MICHIGAN 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA "QUOTEBOARD" MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard), on returning to contention for the FedEx Championship Series championship following his win at Toronto last week: "We've broken the ice with our first win...
MICHIGAN 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA "QUOTEBOARD"
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard), on returning to contention for the FedEx Championship Series championship following his win at Toronto last week: "We've broken the ice with our first win in Toronto and I think we're on a roll for a championship. We're not just any rookie team, we're a rookie team with a lot of experience, and a rookie team who knows how to win. [On last year's thrilling duel at Michigan with Juan Montoya] Last year was a great race. Juan and I raced wheel to wheel the last 20 laps and I think had there been one more lap, it might have been a different result. It is always a good race at Michigan, it definitely is great for the fans with the closeness of the competition."
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola), on turning his superspeedway luck around.at Michigan Speedway this weekend: "I thought we had one of the best superspeedway cars in the series last year. Unfortunately, we never saw the checkered flag. I hope to change that record at Michigan. The Lola is a very good oval car and we know that the Ford engine has lots of horsepower. Now, we have to complete 250 laps and we should be right in the hunt for the win. However, a lot of things can happen in 500-mile race. The thing about a 500-mile race is patience. Both A.J. [Foyt] and Bobby [Rahal] have won 500-milers over their careers, and they both have talked to me about being patient in these long races. I think our Team Rahal guys know what it takes to win these long ones. Our general manager, Scott Roembke, has won them, my engineer, Don Halliday, has won them and Max [Papis, Brack's teammate] should have won at Michigan two years ago. So I think our team is ready."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the quality of FedEx Championship Series competition at Michigan Speedway: "I'm really quite sorry that this will be our last year racing at Michigan International Speedway because we've certainly had a lot of fun races there over the past few years. I'm not sure what to expect with the new changes to the aerodynamic package [per CART Competition Bulletin 01-20 revised: 36 inches of boost; an additional three-inch downward extension on the back plate of the Handford MK1device; all body work and aerodynamic devices except the rear wing shall terminate forward of a transverse plane perpendicular to the reference plane 11 inches aft of the differential center line], but I'm pretty sure it will be as exciting a race as ever. We have a good set-up for the superspeedways and we're still in spitting distance of the championship, so hopefully this will be a good weekend for Marlboro Team Penske."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on last year's U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway: "We had a good race at Michigan last year, I had my best starting position on a superspeedway at the time and we led the race 11 times for most laps led . We were really strong and I felt we had the car to win, but unfortunately, after the final pit stop, the car wasn't performing as well for the final laps and we finished fifth. I'm looking forward to getting back to MIS and racing for 500 miles; it's always been one of the most exciting races on the CART circuit. The Marlboro car ran well on the superspeedways last year, so hopefully the rules change won't hurt our performance and we can move up in the points."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the importance of a good setup at Michigan: "At Michigan, it comes down to having a good setup if you want to be in the hunt on race day. From the time the car comes off the truck, the Team KOOL Green engineers and I will be working to get it balanced. Once we get the car right, then it's just a matter of holding it wide open and working the draft. It's all about race strategy and fuel mileage. Nobody wants to lead the race because you burn too much fuel when you're out front. This is a long race and you've really got to conserve both the car and yourself. I've been on a pretty serious fitness program; lots of biking, and I'm in the best shape ever. I've lost weight and increased my stamina since the beginning of the season. I know it's going to make a difference in a 500-mile race."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the challenges of racing at Michigan International Speedway: "We tested at Michigan in June, so the Team KOOL Green engineers have some new data to work with. Michigan is one of those races that is very close and very exciting for the fans, but it's difficult for the drivers. It's one of the tracks that you can run side-by-side, which is good fun. But you've got to concentrate 100 percent for the entire race. You've got to make sure that everyone around you is playing the same game ... that guys are giving each other room to run side-by-side and stuff. You're thinking the whole time about the way you position the car relative to other people to keep some air on your wings and give yourself some downforce. It's really a thinking track. But the car has to be good. It's a track where a driver can't carry the car. It has to be working for you."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Toyota Lola), looking forward to racing on the superspeedway at Michigan: "I think we're going to be competitive because we tend to run strong on superpeedways. We have a very good set-up and it's my opinion that we're going to do very, very well. I'm happy to go back to Michigan. I think we definitely have a great car and it's going to be a very competitive race. The fans will see a lot of overtaking as you have seen in the past couple of years. [On last month's performance containment test at Michigan] "I don't really think it's going to be an advantage to be one of the five guys who tested there, because there's a lot of practice time. We have three hours of practice on Friday and at a place like Michigan, that's plenty of practice. You can try a bunch of different things, but really, I'm happy with everything I learned and I really do think we have a great racecar. To win a 500-mile race, you have to survive everything like mechanical problems or small incidents. Apart from that, I think that you need to have a very quick car for the last 100 to 50 miles of the race because that's what it really comes down to - the last 20 minutes of racing." [On CART's final event at Michigan] "It's a tough call, the fact that we're not going to Michigan any more. To be honest, it is a bit disappointing because it's a really unique place for us, and CART has been going to this venue for a lot of years. I think we will miss it because it has played a major role in CART, and all of the championships and how the CART family developed and grew. Unfortunately, it was the decision that the track made. CART has been working on ways to slow the cars down safely and still make the race exciting. We've produced a great show for the fans. As a series we just have to keep looking at ways to make all of our races as popular as the ones in Mexico, Long Beach, Toronto and the others. Maybe one day we can come back to race at Michigan International Speedway."
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola), on the physical and mental factors involved in completing a 500-mile event: "The two-mile ovals are usually very easy to drive from a physical standpoint. In the race it is a very different situation because we have all that drafting and passing which you don't have on the mile ovals. The two-mile ovals, when driving by yourself in practice, aren't that big of a deal because usually you are able to go flat all the way around and it is not very difficult. In the race, it is more difficult to go flat because there are more cars around you, then your approach changes. Going into the weekend it is basically the same. You have to try and make your car go as fast as it can go. You have to work closely with the engineers to make the car good because there's not much a driver can do at that kind of track in terms of using his skill to make a quicker race lap. Races on superspeedways require more concentration because so many cars are around you and you are running faster speeds. It is a 500-mile race so it's something that makes you very tired mentally. I am usually very tired mentally but not physically, the day after the race. It doesn't necessarily give me more confidence that Newman/Haas is the reigning 500-mile winner, but as the team has good set-ups for these tracks, it gives me a better car, and a better car makes you go faster. I've never finished a 500-mile race before, so I'm looking forward to going up to Michigan and to Fontana and hopefully finish my first 500-mile race and finish well. I think this year's race will be very similar to last year, based on the test. I think the race will be just a bit slower than everybody thought because of the rules dealing with safety. They changed a couple of things on the cars to slow the cars down. The balance, handling, and everything else is going to be the same, just 10 to 15 miles per hour slower. We were doing 238 to 239 miles per hour last year, so I think we'll still be able to do 225 to 230. It's going to be a long race so reliability is always important. You have to try to save your equipment in the first 400 miles because after that it's a sprint to the end. You also need good pit stops, a good crew, and good teamwork. It's usually a six to eight pit-stop race, so it demands a good crew and I'm very confident about the Texaco/Havoline/Kmart crew. They've been excellent all year."
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood Honda Reynard), on returning to competition at Michigan after a disappointing finish at Toronto: "Well, it looked so good for so long at Toronto that I just couldn't wait to get back into the race car again. I'll get my wish at Michigan, that's for sure - 500 miles' worth! That's a lot of racing. The 500 is always a very special race. It's especially nice for me since that was where I won my first Champ Car race. I will never forget that day. I'm back in a Honda again, and I'm expecting to have a very competitive car once again. We had some problems with our fueling at Toronto, but the team has been working very hard to find a solution to the problem. With seven or eight pit stops, we'll definitely have to be on top of our game in the pits because over the course of the race, the difference between a good finish and a not-so-good finish depends on your pit stop performance. My engineers gave me a great car all weekend at Toronto, so I'm very much looking forward to getting out on the track at Michigan. This race is always a dogfight, and I'm ready."
ALEX ZANARDI (Pioneer/WorldCom Honda Reynard), on returning to oval competition following four consecutive road-course events: "I think Michigan, from a performance standpoint, requires a lot of the things from our car that were required at Texas and Japan. Fortunately, at both of those places, we had an excellent car. So I am looking forward to getting to Michigan and seeing if we can take that to the next level. We have the motor, we have the chassis, and hopefully it's a race in which we'll do well. Michigan is a tough race, but I have great memories there. The pop-off valve spacer is back, so that presents a question mark that we'll get answers to the moment we get on the track. The good thing is, I don't think the pole there is as important as it is for other races. But, on the other hand, you want to get the right answer when you press the throttle to the floor. There are going to be times in the race where you'll actually be coasting and just trying to look after your equipment. But there definitely comes a time when you have to put the power down. I don't know where power is more important than at Michigan. We'll have to wait and see what happens when we get out onto the track. Honda's always been on top of its game, so there is no point in my concern. I'll just go there and do the best job I can. I'm expecting Honda to give me a very reliable and competitive engine. I'm sure, as we speak, they are working very hard to get the best performance out of this configuration."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard), on continuing the momentum generated by his first podium finish of the season (third) at Toronto: "I am really looking forward to this weekend. We have the momentum from Toronto -- with both cars finishing in the top 10 and the first podium for Fernandez Racing. The team has shown that we are getting more and more competitive each weekend. I have always done well on the superspeedways. I think we will be very strong this weekend."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Lola), on his memories of the 1999 U.S. 500 at Michigan, where he ran out of fuel two turns from the checkered flag while in the lead: "God just didn't want me to win that day. But I felt good because we dominated the race. I knew I could win races and I knew the Miller Lite team could win. I always thought I would win my first CART race on a road circuit, since my background is road racing in Europe. So to come so close at Michigan on the oval in 1999 and then win at Miami last year is very special. That's because ovals are American-style racing. And having a European driver win on an oval is unexpected. I still think MIS owes me one, though."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on the excitement of 500-mile FedEx Championship Series events at Michigan Speedway: "You can be sure that the race on the Michigan super-oval is going to be fast and exciting, with plenty of lead changes. There were more than 50 lead changes last year and almost as many the year before that. One of the keys is to make sure you stay on the lead lap so that you are in a position to be in contention near the end, when the race really becomes a shootout. That strategy almost worked for Team Player's last year, when we were pressing for a podium spot but had to settle for fourth. This is the last time the CART series will be racing on the Michigan oval, and I'm hoping to make this last appearance a memorable one, a bit like last year when we went into [Gateway International Raceway] for the last time and we got a podium [second].
"Being able to run at the front in Toronto last Sunday was very encouraging. I'm sure we would have been top-five at the end because the car was really performing well and our race ended only because we tried to be bold and aggressive and make things happen. It didn't work out that time but we're going to keep pushing the envelope. The podium by my teammate [Alex Tagliani, who finished second] was a big lift for everyone at Team Player's. We've felt all along that we could be right up there and this is just another sign that we're headed in the right direction."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on his first career podium finish [second] at Toronto last Sunday: "I look at the Michigan race as the start of the second half of our season. Team Player's is going into that second half with some good momentum after getting the podium in Toronto last Sunday. It's something that has been building for the last few races and we're going to do everything we can to maintain that consistency. You can't take anything for granted in this series. You have to go out there every week and work hard to improve on every facet of racing, whether it's the driving, the car development or the overall strategy. I'm looking forward to racing again on the Michigan superspeedway because I feel like I have some unfinished business there. As a CART rookie last year, I had the lead twice in Michigan but I wasn't there at the end. You have to grab opportunities like that, and I believe I learned some things from the experience last year that will help me this time. After being on road and street courses for the last four races, the Michigan super oval is going to be quite a change of pace, from both a driving and technical standpoint, but Team Player's is definitely up for the challenge."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (Target Toyota Lola), on making his first career FedEx Championship Series appearance at Michigan Speedway: "I remember watching the race in Michigan last year and thinking 'Wow, that is incredible!'. Seeing those guys running side by side at almost 240 miles per hour was really amazing. Now, I get a chance to be one of those guys. I'm really looking forward to the race. Team Target has an excellent car on the ovals and I think that we have a great chance for our first win of the year. The Number Four car won here last year and I'm hoping to make it two in a row."
MEMO GIDLEY (Target Toyota Lola), on his enjoyment of competing at Michigan International Speedway: "Michigan is a track that I really enjoy running on. I had a pretty solid run last year as I qualified 21st and finished 10th. It is such a long race that you have to be both patient and aggressive. You need to have a car that has the right setup on it to win there. And I think that the guys here at Team Target know what it takes to get to victory lane. My engineer, Bill Pappas, won there last year with Juan [Montoya] so I'm very confident that we will have a great shot to win there this weekend."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota), on what it takes to win a 500-mile event: "I'm really excited to go to the first superspeedway event of the year. The key to a 500-mile race is to make sure you are around at the finish, and typically if you are, you will be rewarded with a solid result. The Nextel team has given me an extraordinarily reliable car this season, so I am confident we'll be able to compete at the end of the race. The team has been doing a great job in the pits, so that should definitely give us an advantage for the race. As a group, we are really picking up momentum and hopefully, we can get a result at Michigan to keep that up."
SCOTT DIXON (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), on getting accustomed to the Handford Device, the rear-wing configuration mandated by CART to help contain speeds on superspeedways : "This will be my first race with the full Hanford Device, so I am very interested to figure out how to experience how the drafting works out. I have raced twice at Michigan and I finished off my Indy Lights career with a victory at California, which is a similar track, so I have an idea of what to expect for this race. The track itself is great and always allows a lot of passing, so qualifying isn't nearly as important here as it is at other tracks. I've done very well this season on ovals, so we are looking to continue our climb up the standings the next couple weeks. Thanks to my Powerware/Panasonic crew and the reliability of the Toyota Reynard, we've done a great job of finishing races this season. If we can do that at Michigan, we'll certainly be in line for a good result."
SHINJI NAKANO (Avex/Alpine Honda Reynard), on the importance of setting the car up properly for competition at Michigan International Speedway: "For Michigan, qualifying is not that important. You need to work for a good racecar - to find the right balance so the car handles well in the draft. I had mechanical problems at both Michigan and Fontana last year, so I have not finished a 500-mile race yet. I would like to finish this weekend. It is a long race and you need a reliable car and a bit of luck as well."
ORIOL SERVIA (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), on his prospects for success in the Michigan 500"The good thing about last week [Toronto] was we got back some momentum before the accident. Michigan is a good track and I think we can do a very good job there. This has been a really exciting race over the years and one where you will need to be in a good position at the end and have a lot of patience because it is so long."
TORA TAKAGI (Pioneer/DENSO Toyota Reynard), on his first FedEx Championship Series superspeedway event: "Michigan will be my first superspeedway race and engine power will be very critical there. With the modifications to the pop-off valve starting at Michigan, I am sure we will be quite competitive. We haven't raced at a superspeedway track yet, but we have had some experience on larger ovals like Motegi and Texas, but not any tracks of this size yet. I am looking forward to the experience at Michigan."