MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard) On the keys to victory at Long Beach: "Fuel mileage will be key at Long Beach and so will saving your rear tires. I think one of the most important things to do is to come off of the hairpin [Turn 11]...
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard)
On the keys to victory at Long Beach:
"Fuel mileage will be key at Long Beach and so will saving your rear tires. I think one of the most important things to do is to come off of the hairpin [Turn 11] good because it sets up the main passing area. Long Beach is a typical street circuit and you just have to be really consistent in your race and hopefully start up front. Long Beach will always be a special race for me because it's where I won my first race in 1986. In fact, Barry Green was the Team Manager in'86 when I won. Long Beach is a great city to visit because the entire city is behind the race and it really makes it an exciting event for CART and the fans. We need to continue like we did in Monterrey. Stay consistent, finish the race, get points and finish with a top five [result], if not a win. We didn't quite get the setup right and I wasn't 100 percent happy with it in Mexico, so I'm hoping we do a little better on that in Long Beach. We've been doing great as a team, though, and I'm looking forward to getting back on the track and racing.'
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola)
On his successful debut with Newman/Haas Racing, a victory in Mexico:
"We were able to get the season off to a good start by winning in Mexico and I think it will only get better after we get a few races under our belts together. The [car] set-up for Mexico is very different from the way we will set up the car for Long Beach because of the track surface. The track in Mexico was the smoothest I have ever been on and the Long Beach track is very, very bumpy because it is normally city streets so the way to set up the car is going to be pretty different but we are confident we will be competitive. My expectations are good for Long Beach. We have had good off-season tests in Sebring [Fla.] which is a bumpy track, too, and the same kind of rough circuit as we have at Long Beach. So, I would imagine that we are going to have a good competitive car there. It is tough to know how competitive we are going to be because the way the series is today, it is so competitive that you get to the racetrack and don't know if you are going to be top-five or top-20, so there is always this question mark. But we are working hard on our setup and are improving a few details we know we could have done better in Mexico. I am pretty confident about what we have in our hands right now. I won in Long Beach in Indy Lights in 1998 but have not done so well since then in my two races in a Champ Car. I am hoping to get back up front with Newman/Haas and I know that the Toyota-Lola will be good here. The pressure doesn't come from the fact that I am driving the car that Michael [Andretti] used to drive. It comes from the fact that I am driving for Newman/Haas Racing and they have won so many races and poles with good drivers and I want to do the same for them. Their approach is so methodical and every single guy wants to win. You really know that everyone is working toward the same goal and it makes everyone step it up a few more notches.'
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard,)
On his past successes in the Toyota
Grand Prix of Long Beach:
"Long Beach has been a place where historically I've run and qualified well. In fact, Marlboro Team Penske should be in a good position this weekend given my second place and Helio's [Castroneves] eighth-place finish in Mexico - which put us in the fast group for qualifying - coupled with the fact I sat on the pole last year. However, despite qualifying and running well, I've never finished on the podium so I'm hoping to change that this year."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard)
On last year's runner-up result
at Long Beach:
"I had a fantastic race at Long Beach last year. It was my first podium finish with Marlboro Team Penske and I learned a lot about fuel strategy for the race that should help me this year. I like Long Beach for many reasons - it's a street circuit with a good place to pass at the end of the long straightaway on Shoreline Drive. The atmosphere is great and the fans are very enthusiastic, which makes it a fun place for everybody."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard)
On a welcome
break following the CART season opener in his native Mexico:
"These past three weeks have been great for me. Actually, it took me one week to recover from Mexico! The down time has been good for my left arm [Fernandez was suffering from a form of tendinitis called intersection syndrome]. I've been working on things with the team, training and relaxing, and really just trying to get my arm back to normal. That's been my priority and I feel pretty happy about it. In Mexico, I'd say it was 40 percent [healthy], and now it's 90. The break between races has also helped the team tremendously. We were four months old when we went to Mexico, and we will be much better organized in a lot of areas. I'm very excited about Long Beach -- I think we have a good setup going in, I like the track and whole event. If everything goes smoothly, I think we will be very competitive."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Toyota Lola)
On the disappointment of last
year's finish at Long Beach:
"We ran in second place in the race last year, but a huge fire ended our chance at a podium finish. It was our first race with the Lola chassis on a street course since we switched from Swift and we were still learning how to make it go fast on that type of track and didn't qualify so well. Michael [Andretti, former teammate] and I elected to pit during the first caution so we chose a different strategy than the leaders. Both of our cars caught on fire and Paul [Tracy] won the race so we would have been in a good place if our cars didn't catch on fire. We would have had a top-three finish. We know more about the Lola chassis and are also competitive on road and street courses as evidenced by Cristiano's [da Matta] win in Mexico so we are really looking forward to racing in Long Beach. Since I didn't finish the race in Mexico and didn't get any points, I will be in the slow group for qualifying, which is a definite disadvantage since the track is faster at the end of both groups. [On last year's car fire at Long Beach] "Since the flames are invisible you can only see the heat waves when your car is on fire. I saw the crew guys jumping up and down when I came into my pit after they said the car was smoking. Then they started yelling 'Get out, get out!' You don't have to tell me that twice. Fire is always in the back of your mind when you come in to get fuel. You have to be very aware of what is going on and be ready to get out of the car quick." [On the enduring appeal of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach] "Long Beach is one of our most popular races and we put on a good show because of the nature of the track. The race has been around for 25 years and has grown each year, so it's no wonder it is one of our best events of the season. The people are really into enjoying themselves and that atmosphere carries over to the entire event. To have the successful Long Beach race after the race in Mexico will get our season off to a good start. We plan to carry the atmosphere over to the Texas race."
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola)
On Team Rahal's early success with the Lola
"We moved to the Lola chassis this year and testing went pretty well this winter. We knew our cars were fast on the ovals but we struggled a little in road course testing. To be honest, I thought we had a top-five to top-eight car for Mexico. So, we were a little surprised when I got the pole. But the car felt good in qualifying and the race. I think we proved we had a car to win. Just a little problem kept us from our goal. Now, I think we'll be ready for Long Beach. At least, I come to the track with a little more knowledge of that place. Last year, I had to learn the track before I could really get going. After the Mexico run, I know our team believes we can win at Long Beach. Last year, we had problems with the Shell car on that first day. That put us in the back of the pack. I was then the fastest in Saturday's first qualifying session when we got the car running right. But the second session went out and we dropped to seventh for the race. I know right now that we'll be in the second qualifying session on Saturday at Long Beach. That's good for our team's confidence."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Lola)
on his enjoyment of living and racing in
"I really enjoyed the Newport Beach area and Southern California in general. It was great to be part of the California lifestyle. It is something every European person hears about and I was able to live it. We think we can return the Miller Lite car back to the podium. We had a good car last year at Long Beach. I was running third in the race and we had mechanical problem with the brakes in the first turn and I slid into the wall. I really enjoy in the Long Beach event and the track. It's fun to drive and the crowds are just fantastic. But with those walls, you can't make a mistake.
"A lot of guys have learned that lesson over the years at Long Beach. You need to be aggressive but also precise. If you lose concentration for a second, you will be into a wall. That's the challenge at Long Beach."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard)
On returning to Long
Beach after mission last year's event with a wrist injury:
"I was disappointed that I couldn't compete at Long Beach last year because I broke a bone in my wrist the week before the race. This year, I'm ready to go and I can't wait to attack this street course that always produces an exciting race. Like any street course, getting a good spot on the grid in qualifying is important, but last year's winner [Paul Tracy] came from 17th on the grid, so you can do some things on this course. With the one-month stretch between the race in Mexico and the next one in Long Beach, I've found the time really long because I want to get back out there and race. I started focusing on Long Beach as soon as the race in Monterrey was over. The electronic problem we had in Monterrey was especially frustrating because it looked like Team Player's could contend for at least a top-five finish. We're going to try to make it happen in Long Beach."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard)
On his success at Long Beach:
"Long Beach has been a great track for in my racing career. I was able to win twice in Long Beach when I was in the Atlantic series and as a rookie in CART last year I was fourth, my best finish of the season. It's not a secret that I enjoy the Long Beach street course. I really can't put my finger on why I've been so successful there but I know I feel comfortable and confident every time I race at Long Beach. It's a great setting for a race. There's racing and other entertainment for the fans almost all week long, and the fans really get into it. I think the drivers feel a part of this electricity. I see no reason why we can't continue to be successful in Long Beach. We're coming off a first race that looked extremely promising for Team Player's until the electronic problem occurred. That was simply one of those unfortunate circumstances. You just have to forget about and concentrate on doing well in the next race. That's what I intend to do."
SCOTT DIXON (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota)
On the advantage of being
familiar with the Long Beach circuit as a rookie:
"I'm looking forward to returning to Long Beach. Having been there last year, I'm familiar with the circuit and it should give me an edge over the other rookies because I don't have to learn the circuit. Being in the fast group is definitely a bonus for PacWest and me. We have a great car with the Toyota/Reynard package and we want to pull the car out and qualify well. We're pretty confident we will have a top-five car and I will work as hard as I can to qualify well. Long Beach is a great race and one of the biggest CART events and we should be able to put on a good show for everyone. I think for Champ Car it's more of a race - averaging two pit stops and a good track to drive hard. This will help me because I'm used to that type of race from my [Indy] Lights experience. My fitness level will also help me. I thought I would struggle more in Champ Car from a fitness standpoint, but I've been training hard and I am very happy with my fitness. I've had good luck at Long Beach in the past. Last year I won the Lights race there and hopefully we will carry that success over to this year. I've been very focused since Monterrey and the key is for me to carry that intensity onto the racetrack. The competition is so fierce in CART, so it's important I stay focused at all times."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota)
On his enjoyment of street
circuits in general and Long Beach in particular:
"It's always great to return to Long Beach and race on the streets. I have always enjoyed running on street circuits, and Long Beach is one of the best on our schedule. I also enjoy taking the races to the people, and Long Beach has always had one of the biggest fan turnouts each season, which the drivers and crews love to see. They do a great job with the entire event, and Toyota has been an excellent sponsor for them. You've got to love Long Beach because it also has the glamour of Hollywood around with all of the movie stars and actors that enjoy coming out to the track to admire our sport. And with the movie [Driven] coming out at the end of April, there should be a lot of excitement in the paddock. I know all of the drivers always look forward to this event, and I think it will be a very good race as well. We did our pre-season testing right at PacWest so we have a pretty good idea of where we will be heading into the race. I know we can put up a good showing, and with Toyota engines under the hood, we'll be right up there at the end contending for the trophy."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda Reynard)
On competing at Long
"Long Beach is definitely my type of racetrack. If you look at my record there, it should be a surprise to no one that I really like the place. This year, I definitely have some unfinished business to take care of. The corner I crashed in while leading the race in 1999 isn't there anymore, so the track is much easier. I'm really excited. It's our first street course of the year. I'm back with Honda, and they've won the last five races in a row at Long Beach. I would very much like to make it six in a row, which is my favorite number. Actually, race day is going to be a very special day for me. It will be the 13th anniversary of the day my dad passed away. I won a go-kart race in Sao Paolo that day, and even though he was in the hospital that day, my dad really wanted me to be out there racing, and to stick with it. So I'd really like to make him proud one more time this weekend. I'm really pleased with where we are as a team. The first race, it was a matter of making the most of our opportunities, of the cards that were dealt to us. Between me and Alex [Zanardi, Kanaan's Mo Nunn Racing teammate] - even though Alex had a tough weekend in Mexico - people will see us both running pretty close together. Alex has been a plus to the team, especially to me. He's pushing me, giving me good information, and I'm learning a lot from his experience. He's obviously a very good race car driver. He's proven that before. I just need to work hard, and learn as much as I can from him. The important thing is to work as a team. As long as I know I'm giving 100 per cent, after that, it's all luck and other things that are out of my control.
"The last month has gone by pretty quickly because I've kept pretty busy. I did two weeks of very, very intense workouts in Miami with my trainer from Brazil. One week I biked 400 miles, trying to build up my endurance. That was very tough. Then I went to Cristiano's [da Matta] house in Brazil and spent a weekend in the mountains relaxing and mountain biking. We went out and celebrated Cristiano's win [in Monterrey]. Everybody down there in his hometown knows the little guy. I also took the time to order my new bicycle, which I won in a bet from Cristiano [the bet was the first one between them to win a race this season would buy the other the bike of his choice]. I've been working hard to be fit for Long Beach. As far as my end of things, I'll be 100 percent when I get there, physically and mentally. We have a strong team. We have strong equipment. It will make all the difference in the world to be in the fast group for qualifying. As long as we all do our jobs, I think we'll do very well this weekend."
ALEX ZANARDI (Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda Reynard)
to Long Beach, site of two of his 15 career Champ Car victories:
"Long Beach is certainly a very, very special event. It's probably the most important race on our calendar. It's a race where everybody likes to go because it's in Southern California, it's a fantastic environment, there are great people, a lot of racing fans. You can literally breathe that atmosphere because you know the whole city comes alive for the weekend. So it's great for a driver to be one of the stars and to be cheered so much. Sure, you have to have a little ego to do this sort of profession, and it really gets fed at Long Beach! As a street circuit, Long Beach is difficult and challenging, but everybody likes to do well. To see so many people on Sunday afternoon in the stands is an extra motivation to do well. My good seasons always kicked off in Long Beach. Like 1997, I won the race and I went on to win the championship. Same thing in 1998. It was my first win both of those years. So, I'm hoping I can maybe do the same thing this year. Hey, everybody can dream! The race in 1998 was one of the most exciting races of my life. I came around the hairpin with only a few laps to go to catch Bryan Herta, and I could hear everybody was cheering for me. They always tend to cheer for whoever is coming from behind. That day, it was clear to me I would be the hero of the day if I was going to get Bryan. I went by with three laps to go. I actually was thinking to myself in the race car, 'How can it be that I can hear people cheering? That can't be happening.' But the next time we came around, the cheering was even louder and I realized it really was the crowd I was hearing. That was a very special day. [About being relegated to the 'slow' qualifying group by virtue of the current point standings]
"Long Beach will be much different. I've been in the slow group before and still had a good race. Paul Tracy won from pretty far back last year. Qualifying is just part of the race weekend at Long Beach. I'm not going to Long Beach thinking how I can overcome that, like at Mexico. But even Mexico would have been a good day if - I hate to repeat this - if I wouldn't have spun trying to pass Michael [Andretti]. I could've gotten a good result there. I was in 10th place at the time and there were four cars in front of me that hadn't pitted yet. We could have been looking at a podium finish. But that is history. This is Long Beach. Never say never. Never say beaten. I'm very excited about the weekend."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (Herdez Ford Lola)
On the pleasant memories he
associates with competing in Long Beach:
"I always love going back to Long Beach every year. For me it has very good memories because it was my first CART event in 1996. Although my results there haven't been as good as I would like, I have been very fast there so I'm looking forward to having a good finish this year. I think we showed at the first race in Monterrey that we can be competitive but we made a couple little mistakes in qualifying and the race that cost us. Everyone on the Herdez Bettenhausen team is looking forward to Long Beach to show our true potential."
SHINJI NAKANO (Avex/Alpine Honda Reynard)
Looking forward to his first
competitive appearance at Long Beach:
"This will be my first time at Long Beach. [Nakano missed three events last season, including Long Beach, while recovering from injuries sustained in a testing accident.] I have watched the race tapes, and it looks like a typical street circuit where you need a lot of traction. It's a high-speed circuit as well. I am not worried about setup. Adrian [Fernandez, Nakano's teammate] has been fast there, and I think we are going to have a much better setup compared to Mexico. I'm looking forward to it."
TORA TAKAGI (Pioneer/DENSO Special Toyota Reynard)
On the similarities
between the Long Beach and Monaco street circuits:
"People say the streets of Long Beach are narrow and difficult, however, personally speaking, once you have experienced the race in Monaco, every street track feels wider than that. I went to see the track when I had a break in testing in January, and after seeing it, I still think it will be similar to Monaco. I can visualize the whole distance of the race, pace, setups for the race etc., after finishing Mexico. Since it was our first race as a team, there are areas that we can work on together to improve our performance. The break between Mexico and Long Beach gave me a time to think about them, and we can try something different from Mexico together with the team. Obviously, some people say it takes some time to get used to Champ Car racing. However, my goal is to be quick in every session and to lead the race. That is why I am here. If I can do it well, then the result will follow. I just try my best at all times, that is very important."
LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Embratel 21 Special Ford Lola)
On his enjoyment of the
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:
"Long Beach is one of my favorite races of the season. I just love the atmosphere and the people there. It was a really special race last year, when I scored my first point in CART competition [with a 12th-place finish]. Scoring was the goal then, now it's qualifying well and getting into the top ten. That's what I would like to achieve. [The Lola Ford] is definitely a strong package, as evidenced by how well it did at Monterrey. I only wish I could have had the chance to test it before the race. I think the car and a good race strategy will help us at Long Beach. Everyone is ready and I want to make it two years in a row in the scoring column."
MICHAEL KRUMM (The Dark Dog Ford Lola)
Looking forward to his first Champ
Car appearance in Long Beach:
"In general I like street circuits. They are very demanding and having raced on several in F3, I am looking forward to visiting Long Beach for the first time. Mexico was a fantastic experience. The Mexican fans where amazing; it was definitely the biggest race of my career so far. I have always held the ambition to race in CART and to finally achieve this and make a very strong performance in the race was great. It is a shame we did not get to the finish in the first event [due to mechanical failure], but now I am just looking forward to Long Beach."
MAX WILSON (winner B2B.com/ Arciero/Brooke Racing Phoenix Lola)
month-long layoff between the first and second rounds of the FedEx
"I expect a good weekend in Long Beach because we had a month between races. We needed that time to put things together, like the update kit for the [Lola] chassis. My opinion is that we needed this time, because for the first race in Mexico, we were really rushing on everything. We were putting people and equipment together and we did things pretty much in a hurry. Now, for this race we have had enough time to have everything ready. I think we will be in better shape for this race. I have been in Long Beach before, but not during a race weekend. So, this will be my first time driving on this track."