IRL: Indy 500: Opening Day post-practice quotes

Indianapolis 500-Mile Race IRL IndyCar Series Post-Practice Quotes Sunday, May 4, 2003 SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It was very cool to make my first laps around this place. Each corner is a ...

Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
IRL IndyCar Series Post-Practice Quotes
Sunday, May 4, 2003

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It was very cool to make my first laps around this place. Each corner is a little different depending on which way the wind blows. My hand and wrist felt great. I didn't have any pain, and it didn't bother me at all. By my third lap, I was flat and went around 223 mph. Today was just a day for me to get acclimated to the car and to the track. It was a good day, and I'm looking forward to the month."

GREG RAY (No. 13 TrimSpa Special Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "I think it went well. It is all just getting to know the car. I mean, it is my first time running a G Force, and the setup is so critical at this racetrack. It's just the perception of what I'm feeling. Today we really only went out twice where we ran 215. It started to rain and sprinkle. We never really got to get going, but I am very, very pleased with all the guys on the team and the equipment. We are a small, young, growing team. We are going to see what we can do out there. I think we are going to really surprise some people."

BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It went quite well other than this rain which shortened up the session. We knew it was coming, so we got in what we wanted to. We are pretty happy with the day. The Indy 500 is one whole racing season packed into a month. It's a big race. It's the place everyone wants to be for racing here in the United States. It's something I have always wanted to do, as well. I am glad I've got the opportunity with Red Bull Cheever Racing."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "It's as emotional as you can possibly get from my point of view. Last year we had an incredible effort going into the '500' and then the accident that occurred, which caused me to miss the race. You spend a full year preparing for this race. The second you get done with it, you start preparing for next year. This is 700 days in the making for me. I missed it last year. To be back here running again for Johns Manville/Team Menard is a dream come true for me. I love this track. I love everything about it. We are out there with a brand-new chassis, and we are having a little bit of difficulty with it. We will make some changes and get the speed back up there soon. This is the first day of the Indy 500, and it's everything I dreamed it would be."

ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, on the first day of practice): "I think it went fairly well, although we're not very fast speed chart-wise. We just wanted to go out there and make sure things are running well and also for me to reacclaim myself to the track. Every time I go out I am learning something, so we're just taking everything step by step. Unfortunately, it rained, so we didn't get to go back out and do a couple other things. Even though, we still have a lot more days to go, and this is just the first day."

SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Our goals today were to shake the car down and to get a baseline setup, and we were able to accomplish the first goal. While we were out for our first few laps, an oil fitting came loose and dumped a bunch of oil all over the insides of the car, but everyone, including my dad and I, pitched in and cleaned it up so we could get back out on the track. As we went out to run again, the track went yellow for rain. Sometimes you just have days like that. It's something we can't control, but we're hoping we'll get our share of these little issues out of the way early in the month."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Great job by the Delphi guys. It was a slightly compacted afternoon time-wise, and everyone expected rain, but there were a lot of on-track activities. I think everyone got some drafting help; I mean, obviously I did. But nevertheless, it means we have a real good car, a strong baseline, and I don't know how much you can take from a day like today, but it is certainly a start. It is important to be consistent here through the week. You want to be fast against your peers every day. It is great to be fast one day, often. I think that happened. I saw a lot of top guys busting their times dropping in on people. We did the same, so you won't really know what people can run on their own until much later in the week. As it is right now, I think it is going to be hard to top my pole time personally. We all came here last week and thought we were really going to be faster. So based on that, I think unless two weeks for qualifying, a better engine and that kind of thing, produces a lot more than what we are expecting, we might not even get to last year's pole."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We're certainly happy. Obviously, we did a test a couple of weeks ago that seems to help for things getting faster and comfortable at the same time. So we were able to get up to speed right away. The conditions were pretty much the same as what we did a couple of weeks ago. I think the times are going to be much faster as we get close to the weekend. It's very fast for the beginning of the first day, and we have two more weeks. I'm very happy but still have to keep working and focusing on our job." (About the pressure of a possible "500" three-peat): "It's been a lot, which is great. I'm really looking forward to this opportunity. I'm enjoying every second. It's an opportunity of a lifetime. I'm just not going to get frustrated or upset if nothing happens. If it's meant to be, it will be. Again, we have to work hard. We're going to keep focusing on our job. If we did it twice, why not another one? 2003, my car is No. 3, going for (win) No. 3. Oh my God. If you're superstitious, things are really looking good. It's the way you think about it. I want to talk to everyone. I want to see everyone. That's what I enjoy most in terms of racing and driving. It's fun. So those ways that I conduct myself, it's been totally great. It's not been pressure. It's been nice and smooth. The team is, as well. Everybody is pumped up. We know that nothing is going to be easy; nothing is going to fall out of the sky. We have to keep working. We have a big challenge. We have two cars, two chassis to try. It's an opportunity, as well; not every team is able to do that. Marlboro Team Penske is trying to do everything they can to make sure that we have the best equipment, and that's what we're working for."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm so glad to be here. It's such a great track, and it's great to be a part of this race. This is the best track in the world. I'm a lot more relaxed this year than I was last year. Team Target is a very professional team, and they have a plan for the month. We know what we want to get accomplished. We didn't get many laps in today, but we will as we get closer to the race. We know that we have a good car. We just need to stick to our plan and take care of the equipment."

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Not exactly a great way to start the month since we didn't get any laps in at speed. We went out for our warm-up laps and started leaking fuel from a faulty seal in the fuel cell. The guys changed the seal, but then the rain started, and we didn't get a chance to get back out there. It means a slight delay in our plans, but we'll be ready tomorrow and go at it again."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Hemelgarn/Life Fitness/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "It was a good first day for us, given we haven't tested this year at Indy. Within 15 laps, we were flat out through the four corners with a good balance on the racetrack. We trimmed the car out, found a good balance and again ran flat. We're looking forward to the week of practice."

AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm just ecstatic to be here at the Speedway. It's sad that it's been rain-shortened today, but we were able to get out in our primary car and accomplish what we wanted with the car. I was just moving over to my backup car to check the electronics and make sure everything was working OK, and that was going to be it for today. That was what our plan was for today, to make sure all the toys were playing properly and then we can get to work first thing Monday. The rain came a little bit too soon, and we weren't able to get out in the second car."

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "First time at the Indianapolis oval race. It's a major difference, long straight, 90-degree corners, high-speed oval. Overall, everything is good. I cannot complain about being third fastest at Indy, no matter what day it is. We had a very good test here (April 22) when it was the first time I ever saw this track. I really fell in love with it. I love the fast corners very much. I feel very comfortable in the car. There were no dramas today. We just needed to sort out some push that we had in the middle of the session, and we took care of that at the end, so we are happy. I know the guys ahead of me had some help on their fast laps. I ran my fast lap almost all on my own. And when I was running all alone, I was running very consistent, fast laps. For my first real practice experience at Indy, I'm very happy. We'll see how things develop."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6T Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "My predominant feeling about today is that it's nice to be back in the Marlboro Team Penske car. Although we weren't able to get many laps in because of the weather, it just felt good to drive again. It was my first time at the Speedway since last year's race and my first time in the G Force, so we were just taking our time and slowly getting back up to speed. One thing I learned is that the G Force certainly feels different than the Dallara. We've got a lot of work ahead of us, so hopefully the weather will cooperate."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Today went really well. Andretti Green Racing has done a good job preparing me for the Indianapolis 500, and the Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew has done a great job getting the car ready. We didn't have any problems with the car, and we were able to run fast right away. We have a set program we are working through, and we aren't going to deviate from it. I'm happy we were fast today, but it is still early to get too excited."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Everything went pretty smoothly today, so I am quite happy with the car considering I didn't come here to test with Tora (Takagi) and Arie (Luyendyk) a couple of weeks ago. But the team learned a lot from that test that helped me out a lot today. The cars seem to be quite different here this year than they were last year. Last year, it seemed so much more about handling. Now, the cars are really stuck to the track, and it's more about taking advantage of the draft than before. That means it will be good, close racing for the fans, which is what it's all about. We have a lot of things we want to try before this is all over. I mean, this is just the beginning, but so far, so good." (About being the first competitor to take the track during today's Opening Day): "I didn't realize that until somebody told me. Of course, I was paying attention to a lot of other things. Really, you have to credit the crew for having the car and I absolutely ready. Because we didn't test here a couple of weeks ago with my teammates, we wanted to maximize our track time as much as possible today. They got the job done. Hopefully, the first car on the track today will be the first one to take the checkered flag on May 25. How sweet would that be?"

KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Rahal/Letterman/Miller Lite/Pioneer Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We didn't get in as many laps as we would have liked due to the weather. We ran a few laps, and the car didn't feel real good. So we spent a lot of time in the afternoon in the garage changing things, and then right when we went back out to the pits, the rain came down, and the practice was done for the day. We wanted to run both cars since we knew the weather might be bad for the next few days. We didn't get the chance. It felt good to come back to the Speedway for the month. It's always exciting to return for this race. I'm anxious to get our program going for the rest of the week."

ARIE LUYENDYK (No. 20 Meijer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Today, we shook down a second new car. We did the first one on the 22nd of last month. All in all, I like this car a lot better. I think it will be our race car. There were no issues whatsoever. The Meijer crew did a really good job of preparing the car. I'm happy with what we got done today, which really wasn't a whole lot since we had to stop early because of the rain. But that's one of the games you play here, trying to get in as much work between weather delays. I did have some helmet issues that we need to clear up. There was a lot of buffeting that made it difficult to get a clear focus on what I wanted to do out there. We made it a little better, but we still have to figure out what to do to clear it up. It feels good to be back at the Speedway again."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We had a good day. Since we tested here before, we had a pretty good feel for the car. It is just getting comfortable, finding the right setup. The whole secret to winning here is being around at the end of the race. We need to find a comfortable car, stay in the hunt, and we have just as good a chance as anyone to win it."

TONY RENNA (No. 32 Cure Autism Now/HomeMed Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "For my first day officially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there was certainly a lot going on. Not necessarily the on-track stuff but all of the autograph sessions and public relations things that go along with the Indianapolis 500. Quite frankly, getting in the Cure Autism Now/HomeMed Pharmacy car was the first chance I had all day to really focus and concentrate on the racing side of Indianapolis, and that was nice. Getting out on the track was exciting, and things were a bit more intense. There were more people in the stands and more cars on the track than when we were testing. It's so exciting to be a part of it all. All we got done today was shake down the backup car. We had some issues with our communications systems, so we were down for a while."

ROBBY GORDON (No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had an opportunity to get up to speed, and we were consistently quick, so I feel good about the Archipelago/Motorola car. We didn't have an opportunity to take any wing out of the car, so it was heavy on downforce. We are going to work on our race setup in the early part of the week, and then trim the car out on Thursday and Friday. That is our plan right now." (About practicing today after finishing fourth in the Winston Cup race last night): "I got home (Charlotte) from Richmond about 2 a.m., and then I woke up at 7 a.m. to fly to Indianapolis. I normally only sleep about five hours a night, so today was no problem."

BILLY BOAT (No. 98 Pedigo Chevrolet Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was great being back in the race car and especially great working with the Panther team. Our initial goal was to get me comfortable with the car and not to worry about going fast, just try to run some smooth laps. Right now the car is fantastic. We're not going very fast, but we will get the car solid and stable."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing