IRL IndyCar Series Pre-Race Quotes Toyota Indy 400, Sept. 21, California Speedway FONTANA, Calif., Monday, Sept. 15, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Toyota Indy 400 on Sunday, Sept. 21 at California Speedway.
IRL IndyCar Series Pre-Race Quotes
Toyota Indy 400, Sept. 21, California Speedway
FONTANA, Calif., Monday, Sept. 15, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Toyota Indy 400 on Sunday, Sept. 21 at California Speedway. The event starts Sept. 19 with practice, followed by MBNA Pole Qualifying on Sept. 20 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 1998 IndyCara Series champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Team Rahal has a great record at Fontana, including winning last year in the CART race with Jimmy Vasser. And, they have nearly won two or three other races at California Speedway. I led the most laps there in 2000 (CART) before we lost a turbo (charger). So, I feel very excited about our changes this time in the IndyCar Series. We were running well at Chicagoland, it was just unfortunate that we had a part failure. We'll have to get everything ready for California, now. California Speedway is a great track, and the racing should be close and exciting, just like Chicagoland. We just need to get to the finish, so we can be in the mix for the win. We tested well there, so I am pretty confident. It should a fun weekend off the track, too. Our band, Kenny Brack and the Subwoofers presented by Pioneer, will be playing twice this weekend. Once for the special CARA Charities event on Thursday, and on Saturday night at a concert for the crowd in the track infield."
ALEX BARRON (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "I'm pretty familiar with the California Speedway. I've raced there four or five times and have tested there a lot with numerous teams. The track always makes for good racing since you can run two to three wide. It's a really nice facility, and we almost always have good weather. I'm looking forward to a good finish in the Toyota Indy 400. We tested at Fontana two days last week and gained a lot of useful information, which is helping us to evaluate the car better and have a stronger setup than we did in Chicago. Our goal is to improve from last weekend's seventh-place finish, and, hopefully, put one on the podium for the Red Bull Cheever Racing team"
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "With the performance of Chevy's new Gen IV motor, we are excited to be competitive again. We've got to bring our 'A' game to the track each and every day now, because literally everything that we do as a team contributes to the black and white results we post at the end of the weekend. We're demanding more of ourselves, because the excuses are all behind us now. The three recent top-10s are encouraging for us, but we're all still hungry because it's not enough. We're hungry not only for speed, but for that bonafide satisfaction that comes from being on the podium and challenging for the win."
ED CARPENTER (No. 18 Metabolife Ultra Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This will be my first time running at Fontana. It appears to be very similar to Michigan, and I have a lot of laps there, so I am confident going into the weekend. We had a good result in Chicago, and we need to back that performance up. Now that I have a few pit stops and restarts under my belt, I know what I need to improve on. The PDM guys got a chance to knock the rust off in Chicago, because it was the first time they've done a pit stop since Indy. This weekend is very important to the team, because we will have a lot of people from Metabolife there. They are based in San Diego, so we want to do well for them."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I'm looking forward to returning to California Speedway because I enjoy the circuit very much. It's a 2-mile racetrack with three, or maybe even four, lines so there's always a lot of exciting racing. We tested here last week and got the chance to work on our race setup. Testing is always important, because you get an entire day to work on the car rather than just a few practice sessions during a race weekend, so you have time to work things out. We were able to get a good baseline setup for the Marlboro Team Penske car, and I think we'll be competitive this weekend. Right now we're in the lead in the championship, and with two races to go anything can happen. I just hope that the right things happen for me."
GIL de FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner): "We had the opportunity to test at California Speedway last week, and I think we learned a lot. Unfortunately, we weren't very competitive at Michigan earlier this year, so we're looking to improve on our superspeedway results. Everyone at Marlboro Team Penske has been working really hard to prepare for this weekend's race, and hopefully we'll be in the hunt come race day. Fontana is pivotal in the championship, because we have to do well there to stay in contention for the title in Texas."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It's exciting to head into the last two races with a real chance to win the championship. We're only 12 points back in the points race now, so everyone here at Team Target is working very hard to get us the title. We were pretty quick back at the Open Test in California. I've had a lot of fun this year in the IRL IndyCar Series. When I first heard about us running over here, I wasn't sure what to expect. The side-by-side racing is a lot of fun. Now, if we can win that championship, that will be the icing on the cake."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 GMAC/AOL/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I had hoped to spend some time beachside this coming week leading up to the race at Fontana, but we've got several media and fan appearances that will likely prevent that. Among those, I look forward to a great time at the SpeedZone party and the Raceway Rendezvous. Both are great chances to get the sports-savvy crowds out there in California more excited and educated on IndyCar Series racing, even amidst the other 'race' going on. The challenge for us now at the Toyota Indy 400 is to manage the tight spread nowadays across all the entries for time and speed. We've worked hard since Chicagoland to get back on line with our communication and car setup, and we hope to translate that into a good finish come September 21."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "I think we had a very good test at Fontana at the beginning of the year. We were the fastest, by far, but that may not mean we are going to be the fastest again when we get there next week. The cars have changed. There is more downforce dialed in for some of the other types of tracks we run on. Fontana is very similar to what we had to work with at Chicago. It's a low-downforce track. Whoever can free the car up more will have the best car, at least for qualifying. Our team certainly knows how to do that. I'm looking forward to going back there. We had a good car at Chicago. I wouldn't expect anything to be any different for Fontana. Hopefully, I will get my seat all fixed up. At the last race, I had a hard time with it. If the car wouldn't have been as good as it was, I probably would have parked it because of the problems we were having on race day. My earplug was coming out of one ear, my helmet was moving around all over the place, and it was a real struggle. My shoulder was really hurting because the seat wasn't properly fitted on the right side. It was one of the worst races I've had in terms of comfort. The good part was that my leg was okay, but the rest was really bothering me. So much attention was paid to my leg injury that I might have forgotten about everything else that needs to be done. At Fontana, we run 400 miles, so we really have to make sure I have my seat and everything fixed up a little better."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm excited to come to a track that's near my home and that I've raced at a lot of times. The Archipelago/Motorola team has had some really good races the last three weeks, and I know we can compete for another win this weekend. Tony (Kanaan) and Dan (Wheldon) tested at California Speedway last week, so the team has a good place to start from when we unload off the truck."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series champion, 2002 California winner): "California Speedway is a fun place to race. Obviously, it's wide and smooth. There's a lot of room for people to pass, a lot room for people to move around. I think it will be a great race and will set up a very exciting finish. You know, the championship hunt is really tightening up. A lot of people are close. I don't know if you can fit five IndyCar (Series cars) across the start-finish line, but after last week's race, you could probably get four-wide around here. Obviously, to win the championship, we're going to have to have some other people have some bad luck, but we'll take advantage of everything we can get. We're going out to try and win the race. We'll see if we can pick up another 40 points here at California. That would be great."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series points leader): "I have a lot of good memories from racing at California. I won my Indy Lights championship there in '97 and was on the pole there last year, so it brings me good vibes. What is going to happen there? We obviously don't know, but it's good to go to a place where you have had a lot of good memories. I'm looking forward to it. It's a very important race. The championship could be decided right there. You could get out of there with a chance to win the championship at Texas or you could leave there saying, 'That's it.' I feel pretty good after our test, but a test is a test. I don't want to head there with any expectations, but I'm happy with the car that I have. We always have good race cars. We just need to improve our qualifying, and I think we're going to do that."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm very happy to be back in the No. 2 Johns Manville car. My rehabilitation was faster and less painful than I thought it was going to be, thanks to the IRL doctors and safety crews. I am sure the next two races are going to be successful. We have a very good setup for the big tracks and the Chevy Gen. IV is a big help. Before we got it, my goal was to learn as much as possible this season, but now with the extra horsepower, we are in a position to win and create a good momentum to next year."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "I think that we were second fastest at the Test In the West at the beginning of the year out in California. We were on the pole in Michigan, also, so I'm really confident heading out there. We've had a tough season so far. We've led a bunch of laps, won a few poles and had fast cars all season. Like last week for example, we were leading the race near the end, made a pit stop, then the yellow came out and cost us a lot of track position. That kind of luck has been around all year, but when you have fast cars and a great team like Team Target, I think that things will come our way. We need to close out the season strong and get us a win or two."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion): "One thing is for sure, California is going to be an outstanding race. The competition keeps getting tighter and tighter, which means the races somehow get even better than they already are in the IndyCar Series. The Delphi team had a great race in Michigan, finishing fourth. We expect to be able to race every bit as strongly at the sister track in Fontana. At this point in the season, with two races to go, every driver wants to finish on the strongest note possible. Meaning, everyone will be going for it. We intend, one way or the other, to have the Delphi car right in the thick of it."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "As it became obvious for all of us at Chicagoland, the competition is very close. Just small differences in downforce and drag make a big difference between cars at the end of the race. We need to find an optimum downforce and drag combination for the race at Fontana. Now, we are reviewing all of our settings together with my engineer, and we have some ideas on how to try and find more speed. I believe we will find it. When I started American open-wheel racing, I had a base at Newport Beach, near TRD USA, so I am very familiar with the area. It's good to come to a place I am familiar with, especially when Japanese restaurants in the area are concerned. Southern California is so great, from a choice of food standpoint, compared with what is available at some tracks in the middle of nowhere. I plan to visit both TRD USA and Pioneer headquarters during the weekend and spend time with the people who have supported me the last few years. I am really looking forward to seeing the people and showing my best in front of them at the racetrack."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to racing at California Speedway. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew did two days of testing there, and the IndyCar Series is so competitive now, that you don't have a day where you sit back and think, 'Oh, we did well this weekend, we will just relax and go to the next race'. It is not like that. Every team is striving to improve their performance, and that is why we are working hard to improve ours. The one thing that is hard to replicate at a test is those race conditions that you saw on last Sunday at Chicago. That normally comes at the race weekend, but if you can fine-tune your car so you can qualify well, that puts you in a good position. Then you just have to make sure that your car is going to be good for the race, so when you come to the race weekend and you put it in a situation where there is a lot of traffic, it will work well."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "After the exciting finish in Chicagoland, it is good to be back home for Fontana. I think we are going to have a similar race there. The track is wider, and I think the race will be just like Michigan, as well. In terms of our speed for the race, we have been quick throughout all of the speedway and superspeedway races recently, so I am really confident going into my home race. I am going to have lots of friends and family there, so it should be an exciting one for us."