IPS: St. Pete: Inaugural street course pre-race notes, quotes

MENARDS INFINITI PRO SERIES GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG FAST FACTS WHAT: Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, 3rd race in 14-race 2005 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series season. WHERE: Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., ...

MENARDS INFINITI PRO SERIES
GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

FAST FACTS

WHAT:
Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg,
3rd race in 14-race 2005 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series season.

WHERE:
Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., 1.8-mile temporary street course

WHEN:
11:30 a.m. (EDT), Sunday, April 3

DISTANCE:
40 laps/72 miles

CARS:
Dallara chassis; Infiniti V8 engines; Firestone tires

TV:
ESPN2, 3 p.m. (EDT), April 8

SCHEDULE: (all times local; subject to change)

Friday, April 1
12:50-1:35 p.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice
3:30-4 p.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice

Saturday, April 2
8:30-9 a.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice
10:45 a.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series qualifying
2-2:30 p.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice

Sunday, April 3
11:30 a.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (40 lap/72 miles)

PRE-RACE QUOTES:

MISHAEL ABBOTT (No. 91 Hemelgarn Johnson Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Being the first woman to compete in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series means the world to me. I've always been proud of my accomplishments, being the first female to win a professional shifter kart race in the United States, being the first to test the Infiniti Pro Series car at Las Vegas two years ago, and now the first woman to actually compete in the series fulfills one of my life long goals."

(About the St. Petersburg event) "It's on to St. Petersburg for the first IRL road race, on a downtown city street course no less. The learning curve there will be steep, but I have every confidence in the team and Mike Colliver, our engineer, in having us ready to compete at the front of the pack."

NICK BUSSELL (No. 21 JL West Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Given that my roots are firmly planted in road racing, it's only natural that I have anticipated the first road race of the season. After last week's test at Indianapolis, I know who I'll need to beat, and they know they'll have to beat me. All bravado aside, it will be a fantastic race for both drivers and fans."

JAIME CAMARA (No. 1 CELG-Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "To a certain extent, a street course is a new thing for me as I am more familiar with proper road courses. But with more testing and time on that kind of race track, I am sure it will come to me right away, and we will be competitive in St. Pete. I do not want to create expectations, especially before a street race, as I do not know the track, and I understand there are a few tricky corners. But I am sure it will be a great race."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Visit New Zealand Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I learned enough (at the Indianapolis test), but not enough. I'm glad we had the test. I would have liked a couple more days, but most people are in the same boat. The car seems quite good. It has 200 more horsepower than what I am used to. Other than that, it's very balanced. It seems to have a lot of mechanical and aerodynamic grip, so it's reasonably good to drive."

JAY DRAKE (No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Well, (road racing) I'm definitely going to be a rookie at. I don't have hardly any kind of road racing experience. I've played around with some go-karts here and there, but nothing to speak of. That's going to be a huge learning curve for me. I did actually go out and do a Russell Racing School for three days and got a lot of laps on that road course (Infineon). So that was a big help right off the bat, but still, it's going to take a lot of luck and a quick learning curve on my part to be able to compete with some of these guys that have run a lot of road course racing. But I'm confident that we'll pick up on it fairly quickly, and I'm really looking forward to it because I had a blast when I went out there and did that driving school. It's a lot of fun."

CHRIS FESTA (No. 19 SpacePak/CareCentric/SSM Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "That street course is a little bit better than most in my opinion because it's a little bit wider, and you've got some longer straights than most street courses, so you can be a little bit more aggressive and race a little bit more. But it's also a lot smoother than most street courses, so it's much more road course like than it is actual street course. So that will be good from a fan perspective because they'll be able to see a lot more racing going on and a lot more aggressive driving, I guess could you say. But it will be a good one also, because it's a fun track for the drivers to drive, as well.

TRAVIS GREGG (No. 7 Lucas Oil Products/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to St. Petersburg. We're going to be right by the bay. I think it's going to be a challenge. I've never raced on a street course before, and it's going to be different variations in pavement and concrete. I'm looking forward to it and just have to take it one step at a time."

JON HERB (No. 6 AERCON Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "St. Pete will be tricky, as none of us have gotten to test there, but I started out as a road course racer, so I'm not concerned about my ability to perform on a road or street course. Obviously, we'll take the momentum we gained from winning in Phoenix into St. Pete and hope to run well there and continue to lead the point standings in our chase for the championship. I think we're in a good position to do that."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Some things are still a question mark going into (St. Pete). I know the track a little bit. I think only a couple of guys have been on track, so that will give us a bit of an advantage for the first 15 minutes or so until the other guys learn the track. Hopefully, we can keep that advantage for the whole weekend. This is a much different car than the last car I drove there, so we have some questions about what we need to do to optimize our setup for down there. Hopefully, we can take our data from (the test at Indianapolis) and correlate that with St. Pete."

-irl-

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt