JOLIET, Ill., Friday, Aug. 30, 2002 -- Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Delphi Indy 300 on Sunday, Sept. 8 at Chicagoland Speedway. The event starts Sept. 6 with practice, followed by MBNA Pole Qualifying on Sept. 7...
JOLIET, Ill., Friday, Aug. 30, 2002 -- Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Delphi Indy 300 on Sunday, Sept. 8 at Chicagoland Speedway. The event starts Sept. 6 with practice, followed by MBNA Pole Qualifying on Sept. 7 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year): "Dale Coyne is one of my former team owners and has some involvement in the track; it will be good to see him and some of my old friends. It is a new track to our team, and it will be a new experience for me and the team. I am looking forward to the race."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Obviously, these next two races are very important for the CURB Records team. We've been working hard and have seen flashes of success but have yet to be able to put all the pieces together and really make it happen. We're hoping that Chicagoland, with its 1.5-mile layout, our Infiniti engine and the experience of our team, will be the right combination, and we'll really be able to capitalize on the package of equipment that we have. Winding down to the end of the year, clearly we have a lot of sponsorship negotiations going on, and it would be great to win at least one of the remaining races. It would give us some momentum and carry us through the season and on into 2003."
RAUL BOESEL (No. 12 Bradley Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I've never been to the Chicagoland Speedway yet, but I've heard it's similar to Kansas. After the first stop at Kansas, we had a great car but were already a lap down. So I'm excited about our chances at Chicago." (About returning to a high-speed track): "We found some things at Kentucky that were not allowing us to get the most out of the car. Those problems have been corrected, and with the Infiniti E-Spec motor I think our chances are the best we've had all year on the fast tracks."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner, Indy Racing League points leader): "I'm looking forward to returning to Chicagoland Speedway. I had a lot of fun racing here in the IROC cars, but the IRL cars will be a new experience because they are faster, and the line we run will be different. My teammate, Gil (de Ferran), and I both tested there, and our basic setup looks strong. But, you never know what will happen on race weekend with the weather, track conditions and about 25 other cars running with us. I like Chicagoland; the track is pretty smooth, and there is more banking in Turns 1 and 2 than 3 and 4. The circuit is a lot like Kansas and Kentucky. In Kansas, however, Turns 3 and 4 are more difficult, whereas in Joliet we should be able to set up the car more equally for both ends of the track." (About championship race): "With only two races to go, this race is going to be very important to the championship. I'm sure it is going to be a very exciting race and one that is decided in the last few laps. It should be a great show for the fans."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I am keeping my fingers crossed, but I believe there is a good possibility we will be celebrating a great weekend the Monday after Chicago. From a driver's point of view, Chicago is a beautiful, modern speedway, one of the bright spots of oval racing in the Midwest. The track is smooth and fast. It's similar in configuration to Kansas, with a little more banking. It's Texas-style racing with a lot of drafting and running side by side."
AIRTON DARE (No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2000 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "I'm looking forward to racing there because Chicagoland is very similar to Kansas and Texas, where we had our two best finishes so far this year. As far as being back to a two-car team, I don't think it will change anything on my side because I always had my mechanics working on my car, and my car's performance was strong. We were running in the top five when we had the accidents at Nashville and Kentucky, and we were running strong at Michigan when we had the engine failure. Even Gateway might have worked out better if we had had three days instead of two there. But Joliet, which is a three-day show, will be good for us because we have a good setup for that type of track."
GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm definitely looking forward to racing at Chicagoland next week. Marlboro Team Penske tested there earlier this year with Firestone, so we were able to learn a lot about the track. We've been to circuits like this one several times this season, but Chicagoland feels quite a bit bigger than the other tracks of this length. I'd say it's somewhere between Texas and Kansas -- it's not as banked as Texas but not as flat as Kansas. Even though they may look similar, these tracks are very different from one another, and it should prove to be a very good challenge. With two races left, we still have to keep our heads down; the championship is still wide open. We've really got to stay on course, keep our heads on our shoulders and try to score some good points in the final two events of the season."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Team Smart Blade/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "I really like this racetrack. Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval, but it's not your typical cookie-cutter 1.5-mile track. Turn 2 dumps out into the backstretch with a really nice, smooth transition, and Turn 4 is more narrow at exit compared to most speedways of this length. It's a fun track to drive with other cars and is very challenging to fine-tune your car for pure speed. Our SmartBlade team was fortunate to be able to test here before our upcoming IRL race, and it went very well. We are ahead of where we were at the beginning of the day, and that is what counts, and we got everything accomplished that we set out to do, including a full-tank run. Firestone has developed a very consistent tire for this track. It is very reliable, and you can lean on them by the second lap out on the track, which should help make for a very exciting race."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "We come to Chicago after a pretty big letdown at Gateway because we have gone from a serious championship contender to a real long shot. It was pretty disappointing to not come away with more points than we did at Gateway. Now, we have to rely on bad things happening to the guys we're trying to beat in the points, and that's never a good thing. On a positive note, we went to Chicagoland a few days after the Gateway race and had a really good test. As usual, we don't expect to have the fastest car in qualifying setup. That will be the strong point of the Infinitis, as always. But we have a very comfortable setup for the race, and that's something that we have benefited from all year long. Reliability has been there all year long, too. It's only unfortunate that our first mechanical DNF of the season came when it did. But, if it would have happened earlier in the year, then we might not have been in the position we were in heading to St. Louis. Overall, I like that track (Chicagoland). It's a track like Kansas City but with a little bit more banking. It's fast. Since we're not really within a realistic shot at the championship, we're going to try to go out and win these last two races and see how the points end up when it's all over. We've got nothing to lose."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League champion): (About title chase with Marlboro Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran): "Any time we think we have them where we want them, something changes around. It's been a dogfight all year long. Up and down. The guys at Panther are working so hard, so we just have to go do our best." (Any fears entering last two races?): "Not really. I've got to go into it and try to win. That's the way I look at it. As far as fear as what's going to happen, I've worried about that too many times this year. From Nazareth to Texas, I worried about what's happened and had bad races. You never know what will happen. I worry about the things I can do. It will all work out the way it should in the end." (Comparing this year's title race to last year's race): "I've had more fun racing this year than I did last year. I led the points from start to finish last year. I was always 10 to 20 points ahead. It's a new feeling (this year) -- I was 60 points behind at one point. We've had some good races; we've had some bad races. Last year, I don't know if I fully appreciated what it was like to be a champion because we didn't have any bad times. Everything pretty much went our way."
WILL LANGHORNE (No. 55 Grill 2 Go/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Car G Force Chevrolet/Firestone): "We are very excited for the upcoming race in Chicago. The race will mark one of the major starting points for a great new campaign with Grill2Go Fire+Ice www.grill2go.com. We had our issues in Kentucky but stuck with it to get home in one piece. The team has some great new developments that should help our performance in Chicago. As a rookie, I am looking forward to learning the Chicagoland track. I've been to the NASCAR race there, but I've not had a chance to drive the track yet. It is not too far off of Kentucky, so we should be in good shape."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Pittsburgh Paints Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I think we are in as good a shape as St. Louis coming into this race. Considering the mistakes I made there, they will have to be better, and I cannot make those again. If we don't have them, I think our weekend in Chicago can be very good. We had a very good test this last week. The track is similar to Kentucky, just with less grip, it seemed, and yet also quicker. There were a lot of things that I could apply to this new track after racing at Kentucky, so that was a help." (About city of Chicago): "I have never been to the city, only to the circuit there for testing. My first visit to Chicago city will be Thursday (Sept. 5), and I only know I will be going to a baseball game (White Sox) that night, and I do not know anything about baseball! But I have been told Chicago is a fantastic city, and I will just make a day to go and see as much of it as I can."
BUDDY RICE (No. 53 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Looking back at my first three races with Red Bull Cheever Racing, the team has really given me good race cars. I anticipate another solid finish at Chicago, and this time I am hoping for some podium results like we had in Michigan. The goal is to have a pair of strong finishes at Chicago and Texas, and maybe I can even get my first win under my belt."
ELISEO SALAZAR (No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing/Harrah's/Banco Chile Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I think we will have a good race at Chicagoland because it is a typical 1.5-mile track with not a lot of banking, which, historically, has been a good type of track for our team. Last year there, I had one of my best races even though it didn't end well. We started seventh, but we had a problem on the first stop and dropped back to 14th, but then we climbed back up to third. We were fighting for position with less than 40 laps to go when we came upon a back marker. Mark Dismore and I went for the same piece of real estate, and we both lost out. This year we will have a better race and a better finish."