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

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 2 of 2

TONY KANAAN (No. 17 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm excited. It's going to be a long month, so I think it's going to be very important to go in there ready to learn a lot and be patient on that track. That's the one piece of advice everyone is giving me. I'll have to take it one day at a time and listen closely to Morris. Definitely, the initial goal is qualifying next Saturday, so then we can work on the car and just make it as perfect as can be for Race Day. I'm going to try to be the best rookie and definitely try to win the race. If I win, I'll definitely be the best rookie! The team is coming from a good result at Nazareth, second place. I'm coming from a good weekend at Motegi, except for a problem on race day. We were the best car there all weekend, so we definitely have some momentum. We've got to try to turn the luck around that we've had in CART. Three DNF's at the first three races. You know, I think all we need is a good result at the Speedway, and that will help make everything better. We have to fix our problems and finish the race. It's a 500-miler, which is nothing new to us. The long races at Fontana and Michigan were always good for us. I'll guarantee you that 100 percent of the time I'll be listening to Morris. I totally trust him, and I think it's going to be pretty good. He's been there so many times. He's won this race, and he's qualified on the pole, and he's worked with some of the best drivers who ever raced at Indy. It's a dream come true for me to be racing the Indy 500. I'll be able to tell my kids someday that I've done Indy. Hopefully, I can say I've won Indianapolis. The whole thing is very exciting. You don't realize how special of a place it is and how special of a race it is until you actually go there. I remember watching Emmo (Emerson Fittipaldi) win in 1989 with Morris as his engineer, although I had no idea who Morris was at the time, and that was a great thing for everyone down in Brazil. But that was on TV, which is just not the same as being there."

ANTHONY LAZZARO (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "My first goal is to get qualified in the first weekend. I'd like to do it on the first day. I plan on spending the first week getting comfortable in the car and get up to speed where I know we'll make the race. I'll rely on Paul Diatlovich, Paul Murphy and the rest of the crew to help me find the chassis' sweet spot. I know that PDM qualified well last year, and I don't see why we can't improve on that with the new Chevy's we're getting from Rick Long and Speedway Engines. I'm just really looking forward to my first month of May in Indy. I have to thank Sam (Schmidt) for his continued support and making this opportunity happen. I look forward to working with the experienced PDM team. Paul (Diatlovich) has been involved at the Speedway for over 25 years, and his team was formed at the start of the Indy Racing League in 1996. That experience will be invaluable to me. The ability to share information with Mark (Dismore) will be a great help. I have only driven on the track one day and that was for ROP (Rookie Orientation Program). I felt comfortable being there and took the time to 'take it all in.' We ran an old engine from last year and did a 219.8. I ran flat pretty early on in the test, and then we just started to trim the car to gain speed. We didn't want to get carried away as we know the Speedway Chevy will be much faster when we come back for the race. So I do have a feel for what a good car is and look forward to doing the month of May with PDM as they have a lot of experience there. Indy feels fast; I definitely have respect for the speed there. Being here is a dream come true. My first visit was as a spectator in 1986, although I watched on TV for as long as I can remember. I remember (Gordon) Johncock in 1973, I remember (Tom) Sneva on his head in 1975 in Turn 2, I was glued to the TV every Memorial Day since I was old enough to understand." (About competitive field this year): "Every time I take on a knew challenge it seems I jump off in the deep end. This year is no different. When I went to the Busch series in 2000, it was one of the most competitive years with the most cars that they have ever had. This year's 500 is one of the most competitive that they have ever had with the most good drivers in good cars that have been there in a long time. When was the last time you had this many good rookies? I know when you count the number of major race wins and championships between them, it will be impressive. Winning Rookie of the Year this year will almost be as big as winning the race."

DAVID LETTERMAN (Co-owner, Rahal Letterman Racing, Indianapolis native): "The first time I came to the Speedway I was about 7 or 8 (years old), and I came with my uncle. I can remember seeing the first car, and it was a driver not many remember -- Bud Tinglestad. I used to listen to the race on the radio, and it was just great. Over the years in New York City, we've had a pretty good relationship with the New York Yankees, and they were nice enough to let us go up to the stadium and goof around up there. And the feeling you have coming into this facility (Speedway) is pretty much the same when you step out onto the field at Yankee Stadium. It's one of the great sports buildings of the world. When I was kid in Indianapolis, this is what brought the world to our neighborhood. It was spring when the Speedway opened, and it meant many things, not the least of which was the end of a grueling winter. And the promise of excitement and thrills and big-time sports right in our backyard. The last few Memorial Days for me have been something else. So I was so happy when this thing (Rahal Letterman Racing at Indy) came together because now my Memorial Days seem like I always had them as a kid. And to be in the company of Bobby (Rahal) and Jimmy (Vasser), I can't ask for anything better than that. I would love to be here under any circumstances, but to be here with Mr. Rahal is special. I'd go anywhere with him. In fact, we talked about going to Steak and Shake later."

ARIE LUYENDYK (No. 5 Meijer G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1990, 1997 Indianapolis 500 winner): "It's time to go to Indianapolis, and that's the reason I'm still driving. I still want to be competitive in the Indy 500. When I decided to come back (after sitting out 2000 race), it wasn't just to be a part of Indy, it was to be competitive. We were right in the mix of things last year, in practice and qualifying (started sixth), but we had our share of problems during the race. We had a good test at Las Vegas (earlier this year), and that made me pretty confident our Meijer car would be good when we tested at Indy (last week). Based on the speeds we ran there, I knew we were going to have a good car at Indy. We started out with a big push in the car, but once we got it out, we could do 226's (mph) all the time."

GEORGE MACK (No. 30 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "As a rookie, it is really intimidating to anticipate what is about to happen as we approach the Indy 500. To make things short -- I am scared as hell. I guess I am somewhat concerned about how I will be welcomed, how receptive the fans, media and everyone else might be to me. It would be nice if you could just go, qualify and race -- but there are so many other factors when it comes to the Indy 500 that affect your state of mind. Mentally I am going to try to stay calm, focused, basically just block a lot of things out. Once I get to the track, I put on blinders and go into my own little world. I might be nervous anticipating the day, but when May 26 comes, I will be intense and focused. I love Natalie Cole's 'Stardust' CD. I listen to it wherever I go. Her voice really calms me down and helps me focus. She (Natalie Cole) will definitely be a part of my pre-race preparation. Physically I have been using a number of exercises to get ready. Jump rope, heavy bag (boxing) and speed bag for hand/eye coordination. I also play a lot of ping-pong for hand/eye coordination. We have two cars ready for practice. They are prepping them now. We will test them both to see which one is faster and use that one to qualify and race. My goal for the race is to qualify in a respectable position and then give it 100 percent during the race. It is important to me to keep my own safety and that of others at heart when I am racing. That doesn't diminish my desire to win, it just keeps me more focused when I am on the track."

ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year): "We are obviously looking very forward to the biggest race in the world. It is especially exciting, because it will be the only race that our team will be able to test for, in the standard month of May schedule. We have a good car and good motors; now that we can add test days, I think the Cahill race team will show how we stack up to the other teams, oranges to oranges. Personally, I have had pretty good runs at Indy. The 1999 Indy 500 was the most memorable day of my life when I won the Rookie of the Year award. We had a great run in 2000 when the motor broke halfway through the race when I was in second place. Last year, we finished a solid 11th. I am excited for the month of May to start. It is my favorite month of the year."

MAX PAPIS (No. 53 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm honored to have been chosen by Red Bull Cheever Racing to be part of their lineup for the Indianapolis 500. I'm also thrilled to be competing on the most celebrated oval track in the world. Many champions of the past and the present raced in Indy. It's the one professional experience that you just can't miss in a career in racing. At Indy I am looking forward to applying my superspeedway experience to capture the win at the world's most prestigious 500-mile race. I will race at Indy knowing that -- thanks to the support of the Red Bull Cheever Racing team -- I will have a strong opportunity that I am ready to grab. I have prepared myself physically, mentally and with a great will to succeed."

BOBBY RAHAL (Co-owner, Rahal Letterman Racing, 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner): "We've worked on coming back to the Speedway probably since the split happened in 1996. But the rules were different, and that was a major challenge for us. Thankfully this year, Miller Brewing Company really stepped up and made the commitment to us to come back in a first-class manner. I think with teams like Penske, Ganassi and Green that the scene has changed a little bit compared to a year or two ago. We have all the ingredients now to win it, and it's just a matter of us doing our job through the month of May. I think the opportunity is there to succeed. I am looking forward to coming back to Indianapolis. It's been a long, long time, and it's a great event. And being part of the scene during the month of May is something I always remembered. I think the most difficult thing about Indy, that whole month of May, is keeping your head together and keep going forward. Because it's real easy to psych yourself out. It's easy to begin trying too hard. You can really start to out-think everything. You try to out-think the racetrack and everything else, and there's no way in hell you can. And all that does is breed even more insecurity. It's much more an exercise in mental discipline as it is in anything else."

GREG RAY (No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing/Harrah's Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Certainly in the last four years, we've qualified on the front row three times, on the pole, once. We've led more laps there in the last four years than any other driver. There's no doubt that I've made my fair share of mistakes. There's no doubt that we've had some, the wrong race plan on the wrong day or we've had radio failure or mechanical failure. You win as a team, and you lose as a team. I continue to try to draw on my personal experience for that racetrack on what to do and what not to do. I can't think of a better coach on this planet, knowing what my shoes will carry on Race Day, than A.J. Foyt's. He definitely knows his way around this racetrack. He kind of has that magic touch. I like to think that my five years of experience there and his 40 years of experience there will be a winning touch."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I am looking forward to Indy. Obviously, all of our races before this are preparing for the 500. Hopefully we have done all of our homework. I have learned a lot in the four races prior, and hopefully we don't make mistakes and have a successful Indy 500."

PAUL TRACY (No. 26 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's good to be back at the Speedway, although with the new control tower and all the other changes, I hardly recognize the place. One new thing that's better for sure are the soft walls -- not that I plan to test them -- they're a great idea whose time has definitely come. But the most important things haven't changed. It's still the world's biggest race, and you've still got to put four solid laps together to get in the show and then work on running the full 500 miles. It'll be a kind of a special challenge for me because the 7-Eleven Dallara is my third different chassis in as many races. At Long Beach, we raced a Reynard, then we switched to the Lola at Japan, and now here we are with a Dallara. So that'll be a little different, but testing went well last month, and with the guys I've got working with me at Team Green, we ought to be competitive. That's not going to be easy, though. This is the most competitive field at Indy in years, kind of like the playoffs where the best from both leagues are going head to head, and everybody's looking for the slightest edge. That's OK, though. The more competitive, the better. It makes winning that much more satisfying."

RICK TREADWAY (No. 55 Airlink Enterprises/Spade Motorsports G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This is a dream come true for me, and I have to tell you it's an incredibly good feeling to be living your dream. I'm experiencing a whole range of emotions as I get ready to start the month. I have to thank Airlink Enterprises, John Spade, the Hubbards and the entire Treadway-Hubbard Racing team for their support. It's going to be a difficult race to make this year, for sure. I'm confident with my crew, equipment and engineer that I'll have the speed to first make the race, and then we'll see how the race unfolds. Arie (Luyendyk) has been a great help, and he had a really good test here last week, so we know we have a good foundation to start the month. You never know what the future might hold, so I'm just focused on making the most of this opportunity and putting the car in the show."

JIMMY VASSER (No. 19 Miller Lite/Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I think we have everything in our trailer we need to win the race. We have a good grasp on things entering the month of May after two tests at the Speedway and the race in Fontana (March 24). I think we have an understanding of the chassis, and we have been working hard with this program. We have now hooked up with Comptech on the engines and, in our initial test, we like what we see there. Indy is the biggest race in the world. Obviously, you are excited as a driver, and there's a lot of anticipation. Keeping your eye on the ball and not getting off track is a key for a team. I don't think that there's a guy on the team that doesn't have a little skip in his or her step coming to Indy. We're excited. But the important thing is keeping ourselves on the ground and to keep focused on things we need to be, which is the race. While we need to qualify first, for sure, and we want to qualify well, the most important thing is the race and being prepared for that. It's no slam-dunk to make the race, as everybody knows. Weird things can happen, and you have to be prepared for that. We're going to put the car in the race first, and I think we'll be in good shape. That's out goal for Saturday. But there's a lot of good cars out there. There are things that are adding extra drivers from IRL teams and CART teams. It's very going to be very exciting. While Indy is a fantastic event and it's the greatest place in the world, you really need to kind of curtail all of those emotions and treat it just not like any other race, but treat it like you'd be doing your job as best you could in any testing situation or any regular championship points race to be most effective. The toughest time for me before a race is if it's raining and the track is wet, and you don't know what time it's going to go. Because you preset yourself for certain time frames, and I find it tough in those situations when you are in that holding pattern. Once you get in the car and strap it on and turn on the engine, all that goes away, and it's just time to get down to business."

JEFF WARD (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1997 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year): "We have had a lot of success so far this year in the Indy Racing League. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite track, and I've had several good runs there. I feel that I had a legitimate shot at winning three of the five races that I've run in. And now I'm with a team that has won it before, so it's a great combination. I'm excited to be there this year as a member of Team Target."


Driver Quotes Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing