INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 3, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the 85th Indianapolis 500 on May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order): BRANDON...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 3, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the 85th Indianapolis 500 on May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order):
BRANDON ERWIN (No. 30 WorldBestBuy.com/McCormack Motorsports G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"To get the chance to compete in the Indy 500 means everything to me. Indianapolis is where I've always wanted to be. To qualify a car for the Indy 500 and to be one of the 33 drivers in the race wouldn't just make my day; it would make my life. During the Indy rookie orientation program, I really noticed the speed. Indy is fast. Once you get the feel of the speed of an Indy car at over 200 mph, it's all relative, but in the corners and in the short chutes here you can really feel the speed. Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser both told me to respect this racetrack, and I do. I got chills just walking around to get into the car during rookie orientation, and I'm sure this entire month will be an amazing experience. I'm so thankful that I'm getting this opportunity, and I appreciate everything McCormack Motorsports and our sponsors are doing."
SARAH FISHER (No. 15 Walker Racing Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"Our main focus is going to be getting in the race first of all. This year is going to be extremely tough with all of the new competition showing up. It is all about focus, patience, leadership and endurance. With the preparation we are putting into the month, I expect us to come out on the positive side."
About new sponsor Kroger
"Kroger has been wonderful in making our presence known throughout the city, and we for sure want to provide them the return on their involvement."
"The team started out the season with a few new people, but we have had three races to start jelling and a lot more experience since the last time we were heading into Indy. The 2001 Indy 500 will be my 13th race in an Indy car, and I am extremely anxious for the month to start. It will be fun, stressful and rewarding, all at the same time."
SCOTT GOODYEAR (No. 52 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):
About confidence level entering Indy
"We had an excellent test in Atlanta a few weeks ago, and we are now going into the month of May knowing that our new engine package -- which we received in March -- will finish the 500-mile race and then some. It's always a great feeling going into the Indianapolis 500. To go to Atlanta and be able to punish the engine at high-speeds with full throttle for over 600 miles gives us great confidence for the month of May."
About working with team owner Eddie Cheever Jr.
"In some ways we are the same, and in some ways we are very different. Our understanding of what's going on in the car, we might approach in different ways or from different avenues. He calls us the odd couple. I don't know why that is. But I've always enjoyed having a teammate, and I think that you can learn and benefit from it. I don't think either one of us has to worry about our abilities, which is different than when you're going through the ranks. Then it's go fast and make the other guy go slow and get ahead. With Cheever Indy Racing, it's obvious that two drivers, or two heads, out there are better than one. That's the philosophy we have right now."
Do you miss racing full time?
"I'm so focused in on the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway right now and what we need to achieve to reach our goal there. It feels weird, but I find myself learning and growing and playing a different part in a team. I think I'm learning a lot now. I'm now listening and learning and seeing more of what goes on. I'm able to put all these dots together in a sense, and it's going to be an advantage at Indy."
ROBBY GORDON (No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"My approach for Indy is the same the way I entered the last two years, I'm there to win. A.J.'s there to win and now so is Richard Childress. I think that's great that he's become a part of our team. I have always wanted to be the fastest, but I have a pretty good finishing record at Indy. I approach it more like a NASCAR race than a regular Indy-car race. Indy's long like most of the NASCAR races. You bide your time, take care of your equipment so you can be around for the last 50 miles. That's when you really run hard."
About return to three-week schedule
"I like the longer schedule. That's what Indy's all about. I think it's good that they are going back to their roots and returning it to the way it's always been. Normally you have a couple of hours to figure out your setups before you qualify. Here you have six days, and if you can't figure it out then, shame on you. There are a lot of mind games and pressures that go on during those six days, but I don't feel it as much now. I think with my experience, age and some maturity, I've learned to accept things at Indy, like the way the track can change so much. I don't feel the pressure as much these days."
"Coming back to drive for A.J. at Indy after seven years is special. He won Indy with Kenny Brack when we ran out of fuel in 1999. That gives me confidence because it tells me he provides a well-structured race team that can get me to Victory Lane."
About driving for Foyt in 1993, when Foyt retired at Indy
"I'm the one who made A.J. retire in '93, so that means I also got a chance to see him drive at Indy. We compared our driving styles on the computers, and A.J. was very, very smooth in his throttle control and steering. The computer showed the steering traces and when he was on and off the gas. I remember my engineer being amazed at how smooth A.J. was. So that really helped me -- to actually see that comparison on the computer, it served as a guideline for driving at Indy. I also saw the way he communicated what the car was doing to his crew, and I learned to do that, too. We both know what we want in a car, and A.J. taught me a lot about how to get it."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (No. 7 Jack K. Elrod Co./Tokheim/NADA Guides Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"This is our fourth race of the season, and I hope this time that everything will be fine and that I will be in contention to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. I have been racing here since 1993, and I love the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There is no better place on Earth to race, and I enjoy every minute of it. I know that this place can bring you the ultimate success, but it also can beat you. I have always respected the track, and most of the time that has paid off. Winning Indy, for me, like many drivers, will be the greatest career achievement. I think our team is strong enough to do it, and this is our goal. Three French drivers won it before, (Jules) Goux in 1913, (Rene) Thomas in 1914 and (Gaston) Chevrolet in 1920, and I can be the fourth one. I came here for the first time in 1993 and became the fastest rookie qualifier and the youngest starting driver. I also led the race that year. This is my sixth time at the speedway, and I am ready for it. This year for the first time since the 1930s, there will be three French drivers: (Nicolas) Minassian, (Didier) André and myself. I am proud of that."
About car selection
"Dick and Richie Simon, and Hayden, our engineer, have decided to work with two cars, the Dallara and the G Force, before qualifying. We believe both cars are competitive here, and we want to practice in the G Force to make sure it's a fast car and if we have any problem with our Dallara, we know we can ultimately switch to the G Force."
About return to three-week schedule
"We have great expectations for this race. Our team is motivated and focused. I think the return to a three-week schedule is great because if you are lucky enough to be solid in the show during the first weekend of qualification, you have one more week to concentrate on race setup, and that is crucial because here the race is 500 miles and you need to have a great, reliable car. I am confident our Roush engines will be competitive in qualifying and in the race. I am also very excited because we worked 24/7 on finding a new sponsor, and I think our team is almost ready to make a big announcement on Sunday where I will be first on track again. This is a tradition here; Dick is always the first on track and really likes that. This year Dick will celebrate 40 years in racing, including 32 consecutive years at the Speedway. And more than anyone else here, he deserves to win the race. I wish he could kiss the Borg-Warner Trophy with me on Sunday, May 27."
DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"I like all the hype. It's the Indy 500, which always is big, but this year with everyone being back, having those guys back, makes me want to win worse than ever. Everybody is here, the best of the best, you can't say it's only the IRL guys, which is stiff enough competition. So the guy who wins, well he's not going to have it easy. This is one of the best years to win. I'm looking forward to getting going and having a good month."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Indy Racing Northern Light Series points leader):
"I'm really excited about it. The two tracks that we've been to this year have been handling tracks, we've done pretty good at them. We're really excited to get to Indianapolis to have Michael (Andretti) be my teammate, helping me out wherever he can. And I can try to help him out as much as I can."
About hectic schedule entering Indy as points leader
"I think I have more things to do in the first week this year than the whole month last year. I just can't wait to get out there. All of the other races have meaning, but there's nothing compared to Indianapolis."
About the three-week schedule
"It doesn't matter either way to me. If we're struggling and need more time to catch up, we're good. If we're fast off the bat, it just gives other people time to catch up."
About entering Indy as a favorite to win and points leader in just second season
"No pressure. It's a whole lot different. That makes it all the more exciting, all the more harder to wait for it. I would have never guessed last year at this time that I'm in the position that I'm in now. It's a little bit unbelievable. Hopefully we'll make it a little bit more unbelievable on Race Day."
What's the key to success at Indy?
"Patience and make sure the car handles good in traffic."
"We just have to make sure that's not our biggest priority. I know Scott Goodyear came from 33rd to finish second. I'd like to start up front, but I'm not going to kill myself doing it. First two rows, I think I would be happy with."
About return of more CART teams to Indy
"Yeah, they've got big names, but it's just a couple of more guys I have to beat. I'm sure they're tough competitors, but I race against tough competitors in my own series."
About mystique of Indy
"Growing up where I did, two hours away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and being there as many times as I've been there, that was always my goal, being in the Indianapolis 500. That makes it just that much sweeter. It's not only the biggest race in the world, but it has all the prestige. It's hard to put into words. I never thought I'd be here. Even though it's my second year, it's still hard to come to grips with sometimes that it's going to be reality."
Who are the main contenders for victory this year?
"Other than myself? Greg Ray will be fast. I'm sure Michael (Andretti) will be fast. I'm pretty sure that Penske's guys won't be slouching off, either. I think we've got as good of a chance as anybody out there to go out and win."