NICOLAS MINASSIAN ( ...
NICOLAS MINASSIAN (#33T Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
(About not getting to drive or qualify until today):
"Target team and Chip (Ganassi) just want to win the race. I am with the best team, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Tony Stewart and Jimmy Vasser did a hell of a job this week. I just jumped in the car this morning and ran a few laps. You just have to get in and do it. The only thing I think, I probably didn't push hard enough on my way out (of pit exit when qualifying)."
(Do you think you can win this race?):
"Why not, but you know I'm just going to take the experience. I think Jimmy and Tony are going to be fighting for the win. I never do a 500-mile race. I race in Nazareth and that's quite different than here. The Target team just put the car together for me, and I qualified it."
(When did you find out you were going to qualify today): "I was on my way back home (in Indianapolis). They called me and said you have to come back out to the track. You're going to run Indianapolis. It just came as a surprise, but it's a good one. It's exciting. Everywhere you go is racing. I go to the super market and racing is everywhere."
DAVEY HAMILTON (#99T Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"We were trying so hard to get that team together (for the Indy 500) without sponsorship. This is what it is all about. All the others are warm-ups for the Indy 500, but thank God the streak is still alive (streak of starting in every Indy Racing event)."
"Actually, I went faster the first lap out than my best of the month. If it wasn't for Kelley Racing, Treadway-Hubbard (Racing), Firestone and Sam Schmidt, who knows where we'd be. My goal was to make the Indy 500, but my next one is to win this race and then the championship. We finally got it. The car is as free as we've had it. The Ilmor (engine) gave us the power. Thank God we're in, and we're in with a decent speed. I feel better than I ever have as a race driver. I've got the confidence, but you've got to have the equipment and the funding. Today it's so calm that my car didn't really change at all in the four laps. I was able to run flat out. I've got guys who have won so many races (referring to Gary Bettenhausen, Billy Vukovich Jr., and his father, Kenny Hamilton), trying to help me get in this race. That is so special."
JERET SCHROEDER (#9T Purity Products Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"It's a major relief. PDM has built two cars this past week. Yesterday we took the new car out - it was built in 24 hours - and went 210 (mph). Last night, the crew worked real hard to get the car ready. We went out this morning, and the car went 222 (mph). I knew we were ready. Conditions today were the best I've seen all week. No wind, temperatures optimal. The car had good balance, so I knew I could attack the corners at speed. I had confidence PDM would give me a good car to do this. I looked down, and I saw 223 (mph). I didn't think it was right, but I knew it was right. The car had a little push in three corners. On the last lap, I went into (Turn) 3, if I had no problems, I knew we would be in the show. I was thinking about my mom. Today, this one's for her. Her name is Nadine."
"It's fantastic. I told myself to not think about being in the show. Everyone has given 120%. I want to thank Tom Kelley and Jim Freudenburg for lending us a motor. The last time they did that, I finished second at Vegas. Maybe they are my lucky charm. I'm still a little concerned about the time, but I think I'll go out to dinner tonight."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#44T Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone):
"I was happy to get the opportunity. I knew I had one shot. I had no idea. I thought I was supposed to concentrate on the Japan race, then Chip (Ganassi) gave me this opportunity. It's a big race, the biggest race in the world. This morning was fast. I thought I could be faster. I knew I had to do laps of 222 (mph) to be safe, and when I saw three laps of 224 I slowed down on the fourth (lap) to be safe. I came here everyday (this week), tried to learn from Tony (Stewart) and Jimmy (Vasser) because they have much more experience than me. I have to thank Jimmy and Tony for giving me a great car. I went out on one outing this morning and did a 225. I said, 'This car is awesome. We can qualify on, like, the front row.' If I had the opportunity to win the pole, I would've tried harder. I look forward to the race now. I know it will be really tough. Now I have to practice and get my marks down. I know we have to have good pit stops, good restarts; I think we can be good. It's the biggest race ever in my life. All the drivers in the world dream of racing here. It was a big surprise yesterday afternoon when Chip (Ganassi) called me to race. A very funny thing happened. The guys said, 'Bruno and Nicolas can go home.' I just got to 16th Street and the phone rings. I thought maybe I had an appearance, but they said, 'No, you're going to race.' I only had one hour to practice. Even the Formula One drivers I know - I know a lot of Formula One drivers - say, 'When I retire from Formula One maybe I'll try Indy.'" (Asked if he wishes he had the opportunity to qualify on MBNA Pole Day): "I don't think so. The decision is done. You can't look back. Scott Dixon won the (CART) race (May 6) starting 20th."
(Asked if he is comfortable at Indianapolis, given his limited track time):
"On this track I'm never, ever comfortable. Any driver who says he is, is lying. If you do two laps well, then the wind will change. You can run really good then suddenly the wind or conditions change. The race will be more difficult. The important thing here is to get good experience and a good car. Tony and Jimmy gave me a good car."
(Asked if he thinks he will be uncomfortable wearing the HANS device for 500 miles here):
"No. I'm very comfortable with the HANS device. I thank Jimmy because I'm wearing his HANS device because mine is in Japan." (Asked if he thinks Ganassi intended to run him and Minassian all along): "I don't think so. He was very brave to do it. The wind and conditions could have changed considerably from yesterday, so things could have been very different for us."
CHIP GANASSI: "My hats off to Tony Stewart and Jimmy Vasser. They did the work to get the guys into the show. Without them it wouldn't have been possible."