CHAMPCAR/CART: Drivers'' thoughts on the return to Nazareth

JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on his anticipation of competing in Saturday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota and Sunday's Indianapolis 500: "I've been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. Our team is really...

JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on his anticipation of competing in Saturday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota and Sunday's Indianapolis 500: "I've been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. Our team is really starting to work well together, and the Toyota-Lola has been great. We all know we could have won in Japan, and we think we'll be right back in the [FedEx Championship Series] points race after this weekend. The chance to race in Nazareth and the Indy 500 in the same weekend is a great opportunity. Someone asked me the other day if I was looking past the Nazareth race to Indy. No way. When you're driving 200 miles per hour, the only thing you can think about is what's happening right then and there. If your mind is somewhere else, it's dangerous and you don't belong there. These are two separate events, and I will approach them like I do every race-- trying to win." JIMMY VASSER (Target Toyota Lola), on the excitement surrounding a full weekend of racing: "I can't remember the last time I was this excited for a race weekend. This is going to be a lot of fun for Team Target. We've been running well this whole year and we're still improving. It would be amazing to win two races in one weekend. Heck, it's a great feeling to win one race in a weekend. We just plan to race like we've been doing all year and we'll see what happens."

GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), hoping to build on last month's strong qualifying effort at Nazareth Speedway: "Having qualified fifth and running well through the original race weekend at Nazareth, Marlboro Team Penske is looking forward to a good race. I've been close to a top-five finish a couple of times this season so hopefully, I can get my first one on Saturday."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the challenges of getting the proper set-up at Nazareth Speedway: "Nazareth is a tough track but when you find the right set-up, it's a lot of fun to race there, and I think Marlboro Team Penske has a good set-up for Saturday's race. Track conditions will have changed and there won't be as much rubber on the track, so we'll use Saturday morning's warm-up to make any necessary adjustments. We're starting third and hope to bring it home in the points."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on his return to FedEx Championship Series competition this weekend: "It's a bit ironic that my first race after being out for seven weeks with my wrist injury is the re-scheduled Nazareth race because that was the last time I was on the track prior to the injury. Naturally, I'm very pleased to be back in action and working with the Player's crew. There's no doubt that I'm fully recovered. I spent a lot of time working with weights to strengthen my wrist and doing a lot of karting to stay sharp, and I'm ready to go. I think it's going to be a bit weird for all of us because the only chance we'll have to see how things go with the car before the race is in the one-hour warm-up and practice. It's going to be different than our routine of practice sessions and qualifying, followed by the race. But I know that once the race starts, the only thing we'll be focusing on is finding a way to win."

ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on the return of Player's Forsythe Racing teammate Patrick Carpentier: "It's great to have Patrick back. We've been building a real good chemistry right from the start of the season and I know we'll continue to do that. Even while he was on the sidelines with his injury, Patrick followed my progress and gave me some helpful advice. I'm glad that we had a bit of time to rest after the race in Japan. With the time difference and the travel involved, you need some time to get recharged, both physically and mentally. For the Player's Team, being in the middle of the starting grid in Nazareth isn't a bad position to be in, especially considering how the series this year has had a lot of winners come from the middle of the pack and beyond. It's a long race and anything can happen. We're going to do our best to make things happen."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on his victory at the May 14 Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan: "It was good to finally break through and win one for the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team. We were in a position I think to win all three races before Japan, or at least be on the podium for all three so it was good to finally win. The team has had a lot of challenges. We've had some things in the pits, and we've had some failures on the racetrack that were beyond our control, and it's tough. Everybody thinks it's just tough on me, but it's tough on the whole team, so we all just had to stick together and know that sooner or later it had to turn right, and if we continue to do our job, it's going to go right more often than not. Coming back to Nazareth for me isn't a big deal because I live two miles from the track, but for the team I think it was a big break for us because we had a real problem. There was no question about it, and now we're going to have a chance to test for it, and do some things to make it better. And also I think that it is great for the fans because they're going to get a break from the weather because it was going to be freezing cold if we would have raced in April. Preparing mentally for the race is no big deal. Because we were able to test in Milwaukee and also having the extra practice is definitely going to be a positive for us. Hopefully by the time that green flag drops we'll have it all set. [On the postponement of the event] "First of all, we had to do it, secondly, it was a huge break for the race and hopefully now that it has a good date, it will draw the crowd that we all feel like it should draw. Maybe if they do, maybe we'll get a better date for the race next year."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on his return to Nazareth to start in the outside pole position: "I think it's going to be pretty straight forward when we go to Nazareth. I sort of divide Nazareth race week as two different races - the first race is the qualifying, and the second race is the actual race. In my opinion, qualifying is almost as important as the whole race, so once Saturday afternoon is over and we got it done, we really had to go on to the second race, which was on Sunday, but unfortunately that didn't happen. So now it's a matter of getting back to Nazareth and having a good setup and running pretty well on Saturday morning, then going on for the race and it's nothing we have to fear about. Having the small practice in the morning and going for the race is not very different in my opinion. We have a good amount of practice in the morning. It's not like we are only going to run for ten laps and then we're going to race. We have a chance, pretty much, I would say, to be in tune with the car. We already ran there for a couple of days when we were supposed to be racing there in the beginning of April, so I don't think it will be a problem. We have our setup pretty much straightforward to run there, and I think we are pretty confident. [On the postponement] "Being a driver, it was very cold, therefore the tire temperatures would not have been high enough on an oval. It wouldn't have been much fun out there, so I think it was more than right to do that [postpone the race]. We definitely could not afford to lose any other cars especially because we were going to Long Beach the following weekend. It was going to be hard on all the teams if they lost a car during the race and have to fix it and be able to make the trip over to Long Beach. [On staying in front from the start] "It's pretty important to always be in the lead in a race and be in command of the race, but I would rather be in the lead of the race at the end then actually in the beginning. So, in my opinion the race is really going to start happening when we hit traffic. Before that, really nothing is going to be happening. We're just going to be pounding around waiting for an opportunity to pass once we come upon traffic. We had good momentum with our second place qualifying position, and plan to get the Big Kmart/Route 66 team into Winners Circle at Nazareth."

LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), on bringing a 2000 equipment package to the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota: "It will be nice to return to Nazareth with competitive equipment. Last month, we came with a 1999 car, but now it will be the 2000 Reynard. The snow was a blessing in disguise for us and we want to make the most of this second chance. We've done okay on the ovals so far and we would have done well in Japan had we not had a leak."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier
Teams Team Penske