87th INDIANAPOLIS 500-MILE RACE POST-RACE QUOTES IRL IndyCarTM Series Sunday, May 25, 2003 MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The throttle linkage broke. It was a weird deal. That always seems to happen to me. That...
87th INDIANAPOLIS 500-MILE RACE POST-RACE QUOTES IRL IndyCarTM Series Sunday, May 25, 2003
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The throttle linkage broke. It was a weird deal. That always seems to happen to me. That is life. I'm a little disappointed. I'm happy and sad, a million different emotions right now. I'm happy that I'm retiring, knowing that I could have won the last race. I just wanted one lap this year, the last one. We didn't get it. It felt really good that we were running right up front for a while. It is a shame that it all went away. I'm a little numb right now, to be honest with you. I'm anxious to see what happens with the other three. It is weird right now. At least I have someone to cheer for. Maybe I haven't been meant to win this race as a driver. Maybe I'm meant to win 20 of them as an owner. We'll see." (Do you have a love-hate relationship with the Speedway): "I don't know what you want to call it. It has been an interesting one. I wouldn't say 'hate.' I don't hate. There are times when I've loved this place. There have been times when it has been tough. That is what makes Indy, Indy. We had a little too much downforce, but I was ready to trim it and go fast. We had a really good-handling car. I could run really tight on guys. I was really surprised I could run as quick as I was running, to be honest with you. I felt like we were going to be in good shape for the end. That is what is disappointing. At least I know I could have won my last race. I had a shot at it. That is the good thing. I really want to run this team. I really want to work on it. I don't really think I would do myself justice coming in and thinking I'm going to be competitive one race at a time. Not when I've been out of it for a year. These guys and teams are so good. You can't be as competitive as you need to be just running Indy. I think you are kidding yourself. Dan Wheldon is doing an awesome job. I'm proud of him. He is going to win a lot of races for us. We have great guys for the future. We are going to get Dario back in the car soon." (On the throttle problem): "I came ou t of one of the corners and just lost power. I was downshifting because I was passing somebody. When I got back on the throttle, it just didn't pull anymore. I couldn't even pull any revs. I think it is a freaky deal. We've never had that before. I don't know what caused it. We will figure it out later. You know what they say about this place. Maybe it was one screw that came loose. I was actually having fun out there when I was passing and battling for the lead."
ROBBY GORDON (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The Archipelago/Motorola car drove pretty good all day. It is just unfortunate we had the gearbox problem. We got behind early. We tried some different strategy and that kind of hurt us, and I drove conservative, which also hurt us. It was very difficult to pass out there. We had just gotten back into the top 12 and then we broke something in the gearbox. We had some trouble on our second to last pit stop and then we stalled it on the last pit stop so we had to drive through the field a couple of times. It would have been a lot easier to run 600 miles tonight at Charlotte with a better finish."
MARIO ANDRETTI: "Same song, a different day. Obviously, the thing that is so disappointing is that it was such a fluke mechanical thing in the engine, just the throttle body that came apart. The first thing he said to me was, 'Why did it have to happen to me?' I feel for him, obviously." (Do you stand in the pits and think 'What's it going to be this time?'): "You don't like to be thinking about those things. You want to stay with a positive attitude throughout. Certainly, we were hoping it wouldn't happen. I've seen him out there leading. He liked what he did. He liked the car, and the strategy was working well. It was just a matter of all the pieces staying together, and I think it could have been interesting. He's got three more horses out there running, so he still has some hope for redemption within the team. It's wonderful here, the support from the fans. That's the only thing that keeps you going at a time like this. My heart is all in pieces for him. Everything that he had control over, he was doing right. You have to go with that if you want to go on if you want to feel good about life. Otherwise you go around shooting yourself, that kind of thing." (About possibility of Michael Andretti winning the Indianapolis 500 as team owner): "Obviously, that would be almost as good to make him happy, to be the owner and coach his drivers and be active that way."
ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 44 Pedigo Chevrolet Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "When Sarah Fisher's engine let go and she crashed, we all got on the brakes real hard. I heard that A.J. Foyt IV didn't have radio contact. He didn't mean to, but he just about went over me trying to take evasive action there in Turn 3. He clipped my left front and damaged my steering, and it just progressively got worse until the Panther Racing Pedigo Chevy was undriveable. So we brought it in. The car was fine at first. I think we had way too much downforce, but I was just biding my time, trying to make it to the end. There's nothing like the Indy 500. It's an honor to race in it, and I have to thank everyone at Panther Racing."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We just struggled all day and didn't have a very good car in traffic. In the end I was fighting a real tight condition and came out of Turn 4 and just pushed right up to the wall. It felt like I hit the wall with the right front, and it felt like I grazed it evenly. I moved the car back and forth going down the main stretch and it seemed like it was OK. I backed a bit extra going into Turn 1, and it just snapped around on me."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I got a little too much push coming out of Turn 2 so I defended Hornish and perhaps went in tight. I turned in and obviously there were some cars in front of me. I think I just picked up some dirty air and just got loose. Next thing, I'm into the wall, but fortunately I'm all right."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I spun out coming out of the pits with cold tires, and it was trouble after that. Handling-wise, the car was really good, but we just couldn't finish it. We lost the motor, same as on Sarah's car. Chevy and Speedway (Engines) know they have some work to do. I couldn't tell if there was a fire or not when the motor let go, so I just parked it up in Turn 4 and tried to stay out of the way."
TONY RENNA (No. 32 Cure Autism Now/HomeMed Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It's very satisfying to give Kelley (Racing) their highest finish in the '500.' The guys have done a great job all month. Unfortunately, just right there at the end we lost our fifth gear, so it made it a little bit difficult to compete in traffic the last little bit. I'm really happy with the way things turned out. We just ran a consistent race and stayed out of trouble. It was a great time. The guys gave me a great car. We just worked at it all race long to develop the car and bring it in. I'm quite pleased with where we're at. It's my first year here. For my first 500-mile race of my career, to finish here in the top 10 solidly, I'm pretty happy."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was definitely a long day. We had radio problems the whole day and ended up having to run these old-style ear things and tape them in. After a couple of hours, those things don't feel to good on your ears. It was a long day but I got out there and I learned a ton today, and we'll be back next year and we'll be back all season." (What did you grandfather say to you): "During the race, it was real frustrating for the whole time because of those ear plugs. I thought I was going to be deaf. I know how the fans feel after not having ear plugs the whole day. That what it was like I had it. I'm happy we finished. What we came out here to do was get time on the track and experience, so we'll be all right." (Did you have any trouble?): "I had incidents. Three times I should have crashed, but I didn't. I feel good. I feel lucky and glad we got the experience."
A.J. FOYT (Team owner, A.J. Foyt Racing): "We just told him to stay out of trouble and he had a big handicap with no radios at the beginning. We're not going to run without no radio and endanger his life and somebody else's, and that was the big problem that got us down. Then after that, we was just trying to finish and give the leaders that were racing for the lead -- since we were five or six laps down -- just get out their way and let them go. He ran some laps over (2)20, but the big thing is he got a race under his belt and he learned a lot."
JIMMY KITE (No. 18 Denny Hecker's Auto Connection Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was a great day. The car was set up pretty good all day long. Actually it was awesome. We had a said with a low-budget team and a Chevy motor that if we could finish in the top 15 we'd be tickled to death, and we're 13th. For us, that's as good as a win. They stuck it out with me for the whole month, and hopefully they feel as good about this as I did. It was a long day, but I love being back here."
GREG RAY (No. 13 TrimSpa Special Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "We could do it all day long on our own, but we just weren't quite good enough in traffic. We weren't a heavy-downforce setup. We didn't have a super-light downforce setup. We were right in between. We were probably better than anybody else on our own, but in traffic it was just hard. The three or four cars in front of us we definitely gave them those positions by making a little mistake trying to pass somebody else and then somebody getting around me. It was just one of those days. We still played it pretty conservative. We're going to keep working hard to build our business program, to build our sponsorship to get that spare car so we can be a little bit more aggressive."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We've certainly had better days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but today my Corteco crew did a great job. They got me in and out of the pits really quickly, and we were able to work our way up through the field. We thought we had a right rear tire going flat early on in the race, so they called me in, and that set us back. But I still couldn't do a full run wide open all the way. I would fall just a little short. But congratulations to Roger and all of Team Penske. This is nice for Gil to come back this way. The Corteco team did a nice job, and yes, we have a top-10 finish. The Kelley Racing team is a great team, and the Toyota engine is a great engine and what else can I say, we hung in there today." (Thoughts on Michael Andretti's final race): "It's a shame that Michael didn't have a better finish today, but he will certainly go down in the record books as one of the all-time greatest drivers. And I truly don't think we've seen the last of Michael. Indy has a way of drawing people back in."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We are not really sure what happened. Toward the end there, the car started to fall off a bit. Something in the drivetrain let go. It feels good, though. I know we had a good race car all month. I wish we would have been able to finish those last four or five laps. It was a heck of a battle all day long going up and down. We had a couple of problems, but the team and I, Panther Racing, those guys that worked on the car are awesome. We had a good day. It just ended a little too short."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The start was very good for us. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam car was doing exactly what we wanted it to do. Barry Green did a great job with the strategy, and the Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew did an excellent job. We did have one set of tires that were vibrating quite badly, and that made the car push really bad. We were back in traffic, and that made it difficult to pass. It was hard to overtake and what actually happened on the lap of the accident was I had a little bit too much understeer behind (Tora) Takagi, and (Sam) Hornish got a run on me and I defended. I was low, and I turned in a little too hard and it got loose on me, and I didn't quite catch. I think the accident looks more spectacular than it really is. All in all, I think it was a good race, and it is just unfortunate that happened at the end."
JOHN BIDDLECOMBE (Director of Sales, Panoz G Force): "We have won Indianapolis in the first year with a new car for the third time today. That is exactly what happened when the new chassis regulations began in 1997, 2000 and now this year. We always believed we had a very strong car for the race conditions. Qualifying didn't go as planned, but having five of the top eight cars at the finish was very pleasing. There is obviously a great deal of satisfaction for Gil and the Penske team, especially since they switched to our chassis for this weekend. From Don Panoz right down to everybody at the factory in Braselton, Georgia - this is a fantastic result. This is America's greatest race, and for a car built here in the USA to win this race is fantastic. The car was very fast in qualifying last year, but we were unlucky in the race. This year it was the other way round. Our aim now is to continue this performance and set our sights on the championship. We have now won two of the four races, and there are a couple of tracks coming up which will really suit our car. We have been in position to win every race in 2003, which has covered every track configuration -- short ovals, medium ovals and super-speedways. Congratulations to all our teams -- today is a great reward for all their hard work."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm happy to finish in the top 10. Unless you finish the race, you can never say you've done the '500,' I guess. This is an intense race. You have to be focused all the time because the race is very long. I want to be back here next year and improve myself even more."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a fuel pickup problem from the start of the race and that forced us to pit 10-12 laps earlier than we needed to. If we didn't have that problem, I think that we could have walked away with it. We had a great car, and our lap times were faster than the leader on most of the laps. Unfortunately, when we would get closer to the leader, we would have to come in early to pit. The spin towards the end of the race was my fault. This whole month was a huge experience for me. I never knew that it was this big. The atmosphere is awesome, and I can't wait to get back here next year."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It was a pretty good day for us. We led a bunch of laps and gave ourselves a chance to win today. Team Target did an unbelievable job all month. When I was in the lead, we had a great car. It was difficult to pass if you were behind someone. The field here is so close and competitive that any one of us (in the top four or five) could have won it at the end. I have to thank all of our team's sponsors and Toyota for giving us the support that it takes for us to run like we did today. Obviously, it would have been great to win, but I'm happy with our day."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "That was very disappointing, what happened today. I can't say I was expecting that kind of thing to happen. I think it was some sort of electrical problem because the car just lost power. I came in, and we thought we could fix it, but when we tried to start the motor, it just wouldn't turn over. So we pushed the car back to the garage and called it a day. I'm first out of the race, and we don't get many points in the championship, so that is our biggest problem with the result today. Fortunately, we have many more races to go in the season to score points."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I am very happy with this result in my first Indy 500 race. My car was always fast this month. I wish I could have finished about two places higher, because I think we were capable of finishing at least third. But overall, I am happy with being the highest-finishing rookie in the race. That is a great honor. Now I understand what everybody was trying to tell me about the Indy 500. It is a very special place and a very special race. Not just the race, but all of the nice things than happen before the race, all of the traditions. Starting with three cars in each row for the first time was not a problem for me. The most challenging thing to do was to make the right decisions about what to do on your pit stops because the track was changing all day long. But my Pioneer team did a great job with the strategy, and we had a very solid finish."
ALEX BARRON (No. 20 Meijer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Everyone in the Meijer family is pretty happy with our result, I think. Especially when you consider we had a totally flat (left-front) tire for the last several laps, we should be happy to just finish in one piece. Sixth place definitely looks OK when you start 25th. I was confident all along that we could move to the front, and we did. We were definitely within range of the leaders in the closing laps, but we just couldn't go after it with that flat tire. We made a few adjustments to the car along the way today, and we ran a good strategy. I'm really happy to have worked with the Meijer/Mo Nunn team in the relatively short time that we had together this month. Maybe somehow, some way, something will happen that will get me back into a race car some more this year. You never know."
MORRIS NUNN (Team Owner, Mo Nunn Racing): "Well, for starters, I'm very disappointed for Felipe (Giaffone) and the entire Hollywood crew going out on the fourth lap. But if you're going to go out, the first few laps are definitely better than on the last lap. That would be cruel. Felipe and the Hollywood team will come back strong and hopefully win some races for us. On the other hand, I'm very pleased with Tora's (Takagi) performance for his first time here. He got Indy figured out pretty quickly, and he drove faultlessly all month long. It was very difficult to overtake out there today, which you saw with a good many of the competitors, but Tora was definitely trying. As for Alex (Barron), I'm super-impressed with his performance. We had a crew for him that hasn't had the chance to get into the groove of working race after race, and that might have hurt him a little bit. But Alex always was able to make up ground out on the racetrack. He finished the race with no air in his left-front tire, and he was still running laps in the 224 (mph) range. I would just love to be able to put something together that could keep him in the series."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had the car, but unfortunately, it looked like nobody could pass anybody. We had fast cars. Gil (de Ferran) was fast and Helio (Castroneves) was fast, but no, I don't think I could pass them. When I saw Michael (Andretti) leading, I knew his car was good, and I thought it was his day. When I saw him come into the pits, I was really upset. Then I said, 'Well it's up to me.' I tried my best. The whole 7-Eleven team did a great job. A month ago, we had no idea if I'd be able to make this race, and they worked hard. The whole team worked as a family to put this thing together, and we did have the car to do it, but I wasn't able to pass Gil and Helio. We had a fast car, but we'll take third."
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was an accomplishment to be here this month, especially since I broke my back last year. I am just extremely upset for everybody at Johns Manville/Team Menard. We had a good car for the race. The first yellow nailed us wrong, but we were able to stay on the lead lap. We got the car working well. I was just biding my time. I got a good run on the restart going into Turn 2. I saw Richie Hearn go up in the marbles. He got chopped pretty good. That was enough to really upset my car. It was a chain reaction with everybody else stomping on the brakes. I had to get on it really hard right in the middle of a corner. It was just enough to upset the car and spin it around."
BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was an exciting race. I am glad we finished. To be the top Chevrolet finisher is a good thing. Without that one little miss, we would have had a top-10 finish, no problem. That one little electronic gremlin caught us out a little today, and we got behind at the midway point of the race. That's what it is all about. I will be able to come back here next year with all the experience I have gained. I thought finishing 500 miles would be a lot more physical than what it was. This place is special but demanding because of the way the car is trimmed out. This Indy is special because I did it with a team, Cheever Racing, that I really wanted to be here with and with a sponsor, Red Bull, that has helped me since day one. It was a great benefit to have Eddie (Cheever Jr.), with his years of experience, available to help guide me through my rookie year here at Indy."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 22 Metabolife/Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The Indy 500 was longer and harder than I ever expected. I am really happy to be here at the finish. It's a long race. You see everything out there. You see slow parts, you see really scary parts. I am glad to be part of the Indianapolis 500. It is amazing to be surrounded by all these fans and this excitement. My whole day began two weeks ago when we first ran the car on track. It finished today. I want to thank everyone that helped me: Team Menard, Johns Manville, Metabolife. We finished the race today, which was our main goal. The guys on this team are winners. They deserve to finish first, but right now we are just working hard to do our best."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (Owner, Red Bull Cheever Racing): "It was a great Indianapolis for the Red Bull team. We made the most of what we had this month. The Chevrolet engine was reliable, thanks to Menard engines. We are a bit down on horsepower, but I am sure that we will be back here with a vengeance. Buddy (Rice) and the crew did a very good job. We had a few problems with electronics in the middle of the race, and we lost a lap because of that. Then we were set back by a yellow where the pits were closed, but we just didn't have enough fuel to stay out. But the team recovered like professionals, and Buddy brought the car home in one piece. This was a good lesson for Buddy. He now knows what the Indy 500 is all about. This race is one of the most difficult races to finish. The fact that he finished and stayed out of trouble will help him for the rest of this season and when he returns to Indy next year. I'm glad we finished today."
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Rahal/Letterman/Miller Lite/Pioneer Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had a good car today, but we lost first gear on first pit stop. We stalled on a several pit stops today. It was due to the idle on the engine being a little too high. When I came in on the first stop, I didn't know we had the problem when we first came in and it stalled. So I had to rev the engine way too much and we clicked off the gear. After that, I had to leave the pits in second gear. Later (on Lap 128) the gearbox locked up, and we had to change all of the gears in the car. That cost us four laps. Who knows what would have happened today? We had one of the fastest cars in the middle of the race, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't be up front with the leaders. It's tough when you think you have a car to win and things go wrong at the beginning of the race. We fought hard to get back into the top 10 (from 19th to ninth), but when we had to change all of the gears, it was time just to collect points and stay out of the leaders' way."
JIMMY VASSER (No. 19 Argent Rahal/Letterman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The gearbox has a big hole in it, and we still aren't sure why. The car just popped out of fifth gear while I was running, and then the whole thing exploded. I really didn't have any warning other than that they had told me that Kenny (teammate Brack) had lost first gear. I tried to be careful with the gearbox, but it just wasn't to be. It was tough for us to get into a flow today. I kept coming up on a couple of cars that were way off the pace, and it seemed like it was my fate that I'd always come up on them when they were way off the pace in the corners. That really hurt my momentum. The Argent car was pretty good today, and I am still having a hard time believing that I am standing here right now. Team Rahal did a great job and gave me a car that was capable of winning, and it is really unfortunate that it has to end like this."