INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, April 20, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the Atlanta 500 Classic April 27-28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway: BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, April 20, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the Atlanta 500 Classic April 27-28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "As a team, we're looking forward to getting back on the racetrack and back on track in general. We had a great event at Phoenix with a fifth-place finish, but Homestead was disappointing, even considering the special challenges of that track and the fact we didn't get to test. Atlanta should be a big swing back in the right direction since every member of our team has experience there. Being a high-banked mile-and-a-half track will work to our advantage. I've had good success on tracks like this during my career, and I look for that to continue in Atlanta. You'll see the cars running in packs, so drafting will be critical, and we'll need the right aero balance in order to run well in the draft, but that's where I feel our strength will be." (About being a co-owner): "I don't concern myself with the ownership role at the racetrack. I let (co-owner) Greg Beck handle the team, and I totally concentrate on driving. It's only during the week that I put on the owner hat and help with decisions about the team. The experience I've gained through the day-to-day running of my own business for the last 10 years has definitely helped me contribute to the running of the team."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "We ran well there last year, in the top five most of the race. In the first Texas race last year, there were 15 of us who could have won that. (Buddy) Lazier and (Greg) Ray have the momentum right now. We have to find the momentum."
BUZZ CALKINS (No. 12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "Atlanta is probably the most important lead in to Indy. You will get all of your momentum from Atlanta, either positive or negative momentum. If it is negative, then that will affect you the first few days at Indianapolis, at least. If it is positive, you can carry that all month long." (About running under the lights): "Running under the lights is definitely different from daytime. The biggest thing at Atlanta is not racing under the lights so much as it is the sunset. The way the sun sets in Atlanta is the biggest part there, more than any other track we race on at night. You start at dusk and end in the dark and that makes your choice of visor, clear or tinted, important. You have to decide when you want to see. It is difficult to adjust for the different light conditions but once it is dark, running under the lights isn't any harder or any easier than running during the day."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Excite@ Home Indy Racing Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner) (About the new Infiniti Indy 35A engine): "The new engine is lighter and has more power up high in the rev band, where we race most of the time. The center of gravity is lower and the electronics are more advanced. It is like buying a new hunting rifle. It could be a fantastic rifle, but until you've got the site just perfect, and everything just right and you've got the trigger where you want it, you're probably going to miss your first two or three shots. I believe it has an enormous amount of potential. I think we are going to come into our own when we get to Atlanta. Our learning curve is so steep that it's mind boggling." (About Cheever Indy Racing's recent test in Atlanta): "We had a very good test in Atlanta right after the Homestead race. Both Scott Goodyear and I were there, and we tested two different cars. The purpose of that test really was to make a comparative analysis between last year's engine and this year's engine, and the new 35A performed very well. Atlanta is about aerodynamic drag, horsepower, and fuel efficiency in the race. It's a very good place to effectively dyno test an engine. We've made some big gains in fuel efficiency and power compared to the old engine, and we're very pleased with that progress. We were really focused more on Indianapolis than we were on Atlanta during the test, but we think we'll be pretty good there. We're very optimistic about recovering from the terrible weekend that we had in Homestead."
AIRTON DARÉ (No. 88 1-800-BAR-NONE G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series Rookie of the Year, Miami resident): "We are looking forward to going back to Atlanta. Last season TeamXtreme worked hard on our 1.5-mile track program, and we improved significantly. So we are ready to get back onto the high banks and see where we can continue to improve. The entire team is getting together in Texas this weekend to spend some time together, fit Jaques (Lazier) and me for new seats for Indy, and discuss our testing and engineering plans for the upcoming stretch of races. The 1-800 BAR NONE crew is pumped up for this race. Our long-term sponsor www.USACredit.com is based in Atlanta, and they are planning a big event for the team and our other sponsors so it should be a big weekend."
JOHN LOPES (general manager, TeamXtreme): "The crew of TeamXtreme has worked very hard this season to put a top-notch car on track, and they are itching for a big finish. We intend to improve upon our Homestead performance where we moved up to 9th position before we retired. Again, this is a big weekend for our sponsors, and it looks like about 200 folks are going to visit our hospitality area on race day. The team has set a high standard for itself, and our focus is to bring the 1-800 BAR NONE car home to a solid finish going into Indy. Since we are based in Texas this begins a big road stretch for us. We leave for Atlanta and don't return home to Texas until the Texas race (June 9). Along the way we travel to Atlanta, then straight to Indy, then several days testing and then back to Texas. Time to pack our bags."
SARAH FISHER (No. 15 Walker Racing/Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We are looking forward to having a good consistent race. Derrick (Walker) will be there (spotting) for me and that will be a confidence boost. I think with the momentum we have after Homestead, our team will see some of what it is going to take to win Indy. We are already working on our strategy for the month of May. So to us Atlanta is a stepping stone along the way. I like Atlanta. It is one of the high- banked ovals that we have shown potential to do well on. So, in that aspect, I am ready for the weekend."
MARK DISMORE (No. 28 Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I've had the fastest car at Atlanta two years in a row. I definitely had a car that could have won, but we had some problems that no one could do anything about. I've always been one of the top-two cars in Atlanta, but there was always something that got us every single time. Scott (Sharp) tested there recently, and they learned a lot. We're going to go back and take a lot of that information they obtained and have a good weekend. Going to the Ilmor Engines was a good thing. Menard, Speedway Engines, and others have had since 1997 to get the most out of these engines and Ilmor's had six months. They're working really hard to give us what we need. The good news is we still have 11 races left, whereas last year we'd only have seven to go. It's really great that the series has expanded as far as the schedule because it gives us a lot of time this year to do some great things. The series is getting stronger and stronger, and tougher and tougher. And the teams are getting smarter."
BRANDON ERWIN (No. 30 WorldBestBuy.com/McCormack Motorsports G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "My primary goal with the WorldBestBuy.com No. 30 at Atlanta is to finish. That's always my first goal. My second goal is to qualify better and finish better. I'm really looking forward to Atlanta. I've never raced there, but I hear it's a lot like Texas only a little more forgiving, and I love Texas Motor Speedway. I did my rookie test at Texas, and I took to it really fast. I like night races. I'm ready for it, because I've raced at night pretty much all of the time in sprint cars, so I'm very used to it. I really think we're going to do well at Atlanta; I just have that feeling. I was there once a couple of years ago for a test with Blueprint that John Hollansworth was going to do. It ended up not happening, but I was there to watch and learn. Dale Earnhardt was there that day testing in a black car. It didn't have a number on it, but it was Earnhardt and he was getting around there really quickly. I was only there for an hour or two, but I really liked the whole facility, and I'm really optimistic that we're going to have a good finish there next week. And after that it's Indy; I can't wait."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "It (Atlanta) will be my first race under the lights, and I think it will be really cool. We tested there a few weeks ago, and it took me a few laps to get used to it, but I was really surprised at how bright the lights are and how well the track is lit. I am confident that the Treadway-Hubbard team will give me a great car. This is one of the best teams in the business, and I always feel confident that my Hollywood G Force will be strong. The Firestone tires and the high banks will make for some very close, wheel-to-wheel racing. I think it is going to be a lot of fun. My biggest concern is the start of the race. I understand that the sun will be setting at the start, and that I will be looking directly into it coming down the frontstretch into Turn 1. That might get a little tricky, but hopefully I will have a chance to work on it during the practice session. Our goal is to be as consistent as we have been in the first two races. We want to finish strong in Atlanta, continue to earn points towards the championship and go into Indianapolis with as much experience and momentum as possible. This Treadway-Hubbard team has always been a strong contender in Indianapolis, and I want to make sure I do my best to bring the No. 21 Hollywood G Force home strong. Having a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion as my teammate and coach helps a lot. Arie (Luyendyk) has been great in helping me this year, and with such a great team, I am really looking forward to a great month of May."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 3 Galles Racing Starz SuperPak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Atlanta is a very big event for us, because we really want to have good momentum going into the Indianapolis 500. I finished well here last year, and I really like the track configuration. It is very conducive to wheel-to-wheel racing, and I think the race fans are going to see an unbelievable show. Of course racing at night is always fun for the drivers and the fans, and I am looking forward to the entire event."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (No. 7 Tokheim/Jack K. Elrod Co./NADA Guides Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "My goal is definitely to race in front. We are a strong race team and need to prove that this weekend in Atlanta. I understand that we announced championship goals before Phoenix, but I still believe we are a championship-caliber team this year. Our goal is to finish on the podium in order to make it into the top 10 in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series point standings. We have been preparing for Atlanta like never before. Our team is ready and we know that the Dallara/Oldsmobile Roush/Firestone package will be fast there even though we did not test prior to the race. I like racing at night. I think it's fun for the public to see us race at night and on TV it is pretty exciting for the fans. A few days after Atlanta, our team, which is the only team based on the West Coast, will move into a new Gasoline Alley shop in Indianapolis for the next four months. It's great because Dick Simon Racing is going to be in the racing capital of the world all summer in an effort to save time and energy for our crew. Most of the races after Indy are in the Midwest and by being located at Indy, we will be able to spend more time on the cars than on the road."
ROBBY MCGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Going back to Atlanta is very exciting for me. I really have looked at it as our first opportunity at a great finish or even a win. The last two races have been tough for us, since our deal came together so late, we had not tested for either Phoenix or Homestead. Those are both difficult tracks in which testing pays huge dividends. Although we are not testing at Atlanta, I think that my experience driving these races will help. And the setup is not quite as critical. Basically it is all about cleaning the car up, taking all the downforce out, and motor boating around with the nose up. Racing on these high banks is what I enjoy most about the IRL, side by side, even three wide through the corners. We will be on our toes the whole race, but most of us will have smiles on our faces, this is what open wheel racing is all about."
CASEY MEARS (No. 31 Galles Racing SportsLine.com G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): " "I'm really looking forward to Atlanta, as this will be my first opportunity to work with my new engineer Gordon Cuppock. I really can't comment on the track at all, because not only have I never raced there, today is the first time I've ever even been to the city of Atlanta. I'm here representing the Indy Racing Northern Light Series at an event at the ESPN Zone, which gives me the opportunity to meet the media and fans before we come back next week. I'm really excited to go racing again. We just finished testing at the Speedway, and as anxious as I am to get back there for the month of May, I'm certainly happy I'll be able to get another weekend of experience under my belt before we go."
DR. JACK MILLER (No. 11 Olympus/Opalescence/Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I can't think of a better place to make my debut with Cahill Racing than the high banks of the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Larry Cahill is a true competitor whose only objective is winning, the same type of attitude shared by my primary sponsors Olympus and Opalescence. Competing in an outstanding series like the IRL with top quality sponsorship and a super team behind me has me looking forward to driving flat out and fast at this great facility and we are anticipating an equally great result."
GREG RAY (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1999 Indy Racing champion): "We always put on great races on 1.5-mile tracks owned by Bruton Smith - Texas, Las Vegas. Our formula just fits extremely well at those types of tracks. Atlanta's a fun place to race. We can run two or three wide and if you're slow, there's room to get out of the way. It's like an amphitheater. You're seeing a Las Vegas show unfold in front of your eyes. Fans are used to seeing stock cars at 175-180 (mph) in race trim. We're lapping 40-50 miles an hour faster in race trim. I can't think of better race tracks than these."
ELISEO SALAZAR (No. 14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I really love those races on the 1.5-mile ovals, and I've always done well, so I am really looking forward to Atlanta. The way the rules are now where they mandate the wing angles and such, there isn't too much you can do to the cars, so the cars are pretty equal and the races are pretty close. At a track like Atlanta with 24 degrees of banking, you go flat out around the track. In practice and qualifying, it is not as demanding on driver skill as the flatter tracks like Miami and Las Vegas. But when race time comes, that is when the racing qualities come into play such as the drivers knowing how to utilize the draft, and just overall race craft. Atlanta is our version of Talladega where you're running very fast and you have to be extra careful not to touch anybody. It makes it good racing for the fans, but I also think the drivers are more aware of treating each other with respect and that is why we have had some pretty good races."
JERET SCHROEDER (No. 9 Purity Products Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We hope everything comes together for us at Atlanta. We didn't get the results we wanted at our first two races due to some bad luck, but in racing luck can change instantaneously. I think it will at Atlanta for us. The PDM Racing crew is working hard, and we're clicking. I have a lot of friends in the area, and I really like the track. I really think we're going to have a good race there, which will springboard us into the ultra important month of May."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "I love the high-banked tracks like Atlanta. In the past we haven't always had the most power, but it's been clear evidence that no matter where you qualify, if you have a car that will draft well you're going to have a good race. I love those tracks and what the draft does for our cars. You really alter your strategy. Instead of working on a car where you're trying to get the most grip out of it and trying to get a car that's not so disturbed in traffic, you really switch gears and start thinking about nothing but drafting with guys and fuel strategy. Those are the two things that separate you from someone else. Traditionally we've had a car that likes to run even up into the third groove at times. Not many guys can typically do that. We'll gear our whole weekend towards race day and not worry much about qualifying. Atlanta has been a good track to us. It's really smooth. I'm not sure how strongly we'll qualify, but I know we'll race real well there."
1 JEFF WARD (No. 35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I think with the race being at night under the lights, it makes for a more spectacular race for the fans. I like it, because I have all day to relax and focus for the race. And, I've never had any problems seeing the whole track at night, because the lights are so bright they really light up the whole track. In Atlanta you can take the car flat out all the way around the track, because the banking is so high. Atlanta hides the car's handling problems so you can drive anywhere on the track. Drivers can easily get side by side." (About team's success in Miami): "This team has a good combination for winning. Menard (Engine Development) has given us a great motor, and I've driven the G Force for four years. It's a proven race car, and that car can win. Plus, the team has had experience working together before, so there were no teething pains in the beginning."