MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on last year's inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer: "I learned that the walls are hard in Chicago. We had a car that was very good in the race last year and I think we ...
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on last year's inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer: "I learned that the walls are hard in Chicago. We had a car that was very good in the race last year and I think we could have won. I think we are going into the race feeling confident that we can be very competitive. I had a run in with Paul last year. He didn't want to let me by, and he wouldn't let me by at all costs, but that's all water under the bridge. I think the whole Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team has a great setup for ovals, and experience helps a lot. I think it has helped with the things that I have learned over the years, just getting the feel of what the car wants. It's special for the whole team when we are in Chicago. Everyone has friends and family there and it's like everybody's hometown race. You want to do well in your hometown, and the guys will be pushing extra hard to do that. It's great being in the Championship lead but if we want to stay here, we have to keep finishing races. We have had some great races this year and plan to continue the momentum."
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on the lift he and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team got from last Sunday's thrilling victory at Michigan Speedway: "The timing for that win [Michigan 500] was perfect. We had a few difficult races in a row, so that big win was great for our confidence. Now we're heading to Chicago, where we had a good run last year and really got some momentum in the race for the championship. The Target Grand Prix was a great event last year, and I know they'll put on another great race this year. This is an important time of year for our team. Chicago is our last oval for awhile, so it's important for us to get some good points here and continue to gain on the leaders. I have some great memories from my last race in Chicago. I would love to hit the bulls-eye again and make some more good memories on Sunday."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Toyota Lola), on the importance of scoring championship points over the remainder of the season: "There are too many races left to get discouraged, and we're only 41 points off the lead. We have to score points in the remaining nine races in order to give us a shot at the title, and there's not one person on this team who thinks we can't do it. The Target Grand Prix is one of the most anticipated stops on the circuit from the drivers' perspective. Chicago is a great town and the atmosphere surrounding the race is phenomenal. This event energized us last year and we got to the podium. We plan to get back there again on Sunday."
CHIP GANASSI, Target Chip Ganassi Racing team owner, on last year's success at Chicago: "With both Jimmy [Vasser, third place] and Juan [Montoya, race winner] on the podium at Target's race last year, it couldn't have been much better. The whole team is looking forward to the second race in Chicago. This is the time of year when our experience and teamwork begins to pay off. I like our team's focus. They all know our goals and are doing everything in their power to achieve them."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on seeking a more successful trip to Chicago this weekend: "We had four straight podiums going into Chicago last year and the Chicago race interrupted the streak, so we're looking to make amends this time. Despite having to retire about halfway through the race last year, we were competitive and I enjoyed running on the new oval. You can do a lot of things on that track. There are wide passing lanes and plenty of opportunities to go wheel-to-wheel. I expect it will be another exciting race, with lots of drivers in contention at the finish. We want to make sure we're among those in that position. Team KOOL Green is having another fine season on ovals. We've been in the top seven in four of the six races on ovals so far and we've had two podium finishes. We've also consistently been among the fastest in qualifying. The Chicago race is the last one on ovals for a stretch so we want to make the most of it and pick up as many points as we can."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of racing at Chicago Motor Speedway: "Racing in Chicago for the first time last year was a pleasant experience that was made even more enjoyable by the fact we managed to get a podium on the new short oval track. It's a well-designed track that's not hard to get accustomed to, and with Team KOOL Green's usual precision in delivering a top-notch car we should be right in the thick of things again this year. We really needed to get that podium in Michigan last weekend and, fortunately, we were able to work through some early problems for a third-place finish. You have to be patient, maintain your poise, keep your nose to the grindstone and just try to hang in there. We're still a long way from where we would like to be in the standings but there are plenty of races left and if we can build on our success in Michigan and be consistent in every race we can get back into contention."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), on making his debut at Chicago Motor Speedway: "This is the first time I will be racing at Chicago Motor Speedway. Last year, I missed the race because of the injury to my arm [a fractured radius bone in his right wrist sustained in a practice crash at Detroit]. However, the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team had a good test at Chicago Speedway, so we have a lot of data going into this race. From the test the track seems like a nice place and I am hoping to have a good race. It is a different kind of short oval. The corners are tighter and with the new aerodynamic package, hopefully it will be a good race. It is going to be tough to pass so qualifying is going to be very important. Race strategy and pit work will also be key, so I have something of an advantage with Mr. Patrick and [chief engineer] John Ward calling my race and the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team, which is one of the top pit crews in the series."
ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Ford Reynard), on regaining his championship momentum at Chicago: "I am looking forward to going to Chicago. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a great test there a couple of weeks ago and I believe we have a good set-up for the race. It is a challenging track and the race is well promoted. Last year, I finished ninth and was running competitive speeds with the leaders at the end of the race. It was an exciting race and I think this year it will be even better. The track has had a year to age and hopefully there will be two racing lines, which would make for more passing. But, we will have to see how the wing package affects the cars and what they will allow us to do. As in any race for a championship, you are going to have ups and downs during the season. Hopefully, the Visteon/Patrick Racing team has had its share of downs. This is a very competitive series. If you are going to fight for the championship you have to be consistent, take advantage of your opportunities and score points as often as you can. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team will continue to work hard and I know that we will be in the championship hunt for the rest of the season."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on competing in this weekend's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer with a broken left index finger: "The last circuit we ran that's similar to Chicago was Milwaukee. The Marlboro car was great there so I'm looking forward to running this weekend -- despite e the fact that I'll be racing with a broken finger from the Michigan race [de Ferran's left index finger was hit by a piece of debris from the #8 car]."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his recent success on ovals: "We had a good test session in Chicago earlier this month and Marlboro Team Penske is coming off of a strong run in Michigan so we're looking forward to this weekend. The Chicago Motor Speedway is a very wide track with tight corners. There is basically one racing line and passing is going to be difficult. We'll see where we are during Friday practice and give it our all to be there at the end on Sunday."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on feeling more comfortable heading into this weekend's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer: "I feel much better heading into Chicago this year than I did for the race there last season. I was coming off an injury to my chest and back [at Detroit], and there was still some discomfort during the race in Chicago. Despite that, we managed to match our best performance of the season on an oval with a sixth-place finish. I like the track and the whole atmosphere surrounding the Chicago race and I'm looking for us to be even stronger there this year. The Team Player's crew provided an outstanding car for last Sunday's race on the super-oval in Michigan and there is every reason to believe we'll have an extremely competitive car on the short oval in Chicago. We've been building momentum with each race and now it's time to ride that momentum to a place on the podium."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on continuing to learn during his rookie FedEx Championship Series season: "Competing on my first super-oval just before the shorter Chicago oval was a good way to prepare for this weekend's event. Although we weren't able to finish the Michigan 500, it was a valuable learning experience and I intend to apply some of that learning to come back strong in Chicago. We've had the lead in three different races on ovals this season. Now it's a matter of putting everything together to make sure we're right there at the finish. We've had a consistently reliable car on ovals this year and that's a tribute to the hard work by the Team Player's crew. I really want to do well in Chicago to reward them for the great job they've been doing."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on the importance of being able to test at Chicago Motor Speedway earlier this month: "The testing in Chicago was important because I missed the race last year [due to a subdural hematoma sustained in a testing accident at Gateway International Raceway]. I think the team has a good setup for the race car on ovals so that should give me a good start. It's important for the whole team to do well in Chicago race. We have been running very competitively in the past few races but need to finish them. Hopefully, I can have a finish like Elkhart Lake last year. [where Fittipaldi scored his first career FedEx Championship Series victory]. Elkhart was also like a home race for the team but it isn't as close as this track is to the shop. Racing on an oval is completely different. You only really notice the difference after you experience it. I'm still learning a lot of things about an oval and it's tough. The car changes a lot during the race, and you are racing at very high speeds and your car has to be hooked up the whole afternoon. We were hooked up in Michigan and had a good car. Unfortunately, we didn't bring it home on track. We are much better than the results show."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on building upon the momentum generated by a successful Open Test at Chicago Motor Speedway earlier this month, at which he posted the fastest lap time: "I have very high expectations for Chicago. We tested very, very well there, and I think we will have a very good car. We had our best oval car there at the test, than we have ever had on an oval before, so I am really looking forward to it." ORIOL SERVIA (Telefonica Toyota Reynard), on scoring championship points in the first 500-mile event of his FedEx Championship Series career: "We made it through last weekend with points. I am very happy and relieved, as it was my first 500-mile race and I had been thinking about it for a long time. I am looking forward now to Chicago. I was really happy with my car there at our Open Test. Both Cristiano's car and my car were very good. We have made a lot of developments with our oval car, that I don't think pertained to Michigan as much, but they will make a very big difference at tracks like Chicago and St. Louis. We will see, but I think we will have a very good weekend."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), on his return to competition last week after sustaining a broken left forearm and four cracked ribs in a qualifying accident at Detroit: "As I said all last weekend at Michigan, it's great to be back. Physically, I felt great all weekend long, and it's going to be that much better this weekend at Chicago. I'm back in Miami full-time again, which is great. But one thing I brought with me from Indy [where Kanaan rehabilitated for four weeks under the watchful eye of CART orthopedic surgeon Dr. Terry Trammell] was my go-kart. I think Dr. Trammell created a monster because go-karting is now going to be a big part of my training. It made my comeback at Michigan go that much smoother. The Chicago track is a lot tighter, but I will have had another week to heal my injuries. I enjoyed the track and the event very much last year. They sure do know how to put on a show. I hope we got all of the gremlins out of our system with regard to the race car. Those things happen. We showed we can do well on the small ovals. If you look back at Nazareth and Milwaukee, those were two of the better weekends we've had so far. This Hollywood/Mo Nunn team is due for a breakthrough, and I can hardly think of a better place to do that than Chicago!"
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (Herdez Mercedes Lola), on his anticipation of the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer: "I am looking forward the Chicago race. Previously, we had a very good test there and we are very positive about achieving a nice result, after doing well in qualifying."
LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), on being experienced at Chicago Motor Speedway: "We're coming off a couple of good finishes and I want to continue scoring in the points. Chicago is one of the few tracks I have run at. I didn't race there last year because of my crash [in qualifying], but I'm very familiar with it and it's a nice place. We will have a great race and a great crowd as well."