AVONDALE, Ariz., Saturday, Feb. 9, 2002 - Driver and official quotes from the third and final day of the annual Indy Racing League Test in the West, Feb. 9 at Phoenix International Raceway:
BRIAN BARNHART (Vice president of operations, Indy Racing League): "The goals of the seventh Test in the West were accomplished. Everyone has a positive attitude, and it's an exciting atmosphere heading into the first race in Miami. Everyone involved in the seventh Test in the West should really be proud of themselves. The teams, drivers and safety crews have done excellent work this week. It takes a great deal of coordination and cooperation to pull off an event like this. The Test in the West was essentially two events at separate venues combined into one week. Of course, the league couldn't have pulled this off without the support of the professional staffs at California and Phoenix."
ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This is the end of our first week of running our Dallara/Chevrolet. The highlight of this week for me was working with the team and getting on the track. We are working well together. As a team, everyone at Blair Racing has worked hard to get us to this point. Everything looks good and promising."
About Phoenix International Raceway: "Racing the IRL car here is what I expected, but this will be a tough race. It's hard to pass here."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We spent most of the day doing full-tank runs. We trimmed out the car there at the very end, but we ran out of time to do as much as we wanted to. We still posted a respectable speed. We have a good baseline to work from, and we know what we have to do to come back and run at the front."
ROBIN BRAIG (Executive vice president and general manager, Phoenix International Raceway): "This IRL Test in the West was 'Lucky 7' for us, as it certainly featured one of our best fields ever. It brought out additional Phoenix area race fans to see the Marlboro Team Penske and Blair Racing cars, and Sam Hornish Jr., last year's IRL champ and the defending winner here at Phoenix. The Test in the West not only gives the teams a chance to warm up for the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 in March, but it gives our area race fans a chance to see the new teams, new equipment, and our ever-improving race facility. Any time you can get 20 racers at your facility, it's a boost to us. It boosts our race exposure in the marketplace and keeps people talking racing. It certainly didn't hurt that we had the great Phoenix weather on our side. The cooperation of the IRL drivers is unmatched. We thank them for their hour-long free autograph session. We can't wait to host the IRL and USAC at the 25th Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 next month. Area race fans will see the best open-wheel racing the sport has to offer, and we're proud to present it."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "Overall, the Purex car is really good. We want to pick up a few tenths when it comes to qualifying. We feel pretty good about the progress we made today. The Infiniti motor was outstanding. We are just looking forward to getting better. The Dreyer & Reinbold team is staying in Phoenix for a few more days. Tomorrow, I am hosting the first annual Robbie Buhl Indy driving academy for the Dial executives and their wives. Then Monday, we have our annual Dial day. We think it is important for the crew members to understand the intricacies of the Dial and Purex business plans and products, so they are going to go to a training program to learn those things. We will also hold a few pit stops for the employees, and then I'll race a few lucky winners at a local go-kart track."
RICHARD CARON (General manager, Red Bull Cheever Racing): ""We ran full tanks today and race simulations. Yesterday, we worked on speed and balance. Today was about longevity. I'm pleased, but we still have some work to do."
About rookie test driver Tomas Scheckter: "Very, very, very talented. He is a quick learner, very disciplined. He is like Eddie, only a little younger. They have the same temperament, same patience, same style. He loves the ovals."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone: "Overall, the test went well. The track changed from yesterday, so the setup we started with this morning didn't work. We made changes to the Marlboro car during the first session, which improved the balance. This afternoon, we worked on race setup and long runs with full tanks. We're making progress, and I'm looking forward to racing in Phoenix next month."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "We focused on full-tank runs today with the Red Bull Cheever Racing Infiniti. I was pleased with how the car felt on full tanks. I ran some with Tomas (Scheckter), a few laps with the Penske's, and the car felt good. We need to go home now and figure out how to make me run quicker by myself. Tomas is a blazing gun and is doing very well. Overall, we have made all the gains that you need to make to win the championship. If anybody thinks that Penske is not going to do everything in their power to beat everybody, they're wrong. The gauge has changed dramatically. We have to make quantitative leaps forward in the offseason, and I think we have done that."
GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was a very good test for Marlboro Team Penske. We worked on both qualifying and race trim, and we're relatively happy with both. We did our homework, and hopefully we'll be competitive race weekend."
JIM FREUDENBERG (General manager, Kelley Racing)
About decision not to test Greg Ray today: "We're done for the day. We got what we needed. We'll take what we learned from the first day. We're testing next weekend at Homestead."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Chevy Rookie of the Year): "We struggled a little bit in Fontana. It was hard to go the right direction because we lost an engine there. Over here (Phoenix), the car was pretty good from the first day. It looks like we will have a pretty good race car. It's a shame we broke something because we just had new tires."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League champion): "It feels pretty good. It's just practice, but we like coming to Phoenix. It's always good to be the fastest. We are not happy unless we are fastest in practice, qualifying and the race. I'm pretty happy with the test. It's a long way before the race. It's not a real big deal to us, but we like to be on top. We can always improve."
About running closely with Helio Castroneves in the closing minutes: "We were both out there, I imagine working on our race setup. That is the best way to find out how it will handle in race traffic, to get out there and dice it up. I had fun. I don't know if he had fun."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): "The test went really well. This Test in the West is a great idea. Fontana is a beautiful racetrack and then coming here to Phoenix with one travel day, it was a great way to start the season. It's been real productive for us. We've been collecting information. It's kind of like a reconnaissance sort of thing in that we're collecting information, and hopefully we can apply that when we come back to race. Unfortunately, we broke a bell housing yesterday morning. We kind of lost a day of the two-day test, but thank goodness it was a two-day test rather than one because it gave us time to have one (bell housing) air-shipped in from Indianapolis that the guys had in the shop. We tried to borrow one, but that's not a piece that anybody has as a spare, especially this time of year. Thank goodness we were able to run this afternoon. In a way, we were playing catch up with the field because they've been able to try a lot of things, but yet our speeds aren't too bad. I mean, they're respectable. We're enthusiastic, and we're learning a lot."
Are you looking forward to racing in IROC?: "I really am. It's so much fun. For your own pride, you want to run great and hopefully I'm able to. It's so nice to know what I'm doing now there, not being 100-percent rookie. After four races, you're not officially a rookie anymore, but it's still new and never having run stock cars. It's a lot of fun. I sure hope to be able to walk out of there with our heads high being open-wheel guys. I think we're going to be very competitive. I'm looking forward to it for fun. It's really a fun thing to do."
How is your expecting wife, Kara, doing?: "My wife is doing great. She's due to have a baby any time. When you're at high altitude like we are - we're at almost 8,700 feet in Vail, Colorado - babies come anywhere ... they average like more than 80 percent coming two to three weeks before their due time, the nine-Flinn, it was right about now, so we expect a new child any minute, and we're really happy about it. We couldn't be happier."
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Team Menard Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's been a pretty successful Test in the West for Team Menard. We had a real good run at Fontana. We learned a lot there. We struggled a little bit here. But at the same time, each time we go out, we learn a little bit more. I'm confident. We'll go back and scratch our heads a little bit and take a look at some numbers. This is too good of a team. We'll come back and get everything figured out and be ready."
ANTHONY LAZZARO (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports
About accident today: "I was going around a slower car on the bottom, and there was a car in front of me. I got in that dirty air from the car in front of me, and it just pushed me into the gray. We learned a lot, made a lot of progress. We were starting a long run and desperately needed it."
LAURENT REDON (No. 34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It was a good test for us because we have never been to this kind of track. We made a lot of progress. We lost some time because the car is touching a bit, so we were working with the ride heights. We had a big push in Turns 1 and 2, and we made some changes to fix that problem. The Infiniti is much better for us. We have a good package for this season."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Today went well. We used most of the day working on the race setup. I think we accomplished a lot. I learned a lot from Eddie by following him, and he followed me. We just worked the traffic with high fuel loads. I think yesterday was more of a speed day than today. We didn't really concentrate on our times today. We just worked on the car, and what it would do in the race. I'm pleased with how things went."