GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on maintaining the "status quo" at the Honda Indy 300: "Even though there is a lot at stake, nothing changes in our approach to the race in Surfer's Paradise in my mind. Marlboro Team Penske still has to...
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on maintaining the "status quo" at the Honda Indy 300: "Even though there is a lot at stake, nothing changes in our approach to the race in Surfer's Paradise in my mind. Marlboro Team Penske still has to perform well and tackle the race with the same focus and commitment as we have every other race. As far as our expectations, I believe we'll have a good car there since we've done well on the street circuits this season."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his pursuit of the FedEx Championship Series championship: "It's come down to a two-race season for the championship and I'm excited about being in a position to win it. Moving into second place with our performance in Houston was a big help in our bid for the championship because at least now there's only one driver between us and the top. But there's no room for mistakes in these last two races of the season. I think it's great that the final two races are on the street course in Australia and the super-speedway in Fontana because it's really going to test our mettle. Dario was virtually flawless in Australia last year when he was battling for the championship and I'd really like to be able to do something like that this year. The guys at Team KOOL Green have been successful all year in preparing a great car on street courses and it resulted in wins at Long Beach and Vancouver. We're going to try to use the same formula in Australia."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on what it will take to win the FedEx Championship Series championship: "I'm hoping we can win in Australia, obviously. Finishing the race will be key and I am hoping for a little better luck than last year. We finished the race, but not as high as I would have liked. The front runners will need to run into some trouble in the last two races and we will have to be there at the front to collect the maximum points. I'm not going to make any predictions on our chances in the last two races now. At some point though, our luck has to turn around. We are just going to concentrate on finishing the season strong. This is a course that if you really attack it, it pays you back, and those are the types of courses I like. Hopefully, that means it suits my driving style better than the Houston track and we will start up front and stay up front. I am going to Australia earlier than usual and will try to relax a little before the real work starts. The Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team is capable of a strong finish. We just need to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible and we make it to the finish."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on defending his championship in the Honda Indy 300: "I can't think of a better place than Surfers Paradise to come up with that elusive first win of the season. Our last two races in Australia have been such tremendous experiences, with the pole and second-place finish two years ago and then the 22-point weekend last year [for winning from the pole and leading the most laps], when everything clicked to such perfection and we were able to make it a wonderful homecoming for Barry Green. The 2000 season has been a difficult one but we have the chance to go out with a flourish in the last two races. I'll also be doing everything I can to help Paul [Tracy] win the championship. Surfers Paradise is a demanding course, where you're really put to the test by the quick straights and having to handle the curbs and the chicane. But it's also a fantastic race setting, where the Australians really get into the sport and turn the entire week into a festive occasion. I only hope that it will also be a festive time for Team KOOL Green with the opportunity to celebrate another win at Surfers Paradise."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of Surfers Paradise: "I really look forward to going to Australia. The fans are very enthusiastic and the atmosphere in Surfers Paradise is great. Marlboro Team Penske has been performing well on street courses this season, and we're coming off a top-five finish for both Gil [de Ferran, teammate] and me in Houston, so we're hoping to continue the trend and finish in the points at the Honda Indy 300."
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Reynard), on turning around his recent FedEx Championship Series misfortunes at the Honda Indy 300: "The last few races [at St. Louis and Houston] haven't gone our way. Our Shell team has put together a strong effort on the street circuits. We haven't had the best luck lately. I'm looking forward to the Australia race. I'm taking a few days on the Haymen Island. It should be very relaxing. It's been a long season so far, but I think we can get back in the fight in the standings. Max [Papis, Brack's teammate] finished second in Australia last year and we should be back in contention this time. I want to race these cars and in this series because of the challenge. It's not easy. I wanted to win races. That's been our goal all year. We've been close but not on the top of the podium. [On winning the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award] I really haven't considered the rookie points. All I have actually been concerned about is winning races. But Bobby [Rahal, team owner] has told me about Jim Trueman and his helping of young drivers. And many great drivers have won this award. So it is nice to join that group."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), on his enjoyment of racing in Australia: "I love Surfers Paradise. The people are great and the track is challenging. Everyone has been so nice over the years that I have raced there. They have a big crowd and that's exciting for a driver. We had a good car last year and that was my first second-place finish in CART. We had some great strategy from Bobby [Rahal] and I feel we can be at the front of the field again."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on turning around the disappointment of last year's Honda Indy: "Last year, it was very disappointing to go out [of the race] after only three laps. It was probably a little more disappointing because of the extra effort from the team to prepare for an overseas race and have it end after only three laps at a place where we usually run well. With all the traveling and effort involved in overseas racing, it makes not finishing the race a terrible feeling. Surfers is a street course where you can go quick different ways, depending on how you attack it. You can have either an aggressive style or a smooth driving style and still go fast. It's a street course like any other, except that the car needs to be very balanced when you are braking. Braking is a big issue there. Once we couldn't put the races together and keep adding points for the Championship, our goal became to win a few of the races rather than worry about the consistency of scoring points. Australia is part of that plan and we want to run strong and finish as close to the front as possible. Obviously, a win would make the Sunday night celebration much better, as well as the long flight home. This year I plan on going to Australia a little bit earlier than I have in the past. We usually come to a race market and immediately get into the race activities but this year I plan to see a little more of the country. It is not only a great place to race but it is also a great place to have some fun. Hopefully I can hang out and it will be more enjoyable than when we get there on a short week."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom/Toyota Reynard), looking forward to his second competitive appearance at Surfers Paradise: "I am really looking forward to getting back to Surfers. We did well here last year with both cars, so it is always nice to come back to somewhere you have been successful in the past. Our car should be very good on this circuit. With the exception of Houston, we have done well on the street circuits, and the car has been very good. We will qualify in the fast group, which should help us out."
ORIOL SERVIA (Telefonica Toyota Reynard), on his first trip to Surfers Paradise: "This will be my first time at Surfers, and from what I hear, it is everyone's favorite place! I have been studying the tapes, and the track looks like a lot of fun to drive. I am anticipating a very good car there, as our cars tend to suit these types of circuits very well. Our strongest performances this year have been on street circuits, and it would be great to finish on the podium in Australia. That is our goal."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood/MoNunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), on his affection for Surfers Paradise: "What can you say about racing at Surfers Paradise? The name of the place says it all. It's the greatest. It always feels so right to be here. Great timing, too, schedule-wise, because we've all been through so much this year. I wouldn't exactly call it a vacation because we'll be hard at work trying to finish strong at the end of our first season. But it's a very comfortable place to work. We are coming off of a fairly solid weekend at Houston. We started and finished in the top 10, which is where you want to be every race. This weekend, we'll hope to turn it up a notch. It's another street course, but it's a lot faster than Houston. Hopefully, we can build on what we learned about our car and motor combination at Houston and finish in the top five. Hey, I was seventh here my rookie year, and sixth here last year, so that means we're looking at fifth or better this weekend. Sounds good to me!"
SHINJI NAKANO (Avex Honda Reynard), anticipating his first experience at Surfers Paradise: "I'm looking forward to the race in Australia. Even though I haven't run there before, the Walker Racing team has a lot of experience at this track. We are ready to keep our good momentum going from Houston [where Nakano finished eighth, tying his best finish of the season], and we should be at a good starting point as far as the set-up of the car is concerned. It's also nice to be racing rather close to home [Japan], and there should be a pretty large group of fans at the Honda Indy 300."