MARLBORO 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA "QUOTEBOARD" DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the opportunity to claim his first FedEx Championship Series championship: "A total team effort has gotten us in a position to win the championship and it...
MARLBORO 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA "QUOTEBOARD"
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the opportunity to claim his first FedEx Championship Series championship: "A total team effort has gotten us in a position to win the championship and it will take a total effort by everyone at Team KOOL Green to clinch it at Fontana. I know we're capable of getting the job done, we just need to get on with it. We had a good test at Fontana and we ran well at Michigan this summer [Started 9th / Finished 5th], so I think we'll be all right car-wise. We've just got to stay focused and do what we've been doing all year - qualifying well and running a smart race. We're not going to worry about what Juan [Montoya] is doing or anything else that we have no control over. It's great to be with a team that has won a championship before [Jacques Villeneuve in 1995]; it gives you a lot of confidence."
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), on the anticipation of his battle with Dario Franchitti for the FedEx Championship Series championship: "I can't wait to get out to Fontana and race. I love this kind of race, where every lap is important -- and it can't get much more important than having the PPG Cup on the line. Surprisingly, I'm not feeling a lot of pressure. I think the pressure is going to be on the other drivers to keep up with me. I really enjoyed my first 500-mile race [at Michigan] in July. It seemed like I got stronger as the race wore on, so I'm hoping my endurance will be an advantage for me on Sunday, too. I'm just going out to win the race like I try to do every week. If we end up winning the PPG Cup, too, then that will be a great prize, but unfortunately, we can only control what happens to our car."
BARRY GREEN, Team KOOL Green owner, on the team's dedication to winning the FedEx Championship Series title: "Everybody at Team KOOL Green knows that we have a job to do and that's to have Dario [Franchitti] come away with the championship. We must maintain our focus and approach this race like any other. Our engineers, crew and drivers will continue working together. This approach has worked for us all season and has won us the last two races [Paul Tracy at Houston & Franchitti in Australia]. We are one team and we are all working toward winning the championship. I cannot think of a better wing-man for Dario to have heading into this race than Paul Tracy."
CHIP GANASSI, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing owner, on pursuing an unprecedented fourth consecutive FedEx Championship Series championship: "An old baseball coach of mine once said that a sign of a great team is one that can come from behind and win. That's our goal this weekend in Fontana. Obviously, we have no control over the competition, but our entire team has done an excellent job of staying positive. No one's given up hope. It's going to be an exciting race, that's for sure."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the success of his 1999 FedEx Championship Series season: "This season has been fairly rewarding and has made up for a lot of the disappointment we experienced last year in my first season with Team KOOL Green. It just shows you that hard work, dedication and teamwork will allow you to overcome most anything. But of all the things that happened last year, losing the lead and a million dollars at Fontana with four laps to go was probably the worst [Late in the race, Tracy spun while preparing for a restart while in the lead]. A win there this year and we will have come full circle. We know -- and everybody else in CART knows -- we can win this thing. But we've also got to be thinking about helping Dario win the championship. I know the #26 team will do everything we can to get the title for Dario, Barry [Green] and the folks at KOOL."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Honda Reynard), the 1996 PPG Cup winner on the amazing accomplishments of his rookie teammate, Juan Montoya: "I've come to realize throughout this season that the kid's not human, so I don't think anything he does surprises me anymore. He's done things this year that I didn't think were possible for a racer, much less a rookie. It's no surprise that Juan hasn't let the pressure of racing for a championship get to him, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he pulls it out. It would be a great day for Team Target if I'm able to successfully defend my race title and Juan can clinch the championship."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on last year's frustrations at Fontana: "Basically, I got caught out with my face shield being dirty in the race last year and couldn't see. The sun almost blinded me. It forced me into oversteer and into the wall. I was really disappointed since I was in a position to win. We have been very competitive on [super]speedways. We led 65 laps at Michigan earlier this year before finishing fourth. We had problems with the rear wing, also. Experience helps everyone, but I don't see where we have an advantage over anyone else. There are millions of dollars on the line. Coming down to the last lap, you definitely think about it. Kmart is involved with the [Fan Appreciation Day] sweepstakes so it would be nice if a Kmart driver won the $1 million. Now, I just have to convince the other drivers of that. Hopefully we can pick up a million and help a fan win, too. We were able to tighten up the points a little with Paul [Tracy] in Australia, but it was not enough. We ran well in testing in Fontana and ran well at the Michigan race, so we're confident that we can run well in the season finale. We need to finish 11 points ahead of Paul to take third and finish our season on a high note. [On Wally Dallenbach's retirement from the role of Chief Steward for CART] I have known Wally all of my life. He has been a real friend to me and he is going to be sorely missed. He helped make CART one of, if not the, most competitive racing series in the world. Wally is fair and has a true passion for the sport. I wish him all the best in his endeavors."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on the $1 million prize for winning the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota: "We will definitely put on a huge party in Fontana if I win the race and the $1 million prize money. First I have to win the money, then I will decide what to do with it. To be in contention, it's really important to be there at the end of the race and then go for it. The car has to be running good and we ran well in Michigan, which gives us confidence for Fontana. You have to pace yourself the whole race. The last 25 laps are definitely the most important of the whole race. [On Wally Dallenbach's retirement from the role of Chief Steward for CART] It was great working with him. He definitely had one of the toughest jobs in the series. Because he had been a driver, he knew what type of pressure we were in as well as the importance of safety issues. Wally was also fair with the drivers, so we respected his decisions. I'm just glad I earned his hat before he retired." (NOTE: When Fittipaldi asked to have Wally Dallenbach's trademark Stetson hat, Dallenbach told him that if he won a race, he would give Fittipaldi his hat. Dallenbach presented Fittipaldi with his trademark Stetson at the Molson Indy Toronto, the race following Fittipaldi's first CART victory at the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America on July 11.)
GREG MOORE (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on his final start for Player's Forsythe Racing: "Because this is my last race with the Player's team, I hope to win one for the crew. They've worked so hard in my three years here. Their craftsmanship and attention to detail have put me in a position to be competitive in every race. I'm pleased that this last race is Fontana because we've had success there and on other super ovals in the past. Two years ago, we led the race in Fontana with 10 laps to go, and last year we had the lead five times before finishing second. Hopefully, this year we can get to that next step on the podium and give the guys a win they richly deserve."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on the unpredictability of a 500-mile event : "Anything can happen on a super oval like Fontana, so we're looking to go out there and really give it everything we have for 250 laps. There were 24 lead changes [at Fontana] last year and I'm sure that will happen again this year. It's a long race and a tough one, both mentally and physically, but as a driver I also think it's a great challenge. Winning or getting on the podium at Fontana would be a great way to end the season and reward my Player's team crew for the fine job they've done all year."
AL UNSER JR. (Marlboro Mercedes Penske), on his final appearance with Marlboro Team Penske: "I always look forward to the Marlboro 500. Alex [Barron] and I had a good test at the California Speedway a couple of weeks ago, so we're looking for the Marlboro Mercedes Penske to be competitive come race weekend. I'd like nothing more than to give Marlboro Team Penske a strong finish - we've had a great run together and I hope to do well in my final race for the team."
ROBBY GORDON (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Eagle), on closing the FedEx Championship Series season with a strong finish at California Speedway: "I'll tell you why I'm looking forward to Fontana. We've had five days of testing there in the last month. Generally, when we've tested, we've run well. It helps so much to have a good setup already in the car when you roll off the truck for a race weekend. Our final day last week we ran a best lap of 232.5 mph in the Eagle and consistently ran in the low 232s without a draft. I don't want to get too excited, because anything can happen between now and the day we qualify, but the reason we switched to the Eagle was because we felt it was a good oval car. It cuts the air very well, with little drag. To have the test time and have it in conjunction with Dan Gurney's team helps us incredibly. Raul [Boesel] and I have been comparing notes and the engineering crews on both teams doing the same. I think Raul ran in the 230s, so things are looking up for both of us. It's everyone's back yard here in Fontana, we'd like to win it for Toyota, Dan Gurney, and everyone who's worked so hard at Team Gordon."