RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 21, 2002 -- Quotes from selected drivers about the SunTrust Indy Challenge on Saturday, June 29 at Richmond International Raceway. Practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying take place June 28, with final practice and the race...
RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 21, 2002 -- Quotes from selected drivers about the SunTrust Indy Challenge on Saturday, June 29 at Richmond International Raceway. Practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying take place June 28, with final practice and the race June 29 (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): "I think it is going to be the quickest race of the season. Things are going to happen faster than usual. Pit stops will mean more and be more vital to the strategy to the race because on smaller tracks it's harder to overtake. Spots made up in the pit lane will be more beneficial than other tracks due to the tightness at Richmond." (About your approach on the Richmond short track): "You have to be aggressive on small tracks." (About two-day events): "The two-day format makes it easier on the team to do back-to-back weekends, but as a driver it does not change anything for me."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm excited about going back to Richmond, as short-track racing is what I did for so many years, Saturday night half-miles. This ¾-mile track provides not only exciting racing but a lot of challenges for the drivers. We had a quick race car there last year. We were one of the fastest cars in practice until a qualifying crash put us off track for the weekend, so we'll be heading back there with compensation in mind. We feel the Richmond International Raceway is a good setup, a track I like to run, and I'm looking forward to the challenges that it will present."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "During the season, we drive the 2.5-mile oval at Indy, the 2 miles at Fontana and Michigan, and the 1-milers, but Richmond's ¾-mile is unique. It really complements the diversity of the ovals we run. You're constantly using the brakes, shifting, and aggressively on the gas pedal -- it's great fun and really challenging as a driver." (Will this year's race be different because it's the second time here for Indy Racing?): "Maybe a little. You know we've been racing all year, and we've done enough of it. We run 17-second laps around here, so the leaders are going to come up on the back of the field really quick. On the pit strategy, if you can pit under yellow, you're going to be a lot better off than if you pit under green conditions. It's going to be exciting, and we look forward to it because it's so unique. We look forward to it. Part of the success of the league is the diversity of the oval tracks we go to."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner, Indy Racing League points leader): "Richmond is a tough, unforgiving track where things happen very fast. Marlboro Team Penske tested there at the end of May, and we were able to get a baseline setup. It will be a handling race, so we'll need to fine-tune the setup once we arrive for race weekend. It is fairly bumpy, which makes it challenging not only for the drivers but for the engineers, as well. This will be the first time I've raced on a track shorter than 1 mile, which adds another level of difficulty. I'm planning to watch a tape of last year's Indy Racing League race before we arrive for this year's event. We're heading to Richmond first in the championship point standings so we need to stay focused and add to our point total."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Richmond is like fighter planes in a gym. You never get to rest, to back off, or to sweep a mistake under the carpet. If you make a mistake at this place, you will spin. End of story. It's ultra-exciting."
AIRTON DARE (No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2000 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "There's a lot of things going on while you're driving, you're on and off the throttle, you're concentrating, trying not to have a wheel spin, trying to keep the car in the groove. And traffic here is a big thing, in five or six laps you're already into traffic, and that's different from the other tracks where you have time to take a breath. Here you don't have time for any of that. Here you're busy all the time, every lap of the race, every tenth of a second, you're doing something." (Do you need more concentration at Richmond?): "Oh yes, a lot more. And physically, you need to be in better shape than the other ones, especially your shoulders and arms, because the only time you are not turning is a couple seconds on the back straightaway. And usually you are shifting gears so you are busy all the time." (Is one part of the track harder than the other?): "Turn 1 because of some bounce, and the track kind of gets narrow. I mean it doesn't get narrow, but the line where you run gets narrow. Qualifying is a little hard because you have to be flat out all the way around, but in the race there's two grooves."
MARK DISMORE (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Pittsburgh Paints Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Richmond is a lot of fun in these cars. It's a handling track, which means it's really all about getting through the corners. It's not so much about how much horsepower you have as it is being able to use what you have, which means getting on the power and being able to get out of the corner better than the next guy. The straights are pretty short, so if you can get into the throttle from the middle of the corner out you're going to be OK. We just finished two days of testing at Richmond and learned an awful lot about what we want to roll off the transporter with. There were a few things we did setup-wise that ate up a fair amount of track time for us up there, but it was good because we left knowing exactly what we want to bring back for the race. Beyond that, it was a great opportunity to work more with the team. I have a history with Eric (Bretzman) as my engineer at Kelley Racing, so the communication is good there, but it's also important to get to know everyone else on the team and understand what they're doing and how to communicate with them. For me, this is a golden opportunity, and I just want to maximize it."
GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to Richmond because we seem to be doing quite well at that type of track this season. We had the opportunity to test there earlier this year, but unfortunately the temperature was only 35 degrees, so we weren't able to simulate race conditions. However, we certainly hope that what we learned will apply to some extent on race weekend. This track is almost like a high-speed road course because traction and the car's ability to go into the corners will be important factors. I will definitely be able to use my experience from road racing at Richmond International Raceway. I think we're going into a very difficult phase in the IRL championship because Marlboro Team Penske will be racing at new tracks throughout the summer. We've been getting better and learning new things each weekend, so now we just have to stay focused and maintain that momentum."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "I really enjoy Richmond. It's one of my favorite tracks. It kind of reminds me of a road course the way you drive it. It's the shortest oval that we go to. It's tough racing. It's not the easiest place to go by people. But, at the same time, we had a very good race car there last year, but we finished 11th after I got together with (Airton) Dare. But I'm hopeful. It's close racing, and there is not a lot of room. It makes it more exciting, but you can get into trouble really easily. If you get to the end of the race, you should be in good shape. It's a tough track to get to the end of the race. This is one of the races where you really don't know what to expect. You have to take a lot more chances than you do at a lot of other tracks. You have to make a decision quickly and go for it because if you wait, your chances will go away. We tested there a couple of months ago and had a good car. We have to try to come up with a good strategy and be there at the end."
GEORGE MACK (No. 31 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I haven't seen the track yet, but it is obvious that it is very small. Our team's main goal is to qualify well, figure out who is fast, who is not, keep my nose clean and come back in one piece. Our game plan is always to finish without an accident. Our team cannot afford any accidents." (About racing on a ¾-mile oval): "You definitely have to keep your attention very focused the whole time. There is a lot of close, wheel-to-wheel racing. In this type of track, there is bound to be some wheel touching and accidents. I just want to make sure it is not me." (About your approach to the event): "I will be aggressive in qualifying but patient and smart the rest of the time."
ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 54 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I am very excited about going to Richmond for the first time. Unfortunately, I had to miss the race last year because of my injuries at Texas Motor Speedway a few weeks prior to the race. I watched all my friends and competitors out there throwing their cars around that little track from my bed in St. Louis, and I have to say, I was jealous, I wanted to be there. I am especially excited this time because I am one of the four SunTrust Challenge drivers. It was a huge honor to be selected for it, and I can't wait to win my fan and myself the 50 grand."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year): "I hope that it's not like our weekend in Colorado. Looking at the race tapes and the setups, Richmond is a completely new thing again. It is very tight. Physically, it is going to be tough. My attitude for every oval now is to just hang out in the beginning of the race and then push at the end."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 co-Indy Racing League champion): "The big advantage is having a year of experience. Our short-track program is better, as well as coming back with one more year under our belts. Last year was a lot of fun, a lot of tight battling on the track but without knowing how the cars would behave on a ¾-mile track. If you guessed right, you did well last year." (What would you say to fans curious about the IRL?): "Come out and try us. Everywhere we go, people are impressed by the show we put on. At Richmond, we are going 40-50 mph faster than stock cars, and we're running side by side. I'm really excited about coming back here. It will be another great race"
AL UNSER JR. (No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The track is a bullring, and that's such a NASCAR term so I would have never thought of us racing here. Give credit to the IRL for that. We put on such a great show at Richmond, and I expect the racing to be even tighter than last year. Plus, the competition level has risen dramatically in the IRL. There is more talent top to bottom and more competition, which makes for even better racing."