HAMPTON, Ga., Saturday, April 28, 2001 EDDIE CHEEVER ( ...
HAMPTON, Ga., Saturday, April 28, 2001
EDDIE CHEEVER (#51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It's obviously not how we wanted to finish, and we're not quite sure what happened, but we think it was something in the top end of the engine. The #51 Excite@Home car had a bit of push at the beginning of the race, but I was keeping the leaders in sight, and I'm sure we would have made a run at the win. It's a shame. The Infiniti engine performed flawlessly all weekend long, and we were in the top three in every session. We've got a good 10 days of practice at Indy before the Indianapolis 500 on May 27, so we're going to reassess some things."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The caution for the accident is where everyone got off on pit stops. It was kind of a crapshoot on whether to pit. We had a second-place car and didn't get it. We're excited about our strong finishes, and we look forward to Indy. We just didn't have enough fuel at the end. Overall it was a good run for our team. We're real excited going into Indy. I'll trade a win here for a win there."
BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We tried a too tall of a gear, and we didn't pull it. The race was just fine. Everything is pretty worn out. The tires are worn out from pushing it so hard there at the end trying to pass Eliseo (Salazar). We had to make a fuel stop there at the end that really hurt us."
AIRTON DARE (#88 1-800-BAR-NONE G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The handling on the car was good the whole night. We had to switch tires after the crash because of all the debris, but other than that, the Firestones did great. RPM (Engine Development) is stout, and the crew's strategic pit stops gave us this top-10 finish."
JOHN LOPES (team manager, TeamXtreme): "It was a long night. I'm glad to hear that no one was injured. We'll take a top-10 finish tonight, as tough as this is. Airton did a good job the entire race, and we're looking forward to 1-800-BAR-NONE's first Indy 500 appearance next week."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (#21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We were very lucky in that first accident. I guess it was pretty close behind me. I hope everyone is OK. We had a great race car, but we had a fuel pick-up problem, and we lost a lot of laps fixing it. The team gave me a great car. I think we might have had a top-three finish. It is too bad for the Hollywood team. They gave me a great car. I'm glad we were still able to finish in the top 10, and we brought the Hollywood G Force home in one piece. Now we get ready for Indy."
DIDIER ANDRE (#32 Galles Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The car was working fine, and my guys did a great job in the pits where we were able to gain a few positions. But then after the crash and the really long yellow, we started developing clutch problems. We kept it going as best we could, but it was impossible to stay with the leaders while running in fifth and sixth gears. When we came in for that last pit stop, we realized we had lost the clutch for good, which is a shame because I think we definitely would've finished in the top five or six. I just really hope everyone involved in the crash is OK.
BUZZ CALKINS (# 12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We got lucky. We were running out of fuel. I was so low on fuel the last five to 10 laps. I followed Sarah (Fisher) the last 10 laps to help my fuel mileage. She was trying to let me go around her, but I was trying to hang right behind her. It started kind of burping with three or four laps to the end. We were lucky to make it to the end." (About conditions of track after accident): "There was so much oil dry on the front stretch I ran out of tearoffs." (About fuel strategy): "I think it was the second stop when we came in a little bit early. I kind of got hurt in the beginning of that fuel run, because I was running alone for a long time." (About race): "It was an interesting night. I don't know what time it was, but it was a long night. After that first accident things cleared up a little bit." (About the accident): "I can't really say what happened either. I can say it's a track that you have to be cognizant of what's happening around you." (About no red flag after accident): "I think exactly the same thing. I don't know how many laps we were running under yellow. It had to be about 20 laps. Your cars don't run well under yellow that long." (About not being the only one conserving fuel): "I think Ray was conserving (fuel) also those last few laps. We were both in the same boat, trying to finish the race."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We love racing here at Atlanta. That is for sure. We hung in there. We had a tough weekend. I have to thank the Lord above. He was watching over us today. We had a great test at Indy last week. This gave us a big boost today. I'm ecstatic. It was absolutely a true show of teamwork today. If you would've asked me prior to the race how we were going to do, I wouldn't have said we'd do well at all. My team did a great job today; their strategy was right on. We had a right-rear tire going down the last five laps, so I had to back down to just get to the finish. I didn't even know I was in second, I was just pretty focused. We chased the balance all night. I had to stay on top of the car, especially in traffic. The crew did a good job of cleaning up the track after the wreck, but it was pretty dusty out there." (About the accident): "If you don't qualify as well as you'd like, you're put in the back, and you know you're going to get bunched up. You try to get up to where you want to run with the guys you feel comfortable with. I think it was last year in Texas, when we ran side by side for so long, we thought that if one guy slipped, we'd have a huge crash. I don't really know what happened so I can't really comment on what happened tonight." (About not throwing a red flag): "I can't believe they didn't red flag the race. I actually radioed in because there was so much debris in Turn 4. Nobody cut tires, but it surprised me. We were parked at times in Turn 4. Luckily, I was able to restart my car, but it got bumper to bumper for a while in Turn 4." (About Ilmor, engine builder): "We're excited going into Indy, they've had a big gap to bridge. They've been working on the formula for years now. Fuel mileage is key, and hopefully that's something that will work to our advantage. I didn't even know how much fuel we had left." (About tire going down at end of race): "I didn't even know my tire was going down. The guys told me, they could see it on the telemetry or something. If I would've felt it, I would've already been in the wall."
JOHN MENARD (owner, Team Menard): "Well it (the win) means everything because we were beginning to doubt ourselves lately after not being able to finish a race." (About fuel strategy): "We were keeping a pretty close count on everything. We knew Hornish pitted before us, so we knew he was going to have to come in before long. It's very difficult to tell a race car driver to slow down because it ruins their rhythm." (Why didn't you pit for fuel only instead of conserving? Isn't the risk to high?) "Well that's a very good point, but then we would have had to run harder. When you come in for a pit stop, in theory everything goes right, but reality is that you're putting yourself in a position for a lot of risk."
GREG RAY (#2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Let's go to Indianapolis! It's certainly on my bio as my favorite track. To have two fairy tale race weekends is very rare. Very rarely does a driver and a team have two races so flawless at a track. It was a little difficult; I didn't reset my fuel mileage after my last pit stop, so I didn't have an accurate account. I knew we had to go almost 60 laps, but we had some yellows, I played conservative. It was difficult on the car. I picked up a bad vibration, and the guys told me to slow down. It was difficult as a driver to let off the gas. We played the strategy right, everyone did an excellent job. I don't know how much fuel we had left; I probably wouldn't have made another lap." (About not throwing the red flag): "I thought at first it might be a red flag situation, but there are a lot of concerns like TV time and weather. It's much more than I have to worry about inside of the car. I don't question those calls. I have complete confidence in Brian Barnhart (vice president of operations, Indy Racing League). I was just worried about the debris, it weighs on your mind when you are going 200 miles an hour out there, and we worry about cutting a tire. The biggest concern is the car tends to overheat. I had to change the fuel mode to rich to keep the car from overheating. The biggest thing was keeping the motor cool and making sure the tires were good. It was a perfect weekend. We ran our T car in the first practice and our primary for the final practice. The weirdest thing happened in the last session. The fuel regulator went bad so I lost the last 20 minutes of the practice before qualifying. I was sitting in the car getting ready to qualify, and the car wouldn't start. I was biting my tongue but the guys found the problem and changed the part, and from then on we didn't have a problem." (About the long caution): "It actually takes you out of your rhythm, and you lose your momentum. During that long caution I was trying to avoid the debris, it becomes tedious on your mind. It's difficult to not drive flat out, as soon as you slow down a bit the car changes and it becomes hard on your tires. You get out of your rhythm." (About slowing down to conserve fuel): "Well that certainly is not what I wanted to do. I know I had a lot of good guys looking at the numbers. The bottom line is I just drive the race car. They kept telling me to lift, lift, lift, and I didn't want to lift. I thought I'd lifted enough." (About momentum going into Indy): "For me I think the big thing is for the guys. These guys bust their tails. The fun part is for me, I get to get in the car and drive. The most important thing for me is that it puts us back in the points race. This is the fifth time I've won for John Menard, and this is the first time he's been present." (About the other driver's fuel consumption): "We know for sure what kind of mileage we got. As far as other guys, I didn't know. I knew that Jeff Ward and Scott Sharp weren't on the lead lap. When I lifted they passed me, it was hard to run behind them. I'm not complaining. Everyone has problems but it turned out great for us. I noticed several other cars were going very slow, I knew everyone was having the same problem."
ELISEO SALAZAR (#14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I felt very comfortable on the outside of him (Lazier), because he is a champion driver. We raced clean. Buddy is a cagey driver. I knew he wouldn't give me the inside, so I had to go to the outside to pass him, and I did it twice. He is a tough guy, so I was pretty happy. I'm just sorry we didn't get a podium finish."
STAN WATTLES (#92 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "That was divine intervention that got me through this one. We had a handling problem at the start of the race, so I was being a little conservative. I still don't know how I made it through that crash. I'm just glad everyone seems to be OK. We had a switch fall apart on us towards the end of the race, and that's how we lost several laps. My guys really pulled it together and were able to get me back out there. The safety crew did a great job clearing the track and getting it back in race condition. I'm just thrilled that we had all four corners on the car, and that we were able to see the checkered flag. I would have loved to have a top five going into Indy, but under the circumstances this feels pretty good."
JEFF WARD (#35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "This was another shoulda/coulda race for this team. With that long caution, our battery wasn't charging. We had to watch the volts keep going down and down, and we finally lost it when we had to pit. I couldn't keep the revs up. After we got that battery changed, we were one lap down. On these high-banked tracks, it's about impossible to make that time up. It's too bad that happened, because we had the perfect strategy for a podium finish."
SARAH FISHER (#15 Walker Racing/Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We went into the race in a not so good qualifying spot, but we were running good. Somewhere around lap 52, I came out of Turn 4 and there was debris flying everywhere. I was far enough back to get down low, but something landed on my left-front wing. The guys did an awesome, spectacular, speedy job getting back out, and we were able to get some points in and finish 11th. We even had one of our Kroger contacts pitting with us as our left-front tire man."
BILLY BOAT (#98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "In the accident we broke the left-front suspension. We thought we had a shot to get clear coming down the embankment, but we got tangled up with two or three cars. The crew did a great job getting us back in the race."