Freedom 100 Press Conference Quotes
May 14, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 14, 2003 -- Quotes from Infiniti Pro Series drivers participating in the Freedom 100 pre-race press conference May 14 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The inaugural Freedom 100 starts at 3 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, May 17. It will be televised live on ESPN2.
CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (Does any of your past experience in the Indianapolis 500 help you for the Freedom 100?): "I think the overall advantage is the mental aspect of this place. If you are not mentally prepared or focused, it will tear you down." (Is there a rhythm to driving this track?) "You pretty much have to deal with how the car is set up and then stay focused and be patient because if you are not patient with this place, it will hurt you. The first time I drove around here in the Pro Series car, I noticed a lot more things that I didn't notice when I was here two years ago. I tried to remember if I saw it two years ago, and meanwhile I was going 190 (mph) down the straightaway." (On the driver coaches in the Infiniti Pro Series) "I've known Rick (Mears) for a while. I raced with his son Clint Mears and his nephew Casey Mears in the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Series. When I first came here, I talked with him often, and I talked with Big Al (Unser) and (Johnny) Rutherford. I talked to (Rutherford) every day, and we became good friends. They are a huge plus for the series, especially at a place like this. How many wins do they have between them? The definitely know this place."
ED CARPENTER (No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (What can we expect on the first corner on Saturday?): "I'd say you'd see a lot more on the last corner than on the first corner because the last corner is a lot more important than the first corner. I think we will all be in one pack at this race, unlike the first couple of races. For sure, this is the one race everyone wants to win this year." (What kind of racing do you expect?) "From how the test went, all the cars ran in a pack. I think it will be really hard to break away because of the speeds and the long straightaways, and if your car is a little slower, you'll be able to keep up because of the draft." (With your connections to the track, did you ever steal the keys to the place and run some laps?) "I had one opportunity when I was 15. I had never been on it, except for riding around it with Tony (George). At 15, I got into the Corvette, but I really don't have any more laps than any of these guys. Cory (Witherill) probably has more laps than me. Tony must have kept the keys in a pretty good hiding spot." (Is there any track that prepared you to run at Indy?) " I don't think there is any track that's like Indy. I know they tried to build Homestead to be a miniature Indy, but that didn't pan out. Every track in a way prepares you for here. But Indy is the ultimate challenge mentally and physically." (On driver coaches) " Last year, I went to Al (Unser) Sr., and Johnny (Rutherford) as often as I could. There's always something to be learned. This year with the addition with Rick (Mears) and this year I'm driving for A.J. Foyt, so there's just a wealth of information to get access too, especially with A.J."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 TBA Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (On the layoff for the Infiniti Pro Series): "During the season, you get into the rhythm when you're on the road, and you are used to racing all the time. I haven't been in a car since Phoenix, so I've been watching IndyCar (Series) practice and the festivities all month. I just want to get out there, get the thing started and get a good result." (What kind of anticipation do you have about running at Indy?) "All of us want to move to the Indy 500. That is our goal to be in the IRL. What better place than to train our skills than the Speedway itself? It's great for us to have the opportunity to drive on this track. It's giving us experience, and we're learning more every race. I'm thankful for the IRL and Tony George for letting us run here. It's a step forward for our series." (Has your father given you any advice about running this place?) "He's pretty low-key when it comes to giving me advice. He pretty much let me do my own thing. If I'm making a crucial mistake, he'll let me know, but he lets me do my own thing and make my own mistakes because I think you learn best from your own mistakes. He's a nervous wreck when I'm driving. That's why I think he took on the spotter role, so he can keep his mind off of it and have a watchful eye over the whole race. Personally I don't think we'll ever run a '500' together because he'd be too worried about my end of the race. He's nervous, but I think every father is nervous when they watch their kids run around the track."
MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It's been good to sit back and see what's been going on in May. I've been able to spot for Sam (Hornish Jr.), which has been a great help to see the car go around the track and learn a lot that maybe I couldn't do if I had sat at home. I had great opportunity to sit back and watch all the work that goes into May, and you can obviously see how all the different drivers deal with the conditions and the wind." (What can we expect on the first corner on Saturday?) "I think it will be important for everyone to finish the race. At the first corner, everyone will make sure we have a full field for the end of the race. If we could get everyone to finish, that will be a good result for the series." (What kind of racing do you expect?) "People have compared it to a NASCAR race, and I think it's a good way to describe it. We'll be flat out all the way around, and it will be a towing track, unlike the Phoenix race, which was a handling track." (On Rick Mears) "He helped Helio (Castroneves) around here two years before and tried to teach him the lines, and look what he did. If you can grab something from him, it will be a great help."
AARON FIKE (No. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (What kind of anticipation do you have about running at Indy?): "First off, I'd like to thank Tony George and Roger Bailey and everyone for giving us the opportunity to run here. I thought this was what the Pro Series was for, to help open-wheel drivers like me to achieve their dreams of running here. I never dreamed I'd be running here. To get the chance and opportunity to run here is truly an honor. I've been coming here since I was 6 years old. It's truly amazing." (On the series' driver coaches) "Before this year, the only time I had been around the track was in the Speedway bus. This year, I've had Rick Mears take me around, and I've had Lee Kunzman (Hemelgarn manager). They've both been inspirational, especially for me since they've been around this place. I was actually more scared driving around with them at 90 mph than I was driving. They're a lot of help and a great tool to use. I've been trying to use them as much as possible."
THIAGO MEDEIROS: (No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I think we are very anxious about this and about Indianapolis. It will be a big difference for everyone. After the test we had two weeks ago, I'm very happy with the Genoa team in every way." (On help received from driver coaches): After the last race, and before the Open Test, they helped me a lot and showed me the line. They gave me some tricks and things that are important to running here. But I don't think I should tell you what they are."