CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, ...
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Kmart Toyota-Lola
Defending Champion of the Marlboro 500
DID YOU KNOW YOU WOULD HAVE GOOD RACE CAR FOR FONTANA?:
"Last year we had a strong car at the Michigan 500 mile race so we knew we would also have a good car for Fontana. We qualified third in Michigan and ran at the front and led a couple of times until I went off course so we knew we would have a great car when we came to Fontana. I qualified third again for Fontana, started the race and stayed in the top seven as planned for the beginning of the race but on my first stop, I pitted in sixth place but the outside front airhose got tangled in the front wing and I dropped back to 14th. Then the race was red flagged and started the following day. Within 10 laps I remember that Helio and myself had moved up to the top five or six. At that point I knew the car was very good and that I had a car to fight for the win.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO REPEAT THE VICTORY?:
"For 500-mile races there are so many factors involved but there is no doubt you need your share of luck. You need to perform and have the speed at the same time but if the star is not shining on you that specific day you can be sure it's going to be very hard for you to pull off the trick. Hopefully the star is going to be shining on me this year again and I can finish the year in great fashion and collect a couple of beers for Christmas and New Year's.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WIN $1 MILLION?:
"There are a lot of factors that everyone forgets. First of all you share the money with the team because it definitely a team effort so that drops the million to less than half. Then you have some bucks that belong to Uncle Sam. At the end of the day it is not as much as it seems but it is defiantly a big amount of money for you to win in a short period of time and I used part of it for my wedding. When you're in your car you forget that there is $1 million involved. You think about it before the race but once you get in the car, it's the farthest thing from your mind. The first time it went through my mind was when the yellow flag came out on the last lap and I thought 'Wow, unless my car stops in the middle of the track I'm going to win this race and $1 million dollars. That's pretty good.'
ON ENDING THE SEASON WITH A 500-MILE RACE:
"It's difficult to end the season with a 500-mile race on a Superspeedway - not to mention that everyone will be jetlagged while working. First of all the cars all basically have to be rebuilt. We are not only changing the cars from a street course configuration but we are also changing components that need to be totally new for a 500-mile race. It's a long, long race and all of the teams want their car to finish the race. If you make it to the end and have a pretty competitive car that's on the lead lap, you have a good chance to finish in the top three or four are big. If your car has a little bit of an edge then the chance of you winning is even bigger."
CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota-Lola:
CART's Most Recent Winner -- Honda Indy 300 in Australia
AFTER FIGHTING FOR THE WIN IN THE MICHIGAN 500 EARLIER THIS SEASON, WHAT
ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS IN THE MARLBORO 500?:
"I finished fourth in the Michigan 500 earlier this season but it was still a good race for me. First of all, it was the first time I was able to finish a 500-mile race in a Champ car so I was happy about that but it was a difficult race for us, which made the fourth place even better. The race was pretty eventful because we had a problem with the airjack on the first stop. So every stop we made, and there are a lot in 500-mile races, had to be done with the 'quick jack' but we still managed to finish fourth as well as fight for the lead up to the last couple of laps so I feel pretty good going into Fontana. I think we learned a lot at Michigan that will give us a head start on Fontana. The car was more set-up for Christian or Michael's driving style and I had to work very hard throughout the weekend to get the car the way it was good for me to drive. Now for Fontana, we will have that work behind us because we will have a good baseline.
WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN THE 2000 EVENT?
"It was a racing incident. There was a car (Paul Tracy) ahead of me that had a broken engine right in front of me. One of the pieces from the car hit my right front wishbone so I slid into the wall and that was the end of my day.
ON FIRST SEASON WITH NHR:
"We started the season very strong but dropped our performance toward the middle of the season but we have gotten back to where we were when we started. We experimented with a couple of things and made some mistakes but we learned from the experience. It was the first year the team and I were together so hopefully next season will be much easier. First of all, you don't have to get to know each other. They know what I like from a car and I know how they like to work.
LOOKING FORWARD TO:
"I'm looking forward to going back home and spending some time with my family and friends. I will spend some time training on my mountain bike because I will be racing in the middle of December in a mountain bike race in Brazil and all of my friends will be in the race to so I have to be ready so they don't kick my butt."