INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 3, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the 85th Indianapolis 500 on May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order): BUDDY LAZIER...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 3, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the 85th Indianapolis 500 on May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order):
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Life Fitness/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion):
"The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has no equals in terms of other tracks around the world. The facilities are absolutely the best. I remember as a rookie everyone spoke of the 'year of May,' and I never quite understood it. As a competitor, it is an emotional roller coaster. One day everything can be perfect and you think you have a handle on the track and your race car. The next day you could be totally lost. With so many emotional ups and downs during the month of May, I now understand how it seems to turn into a year. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a most outstanding racing facility. It is fast, relatively flat and very smooth racing surface. The level of grip in your race car actually changes with temperature and sunlight. Changing conditions of this nature present a particularly difficult challenge for drivers and teams dialing in their race cars. In a racing field this closely matched, track position is a critical ingredient for success. The speed and efficiency in a team/driver's pit stops can gain track position. The Indy Racing League has created such a parity of competitiveness among its participants that to win or to finish on the podium, a driver and a team cannot afford even the smallest of mistakes. I'm fortunate to have a very talented and quick team capable to gain track position through amazing pit stops. The Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Oldsmobile No. 91 Hemelgarn team looks forward to racing hard and having a good race at Indianapolis. Our team has a lot of continuity, which is a credit to team owner Ron Hemelgarn. Our team has remained virtually unchanged for several seasons. We have a steady platform from which to work from and improve each season. In the offseason, we spend a great deal of time searching for and isolating even the smallest area of weaknesses. This allows us to constantly improve our racing package. We really look forward to each racing season because we know we're going to be better than the last. Indianapolis is the biggest race in the world. We expect these improvements to pay huge dividends. With over 50 driver-car combinations, qualifying will be intense. We have so much practice time with the return of the three-week schedule, I believe there will be great qualifying and race setups achieved by all the teams."
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 77 Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria TeamXtreme G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"There are so many variables that the Speedway presents. She commands a great deal of respect. There really is no three-week schedule because we have been preparing for this race the entire season. Its presence is overwhelming and always lingers in the back of your head as you approach the month of May. I look forward to racing with my old teammate, Airton. We were teammates in the Indy Lights series, and then we worked together once again at the Texas Motor Speedway in the last race of the 2000 season. Being able to be a part of Jonathan Byrd's winning race history and joining Airton and the team that produced the 2000 Rookie of the Year is quite an opportunity for me. I am excited to be back in the driver's seat, and being able to do that at the Indy 500 amplifies that excitement."
ARIE LUYENDYK (No. 5 Meijer G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1990 and 1997 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"People keep asking me why I am coming back, and the answer really is fairly simple. I never lost my desire to compete at Indianapolis. I realized how much I was enjoying myself during May two years ago and started to question my decision to retire. I never was able to get over that feeling. It really hit me during the race last year, when I was in the broadcast booth for ABC and realized that really wasn't where I wanted to be. It was then I started planning to race again at Indianapolis. Thanks to the Treadway-Hubbard team, I'm back in a comfortable situation, with many of the people I raced with before, including crew chief Skip Faul and engineer Tim Wardrop. We had a really good test at the Speedway last month. I felt comfortable, and I think everyone realized I was still competitive. We were the fastest at that time, almost 223 mph. (Greg Ray later went faster.) There should not be any doubts as to my motivation. I'm coming back for the love of Indy, you might say, and to be competitive and try to win. If I just wanted to somehow be a part of Indy, I would have stayed in the broadcast booth."
ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
After a really bad night for Cahill Racing in Atlanta, we have to look forward to Indy. It is going to be tough on the team to get both chassis back together, as they are the only ones we currently have. We are going to have some personnel changes that I am very excited about that will really increase our opportunity to do well at the Speedway. We are bringing in some big guns with a lot of experience here. Indy is very special to me. I am one of the guys out there that is racing because of Indy. I have watched it since I have been able to walk and have dreamed of being there ever since. This will be my third try at it, and we have been strong each time. The first time, our strength showed, finishing fifth and getting named Rookie of the Year. Last year, I don't think many realized how close we were to an awesome finish, sitting in second place at Lap 100 before we lost a cylinder in the engine. We will show up this year with strong equipment and a good team. I have run this race in my head over and over. Each time I think about the idea of sitting in winner's circle, I get goose bumps. I am ready.
GREG RAY (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1999 Indy Racing champion, 2000 Indianapolis 500 pole winner):
About being sole driver for Team Menard at Indy
"I'm pretty excited this year because we're fully committed to running just one car. All the focus is going to be on a one-car effort. We'll do a lot more mileage. Last year before qualifying, I did 200 miles total over five and one-half days, and that's the fewest miles I'd ever done to be in a car practicing before qualifying and before the race. We have a pretty torrid schedule. We're taking this pretty serious."
About more CART teams returning to Indy this year
"Certainly, no doubt, it's an honor for me to get to race against a bunch of great drivers. I think (Juan) Montoya certainly was respected as one of the hottest shoes on the planet, and that was a fun day. Whether it's Scott Sharp, Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever, Buddy Lazier, Jeff Ward, (Michael) Andretti or (Gil) de Ferran - it doesn't matter who it is - it is great to have so many great drivers there at one time. And I'll do my best regardless of who shows up."
About goals for Indy
"It's not about second. It's about trying to do your best job and see if you can win that race. I'm way pumped, that's what I am. The biggest thing, as a team we're united, very close, no excuses. Now we've got to get the job done."