THE RUN FOR THE WORLDPOINTS VISA CARD POLE ON COCA-COLA THROWBACK DAY POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES -- Saturday, May 20 SAM HORNISH JR. ( ...
THE RUN FOR THE WORLDPOINTS VISA CARD POLE ON COCA-COLA THROWBACK DAY
POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES -- Saturday, May 20
SAM HORNISH JR. (#6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The car felt really good. I told the guys we were going to run a 229 average. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that. I felt really comfortable out there. I had a little push in the last couple of laps, which knocked some of our speed off, but our time held up so far. Hopefully it will for the rest of the day. I guess I'll just have to sit here and wait for what Helio (Castroneves) does. He's the guy who could get us. So far, we're pretty happy with it, but with the way the new format is set up, guys have the chance to take a lot more shots at me. Three guys that are right behind me, I wouldn't discount them going back out. I think those guys are pretty quick, but hopefully we'll stay where we need to be, and keep the car parked right beside the track all day and don't have to get back in it. It's not getting pulled as long as I'm on the pole. If I get passed, it might be, we might have to talk about it, but it feels pretty good, but I want to be on top today. I came here wanting to get the pole and starting second is starting second. I want to be first. Starting from the pole would be a great way to start this race off. I don't think I took a breath until Lap 3. I kind of gasped a little bit. Winning the pole would be the second best thing to winning the race here, probably. So after this, I guess we'll just go back and work on race setup, and hopefully we'll have a good result next Sunday. It's a big day for us. We'll continue to move forward. It's a long race next Sunday, and I want to make it through that. I want to make sure I make it the full 500 miles. In this race, with pit stops, you don't have to be a hero anywhere; you've just got to drive to the best of your ability and don't make any mistakes. You know, it's not the guy that's the fastest here that wins this race; it's the one who makes the fewest mistakes. I'm excited about this, I can tell you that much. I think it's the best opportunity that I've had here. I'm not going to get too excited about being on the pole here though until 6 o'clock. It's unbelievable to be up there. Last year, I was really excited about second. I told my wife, though, I said, 'I'm not going to be as happy with second this year.' I could see the fans when I came in to pit lane after my run. There were a lot of people standing up, cheering. I mean, when it comes to qualifying and all this stuff, they're troopers to come out here and watch us after the week that we had last week. I'm really glad that they've got this nice, beautiful day where they can come out here and have some fun and they don't have to have coats and hats and umbrellas and everything. The only thing left that could go wrong this month is the race. That's what tends to go wrong for me, is the race, but everything has been above and beyond what we've expected. Hopefully it continues that way and a little bit of that luck continues on to the race."
DAN WHELDON (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "You have to give Marlboro Team Penske and Sam (Hornish) credit. They've been very, very powerful this month. Right now they deserve to be where they are. We are going to work as hard as we can to try to get this Target car on the pole. It will be very difficult. I'd be lying if I said it was something we are very confident of."
VITOR MEIRA (#4T Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was good. We can definitely improve a little bit, but not much. So, I think it was a good run. So we'll see where we end up, but I think we're going to be good. We've definitely improved the car a lot. That's why we're going to have a good race car, too. It's now go race. We qualified, and we want it to be in the second or third row. If we do that, we'll be fine, and that's our goal. There's a little bit more in the car, but I don't know if it's going to be worth our while. Later it is going to be hotter, and I don't think it is going to be as quick. We'll wait and see. I'm feeling pretty good because we've got a better race car than we had in qualifying. We've had little time to work. I don't mean even here at the '500.' We've only been together for two months, so it's a good run. It's coming good, and I've gotten a lot of experience over the past three years to help us out. The '500' is about patience and believing in the car. To believe in the car, you have to believe in the crew. So, I think we've got this nailed down. That was a turning year for us. With Panther and myself, we've never worked with a Dallara, so we have to put the information together and adjust to weather and all of that. So, we're doing a really good job, and I am really pleased with Panther Racing."
AIRTON DARE (#88 OCTANE Motors/Sanitec/SSM Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It feels good. I didn't expect to have the best qualifying run. We will probably go out again and try to get the speed out of the car that I know it has. I think we're in the field, but we're capable to do better than that. The car picked up a lot of understeer when I was running. We ran 221.5 this morning, and the car has at least a mile an hour more, so we're going to fix the push and come back out. We didn't correct the car enough for the heat. It's very difficult for me because I haven't been in any IndyCars in three years. But our goal was to be ahead of the second-week guys, and so we'd like to move up a little bit. That's probably what we're going to try to do this afternoon. We'd like to start in the top 20 or around there. For Race Day, I think we're in good shape. Yesterday, we were running full tanks. We worked a lot on the car all day, and the car's pretty good."
TOWNSEND BELL (#90 Rock & Republic Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The car mechanically was great, and it was a good, consistent run. It was just slow. That's all it had. We'll see where we end up, but I saw Vitor (Meira) was at 226, and that's pretty good. So we should be a little closer. I'm not quite sure what happened, I'll have to check with the team, but that's all it had. It's warm. Warmer than it was this morning, but I still don't know why we were that slow. We're definitely not going for the pole today, but we'll have to see where everyone is at when they get through the line to see if we're going to try it again. The balance was good, but the straightaways were a little slow. This is the first real surprise, speed-wise. We've been, really, right where we want to be every day, every second, running on our own on simulated qualifying runs, and I'm a little bit breathless right now. I can't quite believe we're this slow. I'll see what Tomas (Scheckter) and Ed (Carpenter), my teammates, do and go from there. After today, we'll focus on the race."
MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Yeah, I was really happy, and the best thing was there were no surprises. Don't get me wrong, those were definitely the longest four laps of my career, but the guys did a great job, giving me a great car. It just feels great to be done with it." (Do you have bragging rights over your dad now that you qualified faster?): "No, not at all. He has been working on race setup most of the time because he's here to win the race, not take the pole." (On the pressure): "Yeah, I definitely felt a lot of pressure. I got some great advice from my teammate Tony Kanaan. He just told me to put the helmet on, flip the visor down and go. There are a lot of people that try to tell you to act a certain way out there, but others tell you just be yourself and drive the car, and that's what I try to do."
AL UNSER JR. (#31 A1 Team USA Geico Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We've been at the bottom of the list pretty much all month. Those were the fastest laps I've run all month. Buddy Lazier, my teammate, found a little bit yesterday. I think Buddy will go out and run a little bit quicker, but this is what happens when you put a deal together last minute. It doesn't happen over night. We'll try to get to work, hopefully by race time." (About his past experience): "Times are way different now than it was in '92, so we definitely have our work cut out for us. We just need to have a good clean race with good stops and not make any mistakes, and we'll be up front sometime. At least we're going in the right direction. We'll start working on a race setup." (You sound down): "Anything can happen. What we need to do is go out and not make any mistakes and have good stops." (Are you hopeful?): "It's 500 miles, and anything can happen in a race, so we're going out to do the best job we can and try to get to the end and see what happens." (Comfortable with your qualifying speed?): "I think it'll hold up through the weekend. If we went a little bit quicker, it would probably give me a row at most. I think what we're going to end up doing is wait for the line to go through and see where we are." (Are you upset or happy?): "We're definitely happy we're out here running. The Indianapolis 500 is great. I think everyone on my team is trying to figure out where the speed is. That was wide open all the way around. We'll just have to wait to see what the line does all the way through. The laps were pretty good with the A1Team USA Dreyer and Reinbold Special. Those laps were my fastest. Buddy Lazier, my teammate, had some speed yesterday. We adapted his setup for my car. We'll just see what happens. It's just one of those things."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#1 Jim Beam/Vonage Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I was really happy with that run. We really haven't worked on qualifying much. I was happy with the speed and the consistency of my car. That shows how good we have this car. I'll take that all day long. I think we'll line up about 12th or 15th, and that's about where you can expect to be when you don't work on qualifying setups in practice." (About Marco's run): "I'm definitely playing the role of a father up here watching his run. That was a really good effort for him. He put together four consistent laps, and I'm very happy with that. It's a great feeling to see him done with his run, but it's also a feeling of relief, too. This is the worst day in terms of pressure. I was feeling pressure out there, so I can't imagine what Marco was feeling since it's his first time here. No matter how long you've come here, it's still nerve-wracking. Now we have two cars solidly in the field here, and it's time to focus on the race. The thing is, I have to figure out a way to pass him (Marco)."
DANICA PATRICK (#16T Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "We did a full-tank and downforce on the car and simulated race situation. I was pretty pleased. I thought the car had speed in it. I haven't run in traffic too much yet, but we'll have a little bit of time to do that. I was pretty happy." (About improving through the month): "We've got better this month. We've been improving and improving. Really, yesterday was probably the biggest help because we had all day to work on the race car, and so we did and we improved." (About how she thinks the car will run during the race): "I am pretty happy with the race car. I actually think it will be pretty good. I haven't run in traffic too much, but around here basically if you can just get a half of a wing for it to claim air you are usually OK. As far as speed goes in full-fuel and downforce mode, we've been up to speed." (Are you happy with the run?): "There's always that chance that you go back out, but I don't think we are going to do that this year. I think we are pretty happy with our time. We'll just hang in there. And we know that the race is so much different, and it is all about strategy and pit stops and me getting through traffic, so that's what we are going to focus on." (More about qualifying run): "You know, somebody told me earlier, 'You must be disappointed.' They must not have been paying attention because we have been working our butts off this month to go fast. We have finally have found some speed. We're not the quickest on the grid, we've made big improvements, and I'm happy." (Can you still compete without starting on the first row?): "Absolutely. Our friend Dan Wheldon started 16th last year and won the thing. I went from the front to the back to the front to the back to the front all in one day. Anything can happen in 500 miles, and that is what I am counting on." (About Sam Hornish's qualifying run): "I don't know why (Sam Hornish is faster than field). It is weird. Normally the fastest car is not that much faster. The n again, sometimes people stumble onto something that works, and that might be what happened to them." (About backing up last year's strong performance): "I think it is going to be a harder race for me this year, by all means, than last year. Last year I was fast and the car was great, and I could overtake people. But this year it is going to be a lot more hard work. As far as me as a driver, if I can race hard and not make any mistakes, then it is already going to be an improvement from last year because I made a couple mistakes last year. I made a couple mistakes last year. That's how I have to think about it. Obviously getting first, second or third (place) is going to be an improvement from last year, I think you are going to have to look at a lot of elements, too." (About her qualifying run): "For those of you who have been around for the month, we've definitely had a more difficult month than we did last year. We've been working extremely hard on the race car, and hoping and praying for sunshine. Normally, I'm the type of driver who would say: 'Oh, a day off is fine if it rains. That's nice.' But I have to tell you, by the end of this I have been hoping to God that we didn't get more rain. Thank goodness we got yesterday. Yesterday was a very productive day for us. It was more productive than any other day that we've had. Unfortunately, it seems like the productivity we had earlier in the month has all been to find out what doesn't work. That has some benefit, but not quite enough as finding the right direction. We did that yesterday and took it another step or two further this morning." (About how the car handled during qualifying run): "It's always like this. The better your car is, the easier it is. That run was easier. It was probably some of the easiest four laps I've done this month. Obviously then being at 211 (mph) at some point this month, I've had some pretty horrible laps that were much more difficult. Faster is not more difficult, necessarily. It is more comfortable and balanced for me as a dri ver. The run was good and like I said pretty easy." (About each lap becoming faster during the run): "You are right. There is no magic formula, I suppose. You know what? Maybe there is a magical formula. There is, and we are finally stumbling onto it and making it work. We've been challenged with the new Firestone compound this month, and we're working through that. We've finally got our car to be balanced. The changes that were made for the car to be fast for myself during qualifying mode are absolutely things we can carry over to the race car. And again, that is always the same, too. If you are fast by yourself, then you are going to probably be fast when you go into race mode. We only did one tank of full fuel yesterday. Actually, we did it twice in the car and put downforce on it. It didn't run in too much traffic because everyone was in the pits it seemed like. As far as consistency and speed in the car, I did like 221 (mph) by myself and then to my frustration we go and trim out and take the fuel out of my car and it doesn't do 222. I've got to tell you, I was scratching my head." (About if she thinks she is more relaxed this year): "Absolutely. Being here for the second time and having knowing how it goes, and I think more than anything knowing that so much can happen in the race. It is not quite like any of our other events how you need to be on the pace and up in the front the whole time. You really can drop back and come forward again. After the experience of 500 miles last year here, it gives me much more comfort knowing whether you start first, 10th, 20th, or 30th, anything can happen. I'm much more relaxed, and I'm obviously much more confident that we have a better race car and better car, in general. It is a much more comfortable situation than being scared to hold my foot down for a corner, because I was." (About differences between this year and last): "This has been a much harder month. I have had to work and the team has had to work so much harder. Therefore, I'm much more confident. I am happ ier. I am proud. It was just more difficult. We all had to earn that lap time. It just wasn't there from the beginning. We went all the way from running 224 (mph) at the test to coming here at the beginning of the month at 220. I did a run where I did 211, then we finally came up to the 222s, and now again we are as fast as we are. I am proud of how far it has come along. In the context of the situation from last year to this year, I didn't make any mistakes and brought the car home and got everything out of it possible. I am pleased." (About why she and the team picked this car to qualify): "I feel so bad, because the team worked extremely hard to prepare a brand-new car for this month. It was went over with a fine-toothed comb. It was beautiful, and everything was nice. In my mind I thought since we were so far off the pace, I want to try everything we can. I want the backup car and I want to see if it is any difference. Last year we pulled out the backup car this week last year, and that thing was way off the pace. I thought to myself, 'Why in the world is the car so different?' We jumped back into our primary, and it is fast again. I didn't want the same situation to happen here. Even if there is only a mile per hour in the car, I was happy with that. It was kind of one of those last-minute things. The weather hasn't helped to make decisions wisely."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (#3T Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "He (Sam Hornish Jr.) was too strong for everyone else out here, and he was very conservative, but it's still good for us. We were at the limit, and right now, the limit looks very good. Hopefully we can finish (qualifying) like that." (Looks like Wheldon and Dixon might go out again; if they beat you, will you go out again?): "Oh, that's the game. I'm ready for it. My car felt really nice out there, a little up in the edge, but I can do another in the edge again. Only two, though, not more than that!" (Last year you and your teammate qualified a second time; Sam moved up, and you moved back. Are you thinking of taking a run at Sam?): "No, Sam, just forget it, only if Wheldon or Dixon pull something out of their pockets, but right now Sam is too quick for everybody else. And I know what he has in his car." (How did you feel about your time?): "Pretty strong, surprised myself a little bit. Actually we were expecting a little less. We just have to wait and see what the Ganassi boys are going to do, but we feel comfortable and we're ready." (Are you as optimistic about going into this race as you've ever been?): "Absolutely. It's incredible what has been done. Unfortunately we had a little bit of trouble the last (two) days with the setup because we had a little trouble with the right-rear shock, and we just found out about it last night. It's a little frustrating since we didn't have time to run the whole week, but finally we discover (the problem), and now we're on the front row and I'm really, really optimistic." (What's in Sam's car that you don't have in your car?): "I don't know, but I hope he doesn't have it in the race. But thank God they're going to change engines, so at least I say, 'OK, we definitely have a chance.' But both cars and groups did a fantastic job and I'm very proud to be part of a great organization." (Are you done for the day or might you go out again?): "Well, definitely I'm not going to try to beat Sam's time, but if s ome voodoo happens with Wheldon and Dixon, I'm ready."
JAQUES LAZIER (#21 VIDEOPOKER.COM Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "We're a lot different that a lot of the people here. We're second weekenders, so we're mainly working on out race setup. I was flat all four laps, though. I felt like I had a lot more grip than I did earlier. This morning I was running a little quicker, but I had less grip. We went in to this and thought that the track would be warmer and we'd be just fine. And the track is just in awesome condition right now, and we had probably too much grip all around and probably lost a little speed with that. We didn't get quite what we wanted out of it, but we're at a 221-something average, which will put us safely in the field, and that's what we wanted. It's the same thing as last year; we've been working on our race setup. Our qualifying isn't that much different than our race trim. Just a little less downforce. So we'll put a little more downforce on it, raise the car just a tiny little bit, and we'll be ready to go racing. I think, all things said and done, we've got a really good car come next Sunday. We'll probably go out tomorrow and do a full-tank run, fine-tune a couple of things and be ready to go racing. I'm happy with everything, and I'm very happy with everyone at Playa Del Racing. This place is so special, though. Every time you drive under the tunnel, you get butterflies. Anytime you can make the field, it's just a wonderful feeling. I remember my first year and I didn't. I told myself from that point on that I knew exactly how important this race is. And it was probably the best thing for my career was to miss the first one because now I know how special it is to be here. It's all about being consistent and smooth and hitting every point."
LARRY FOYT (#41 AJ Foyt Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I'm just glad it's over. I think like all these guys, I picked up that big understeer, too. We ran that speed this morning, too, and we came in. My dad (A.J. Foyt) made some changes, and a lot of them were the right way, but the track kept getting hotter, and like everyone, it started losing grip, I think. I'm definitely glad it's over, but I'm also happy with the speed, as well. I thought I was going to have whitewall tires, I tell you. I mean, that wall creeps up on you when you're pushing here, you know. Coming off of (Turn) 4, it probably looked like I was a little close. Definitely closer than I wanted to be. You do that some times when you're pushing it around here. I mean, we weren't looking for the pole or anything, but we just wanted to get it safely in the race. That's all our goal was and I think we did that. Unless some crazy cloud cover comes over and we have three or four hours of happy hour, and guys pull out and we start seeing some really high speeds, I got to think we're going to stay and be glad that's over with and concentrate on the race. We just haven't had much track time, and with me never driving these cars except for once a year here, it's pretty tough. Just getting used to these cars and getting around here, I think we'll just stick with that.
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Cheever Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It took a lot of work from our group to get us here. We were a team in hibernation three weeks before the Homestead race. We've got two cars in the show so far, so it's good. For me, qualifying is 10 times worse than the race because you have to get the car so light with downforce. I was a little too excited, and I messed up my qualifying a little bit. I got sideways getting the green and coming out of (Turn) 3, but it was good. It took me way too much time to get everything back in order again. So, my first lap was slow, but the sensation I have right now is one of pride for the team. I agree with Rick Mears, they are the four most difficult laps you'll do at any racetrack anywhere in the world. But, I'm very happy to be back here. It does have to be perfect every lap, and it is a very tough thing to do. You're tuning the car at the last moment, trying to get the least amount of drag, and it was very difficult. It's exhilarating, and it is such a privilege to drive here. After not driving here for four years, I am very proud to be back. I don't think we'll pull out and go again. For the purpose to be in the top 15, I don't think so. There's always a great sense of relief driving two cars into the field. We hobbled everything in at the last minute, and I'm very proud of the job we've done. I thought Max (Papis) has done a great job with the limited miles. Now we focus on race setup. You can separate race pace and qualifying pace. Qualifying, it takes a lot of work, time and effort to get the drag out of the car. We had none of those things. So, we do start with very good commitment for the race. I think the race that I won, we started 17th. Anything is possible. It is a very competitive field. When a field is that heavy with so many cars that can win, that's a lot of competitive driving and a lot of room for mistakes. I think the Penske and Ganassi cars have the best opportunities to win, but after that, it's kind of a free-for-all the next 10 to 1 5 positions back. I didn't come here for free lunches. The only way to win a '500' is, and that's to be in it. I never thought four years ago that I'd be back. I stopped driving for a number of reasons. But when the opportunity came to come back and drive in the '500,' I jumped on it. It was mission impossible a month ago to get two cars into the field, and now we have them. I think we have very good shots at being competitive. We were focused on race pace, and I'm very proud of our group."
BRYAN HERTA (#7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I didn't qualify as good as I would have liked to on that run. Maybe if we have a little more time to work on the car, I can go back out there and try it again and find a little more speed. I'm going to kind of wait and see what we want to do next. The balance of the car was a little bit different than it was this morning in practice. That is probably due to the weather. It's a nice day now. It's warming up, and we probably haven't seen this kind of track temperature all month. We're solidly in there now, and we need to wait and see if we want to pull it or not." (On the track possibly slowing down): "Well, that's been our month. We've been very up and down. Sometimes we will go out there and be fast, and other times we aren't as fast. I'd really like to get on the track again and see if there is anything left in the car. Like I said, I think there is still a little something left in the car, but that's something that we all need to sit down and discuss."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (#2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): (You're surprising some people this month): "Yeah, for sure, they're getting it together. Everybody's working real hard. Hopefully we'll be in the top 11. That's something we'll be pretty happy about." (How was your run?): "The run was all right. I started out with a little bit of pushing at the beginning. I put some front weight into it, and it sort of got a little bit better." (Will you try again?): "I definitely felt like it after the run. There's maybe a little things we can do to the car, and if it cools down and the conditions get a little better, we might do that." (Are you happy?): "Yeah, I'm fairly happy with that. We can maybe go a little quicker, but not much. I'm going to be happy between 224 and 225, so I've got to be happy with that." (Do you like the number? Are you happy with it?): "Yeah, I think it's OK. It depends on what other people do before I like my number. I think between 224 and 225 is where the Vision cars will be, so I'm fairly happy with that. Vision's done a great job, they've really stepped it up a whole bunch. I'm proud to be a part of the team." (Do you have a spot in your mind where if you'd fall below it, you'd like to go back out?): "I think if I fall below 11, I'd like to go back out. I'd like to go back out anyway since the track is so good. But when it cools off, we'll have a good think about it and see what we have to gain and what we have to lose." (Sounds like the 5 o clock hour could get pretty interesting?): "It could be one of the best qualifyings. They've got a good crowd out here, the cars are quick. If everybody's got their three goes at it, so it could be pretty interesting later on." (It seems like you slowed down from this morning's practice, where do you think you should be?): "Well, for sure, you just gain a little bit of a pull with people around you. Indy is amazing. There could be a half a straightaway ahead and they start pulling you up, so I think that's where some of that came from." (Do you thin k this place has become your favorite track?): "It's a great track just because of the spectacle of it. It's a top track; you wind yourself up before. You have to take a couple of deep breaths. I love this place. I've done well. I don't think I've had a good car the last two years." (Are you pretty pleased?): "Yeah, I thought if I'd get in between 224 and 225, I'd be happy with that." (Have you guys been putting a lot into qualifying or more into the race?): "Well, we've done a bit of both, to be honest. We had a very good day, I think two or three days ago, getting in a lot of race stuff. I'm really happy with the car."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#97 Effen Vodka Team Leader Special Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It's disappointing. We didn't go fast enough. The rpm's on the car weren't where they needed to be, and we made a huge mistake in our gear choice. That's what we had. That speed, a 217, is not fast enough. I think we're going to have to go back out and try it again. It's so fun to be back here though after five years away. Two weeks ago we didn't have a sponsor, and then we found a company, Effen Vodka. It's a new product, 3 years old and it's made in Holland. Effen means smooth in Dutch, and the company is actually based in Chicago. It's so good to be back here with Greg Beck. When I first raced here in 1993, I didn't have much experience, but I did very well with Greg Beck. To be back with Greg is a real confidence booster."
BUDDY RICE (#15T Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "That was the fastest run of our all month and the fastest run for the Panoz/Honda combination, and it was very consistent, so I think we're extremely happy with where we're at." (Thoughts ahead to the race): "We know we have a really solid race car, that's about all I've been working on, so that's the first time we've run like that in qualifying trim, that was today. So I think we're really happy and we should be solid May 28." (Describe how you feel you've come along this month): "It's been slow going mostly because of the weather. It would've been nice to run more, but I think we've got the No. 15 Argent car right where we want to be, and we've done a lot of work on full tanks in race trim so I think we should be really happy with that right now." (Race Day is a completely different animal than the rest of the month): "Yeah, I mean qualifying is its own thing. You've got to be real good for four laps, and we had a solid four-lap average. We were super-consistent, and I don't think you can be more satisfied than what we did." (Do you scratch your head a bit when you see Sam (Hornish Jr.) and Penske 2 mph faster than everyone else?): "We did the same thing in '04. We weren't part of the speed chase, but we knew we just needed to be nice and consistent. We knew we weren't going to have a car for the front row, but the Marlboro Team Penske guys always have something for qualifying, and they did it in '04, they did it some last year, and they're doing it again this year. They've got a solid combination, but I think we can take this Argent car and run it up front, we've got a real strong race car right now." (How much is the front-row advantage negated by 500 miles on Race Day?): "Look at all the facets of the history of it (the Indy 500). Very rarely does the fastest car win, and very rarely does the car on the pole win. We'll have to see, the biggest thing you have to see is to have the car real consistent all day. I'm really happy with w here our car is at in race trim. I'm not sure how many guys have run (practiced) in race pace. In '04, Marlboro Team Penske had stuff for qualifying, then they'd have a little issue with struggling in the race. Obviously their package was a bit of an issue for them, but they haven't been struggling this year. It's going to be difficult to beat the top four cars, which are from two teams. But I think right now, with what I saw here yesterday, and what I've been able to do with the race car, I think we're very capable with running in the front pack. Nobody's going to be checking out. We're going to run close, and we'll see what they decide on. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple cars up there gamble on low-downforce strategies (during the race); that's how bad some of those guys want to win. We'll see what happens -- anything can happen. It's the '500.'"
TONY KANAAN (#11T Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We have to be realistic, and we struggled a little bit the last couple of weeks. We finally found something, so we need to not be greedy and try to get on the pole. I would love to say that we always had that, but we found something working as a team together. I have to thank my teammates and my team. We worked really hard to get the car to work for us, and we found something yesterday. The team had fights and discussions about which way we should take. We were struggling together, and hopefully we'll take the joy together. We had a rough couple of weeks, and it was a lot better than we expected. Being on the pole last year, it is tough to be the one being chased. So, now being the chaser, we're chasing everybody. We're going to try a couple of things to see if we can improve our speed, but if not, we're going to take it. We're working with a very consistent race car, and we're one of the few that actually improved the lap time as the laps went on. We're OK coming in from the second or third row. I think after the last couple of weeks people thought we were out of it. I want to keep the qualifying tradition for myself. I've never started worse than fifth here since 2002. If I qualify worse than that, then we'll have to make it up on the start. We'll put a TK start on it. We were playing catch-up and the team did a great job. Qualifying has been really good for me here. A couple that were so-so, and we finished third and second. So, maybe we should qualify a little worse to go win this thing. This is Indianapolis; you never know what could happen. I have a lot of respect for this place. It can be really nice to you, but if you take it for granted, it can really take you." (About running with Michael Andretti): "I learn more and more with Michael (Andretti). He doesn't care where he starts. I kind of forgot -- and I ran against Michael a long time in the CART days and first year up until the '500' -- you start the race, and all of the sudden this guy goes by , and you say, 'Where in the hell did he come from?' We concentrate a lot more on the race car than the qualifying car, and obviously we didn't have a great run." (On whether the team is showing its hand): "Like I said, Michael is very patient and doesn't worry about the qualifying time, but if you guys know me, I don't think I was holding anything back. Trust me, we were struggling. I don't think we are perfect yet, but we are better." (On whether Michael is tougher on Marco than other teammates): "Trust me. He is tough on everybody. He wants the team to do good. He might be tougher on Marco in a couple ways as a father, but as a race car driver to a race car driver, I think he treats everyone equal." (On what he will do for the next week): "As a driver, I shouldn't be satisfied with my time, especially when you have a guy kicking your butt by 3 miles per hour. It is not fun. But I have to always look back. It could always be worse. I have to look back two weeks from yesterday. It was terrible, and then we made a little bit of an improvement. Maybe I'm not as upset as I probably would have been if it was a different time. And like you said, I remember coming back to the garage last year. Dan (Wheldon) looked at me, congratulated me, and just like half-to-death (he) wanted to take everything out of it. We had dinner that night, and I said, 'Man, I know it's tough.' And he said, 'You see, the 500 is done for me.' We went out the next day to do a long run, and he smoked everybody. I looked at him and said, 'You want to change places?' And look what happened. You have to respect this racetrack. We do get carried away with qualifying a lot. I think it is a part of the show and a part of the pressure. It is always good, but last year I was very happy for three weeks, and I have a teammate who is going to be happy for the rest of his life. I think it will be good to have my big nose on the trophy. They are going to make me look good, anyway."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (#55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think we did a great job, and this morning my car was a little bit "push," so my engineer made a change that was really good. They gave me a very confident car, so I'm very happy. The car did a perfect four laps. This qualifying's very difficult because you have to do four laps,, and the car is always changing, but the car was very consistent and I drove some good laps." (Do you see yourself pulling out and making another run later?): "I don't think so. I think we did a great job, and this is our maximum, so I don't think we can make big improvements over where we are now, actually. I think we got a good jump on everybody, and I'll be happy if we sit in even the second or third row." (You guys have been consistently quick all month): "Yeah, I like this track, and we did our setups very well. I think in the whole three years we have been strong, so this year I want to finish in the top five."
ED CARPENTER (#20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was pretty good. I was expecting right around that speed after what Tomas (Scheckter) did and what we did in the warm ups. As I expected, we had a little bit of understeer push. The first laps I moved my weight around, got a little loose the second lap, so I moved my weight back back over and finished the round stronger. It is always good to finish a round quicker every lap, so I was happy about that." (Vision Racing kind of surprised people this time): "Yeah, we've been solid all month. I really wish we could have qualified last weekend even though the weather wasn't so good, I feel like we may have slotted ourselves in a little higher last week because we just started off the month really strong." (It seems like the longer the month went on, other teams caught up): "The longer the month went on, some of those other teams that were struggling a little bit caught up. Now we're just in a big group. (Andretti Green Racing), us, Fernandez, Rahal, we're all in a big pile. Coming into today, I knew I could be anywhere from fifth to 15th. But overall, I'm happy with today." (Has Vision Racing turned a corner a bit this month?): "We did a lot of work this offseason, and we're just now starting to see it pay off, especially me. We're really starting to come together as a team. I think you're really just starting to see what we're capable of." (What do you think for Race Day?): "Our race car has been good in all the race runs we've done so far, so it's just a matter of getting a pretty good start and staying up front and having good pit stops and working it out in the end of the day." (It has been a good month for you, right?): "Yeah, I'm happy. I felt like we may have had a little more than that, but that's why we practiced this morning, so I'm happy It's going to be my best starting spot, I think for the '500.' The car has been good all month." (Is it a relief?): "Yeah, it's always a little stressful getting ready to qualify for the '500.' Now you have to re -focus, and we all need a little practice time to verify what we worked on all month for our race cars and hope for a good day." (Are you having fun?): "I am, I kind of got nervous qualifying. I was back in the garage talking to Townsend watching qualifying. I looked at the order sheet, and I was like, 'Man, I'm like three cars to go.' So I ran out and jumped in the car. So I think if it wouldn't have been for me about missing my qualifying spot, I probably wouldn't have been as nervous as I was. I made it from the garage out to the pit lane as fast as I have all month." (How did you feel out there?): "I felt good. We've been strong all month. We unloaded, and the cars were really good and they stayed strong all month. Where we qualified is just about where I ran this morning in the warm-ups, so I knew about what I had. I'm pretty happy."
P.J. CHESSON (#91 Carmelo Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It feels really good. I'm so happy; I'm so proud of my guys. It's been a very trying month for us with the weather. Not getting a lot of laps, but yesterday I think I logged 630 laps, or something like that. I think technically, it was 115. But we gained 5 miles per hour in two days. It's a lot to go out there and run those laps and average 221-and-a-half miles per hour. I'm so happy to be here, it's unbelievable. Every boy's dream comes true. It came through for me, so we'll keep going." (What do you think of today?): "I'm very happy. Two days ago we couldn't get over 218. This morning we were doing 222s, almost 223s. To go out there and do 221s and be as consistent as we were, I think says so much about the guys and the team. This team just continues to persevere. I'm so happy and so proud of them to be in the Indy 500." (On having done so much): "Man, now I've done it all. I've flown an F-16, I drive IndyCars, I've knocked (expletive) over with bulldozers, I've jumped out of airplanes, and I've gone to a fire on a fire truck, so what's up now?" (On Hornish being so consistent): "He's driving for the best team in the world. He's as good as it gets as a driver in the IndyCar Series. He's got everything. He's got the talent, he's got the team, he's got the optimism, and he's a hell of a guy with a great team around him." (How do you feel now?): "It's an unbelievable feeling. It probably won't set in until later on tonight when I'm sitting down to dinner. But to do what we did so far this month, with as little track time as we've had, it says a lot about the team. I'm so happy, I'm extremely proud of the guys." (What's this month been like for you?): "It's been wet. And cloudy. It's been pretty stressful, really, to know that I need laps and to wake up every morning and pull the shades back and watch the rain. I need to have a talk with somebody and say, 'What the hell is wrong with you?'" (What were you thinking before the qualifying?): "I was actually very calm. I was just thinking: 'I can't believe I'm about to go qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Am I alive?' I was pinching my arm. (Brian) Barnhart, when he leans in and starts talking to you like that, it's pretty special. You realize how close the family is. He gives everybody that 'Go get 'em, big boy, and get back here in four laps.' It's really cool. It's a great group of people here in the IndyCar Series is just awesome, and I feel like I'm at home. It's amazing." (Do you think you can win this race?): "Yeah, I guess so, I mean, it's a long race. Last year, Wheldon came from pretty far back in the field, so yeah, I think so." (What's the feeling?): "It's a very special feeling, and the 33 guys here today know how good it is. It's a hell of an accomplishment for me and our team and it's an amazing feeling to be a part of the biggest sporting event in the world." (Did you have a goal when you were going out there?): "Yeah, not hit the fence and make my engineers happy."
JEFF SIMMONS (#17T Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It feels good. I am in the starting field. Obviously, we were going a lot quicker than that most of the month. But, we just needed to get the car in the show especially after having to go to the backup car. The Team Ethanol guys did a great job getting it together for the day. This car hasn't been on the track much before, so we need to get it in the field and get a little practice time to get it into race setup. You have to put the accident behind you. It really wasn't tough putting the crash out of my mind. In some ways, it helps you focus a little more. There are certainly some more things we can try on it with it to get some more speed. We didn't come out here for that. We really just wanted to get it in the show.
ROGER YASUKAWA (#12 Playa Del Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Yesterday, I was just walking around the garage and I ended up spotting for Jon Herb, and they put me in the car yesterday afternoon and now I'm qualified already. This is the biggest race in the world, and I've been here every day this month. It was painful walking around the garage and not being in the car. I didn't know that I was going to be in the car until this morning. Unfortunately, we did not get the time to make the car to my liking. So, we just wanted to make the show and to be in safely. I think we have enough speed for that. We have a lot of work to do for the race. We only have the rest of the day today and tomorrow for race setup. We'll try to get the most out of the time we have. We just have to fine-tune the car to my liking, and we'll be OK. We want to get back on the track this afternoon to do some race trim because we haven't really done that yet. But, other than that, the car feels good. I'm really happy to be back here racing at Indianapolis. I love Indianapolis since it is my favorite race. I am really looking forward to next Sunday. We came here, and I didn't know if I was going to race, so it is good for the team and for the sponsors. I really have to thank the team for all the hard work they did last night to get me here. This is my fourth year, and hopefully I'll finish better than 10th. I think I had about 10 laps to get up to speed and prove that I can do the job. It certainly was not easy. It was a little nerve-wracking, but once you get back into the rhythm, it is better. I hope we can continue. I was originally talking to the team to perhaps do some races later on this year. I guess the deal came sooner than we thought. Hopefully we're trying to make it to extend the deal for perhaps the last three races of the year. We're trying and trying to get more attention from the people (sponsors)."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (#14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a little easier than last year to get in the show. Last year at this point, I wasn't in shape. It was a really tough day. I got in the race car, and I wasn't even fitting it well. I think this year we're going to have a much better race. We were struggling a little bit with balance to get speed this month. We got the car working a little bit better today. I think we ran a little short on time, overall. The car was good in qualifying. I think we could have taken a little more downforce out. I think we should have a good Race Day. That is what we are looking for now. We are going to try to make a few long runs tomorrow. We want to finish top 10 in the race, so we'll see what happens. Today was OK. Things went a lot smoother for us. We wanted to put the car solidly in the race, and that's what we did. Today things went a lot smoother for us." (Driving for A.J. Foyt): "It's not any easier the second time around. Of course, everyone knows the way he works. He is a unique guy, and I am having a great time with him. (About Sam Hornish Jr.'s consistency): "It is odd to see such consistency here at Indianapolis. He is so fast. I think he is the guy to beat. It is going to be tough to beat him in the race. We should be all right for Race Day. We made some changes this morning, and the car started to run a lot better. I think it is going to help us for the race. We are going to go out now and try a few things."
MAX PAPIS (#52 Cheever Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's great. When you beat the guy that is paying your check, what can you say? It feels great. I am so thrilled. It is amazing. I am here at the Indianapolis 500 and representing my country, Italy." (About lack of track time): "When I came here Sunday, I had 50/50 hopes of being in (the) Indianapolis (500). I told my wife, 'Think how great it will be to qualify.'" (About beating the boss): "At the beginning, I said, 'Damn it, I think he is going to fire me.'" (About how he felt before the qualifying run): "I had butterflies in my stomach right before I went out because we have only done 65 laps, but everyone has done a great job. We've focused on long run and took the wing down for qualifying. It looks like we are pretty decent. Our lap time is holding really good." (About his week leading up to today): "Let me tell a little bit of how our week has been. We worked really hard trying to put this deal together. Of course with me being out of open wheel (racing) for a while and these types of cars running at 220-plus miles per hour, I was a definitely a question mark. Eddie (Cheever) had a lot of faith in me and my ability. I just wanted to show him and everyone here I belong here. I never doubted for a second that the car was not ready or that we were not ready. If you would have seen the car a week ago, it was in pieces. We hit the ground and rolled the car out on the track. We never focused on any qualifying run. I relied on the experience of Eddie to actually get the car trimmed out as much as it could."
JEFF BUCKNUM (#92 Life Fitness Dallara/Honda/Firestone): (Will you make another run?): "We really see a need for that, especially when you have a 500-mile race to contend with. With Dan Wheldon starting 16th and winning the race, he helps us all who are starting a little farther back." (About any problems during the qualifying run): "Probably the problem we had was it was a little too easy, which means we were a little overstuck. I'm not really sure what else we could have done, because we trimmed it out as much as we think we could trim it out. I'm not sure if it was the heat or not, but the car was a little too comfortable. In qualifying, that usually means slow. It was a little slower than we thought it would be." (About making the field): "For us, we are a second-week program. We didn't even go out the first week. We just short of got in the car the other day. It's a real good race car. It's good in traffic and around other cars. Come Race Day, it's going to be much better." (About the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "Last year was my first year, which was really sort of a blur, almost. It is so amazing. Everything from the track to the fans, just the history of this place. Coming back, it is neat. Now I have some things I can use from last year and capitalize on. Honestly, the first time in the car it felt like I had basically just went to sleep, woke up, and it came back overnight. It was real good."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We set ourselves up hopefully to shine on the 28th. We ran a tick better in the morning and made a couple little changes hoping we'd gain a tick and actually lost a half a mile per hour per lap. I don't know what quite is up with that. I don't think it would have made a big difference looking at the qualifying times there. This is a really fun day, and it is great to get caught up in the whole emotion of qualifying, but the minute the green flag dropped, other than remembering that Sam (Hornish) was on the pole, I don't think anyone will remember where anyone else started."
BUDDY LAZIER (#5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We were quicker this morning, and the track gained a lot of grip. For whatever reason, our car pushed really bad. It's so unusual to come here and qualify and not be flat out, but I had to lift a little bit to get weight on the front of the car. Even though we're not a candidate this year with this team to go for the pole, we feel like we're a lot faster than we qualified, so we're thinking about going back, re-qualifying, and coming out this afternoon. We know we can run 222 or 223." (On going back out again today): "We might. Even though we're not a threat for the pole, it's a good opportunity for us to move up five, six, or seven places. It's going to be totally up to ownership. We just missed a little bit on qualifying this morning, but to be in this field, it's really an honor to qualify for this race, so we're very happy about the opportunity to be here but disappointed in the fact that we didn't get everything we wanted to get out of the race cars. It would be nice to go back, re-balance, and go back to qualify and run all out. There's risks, too, because should something go wrong, you've given up your starting position. But to me, there's not a lot. It's up to the ownership." (Will you be prepared for Race Day?): "Well, we hope so. Anything can happen in this race. I feel like I know my way around on Race day, but we're still not taking it out of the question. We know our car can run 222s or 223s. My guys are doing a great job, but we just got a late start on the team." (How much does just picking up five or six spots in qualifying help on Race Day?): "Well, you're just starting a little further up, that's all. If you have a great car on Race day, whether you're starting from the back or the front, it doesn't matter. It's not going to make a lot of difference, but we still want to be up as far as we can. You want to do justice for what the car's capable of." (Have you enjoyed the month?): "Well, sure, I enjoy being here all the time, bu t I'm not really here to have fun. I'm here to try to win this race. The undertone is I'm disappointed, and we have more work to do. But it's certainly no reflection on the guys I'm working with. They're really good guys."
PJ JONES (#98 CURB Records Special Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It is nice to be in again. I'm not real happy with the time. I don't know what happened. We slowed down a couple mile an hour since we practiced. We'll work on the setup. We had very limited time, but I feel comfortable. My line is pretty good. You can always get more laps, but we'll work on it tomorrow. We would not have done this on the old rules where a car couldn't have made another attempt. The way it is definitely helps in case we get bumped. We'll have three tries tomorrow if we need them. We're happy that we're in the show. I was wide open for four laps. We didn't have the speed. We ran 217 with about 30 minutes to go in practice, and we thought that would be all right. I don't feel as prepared as I would want to for next Sunday. We have a great, solid car; it's just slow. We just need to figure out how to get some speed out of it. It is so new. We ran a few laps yesterday and some today. We need to work on the balance, and we ought to be able to run 219 pretty easily. At least we're in the race, and tomorrow we can go out and work on getting some more speed. It is hard to come in just once a year. You come in with a big disadvantage. It is tough to do it this way. Unfortunately, I didn't get to run here when I was in my prime of open-wheel racing. I'd like to run some more races and really be prepared or at least come in here at the beginning of the month. It could come down to teams dropping out and that is where a team like us can come into play in being conservative and keeping on the lead lap."
SCOTT DIXON (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "At the end, we wanted to get one more run a little more trimmed out to make it a little bit better. We wanted to get a run in before we came up here and withdrew the car and maybe not make it in today. We wanted to be confident that we had the speed, and we didn't get a chance to do it. I think it's good starting on the inside second row. I think it is always good to start in the front. I think maybe on the outside front row would have been a little better."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (#61 Luyendyk Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I feel pretty good. Today was the first, pretty much, full day of running we've had. We did have a little problem and not get as much laps as we'd want. We knew we could run faster than that, threw on some downforce and made sure I could run flat, and that's what I had flat out. I'm happy with the result and hopefully it stands and we won't have to come back tomorrow and do it all over again." (The good news is, you can requalify this car): "Correct. The potential of this car is a lot more than what we've shown. We're working hard on the setup, and little by little we're going faster every day. We had to play catch-up with the accident I had a few days ago, and that really affected us because yesterday was our first full day of running and I didn't get out on track until real late. It is what it is, and hopefully I can get out tomorrow and drive around all day, and make that thing go 220 comfortably, and that's what we'll race at." (You've worked hard over the last couple years, how does it feel to be in the Indy 500?): "I know how Indy is, and I'm not going to think about that until after tomorrow. But basically, I feel real good. Tomorrow's another day, and there's a couple fast guys out there. We'll wait and see, and hopefully we can just run around on full tanks tomorrow and work on race setup."
DAN WHELDON (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): (About the chances for a second qualifying run): "I would like to have made a run. I don't know if I had anything for Sam (Hornish) today. I think he has been pretty dominant the whole month. I think him and Roger Penske and the Marlboro Team Penske guys did a good job. It has been a good month for them. In all honesty, we've been a step or two behind. There's not much I can say." (About the difference between starting 16th and on the first row): "It is difference. I will say I started there (at 16th) last year, but I was probably a little more confident in my race car." (About Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "Obviously, Chip (Ganassi) brought me on the team to win. I don't think, certainly this month, we have been able to do that. I definitely think the guys back in the factory have put together a fantastic car for us. The guys who have been working on the car at the track have done a good job. We just have been a couple of steps behind Marlboro Team Penske and in particular, Sam Hornish. I do think maybe -- it's always ifs, buts, coulds, and would -- we could have had something for (Helio) Castroneves, but to be fair Hornish has been pretty dominant all month. I have not seen somebody be quickest every day since I've been watching this race in particular. Congratulations to him and to Roger Penske. I know Roger feels really strongly about this race. I am certainly going to do everything I possibly can to beat him. We tried a qualifying trim at the end of the day. Unfortunately, we were a little bit loose. If that would have panned out, we might have been back on track. Sam was strong, but I think we have the ingredients and the capabilities as a team to be able to win the race. That's important. This race involves so much and there's so much effort that goes into it, and you feel like sometimes you want to reward the people with a pole position and a race win. We were fighting for the pole today. We wanted to win it, but it's not going to be. We' ll work very hard tomorrow. We need to fine-tune the race car a bit and see how we perform in the race." (About when he knew he had to settle for third or fourth place): "You definitely don't know me if you ever think I've settled for second or third. -- Like I said, I do think the speed is in the car. We just haven't been able to extract it just yet. It is something fundamental that we are just missing, and that is stopping us from doing that. I think when we find that, we can compete with them on a qualifying level. They do seem as a team to have us covered in qualifying, but I think as far as race trim goes we are as good if not a touch better. That's what we need to continued to remain focused on. (That) is perfecting the race car and being able to run the full 500 miles at a very, very fast pace."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We don't have any answers to find the speed we need. Tony Kanaan has been running essentially an identical setup, and he's getting the job done somewhat. We don't understand it. We cannot get the car to do what we want it to do. The whole team is pretty frustrated." (About his car problems during his first qualifying attempt): "Something in the gearbox caused the car to jump out of gear, and it took the engine with it, so we wrecked the engine. We had to do an engine change. When we went out for practice again, we lost a mile an hour from one run to the next." (About a long day): "It has been a long day for the whole team. More than that, it has been frustrating. We don't know where the speed has gone. We seem to be at the floor. We went out and did a practice run after the engine change. We went 224-and-a-half (mph) average, and we were reasonably happy about that. We made one small change and had a 223-and-a-half average. We went back to the 224 car, and it was still 223."