1999 LONGHORN 500 PRESENTED BY MCI WORLDCOM: PRE-RACE QUOTES FORT WORTH, Texas, June 7, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the third annual Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom...
1999 LONGHORN 500 PRESENTED BY MCI WORLDCOM: PRE-RACE QUOTES
FORT WORTH, Texas, June 7, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the third annual Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom on June 12 at Texas Motor Speedway. Budweiser Qualifying Night for the PPG Pole is June 10.
BILLY BOAT (#11 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, defending event champion): (About strong performance at Indy): "It was a great weekend for the team. We were never really as fast as we would've liked. We were never really in the hunt for the win. Everybody wants to win but we can't be unhappy with a third." (About strong start during the 1999 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season): "It follows my plan for what we want to do for the year, to be consistent. We want top-fives and top-threes. Then when we have a good day, we'll be able to win. I really feel we will be able to make a run for the championship, but the only way you can do that is to finish races." (About his victory last year at Texas): "We had a lot to prove last year after kind of being denied the previous year. I've crossed the finish line first each time at a night race at Texas, so it felt good to have that vindication. We'd like to come back and repeat last year's victory and continue to run for the championship." (About the track): "I think the track suits my driving style, the harder you push it the better you do. You can push the car to the limits, especially at night."
KENNY BRACK (#14 A.J. Foyt PowerTeam Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner, resident of Houston): "I would like to win here. This is a big race for us, and it would mean something to win here. This is such a great facility, the drivers all enjoy coming here. We run really well on the high banks, and it's always a great show for the fans. This place is perfect for the IRL cars. We can run two- and three-wide at 220 mph." (About his racing background in Sweden): "I started driving cars when I was 6. Mostly just steering them on the ice. I couldn't reach the pedals until I was 7 or 8. I grew up in a village surrounded by forests. The Indianapolis 500 was not that well known then (in Sweden). But, of course, everyone in Sweden knows about it now." (About his phone call from the king of Sweden after winning the Indianapolis 500): "We were doing the press conference when someone said that the king of Sweden was on the (cell) phone for me. I know the king - he likes racing - and so we talked for a while. It was very nice for him to call like that. (Car owner A.J. Foyt) said 'Tell the king of Sweden you're with the king of Houston right now.'" (About his hectic schedule of media appearances after winning at Indy): "This week has been great, but I hope nobody calls me tonight. I just want to watch some TV and relax."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Team Cheever-The Children's Beverage Group Dallara/Infiniti/Goodyear, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Our chances for victory are very strong. We have proven our salt at every race this year, and, now with Indy out of the way, are completely focused on the championship. The new 10,000 rev rule should make all the engines more reliable so you'll see less attrition during the race, which will make for an even more exciting Pep Boys Indy Racing League event." (About Goodyear tires): "I'm glad that all the preseason work we did with Goodyear paid off at Indy. It's great to see them win Indy again! These 1.5-mile banked ovals are less abusive on the tires than some of the other tracks we visit, but we will have just as strong a tire at Texas as we did at Indy." (About goals for this event): "Simply to win. We had two goals at the start of the year, and we failed in our first. Our second is to win the championship with the Infiniti engine. We will be relentless in that pursuit." (About challenges posed by Texas Motor Speedway): "All of Bruton Smith's 1.5-mile superspeedways are extremely competitive. Working in tows is extremely important and so, strategy plays a major part to your success. Like Indy, Texans have a deep heritage with open-wheel racing greats ... Rutherford, Foyt ... so it is always wonderful to come here to race. It is the second most popular race venue we go to every year, and I look forward to it every time." (About his performance at this race last year): "Texas was the first race after our Indy 500 win last year, and we were pathetic! Since we lost the Indy 500 this year, we'll see if we can reverse that trend."
SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear): "Texas Motor Speedway is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. I love the high-banked, 1.5-mile format. It's fun and challenging to drive, and it makes for great racing." (About strategy for this race): "Indy has been the only race this season that we've not collected podium points at the finish. So Texas is important for us to get back in the swing of things for the points championship. Texas is also very important for us because it's the home state of our sponsor, Pennzoil, and associate sponsor, Nortel Networks. So you always want to put on a good show in front of the hometown crowd."
DAVEY HAMILTON (#9 Galles Racing Spinal Conquest Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "We finally were able to test last week in Colorado, and that is the first real testing we have done all year. Indy was tough on us because we did not have a lot of seat time in the car, and while other teams were trimming out their cars we were still setting ours up. The team has worked extremely hard to get to where we are right now, and I feel that we are finally in our groove. I enjoy working with Alan Mertens, our engineer, and I think that we will be competitive in Texas. Last year the cars were faster during the race than they were in qualifying. So, it is going to be important for us to come up with a good race set up that will keep us fast all night. The track is pretty smooth and quick, so we are hoping that we will be right up there with everyone else." (About sponsorship with Spinal Conquest): "This sponsorship is unique, and as a team we really want to help raise awareness and funds for Spinal Cord Injury Research. We have received a lot of positive feedback from people about our program, and I think that with continued exposure and support from companies like the Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway, we can achieve our goals both on the track and off."
FRANK HONSOWETZ (Manager, Infiniti Motorsports): "The Indianapolis 500 was a terrible tease for us. Eddie Cheever ran up front with the Infiniti Indy, and Roberto Guerrero and Jeret Schroeder posted very competitive speeds. For a while there, we were looking at two cars in the top 10. At the end of the day though, we weren't there when it counted, for reasons of our own fault. A positive is that a 500-mile race on a superspeedway is the best road test you can have for a racing engine. Since Indy, we have disassembled all of our engines and pinpointed exactly where our problems lie. We have solutions that we will incorporate into our engines for the Texas race. Both the Indy and Texas ovals require that the engines operate in a narrow rpm band, so based on what we learned in May I feel confident that we can go to Texas and continue to run up front. Another change for us heading into the Longhorn 500 is the introduction of the 10,000 rpm engine speed limit, which is down 300 from what we used at the first four races of this season. The new rule will require some simple tuning changes, including intake tract length, exhaust system configurations, and camshaft timing changes. This is positive step to slow down the cars. At a maximum engine speed of 10,000 rpm, our horsepower will drop by an average of 25 over the engine's operating range at Texas Motor Speedway. This will result in lap speeds slowing by about 3 mph, making for a safer racing environment."
STEVE KNAPP (#35 ThermoTech-Prolong-ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, 1998 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year): "I really like the 1.5-mile track in speedway configuration. It's good for the drivers, and good for the fans, who will see some excellent racing. I think we will bounce back in a big way." (About racing at night): "I think it's way cooler, not only for us but the fans as well. Last year at Texas (in the fall), I could feel the asphalt pavement burning through the soles of my shoes. That won't happen at night, at least I hope not." (About the Indianapolis 500): "Everyone on the Delco Remy International-Microphonics-Prolong ISM Racing team tried very hard for that great race. I would have liked to run all day, but we learned a lot and we'll come back strong for Texas."
ROBBY McGEHEE (#55 Energizer Advanced Formula Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, 1999 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year): "Obviously we are going to Texas with very mixed emotions. On the one hand, our performance at Indianapolis confirms what we have felt all along -- that we can be competitive and run at this level. At the same time, it's pretty hard to think about racing at all with (chief mechanic) Steve Fried in Methodist Hospital and the amount of recovery that he will face. That's a pretty sobering dose of reality. However, just like Sunday, we honor Steve and his commitment to excellence and our team by racing, and so we will go to Texas looking to broaden our experience at this level of competition. And of course, just like every time we grid the car, we hope to bring it home first. I have always liked the Bruton Smith tracks -- Lowe's, Atlanta and Texas -- and think we have a great shot at being up front. With the exception of Indianapolis, virtually all of our work this year has been at Lowe's and Atlanta, so that should transfer well to Texas. And obviously our performance at Indianapolis is a real confidence booster, and we hope to carry that momentum with us. Winning the Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis is unbelievable, and a real credit to our team and the way they were able to band together and perform during such adversity. We can't rest on our laurels, though. We need to go out once again and prove that we belong here. So we need to focus on preparation and being ready to perform again. But the foremost thing on our hearts and minds is Steve and Jennifer Fried, and we would ask the prayers and support of everyone else for them as well. Everything we do at Energizer Motorsports from here out is dedicated to Steve and his recovery."
JOE NEGRI (Group Manager, GM Motorsports IRL/Road Racing): "We anticipate a reduction of 20 to 25 peak horsepower with the new 10,000-rpm limit. To put that in perspective, the output of the Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 has increased 55 horsepower since the 4.0-liter engine formula was introduced in 1997. The original engine specification produced 675 horsepower, and we were at 730 horsepower at this year's Indianapolis 500. We were able to maintain that horsepower level even with the initial rpm reduction to 10,300 at the start of this season. The further reduction in maximum engine speed that will take effect at Texas Motor Speedway is a good interim step before the introduction of 3.5-liter engines in 2000. We project that lap speeds will be 2 to 3 mph slower. Engine reliability should also improve because of the 3 percent reduction in piston speed. We had originally planned to concentrate all of our development effort on the 3.5-liter version of the IRL Aurora V8 for next season while continuing to work on the 4.0-liter package to improve reliability and durability as required. We will now continue development of the 4.0-liter version so we can give specifications to our teams on how to optimize the engine for 10,000 rpm. The changes should be relatively minor -- optimizing intake runner lengths, exhaust tuning, and camshaft timing."
GREG RAY (#2 Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, resident of Plano, Texas): (About finishing 21st in all three races this year): "I don't know if I should go to Las Vegas and play blackjack or just stay racing. It's been a bit frustrating this year because we've been so fast but haven't been able to accomplish what we wanted to do. We're so capable. But to have the results we've had is pathetic. I know we can do it. I hate talking about it. But I know we can do it. Right after the pit incident at Indy, I just wanted to get back in the race car and go right to Texas. I expect it to change. I hope it will change at Texas. We're definitely doing it the hard way, but our time is coming once we start to figure out the combination." (About change in strategy): "After Orlando and after Phoenix, where I was just trying to be Mr. Consistent, we threw away that philosophy going into Charlotte. We have to win and win in a hurry. We're in desperation mode as far as the championship. We have the potential of winning every time we're at the racetrack. We just have to capitalize on it and prove to everyone that we can do it." (About the importance of the draft at Texas): "When you're trying to pass a car that's only slightly faster, you have to stick your nose in there. The ride is incredible." (About prospect of getting first victory at Texas): "It would be incredible. To win here, this track has been very good to me. When I drive to the racetrack, people recognize me here. People wave at me, honk at me. I'm not the Dallas Cowboys, but I'm the local racer. We have the Stars, the Rangers, the Cowboys and Greg Ray. I really feel like that. To win here would be a storybook story." (About his second-place finish last year at this event): "I can certainly tell you that last year we didn't qualify as well as we wanted to. The whole race was fast and furious. It was flat-out the whole time. We knew we had the best-handling car. We were better in traffic than anyone out there, including Billy Boat. But in the open, his Katech engine produced more power and he could get away." (About close battle with Billy Boat at this event last year): "The in-car camera footage, the nose of my car went under Billy's gearbox. It was lap after lap of that. We had a good car. I thought we could have won, but we needed more traffic. I had a lot of friends and family in the stands. There was a lot of commotion in the stands on Lap 200 because a lot of people thought the race was 200 laps, and I was leading at 200 laps." (About disappointing finish at Indy): "The last seven months I really focused on being my best at Indy and crescendoing and doing my best. We were doing such a great job in the race. The race was coming to us. I really in my heart wanted to race Arie on the track for the win. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. At the end of the day, it was nobody's fault but mine. It was so heartbreaking for something so silly, so Murphy's Law, so Bermuda Triangle like this to happen. At the end of the day, I learned a valuable lesson. I'm young enough that I can use that in the future and hopefully capitalize on that." (About the different driving styles required at Indy and Texas): "At Indy, you have to be so delicate yet aggressive. You have to be so gentle with hand movements and other things. At tracks like this, you have to be aggressive. These kinds of tracks fit me like a glove. These tracks are made for gladiators. We gear ourselves to be fast every time on the racetrack. The biggest factor is that going from a flat superspeedway at Indy to the high banks. The guys only have one week to change the cars, catch their breath, pack everything up and head to Texas. It's also going to be very warm. Going into Turn 3, we're all going to be looking in the west at the Texas sun. I know what that's like. Plus the rpm is going to be lowered 300, so it's going to be a lottery." (About approaching the $1 million mark in career Pep Boys Indy Racing League earnings): "That's a statistic I haven't heard before. Up until this year, every penny went back into the race car. So it wasn't profit for me."
JOHNNY UNSER (#92 Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "After a disappointing outcome at Indy, we are really looking forward to the Texas race. I feel really good about heading to Texas. I've always liked Texas and look forward to a good finish."
JEFF WARD (#21 Yahoo-Merchant Online Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, Pep Boys Indy Racing League points leader): (About strategy as the points leader): "We're knocking on the door. I started the year a little more conservative because I wanted to be up in points. Now that I'm in the points lead, I want to be more aggressive and take a few more chances. I'd love to go to Texas and win the race, which will give me an even bigger points lead and let me be even more aggressive." (About new sponsorship): "Everything looks really good. I didn't have anything past Indy. This takes away a lot of worries. It's nice to have a sponsor for the rest of the season." (About track at Texas): "Texas is a unique track. Since they've reconfigured the track (in 1998), it's made it a lot better for Indy cars. It's a challenging track because the G forces are tremendous going around there at 225 mph. The high-banked tracks make for great racing. I love to race at night. It's a great show for the fans and drivers. It's the type of track where you need to stay up front and pace yourself." (About new 10,000 rpm engine limit): "It's not going to hurt the racing. It's going to help the motors." (About focus on qualifying): "We're working on stuff right now to improve our performance in qualifying. But even if I start fifth or sixth, I'll be in the top one or two in 10 laps." (About balancing desire for first victory with need to keep points lead): "I want to win the race. But I'm not going to jeopardize the car and get a DNF if the car isn't working well. I only go as fast as the car will let me. But I think I'll have a car with which I can win because I've had one at every race this year. In my whole career, I've gone all out to win. I wouldn't be in racing if I didn't feel that way. You get in the car and drive as hard as you can. We're trying to get things in place. I'm certainly not going to put it in the wall to get an ill-handling car up to second from third. Common sense has to take hold." (About finishing second at Indianapolis): "It's a great race. To get second there is more disappointing than getting second at any other racetrack. At Indy, you want that win because there's not another chance all year to win a race of that magnitude."