SARAH FISHER ( ...
SARAH FISHER (#15 Walker Racing Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We've been working really hard all week. It's all about finishing the race. It's all about having the persistence to do it." (Regarding the wave off): "It wasn't a matter of choice. My headrest popped off and got stuck in the air intake. Since it was in the back, it just about pulled my head off. For our team and what we've prepared for, and the budget we've had to work with, this was the best we could do. I've been stressed out all week, but the team is really behind me. They are like a second family to me. Our position seems to be good right now, but we may get bumped off a few. Still, we're definitely better than where we were last year. The car was consistent the entire four laps. I have a good, solid race car. The team really takes over and takes good care of me regarding my confidence. It's been really tough for me this month. The best advice Derrick (Walker) has given me is to be really consistent. What we got on the run was all we had. We even got a little more than we thought we would have. I'm very hard on myself, because there are a lot of drivers out there like Tony (Stewart), Gil (de Ferran) and Michael (Andretti) who have an amazing talent. This year is harder compared to last year because the competition has been stepped up about 10 notches, but I'm definitely having a lot more fun this year. It's tough to keep focused. We've not had the budget to do the testing we need to do. We need to get out there more to do testing. It was just awesome to be in the car for the last five days. My comfort level is not based on just going around the track, it's also to be in the car itself. This is only my 14th race, but I feel much more comfortable, consistent and patient. The team did an awesome job on the counter balance for the aero." (What are you going to do for the next two weeks?): "I'm going to go home, I am going to sleep a lot. Then I'm going to meet with the engineers and plan for the 500 miles. We're going to do some long-distance runs and make a plan for that." (Who will be in the backup car?): "Tora (Takagi) is in California. Unless he jumps on a jet or a Lear Jet, he won't make it. He needs to focus on Japan. Derrick has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He is very decisive, and I trust him." (About winning): "We've done a lot of preparation. I'm not sure if we can win or not. It's going to be very tough to win the race. I know Walker Racing is capable of winning. I just don't know if it will be this year."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (#21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I had too much push, but I'm really happy making the show. We've got a good car for the race, a 500-mile race. I can't imagine what it will be like. I think it (qualifying run) could have been better. We could have waved off, but there's no reason to take risks like that when we had a good run. Turn 1 has been more difficult than others all week. It seems a little tighter than the others."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (#68T Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I think it was a good run, a little disappointing. I was flat out and expected to go faster, but it wasn't the case. It's the best we had. I had a little wiggle in Turn 1. I asked, 'Should we wave off?' They said no way; I only have one chance. This track is amazing. Four corners look the same, but they are completely different. The weather might have influenced, or not. We have to go to Japan Monday, and it will be 100 percent concentration on CART for a week. Then when we return, it's 100 percent concentration on here. It's amazing to qualify here, and to look up at the grandstands and all the people. It's unbelievable. This is a special place. It's a special feeling, a track where not only a race car driver but anyone would want to be." (Asked which fence he will climb if he wins the race): "I don't know. The fences look pretty stiff here. The dream to win a race within me, it's something you can't hold back. Everybody has emotions. I like to show my feelings with a victory. Let's wait and see what happens."
CHIP GANASSI (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams): "Mission accomplished. We had a solid week. We can't take chances, like some of these guys, with our qualifying engines. We just want to be in the show. With the fact that we have to be in Japan next week, gambling isn't too on our priority list. Conditions were great. We gave him (Tony Stewart) a little front wing, and it was a little too much, so we had a push. Jimmy (Vasser) plugged into the team well and helped Tony. The guy (Stewart) really is somebody. Until two weeks ago I had never met him. The guys love him. The engineers think he's great. I've been having a lot of fun with him. Hopefully it's not a one-race deal. It was tough to tell our two rookies that we were going to slow their careers by one race, but we plugged Jimmy and Tony in, and they've done well. It's a good, solid week."
MARK DISMORE (#28 Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "This is a team. Kelley Racing is a team. We get along great. It's not us against the other side of the garage. We all pull in the same direction. Turn 1 has really been tough. I've had a hard time getting around Turn 1. I told the guys before they rolled me out, 'Just be glad it's not the two seater.' It's been trying this morning. We ran 224.58 (mph). I felt we could run 226 (mph). What's a little disappointing is there's more left in the car than we showed. I just couldn't get through Turn 1. You can't make things happen here. You can, but when you do, something big happens. We rolled it out to qualify and the track temperature was about 20 degrees hotter than this morning. It really took the car away from me in Turn 1. When we went out for the qualifying run, I was really neutral, really neutral in 2, 3, and 4. In Turn 1 I was turning the wheel the right direction half the time and the wrong direction the other half. I can tell you starting fifth was a whole lot easier than starting 11th." (Directed to A.J. Foyt at the end of the press conference): "Congratulations A.J., you old dog. You bumped me off."
ROBBY GORDON (#41 Team Conseco/Foyt Racing/RCR Childress Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I thought we had a real shot of getting the pole. We waited until weather conditions were ideal. My fastest lap was my warm-up lap. My warm-up lap surprised me. The car was loose going into Turn 1 on the first lap. I tightened the bar two notches for the second lap. Then I had to back it off one more notch because I had to let off. Then on lap three I loosened the bar some more. The big advantage to being up front is I've seen accidents happen back in the middle. I'm going to beat Greg Ray into Turn 1 this year. I am excited to be in the front row. A.J. (Foyt) knows how to make a car go fast. We're going to work on our race setup. My race strategy is to go out, sit back and cruise. With 75 to 50 laps to go to I'll turn it up. There are a lot of obstacles to get around. You have to have a little luck because you still have 10 pit stops."
JEFF WARD (#35T Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I'm a little disappointed at how it dropped off a little bit, but we are happy to be in it. It made a long day knowing the car wasn't quite perfect. It worked out well though. We are in the show. We had zero downforce on our first lap out this morning. We changed the balance to try to get some grip back. The first lap was good but then it was pushing a bit so I eased off. It was challenging in Turn 1. It always is when the wind is going down the frontstraight. Our motor is strong. It's got great reliability. It's got power. The G Force is great. In the race I think the G Force is the one to have. When the track heated up it got loose. It had no grip, so we didn't take the green. We decided to come back late in the afternoon where we'd been good earlier in the week. We had a push on my first lap. It wasn't too bad, but I knew I had to back out of it. For whatever reason, it just floated up the track. I downshifted between the short chute."
ROBBY MCGEHEE (#10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "It feels really good. We had a real long week after Atlanta. After that crash at Atlanta, it really put us behind the Eight Ball. My hats off to all of the guys at Cahill Racing. They worked their tails off. It's more than we expected. We put in a new motor, a different motor, actually it had 300 miles on it. We ran it at Homestead. It was huge power. I've go to thank Comptech (engine builders)."
GREG RAY (#2T Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I'm very proud of Team Menard. I'm honored to be a part of this team. I'm pleased with the car. That is all we could get out of it. The whole day has been stressful, stressful, stressful. The conditions on the track didn't match the car at all. I don't know where (Scott) Sharp pulled that rabbit out of his hat, but I have to tip my hat to them. I'm proud for them. It's pretty exciting, more than I ever wanted it to be. I don't think under any conditions we could have done a 226 (mph) plus. When I saw Sharp do it, I thought: 'Oh, no. It's going to be a long day at the office.' I have five starts and four front rows. Every qualifying gets a little more fun. Today we lost the balance of the car. It was really loose, but I was able to hold onto it. I'm pretty happy with it. There was nothing left we could do with the car. We added all we could to the car. I'm very proud. I'm proud for Team Menard. The conditions were different today than they were mid-week. Everyone tells you that all four corners here are the same, but I'm here to tell you they are not all the same. This was a tough ride." (About starting in the back vs. the front): "Anytime you start up front it's a good thing, especially here. I remember back in '97 when I started at the back row of the Indy 500 you see all the sand and haze. You can't breath back there. That haze is all the pavement being thrown up on you. My eyes were burning and tearing up because of all the methanol. I'll tell you, I never ever want to be back there ever again. That year they stopped the race at 10 laps because of the rain. When I got out of the car, I literally had a pound of sand in my lap."
SHIGEAKI HATTORI (#55 EPSON Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I have no experience at this track. This track is famous in Japan. I've dreamed to drive this race. I didn't have a good test here. We went out and drove four to five races and that helped."
SCOTT GOODYEAR (#52 Thermos® Grill2Go(tm) Cheever Indy Racing Infiniti Dallara/Firestone): "We're about 15th or 16th, not where we thought we would be when we unloaded the trailers. We (Eddie Cheever Jr. and Goodyear) were second and fourth early in the week, then eighth and 10th later in the week. Then we fell out of the top 10, unfortunately. We took a run at it today just to get in the field. I think before I came here in 1990 I studied Rick Mears, and I saw how if something wasn't right he communicated well with the team to fix the problem. There are three races here - qualifications, the race to 450 miles and then going racing for the last 50 miles. It's like Mears used to do, adjust with every pit stop. If we're around after 450 miles, we're usually competitive even amongst controversy. I think we will have a competitive car in the race. We get along very well. It's like when I was with (Arie) Luyendyk, we aren't trying to outdo each other. He's a big help because he is experienced, and he's won here."
DIDIER ANDRÉ (#32 Galles Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "This is a very special track. It is famous even in my native France. I came here for the first time in 1988 and 1989, and this is my first time as a driver and its fabulous. We've improved our times all week. We did our fastest lap all week today, a 221 (mph) so that's a good sign. I've never been that fast in my life. We've worked hard all week, so I'm happy with the result for my team. I had a talk with Rick Galles. He told me if we weren't quick enough we would go out and try tomorrow." (About teammate Al Unser Jr.'s advice): "Al said, 'Don't worry about speed; it'll come to you.' He said to take it step by step and that has helped. We had a good speed for qualifying, and now the teams will focus on helping Casey (Mears) get back up to speed. I know he can go fast. We just need to pull together to get the whole team in the field."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51T #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "There's not much to say. It took us too long to run four laps. We had an electrical problem and didn't get to run any laps this morning. We changed engines and broke an alternator. We decided to go with the 51T car because it did a (2)22.4 (mph), but it was just too slow. We didn't do much justice for the Infiniti, so I was happy to see (Robbie) Buhl up there. Everything just kept catapulting after the morning, and this is definitely one of the worst first days I've ever had here. But, tomorrow is another day. This place brings you the highest highs and the lowest lows. Tomorrow our goal is to be the fastest car out there as is our goal everyday. If I can't win and Scott (Goodyear) can't win, I want Buhl to win. We are very much an Infiniti company." (About the IRL and CART): "I think the IRL has grown enormously. The technical talent has improved. I think the other series should focus on road racing. That is what they do well. The embarrassment in Texas was bad for open-wheel racing. It was bad for the IRL. If I owned stock in CART, I'd be selling it. I wish there wasn't a race in Charlotte because I've raced against (Dale) Jarrett and (Mark) Martin, and I guarantee you they would race here. This is the biggest race in the world."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "It really had been major emotions today. I certainly would call it my greatest accomplishment so far in racing. As a race driver, I think qualifying for the Indy 500 is the hardest single day you have. Honestly, I got up this morning, and I didn't know where I was going to sit. I thought I could be as high as the pole, or as far back as sixth or seventh. Today was the first race. I guess you could say we won that. Now it's on to the next race." (What did you do to occupy the six hours?): "I was fidgeting a lot. I wasn't able to relax a whole lot. I went up to support my teammate. My engineer and I watched the minutes tick." (About new engine program): "I tell you, we need to take a big hats off to Ilmor. They've bridged a huge gap from not having an engine on a dyno until December, til today." (About other drivers having trouble in Turn 1 today): "It's been a balance issue. The wind has changed on us all week. Yesterday was really bad with it blowing east to west. Today it was better because it was more north to south. I never had any of the understeer problems that everyone else had." (About feelings when Kelley Racing drivers were one and two): "For one, Mark had a rough day. He went out and ran a simulation run and really stepped it up in qualifying from this morning. Mark and I have a great relationship, now going into our fourth year (as teammates). It was like pit lane erupted when Mark went out there and posted that lap." (About the importance of a strong engine): "I think it truly is a package here. It's not just the engine. I expected Greg Ray to come out with a 227 (mph) or something. I carried some great corner speed here today. This is my favorite racetrack. I love it here."
TOM KELLEY (Owner, Kelley Racing): "This is a lot more fun than making a hole in one. To have the opportunity to go out and compete against (Team) Penske, (Michael) Andretti, (Chip) Ganassi (Racing Teams), Sam Hornish and the Panther (Racing) guys who won the first two races of the year and beat them is incredible. I was sitting in a restaurant with Mark (Dismore), my dad and PDM Racing and I told my dad, 'I want to race in the Indy 500,' and he said, 'This had better not cost me more than $500,000 before it's over.'" (About Dismore's accomplishment today): "I was crying. Mark has gone through a lot at this place. I have heard people say you should not become close with your drivers. Scott and Mark and I are the best of friends, and for me to give Mark the opportunity to go out and qualify fourth and do this (win the MBNA Pole with Sharp) is a tremendous honor." (His thoughts on the death of Ilmor founder Paul Morgan): "I found out this morning. (Roger) Penske and I were talking. Paul Morgan was the open-wheel racing fan in Ilmor. I know they approached this as a business decision, but they really wanted to be here. I know Ilmor put a lot of their own resources into this program. I can't say enough about what Ilmor has done for Kelley Racing. They didn't even have a car on the dyno six months ago. For them to put together a pole-winning engine in six months is phenomenal. It breaks my heart for Paul Morgan to miss this." (About his motivation to join the Indy Racing Northern Light Series): "We came to the IRL because it was a league where we saw an opportunity to win. You can't win in any series right out of the box, but we felt that opportunity was here. I came to my first Indy 500 when I was 11 and fell in love with the place." (About today): "I'm really proud of the job Scott's done. Him doing what he did and Mark having the opportunity to show his stuff is the highlight of my racing career."