IRL: Indy 500 - Driver, Owner Pre- Practice Quotes

INDIANAPOLIS, May 13, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers and team owners about the 83rd Indianapolis 500 on May 30. Practice for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing starts May 15. Pole Day is May 22, Bubble Day...

INDIANAPOLIS, May 13, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers and team owners about the 83rd Indianapolis 500 on May 30. Practice for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing starts May 15. Pole Day is May 22, Bubble Day May 23 and Coors Carburetion Day May 27.

ARIE LUYENDYK (#5 Sprint PCS-Meijer G Force/Aurora/Firestone, 1990, 1997 winner): "When I made the decision to retire, I didn't want to just stop, like that. I didn't feel that was the right way for me. To make Indianapolis my last race is the right way for me to stop. I started in road racing, but people know me because I've won the Indianapolis 500. 'Arie's Final 500' (name of Arie's retirement activities) and the events we've built around that, such as autograph sessions and appearances at charity fundraisers, give me the chance to thank a lot of the fans for their support of me over the years. Indianapolis gives me a platform to thank so many people who have been important in my career, such as sponsors, owners, crew members and fans. At the same time, I feel very competitive, and (owner) Fred Treadway has put together a first-class team for me with Sprint PCS and the other sponsors, and we are definitely there to try to win the race."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Team Cheever-Children's Beverage Group Dallara/Infiniti/Goodyear, 1998 winner): "Our chances for victory are vastly superior that what they were this time last year. We have a much stronger relationship with our vendors: Goodyear, Infiniti and Dallara, and in my opinion that can make a big difference in performance. We have picked the positive things we accomplished in '98, focused on those and developed our race strategy from there. It seems to be working." (Team goals): "As far as the #51 car, our strategy is simple. To be in the leading pack by the last pit stop. Then it is down to whom is the best. As far as the #52 car goes, we are focused on helping Wim take the Bank One Rookie of the Year. He has shown he is a strong driver, and my guys know this track. The combination should be extremely competitive." (What does this event mean to you?): "This event has been the focus of my life the past 10 years. After the race is over every year, I get kind of sad, because it's a whole year until we come back here." (Why is this the most important race in the world?): "The Indy 500 is uniquely American, and there is no other like it in the world. There are 83 years of stories and people who have tried to win this one race, and there haven't been that many that have been able to."

RON HEMELGARN (Owner, #91 Lazier, #92 J. Unser): (About chances for victory): "Very good. The team and the drivers know how to win. The team has been very competitive this season. It's time for the win." (The team's goals for the race?): "First, to qualify both cars safely in the field. Second, a safe start, and third, pace ourselves for 400 miles and then turn it loose." (Keys to victory?): "Each team member giving 110 percent, drivers giving 110 percent, patience, good, fast pit stops, no mistakes and a lot of luck." (What does this event mean to you?): "For 19 years as a sponsor and an owner, I dreamed about winning the Indy 500 and how great it would be. In 1996, that dream came true. I can honestly say that winning Indy was bigger than I ever imagined. In a matter of minutes you become world-famous, and your time belongs to all your fans and admirers. I'm thankful that it took us 19 years to win, because it meant so much more to myself and my team once we did win the Indy 500. To win it again is our team goal, and I think we can. But it is hard to imagine the second win could be as meaningful as the first. (Why is this race the most important in the world?): "Indy is a happening. Everyone in the world has heard of the Indy 500. Every driver, mechanic and race fan wants to be part of Indy. Indy makes dreams come true. Indy makes names famous. Indy has survived two world wars, the Great Depression, so many recessions and so much controversy over the years. But still, it always surfaces as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. I'm proud to be a part of it."

WIM EYCKMANS (#52 EGP-Beaulieu of America-Team Cheever Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): (Chances for victory): "One in thirty three." (Team goals): "A victory and the rookie title!" (About your strategy): "Consistency and staying in the lead lap." (Keys to victory): "Concentration, having an experienced and successful team and throw in some good luck." (What does this event mean to you?): "I will never forget the day before the Rookie Orientation when I had the opportunity, in the span of two short hours, to receive advice from three Indy 500 winners: Eddie Cheever Jr., Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford. It was simply unbelievable!" (Why is this race the most important in the world?): "I believe it is be cause of its long and mythical history, its deeply rooted traditions, its record attendance and the love that everyone feels for this unique and irreplaceable holy grail of motorsports."

JOHNNY UNSER (#92 Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing-Homier Tool-Delta Faucet Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "The Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world, and it is where every driver in the world wants to compete and win. It has always meant everything to myself and to the whole Unser family ... to make it the 10th win in 1999 for the Unser family at Indy would be a dream come true. I am doing everything I can to focus on making it happen."

SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther-G Force G Force/Aurora/Goodyear): "Winning the Indianapolis 500 has been a dream of mine since I first ran here in 1990, and since '92 it's become a focus." (About race strategy): "Even though we are leading the points coming into Indy -- we are running for a win, not just points. We've got to stay focused as a team and keep doing what has brought us success thus far in the '99 season." (About teammate Dave Steele): "The Indianapolis 500 is always a fun time and it has been especially fun this year watching my teammate, Dave Steele, go through as a rookie. It reminds me of my rookie year."

TONY STEWART (#22 The Home Depot Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "I grew up in Indiana, and the Indy 500 is in my blood. Winning Indy has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I think I've got my best shot this time. (Team manager and co-owner) Larry (Curry) and I have been practicing downing our milk for a month now." (About racing in Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Winston Cup Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C., on the same day): "I think a race car driver is a race car driver, and a good driver can drive anything. Once you leave pit road, you remember which car you're in." (About new fitness regimen): "Winston Cup is a whole new ball game when it comes to the physical requirements on the driver. I went from running 1,500-pound, open-cockpit Indy cars a dozen times a season to racing 3,400-pound stock cars every weekend. The biggest adjustment has been the heat, and I'm not talking about my feet. It gets really hot in a Cup car, and the heat takes a lot out of you. I thought he (personal trainer) was crazy at first, but it's really worked to improve my stamina. I feel stronger and more alert throughout a race, and I'm definitely not as drained afterward. The strength training has made a world of difference, too. I'm not wrestling with the car as much, and it's helped my reflexes. I'll lose a lot of fluid the week leading up to the two races because of my schedule and all of the travel, but I'm trying to get as fit as possible beforehand. My trainer has me scheduled to load up on the carbohydrates starting about two weeks out to help with my endurance. I'll be racing to win, so there's even more reason for me to prepare myself as much as possible both mentally and physically. I've got to keep a level head, and I've got to make sure my body holds up,"

RAUL BOESEL (#3 Brant Racing R&S MKV Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear): (About late switch from McCormack Motorsports to Brant Racing for this race): "They (McCormack) have a strong program and will do well. However, when a team like Brant, which has tremendous potential, is willing to commit, you have to listen. I drove the car in April testing and was very pleased with it. I'm happy to have the chance to race the R&S chassis in the '500.' I can't wait to get started on Saturday (May 15)."

STAN WATTLES (#19 Metro Racing Systems-NCLD Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "As a driver-owner, my team's goal is to take the event one step at a time. We need to find a good setup, qualify well and finish the race as high up as possible. But above all we need to try and have a good time and let the race come to us. I believe that Indy is the most important race in the world because of its history. It's the oldest 500-mile race, making it the pinnacle of all racing. I'm honored and thrilled to be going back to Indy for the second time. It's beyond my wildest dreams to race there, and I'm excited to be headed back."

GREG RAY (#2 Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone): "I was like everybody else on the planet, just doing my thing for 25 years. Then I woke up one day and said I want to try racing, and set out to win the Indy 500 ever since. Two years ago was my first time in an Indy car at the '500.' We would've qualified fourth, but we ran out of gas. I felt then like I should have won my very first one. Last year, I sat on front row. But our gearbox broke in the race. Then, too, we felt we would be commanding. Now, here I am, coming to my third. We've been working harder than ever to try and accomplish that goal. I'm proud that I get to race against Arie Luyendyk in his last Indy 500. I'm proud to race against Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Eddie Cheever, Scott Goodyear. I want to be able to say that when we finally win that race that it means something. I guess it's almost better that we've felt so close to winning but hadn't been able to do it quite yet. It's almost better, sometimes, to have that carrot in front of you, because when you accomplish some things too quickly in life, your hunger dies. People who get to know me know that I just don't make comments like that. But in this business, people keep asking questions. When they ask, I don't hide what my goal is, what my desire is. But sometimes it's taken as arrogance when I'm just answering their question. In one year, we (team manager Thomas Knapp and I) have come a long way. Until last year, we always had one of the quickest cars, but nobody expected us to be a contender at the end of races because we were a small team. Now, everybody expects us to be there at the end of the day. All drivers should relish that position. But, when you get down to it, nobody has higher expectations of me than I do. But I don't have to do anything differently. I'm not going to drive any different now than I did in my previous Indy 500s. I'm driving to win."

ROBBY GORDON (#23 Johns Manville-Menards-Duracell G Force/Aurora/Firestone): "It's going to be a fast and furious finish to our month of May. I'm hoping it all ends with a wreath around my neck, a bottle of milk in one hand, and the Borg-Warner Trophy in the other. That'd be a dream come true! Wouldn't it?"

JOHN MENARD (Team owner, #2 Greg Ray; team co-owner, #23 Robby Gordon): "Don't even think about asking me who I'm rooting for. That's like asking a father which of his twin sons he likes the most!"

DAVE STEELE (#43 Pennzoil Panther-G Force G Force/Aurora/Goodyear): (About this race): "The name says it all -- even if you don't know racing, you know the Indianapolis 500." (Keys to victory): "It's going to take consistency, patience and running hard the whole race. I'm not worried about the excitement surrounding the race. I'm just focused on the job of driving the car. I try to not let superstitions about race day get in my way, but I always seem to create a few none the less. I'm trying to cut back on that because pretty soon I'll get bogged down with my 'good luck' rituals."

JOHN BARNES (Co-owner, #4 Goodyear, #43 Steele): (About Dave Steele): "Dave adjusted to the Speedway the first time he drove a lap. For Dave Steele, this is just another 30-lap sprint car race. People call guys like Dave Steele rookies, but Dave has just never run Indianapolis." (About Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the greatest racing facility in the world. I wish that we ran 20 races a year here."

LYN ST. JAMES (#90 Team Pelfrey Dallara/Aurora/Firestone): "I will never forget Emerson Fittipaldi's quote about how it took him three years to become comfortable and confident at Indy. Of course, he went on to win Indy. Now that I'm making my eighth attempt to qualify for my seventh race, my confidence level is much higher than it was in the earlier years. There's something about having the patience, knowledge, feel of the track (almost a sixth sense) that only can be acquired with experience. So I'm truly looking forward to this year's race. For so many years it seemed almost like a victory just to qualify, then just to be able to finish, then be able to race. Now I feel I can actually think about winning. But I also am smart enough to realize that the odds are against anyone who comes in as a late entry, as I have this year. But it seems like I'm consistently working against the odds." (Keys to victory): "As always, preparation is a key to victory. Of course, talent, experience, equipment, funding, personnel are all components to that preparation. And making the correct decisions at the right time also contributes to victory." (What does this event mean to you?): "As a professional race car driver who has been racing for over 20 years, the thought of racing in the Indy 500 is still almost beyond comprehension. Although I am racing so much less than I would like to, the skill and confidence I feel at Indy are unmatched at any other venue. It's like a part of my soul lives there. When I didn't qualify last year, it not only shocked me, it left a void that's difficult to put into words. That's why the importance of being there this year is greater than ever before. Another dimension is added. Throughout all my years of racing I always felt I was racing for me. As I have extended my reach and impact in racing, I have come to realize that what I do at Indy impacts much more than just my personal career. Other women drivers tell me, 'When you race at Indy it helps us.' I don't know if that's really true, but I do know I feel an additional sense of responsibility." (About this year): "This has been a difficult and stressful year. With the successful launch and debut of the Women's Global GT Series, the tremendous efforts I've put forth trying to put together my Pep Boys Indy Racing League team efforts, and just the other business activities I'm involved with, it seems like I've been spinning my wheels as far as my driving career is concerned."

STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#7 Mexmil-Tokheim-G Force G Force/Aurora/Firestone): "This will be my fifth drive at Indy, and I think I have paid my dues with all of the bad luck I have had in the past. This year with Dick Simon I have a great team and sponsors, and Dick knows how to set up my car for the race. This year, for the first time, I have a backup T-car at the '500,' and I see no reason why we shouldn't do really well. This is my fourth race with Dick Simon, and the team is working really well together, and I feel very confident this year. French drivers won the Indy 500 in 1913, 1914, and Gaston Chevrolet won here in 1920. I would love to be the fourth Frenchman to win this world-famous race."

DICK SIMON (Team owner, #7 Gregoire): "Our drivers have almost won this race six times, and we've had three drivers in the top-five spots with one lap to go at one race, but I am still waiting for our first win. Even though my first win at Las Vegas was exciting, it wasn't the same feeling for me working as an engineer in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League for another team. So it is a big thrill for me to be back at Indy with our own team again. I would say that over one-third of the field have a good shot at winning this year's Indy 500 when the flag drops. Stephan and our team are working really well together now, and the whole effort is starting to jell. We will be going for the front row in qualifying. We have had several of our drivers, including rookies, on the front row in past years, and I think Stephan has a good shot at the front row this year. Yes, we have a good chance to win my first Indy 500. When the green flag waves, ladies and gentlemen place your bets."

STEVE KNAPP (#35 Thermo Tech-Prolong-ISM Racing-G Force-Goodyear G Force/Aurora/Goodyear): "I think we have a pretty good chance of winning as I know I have the equipment that is capable of doing the job. I'm also that much smarter from last year and know what it takes. Winning is the ultimate goal for me and the team. Third place was great last year, but winning is what we want. We have to stay out of trouble and make sure we have enough car left to race during the later stages. I think this will be a faster field than last season. The horsepower discrepancies between the engine builders have closed. We have to get solidly in the field on the first day. This is important, as we don't want anything going haywire. We can't make any mistakes. To win this race, you need no mistakes, have reliability and some luck." (About the mystique of this event): "Ever since I was a little boy I've wanted to win the Indianapolis 500. It's everything I've ever wanted. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I would get in my go-kart and go in circles at the Cokato (Minn.) Lutheran Church parking lot. I would pretend it was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that I was racing in the '500.' This race is a tradition. It has been around a long time and is the most recognizable in the world. The purse is great, the crowd is always large and I think that they would watch this race if there were 33 guys with wheelbarrows going around the track."

DAVEY HAMILTON (#25 Galles Racing-Spinal Victory Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "I don't want to jinx anything, but I think that we have a good chance to win the '500.' The Speedway is kind of a magical place, and if it is your day it is your day. I know that we have everything in place to win, we will just have to see how it unfolds. Our goal is pretty simple ... we want to win." (What is your strategy?): "It is important to go into Indy with a plan, in regards to how many miles we want to run and what we want to accomplish each day. If you are fast right out of the box, there is no reason to run all day long every day and wear on your equipment. Rick Galles has had a lot of experience at Indy, and he definitely knows the way this show works the best. We feel pretty confident that we have a strong plan for the next two weeks, and if we stick to what we have then we should do fine." (What does this event mean to you?): "The Indy 500 is the reason that I am a race-car driver. It is all I have dreamed about since I was a kid, and winning this race would mean the world to me. The Speedway is a special place, whether you are a driver, an owner, a mechanic or a spectator. It is an American tradition, and there is not much tradition left in this country. I just want to become a part of that tradition."

JERET SCHROEDER (#96 Purity Farms-Cobb Racing-G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "I think I have as good a chance as anyone. It's a long race, and anything can happen. One of the great things about the Pep Boys Indy Racing League series is that it's open to everyone, and the competition is very close." (About race strategy): "My only strategy is to qualify as best I can, and then find a comfortable pace in the race and try to be there at the end." (Keys to victory): "I think that it's a full-package deal. Team preparation has to be top-notch; the car has to be prepared well; the driver must be talented and fit mentally and physically; the engine has to last; the tires have to last; pit stops have to go smoothly; everything is involved." (What does this event mean to you?): "It's an opportunity to reach my ultimate goal, which is to make my living in the sport." (Why is this race the most important in the world?): "History and tradition have made the Indy 500 a special event not only here in America but around the world. Just running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a dream come true. If a driver does well in the race, his name goes down in the record books for the ages. Everyone around the world knows what happens at Indy. There is nothing like it."

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear , Al Unser Sr. , Dave Steele , Emerson Fittipaldi , Dick Simon , Johnny Rutherford