IRL: Indy 500: Pre-event quotes, part I

86th Indianapolis 500 pre-event quotes. INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 2, 2002 -- Quotes from selected drivers and team officials about the 86th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Opening Day is Sunday, May 5 (quotes...

86th Indianapolis 500 pre-event quotes.

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 2, 2002 -- Quotes from selected drivers and team officials about the 86th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Opening Day is Sunday, May 5 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):

Part 1 of 2

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 39 Motorola/Archipelago Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Indy -- what can you say about one of the greatest races in the world? Last year, I was so excited to be back because I felt like I definitely had some unfinished business at the Speedway. Even though I finished third last year, third place wasn't my goal -- winning was. So I'm very happy to be back again this year with Motorola and Archipelago and to have the opportunity to win the Borg-Warner Trophy. The Indianapolis 500 is never an easy race, but I have the entire Team Motorola crew with me this year, and we work really well together, so I think that will help. We still have a lot to learn, but like I am every May, I'm optimistic that this might be my year to finally win." (Best Indy memory): "My best year at Indy was my rookie year (1984) when I won Rookie of the Year with Roberto (Guerrero). I qualified fourth here for my first race, and I thought that was really good and still do."

ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We want to continue our progress in speed and setup from testing at Indy. The whole team is working together to get the Rayovac Blair car solid in the field on Pole Day. We want to win, and we're not going to Indy to just run and finish the race. The level of the Rayovac Blair team enables us to look ahead and aim at winning. Due to the fact that we had a great week at Nazareth, running so well and getting a great sponsor like Rayovac enables us to have a lot of confidence and momentum going into Indy." (About setup challenges posed by Indy): "A lot of the challenges of driving and setting up the car at Indianapolis are always analyzed and can be difficult due to weather, the changing conditions, from wind, temperature and the new track surface. The track will continue to change. It was green during testing, and once everyone gets on it and the rubber starts to be laid down on the track, setup will again be another challenge."

BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I think this is going to be one of the most competitive Indy 500's ever. There are so many good, well-funded teams that it really puts the pressure on those of us 'smaller teams.' The CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing team has worked very, very hard and done a lot of groundwork for this race. We've really done our homework. We may not be able to compete financially with some of the better-funded teams, but this is not always a race that's won by pure speed. You have to do your research, have a well-prepared car and mentally be there on that day. This is a very small group of people working very hard toward one goal. I feel like we've really got all the pieces in place, and we're going to go out and do our best, and hopefully it'll show on Race Day."

KENNY BRACK (No. 22 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1998 Indy Racing League champion): "Returning to the Indianapolis 500 is one of the main reasons why I wanted to join Team Target. This team has proven that they can win here, and that gives you a lot of confidence. For the last two years, it has been difficult watching the race and not competing in it. Now I get another chance to win the greatest race in the world. I can't wait to get the month of May started."

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "To say we're looking forward to Indy is a huge understatement. Last year, we had a car capable of winning here, and it's been a long year to wait for the opportunity to win again. We're anxious, to say the least. We've got the same guys, the same powerplant with even more improvements, and the Firestone tires have given us great wear all this year. The Purex/Aventis folks also know we had a car capable last year at Indy, and they've waited 365 days for it to come around again. It is definitely a tough month, but I love everything that goes along with it. I just wish we were racing there tomorrow -- Race Day can't be here soon enough. We just did some testing at Nashville this week with the new Infiniti 'E' spec motor, and everything feels really great. We went quick with both full tanks and light tanks and turned a lot of miles with the engine. I feel good to go, and we're all working well together as a team. With the exception of a little contact with the wall in Fontana, everything's headed in the right direction for us. We are still working to firm up our second car -- it's definitely something we're interested in doing for DRR (Dreyer and Reinbold Racing). We've been talking with Sarah (Fisher), and everyone's working hard to make that happen." (About the track): "With the surface improvements, I've heard the track is incredibly smooth, and there's a lot of grip, which is great for competition. Firestone's been really consistent with wear through the life of the tire for us this year, and that's critically important at Indy. Indy is one of those tracks that you can never get overconfident on because it's always changing. One day just when you think you've got it figured out, the next day it's totally different. It's pretty intense, but it's what got me hooked on racing when I came here as a 7-year-old. Like any other driver, it's the one race you really want to win."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I'm really looking forward to returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to defend my title. Every time I go there, I relive the fantastic memories I have from last year. Winning at Indy was one of the greatest moments of my life and to share the Borg-Warner Trophy with so many great names in the sport is truly an honor. I tested there a couple of weeks ago, and the track is different than it was last year -- it's faster and smoother, and I think it will have more lines. Our strategy will be much the same as last year. We are going to stay focused and work as hard as we can throughout the month so that we continue to achieve the best possible results. You need to be as well prepared as possible at Indy because you are running for 500 miles, which is about 3 ½ hours with six to seven pit stops, and anything can happen. I'm confident that with all the hard work that my Marlboro Team Penske crew has already put in and the dedication that they show every day, we will be ready to defend our title."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "All the work we have done with the Nissan Infiniti over the past three years has been focused on the 2002 Indianapolis 500. If this month is managed properly, the number 51, 52 and 53 Red Bull Cheever Racing cars should have a bonafide chance of winning. In the 13 years I have raced at Indy, this is the best team with the best equipment I have ever had. We have covered our bets with three drivers at different stages of their careers. Tomas has shown speed and ambition. If he learns to couple that with racecraft, he will win. Max is in the prime of his career. He is a proven winner on ovals."

AIRTON DARE (No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):"I am looking forward to going to Indy this year because unlike the first two years, I know what to expect. I understand the changes in the track. Before, I would go test in the morning, go back in the afternoon, and the car felt different, and I wasn't expecting that. Now I know how the temperature and a bit of sun here and there can change the track. The key will be having the car right for the track conditions and being able to adjust for those conditions as they change throughout the race. It is going to be more competitive this year, but I am with a more competitive team. If we do our setups and work in the right direction, we don't have to be worried about anybody."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Reflecting on the season so far, we've had a good start. Even though I haven't won a race, I've been close to winning twice, and I'm second in the championship standings, which gives me a high degree of confidence going into the month of May. From another standpoint, however, we are headed to Indianapolis -- a superspeedway where engine performance is very important. We've been trying to make gains since our last superspeedway race in Fontana, which was Marlboro Team Penske's lowest finish to date. Part of me is quite confident and looking forward to Indianapolis, yet we still have work to do given our prior superspeedway results."

MARK DISMORE (No. 20 Grill 2 Go Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Car Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm ready to be back in the car. It's been great working with the guys this past week. The cars are ready, and I'm ready to get back up to speed. We have a good package with the Dallara chassis and Chevy engines from Speedway and an exciting new sponsor with Grill 2 Go. My experience last year helped me understand exactly what I want out of the car, and that feeling is engrained in my body. We're going to work hard to get back to that point. I can honestly say that winning the Indy 500 this year with Sam and Grill 2 Go would mean more to me than anybody I could think of."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to the whole experience, the month of May, the routine of practicing every day for a week before qualifying, Pole Day, the challenge of running not just one but four laps in qualifying and, of course, the race itself. All the traditions -- the first day of practice, Happy Hour every day, Pole Day, Bump Day, Carburetion Day, the parade, all the marching bands, Jim Nabors and 'Back Home Again in Indiana.' It's just a month-long event. Sure, we tested at the Speedway last month, but I know it's going to be a lot different when the grandstands are full of people, the racetrack is full of race cars, and the pressure is really on. It's all going to be new to me and, while everyone at Team Green is certainly going there to be competitive and win the race -- we hope -- at the same time I'm definitely planning to enjoy my first Indianapolis 500."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "I'm really, really looking forward to this race. We had a tough month of May last year as far as qualifying goes, but once we got to the race, the car was very good, and we were very competitive. I'm very much looking forward to going back to the Speedway with hopefully a better qualifying car than I had last year. Even though we just tested there for a half-day last month, I think (team owner) Morris (Nunn) will make the difference in finding the right setup, and we are going to be strong. My engineer, Eric (Cowdin), he is a great engineer, but he has no experience at Indy. On the other hand, Morris will be there fulltime the whole month, and I think that will be the key. He knows this race. Even though when he engineered cars at Indy, it was a completely different car. But, still, Indy is Indy. For the mechanics, I'm not really worried about that. Mechanic-wise, it doesn't matter if you're at Indy or any other place. We have had a great car every race starting with the first race this season. We have never had a mechanical failure, so that is not a concern. I think it's going to be hard to beat the Infinitis in qualifying. But if you look at the tests this year, you'll see that Scott Sharp was the fastest, going 228-something. He has an Ilmor engine, like we do, but with a Dallara chassis. Indy, while you have to have a good engine there for qualifying, the car has to handle very well if you are going to do well in the race. We're using the G Force. Ganassi is using the G Force. So I think we'll be in good company. Tony (Kanaan) will be there to give us more information on the car and make our work more efficient. That's what I'm really looking forward to. We are pretty much the same size, so we'll be able to exchange cars any time. Just like when we test. We both drove the same car last month. It took Tony not even 10 minutes to switch cars because we are the same size. We use the same pedals. That's going to be great."

SHIGEAKI HATTORI (No. 12 EPSON Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It's the biggest race in the world, and the most competitive to qualify for. The Indy 500 has a big following in Japan, and I'm very proud to represent Japan here. I like the track very much; it's very smooth and has plenty of grip. The horsepower of the Infiniti motor will be very important here with the long straights, which will be very helpful in qualifying. I feel real confident that we will have a good month."

PJ JONES (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be in my first Indy 500 and also to be driving for Johns Manville/Team Menard. It's a tough situation with the team losing Jaques (Lazier). As a racer, nobody needs to explain to me what he's going through. I know my role here, I want to win, and I think everyone on this team still wants to win. Obviously, I have a lot to learn in a short period of time, but given the quality of this team and their ability to produce horsepower, it's going to make my job a lot easier. This car is fast. It's up to me to make it that much faster." (About the SAFER wall system at Indy): "When I first got here to do my seat fitting, I went to the track and took a lap in a Suburban to see how the new surfacing and the new walls looked. The track is smooth, no question about it -- and that's not just because I was in a Suburban, either! They did a nice job. But the track also has grooves in it from the surface grinder, which could impact tire wear. It will be interesting to see what happens. The soft walls were fantastic. I want to applaud the Speedway for taking this kind of action and spending that kind of time and money to make sure their drivers are as safe as possible. I don't know of any other organizations really being that aggressive and taking safety into their own hands like they have."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was an incredible feeling last year in the Indianapolis 500. To be able to have a top-five finish was a good accomplishment for me. Now I want to go out and win the race. I know that this team can do it, and I believe that I can do it. I have a year of experience under my belt now, and I'm happy to have the opportunity again this year. I grew up watching my heroes like Emerson Fittipaldi race in the Indy 500. I won last week in Motegi, Japan, and my team and I have a lot of confidence now going to Indy."

-ims-

Driver Quotes Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Sam Schmidt , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing