IRL: Indy500: Rookie press conference excerpts 2001-05-25

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: "I did rookie orientation. I was very good, was the fastest with a 220-mph average speed. After, Chip (Ganassi) decided to put in two experienced drivers to replace me and Nicolas. All the week of preparation for Pole Day I came...

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: "I did rookie orientation. I was very good, was the fastest with a 220-mph average speed. After, Chip (Ganassi) decided to put in two experienced drivers to replace me and Nicolas. All the week of preparation for Pole Day I came every day to the track, trying to learn and to follow what Team Target was going to do with the car. But I knew I'm not going to drive, but maybe one day in the future I can come and drive in the Indy 500. Saturday after both Target cars qualified, me and Nicolas were both going home and we got a call from the team, and Chip told us he decided to use both 'T' cars to give me a Nicolas a chance to qualify for the race. I felt pretty happy but I knew I had a big challenge. Luckily I think I did four or five laps with the car. The car was feeling good, and I put a new set of tires on the car, came out and did a first lap of 225.2, five miles faster than I ever did in rookie orientation. Went straightaway to put the car on the line to qualify. My goal that day really was to qualify for the race. Went out and after three days of qualifying I was the fastest rookie, I felt really good. Until now I've done everything the best that I could do. I'm really happy for that."

CORY WITHERILL: "It's one of those things, I believe in myself and believe in my crew, and I just had full confidence that I could do it. The only thing I lacked was time in the car and experience on the track. Each day we went out on the track, we got faster and faster and more comfortable in the car. I knew we were going to get there. It was just a matter of time and getting comfortable with the track. I talked to a lot of people. I talked to Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser a lot and just got advice from a lot of people. We were on the edge of 220, and on Bump Day, we got it all clicking at the right time. We did 220, 221, 222, and that's when we decided to put the car in line because we figured 222 would be good enough to get in the race."

JON HERB: "Well, I felt a little like Dale Earnhardt when he won Daytona finally, when everybody came out to shake his hand. I pulled in and had no communication with my crew. They never turned it (radio) on. I don't know if they didn't want to bother with it. It's not that important in qualifying runs because there's not much to say. I was concentrating on my laps. Much like Cory, I wasn't surprised, I believe in my guys. They're the best crew that I've worked with, the best group of guys I could be around, the best opportunity in motorsports I've ever had. I'm learning a lot and developing a lot because I've had great opportunities I've never had before. That run was real special to me because it was just done according to plan. We moved to the NAC (engine) program out of the Chicago, and the first time we put that in and the first time I ran it was qualifying morning in practice, and then I ran a 221.8 so we knew we had some good speed. We also knew the car was working well from before even though I ran a 219 lap, my fastest lap I wasn't scrubbing through corners. So the car was working real well. My fastest straightaway speed was a 223 or 222.5, but we still ran a 219 lap, so that tells me the car was working well. But we didn't have the horsepower to pull the right gear. Once we got that figured out, it was fairly easy."

NICOLAS MINASSIAN: "I was really happy to do the Indy 500, and then Chip's decision was a team decision to not put us in the car. As I was going home in the car with my wife, I said 'I have to go back to the track.' I was a bit scared, I didn't know what was going to happen. When I arrived here I was told, 'We have to find everything, all your stuff because you're going to qualify tomorrow.' I think it's great, even better than if you do it normally, you know? He's (Chip) is funny like that, you know? They gave me a good car, Jimmy and Tony did a good job setting up the car. I just had to jump in the car."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (What's it like to be a rookie of sorts again?): "I'm here because I am a rookie at this track. In terms of running at Indianapolis, it's such a technical track. I have no clue in the race what is going to happen. The wind here is so crucial at this circuit. If it turns to this way, all of a sudden it's changing the car. But yes, I have experience in 500 miles. It's a three hours race, about five or seven pit stops, so it's a long race. You should not try to decide anything or make a stupid move in the beginning. These things happen, I think. I'm still learning every time I go out there. This whole month definitely it's amazing how the procedure works here. The whole month you're working in the car, working on the strategy, making sure that everything is pretty well done. In fact, I was mentioning to one of my team guys, when I did my 11th qualifying time I thought it would be faster. And then I was watching all the rest of the guys on Bump Day, and I said '11th is not that bad, I'm pretty happy.' That's why this race here, and this track is so special, because to be in the race is a big deal. Winning this race would be fantastic. I respect everybody out there, even the guys here. Actually they're very good drivers and I'm sure it will be a great show. All of us are going to try that this 'rookie' name, it's not out there. We're going to prove that we're capable of doing a good job."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Al Unser Sr. , Johnny Rutherford