GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on completing the quest for his first FedEx Championship Series championship: "Obviously the Marlboro 500 is an extremely important race for me, but I'm concentrating on my racing and working hard not to ...
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on completing the quest for his first FedEx Championship Series championship: "Obviously the Marlboro 500 is an extremely important race for me, but I'm concentrating on my racing and working hard not to think about the meaning and significance of a possible successful outcome. I'm trying to get as unemotional as possible, since emotions tend to get in the way of reason and besides, thinking about how nice it would be to win this Championship is immaterial to my performance. It's certainly a tough mental exercise to block these thoughts out, but it's more important to stay focused and concentrate on the 500 miles ahead of us, since anything can happen."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on being a contender for the FedEx Championship Series title with one race remaining: "We really have our work cut out for us, but it's great to go into the final race of the season still in contention to win the championship. You can't be concerned about what the guys ahead of you in the standings are doing. It wouldn't serve any purpose, anyway, because my championship hopes rest on winning the race. Fontana is tough on both cars and drivers, and it really comes down to survival of the fittest. If anyone has a good chance to be there at the end, it's Team KOOL Green. The team gave me an outstanding car when we raced on the superspeedway in Michigan earlier in the season. We were able to set a record for the fastest qualifying lap in winning the pole there. Hopefully, we can do the same thing at Fontana. Winning the pole isn't usually important for a 500-mile race but I need every point I can get, and it's a great momentum-builder going into the long race."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on the unique challenges presented by a 500-mile Champ Car race: "You've obviously got to finish a 500-mile race first to win it. We've led a lot of laps there, but not the lap that we wanted to lead, which is the 250th, and that's our goal this weekend. The racing is going to be different than we had at Michigan. The track looks the same but it is slightly different, which is enough the make the racing different. When you are driving it, it's more of a one-line track than Michigan, which is a two-line track, but you'll still see a lot of close racing and passes. (On the 2000 season) "It's been a long year. We put in a lot of work this season and I'm looking forward to the off-season so I can relax for a few days in a row. The racing season takes its toll on you and everyone deserves a big vacation after the Marlboro 500. (On his final race with Newman/Haas Racing:) "I really want to make my last race with the team something special by winning it. I can't think of a better way of us parting ways than parting on a winning note. We have won a lot of races together over the years and it would be great to have our last race together end with a victory. It will definitely be in the back of all of our minds. It will be an emotional day for sure. We [Andrettis] have been here so many years. An Andretti has been with the team since Day 1 and I have a lot of great friends here that I am going to miss. I've had a great relationship with Kmart and Texaco over the years and they have been so great to work with that it's more like a family at Newman/Haas Racing than anything. It's a great team and we've had some great times together. For an Andretti to bring the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline car into Winner's Circle in our last race together and collect $1 million for the guys would be a perfect tribute to the team and be the best going-away present I could think of."
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on his disappointment at not bringing Target Chip Ganassi Racing, winner of an unprecedented four consecutive FedEx Championship Series crowns, a fifth title: "I feel bad that I couldn't give the team one more championship. It would have been great to give Team Target a fifth straight title to repay them for being so good to me these two years. We gave it our best shot, so I'm proud to have been a part of such a great team. I've always liked to go fast, and you can't go much faster than on big ovals like Fontana. Our Toyota Lola has been great on 500 miles races this year. I would love to finish up with one more win. It's been a lot of fun, but we're not done yet."
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Reynard), on finally scoring that first FedEx Championship Series victory at California Speedway: "I think we should have won a few races this year. We were leading in the first race at Miami and had a mechanical problem. At Rio, I was leading with ten laps left and I stalled the engine in the pits. We led at Michigan and Christian [Fittipaldi] got into me on the back straight. And at Chicago, I stalled again while leading. I believe we'll have shot at the win at California. [On contending for the FedEx Championship Series title as a rookie] I didn't think of it [winning the title] that way in my first year. I couldn't think in those terms. You don't know your opponents, you don't know the tracks and you don't know the cars. You know you're a fast driver and with a good team, but there are too many unknowns to predict anything like that. Of course, it's been a positive experience to be in this position, but there's nothing I had as a goal. I just wanted to win races. Maybe we can at Fontana. Then the other things will fall into place. That is kind of out of my control."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on Team KOOL Green's bid for the FedEx Championship Series title: "This is the second year in a row that Team KOOL Green is going to Fontana with a chance to win the championship, and I think that's a credit to the entire organization. We came up just short in the final race last year, but maybe this time Paul [Tracy] can bring home the driver's title. It's a million-dollar race, so the competition is going to be fierce not only for the championship, but for the win as well. From a personal standpoint, this season has been a big contrast to last year, when we were in the hunt right to the end. It's been frustrating, but it's also been a character-builder. I have no doubt that I'm going to come back strong next season, and doing well at Fontana will be a good way to set the tone for that comeback."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Toyota Lola), on his tenure at Target Chip Ganassi Racing: "I've been very fortunate to be surrounded by such a talented and classy group of individuals these past six seasons with Target Racing. The memories and friends that I've made over the years will be with me forever. Returning to a race where you've had some success is always a nice feeling. It would be great to find a way to get one last checkered flag as a member of Team Target. We've really been running well recently. I've been pleased with how the car has performed, so I don't see any reason we can't challenge for another race win." HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the excitement surrounding this year's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota: "The Marlboro 500 is always exciting and this year with five drivers in contention for the championship, there should be some great racing. We had a successful test at Fontana last month and a good run at Michigan, so we hope to perform well this weekend. The key will be taking care of the equipment and making sure we're there at the end. It's been a terrific first season with Marlboro Team Penske and I'd love to end the year with a strong finish."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), on attempting "bookend" victories during the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season: "I won the first race of the year and I would love to win the last one. It's been a hard season for us and I would like to end the year on a high note. We were second at Fontana last year and led the most laps. I'd like to have a similar performance this year but be at the top of the podium. All of the Miller Lite guys deserve a strong run after the tough luck we have had this year. I know I will be flat [on the throttle] at Fontana and lift after 250 laps. I have a motto this weekend: "See Ya' Up Front," as a good friend [Greg Moore] used to say."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on last year's event at California Speedway: "Last year was a pretty awkward race because of what happened to the #99 car [of Greg Moore]. It was a sad day for everyone. The ultimate result in the race for all of the drivers was overshadowed by our loss. Looking specifically on the performance side, I was pretty happy with the car because it was capable of winning. Setting the fastest race lap at a place like California Speedway is something to be happy about; winning the race would have been better. We were leading a good amount of laps but unfortunately, because of the pit strategy at the end, [race winner] Adrian [Fernandez] was able to capitalize on the timing of the yellows and it really helped him out but didn't work out so well for us, so we finished third.
"I think the racing will be similar to the Michigan race although I reckon the race in Fontana will be harder than Michigan because it's more of a one-lane groove track. It's also a little more bumpy so we definitely need to run more downforce which means that Fontana will be a little harder than Michigan.
(On having Michael Andretti as a teammate) "Michael and I have had a good working relationship over the years. Michael decided to go his own way and I wish him all the best in his future races and I hope we can kick many butts here at the Newman/Haas camp next year and especially his."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on chasing the first top-10 championship finish of his four-year FedEx Championship Series career: "We've battled hard all season and we're certainly not going to let up now. We still have a shot at finishing in the top 10 in the standings and we have a chance to finish with more than 120 points, which isn't too bad when you consider I missed three races with an injury. Plus, there's the added incentive of getting that first win. Team Player's has been close quite a few times this season, and maybe Fontana is the place where we'll be able to put it all together and finish off the season in great style. I haven't had too much luck in my two previous appearances at Fontana but I'm convinced that Team Player's has the right package to do well there. We had a really good race on the super oval in Michigan earlier this season, and Fontana is a lot like that track, except the banking isn't as steep and you have more grip on the track. It's a race that tests a driver's stamina and endurance, as well as the reliability of the car. I'm confident we'll be up to the task."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on closing his rookie FedEx Championship Series season on a high note: "It's been a while since we've scored some points, so we're looking to get back on track in Fontana. I haven't raced at Fontana before but I got some valuable experience on the Michigan superspeedway earlier in the season. The fact I was able to hold my own and lead the Michigan race is a confidence-builder heading into Fontana. It's hard to believe that we've already reached the last race of the season. I know that I've made progress in my rookie season in CART but I'm the type of guy who is very focused on results, and in that respect there have been highs and lows. Quite often, it's been little things here and there which have kept us out of the points. But everyone on Team Player's is still working hard and it's going to pay off."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), on capping the FedEx Championship Series season in style: "It's hard to believe we're down to the last race of the season after all we've been through this year. But we're looking to make it a good one, definitely. We'd like nothing better than to send Mercedes off with a win, or at least a podium finish. They and the people at Ilmor have been very good to us all season long. They are the reason this team was formed in the first place. They have worked very hard all year, and even though the results may not be where we - or they - would like them to be, I think we are capable of finishing the season with a good result at Fontana. It's a long race. Anything can happen. So let's just give it our best effort of the year and hope that it pays off in the end. The million-dollar winner's check would make for some good Christmas shopping money!"
MEMO GIDLEY (DirecTV Toyota Reynard), on the similarities between California Speedway and Michigan Speedway: "Fontana is a lot like Michigan, which was my first superspeedway event and my first race for the Della Penna team. Going into Michigan, I had no idea what to expect. We had a great car at Michigan towards the end of the race, and as a group we have learned a lot about setting up the car on an oval since then. The speeds at superspeedways are awesome. It's amazing when you walk the track and you see how big the place really is, because at speed, the track looks really small. Now that I've done a number of ovals in Champ Cars, I feel confident about our prospects at Fontana, and I'm really excited about working with the 'Red Menace' guys once again. It's the end of the season, and who knows what will happen next season, but for me it's just a pleasure to work with these guys because I like being around them so much."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (Herdez Mercedes Lola), on continuing his momentum following a seventh-place finish in Australia, which matched a FedEx Championship Series career best: "I think we can get a good result in Fontana, because we gave a good performance in Michigan, which is the other 500-mile race. I like this track and after achieving some points in Australia, we have good momentum for the season finale."
LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), on the conclusion of his first full FedEx Championship Series campaign: "After Australia, I'm really looking forward to California and a nice finish to the season. I'm just glad I have a superspeedway under my belt with Michigan, and I expect some good things in the form of results, as the car will be a much better one than the one I drove at Michigan. I would be a little concerned if I had not driven on a large track, but that's not a factor now. I would love to cap the season with another finish in the points. It would be great for everyone, myself, my team and my sponsors."