For Immediate Release
ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
(NOTE: Tony Stewart leads Davey Hamilton, 254-244 in 1996-97 Indy Racing League driver points going into the season-closing Las Vegas 500k Oct. 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Team Menard (Stewart) leads A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Hamilton), 2,286 - 2,196 for the entrant title. This is the last in a series with the thoughts of the principals going into the final challenge.)
TEAM MENARD OWNER
JOHN MENARD: (about past championships he's been involved in): "Ice racing, in particular, I have some ideas about how it all goes. I won seven (Ice racing) championships as a driver. It's kind of a race within a race. At the start of the season, you have high hopes, and as you see you have a chance, it changes your thinking subtlely." ( about the title race): "It's been exciting that we've been competitive enough to be there. We gradually kept getting stronger and stronger. The win in Colorado...suddenly we were leading in points (after Charlotte). It's been really stimulating to team members and myself. I don't think, 'til we won Colorado, that we had a super-good shot at the championship. Our team had the innate ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But we kept coming in the points. It was just hard to believe we could ever be the points leader until we won Colorado." (about what winning the championship would mean): "It's been the culmination of life's work as far as racing is concerned. To win the national championship...it's something that makes you a real racer. It's more of a racer's thing. Winning races gets you more press. Winning championships gets you more respect in the racing community." (about race strategy in Las Vegas): "We've been approaching it for some time. We had a pretty decent test out there. We're set up to run conservatively. We all know what we have to do. I hope we can resist the temptation to run harder than we need to run. If we finish that race, we'll probably win the championship. But it's harder to go slow sometimes than be faster. If Tony can win the race at the same time, we'll certainly do that. But running real hard is probably no the best way to finish the race, especially at that track." (about competing against the Foyt team): "I think it's been a friendly rivalry with A.J.'s team. They're great guys. If they win the championship, I'll be the first guy to go over and congratulate A.J. I'll bet, it we win, A.J. will be one of the first guys to congratulate us. I respect Davey so much as a driver. It's really fun to race friends. We're both going to tell our teams to make sure we win. We bother understand what need to be done."
JOHN MENARD: (about the IRL): "The IRL's become a pretty intense racing series. We have any number of cars on the lead lap. The race at New Hampshire that Robbie (Buhl) won could've gone to Eddie (Cheever Jr.) Or (Vincenzo) Sospiri. I remember Buddy Lazier and Tony racing side-by-side at Texas, lap after lap. It's one of the things I'll always remember about racing. That was unbelievable. I can't see the series doing anything but growing." (about his own approach to the Vegas race): "I'll be very pumped up. I'll be running Robbie's car, not Tony's car, so I'll have more immediate concern about that. Robbie will want to win the race and we'll take a less conservative approach with that car."