Toyota Indy 300/Homestead-Miami 100 Pre-Race Quotes: ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Homestead is going to be a great track to kick off the season. Fans are going to see better side-by-side racing than...
Toyota Indy 300/Homestead-Miami 100
ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Homestead is going to be a great track to kick off the season. Fans are going to see better side-by-side racing than in previous years since the track has been modified to have higher banking. I had a really successful test there in the preseason with the Red Bull Cheever Racing team. We were consistently quick and learned a lot about the car despite the little amount of testing we had. We're ready to prove that we can put in a good run for the championship, so there's no better time than the first race to get started."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Like everybody, we're excited to get the year going. Last year was a tough year for us, and we've done a lot changes at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to make sure that this will be a good year for our team and our sponsors, Purex and Aventis. The changes that they've made to the track are fantastic. The quality of the paving is smooth, and there's a bunch of grip to it. It's a different strategy from what we're used to doing at that racetrack. It used to be a one-groove racetrack, and now, it's two. It's fast. You're going to have a race pace of 215 mph, so it's going to be exciting."
ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "If our pre-season test at Homestead is any indicator of how our cars are going to run at the race, then we're in for a great ride. The crew on my No. 52 car is new to working together but is growing stronger with each test and has been so impressive. I'm excited about the whole package we have this year. To be a rookie running in the Red Bull Cheever Racing car, having Eddie (Cheever) to guide me along, and a teammate with experience in winning races, all this momentum is going to carry us right into the first race."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm always excited to race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Since it's my 'hometown' track, I think I'll have more than 100 friends and family at this year's Toyota Indy 300. The folks at Homestead did a very good job with the changes to the track. It is very smooth, and the banking should make for an exciting race, probably like Kansas or Chicago with plenty of side-by-side action. Marlboro Team Penske had a good test there last month, and I think we have a good, consistent car, so hopefully we'll have a strong finish."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to defending my 2003 championship, and Target Chip Ganassi Racing is working hard to that end. With the changes to the rules to reduce downforce and slow the cars, there is going to be an adjustment period for everyone that will add to the challenge. I learned a lot last season, had some success and we as a team are going to build on that. We know we can win. We just want to take it a step further every race weekend. It's still early, and we have a lot of improvements we want to make. The competition will be very strong again this year, but I am definitely looking forward to getting the season going."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I like the new track much better than the old one. It's real smooth, and the banking has a lot of grip. That's going to be important because the cars have less downforce than they did last year. That makes them a little more difficult to drive. I don't think you'll see as many cars bunched up in packs like last year. They'll be spread out more, but the fans will still get to see some close, wheel-to-wheel racing. Our test session at Homestead went pretty good. I got a lot of laps in the Conseco car, and our speeds were pretty consistent, so we were happy. I'm looking forward to the season starting up again."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm obviously very excited to get back to racing. Testing is one thing, but racing is what it's all about. I'm really looking forward to this first race at Homestead in the Arca/Ex car. The team has done a very good job over the winter, and we're hoping to do very well. I think all four of the Andretti Green drivers are heading into this first race feeling like we can win. Certainly, there is no way to predict the future, but I think all four of us feel like we're starting out in a good position."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 Andretti Green Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to this season. This is the first time in a couple of years that I've known exactly what I'm going to do for a whole season. Andretti Green Racing is a great team, and I'm not surprised everything has come together so well because the team was blended. I expect to be strong because some of the experienced guys on the team moved over to our car and we brought in some new guys to make a good mix of people. We have had a good car at the two open tests, and now I'm ready for the season to start."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to running at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. It's been a long off-season with the switch to Marlboro Team Penske and all, and I'm just anxious to get out there and go racing. I've had success at the track in the past. However, this year's race should be a lot different with the new track configuration. Drafting will be the big thing, and we will probably see more cars running together. From a driver's standpoint, it will be more about being at the right place at the right time vs. being faster than somebody else."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm ready to go. It was great to get back in the car during the two tests, and we learned a lot at both of them. The whole Team 7-Eleven and everybody at Honda has done a great job getting everything ready for the season, and now we just have to go out and see what happens. It's a long year, so we just have to take it one race at a time. I think we all learned a lot from being in the middle of the championship battle last year, and I'm sure this year will be just as tight. We want to make sure we're there at the end, so the first step is to go out and run well in Miami."
DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "With two tests under my belt now with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, I am very much looking forward to the 2004 season. There's been a lot to learn, but I am definitely on pace for the first race in Homestead. It's all been kind of new to me: a new car, a new team and new tracks. There is an adjustment period, but this team has been very supportive, and they are proven winners. Target Chip Ganassi Racing is giving me all the tools necessary to be successful, and I intend to reward their hard work by being competitive and among the front runners at every race this season. I know the competition will be fierce, and I'm looking forward to some good battles out there."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "This will be my first IndyCar Series race, and with only four days of testing with our new Panoz G Force car, seriously, we are not ready for the race. We do not have enough data. From the point of the driver, it will be my first time drafting. I didn't do any drafting at the test, so everything will be a bit difficult and very different from European racing. I am a bit worried about this. If we can find a good setup, it will be no problem for the race but we did not find a good setup the last four days of testing, and the conditions are changing all the time. It helps that we have tested at Homestead, but just four days for a rookie driver is not enough. We need more mileage."
GREG RAY (No. 13 Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "We tested a day and little portion of another at Phoenix, and that's a much tougher track than Homestead. We had a wonderful test and achieved most of our agenda at Phoenix. Honda has done a wonderful job over the winter getting the motors to be perfect. I think they've done a great job. The motor was flawless at Phoenix. It was smooth and strong. We go into Homestead at a disadvantage because we didn't test, but we did attend the Homestead test and watched and listened. That track, because of the banking, is less of a compromise track. I think we'll find the setup and be competitive right out of the box."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "It is very exciting going to the first race of the year. I'm pumped up to race with Team Rahal. I've always wanted to drive for Bobby (Rahal) and Dave (Letterman). They have a very professional operation, and I believe we can do some very good things here. I am in a unique position, since I am filling in for Kenny (Brack) right now. If I can do a good job, then maybe I can work with the team when Kenny returns, so it is important to have a good start to the season. We are still learning about the (Panoz) G Force, chassis but we are getting better each time out. The Homestead track is different than last year, but I ran the (NASCAR Craftsman) truck race there in November, and we tested there a few weeks ago, so I feel comfortable with the new layout. It will be fast, and there should be some good racing, too. Needless to say, I'm anxious to get there and get started."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm excited for the 2004 season, especially as it starts at my current home track of Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Delphi-Kelley team has worked hard in the off-season to increase our competitiveness. I'm excited to have my new engineer, Andy Borme, on board. He is already making a huge difference. We know the top three or four teams are awfully tough, but we're committed to working as hard as we can to regularly challenge them for race wins. If we can improve our qualifying positions over last season, run more regularly in the top-five and end the day with strong finishes, then race wins will follow. The newly increased banking on the Homestead-Miami Speedway will provide for the most exciting race that has been held at the track. The paving job was flawless, the track is incredibly smooth, and the 20 degree banking will allow the IRL cars to be two and three abreast all of the way around the track. I think South Florida is in for an incredible show to kick off our season."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway as a part of Panther Racing. We had some good testing over the last few weeks, and everybody is ready to race. We've got a good package this year, and I think we're going to surprise some people this season."
TORA TAGAKI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a pretty good test at Homestead at the end of January, but the weather conditions will be totally different when we return for the race. Obviously, it will be hotter and more humid, making it more difficult for the drivers to get back into the seat for the two-hour race, given the big difference in conditions. When we were at Homestead for the test, each team was specifically working on different aspects of their cars, so it will be quite interesting to see where we are after the very first practice session. I am sure my Pioneer No. 12 car will be competitive out there."
MARK TAYLOR (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "I'm really excited about the entire season, especially that first green flag next weekend. With the new changes at Miami, the race is going to be different from last year, and I expect to get off on the right foot with Menards and Johns Manville. I'm ready for this challenge, and it's something I'm looking forward to."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I can't wait to get back in the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car. This off-season has dragged on for me because I truly enjoy driving. We've had the two Open Tests, and both have gone well for us. One of the best things we have learned at the tests is how well all of the drivers and engineers at Andretti Green Racing work together. All of us get along so well, and we are able to have four sets of data to study. AGR has done a great job in producing four very competitive cars that are very equal."