Marconi Grand Prix Of Cleveland Presented By Firstar "Quoteboard" KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola), on last week's struggles at Portland: "We had a very difficult races in Detroit and Portland. In Portland, coming from 22nd, we knew we had to use a...
Marconi Grand Prix Of Cleveland Presented By Firstar "Quoteboard"
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola), on last week's struggles at Portland:
"We had a very difficult races in Detroit and Portland. In Portland, coming from 22nd, we knew we had to use a fuel strategy. But I got hit many times in Portland and went out into the grass each time. I was skating around a lot. But I give our Shell team credit for staying with me all the way and we got some points. There were so many guys just flying off the track. I was dodging many of them. I got hit from behind two different times and then Gil [de Ferran] spun in front of me and I had to avoid hitting him by going into the grass. Luckily, I kept the engine going and drove it back onto the track. At least we scored some points. To be honest, Cleveland last year was a lot like Portland last weekend. I was fast in every session except qualifying. We lost the grip in that last qualifying run after being third on Friday. But our Shell team was able to find the setup again and the car was very good in the race. This time, I want to be up front at the start and race for the lead all day. I feel confident about our car going into Cleveland. You can really race on that airport surface."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of racing at
"It's a fun track but it's tricky. Yes, it's wide, so you can let your hair down a little bit more because you have more room to get the job done. But the trick is to be very careful because the track suckers you in - you think you have a lot of room because the track is so wide and the line is very wide at the entry of the corners, but when you get to the middle of the corner, it comes down to one car width, so if you miss that, it can definitely mess you up a bit. You really need a different approach. [As a city] Cleveland is awesome. It's great to see how the city has developed over the last few years. It's a great city to race in, great fans, and it's an awesome track for spectators because they can see the whole track."
ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Toyota Reynard), on last year's victory at
Cleveland, the first of his CART career:
"It was great last year in Cleveland. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team started going well in Portland and then we got to Cleveland and it was fantastic. Cleveland is a very challenging place. There are a lot of chicanes and that make things interesting. Also, because you are on an airport runway, it is very difficult to find your braking points. You have no reference and it is very wide so all you see is the cones in the corners. The biggest challenge at Cleveland is to know where you have to brake. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a good starting position at Cleveland last year, taking the pole. It was the first of my CART career and I am very proud of that. Then we continued to be fast in the race. Starting on pole last year really helped me to win the race because there were a lot of crashes behind me and I didn't have to get involved in all of that. We did have the fastest car there and the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did an outstanding job in the pits so we were able to bring home my first CART victory. The memories of that race are fantastic for me. Winning your first CART race stays in your mind forever."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the room for racing at Burke
"Cleveland is a track and city that I really enjoy. While the track is bumpy, it's wide and fast and you can try different lines. There's plenty of room to race, and unlike most temporary circuits, it has a lot of very fast corners. It's also a great venue for the fans because they can see the whole track. I won my first CART pole here in 1995 and won the race in 1996 so this venue holds very good memories for me."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his misfortunes at Cleveland:
"Cleveland has never been a very good track for me, as a matter of fact, I've never been able to finish a CART race there. I've had some success in Indy Lights [his third-place finish in 1996 was his first podium finish in a US race] and I enjoy the circuit because it's so wide and fast, but for some reason, I've never done well there in CART. It's the tracks that you don't do well at that are the biggest challenges for a driver and if there is one thing I know, Marlboro Team Penske is always up for a challenge."
ALEX ZANARDI (Pioneer Honda Reynard), on his affection for, and past success
"Cleveland is my favorite circuit in the United States. I like Cleveland a lot and I have great memories of racing in Cleveland. Right now, it's not a very good period we are going through. But both Morris and I had a lot of success in Cleveland. We always had a car that worked very, very well there. We still have the notes of what we did there in the past. Hopefully, this will help us get a better setup and make our car work, because it hasn't been working well lately. There's no magic in this business. It's all about making your car work. Max [Papis] proved that point in Portland. I'm not looking to be the hero in Cleveland, although I'd love to see that happen. I want to see myself where I know I can be. I think Cleveland is a circuit that seems to be designed for our cars."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Lola), on his victory at Portland:
"I'm glad I could show my emotions in Portland. I was a little reserved Saturday when I won the pole because I knew my job wasn't done. Our Miller team did a fantastic job. I've gone through some tough times lately. The Miller team had fantastic strategy with fuel and pit stops. The Ford engine had great power and the Lola car was good in both the dry and the rain. It's nice to be fast when it's dry or wet. You had to pace yourself. I kept chasing the grip in the track. Plus, [I was] trying to conserve fuel. Guys were flying of the track every lap in the beginning. That was the most difficult part of the race for me. You can't tell where to brake when you have so many yellow flags. Other drivers used me as a reference point for braking. Every win is special here in CART with so many top drivers. Miami [site of his first win last year] was very special because it's like your first girlfriend. We went from zero to hero this weekend. I hope we can keep up this momentum at Cleveland. I like that track but I haven't had too much luck there in the past two years."
JIMMY VASSER (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard), on the unique racing
environment at Burke Lakefront Airport:
"Cleveland is a unique track because it is a runway circuit. It is really bumpy and getting the car to work over the bumps is always paramount at Cleveland. I am hoping the Visteon/Patrick Racing team will have a good baseline setup there because Roberto [teammate Roberto Moreno] took the pole there last year. The first turn is very important at Cleveland. Anytime you have a corner like that where you start the race and all the cars funnel into the first corner, you are going to have some problems. Hopefully, the Number 40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team can avoid getting involved into anything bad there."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Toyota Lola), on what makes the Marconi Grand
Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar a great event:
"What I think makes Cleveland one of our best races is that it is incredibly wide, and that creates a lot of passing during the race. The drivers know if they out-brake someone by too much and go way too deep in a turn, that the worst that can happen to them is that they will go on the grass and can come back to the track because there is a whole lot of run-off area. At other places, there is a concrete barrier that isn't too friendly. It's fun for the drivers to be able to give 110 percent because we don't have to worry about keeping it off of the wall and that makes it great for the fans watching the race, too. Another interesting aspect about the Cleveland track is that no matter where you sit in the grandstands, you can see 90 percent of the track. On an oval, it is easy for you to do that, but on a road course, it is very hard because usually no matter where you are on the track, you can only see one or two corners maximum. That is what makes Cleveland a good race to attend. As far as my history in Cleveland, I would say it's interesting. I have never finished on the podium there, but I had two to three very strong runs there and unfortunately, it would just come down to luck. I was never that lucky to put the whole race together and finish up there [on the podium]. I can remember off the top of my head that I should have finished about three times on the podium there. In all, we have been very strong in Cleveland in the past. We had a slow start to the season but there are many races in front of us for the championship and we are coming back strong. You don't have much time to look back in racing because if you do, everyone else will be working for the future and you will get behind, but it would have been nice to have the points for fourth place in Milwaukee. We would be in a much stronger position right now. I would say our chances are good to continue the momentum in Cleveland. We are definitely due for a podium in Cleveland."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola), on his fond memories
of racing in Cleveland, site of his first career podium finish last year:
"It was really great to get to the podium, especially the way we got there. I had a strong car all weekend and I qualified fifth.. On the start I was involved in an accident [and] I went all the way to the back and had to work my way up from last place to third again. It was a tough day and a hard race. My team was a little tight on fuel so I couldn't try and charge [runner-up Kenny] Brack at the end, and I remember that wasn't a good feeling. It was pretty close at the end of the race and they could only get one cup of methanol out of the car. The calculations were really good, but it was a pity that I couldn't go for it. The best thing I can compare Turn One in Cleveland to is a motocross race. At the start of a motocross race, you come out of the gate into a very narrow first turn. Even though the braking is very wide, as you go into the turn, it gets very narrow, with only two lines maximum. At the start, you can go two by two, but as it goes into one line on the first turn it can make for a fun start. It wasn't a fun start for me last year, but it is a place where you have to pay a lot of attention because cars are coming from everywhere. That is why it gives drivers the confidence that makes them think that that can make a big jump at the start and pick up a lot of positions. Cleveland is a place where I really have to take care because your instinct makes you want to gain a lot of positions and you have to back off a little. The way to keep you from having to take that chance is to qualify way up front and hopefully every one else behind you has to worry about Lap One, Turn One in Cleveland. We qualified well in Portland [second] so we need to match that or make it one better this weekend. Cleveland is not only one of my favorite races, but I am sure it is one of everybody's favorite races because it is very challenging to drive. It demands a lot of a driver and team skill to put together a good lap and the atmosphere of the fans is great and the track is really safe. The whole Ohio crowd is so enthusiastic about CART. Every race in Ohio is fun to go to because fans really understand and you can tell that by the questions they ask you."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood Honda Reynard), hoping to rebound at Cleveland:
"Cleveland has always been good to me, but so has Detroit and Portland, and we're coming off of a couple of tough weekends at those places. So, I'm a little hesitant to make any bold predictions. We know Cleveland is a very driver-friendly layout. I love racing there more than most places. We just want to show up this time and get it right. We're not expecting miracles, but with the talent we have on this team, we wouldn't be surprised if it all came together this weekend. We've been struggling and even looked like we were a bit lost the last two weekends. There definitely is a problem we are searching for. We're working very hard to find it and solve it, and once we do, 'Look out!' The good thing is we're still in the first half of the season. There is a lot of racing left. Maybe soon, we will totally forget what's been going on the last two weekends ... kind of like my Saturday at Detroit [where Kanaan sustained a mild concussion that forced him to sit out the event]!"
SCOTT DIXON (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), on getting acclimated to
the Cleveland track in a Champ Car:
"Cleveland is a very different track. I raced there once in 1999 [in Indy Lights] and I'm looking forward to returning. We couldn't do any testing at Cleveland, so I've never driven a Champ Car on this particular track. I'm interested to see how a Champ Car handles all the bumps. Aside from being a bumpy track, it is difficult to find your braking spots, so it should be very challenging. It's a very wide track, so there should be a lot of passing, which will be exciting for the fans of Cleveland. I'm confident my engineers will put together a great set-up and my Toyota Reynard package has been consistent all year. Plus, I'm qualifying in the fast group, so overall, it should be a good weekend."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (Target Toyota Lola), on continuing Target Chip Ganassi
Racing's record of success in Cleveland:
"This team has had great success at Cleveland in the past. Our team has a great setup on the car for that track and I can't wait to get there. Our qualifying this year has been very fast and consistent. We have had four top-six starts in the last five races. This is a very competitive series and it is a credit to our team that we have done so well in qualifying this season. The field in Portland was separated by just over a second from first to last place. This weekend, I'm looking forward to continuing the winning tradition that Team Target has in Cleveland."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard), on the
importance of setup and grip at Cleveland:
"Cleveland is a very exciting circuit and a great track for the fans. I am happy that we are racing there. It's very wide and there are a lot of passing opportunities. On the other hand, it is difficult because it is so wide and flat, and you don't have very clear references. It is also very bumpy and the car jumps hard. It is all about mechanical grip here, and setup is very important. John [Ward, chief engineer and race engineer for Fernández] gave me a great car last year, so hopefully, we can come up with something good again this weekend."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on a special reason he's
looking forward to this year's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by
"The race in Cleveland is one of the highlights of the season for me, and even more so this year because that's where Kenny [Brack] and I will announce the name of our band. The response to the Name the Band contest has been amazing, and we're happy to see that so many people out there are interested. Cleveland is a great event, with lots of loyal fans. I remember the times we've had rain in Cleveland and the fans hung in there to the end. Racing on the Burke Lakefront Airport runway is quite an experience. You have to be careful and patient getting through the hairpin on Turn One because it's almost like a funnel. But there's lots of space on the track for passing. That helped me go from 19th to [finish] fifth last year. It's nice to be going to Cleveland on a bit of a roll. Team Player's has improved in each of the last three races and getting into the top five in Portland last Sunday shows that we're headed in the right direction. You have to give credit to the entire team. When we weren't having any luck earlier in the season, no one got down. Everyone just kept working hard and now we're starting to see some results from that hard work."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on the physical challenges of
competing at Cleveland:
"All the mountain biking, weight lifting and training exercises that I do throughout the year are probably going to come in handy in Cleveland this weekend. It can get pretty hot running 100 laps on that airport runway in June/July. Maintaining your stamina and making sure you stay hydrated is important. I enjoy racing in Cleveland because, at times, it's almost like you're out on this wide-open highway, putting the pedal to the metal. But it's a track that can take its toll on equipment, as we discovered last year when our gearbox gave out in the last 20 laps, just when we were close to getting into the top five. I'm not sure if Team Player's solid performance in Portland means that we've turned the corner, but we definitely have something to build on. We managed to persevere through a lot of adversity in that race. We kept battling and we were there at the end. Races like that are character builders and Portland may have been a great preparation for Cleveland, where you have to be ready for anything. The heat, the rain and the tough track in many aspects, is quite different from any other in the series."
BRYAN HERTA (Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Ford Reynard), returning to compete in
his former home state of Ohio:
"It will be great to race again in Ohio. I lived there for quite a while, so I really enjoy the Ohio races. We found some things during the practice session last weekend on our set-up that we have been evaluating, and I think it should help us with our set-up this week, so I am looking forward to getting out on the track on Friday. This is a great event, and I really like racing at the airport."
ORIOL SERVIA (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), on the importance of last week's
ninth-place finish at Portland:
"We accomplished what we needed to do at Portland and that was score some points. It is good momentum heading into Cleveland. I really like Cleveland and I think most of the drivers like it, too. It's one of my favorite tracks because it has fast and slow corners and fast chicanes, which I like a lot. It's just an exciting race and a great place to be because we have a great fan base there. It's the track to be at for the fans because they can see almost all of the track and what goes on at a road circuit."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota), on the recent improvement of the
PacWest Racing Group heading into Cleveland:
"Even though we didn't finish the Portland race [contact while in fifth position], I still feel as though we are on a roll and heading in the right direction entering Cleveland. This is a track where I have enjoyed a lot of success in the past. I have always qualified well there, and the wide-open track is something that I enjoy. The circuit allows you the perspective of seeing everyone on the track, so you can always gauge where you are compared to everyone else simply by looking around - which is unique for a street circuit. Last year, we nearly had the pole so this year, with Toyota power, I'm feeling very confident. I know what my crew and I are capable of doing. It's just a matter of putting it all together and really working hard as a team. As long as we stay focused and consistent in our efforts, the results will come."
MEMO GIDLEY (Target Toyota Lola), on bouncing back from last week's
disappointing return to the FedEx Championship Series:
"Last weekend was disappointing for our team. Even though I was starting near the back of the pack, I felt that we had a car that could compete for a top-10 finish. The first-lap incident that we were involved in ended those hopes. This team has really accepted me and I already feel like an integral part of this organization. I'm hoping that we can have a solid finish this weekend. Cleveland is my kind of track. It is a place where you can really throw the car around and be aggressive."
SHINJI NAKANO (Avex/Alpine Honda Reynard), on adapting to the road course
layout at Burke Lakefront Airport:
"The Cleveland track is something special. When I went there for the first time last year, I thought, 'What is this?' Driving on an airport is a strange feeling, but it is a very interesting track. There are no reference points, so it is very difficult to find your braking spots. It is also very bumpy. It's a challenge to find a good car because it is not a normal circuit. Now I know the track, and I have good feeling for this weekend."
TORA TAKAGI (Pioneer/DENSO Special Toyota Reynard), on getting comfortable
with FedEx Championship Series road- and street-course competition:
"Thanks to a good weekend in Portland and more time in the CART car at Detroit the weekend before, and at our test in Mid-Ohio right before that, I have some confidence on the road and street courses going into the Cleveland race. Plus, our team is working well together, so I am hoping that [at] this next race, we will make continuous progress and keep improving, although I hope it is a little drier in Cleveland next weekend than it was the last!"