Target Grand Prix Presented By Energizer "Quoteboard" KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola), on last week's incident at Michigan International Speedway with Team Rahal teammate Max Papis: "We were racing hard for the lead. We both believed we had cars...
Target Grand Prix Presented By Energizer "Quoteboard"
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola), on last week's incident at Michigan International Speedway with Team Rahal teammate Max Papis: "We were racing hard for the lead. We both believed we had cars to win. I was high and Max was low on the track and we just got too close. We were racing for it and things like that can happen. It's very unfortunate for Team Rahal overall. Both cars were strong. It was a tough race and we both were in the positions we wanted. We pitted for fuel late and we could race all-out to the finish. I know the Shell car had a chance to win. But it's now in a pile in the paddock area. I hit pretty hard but I'm okay. We've had some pretty bad luck lately and it's time to turn it around the second half of the season. [On coming to Chicago this week] We were in an excellent position to win the Chicago race last year and I made a mistake. I admit it. Stalling the pits in the lead was very tough for everyone on our Shell team. This year, we are definitely ready for that track. It's a great event in the heart of Chicago. And the racing is tough. It's hard to pass and the field is so competitive that you can't make a single mistake. That track isn't easy with its tight turns."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on continuing his and his team members' success at Chicago Motor Speedway: "We've run well in Chicago, and I finished second there in 1999. Iain [Watt, chief engineer] won there last year [with Cristiano da Matta] so I'm hoping for great things from him with regards to the setup of the car. It's a different wing spec this year, obviously, but I'm confident Team KOOL Green will give me a good car. I'm looking forward to it. We've run very well overall on the ovals this year, pace-wise. Add a bit of luck there and we could have a good day. Our win in Cleveland was worth a $10,000 bonus to the 100 Black Men of America and I'd like to do the same thing this weekend in Chicago. That would be the ultimate win-win situation. Another big donation to the program and a bunch of points for the championship."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard), on his prospects for a strong finish at Chicago Motor Speedway: "We've been pushing pretty hard. Michigan was a disappointment because we were really on a roll after our victory in Toronto and we had a good car. But the team is working well together and we've been pretty reasonable on the ovals, so there is no reason why we can't get on the podium in Chicago. We had a good race last year but I left disappointed since I think we definitely could have won the race. I've been pretty strong in Chicago over the last two years and I know with Team Motorola that we'll be strong again this year."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of Chicago: "Chip Ganassi and his partners have built a beautiful facility in Chicago. It's a great city with plenty to see, and is one of the places I really enjoy. The track is very tricky; it has longer straights and tighter corners than the other one-mile ovals. We certainly had a very exciting race there last season, and I was able to do a lot of overtaking on our way to a third-place finish. Hopefully, Marlboro Team Penske will have another good race this year."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on translating strong qualifying performances into good finishes at Chicago Motor Speedway: "I qualified well at the first two Chicago events [second in '00 and fifth in '99], but unfortunately last year I lost power and was out of the race early [lap 35]. Marlboro Team Penske performs well on short ovals so we should have a pretty good set-up for the Target Grand Prix. We need to put a good run together and bring home a strong finish."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola), on defending his championship in the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer : "It's ironic that I beat Newman/Haas and Michael last year [while driving for PPI Motorsports] but I was more worried about Montoya, who was behind Michael, because he looked like he had a good car. What I really wanted was when I was leading on the last yellow flag, Montoya was behind me, and I really wanted him to stay in the race, so I could finish ahead of him. To finish a race ahead of Montoya, who was dominant that weekend, meant a lot to me. It was good to win my first race! The team was so happy because it was their first race win in CART in their six years in the series. There were fans that came to Winner's Circle who were yelling 'I kick (expletive)' like the Toyota commercial. The team threw me up in the air. We all had a great time. It was good to see the look on so many people's faces and know that you had a part in making them that way. It was a team effort to get to that point. You never forget your first win in a series. [On his confidence level at Chicago] The Texaco/Havoline/Kmart team has given me a good oval car everywhere I've been. The Toyota engine and track will be the same and the set-up has been better every oval I have been to, so hopefully, it is going to be better in Chicago, too. I'm pretty confident because I like that track a lot. It's probably the oval I feel the most comfortable at and I am ready to go. [On Chicago being NHR's home race] It's one of those deals where all your crew, engineers, and all of your team will have their friends and family there watching the race and everybody will be pushing extra hard to perform extra well. I'm giving 100 percent of myself every weekend, so it's impossible to give 101 percent. I'm going to try as hard as I try every weekend and I am going to do everything possible to win that race. If we do win, there will be more people to celebrate with. Some of these people only see the races from a TV, so it would be nice to win one for them while they are actually with us at the track. Da Bears, Da Bulls, Da Matta!"
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the challenges of short-oval racing at Chicago Motor Speedway: "The track is pretty quick down the straights, then you jump on the brakes, grab the gears, and turn left. Team KOOL Green has done a great job on the short ovals set up all year -- we were strong at Milwaukee and finished third at Nazareth -- so we should be good at Chicago, too. It's really close racing, and you just have to watch out for traffic. It's a race that hasn't been too good to me. We've had good cars there but no luck. We've got extra motivation this weekend with Chicago being part of our 100 Black Men of America program. Dario's win in Cleveland was a big boost for the program. We're due for a win and this would be a great place to do it."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Toyota Lola), on racing close to the home of Newman/Haas Racing: "You really want to do well anywhere you go. It's not just because we're racing at Chicago, Elkhart Lake, or Milwaukee that we're going to go a little bit quicker. We just try to do our very best out there and see what happens. If we do win, though, there will no doubt be a huge party. [On being the team veteran but a "rookie" in Chicago] "We have a lot of practice time in Chicago on Friday and Saturday, so I don't think it will matter that I haven't raced at Chicago Motor Speedway yet. We really need to get a good set-up for the car and then get to race day and see what happens on the track and in the race. Michael [Andretti] finished second last year so we had a good set-up for the track. Based on our oval experience so far this season, I have to admit that the medium speed or short ovals haven't really been my strongest this year. We're pretty strong on the super speedways and the road and street courses, but not so much on the short ovals. We definitely need to find a better set-up for me. I'm having problems with a neutral car where I can't put the power down, so we definitely have to improve on that."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Lola), on last week's incident at Michigan Speedway, which resulted in the simultaneous exit of Papis and Team Rahal teammate Kenny Brack: "I don't know about this Michigan race. I'm very disappointed for the Miller Lite guys as well as the Shell guys. Our crews gave us cars to win. I'm okay but just hurt inside. Kenny and I were fast all day and we were both racing for the win. It was one of those racing things. As a driver, you don't get many chances to win a 500-mile race and we had the car. As much as we work together on our cars to be fast, it's just unbelievable that we got together in a battle for the win. But they knew Team Rahal was here. Kenny and I were racing hard and we got together. We both wanted this race very badly. Unfortunately, neither of us got the win.
"We'll do the same plan for Chicago. Race hard at the lead and try to win. It's a shame we left our crew guys with this big mess going to Chicago. [On coming to Chicago] Last year, we qualified well [sixth] and I thought I had a chance to race for the win but the engine caught fire right after we started it up and that was it. I'm looking forward to coming back to Chicago for another chance. I think we can get back to that strong position at Chicago since we won the pole two years ago and led the race [for 65 laps]. We were very fast on the one-mile ovals in testing and Kenny has won at Milwaukee. So I feel that Team Rahal has put together a good setup for Chicago. I'm anxious to run there again."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on building upon the momentum generated by consecutive podium finishes for the Player's Forsythe Racing team: "Team Player's has had a fast, competitive car in the two years we've been racing on the new Chicago oval. With a new track like that, you sometimes learn by trial and error, and that's what happened with us near the end of last year's race. One thing about the Chicago oval is that you've really got to be careful not to charge into the first corner or your race might be over before it begins. Then, you have to pick your spots. There are some passing opportunities but they don't come often. It's been an eventful couple of weeks, both for me and Team Player's with Alex [Tagliani, teammate] finishing second in Toronto and then giving me a big hand to help in my first CART win in Michigan last Sunday. In between, I signed a new contract to race with Team Player's again next year. I'm happy for the entire team that things are starting to break our way. We had our share of bad luck earlier in the season but we never gave up, and that perseverance is paying off right now."
JIMMY VASSER (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard), on turning around his recent run of misfortune at the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer: "With all the bad luck the Visteon/Patrick Racing team has been having lately, I think I have been predestined to win the Target Grand Prix. I like the Chicago Motor Speedway track. It is a great track and one of the finest facilities we race at in our series. They do a great job of promoting the race and I am looking forward to going back there and competing. Hopefully, we can get some momentum going in Chicago that will help us get back into the fight for the 2001 FedEx Championship Series title."
ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Toyota Reynard), on the challenges presented by Chicago Motor Speedway: "Chicago Motor Speedway is a very unique oval. It is a little like Milwaukee, but more slippery and you have hard braking going into Turn 4. I have been quick there in the past and I think the Number 20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team should be good there this year. I am looking forward to going back to Chicago. The Target Grand Prix is always a good race. They promote the race very well and the crowds are always good. It is a very enjoyable race."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood Honda Reynard), on building upon last year's strong performance at Chicago Motor Speedway: "Chicago is a race where I definitely want to finish what I started last year. It was a breakthrough race for us then because I qualified third. I had probably the best car there that I had anyplace last season. It felt great during the race, and it was a very, very fun day until my gearbox went away on me [Kanaan finished 16th]. I think we should be very competitive there again, especially this time with my Honda engine. It's been so frustrating, lately, because we've had a great car the last three weekends and one thing or another put us out of contention. Part of it you can blame on us still being a relatively new team, but part of it is just, plain bad luck. We know we can win. I feel it coming. The guys have been keeping their heads down and working hard through all of it, and that is going to pay off."
ALEX ZANARDI (Pioneer-WorldCom Honda Reynard), on the benefits of a possible podium finish at Chicago: "It would be really cool to finish on the podium so I can get Chip [Ganassi, his former team owner] to hand me a trophy at the end. I'm just kidding, actually. From what I hear, Chip puts on a tremendous event at Chicago Motor Speedway. This will be my first one and I can't wait to get there. Chicago is a fabulous place, and our sponsors from Pioneer and WorldCom will be out in force. Needless to say, I have some big shoes to fill as the Pioneer-WorldCom car [driven by Cristiano da Matta] won this race last year.
"The last race we did on this kind of oval circuit was at Milwaukee, where our car was competitive. We made a great run at the end and picked up several spots. So we finished with some great momentum. Unfortunately, we just started too far back and had a pit lane speed violation that set us back. I'm obviously hoping we can get a good result. It seems like that's what I always say. But it would be more welcome than ever right now. Every weekend we show signs of competitiveness, like we did last Sunday at Michigan once I got my car sorted out a couple of pit stops into the race. We were running as fast as the leaders and I was ready to make a charge at the end. But, unfortunately, we had another problem that ended our day before we were ready. This weekend, I hope it all falls together."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on scoring championship points in his first career start at Chicago: "I was quite satisfied with my first race on the Chicago oval last year [ninth place]. Team Player's prepared the car well and it was very reliable on a demanding circuit because only 10 cars were able to finish the race. My first impression of the Chicago oval is that it's a challenging circuit that can take its toll on car and driver as the race unfolds. You're racing on a pretty wide track but then, all of a sudden, it gets real tight in the turns. That's where you run the risk of getting squeezed. It was a great feeling to be running alongside of Pat [his teammate Patrick Carpentier] as he crossed the finish line for his first CART win in Michigan last Sunday. I wanted to help him any way I could, and when I saw the opportunity on that last lap, I went for it. Teamwork is an important part of a team's success, and I've been saying all season that once we get a few breaks going our way, watch out, we're going to be a big force the rest of the way. Team Player's has been on the podium for two straight races, and we're not about to stop there."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (Herdez Ford Lola), on the first podium finish of his FedEx Championship Series career, a third-place effort at Michigan last Sunday: "Of course, I'm very, very happy with our result at Michigan last weekend but that race was over on Sunday afternoon and the celebration was over Sunday night. Starting Monday morning, all of our efforts and thoughts are about Chicago. We were very fast in Chicago last year and ran in the top five for a good part of the race. So far this year we've had good qualifying and race set-ups for the short ovals, so I'm confident that will continue in Chicago. As a team, we are hoping to build some momentum from our performance at Michigan. If we can have pit stops and strategy as good at Chicago as we did at Michigan, we could be in the hunt for a win."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota), on the importance of a good starting position at Chicago: "I'm looking forward to go back to another short oval. Last season we ended up with a decent result [seventh-place finish] in Chicago, and this year we need to build on that and show up ready to compete. Chicago is a really tough track to pass on, so it will be important to qualify very well this weekend so we're not starting this race with a disadvantage. My team has given me great race-day strategies this season, so I know we can come out strong and keep our momentum going. This is always the toughest part of the season with six races in seven weeks, and I know the teams are wearing down, but if we can stay focused we will be right there on Sunday for the payoff."
SCOTT DIXON (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), on his affection for competing at Chicago Motor Speedway: "I love racing in Chicago. The track really seems to suit me and I've had a lot of success there the last two years. I really think the experiences I've had racing in Chicago in the [Indy] Lights series will help me this weekend, it's just a matter of qualifying well and maintaining position throughout the race. Passing is pretty tough, but obviously not impossible. I've never lost a race in Chicago (winning from the pole in 1999, and winning from third position in 2000), and I'm going to do my best to make sure I keep that streak alive. My crew has been awesome in the pits all year, so as a team I feel really good about this weekend."
ORIOL SERVIA (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), on racing at his "home" track: "All the races mean something, but this one means a lot because of the fact that we are based in Chicago, just minutes from the track. It's nice that we picked up some points at Michigan and we hope to do the same at Chicago and maybe even bring home a podium. I think we'll have a great race because we are heading in the right direction."
TORA TAKAGI (Pioneer/DENSO Special Toyota Reynard), on his adjustment to competing on FedEx Championship Series ovals: "I think we have a good setup for Chicago and will hopefully have a good result there. I like driving on ovals and feel I am adapting well in my first year of driving them. With the 500 miles of oval experience I gained last weekend at Michigan, I have a better idea about racing on them with the other guys, and thus feel better prepared."