FONTANA, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2002 - Driver and team official quotes from the first day of the annual Indy Racing League Test in the West, Feb. 6 at California Speedway: ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): ...
FONTANA, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2002 - Driver and team official quotes from the first day of the annual Indy Racing League Test in the West, Feb. 6 at California Speedway:
ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's great to be back in a race car again. Today is our first ever in our new IRL Dallara/Chevrolet. I'm happy with the package. Today is just an installation day, and we are getting our baselines. We won't be able to really get going until we get to Phoenix."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Our focus this morning was just to get out and shake down the car. This is an all-new group of guys that have never worked together. Actually, we're very happy with how the car ran right off the transporter. We ran a 219 (mph) by ourselves, which we're pretty happy with. We have more things we want to try. I'm sure as everybody gets more familiar with each other, things will really start to jell."
KENNY BRACK (No. 33 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1998 Indy Racing League champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner) (About his first run in an Indy Racing car since 1999): "It's fun. It's different now than what I was used to in '99. It's a new car, new engine, but when you're out there it's all the same stuff, you know. You push the pedal, and you go as fast as you can and dial the car out." (About returning to the Indy Racing League garage): "I've got many friends here. I like it here. I've always liked it. It's a good series, and we're pleased to be back and trying to go fast for Indianapolis. Indy is going to be a big undertaking, so we're going to get a lot of running in these cars." (About California Speedway): "I like it. It's the same as it used to be around here. It's a fun place, a fast place. You have to be on your toes. A lot of cars are on the track, so you have to watch out for what people are doing around you, but it's a fun track."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "Everything feels good. All the big, new superspeedways we race at make for great racing. This track shouldn't be any different. The Southwest is a market we haven't been in. Purex couldn't be any happier we are in this market. Our schedule is perfect, and I think we can say it is perfect because we are racing in the California market."
BUZZ CALKINS (No. 12 Bradley Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion): "California Speedway is one of the nicer facilities in the country from the garages to the actual track itself and all the amenities that they have. We're excited to be coming here, coming to this market. It's great to be in the Los Angeles area. We are looking forward to coming back. It's a huge benefit for the IRL to be able to come here. We had a bunch of mechanical problems today. We spent a lot of time in the garage and didn't get as much accomplished as we would've liked to. We blew an engine at the end."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's definitely kind of different. Especially coming from the IROC test. In fact, I mentioned to everyone on the team as soon as I got out of the turn the first lap I was flat out, but I forgot that in the IROC you go flat out all of the test. Basically, when I was going through the turn all of things started happening different than in the IROC car, and I was like, 'Hey, this is not IROC, this is IRL. Slow down here.' So basically it is my first time. There is a totally different line that you approach, especially coming out of traffic. I'm just learning like anybody else. I believe I'm going to learn all season long because some of the tracks that we've been running with the CART cars, it's totally different when you go with IRL. Especially when I went to St. Louis, you approach the turn around 15 mph slower, but with the IRL you going into a corner 15 mph faster, so you have to adapt to a situation. We're just starting the season. It's new equipment. The only big difference is that we know the team, and they know us. So that's a big plus for us."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Starting yesterday with all the press we had here and the public interest, I think the IRL got off to a good start here in Fontana. Today was like a race. There were so many cars and drivers that I didn't even know. It was nice to see the Penskes out there again. It was nice to get back into the car and into the run of things. Having a rookie run with you at speeds like this, and with traffic, makes for some anxious moments for a car owner. We ran Tomas (Scheckter) in Las Vegas, and he was impeccable. We ran him here in traffic, and he beat me on speed. He didn't get in trouble all day long, and he's making my decision on who we are going to pick for a second driver a lot easier. We are going to run him again in Phoenix, and after that we're going to sit down and make our final decision."
TIM CINDRIC (President, Penske Racing): "With regard to testing, since the end of the CART season last year we've been to seven of the 14 different tracks, so at this point in time our goal is to test at each one of these tracks prior to race weekend. Obviously, with the weather constraints, our primary focus has been the first three events, Homestead, Phoenix and Fontana, here. At this point in time, we're somewhat comfortable at those places. Obviously, here everybody is looking for a draft and trying to sort out that extra 2 mph, so it's difficult to gauge where you are. Horsepower is a big deal here, so we keep working on that front." (About tire-allotment rule and how that affects their race preparation): "The biggest difference from what we're used to is in the past, we've been able to take a Friday and practice and spend quite a bit of time on the track. In this situation, if you look at the schedule for the first race at Homestead, there are two 45-minute sessions on the first day, in which there is a running clock for those two sessions. You're trying to actually catch up. If you don't unload in the ballpark, you're probably going to end up out of the ballpark at the end of the weekend, anyway. So you've got to make sure that when you do unload, you're in the game, and you're fine-tuning the cars. Our challenge is to find out what the ballpark is for each one of these venues throughout the year, and that's somewhat of a challenge for us, whether it be a tire rule or just logistically. The league has been good in sticking to their approach and what they are trying to achieve, and we support that."
GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm certainly looking forward to the 2002 season. There is certainly one thing that is transpiring through all this testing that we're doing in the winter, and that's how much we don't know, how much we need to learn, and how much we need to push to try to understand the equipment and everything that we have. As far as high expectations go, certainly you don't enter any race or any championship if you don't feel you have a chance at succeeding. So, certainly we would like to win races and have hopes for the championship. However, it's a very steep mountain for us to climb, and we have to take one step at a time. Right now, we're really trying to understand the requirements of each racetrack. Certainly, for Indianapolis last year, we concentrated solely on that. We had a lot of time running on that racetrack. We were able to understand everything that we needed out of the car and out of the engine. That was tough enough and now trying to understand all these different racetracks, it's been a big challenge. Today we're here at the Open Test, we're trying to do the best we can to prepare for the upcoming race here on the 24th."
JOHN DE VRIES (No. 37 Brayton Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This is a smooth track. It is easy to learn. It's pretty good because it has come naturally to me. I feel comfortable in the car. I love the IRL. I always have. I love the oval tracks. This is where I want to be."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Chevy Rookie of the Year): "I ran here with the (Indy) Lights. I was on the pole here the last time I was driving. It's different. The cars drive completely different from Lights. We are still learning the superspeedways. We struggled a little bit this morning to find speed, but this is part of the deal. It's a new team for this kind of car, and I'm sure they will react quickly."
JON HERB (No. 17 Racing Professionals G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's unfortunate that we missed this morning's practice, but we had quite a bit of work to do in a short amount of time. I'm proud of all the guys that helped get us here to participate in the Test in the West. I haven't been on track since Texas, so we were working on race set up and running by ourselves. I was comfortable with the car. We made some good improvements on full-tank runs until we had a drivetrain problem there at the end. Something let go in the drivetrain. It's my first time here at California Speedway. The track is great. It's really wide and fast. It isn't banked a whole lot, so you have to put the pedal on the floor, turn the wheel and hold on."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League champion): "I'm excited. I think it is a great venue for IRL. It is an opportunity to be in a market we haven't been to before. It should be a lot of fun when we get all the cars on the track at one time."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 22 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I feel quite good. It's really good to be back in this car after the race in Indianapolis. It's a new experience for me to run on this track with this car. We did quite a few runs this morning. We did improve a little bit, but we're still almost a season behind the other guys. We still have to improve a little bit. It's good to see some of the drivers that raced against me at Indy. It's good to be back and to see those guys."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): "It's a beautiful racetrack. It's so nice to have our first official series test with the Indy Racing League coming here to California. It's a great way, this Test in the West, for us all to get together and feel one another out and get ready for the season. The racetrack is in great condition. It's going to be an exciting race. I think everybody's flat out. It's going to be one of those races where there will be packs of cars 10 or 15 deep all going for the lead, so it's a pretty exciting venue." (Is California Speedway a home track for you?): "In a way. It's more home for my brother, but that's true: There are only so many races this side of the Rockies or around the Rockies, and obviously I'm from Vail, Colorado. My wife and I, when I was dating her, she lived in California, so in a way we kind of had a half-residence here for many years. So we know the area a little bit. It is nice to be out West. It's a beautiful facility, and there are a lot of great race fans. It's a great place for us to be." (About hectic testing schedule): "We did test yesterday, and time has just gotten a little tight with testing at Daytona in the IROC cars. It was one of the few periods of time where we could get miles before the race, with the schedule with the Test in the West. Obviously we are running here today and then two days in Phoenix, and then there's limited practice time because the (Winston) Cup guys are using the racetrack (Daytona). We've had a couple of months off, and now all of a sudden it's from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back, and racing a car every day. It's actually really fun and really enjoyable. It's a great bunch of guys that are here testing. We've got 24 cars, I think, and it's a great bunch of guys also running the IROC cars. It's really a pleasure being in both series."
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Team Menard Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We tested here on Monday. It was extremely windy. We are extremely happy. We worked really hard in the offseason. Team Menard put together what I think is the ultimate team. The synergy right now is where I believe it needs to be going into the season. Everyone is very focused, very motivated. I believe today was a direct result of that."
ANTHONY LAZZARO (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The rules package is going to make for extremely good racing. In the IRL, the downforce keeps the car pretty much glued to the track. You can move around and race people. I think it is going to be a very exciting race. We are having the new-car blues. This is an updated car in 2002 spec. We are having little problems. When we come out to Miami, we will be ready to race."
ARIE LUYENDYK (No. 5 Treadway Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1990, 1997 Indianapolis 500 winner): "It's going pretty good. Just kind of getting acclimated again to driving a racecar, and now we're making some adjustments. We had a little problem with the outright speed - it's a mapping problem, fuel-mixture problem. Once we get that fixed, we'll pick up a few miles an hour, I'm sure." (About track conditions): "It seems to be all right. It's a little dusty off the line. I saw some people go high, and they threw up a lot of dust, so you don't want to go too high on the track for that reason. It's a great day."
GEORGE MACK (No. 31 Cunningham Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was good. I'm a little nervous running with Arie (Luyendyk) and (Helio) Castroneves, just knowing that they are on the track. I ran a 214-215 (mph) average. I'm comfortable in the car. I trust the crew. They trust me, and everything is going really well. We're making changes on the car. I'm just trying to get more laps because it's only my second time in the car. The first time was when I did my rookie test. So my learning curve has just taken off really, really fast. It's great to be here in Southern California, but I've never been on the track until today. It's great running flat out all the way around the track. I love the track. I've had a lot of fun today."
SCOTT MAYER (No. 9 PDM Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "For the most part, everything went well. The track is definitely challenging. It's a great series with great cars. We are working on getting more laps and getting me some more experience. We would've liked to be a little bit quicker, but we think we found some things that will help us pick up some more speed."
GREG RAY (No. 7 Kelley Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indy Racing League champion): "The track is great. It is a beautiful facility. I am just getting used to the Dallara and Ilmor engines and working with the Kelley group. We are taking it one step at a time. This is an information test to get to know each other. It is great for us to come to the West. Regardless of the sporting event, you want to be in big marketplaces. The Indy Racing League is growing leaps and bounds and continuing to hit the premier racetracks in premier markets."
LAURENT REDON (No. 34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We couldn't run earlier today. We had some problems. We put the engine in just before we left. We had some problems to fix the engine in the car. There were many things that had to be changed from an Oldsmobile last year to an Infiniti this year. So we just shook down (the car) for Phoenix. We stayed down on the inside of the track to stay out of the way and see if everything is working, if the gearbox is working, etcetera."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Today went well. I am just getting used to it. This is a new circuit for me again and only the second time I have driven on an oval. It's gone really well. Eddie's (Cheever) helped me a lot. I am glad to see that how quick we are going." (Compare Indy Racing cars to the driving you have done in Formula 3000 and Formula One): "This is a different world, really. Oval racing and the speeds I am doing now, I've never done before. I think I've adapted quite quickly with the help of the team. After two days, I feel I am at home here. I am still getting used to everything." (What does your father, 1979 F1 World Champion Jody Scheckter, say about your Indy Racing tests?): "He just says, 'Come back home, it's too quick out there.' No, really, I think he is happy I'm here and that I'm doing a good job."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Kelley Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion): "I think this is going to be an absolutely awesome track for us. It is very unique. With the super-long backstretch, you have a slingshot drafting-type opportunity. At Texas, while you are drafting, you don't have that one long continuous spot to sling past him. I think there are at least three grooves here, which will make for great side-by-side racing. It's exciting that there are this many teams here. Obviously, there are some very strong teams, and it is tempting to get in a shootout to be top dog. With only one day of testing before the race, that wouldn't be too smart. We will have a great race car when we come here in a month and a half."
JIMMY VASSER (#19 Team Rahal Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We're learning a lot right now about the car and engine. Actually, this car hadn't turned a wheel until Monday here at Fontana. This Miller Lite team has a lot of racing experience, but they are on a steep learning curve with the Indy 500 package. Sure, it's a different car from the champ car, but the dynamics of both cars are similar. There are more similarities than differences. You are running more downforce with these cars, and trying to get the gearing down is an important issue here. We have several more tests planned with the Miller Lite car, and we are planning everything for Indy. This Indy 500 program is just as important to me as the CART program with the Shell car. For every racing driver, that Borg-Warner Trophy is the trophy to have in your case at home. I'm not sure about this yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if we come back here in March for the IRL race as a test run. I think that might be a good event to get the bugs worked out leading into Indy. That's similar to what Penske did last year at Phoenix."
JEFF WARD (No. 33 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone) (About driving for Ganassi Racing in the IRL in 2002): "I'm meeting with Chip (Ganassi) and them, and we'll see how everything goes. Everything looks good. We'd like to do the full year. I think everything is hopefully in place. This was the first step here. That's what we've been shooting for, so we'll see how everything comes together. That's what I'd like to see. Everybody would, I'm sure. I can't remember when it started or when Chip wanted to make a jump over, but Penske was probably a big thing."