the show, and that's what matters. It's great to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There' s just so much excitement and anticipation. May 26th is the day that counts, so now we're going to go home for the next few days, and when we come back we're going to work on preparing for the race. I think we're still in good shape. It's a 500-mile event over three and a half hours with six or seven pit stops, so it doesn't really matter where you start. Now that qualifying is over for us, we can look ahead to the race, and hopefully we'll be right there at the end."
GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm happy we are in the field, but I'm slightly disappointed with the speed. To be honest, I didn't feel we had what it would take to put the Marlboro Team Penske car on the pole, but I felt we'd run in the mid-229 mph or low 230-mph range. I'm really not sure why we didn't go quite that fast. The car was handling well and was very consistent throughout the run. I was flat out the whole way around. We'll have to go back to the garage and analyze the data to understand what happened. Now we switch gears completely and focus on race preparation. We'll do full-tank runs and make sure we've got a car that will handle well for the race."