CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston GP pre race quotes

GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the importance of the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston to his pursuit of the FedEx Championship Series championship: "Even though I haven't had much success in Houston the past two years, I do feel...

GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the importance of the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston to his pursuit of the FedEx Championship Series championship: "Even though I haven't had much success in Houston the past two years, I do feel fairly confident that Marlboro Team Penske will have a competitive performance, due to our results on this type of circuit this season. Obviously, it's an important race for our championship hopes, but having said that, we're not approaching it any differently than any other race. We'll try to put the car on the pole and win the race as we've been trying to do all year - sometimes more successfully than others."

ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Ford Reynard), on his unfamiliarity with the Houston road course: "I have never raced at Houston, so I will be at a little bit of a disadvantage. I am told that all the corners are 90 degrees, so it sounds very challenging. I'm going to watch some videotape of the past races and when I arrive on Wednesday, I am going to ride a bicycle around the track to get a feel for the circuit. The good thing is that the Visteon/Patrick Racing team is a veteran team that has raced here before, so that should be a big help. Also, Adrian [Fernandez, Moreno's teammate] has raced in Houston a couple of times so I also have the benefit of his advice. I am sure that after a couple of practice sessions everything will be okay. This is a very crucial point in the season for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. There are only three races left in the season and I have never raced two of them [Houston and Fontana]. We are fighting for a championship and we just have to take each race as it comes. If we continue to work hard and give it everything we have, good things will happen."

PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on defending his championship in the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston: "The streets of Houston look like a great opportunity to score some big points and improve our position in the championship. The Team KOOL Green engineers have hit on a setup for the street circuits, and we've won Houston two years in a row. I intend to do everything I can to make it three. It's amazing that there are probably as many as five or six of us with a decent shot at winning the championship with three races to go. The title is obviously going to go down to the wire and if we can keep having the type of success we've had in Houston, it will certainly be a big boost to our championship hopes."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) "Houston is a race where the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team has a lot of fans. We have had some difficulties there in the races for various reasons. It is going to be very important for us to qualify up front because it is so difficult to pass in Houston. If we are going to fight for the championship, it is important that we start near the front in Houston and Australia. Penske and Green are going to be very strong at Houston, so we are going to have to improve our performance on that track. Ford has been working very hard on the engine to improve the driveability and hopefully that will help us to get to the next level."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on Team KOOL Green's success on the streets of Houston: "We don't have any magic formula for winning in Houston, even though Team KOOL Green has enjoyed all the success on that circuit so far. It all comes down to having a top performing car and avoiding mistakes. You really have to stay mentally focused on the street courses because of the blind turns and minimal margin for error. It's been a bit of a roller-coaster season for us so far, but with three races left on tracks where we've had success in the past, the goal is to pick up as many points as we can and see where that takes us. The guys at Team KOOL Green have been doing a fantastic job preparing a competitive car because we've qualified in the top four in the last five races. If we can keep doing that, we're bound to find the Winner's Circle."

JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on maintaining the momentum generated by his victory in the Sept. 17 Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway: "Even though we have a shot at the title, we're not going to change the way we're approaching these final races. There have only been a couple races this year where we haven't been running at the front of the pack for awhile or had a chance to win it. We've had some bad luck here and there, but our win at Gateway reminded Team Target that we also have the ability to win each weekend. That's our goal in Houston. There's a chance we can win all these final races and still not have enough to take home [consecutive championship] Number 5 for the team, so we just have to worry about our performance and let the racing handle the rest. I had fun in the streets of Houston last year, but I had some contact and only was able to finish about 10 or 12 laps. I want to get that pole again because now, every point matters. We found that out last year."

JIMMY VASSER (Target Toyota Lola), on the competitiveness of this year's FedEx Championship Series championship race: "Having so many drivers with a legitimate shot at the title is a fun way to finish up an interesting year. This race is so close that no one can afford to play it safe. Everyone is going to be battling for each spot, so we're going to see some exciting, aggressive racing. I plan to be right in there fighting for the podium. It's a long shot for us to win the championship, but no one is giving up. That trophy is up for grabs. I haven't finished on the podium yet in Houston in the first two races there, but I've always been a believer in the saying, 'The third time is a charm.' I came close in '98 (fourth) and had some bad luck last year, so I'm looking forward to getting back to Houston and getting a little closer to the points leaders."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the demands of the temporary street circuit at Houston: "The Houston track is very challenging and very tough on equipment. It's important to qualify well and to take care of the car -- especially the brakes and the rear tires. I'm optimistic that Marlboro Team Penske will have a good weekend given our performance on street circuits this year."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on following up a strong runner-up performance in the Motorola 300: "It was a great feeling to match my career-best CART performance with the second-place finish at Gateway, but my goal at the start of the season was to make it to the top step of the podium, and that's still the priority. The last race showed that it is a realistic aim. The result was a boost for everyone at Team Player's, and it has made me even more confident going into the last three races of the season. The Houston track has not been kind to us the first two times we have raced there, but I really like the layout of that street course and I believe Team Player's can do well there. The top-5 finish that we had through the streets of Detroit earlier in the season certainly showed that we are capable of being right in contention, and that's what we intend to be in Houston."

ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on continuing his successful "street-course" run during his rookie FedEx Championship Series season: "I'm very encouraged about Team Player's chances for success in Houston. I know it's the first time that I'll be competing there as a CART driver, but my performances this year on some of the other street courses in the series have been solid, with a fourth at Long Beach, a fifth in Toronto and a sixth in Detroit. The Team Player's crew has been very consistent in preparing a top-notch car for race day on this type of track and I have no doubt that will continue in Houston. I may not be fighting for first place in the rookie standings or one of the top spots in the overall standings, but I certainly am not going to let down in the last three races of the season. I want to show that I've made a lot of progress in my first CART season and that I can compete with anyone."

LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), on concluding the street-course portion of his FedEx Championship Series season successfully: "I didn't run the race at Houston last season, but I did run on the track and it was a nice street course and a little like Long Beach and Toronto. We have done pretty good on the streets and with two of the final three races on the streets, I'm looking forward to some decent finishes. I think we will do well in Houston, which will be great for everyone on the team."

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske