IRL: Michigan: Pre-race quotes

BROOKLYN, Mich., Monday, July 22, 2002 -- Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Michigan Indy 400 on Sunday, July 28 at Michigan International Speedway. Practice starts July 26, with MBNA Pole Qualifying and practice July 27 ...

BROOKLYN, Mich., Monday, July 22, 2002 -- Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Michigan Indy 400 on Sunday, July 28 at Michigan International Speedway. Practice starts July 26, with MBNA Pole Qualifying and practice July 27 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):

ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year): "Even though it's the inaugural race for the IRL at Michigan, I've raced there three different times, and I like the track. It is very similar to Fontana. The Michigan event is one of the biggest races of the IRL season. We've learned a lot about the series, our team, our car and our engine package; we've come a long way. We look to be one of the front-runners throughout the race weekend." (About a 400-mile race): "The race is slightly different from any other race. If the car is not perfect at the beginning of the race, you have time to adjust it during the many pit stops, about six different times."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner): "This will be the first time we've raced the Indy Racing League cars at Michigan Speedway. Like Marlboro Team Penske has learned at other tracks, prior Champ Car experience at a track doesn't give us an advantage. The race is 400 miles long, so it will be very demanding on both the drivers and the equipment. I think there will be two grooves, so there should be a lot of side-by-side racing. It's going to be a horsepower race, and it will actually be easier to go flat out here than at California Speedway because there is more banking. We need to be patient and make sure we're there at the end. Championship points are what we're after, so we have to bring it home."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, won True Value IROC race in 2000 at Michigan): "Michigan is a great racetrack. Our race there is an important part of the growing strength of the Indy Racing League in the Midwest. The inaugural IRL race at Michigan International Speedway will be better than our race in California, which was exceptional. We are further along in the season, and more teams are prepared to run the full 400-mile distance, meaning more cars battling for the victory. The last time I jumped out of a car at Michigan was through the window of an IROC car in winner's circle. I remember a pause from the crowd initially. I think they were shocked to see someone other than a NASCAR driver in winner's circle, but they warmed up quickly." (About inaugural IRL race at Michigan): "The philosophy of the CART series is a lot different than the IRL. Our cars are not set up so that the leader is a sitting duck. The fans in Michigan will see a lot of two- and three-abreast racing and passing in the IRL race this weekend."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, Indy Racing League points leader): "Michigan is the superspeedway that I have the most experience with, as I have been running there since 1995. This will, however, be the first time I will compete there in the Indy Racing League, so it will provide a whole new challenge. The layout of the racetrack is such that you can have two or three cars running side by side in the middle of the turns. There's plenty of room to go racing at Michigan, so I am 100-percent confident that this will be an exciting event. I'm certainly looking forward to racing there, and hopefully Marlboro Team Penske will be competitive."

SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Team Smart Blade/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "Michigan will be a good race for me because it suits my style. It is a smooth, wide-open track, and I think the race will be a draft-a-thon. I'm looking forward to this weekend because although I have not run at this track, neither have many other IRL teams since this is an inaugural event. Michigan International Speedway has a rich racing past, and I'm glad that the IRL is now here to add to their history books."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "It's going to be great to get back to Michigan. It's the first time for the IRL series, but I know the place very well from my Indy Lights days. I won there from the pole the last time I raced there in Indy Lights, and it's always good to go back to a track where you've won. Especially coming off of a tough race like the one we had on Saturday night in Nashville. I made some decisions on restarts that didn't work out too well. I'll write it off as just a bad night. Michigan will be a whole different story. It's a whole different situation this year from when I won there in 2000, too. We were driving spec cars with spec engines. This year, the cars with the big engines can expect to have the best weekend all the way around. The Infinitis and the Panther team are going to be tough to beat in qualifying. But for the race, I think we'll be in good shape. We have a very reliable engine package, and that's paid off for us just about every weekend this year. The track is very similar to Fontana, and we had a good race setup there this year. We finished sixth, and about the only thing that kept us from finishing higher was that we had a problem that didn't allow me to get out of the pits very quickly, so we lost time on our pit stops. We'll have that figured out for this weekend and, hopefully we can get that first win."

RICHIE HEARN (No. 20 Meijer/Coca-Cola/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I am extremely excited to be competing at Michigan. Finally, a track that I have raced at as many or more times than the other racers in this series. We are coming off our best finish of the season and are looking forward to the final five races. Nashville was actually the first track we have been able to test at all season, and the results showed what we learned and what the team is capable of. Everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports has been working very hard to produce a winning effort, and I feel like we are very close."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): "Michigan is a historical track in that Indy cars have raced there a long time. I'm really looking forward to going there. Before the Indy Racing League was formed, I raced there in open-wheel cars and raced there last year in the IROC car. Obviously, I would like to have a strong performance since it is the hometown track of my team owner Ron Hemelgarn. It is a fast racetrack, not as high-banked as Texas but still really fast. I suspect everyone will be flat out, and there will be a lot of wheel-to-wheel, side-by-side racing. It should be exciting for the race fans of Michigan, and there is no way of knowing which driver will win until the checkered flag drops."

ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 54 Norwalk/Parsons Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year): "I am very excited about racing at Michigan. While I have not had the opportunity to test, I am sure that it will be one of those fast drafting tracks that I really love."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing