Day 1 -- Friday, March 21, 2003
IRL IndyCar Series Post-Practice Quotes
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "I am actually happy with where we are right now. We have finally got a good handle on the car. We did some 'almost' qualifying runs in that the car had a little more downforce. This shows what Team Menard is capable of. We keep fighting and fighting, and we're going to get it. We finally got a good handle on the Dallara chassis. We just have to fine-tune it and get it that much better. Hopefully, in qualifying we will pick up another few tenths and get in the top eight or so. That would be a good way to start the weekend. Then we will work toward race day where we need to be consistent. I think we will be right there on Sunday, able to race with the guys."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "This morning we worked on our qualifying setup and we were happy with how the Marlboro Team Penske car ran. During the afternoon practice session, our focus switched to full-tank runs in race trim. We started with what we had learned at the test. Unfortunately, the car was not handling well, so we've got some work to do to make sure we've got a strong car for Sunday. Tomorrow morning we'll focus again on the qualifying setup to get the maximum speed. Hopefully, we'll have a good starting position for the race."
SHIGEAKI HATTORI (No. 5 EPSON/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "This morning was a shakedown session because we brought a brand-new car that's never been on the track. We made some changes during the break, and the EPSON car is getting better and better. We're going in the right direction."
GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We worked on the race setup today, and I'm quite happy with how the Marlboro Team Penske car performed. I think we'll be in good shape for Sunday. It was hot this afternoon, which made the track a little slippery, but overall I'm pleased with our results. Tomorrow morning we'll be working on our qualifying setup. Hopefully, we'll be able to put the car near the front for Sunday's race."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz GForce/Toyota/ Firestone): "I think our biggest problem is that we were in the first practice group, and the track was very dirty because of the cars from the other support series that ran before us. It actually got better and better every lap, but then the second group had a much better track to run on. We had no major problems. The conditions are very different than when we were here to test two weeks ago. But overall, I'm happy that we are going in the right direction."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "This morning the car was too loose, so we made some adjustments to it between sessions. This afternoon I just never got going good because I didn't feel like the car was underneath me. It just didn't handle right, so we decided to take it back to the garage and see where we're at."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Today was a pretty good day for the Delphi team considering the fact we basically started over after our last test in Phoenix due to my crash. We really wanted to get here and improve our race car, and I think we got a lot of things done in that direction today. While we are not quite where we want to be, we're certainly making the car more comfortable for the race."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think we had a pretty good day overall. Seeing Tony in the top three this morning and Dario the quickest this afternoon is great. We did a lot of work on our race setups this afternoon, and I'm pleased with the results. We'll go back out there tomorrow and try to put Team 7-Eleven on the front row again."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We were working on our race setup all day. We're still working on it, and the car's not perfect yet, but I think we made a pretty good run in the last half hour. We've got to concentrate on our qualifying setup tomorrow, but I think the work that we did today was valuable for both Team 7-Eleven and Andretti Green Racing overall."
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It wasn't bad for us today. We have worked very hard since the Homestead race. That race really kicked us in the ass. Team Rahal is a very skilled team, but this is a new series and a new car for us. I'll admit that it has been difficult for us so far. We are learning every day about this car. These cars are different from back in 1997 when I first raced here. This is like the third revision of this chassis, and the cars are much more refined now and more technical than before. We worked on both the qualifying and the race setups today. I think we have a good platform for both right now, but conditions change quite a bit here at Phoenix. This place is tricky. If we improve the car more Saturday morning, I think we can be good for qualifying. For the race, who knows? Phoenix is always like a traffic jam. You seem to be in company with four or five cars, and you are trying to find holes in the traffic. You can go into a turn three-abreast, and you know that doesn't work. It's sometimes difficult to find a spot in the corner. In that case, you need a very good car to pass with the traffic."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I think we're making steady progress, which is a good thing. We're not as strong as we were when we tested here two weeks ago. For some reason, the track has changed. We were working on race setup at the beginning of the afternoon session, and then we put on some new tires at the end of the session to try and get a fast time. But that's when traffic became a problem for me, so that made me a little mad. We're fighting a loose car in some places, and it pushes in some places, which is exactly the kind of combination you don't want to have. Right now, we have a very good race car. I felt comfortable during my long runs this morning and this afternoon. It's definitely a better race car than a qualifying car. Tomorrow morning we'll come out and work on our qualifying setup."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Team GM Upromise/Raybestos Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The car is completely different now from when we tested here. We've evolved from our starting point of finding the fine line between push and loose. In the second session, we were able to get up to speed in about 10 laps. It was just a matter of adapting to track and temperature changes."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We're just working on the best race setup for the car. We weren't really focused on qualifying. We ran race setups and full fuel loads this morning and then worked on improving the car this afternoon. We picked up some speed, and I was able to get down into Turn 1 a little harder, but I really want to challenge it a little bit more."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had a pretty good car here this morning. It was nice to be able to go out and do a semi-qualifying type of simulation this afternoon to show what we're capable of. I'm sure that the track is going to change a lot by the time we qualify tomorrow. We also still have to work on our race setup. It's a long race here on Sunday, and that's our big battle right now. We tested here in December and again at Test In The West in February, and both were valuable to us. Obviously, it's a bit warmer here now than it was then, so besides getting a suntan, we've got to work with the Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola car a bit more."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Today was the day to try some new ideas with the Corteco car, and they really didn't work so well. The car wasn't working in the corners with the changes we made, so we're going to go back and head in a different direction tomorrow. It wasn't the best way to start the weekend, but you have to try new things and see how they work. Tomorrow we'll make our changes and look for better results."
BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We are trying some new things right now, taking it step by step. We are hoping they will help us out in qualifying and for the race. We will sit down this afternoon and look at what we learned today and apply it to the car for tomorrow. We are just working hard at getting the Red Bull Cheever Racing car faster. We also spent some time working on race strategy today, which will help us out on Sunday."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think we got behind the program a little bit during the first session because we were running a new chassis and a new seat, and that didn't work out. The second session went really well, and we have a pretty good car to work with tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we'll try some long runs and a quick qualifying simulation."
SIMON MARSHALL (Chief Designer, Panoz G Force): "All our guys have worked on race setups this afternoon, concentrating on running old tires and full tanks. Everybody is quite pleased with the aero improvements we have made to the car for the short oval setup, and our opposition seem to be following a similar trend that we first showed here at the Test In The West. As everybody saw at Homestead, having a car that is strong throughout the entire race is really the secret, and that is what we will continue to concentrate on throughout the entire championship."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "We've really made a lot of progress in a short period of time. I don't know where we finished up, but I know we were ninth in the last session. I think that's an appropriate place. We set our sights high. We're here to win the race or at least finish on the podium. A top-five finish is what we want, but we have to be realistic in that we ran half a day of testing and a race weekend of practice is just an hour-and-a-half. That's really just a half-day of testing. As far as time in the race car in concerned, we have one day of testing, and there are a lot of guys here who have 15-20 days in their cars. So we really are in the catch-up mode. Having said that, we couldn't ask for anything better. We are running really strong."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "The first session we went for speed, and we were second quick. With the second one, we just ran full tanks, basically. The Toyota engine was good. We just ran full tanks all afternoon, and I was very happy. I think we are going to have a fast race car."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It was a good day for us. I'm pretty happy with where we're at right now. We worked a lot of race setup in the afternoon session, trying to simulate the conditions when the race will be run. Phoenix is a very challenging track for the drivers, but it's a great place if you have the right balance on the car."