CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach pre-event quotes

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on ending a street-circuit victory drought: "We finished seventh last year so we would like to move up another six spots. That's our goal. It's been a while since the ...

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), on ending a street-circuit victory drought:

"We finished seventh last year so we would like to move up another six spots. That's our goal. It's been a while since the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team won on a street course. The last street or road race I won was in 1996, which is definitely too long ago. I have always liked racing in Long Beach because it is special to me since I won my first CART race there. You never forget your first one. Last year we had a tough time there since it was our first street race on Firestone tires and we just didn't know enough about the tires yet. We were just happy to leave with some points but this year, we want more than just a few points. The challenge with Long Beach is that it is right between six oval races and most teams aren't 100 percent prepared for racing on a street course since they have been concentrating on oval set-ups. The fans are great in Long Beach. The fans have really supported the race over the years. The track allows for passing and good racing which is nice for both the fans and the drivers. The Long Beach race is a very important part of what the CART FedEx Championship Series is today. This race helped grow our sport. Everyone loves racing here. The Long Beach area has changed unbelievably over the years since we started racing here. The buildings on the front straight used to be boarded up X-rated theatres and today its is a nice metropolitan area and I think the race had a lot to do with the rebirth of the area."

PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the challenges of the first street race of the season:

"We're off to a decent start and it's important for us to continue that trend this weekend at Long Beach. Everyone on this team is performing well and we're going there expecting to score some big points. It's a tough race to win because you don't get to test at Long Beach and it's the first non-oval race of the year. Fortunately, Team KOOL Green has been strong on streets the past couple years and we're going to Long Beach with what we think is a good setup. Passing opportunities on track are at a premium here. We're going to have to win the battle in the pits again. (Tracy's crew won the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge in '99 and leads so far in 2000)."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his enjoyment of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

"Long Beach is one of those races that I look forward to each year. It's a nice little racing circuit, but what makes it so special is the fans - they're just incredible. It seems like all of Southern California comes out to the race and the whole atmosphere of the place is really something. But like any other race, there's a job to do. And that's to get the car sorted out in practice, qualify up front and then run a fast, error-free race. If you do that, then maybe you put yourself into contention for victory. We've come close the past two years here, but fell just a little short (runner-up in '98 & '99). Team KOOL Green has shown we're the team to beat on the streets, and Long Beach is the only street race in the series I haven't won, so I'd like to fix that this weekend."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), on last year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

"I think Long Beach was one of my best races last year. People say, 'But you finished fifth. How could you think that was one of your best races.?' It was our first race on a street course with Firestone tires and we weren't very strong so we qualified 11th. I passed everybody on the race track and finished in fifth. We were about the only car that passed people on the track rather than in the pits. It was a great race from the passing standpoint. I hope the Big Kmart/Route 66 car is doing all of the passing again this year, but I hope we start in front. The first street race is always a big question mark. You end up not doing as much testing on a road course as you would like by the time you arrive into Long Beach. You think you will be good but you end up slow, or vice versa. I'm pretty sure we will be competitive this year based on our testing in Sebring. We were the quickest car there when we first tested and then we went back after the Homestead race and had another good test. Long Beach is more challenging than a road course because of the walls. If you make a mistake on a road course, you just go off on the grass. You're not so lucky in Long Beach. The only place there is to go is into the concrete, which is never a good idea. The smallest mistake will cost you. My races at Long Beach have all been pretty exciting for one reason or another."

HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on the new track configuration at Long Beach:

"I always look forward to the Long Beach race because it's such a fun atmosphere. There are so many fans and they really enjoy Champ Car racing. The track layout has been changed to allow for more passing, which should improve the racing. We've had successful tests at the Sebring road course so I feel the Marlboro car should be competitive this weekend. I led my first laps and earned my first points at Long Beach in my rookie season in CART so it would be a great place to capture my first win as well."

GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on Long Beach "owing" him one:

"If you look at my racing history, Long Beach is very much like Miami for me in that I've been in the position to win the race two or three times already. I like the track, and if you add these factors with our pre-season road-course testing performance, one would have to say our chances are quite good of putting together a reasonable showing."

MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Mercedes), on the challenges of Long Beach:

"Long Beach is certainly a track where both Mark and myself would like to do well. The circuit is demanding and allows little room for mistakes. The event always attracts a huge crowd and it's a venue where we host one of our largest groups of corporate guests for the season. With all the improvement we have made to our package, maybe this will be the year."

MARK BLUNDELL (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), on the strength of his 2000 equipment package:

"I still believe the basic package we have with Reynard, Mercedes, and Firestone is the best one available. We know this team is capable of winning races and hopefully we can do just that this weekend. Our pre-season testing went extremely well, we've had great reliability, and I'm really impressed with the progress that Mercedes-Benz has made. The good thing is that we definitely know it will not be snowing this weekend."

NORBERTO FONTANA (Della Penna VideoMatch Toyota Reynard), on making his first street-course start in the FedEx Championship Series:

"I'm looking forward to Long Beach. The street courses are much closer to by background than the ovals are, and hopefully the results from the weekend will reflex that. We've had two very good road course tests at Homestead and Sebring to prepare for this event, and I think we have a strong baseline set-up to start the weekend."

LUIZ GARCIA, JR. (Hollywood/Embratel-21/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard), on his affection for Long Beach:

"I like everything about Long Beach. I like the city, the people, the superb atmosphere and I like the track. I'm looking forawrd to running there and hope I get the chance to run the 2000 car. Last year was a difficult race for me, as it was my first time on a street circuit in a Champ Car. This year, I'll be in better shape."

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