IRL: 3rd Qual. Quotes - Indy 500

Post Qualifying Quotes - Saturday, May 17 BILLY ROE ( ...

Post Qualifying Quotes - Saturday, May 17

BILLY ROE (#50 Sega/Progressive Electronics/Eurointernational): "I'm elated. I'd like to thank the good Lord for a great day and making the opportunity available. We've tried to simulate a qualifying run (in practice) and kept spewing water. This morning I told the crew not to talk to me during qualifying unless I was under 212. I didn't hear from them so I knew it was good enough. I saw the speeds on the tower for the first 2 laps, a 212 and 213, and tried to duplicate them. A 213 is as quick as we ever went. (On car) "Billy Bignotti really knows how to set up a race car and George Bignotti has been helping out. Billy and George made it pretty easy for us. (Next on agenda) "We'll have to yank the engine out and send it out to Coldwater to Brayton Engineering and have it rebuilt today, we have to have it back for Carb Day. . . . We qualified with 650 miles on the crack, and lost a block in Phoenix. (On growing up outside turn 3 until the age of 5) "It was all I wanted to do when I was growing up. I thought it was the only race in the world. . . .I was always trying to get my older brother to bring me to the track, but wasn't able to come unless my parents brought me. . . . In Arizona I met Clint Brawner. He thought drivers should know the mechanical side, so I worked on these cars 12 years. (Gaps in driving career) "I had huge gaps. I went 7 years without driving a race car. Someone asked me once why I only ran ovals. There were two reasons. I didn't have the money to run the road courses and I knew I wanted to run ovals."

FERMIN VELEZ (#33 Old Navy Scandia Royal Purple Alta Xcel): "We made the race. That's what we wanted to do. Today was not as good as last week. The heat just slows down the car a little bit. It's been a difficult month. On qualifying day last week I blew the engine after the first qualify lap. I'm relieved we've made it. We had no time to set the car up since we've blown the engine last weekend. We wanted to get the car in the show. We ran out of time to set it up. The car's not well balanced. We didn't want to take any chances. Now we work on getting a good car for the race. We had the speed before. We have to find it again. From now on we work on race setup. It's going to be a difficult race and a long race. (Last year's cars vs 1997) "Last year was difficult. First time here. It was more difficult. I had little practice in the car. This year I have done 2 races. They had downforce (last year). It was harder for me to know what the car was doing. I like the new cars. It allows me to feel what it's doing right away."

TYCE CARLSON (#18 Klipsch Tnemec Overhead Door Pyle V-Line Earl's): (Bumped in 1996) Yeah, I've had 364 days to wait for this moment. When I got out of the car and saw my family and friends who have been behind me since I started racing, this is a dream come true. (Drop in qualifying speeds) The car during the run developed a push and that's why it kept slowing down. I couldn't run as flat through (Turns) 1 and 2 as in 3 and 4. (About the Indianapolis 500 "validating" drivers): "I feel great. I've been running with USAC for eight years. All of the camaraderie the past two weeks, I feel great.

DENNIS VITOLO (#54 SmithKline Beecham/Kroger/Beck Motorsports): The team did a great job in the short amount of time the team had to get dialed in. I told the team let's just get in and with the little time left, work on race setup. I'm locked in the race. That's the best part. (About qualifying) I was a little concerned with the engine. It was losing RPMs and I was flat out. It needs to be freshened up. It lost a lot of horsepower today." (About Infinitis): "I think come Race Day, the Infinitis will be real reliable. The goal is to finish the race incident-free and then finish as high as we can." (About the car): "The car's brand-new. They just built it up this week. We just need to look at the engine program and see how many miles we can run this week."

SAM SCHMIDT (#16 HOPE Prepaid Fuel Card): "It's a big relief to be qualified. We haven't run close to 215 since last Saturday, had a big push this morning, struggled last week - it's been a roller coaster week. Last week we peaked at 217. We had to wait for an engine, since we only have one engine. We wanted to qualify last weekend but the water pump went. We've run the emotional spectrum this week. (Next on agenda) "Next we'll yank the engine out. It'll be a bit of a thrash. We'll do tomorrow what everyone else has done all week. The engine has 1200 miles on it. This morning the best we could do was 212. We powwowed on the setup and it worked. The 216 was so good it scared me. "

MARCO GRECO (#22 Side Play Int'l Scandia Alta Xcel): "We didn't expect high speeds. We didn't practice much. We didn't come here because we had a guaranteed spot. I am a professional driver. I'm very tough, especially for myself, sitting in the garage and waiting. I came to do my very best. I'm fourth in the championship points. I always do my best. I always perform. We never did 6 laps in a row without something happening. I was the last car to have an engine. I have a used engine in the car. I did a few laps yesterday. It was very difficult to set up the car for today. We didn't run before qualifying. I just went out to qualify. The car started to understeer and I started to play with the bar. "

MARK DISMORE (#28 Kelley Automotive Group): (About the run:) "Last year, I came here with a team that Scott Brayton had really built. I really didn't have to do anything, I just drove the race car...This morning, we did a 217. I wish we could have qualified right then, but the track got hot. We lost the handle on the front end of the car." (About pulling together a crew quickly:) "Tom (Kelley, car owner) and me really didn't know each other until two weeks ago...You would think these guys have been drinking beer and playing cards for six years...They really gelled. They came together and used a lot of common sense. The last time I was here, I was with the elite of the elite with John Menard. Tom has the same capability. He's a hell of a businessman. He knows how to get the right people and I'll tell ya, we got the right people. This is the first time I ever sat in a new race car, by the way. I just snuck up on it. We have no rocket scientists on this team. They just have a lot of common sense. Every change we made we stuck with. I think that was the key. We didn't panic. We said we had until 6:00 Sunday night to make it work. Everybody kept their cool, and I think that's what made the difference." (About his strategy for race day:) "I'll just have to make the right decisions in traffic and hopefully, we won't have any bullets to dodge. We'll try to stay on the lead lap. I mean, this thing is three hours long. This is a long, grueling thing. I told Tom that his brand new race car is gonna look like hell when we're done with this race. Tom has never seen a car after a race like this. It's like you took a sandblaster to it. It's ugly." (About coming back after the injuries he has endured here:) "If I was consciously thinking of it, I may not be doing this any more. I don't mind when people ask, because I know it was a hell of a photo opportunity. It broke my heart yesterday when Johnny O'Connell hit the wall. I almost cried. You can ask Tom, it really upset me. But, I hate it when something to happens to someone through no fault of their own. I just hate it when people are doing things they really love to do and it bites them like that."

TOM KELLEY (Owner, #28 Kelley Automotive Group): (about bringing the crew together quickly:) "We just looked like the Beverly Hillbillies out there. We had guys in plaid shirts and T-shirts, no uniforms. Sort of a hodgepodge of guys. We have good people. They make it work." (Are you going to get team shirts?) "Yeah, that's our next project."

BILLY BOAT (#11 Conseco AJ Foyt Enterprises): (About the qualifying run:) "I always had confidence in my race car and my race team. You just have to come here and do a job. I just told myself it's just going to be another race, just another qualifying run and try not to remember that it's the biggest race in the world. That's what I did...The race car was wanting to go that fast. The harder I drove it, the better it felt. It heated up on us a little bit right in the middle of the day. The race car seemed to like the heat. We put a little bit of front wing in it to make sure it didn't push." (About representing open-wheel drivers in the Indy 500:) "The opportunity that the IRL has provided to short-track drivers across America has just been tremendous. The other day, four of the top five on the speed chart were open-wheel guys. To see guys that I've been racing with get the opportunity like myself and like Tony, it's just fantastic. I think as this League grows, you're going to see more and more of it. There's a tremendous amount of talent out there. It's time that the people that come to see the Indianapolis 500 get to see it." (About race strategy:) "It's a 500-mile race and a lot of things can happen. I definitely think the Conseco car has the speed to win this race. There's no doubt in my mind about that. My focus is probably going to be on pit stops. Get A.J. to let me practice a few before the race. If we can not make any mistakes in the pits and be there at the end, we've got as good a shot as anybody."

A.J. FOYT (Car Owner #11): (About the month so far:) "We've had so many freak things happen. Just like this morning, the guy blows an engine right before we go out. I felt we could've run a little faster. I told him after that, just go out and get four solid laps. And like I say, it's just been one of them months, regardless of what we did, it seemed like it was backwards." (About fielding a third car:) "I don't know. You know, we do have the #1 car and we're gonna discuss that and just see where we are in the next two or three hours because the guys are tired..And it's according to how much testing we have to do. We still want to do some testing." (About yesterday's announcement regarding the elimination of the 25 guaranteed spots:) "You wanna hear how I feel about it?...A lot of what I read about in the paper about Michael Andretti always bad mouthin' Tony George, I think he's full of shit. First of all, because it was not made for CART. We don't care if they come back over here or not. For them, don't realize you got a franchise of 24. If you want to go to Australia or somewhere with 'em, you pay your own way or you don't get no points and you can't go. And if they don't have enough pits and there's 24 pits, the franchises go first...A lot of people don't understand the way it was. Sure, you're guaranteed spots here. But that was to get the league started like Leo (Mehl) explained to you all. But at the same time, a franchise is guaranteed spots. You see guys starting races (in CART) 20-25 mile-an-hour slower. That was all franchise members. But, you know, when they (were) talking about Tony made a mistake and changed his mind, it was not changed for CART. It was changed because in our own league...persons were trying to sell their guaranteed spots. And that ain't right and that wasn't going to happen over here, according to Tony and Leo Mehl. I'm proud of 'em for changing it for that...It was just some of the internal people started talking about, I'll pay you X amount of dollars to have your spot since you got two cars that can run fast.'" (Is it still too expensive for CART owners to start a team just to race here at Indianapolis?) "Yes, it's expensive for them to come here like it is for us to go there. But it stops all them from jumpin' on the IRL. Everything you read about, they tell the newspapers and you people print it, is the reason they're not here is they don't want to qualify." (About using the guaranteed spot:) "We could've took the other car and I think the minimum speed, I don't know, 202 or 3. I know we can idle at 203 with one of those cars. But I elected and wanted him to earn the spot like I've always felt in racing that I've had to earn my dues." (About the safety of the cars:) "...If you'd seen some of the crashes including the one that we had the other day, the two that we wrecked. I tell you, I wish I had a footbox like (when I drove and) that I wouldn't be crippled today, would still be in shape and probably would still be racing. I was against them cars when CART came out with 'em and throwed a fit if you all remember. And I wound up crippled because of that...But you all have seen some pretty drastic hits head-on into a cement wall. Like Jim Rathmann told Fred Lorenzen when I was a rookie here. He asked him, Why don't you all hang it out a little further?' And Rathmann looked at Fred Lorenzen and said, Do you see that white canvas out there? It's stretched pretty damn tight and nobody's ever moved it yet.' So when you look at some of the crashes we've had, thank god they're not hurt any worse, because those are some violent crashes."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Johnny O'Connell , Fred Lorenzen