Indy Drivers Hope for Repeat of Greatest Race Ever FORT WORTH-DALLAS (May 22, 2001) - The 2000 Casino Magic 500 Indy Racing Northern Light Series event has been called one of the greatest open-wheel races ever. The race was caution free and had...
Indy Drivers Hope for Repeat of Greatest Race Ever
FORT WORTH-DALLAS (May 22, 2001) - The 2000 Casino Magic 500 Indy Racing Northern Light Series event has been called one of the greatest open-wheel races ever. The race was caution free and had the closest finish in Indy Racing history - just .059 seconds separating race winner Scott Sharp and second place finisher Robby McGehee. Many drivers feel this year's Casino Magic 500 has the potential to be every bit as good.
Scott Sharp, #8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile, defending Casino Magic 500 champion: "I think most drivers would agree that last year's race was certainly one of the most exciting experiences they've ever had. It was definitely one of the most exciting and competitive races for me. There was such a high level of intensity throughout the entire race with all the side-by-side racing and everyone jockeying for position. Racing side-by-side with Robby McGehee at the end for such a close finish made it an even more thrilling to win. "We all have the anticipation that this year's Texas race will be every bit as good, if not better than, last year's race. The series is more competitive and is making the races even more exciting for the fans."
Robby McGehee, #10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile, finished second in 2000 Casino Magic 500: "Obviously it was extremely exciting to be part of the June race at Texas, and if I'm fortunate enough to be in the same position this year as I was last year with eight laps to go, I assure you it'll be a different outcome.
"I play the finish over and over in my mind and think about what I could have done differently to win that race. I've learned a lot since then and I think I would know what to do differently now to win rather than finish second.
"Last year I took the high line. This year I want to have a car that also works on the low line. I think I was faster than Scott, but when your car is set up for the high line, it takes just a little bit longer to get around the track. This year I want to have a race car that is good around the low line too, and I want to get to that low line, regardless of how well somebody protects it."
Greg Ray, #2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile, 1999 Series Champion: "I don't know that that race can ever be replicated. The weather, the cars, the racetrack conditions, everything was extraordinary. Texas Motor Speedway is a world-class facility. Eddie Gossage and his entire staff do a terrific job. I can speak for everyone in the Indy Racing fraternity that we all love to race there. But last year's race was exceptional. There were no yellows, no accidents. That's pretty incredible to see 25 open-wheel cars to go wheel-to-wheel, nose-to-tail, for 200 laps.
"The cars have changed this year, everyone has picked up on motor side, I don't think we'll have the weather we had last year -- just a lot different conditions. But I think it will be a close, tight race."
Is there a different mindset between racing at Indianapolis and racing at Texas?: "Not really. Indianapolis is the race of all races, the one everyone tries to focus on. It's really easy to get pumped up for the Indianapolis 500. You find more natural energy to get geared up for the Indianapolis 500. But as a team, these guys work hard day in, day out, whether it's testing, racing at Indy or racing at Texas. We want to do well. We want to run up front and win races, and we need to do that to get back in the championship chase. At Texas, because the racetrack is shorter and you run fewer laps, you have a lot more aggressive driving."
Eddie Cheever Jr., #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti: "It was a very unique race with unique circumstances. Nobody qualified because of the rain. All the cars were very close together, and due to the configuration of the racetrack, nobody could break away. That was the first race we ran two abreast for as long as we did. If I could have broken away from the group, I would have. If any racing driver could have broken away from the group, he would have. Texas is a great place for us to race and we all look forward to going back there because we know that we can have races like that."
Brandon Erwin, #30 McCormack Motorsports/Team Calcium G-Force/Oldsmobile, Indy Racing rookie from Denton, Texas: "I watched last year's June race at Texas on TV. It was an awesome race. I thought Robby was going to get Scott. It was real close.
"I know the Texas track pretty well. I have a lot of laps there in an Indy car, so I feel pretty good about it. It's going to be awesome running in front of my friends and family. I'm going to dedicate that race to my mom (who recently passed away). Just to be back at the track and in my car, it's going to be great. I'm really looking forward to it."
Robbie Buhl, #24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G-Force/Infiniti: What were you thinking last June when you were in the middle of a 15 car pack, which was separated by mere seconds? "I was waiting for a yellow so I could catch my breath."
What do you think about Texas Motor Speedway and the upcoming race in June? "The Texas Motor Speedway facility is first class and the racing there is second to none. I am anxious to get back there. I think with the new Infiniti 35A engine and what we have accomplished with it, in such a short amount of time, we should be fast. I am looking forward to racing in Texas again."
Sarah Fisher, #15 Walker Racing Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile: "Last year's race at Texas was the closest Indy car race I have ever been in. The banking at Texas Motor Speedway allows our cars to run closer than at other tracks. It takes a lot of focus and concentration for us to run that close for that many laps side-by-side. But, it provides the fastest side-by-side racing in America and a lot of excitement for the fans!"
Sam Hornish Jr., #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile: "We started 13th because qualifying was rained out. We had a really fast race car, and I was in third within, I think, 10 laps. An alternator broke and put us out. The whole time I was sitting there watching, I was just really disappointed. From my standpoint, knowing what it was like out there the first 20 laps, it would have been a lot of fun to be a part of. I think it was spectacular. I am super excited about that event (this year). Panther won a race there last year in the fall. That, along with how I've done so far in my career on the mile-and-a- half tracks, gives me a lot of motivation. With cars running side-by-side that fast together, anything can happen."
Jeff Ward, #35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G-Force/Oldsmobile: "All of the 1.5-mile tracks we run create close racing. I had engine problems last year in Texas, so I wasn't directly involved with the close finish. But, I'm expecting the same kind of finish this year: I just want to be involved at the end. I know they've worked on making the track smoother, so that make for even better racing. Once we get through Indy, I'm looking forward to getting down to Texas."
Johnny Rutherford, three-time Indy 500 winner, Special Projects Director, Indy Racing League: "It was one of the best and most entertaining open-wheel races I have ever seen, and I have either watched or participated in quite a few. I was in the pace car, and I had my hand on the keys every lap, but I finally relaxed. It was marvelous to watch."
About coaching the drivers: "When they go on the track, they are on their own. You can't worry or fret about them. I watch the decisions they make, and obviously they made good ones."
Larry Rice, former Indy 500 rookie of the year, current ABC broadcaster who called the June 2000 race for IMS Radio network: "It was like watching a parade lap for 50?consecutive laps at over 200 mph. Not only have I never been in a race like that, I can't even imagine it. The tension had to be immense, and it had to be both physically and mentally exhausting. You kept thinking that somebody would make a mistake but nobody ever did."
John Lopes, General Manager, TeamXtreme based in Rockwall, Texas: "Last season's race at Texas was a wild ride -- the race at Texas always is. We were in position with both Airton Dare and Jaques Lazier to finish high in the field. We had a series of unfortunate errors while Airton was in second position and Jaques in fourth, late in the race, which resulted in finishes less than we hoped for, even though we brought home a top ten.
"We've got some unfinished business in Texas. Moreover, we are better prepared than we were last year and we are a better team overall. The best way to describe the Indy race at Texas is that it is like Talladega with the fenders off. Even the folks in the bleachers need seatbelts. TeamXtreme is looking forward to going home after such a long road trip and racing on home turf."
Tickets for all Casino Magic 500 race week events are available at the speedway ticket office, by phone at (817) 215-8500, online at www.texasmotorspeedway.com and through all participating Ticketmaster locations.