IRL: Indy 500 pre-race driver quotes Part 4

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): ELISEO...

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):

ELISEO SALAZAR (No. 14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):

"My goals for Indy have to be to win the pole and the race. In the past five years, I have started on the front row and have finished third, fourth and sixth, so I've been there, done that. This year I want to win, and I feel I have my best chance to do that with A.J."

About return to three-week schedule at Indy

"I like it a lot. That's the way Indy was when I came here for the first time. It gives a sense of calm because you have time to try stuff and recover from a bad first weekend. Last year it was too rushed for the Indy 500. By returning it to the three-week schedule, no one can say they didn't have enough time. Everyone can be very prepared and it just comes down to the execution."

About the magnitude of Indy

"I have raced in all of the big races of the world. I've done Formula One races, including Monte Carlo and international sports car races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I remember Emerson Fittipaldi telling me in the early '90s that I had to see Indy. And quite honestly, I watched it on TV and didn't think much of it. But when I came here in '95 and experienced it for the first time as a spectator, it reminded me of a Roman circus. And the drivers were the gladiators who came to do battle at such high speeds and tremendous risk. I think of the Indy 500 as almost a religious experience, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the cathedral of motor racing. It is very, very special."

JERET SCHROEDER (No. 9 Purity Products Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):

"The Indianapolis 500 is the greatest race in the world. I've been lucky enough to be in it twice; first with Cobb Racing and last year with Tri Star. Both times we ran well. Our finishing positions haven't been reflective of how well we ran because something happened to the car near the end each time, so I hope the third time is the charm for me at Indy this year with PDM. The PDM Racing team is made up of professionals who can get the job done. We've had some bad luck so far this year, but we're all working hard and I know that sometime soon the tide will turn, and we'll have a finish that is reflective of our abilities and our effort. It would be great if that time is this month at Indy. Even people who don't normally follow racing know all about Indy, which just proves how big of an event it is. Michael Andretti is running at Indy this year, and he's from Pennsylvania, but for a long time I've been the only driver from the Northeast running in the IRL. I really appreciate all the friends and fans who support me and have wished me well for Indy. My friends throw me a party each year before Indy to send me off and our local newspapers are very supportive. The party is always a great time, and I appreciate everyone who makes that night happen and who attend. I'll do my best to represent them, New Jersey, the entire Northeast, my team and my sponsors - Purity Products, Summit Packaging and Graph to Graphics - this month at Indy. I have no idea what will happen this month because Indy is as unpredictable as the weather in Indiana in May, but one thing you can be sure of is that I'll be trying my best as will every other member of the PDM Racing team."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion):

"My biggest memory of the Indianapolis 500 was when A.J. Foyt got out of his car and started beating on the back of his car with a hammer. That's forever in the back of my mind. Another '500' that I remember is when Rick Mears duked it out with Michael Andretti by going around the outside, passing him around Turn 1, and going on to win the race. I think I was pretty awed by that. Mears was very strategic and patient, and it's hard to find someone with patience in racing like he exhibited. At the same time he was on the pole and had a lot of speed to him. Most of the time, if you're on the pole at Indianapolis, you want to lead that race like you've seen Michael Andretti and all of those people do who end up not getting to the finish. But Rick (Mears) was much more strategic. He didn't need to do that. He felt he proved it and felt he could really take his time, be patient and not take chances in traffic. He'd work with the car all day and, all of a sudden at the end of the race, he's the fastest guy out there and goes on to win the race. His mode of operation is what's so impressive to me. I didn't really meet Rick until '95 after I already had a year at the Speedway and was doing a little bit of testing for Roger (Penske). I had a chance in a casual setting to really talk to him, and I was pretty impressed. We didn't get too specific, but back in '99 prior to the race, I called him just to pick his brain a little bit about psyche, the way he approached the race, some of the things he looked for in the car and how he set himself up for the later stages in the race. Now I've rented a condo in Florida for a couple of months the last two winters, and it's in the same development that he lives in. So I've gotten to know him a little bit more."

AL UNSER JR. (No. 3 Galles Racing Starz SuperPak Budweiser G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner):

About returning to Speedway last year

"My unfinished business was to prove to everybody and myself that we can make the show here. The last laps I ever turned here were when I missed the show (in 1995), and I never came back here testing or anything like that. So I definitely had some unfinished business. And we got that out of the way. So this year we can concentrate and work on the race more so than we did last year."

About strategy

"We definitely need to get further up the grid so we're not playing catch-up as bad all the time. We'll attack the same way we always have. The 500 miles here at Indy is a long race, and anybody can win it in the field, but the main thing to do is make the show. Hopefully, we can qualify near the front and be more competitive all day long instead of playing catch-up and trying to do pit strategies and stuff like that."

About return of Michael Andretti to Indy

"I think it is great that Michael is here. It'll just be another day. He's just another car I've got to pass in order to win the race. I think Michael himself is going to feel real good about himself and feel real proud that he is back representing his family at the Indy 500."

JEFF WARD (No. 35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):

"I've finished second, third and fourth, and I'm hungry to finish first. In the past, my teams have been running consistently in the front at the end of the 500 miles, but we had the wrong scenarios for the (winner's) circle. One year it was poor pitting strategy, another time I got in traffic, but the key is to be there, up front at the end. Of course that's the toughest part, but this team has what it takes to keep me in contention for the trophy. My confidence in this team is tremendous. I believe in what we're trying to prove, and we have a chance run on the pole or the front row, for sure. We're a threat to win. We have to go out there with the best car we can develop, hope for some luck, and we'll get the results."

About Heritage Motorsports history at Indy

"It's exciting to be in Indy with Jim Rathmann Sr. and John Mecom Jr. They created legacies at the track, and I'm really looking forward to sharing that energy with them. Their history at the track brings something to this team. I guess, it's their confidence and energy and their experience. It's a boost to have these legendary guys in our corner."

About competition at Indy

"This race is always competitive, no matter who's racing. Everyone comes to win. I've raced the CART guys before, and they're good competition, but the IRL has plenty of talent. Our races are always hot and competitive. The real key, though, is the cars. The best car will win no matter who's there."

About three-week schedule at Indy

"We'll have four more days for practice, which can be vital in Indiana. The weather here is always iffy, so that extra time can really help the team. It does mean a little more work for the mechanics, but it also takes a little pressure off of them. We have more time to practice and more time to improve the things we need to."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Rick Mears , Emerson Fittipaldi , A.J. Foyt