CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach Pre-Practice Quotes

TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH Quotes Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), on maintaining his early-season momentum heading into the road-course season: "After Motegi, I really feel I am up for anything. I think we're going to ...


Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), on maintaining his early-season momentum heading into the road-course season: "After Motegi, I really feel I am up for anything. I think we're going to surprise a lot of people here in Long Beach. We conducted a lot of testing on this type of track during the winter and the results were very favorable. It's a big challenge, but it's one that the entire crew relishes. There's a short time span between the races in Japan and Long Beach, but the team has been working really hard, with its usual careful attention to detail, to prepare for this first road course race of the season. I've had some success in the first two races and, obviously, my goal is to maintain that consistency."

Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), on the allure of Long Beach and his past disappointments there: "I think Long Beach is CART's premier event. It's certainly now the most traditional event, and a very famous event not only in America, but worldwide. Everybody has heard of the Long Beach Grand Prix. It's alive. You can feel the atmosphere from Wednesday onward. I have enjoyed tremendous success in Long Beach, or shall I say partially tremendous success [de Ferran has won two pole positions and led 177 of 315 laps without a victory during the past three years at Long Beach]. I've run there four years and I could have won three years in a row, but I've come up empty-handed. It's a race I've never finished particularly well, but it's a race that's very dear to my heart, to have come so close so many times."

Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Swift), on the Patrick Racing team's switch from a Reynard to a Swift chassis for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: "We don't know much about the Swift with the new configuration on road courses, so I am going to have to get used to how this car reacts. We are on a roll right now and I am confident that the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing team will make the maximum effort to make the car as competitive as possible. I just have to go out and drive the car to the best of my abilities. Hopefully, with the new improvements to the car, we can produce a good result."

Michael Andretti ((Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on the importance of a fast start to this FedEx Championship Series season: "It's good to score points in both of the first two races. Consistency is what wins you the championship. It's good to be second in the standings but I know that it takes a lot of work and luck to stay there. The Long Beach track has always been a fast one with the two long straightaways but it was difficult to pass. The changes will make the race more exciting and allow for more passing opportunities. I hope to be the one doing all of the passing. Another added element of excitement is the fact that this will be our first street race so you basically get to see who will be competitive on these type of courses the rest of the season. Ultimately our goal is to win another championship. If we can win a lot of races and lead laps along the way, that's even better. One of my personal goals is to match my dad in the record books. If I can lead 739 laps this season, then I can match A.J. Foyt and start working on dad's record. Leading laps is the first step to winning more races and more importantly a championship. My dad had a phenomenal career and if I get near his record, I know I have accomplished something."

Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his memories of Long Beach: "I made my first Champ Car start at Long Beach in 1991and I got my first win there in '93, so naturally it's one of my favorite races. With the changes to the track and the fact we can't test there, it will be a real challenge for drivers to find the fast line and teams to find the proper setup. Those that do will start up front, which is extremely important on a tight street circuit. For those that don't, it will be a long day trying to catch up."

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), "I've already had a sneak preview of the changes in the Long Beach circuit when I visited for a media event last month and I like what the organizers have done. There's more character to the course now and possibly a new passing zone. Team KOOL Green showed last season we were strong on the street circuits and I believe we will pick up right where we left off. Last year's race was a real confidence builder for me (finished 2nd) and it kind of got the ball rolling on a terrific season. Now I need to go a little better, maybe win the race and put myself back up near the top of the championship."

Richie Hearn (Budweiser Toyota Swift), on the challenges of starting the road/street course season at Long Beach: "Having the road course season start on a street course, where we can't test, is a little like starting blind. It's a different test of the equipment and of yourself than the ovals offer. Long Beach is an important race too, because how you do here will determine how you approach the street courses for the rest of the season. Long Beach is a big event for me personally. I'm from southern California and a lot of my friends and family still live there and attend the race. It's also an important race for Toyota and Budweiser, so there are a lot of demands on my time. I think that's why when I do well here it means more to me since all my family, friends and sponsors are there to support me."

Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on his memories of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: "Long Beach has played a constant, pivotal role in my career. I have raced here in karts, celebrity events, Trans-Ams and Champ Cars, and in 1988, Long Beach was the first event of my CART career. Long Beach is a continually changing place, which makes it an exciting track from a competition perspective. This year, for example, we'll have to make a hard left instead of a hard right at the end of the front straight. I've been encouraged by our off-season road-course testing."

Alex Barron (All American Racers Denso Toyota Eagle), on the new Long Beach layout: "The circuit is new and exciting, with changes made to the first five corners. It's different and I'm looking forward to going there. Long Beach is a large event for Toyota, and I believe it'll be a very competitive race. It's also one of the biggest events for All American Racers and myself, as it's our hometown race."

Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on the Japanese fans: "I have always looked forward to racing in Japan. I raced at Suzuka twice when I was in Formula One. The fans are great and unbelievably polite. They actually get in a single-file line when they come up to you to get an autograph. The track is one of the best in the world and the layout is very different because the two corners are different. We started off the season with some points and the Big Kmart crew did great pit stops in Homestead, so I'm looking forward to the next race to keep up the progress."

Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), on preparing for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: "We left for Long Beach right after the Motegi race, so it's good to settle in, get a bit of rest and start focusing your mind on the next race. I'm excited about this first road event of the season because we made considerable progress in our off-season testing on this type of course. I enjoyed racing here when I was in the Atlantic series, and I had some good finishes. Even though they've made changes to the track since those days, I feel comfortable here and I think the team is going to produce some fine results this weekend."

Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola), on the adjustment from ovals to road courses: "We just go for it. We've been very successful on the ovals, so I hope to continue doing well. Of course, we don't know what the Lola can do on the road courses yet, but I know what I can do. Long Beach has always been very good to me. I won there in 1997 and led last year. This year I hope to continue in the same way. I like the atmosphere of Long Beach and the track is very fast and well designed. I hear that the new re-designed section of the track will be very fast, so that will make for an even better show for all of the fans. As a street circuit it has all of the difficulty you want but it also has some very good passing points."

Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on the significance of Long Beach to his career: "Long Beach is a special place for me, because it is where I stood on my first podium in America. When I came to Long Beach for the first time in 1997, it was only my second race in the Indy Lights series, and my second race in America. I finished second, and the next year [1998] I won the event. I am looking forward to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach even more this year, because it is special to be a part of the Toyota family at one of their biggest events of the season."

Tarso Marques (Marlboro Mercedes Penske), on the novelty of racing in Long Beach: "Long Beach will be another new experience for me. Although most of my racing career has been spent on road courses, I've only raced on a street course once [at Pau, France in 1995 while competing in the Formula 3000 series]. Also, I've never driven the Marlboro Mercedes Penske with the road-course package, and I'm not familiar with the Long Beach track. So there will be a lot for me to learn this weekend. Once again, [three-time FedEx Championship Series champion] Rick Mears has offered his help and he will work with me at the track. Since I'll be in Long Beach early, I'll have time to drive the course with Rick, and he'll help me get familiarized with the layout."

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Tarso Marques , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Pruett , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Rick Mears , Greg Moore , A.J. Foyt , Cristiano da Matta