CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Pre Race Quotes

JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), on the challenges of learning a new circuit: "I kind of like going to races where I've never driven on the course before. It's a fun challenge for me to see how quickly I can learn the course and improve. ...

JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), on the challenges of learning a new circuit: "I kind of like going to races where I've never driven on the course before. It's a fun challenge for me to see how quickly I can learn the course and improve. I've had a lot of help from my team and from [teammate] Jimmy [Vasser]. They do a good job letting me know what to expect at each new race, but you never really know what it's like until you get there and race around. I've tried not to think about the points. I haven't even checked to see exactly how far I'm ahead. All I know is that I have to race well in Houston, and that's what I plan to do."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the importance of a strong performance in Houston to his hopes for the championship: "We're running out of time to catch Juan [Montoya, who holds a 199-171 points lead over Franchitti in the FedEx Championship Series points race]. Obviously, we have to have a great race in Houston again this year. At this point, we also need Juan to experience some gremlins or a hiccup if we're going to stay in the hunt for the championship. Team KOOL Green will play its part. We've run really well on the street circuits this season [victories in Toronto and Detroit]. Last year's victory in Houston brings back a lot of great memories. The fans were incredible, staying to the very end in all that wet weather. It was a very interesting race, to say the least. The incident with the two KOOL cars touching stirred it up a bit, but there's no problem between Paul and myself. The fact is we have equally fast cars and we are both capable of winning. It's only natural that at some point in a race, we'll find ourselves trying to pass each other. We just need to use our heads in doing it."

PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on returning to his status as a contender for the FedEx Championship Series championship: "What a difference a year makes! Team KOOL Green is stronger than ever with a great shot of winning most weekends. Thanks to a solid team effort all season long, Dario is second and I'm third in the championship. We're the dominant team on street courses, which certainly gives us a lot of confidence going into Houston. Dario and I have run real close on the streets this year [finishing 1-2 at Toronto & Detroit], but we'll try to avoid getting as close in Houston as we did last season! Everybody remembers how Dario and I made contact. We're both fierce competitors and neither of us wanted to give ground that day. It was a mistake and an unfortunate thing to have happened."

MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), on his fond memories of last year's inaugural Texaco Grand Prix of Houston: "Houston will always hold a special meaning for me because of the what we were able to accomplish last season [Papis finished fifth, the highest road-course finish ever for a Toyota-powered driver]. All the hours of development paid off in that top-five finish and it was a tribute to a lot of hard work by my team."

BRYAN HERTA (Shell Ford Reynard), on the importance of doing well in his primary sponsor's hometown: "The course in Houston is nice and tight and it is a real challenge to drive. Last year, we not only had to battle each other but the monsoon made the race even more difficult. Hopefully we will catch a break with the weather this year. From my standpoint the race in Houston is one of the busiest of the year. With Shell based in Houston, Team Rahal has a number of functions for the sponsor that will keep me on the go."

JIMMY VASSER (Target Honda Reynard), on his precocious rookie teammate and FedEx Championship Series points leader, Juan Montoya: "The kid has nerves of steel. Maybe someone should remind him that he's 23 and on the brink of winning a PPG Cup. He really has the right attitude. He hasn't changed a thing about how he's approaching races. I'm proud to be his teammate, but that doesn't mean I don't plan on cruising by him this weekend in Houston. I'm still going to win a race this year."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), on continuing his recovery from a fractured radius bone in his right wrist which caused him to miss four FedEx Championship Series events prior to his return at Laguna Seca: "My arm is getting better. I am working hard to get the strength and flexibility back. It will be better than at Laguna Seca, but not 100 percent. Because of the injury the championship is not a possibility, so my goal now is to finish third in the standings. To do that, the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team has to have strong showings at all three of the remaining races. The Houston race is like a home race for me because of all the fans that come from Mexico. I don't feel any more pressure, but I want to perform well and put on a good show for the fans. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this year."

GREG MOORE (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), hoping for drier weather at this year's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston: "We're hoping for better weather conditions this year in Houston. Last year, in our first race there, it rained so hard that the 100-lap race was stopped after 70 laps. I spun out early, which was a shame because I had won the pole and felt I could really do well on this street course. I like the layout in Houston and winning the pole last year is a positive factor for our Player's team heading into this year's event. Now, if only the weather will cooperate."

AL UNSER JR. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), on the loyalty of the Houston race fans: "Houston is an important race market. I'm glad to be going back for our second run on the city streets. I remember all of the fans staying in their seats last year, even though the rain came down pretty hard. Hopefully, this year we'll have beautiful weather so we can show what the Champ Cars can really do and put on a great race for the fans."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on putting together a strong stretch run to conclude his FedEx Championship Series season: "With three races to go, the goal right now is to finish in the top 10 in the overall series' standings, and I think we have a fair chance of doing that. We're going to have to be high up in the points in each of these races and if we can continue the successful streak we've had in recent weeks, it's a goal we can achieve. Houston is a street course where you can make up some ground, regardless of where you are on the starting grid. Last year, I went from 25th to 10th by Lap 36, before the rain started to affect the race. This year, hopefully, we'll be able to have dry conditions all the way."

ROBBY GORDON (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Eagle), on his enjoyment of racing on temporary street circuits: "The streets of Houston were tough last year, but for a first-year event, I think it was a great success. Like all of the downtown races we have on the schedule, attendance was incredible. I always get a good feeling from the street races; people are happy, there¹s a lot of action everywhere you look, and the racing is fun and demanding. Houston is by far the tightest street course we run. It's very narrow and all about torque. Every corner, it seems, is a 90-degree, stomp-on-the-brakes, then, air-it-out-quickly type of corner. We have the one straight on the back section, which is pretty fast. We get up to about 185 miles per hour. But everything else is a series of short blasts and hard braking. Toyota had a great run there last year with Max [Papis] finishing fifth. Hopefully, we can improve on that this year. My biggest goal this year, other than the podium, of course, is to try and find the same Mexican restaurant we ate at last year. The best Mexican food I've ever had is in Houston!"

TONY KANAAN (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard), on his pleasant memories of last year's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston: "I really like the street courses and have good memories from this track. I had a good race there last year in the rain, getting my second Champ Car career podium finish [third] and clinching Rookie of the Year. I feel confident. Houston is a fun city. There is a great shopping mall close to our team hotel. I wouldn't recommend valet parking, though. Last year, after an evening sponsor appearance, the valet attendant dropped my car keys down the elevator shaft."

MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on the challenges of the temporary street circuit in Houston: "Houston is a very demanding circuit and it's essential to have a car that works well mechanically, especially over the bumps and the changes in surface. As with any street course, it's important to qualify well, although there are a few places to pass on the Houston track. I didn't get the chance to tour the city much last year - we were pretty much in and out - but I think this year, we'll have more of a chance to look around. The fans in Houston are really great and I'm looking forward to a good race. I just hope it's a little drier than the first event!"

MARK BLUNDELL (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), on the success he has enjoyed this season at FedEx Championship Series street course events: "We've done very well so far this season on street courses and I anticipate another strong run at Houston. The inaugural race there last year was great, despite the rain. It's a circuit that's good fun to drive, and I'm sure that everyone is pumped to be going back to Texas. It's as big as most European countries, and it has a heart and character all its own."

JAN MAGNUSSEN (Visteon Ford Reynard), on the importance of qualifying: "The Visteon/Patrick Racing team has to qualify better. We have had trouble qualifying, so we have had to fight our way through the field. It is so difficult to pass at Houston that if we don't qualify well; it could make for a very long race. I am a lot more comfortable in the car, so that should help our qualifying effort, and I hope to work very closely with [teammate] Adrian [Fernandez] wh ich should help with the set-up of the car."

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