JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on the ups and downs of his FedEx Championship Series season: "I've been very pleased with the car this year, but some of the problems are just flukes and that's unfortunately a part of racing. We just have to...
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Toyota Lola), on the ups and downs of his FedEx Championship Series season: "I've been very pleased with the car this year, but some of the problems are just flukes and that's unfortunately a part of racing. We just have to keep on doing what has helped us perform so well, and the racing and the points will be fine. [On the qualifying success which has enabled him to start on the pole in four consecutive events] "Qualifying has always been one of my strengths. It's nice that you earn a point for a pole position in this series, but it's going to take more than that to win the championship. To have a shot at the title, we have to start scoring well in these races, beginning with Portland. Starting the race out in the front is good, but that's also where I'd like to finish the race. I came close to winning at Portland last year, so maybe this year it's my turn."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Toyota Lola), on the success he has enjoyed during the first seven events of the FedEx Championship Series season: "It's still early in the season, but it's always nice to be up toward the top of the point standings. The only time it really matters that you're leading the point standings is after the final race of the year, but it's a good feeling to be out ahead, and that's where we hope to be after Portland. I don't have any control over what the other guys do out there on the track, but we've been able to score points pretty consistently this year, so I wouldn't be surprised to be leading in the points before too long. I haven't had a lot of success in Portland, but I've always liked the track, and the Toyota-Lola improves with each race. I'm expecting a great performance from Team Target this weekend."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the challenges of Portland International Raceway: "More often than not, the Portland race comes down to a fight to the finish, and we're aiming to be in that battle. It's going to feel good being on our first permanent road course of the season. But Portland is the type of track where you can't get too carried away. You have to be patient and pick your spots. We were fortunate to come out of Detroit with our lead in the drivers' standings intact, but everyone is bunched up real close so we're going to have to come back strong at Portland if we want to solidify that lead. Team KOOL Green certainly has the car to be right up there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on continuing to improve in the FedEx Championship Series: "We've made great strides with the KOOL car in the last couple of races, but we've still got our work cut out for us if we're going to be serious contenders for the championship. Finishing fourth in Detroit last weekend, despite some problems that at one point jeopardized our chances of completing the race, was a huge plus. Not only did it allow us to move up the drivers' standings but it gave us some momentum heading into this stretch of the schedule on road courses, where we've been quite successful in the past. Getting on the podium in Portland last year with a third-place finish was a big morale booster because in both of our previous races there we ran into some problems and weren't able to finish. Finding the proper balance of speed for the faster parts of the course and handling for the tighter sections is extremely important. It's not easy to strike a balance in set-ups on this track, but I know that Team KOOL Green will be up to the task."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on defending his championship in the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco: "I have always liked going to Portland. I was actually fastest in my first practice session on the track back in 1995 and last year finally captured the victory. I've been fortunate to go there with good equipment and good teams, and Portland seems to marry well with my driving style. I feel Marlboro Team Penske will be in contention this weekend based on our recent form. The team is coming off of a win in Detroit and a very successful test at Mid-Ohio which reassures us that the work we are doing is good."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on building upon last week's first career FedEx Championship Series victory at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit: "We're coming off of a great weekend in Detroit with a win and a good test at Mid-Ohio in early June so Marlboro Team Penske is carrying a lot of momentum into the Portland race. Portland is a tough track because it's a high speed circuit and the concrete makes it a challenge to set-up the car. At the same time, it's one of my favorite tracks, particularly Turn Seven where we get the whole car on the curb. I started on the front row [second] last year and led 30 laps before going out of the race early so I hope this year to be in the points at the end on race day."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on his memories of Portland: "We had an electronics problem last year in Portland. Going out of the pits the car just decided to shut itself down. My most memorable race in Portland was Father's Day in 1986 when dad and myself went down to the wire and he beat me by a couple of inches. Portland will be our first real road course so it will be interesting to see how it goes. There are going to be a lot of unknowns because there haven't been any races on a permanent road course before it. We are hoping that the Ford Lola will do well there. The track has some long straightaways and we know we have the horsepower, so that should be good. The difference between a permanent road course and street circuits is the same as comparing a super speedway to a small oval. It's two different animals, and you have to approach them differently on setups, and as a driver, you just adapt to whatever you have. But, it's more what you do with the race car in terms of setups that are quite different."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on last year's misfortunes at Portland: "Last year, we went for the wrong fuel strategy and had to pit at the end of the race and dropped way back. There was a little bit of doubt among everyone if we had to really go for it and get by the cars. We tried to conserve the fuel hoping we would get another yellow, but unfortunately the situation didn't happen and we really made a mistake, and we had to pay for it. My best memory of Portland was after I came back from my broken leg in 1997. Walking to the car and hopping in the car for practice on Friday morning, it was a good memory. We had a good weekend. And this year, it is definitely one of the races I am looking forward to. The track is different in the natural ways of road courses and street courses. It's completely different. You need to have a lot of flow in Portland apart from the first two turns. The rest of the track is a true road course, and you just need to carry the speed. You generally understeer a little bit in Portland going into the turns and you have a few problems with power, but that's part of the challenge of the track."
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), on returning to his road-course "roots": "While I enjoy the ovals, it feels good to be back on my traditional racing, the road circuits. It's my nature to make left and right turns. We ran a good steady race at Detroit and we were in position to give Helio [Castroneves, the race winner] a shot for the lead at the end. But we had a little vibration in the front end in the last ten laps. I didn't have anything for Helio at the end. But we'll take the second place and move on to Portland, a place I really like."
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Reynard), on developing some consistency between his oval and road course finishes: "We need to match our oval results on the road circuits. fter testing at Portland, I think we have a good car for the track. We were close to last year's track record and Max was under the track record. So I expect us to be very competitive this weekend. Plus, the Portland area reminds me of back home in Sweden. I got a little homesick seeing the Portland landscape."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), on looking forward to returning to racing: "I like the Portland circuit. It is a challenging and fun track to drive. We have had good results there in the past and I am looking forward to going back there and racing. I am happy that we are racing again so soon. We have to put Detroit behind us and continue working hard. We have the potential to do well. We have been competitive at every race, but just seen to run into bad luck. Fortunately, the championship is still very close. I didn't lose any ground in the points, just two places in the standings, so, hopefully, we can get back on the right track in Portland and move up in the points."
ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Ford Reynard), on his enjoyment of Portland International Raceway: "I like the Portland road course very much. It is a circuit where the set-up is very important. In the past, race and fuel strategy have also been a key so I think I have a bit of an advantage because of Mr. [Pat] Patrick [team owner], and Jim McGee. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team should be good at Portland. We believe that some of the things we learned about setting up the car at the test in Mid-Ohio and the Detroit race will help us at Portland. Portland is going to be a very important race for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team in terms of the championship. With so many drivers separated by so few points, it is almost like the beginning of the season where everyone starts out the same. With the championship race this close it just reemphasizes how competitive the FedEx Championship Series has become. If you are going to compete for the championship in this series you have to be consistent and get points whenever possible. There are just so many good teams and good drivers that you have to take advantage of every opportunity."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on Player's Forsythe Racing's road-course improvement: "I've always liked racing in Portland because it's a permanent road course and that's the type of track I really enjoy. The Player's team made a lot of progress on road courses last season, and I expect that will continue this year, especially with the Ford-Cosworth engine, which should really give us some power on the two long straightaways in Portland. I'm gradually getting back to 100% after my [April] wrist injury, but I'm quite pleased with my consistency so far. Being in the top five in three of my four races has helped me close in on the top positions in the standings. The series is so competitive this year that if you can stay in contention in every race, you stand a good chance of being right up there in the standings and you're also in a position to win a race if everything happens to break right for you."
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), on his success last weekend at Detroit: "One of the positive aspects of our race in Detroit last weekend was how well the Player's crew kept working with the set-ups and eventually we came up with the right one. That was a big factor in being able to finish sixth, even though we had started quite far back on the grid. Now we know we have a good car for Portland and we're looking forward to having a strong race on a permanent road course. Personally, it will be my first opportunity to race competitively there, and I intend to find out as much about as I can so I'll be well prepared for the challenge."
BRYAN HERTA (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), on his return to the FedEx Championship Series as a substitute for the injured Tony Kanaan: "I'm really looking for my second time around with Morris [Nunn]. We showed some flashes of brilliance the first time around. This is our chance to follow through on some of the things we started. The circumstances around this opportunity are unfortunate. I wish Tony the speediest recovery possible. I just hope to make a solid contribution in the interim. It's probably the best possible part of the schedule for me to step in and pinch-hit. Portland and Cleveland are two of my favorite tracks. I'll have my hands full learning the Mercedes-Reynard package and working with new people, so knowing the tracks gives me one less thing to worry about."
LUIZ GARCIA JR. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), on his previous success at Portland International Raceway: "Portland is a track I really like. I ran well there twice in Indy Lights and again last year in CART, and after the encouraging start I had at Detroit, I'm really looking forward to this race. I was upset I couldn't finish at Detroit, because I felt we could have finished eighth or ninth there. I hope at Portland we'll be back in the points."