IRL: Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 post-race quotes

PHOENIX, Sunday, March 18, 2001 - Quotes from Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers after Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway: CASEY MEARS ( ...

PHOENIX, Sunday, March 18, 2001 - Quotes from Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers after Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway:

CASEY MEARS (#31 Galles Racing SportsLine.com G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"The car was a bit easier to drive today than it had been all weekend, but we still have a lot of work to do before we get to Homestead. With the way the team has been working, I'm confident we'll get there. It wasn't the easiest way to get to the 20th point position, but we did what we had to do, since every point counts at the end."

ROBBY McGEHEE (#10 Olympus/Opalescence/Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"It was good. The first I sat in the car was Friday. I came up to speed quite a bit. I couldn't ask for more considering we didn't have any winter testing. This is a strong package. I can win races if we put everything together. We have all the ingredients."

About pit stop:
"Two of the guys on our team have never changed a tire before. If we do good on our pit stops, we probably finish on the podium. We have old-style guys. There are a lot of things we could do, but it takes money and that is what we are working on. I'm having fun. All the guys are here because they want to be here. That is what makes it fun again."

ROBBIE BUHL (#24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Team Purex G Force/Infiniti/Firestone):
"We fought handling problems most of the day, which gave us trouble in traffic. We had to make an extra stop to fix the car after Gregoire came down on my right front, which hurt us. The 35A survived the day, which is a good thing. We've got a lot of work to do so we can race instead of just survive."

AIRTON DARE (#88 1-800-BAR-NONE TeamXtreme Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"For me, this is the worst car I've ever had since I got into the Indy Racing League. It was really hard to drive. I had a huge push coming out of the corner, big oversteer in the corner, I don't know what we did wrong to the car but it was so bad, so bad. One time in the race, I thought I should just park the car, just throw the car in the wall or something. But I just slowed down, hung out and finished the race to get some points, and now I'm going to get ready for the next race. I have no idea what was wrong, we just had such a bad car."

BUZZ CALKINS (# 12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"Yea, we just had some problems with the car, like a stuck throttle. We also had problems with a stuck clutch. The clutch kept grabbing on pit stops. I stalled it in the pits early in the race, and you need to be careful with that.It wasn't a great race for us, but it did give us a finish to start the season with."

DAVEY HAMILTON (#99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"We gave it all we had. The car wasn't balanced like we wanted. You know, we brought it home. That's what counts right now. This is the early phases of a great team, so we're just going to keep digging and make this thing right. We made the car better, actually, throughout the day. We just played with the sway bars and weight jacker, played around, tried to find different lines that the car liked. We had a decent pace but nothing like the leaders had. It was driveable, and I brought it home."

SAM HORNISH JR. (#4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"I would like to thank all of the Panther team. They gave me a car I could drive anywhere on the track, and Speedway Motors gave me all the horsepower I needed. We had a couple of close calls out there, but overall it went smooth. This is a great opportunity for me. This team is well funded. It is good to know I will get to run all of the races. With the equipment I have now I just need to be patient and remain cool which is what today. I think the track changed twice, once at about 40 laps, when it got loose, and then again at 180, when I started feeling every twitch in the car. The track just kept getting greasy. I think that is what you get with the afternoon heat. I knew I had a better car in traffic than he (Helio Castroneves) did. He couldn't run high. I just tried to be smooth and run my line and make him go around me high. Eliseo (Salazar) started to catch me at the last yellow. I think my advantage is I was the best in traffic. I could put my car anywhere I wanted."

Comparing this year's effort to last year's effort:
"Knowing I'm going to every race really is a big confidence builder. I know that if I wreck a car it is not the end of the world even though we don't want to do that. I'm surprised at victory as soon as we did. I thought we had a good shot at a top three at this race, but as far as being surprised on the success of my career, I'm not surprised. I'm thankful I have parents that did all they could to help me. When they couldn't help me anymore is when I got a ride."

Regarding Team Penske:
"I knew they would be competitive. Honestly I thought they were sandbagging. With all of their resources, I knew they would be very good."

SAM SCHMIDT (owner of the #99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"It's good that we brought it home in one piece. Now we go home and get to work. We know what we've got to improve, but given where we started and what we had to work with, 12th is just fine. I believe this was an easier day for a driver than an owner, having been there and now not knowing exactly what it was like out there today. Davey did a nice job. It's a good start."

JEFF WARD (#35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"I'm pretty happy with our run overall. The team worked well together our first time out, and we were fast in the pits. I would have liked to have been a little more competitive, but we lost first and second gear, which made the re-starts tough. The car was running with a lot of push in the beginning, which threw off my pace. But we learned a lot today. We'll make our adjustments, and we'll be running with the leaders."

BUZZ CALKINS (#12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"Long day is an understatement for the day we had. The throttle was sticking, the handling went from a push to loose. One of those you just want to bring home and hope you bring it home in one piece. If that is the worst that things can go, and short of contact I think it was, and we still finished ninth, we will be OK this year."

STEVE KIGHT (Director of marketing, Infiniti Motorsports):
"It's always disappointing when we don't win, but overall we are very happy with the new engine and that we were able to finish the race. Robbie Buhl fought with handling issues early in the race, but was able to bring the new engine home in 11th place with a very limited amount of practice. The Infiniti 35A is an engine that is much lighter and has a lower center of gravity, which definitely effects the handling of the car. We were pleased to see Cheever's competitiveness in the first half of the race when he was running in the top 10. It's frustrating that we had a carryover piece from the old engine that seemed to cause some problems that eventually ended their day early. We gathered a lot of data from this race, which will help us tremendously in our preparations for the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami on April 8."

ELISEO SALAZAR (#14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"To begin, I followed one of the cars, I think it was Gil, for 10 or 15 laps, and I thought I was stronger out of (Turn) 1 and 2. But it was really hard to pass because the cars are so evenly matched that you really needed a big run. I think it would have been OK for us to fight with them at the end, I never felt anybody had anything different. I was catching Hornish big time, just before the last yellow, and I had a run on him when Hamilton blocked me a little bit, you know, unintentionally. But there were three backmarkers in between, and I couldn't run him down. But we were pretty evenly matched, and it could have gone either way. It was a big honor to drive officially for the first time in the number 14, I know A.J. (Foyt) won here in '64, the same year they opened the track, and I wanted to be on the podium at least. So I'm happy. I have won, I have finished third or fourth. I told my wife; out of the top 10 I have finished every place but second. I guess sooner or later we have to get second, and it was a good place today to do it with the No. 14 car."

About Panther Racing:
"As Buddy said they're strong and drove a good race but, fortunately they didn't have a dominating car. At one point, we were definitely quicker than them, and with a couple of traffic breaks that didn't go our way, so I'm not worried that Panther won this race and that we're up against a team that will win every race. I think they did everything right today, but I feel we can beat them next time. In Miami, we were first and second at the Open Test and separated by .03 of a second, so it's going to be another close race. It'll be my home grand prix there. I live there. A lot of people from Chile are coming, so I hope the order is reversed."

About Penske Racing at Phoenix:
"At the beginning I followed one of the cars, Gil (De Ferran) for 10 or 15 laps. I felt I was stronger. I never felt anybody had a big difference."

About A.J. Foyt's comment after the race:
"Coming from him, that was a big compliment. It was a big honor today officially to drive the number 14, which won here at the first race in '64 with A.J. Foyt. I at least wanted to get a podium finish for the number 14 here today."

What does A.J. think about your green shoe:
"Yeah, he doesn't like them. Basically, now I have a good reason to wear them. I had the excuse that yesterday it was St. Patrick's Day."

About Panther Racing and driver Sam Hornish Jr.:
"They're strong, and Sam drove a good race. They didn't have a dominating car. At one point, we were quicker than them, but we had some traffic problems."

JOHN BARNES (owner, Pennzoil Panther Racing):
"What can I top after that, two hours of nail biting and watching him do a good job?"

About choosing Hornish as driver for Panther Racing:
"As you know, we tested a lot of people. We went looking for a new driver for here and he outshined everyone."

Could you see something in Sam when he drove for PDM Racing?:
"I think you guys downplay PDM a lot. They are a great team. They do a lot with what they have."

Did you make many changes to the car during the race?:
"No, we did one-half a front wing change and that's all we did all day."

Did you want a gasier driver to see what your team could do?:
"I think all along we've known how competitive our equipment is. I don't mean that bragadociously. Scott drove for us since '98. He did a great job. It was just time for a change."

About Penske Racing:
"Roger's got a great team no matter what he races in. His two CART drivers are always competitive. They're great drivers, and they're going to be competitive at Indy."

JOE NEGRI (GM Racing Indy Racing League program manager):
"After a full year with 3.5-liter engines, the independent Oldsmobile engine builders worked up new specs and new packages for this season. The builders are certainly pushing the limits, especially in the area of fuel economy. There were more engine problems than we would have liked to see in this race, so we will have to continue to work hard to redefine what the safe limits are. Overall the IRL Aurora V8 engines ran very strong, as they have for the last four years, sweeping the top ten finishing positions today. It appears that at this point we have more than enough to handle the Nissan 35A."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (#21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"Our goal was to qualify in the top-ten and just finish the race. I'm really happy with a sixth place finish. The crew did a great job with the car and with the race strategy. The Firestone tires were great. I'm very, very happy right now. The racing was incredibly close and fast. It took me a while to get use to it, but I was totally comfortable by the end of the race. I learned a lot. I'm looking forward to going to Homestead."

STAN WATTLES (#92 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"I'm not exactly sure what happened. I was exiting Turn two and I'm not certain if I touched someone or if I just lost the air. I don't really want to comment until I'm able to see the tape. I thought I had it saved, but the back end came around. The car was fabulous and the guys did a great job on the pit stops. I can't wait for Miami."

SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"The car was sliding all over the place the last 20 laps, especially between (Turns) one and two. But we hung in there and got some good points on the way to the championship."

BRANDON ERWIN (#30 WorldBestBuy.com/McCormack Motorsports G Force/ Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"Relief! We finished a full race. I learned a ton out there. This is a tough racetrack. I spun once, but I collected my thoughts after the spin and we brought her home in one piece, which was our goal."

About challenge of the race:
"It was more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Towards the end there, the car was uncomfortable to drive, but my body was fine. I wasn't getting tired. The car was handful at the end of the race. I'm glad I didn't hit the wall. The restarts were a struggle. Third gear was not the gear to be in for restarts. I should have been in second. I just let the guys go by me and let them race, and hopefully they respect me for that. Fourteenth isn't bad at all. Our goal was to finish and we did that, so I'm really happy!"

DENNIS MCCORMACK (owner, McCormack Motorsports):
"Brandon did a very good job, and so did the entire crew. We came here to finish the race and that's exactly what we did. We had a very under experienced rookie in Indy cars going into the race today. He only had 180 to 190 total laps ever in an Indy car, so he eclipsed that today. We got more laps on him, and we're looking forward to Homestead."

JOHN LOPES (general manager TeamXtreme Racing):
"On a hot summer day with a slick track and a car that was handling rough, we will take a top-10 finish. It's time for Miami."

PAUL DIATLOVICH (co-owner, PDM Racing):
"There has been some criticism directed at PDM Racing driver Jeret Schroeder about the incident in Turn four. Jeret drove a flawless race and had already moved up 10 positions when this unfortunate incident occurred. We were looking forward to a top-10 finish at least. The Indy Racing League officials made it very clear in this morning's drivers' meeting that no driver entering the pits should leave any doubt as to their intentions Jeret was not aware that De ferran was entering the pits."

BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, defending Northern Light Cup champion):
"On the lap right before De Ferran went out, the car found a false neutral. I thought it was a false neutral. But whatever it was, we ran along racing around in fifth gear,and it went into neutral, and from there forward we didn't have fifth or sixth gear. Those are our race gears so we raced the last third of the race in fourth gear. We were bouncing off the rev limiter lap after lap, probably 100-plus times a lap. My hats off to Speedway Engines that are built in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Speedway motor, it's unbelievable that motor lived because like I say, I guarantee the valves are all bent, I'll bet you the heads are junk, I mean, we probably destroyed that motor just because we were constantly on the rev limiter, which is real bad for them. Of course, it hurt us but at the same time how can you complain? We're on the podium; this is a great way to start the season in defense of the championship. We're really blessed. We've got a great set of sponsors. Our new primary sponsor is Tae-Bo. Coors Light and Delta Faucet, they always give us what we need resource-wise. It looks like we've got a real strong team again this year, and we're really looking forward to it. It's always frustrating when you can't go racing because you don't have race gears, you know. Fifth and sixth were gone. I tried several times to go back in, to see if it was in selector mode. I think we just stripped the gears right off the shaft, fifth and sixth gear. But it was a very good day for us. I guarantee you, we have one of the best gearbox guys in the world right now, and this gearbox scenario will not happen again. I guarantee you he'll solve it. And it will probably make for a real good race at the Indy 500, because everybody's going to have their stuff sorted out really good. I felt it was a great race out there, I mean, Eliseo in slightly different circumstances could have been successful. I felt like in different circumstances we could have been successful. Any one of 10 or 15 guys, if things had worked out for them, it could have good, so it's going to be a tough, tough year and its going to be a dogfight wherever we go. It's pretty exciting, I'm looking forward to it. Once we lost fifth and sixth gear, it was all about the corner speed for us so what we'd do is stay flat out, period. We were running around flat, flat, flat, because your not going as fast top speed because you're hitting the limiter; literally, you're running around (makes engine noises), you know, over and over. I'm thinking the motor's going to just grenade any second. So we were running flat out, therefore you had to make it work in the corners. Because that's the only place you could be fast. That's the only area where you weren't hitting the rev limiter. And therefore I'd have to run in on traffic real hard, I had a bunch of close calls. I know he (Salazar) did too 'cause I saw them."

About Pennzoil Panther Racing:
"They came packing. They came with some ammunition. I thought they were very strong, and they had something up their sleeves, and they ran hard. I think they would have had a hard time accomplishing the final result because there were a lot of us right there, too. They had a shot at it, for sure.

About Sam Hornish Jr.:
"He was hooked up, there was no doubt. But there were a couple of us that were pretty good. I mean hats off to that team. If you take a look at it, they've been strong every year. I think they won it three years ago, then they took second last year, and then they won it again. So that's a stout effort, it's just a good effort in general, and they were definitely hooked up, there's no doubt. Hat's off to them, they did a heck of a job. Sam is a driver who has developed very quickly, and I think he's going to be a tough, good winning race driver for a long time to come. He's matured to the top. Having said that there isn't going to be any team, I don't think, personally, that's going to do any dominating this year. I think you're going to see a lot of guys that have good days, and at the end of the year it's going to be real close on the championship."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Helio Castroneves , Jeret Schroeder , Sam Schmidt , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , Team Penske