1999 KOBALT MECHANICS TOOLS 500 PRESENTED BY MCI WORLDCOM: PRE-RACE QUOTES HAMPTON, Ga., July 12, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the second annual Kobalt Mechanics Tools...
1999 KOBALT MECHANICS TOOLS 500 PRESENTED BY MCI WORLDCOM: PRE-RACE QUOTES
HAMPTON, Ga., July 12, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the second annual Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom on July 17 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. PPG Pole qualifying is July 16.
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 The Children's Beverage Group-Team Cheever-Infiniti Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "I believe we stand a very good chance of making another strong showing here (Cheever finished third in Atlanta in 1998), but to win in Atlanta you must have an impeccable race. The car, the team, the engine ... all in peak performance. The last two races we made some mistakes that Atlanta will not afford us." (About the chase for the Pep Boys Million as league champion): "We are currently fourth in the championship. At this point in the season, and the points as close as they are, we cannot afford a 17th-place finish let alone a DNF. Rationally speaking, I guess we could shoot for conservative finishes in the top six or seven and inch our way up to the top of the points. But this team thrives on wins, so, I'd rather see us approach the rest of the season going for broke, laying it all on the line at each race, and accepting no less than first. If that means two more wins this year and no championship title, then it'd be worth it." (About the challenges of racing on a 1.54-mile quad oval): "You need a lot of horsepower and a lot of patience. The car must work incredibly well in a tow and hope like hell that no one miscues. You better have a lot of faith in the guy in front and the guy behind you. When you run these big tracks at 220 mph, 1 foot from the other guy's wheel, one mistake can be a disaster for three or four cars." (Memories of Atlanta): "Atlanta is the closest to NASCAR in strategy ... you have to have a dancing partner to do well here. It sounds easy, but isn't. Last year's race was the first time I ever ran with someone in a tow. Tony Stewart and I hooked up and helped each other out. It was great fun and successful for both of us. I ended up finishing third and Tony fifth." (About 'Race for Atlanta's Cure): "This is our second year helping out Atlanta's C.U.R.E. for Childhood Cancer, and we hope to raise even more money this year. One of the greatest enjoyments I have in racing is watching a little kid's face light up when he recognizes me as 'a race car driver.' To watch that moment of happiness, that little smile, spread across any child's face, let alone a child who is ill, is an incredible win for me personally and professionally." (About the Infiniti engine): "The engine performed well in Colorado, and we seemed to have found a strong formula for the 1-mile ovals. We've made some torque curve changes for these 1.5-mile ovals, so we'll see how those come together for us in Atlanta."
MARK DISMORE (#28 MCI WorldCom Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "The MCI WorldCom team should do well this race weekend. We were the fastest car there last year. We were half a lap down last year. We had to pit on a green to make a minor adjustment to the car. The car was vibrating really bad. We came back, and we were the quickest car out there. We just needed some more time. Some more laps. We're going back to Atlanta with a competitive setup. I'm confident we will have a fighting chance to do well. On the track, there is a lot of room for wheel-to-wheel racing. I know it will be hot down there, but I don't think it will be an issue with us. There's no question in my mind that we can win the next five races. We just need to have a few things fall into place."
SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, points leader): "After a disappointing run at Pikes Peak, we're looking forward to getting to Atlanta and getting back to the winner's circle. I think it will be a fierce race, there's always at least 10 guys running in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League that are capable of winning." (About the track): "Atlanta Motor Speedway is great. I love running on the high-banked, 1.5-mile ovals and especially at night. Our record on these style tracks has been great, so after Pikes Peak it will be good to get on a track where we've been consistent and successful. We tested here in June, and that went well for us so hopefully we'll roll the car off the truck and be on the money." (About night racing): "The Panther Pack has had such success at night on the superspeedways that the term was coined last year that 'the Panther hunts at night.' So we're hoping to live up to that phrase and bring home another victory."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#7 Dick Simon Racing-Mexmil-Tokheim-Viking Air Tools G Force/Aurora/Firestone): "I think everyone on the team is looking forward to racing in Atlanta after our strong result at Texas, and I am really excited about driving our G Force with the narrow-track suspension setup at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Atlanta is just like going to Texas Motor Speedway. Both tracks are 1.5-mile ovals with identical banking on the turns. There are some small differences between the two tracks, for sure, but I know we can use everything we learned about our setup and suspension in Atlanta. I am very optimistic about our chances for another top-five finish at the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500." (About new narrow-track suspension setup): "(Car owner) Dick Simon has decided to run our narrow-track primary car because it was so consistent and easy to drive in Texas. We made a pit stop during that race, and the handling and tire wear was so good that we just refueled the car and didn't have to fit new tires. So I am really excited about my chances at Atlanta this year after my top-five finish in Texas driving the same narrow-track car."
DAVEY HAMILTON (#9 Galles Racing Spinal Conquest Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "This series is so competitive, that I really think most of the field has a chance for victory. We finished second here last year and had a great race. It always feels good to go back to a track that I raced well at the year before. The track is pretty smooth, and I think it will be fast." (Team goals): "Other than winning, which is the obvious, we want to make sure that we keep ourselves in contention for the championship. Finishing races is crucial in this series, and we want to be there at the end. The points race is extremely tight right now, and I think that this race will play a large role in the championship points race."
SCOTT HARRINGTON (#66 CertainTeed Building Products Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone): "I think our chances for victory are excellent. I think we proved that at Colorado. If it hadn't been for some misfortune under the first yellow-flag pit stop and the problem we had lapping a car at the end, we would have won the race. We basically made up a lap on the field during the race. We were also very fast at Texas. Atlanta is very similar to Texas, so we have a legitimate chance for a victory here. I've never run a Pep Boys Indy Racing League car at Atlanta, but I clinched the SCCA Can-Am championship here in 1992, running on the oval with a chicane." (Team goals): "We want to make sure we don't make any mistakes. From the guys who set up the pit equipment to the guys who go over the wall to myself, we all have to have a mistake-free race and give it 100 percent. When it comes down to it, this team is more than capable of winning. We really need to come away from Atlanta with a top-five finish." (About the challenges of returning to a high-banked, 1.5-mile oval): "I'm really looking forward to it. We had a race-winning car at Texas. In the practice session where we broke a wheel and crashed, we'd been second quickest. We were quick all weekend in Colorado. I know we have the capability of winning. I feel we got cheated out of it at Texas and at Colorado, and we have one coming. That's why I'm so excited about Atlanta. I'm pumped and motivated to go down there and win." (About racing at night): "I enjoy the night races. It adds another element. The other night auto races I've done were the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, and running at Atlanta is definitely easier because of the excellent lighting system they have there on the oval. On the road courses I've run at night, there are still portions of the infield that are pretty dark. When I was racing motorcycles, the night races were always my favorites. I like racing at night because the atmosphere is more electric. I'm really looking forward to it." (About his broken leg suffered in a practice accident at Texas): "Physically I'm getting better all the time. It takes time to heal, but we should be OK. I'm definitely more fit than I was at Pikes Peak. I have a portable ultrasound machine, and I'm able to do my therapy by myself twice a day. I'll go back to the doctor right before I leave for Atlanta, but we should be fine." (About crucial summer stretch of races): "We've got to start finishing in the top five. Every race is crucial. Our title hopes are kind of dashed because of the misfortunes we had earlier this season, but we'd really like to finish in the top 10 in points, and we're still in the running for the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year title. Points are crucial, and to get them you have to finish races." (About memories of Atlanta): "This will be my first race at Atlanta since 1992, but the track holds fond memories for me because this is where I clinched the 1992 SCCA Can-Am championship. It was the final race of the year, and I had to finish fourth to win the championship, and that's where we finished -- fourth."
JOHN HOLLANSWORTH JR. (#42 CompuCom-Lycos-TeamXtreme Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year points leader): "Neither I nor the team has ever raced or tested at Atlanta, so this will be a first for all of us. Since Texas was technically an "evening" race, this will also be my first night race, as well. We hope to have the 1.5-mile setup dialed in a bit better than at Texas. Hopefully TeamXtreme can land a solid top-10 finish in the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500."
FRANK HONSOWETZ (Manager, Infiniti Motorsports): "We are looking forward to racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That is where we began our relationship with Team Cheever. Our test at Atlanta in early April was successful. With the enhancements we've made since then, we'll return to Atlanta with a strong chance of getting our first win with the Infiniti Indy engine. Our engine package has performed well on the 1.5-mile speedways. Atlanta is essentially a carbon copy of Texas Motor Speedway, where Cheever qualified fifth and led earlier this year with an Infiniti engine. The bottom line is that our engine is on par with the competition, but when it's one against 25 or so the whole package has to be perfect to make it to victory circle."
STEVE KNAPP (#35 ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear): "I ran a pretty strong race last year with PDM. I knew that ISM Racing had a good setup, and if we can make things click here we will have a great set up and race. I really like this track. It's definitely one of the fastest, and it's one where you can race two- and even three-wide." (About racing at night): "This will be my third night race, and I'm looking forward to it. I like racing at night because it's always nice and cool, and it's something different."
BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "Atlanta is an outstanding racing facility. The Atlanta racetrack is as fast and wide as racetracks come. This means side-by-side and sometimes as much as four-abreast racing at simply awesome speeds. The Atlanta race fans are amazing. They are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and know good racing when they see it. The Atlanta race fans and media have made me feel very welcome at their racetrack. I feel as though they appreciate Indy Racing and consider this to be a great addition to their yearly racing schedule. I have been reading up on Atlanta's open-wheel history that dates back many decades. We would sure like to write ourselves and our Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn race car into that history with a victory or podium finish for 1999's race. The Pep Boys Indy Racing League competitors have so much talent and skill. The league rules create such parity of competition that to win or finish on podium, a driver and his team cannot afford even the smallest mistake. I am fortunate to have a great team that gives me no less than 100 percent all season long, so we feel good about our chances."
JAQUES LAZIER (#33 Warner Bros. Studio Store-Truscelli Team Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear): "The team is coming off a good outing at PPIR. We have made some exciting internal changes, and the entire team looks forward to building on the experience we gained the last two races. The team's goal is to continue where we left off in Texas by leading a few more laps, and this time we want to lead Lap 208. I feel confident that Truscelli Team Racing and myself will put on a good show for the fans, as well as Warner Bros. Studio Store and EDSS."
ROBBY McGEHEE (#55 Energizer Advanced Formula Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year): "Adversity has been a challenge for us all year long, and Colorado was pretty much the culmination of that. After the crew had to change engines twice in 24 hours -- which is why we missed qualifying -- we tried a larger stagger than we have run all year, which led to the accident and our missing the race. At the time, we had the sixth- or seventh-fastest speeds on the track. We have dealt with several issues since then -- both on and off the track -- and to say that I am eager to get back to Atlanta and put the car on the track would be quite an understatement." (About the track): "The Bruton Smith mile and a half ovals are among my favorite tracks anywhere, and I have been comfortable on them all year long. We seem to have a good handle on the setup for this type of track. This should be the first race where some of our brief experience can help us, and we can just focus on the task at hand instead of having to learn a new setup and deal with motor combinations and those types of things. This will be the first time for us to go back to a place we have already been, and I think that will be of some benefit to us. This is a key race for us in terms of getting some confidence back into our team and getting back in the chase for rookie of the year honors in the series. Hopefully we have dealt with the key issues and can just get back to racing and focusing on the things that matter most: going fast and finishing the race."
DR. JACK MILLER (#17 Mayfield-Aramark Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "I am excited about teaming with Tri Star again in Atlanta. I believe that Larry Curry is one of very few that have the 'know-how' to prepare a fast, safe and competitive race car. We will be running a multisponsor package in Atlanta, which includes Mayfield Dairy Farms, the number-one brand of milk and ice cream in the Southeast. Mayfield Dairy Farms was acquired by the Dean Foods Company in 1990 and the "Milk Chug" brand will be highlighted on the #17 Tri Star-prepared car. ARAMARK Corporation Refreshment Services, a leader in the vending and coffee services. Procter & Gamble (Folgers Coffee). Working with Procter & Gamble again has been a pleasure. They are a great corporation to work with, and I hold their advertising and promotional expertise in the highest regard. Century 21 Real Estate Corporation is the franchiser of the world's largest residential real estate sales organization. I am proud to be associated with all of these great companies. It has been great to work with them professionally on and off the track. I would like to thank all of my sponsors for their support. I look forward to a good qualifying run and being the first to take the checkered flag."
JOE NEGRI (Group Manager, GM Motorsports IRL/Road Racing): "Like other high-banked, 1.5-mile ovals, Atlanta Motor Speedway makes strong demands on engine durability. With the high-downforce wings mandated by the Indy Racing League rules, drivers are often able to run flat-out for 20 or 30 laps. Running for such extended periods without lifting off the throttle means that the engine never has a chance to 'breathe' and cool off highly stressed components such as pistons. Consequently the 1.5-mile superspeedways are very demanding." (About engine revisions for the 10,000-rpm rev limit): "We are finalizing GM Motorsports' recommendations on camshaft settings, induction tuning, and exhaust systems for the 10,000-rpm rev limit introduced last month. Several Oldsmobile engine builders have also independently developed their own engine specifications for the new rpm limit." (About development for 2000): "We are moving ahead with development of the 3.5-liter version of the IRL Aurora V8 for next season. We have already tested 3.5-liter engines on the dyno, and we have developed a good baseline package. At this point, we do not foresee the change to 3.5 liters affecting the competitiveness of the Oldsmobile engine."
ELISEO SALAZAR (#6 Nienhouse Motorsports Racing Special G Force/Aurora/Firestone): "In only my fourth race with Larry (Nash) and Bob (Nienhouse), we finished fifth at Texas, and we did so down horsepower as the rev limiter rule really caught us off guard. Heading into Atlanta, which is a lot like Texas, I am really excited. We now have had the opportunity to work with the engine, and knowing how well we tested here in March with Firestone, I am really looking forward to it." (About qualifying): "Friday night will be really fantastic. We have a special group of kids joining us for qualifying. They are part of the CURE Childhood Cancer Group. After coming through last year, I can still only imagine what these children are going through. I am honored to have them with us for the evening. It is what makes the people in motorsports and the opportunity to race so special."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "I'm really pumped to go back to Atlanta. We ran extremely well last year until something out of our control took us out of the race. The track is similar to Texas and Charlotte. We ran great at Texas. I think the Delphi team has a chance to win this race. My comfort level with my new engineer, Will Moody, is increasing every time we take to the track. The team atmosphere has been positive, and everyone is reaching for high goals for this race. We're tied for fifth place in the championship. The next five races are crucial. I truly believe with a win and a little luck, we'll be right there for the championship."
ROBBY UNSER (#81 PetroMoly-Team Pelfrey Dallara/Aurora/Firestone): "We've been doing pit stops the last couple of days working on every possible scenario that we could think of. If anything would happen in a race, how do we get through it? The last couple of races, we've had a couple of problems (in the pits) that kind of held us back. A lot of it is getting the guys in sync and stuff - trying to get everyone working as a unit. I think the practice has helped, and I think we're going to run well in Atlanta. We're coming off a good finish at Pikes Peak, and we have a pretty good set up on the 1.5-mile, high-banked ovals. But the competition is going to be good and fierce, and if you don't take a step forward, you're going to be left behind."
JEFF WARD (#21 Yahoo!-MerchantOnline.com Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "Atlanta is a first-class facility. The track is a lot like the Texas Motor Speedway. Atlanta is a perfect track. It has a small bump in Turn 1, but it's down low and we don't run down there." (About the championship race): "No one can afford to have a problem now. Everyone in the top five in points is so close that one problem is going to cost you in your chance to win the championship." (About last year's Indy Racing event in Atlanta): "We qualified on the front row at Atlanta last year. We had a good run going when a wheel problem dropped us back to finish sixth. But we've put together a new package for this race, and you're going to see a new team. I think we'll be back in the same form we were in last year." (About balancing desire for consistent finishes while striving for first victory): "I always race to win. But I'm not going to jeopardize a second- or third-place finish to race for a win if I don't have the car. At Pikes Peak, we were conservative on the setup, and I didn't have the car. We've made some changes, and I think we'll have the car to win at Atlanta. Winning depends on where the yellows fall and what I can get out of the car. If I've got the car I'll be running at the front."