SPARTA, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the Belterra Casino Indy 300 on Aug. 12 at Kentucky Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order): DONNIE BEECHLER...
SPARTA, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the Belterra Casino Indy 300 on Aug. 12 at Kentucky Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order):
DONNIE BEECHLER (No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I like the track. It's fast, and if you get the car handling, it's real quick. It's a wide racetrack, so there's a lot of room to pass. It just doesn't have a lot of banking, so you really do have to get the car set up, and we've got one of the best to work with when it comes to that. I'm looking forward to it."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Coming off our second-place finish in Nashville, we want to try to build on what we've accomplished to this point in the season and continue our run toward the top five and the top three in the points race. To do that, we have to maintain our consistency. We don't want to lose our focus trying to force something to happen; rather we just want to let each race develop and take it one race at a time. From a driver's standpoint regarding Kentucky Speedway, it helps to be coming back for a second time because you have a good feel for the racetrack, you know where the best line is, and you know the tendencies of the track. But each time you come back the racetrack changes a little bit, so you have to re-engineer the car some to compensate for how the track may have changed. I know they're saying Kentucky (Speedway) may have become a little rougher over the winter, so we'll be watching for that and making the appropriate adjustments."
BUZZ CALKINS (No. 12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "We should be in pretty good shape for Kentucky. We have had a good setup for the Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara on this kind of track in the past. The track, because of it's width, is especially conducive to good wheel-to-wheel racing." (About last year's race at Kentucky): "I think we would have had a good race at Kentucky last year if not for an incident in the opening laps that we got caught up in. We had made our way up to fourth place when a piece of debris took a chunk out of our front wing. We were able to finish the race, but because of the wing we had a huge push for the rest of the day." (About championship chase): "Hopefully we can come into Kentucky and be competitive. We are in a good position from a points perspective, and if we can finish the year up strongly we could end up with at least a top-five position for the year in the Northern Light championship."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "We tested at Kentucky two weeks ago, and the track is a lot bumpier than it was last year. Even with the bumps, though, our times have improved dramatically over last year, and the new Infiniti 35A continues to perform very well, particularly on the 1.5-mile ovals. We won at Kansas, and the Infiniti engine has been strong on every 1.5-mile oval that we've raced on this year. I'm confident that we'll do well at Kentucky."
AIRTON DARE (No. 88 1-800-BAR-NONE G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 2000 Indy Racing Rookie of the Year): "Well, I'm ready to jump back in the seat. I've had a nice break between these races, but I can't wait to get back in gear. The crew has been working real hard to get everything prepared for the Kentucky race. They deserve a good showing. A lot of this season's success has been because of consistency. They prepare consistent, predictable cars for me. Right now, we are looking to finish races, rack up some points. There isn't much room between the number six and 11 spots (in the standings). The points chase is really heating up for the top 10 teams, and I'm happy to be right there as the season winds down."
MARK DISMORE (No. 28 Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "It's a great racetrack. It's flatter than the other mile-and-a-halves we race on, but it does seem to have more grip. You can run two lines around it side by side, so it makes it easier to get through the slow cars. I really enjoyed the track last year. You could run two grooves, and it made the racing real exciting. It gave you options in traffic. We haven't tested there at all this year, so we're going there cold turkey. I still feel good about our chances to get a win there and even qualify really well because I've performed pretty well on the mile-and-a-halves. Unfortunately, I don't have the trophies to show for it, but the team's done really well on those tracks as far as coming up with a good racecar and a fast car." (Goals for the rest of the season): "My goal at this point is to at least win a race this year. We've actually had a realistic chance of winning all the races on the big tracks this year, but something has always held us back or stopped us from achieving that. Hopefully we can turn our luck around this time. The small tracks have really been our Achilles heel this year, including Nashville, which is more of a small track. It's been beyond frustrating for me, but I feel like I've got a shot to win wherever we go, and Kentucky's one of those places."
SARAH FISHER (No. 15 Walker Racing Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The test at Kentucky went very well for Walker Racing. We needed to regroup and get back on the horse for the last four remaining races. Kentucky provided us with a day to do just that. There were a lot of things we learned, but more importantly our communication, consistency and confidence is coming back to where it was last year. I am really excited about going to our next two tests as it is a continuation of our hard work to get back on top." (About Kentucky Speedway): "Even though the racing surface of the Kentucky track has changed completely from last year, the track has been working overtime to prepare the surface for when we return there Aug. 12. Goals for the Kentucky race include having a consistent car that feels comfortable enough to race to the top. As the season winds down, the importance of finishing in the top 10 in points weighs over our heads. The Kentucky race is the first race that we have to reorganize our program to win races."
SHIGEAKI HATTORI (No. 55 EPSON Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We're looking for a great race at Kentucky, perhaps our best this season. The team is on a roll. It took some time for all of us on the new #55 EPSON team to jell, but sure enough with patience and hard work, it is happening. We've been a consistent contender for the competition to deal with in every race, and the Belterra Casino Indy 300 will be no exception. We're less than five points out of being in the top 10 of the Northern Light Cup point standings, so our goal for this race is to get us in the top-10 status."
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Last year at Kentucky, Sam (Hornish) and I ran side by side for about nine laps. The track certainly caters to my style of racing; it's flat out and extremely smooth with lots of draft possibilities - it's very enjoyable. This year, Sam is with one of the best financed teams in the league and with that comes the testing. At Sam Schmidt Motorsports, we are currently developing that package. We have a tremendous amount of momentum that we are building on. We are going testing in St. Louis prior to Kentucky - which will be only my second time testing in these cars ever. I just feel really great about the team and the racing to come. I think you'll see a whole lot more of the side-by-side racing at Kentucky, and we are all really working hard to get our first victory."
ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We are really excited to get to Kentucky as we are kind of on a roll here. The team morale is at a high, and that is when it is time to do well. We really enjoyed the Nashville track and had no problems with the bumps, so I think we will use a similar shock package at Kentucky because of its bumps. Last year, I was not too strong there and have actually hit the wall there pretty good in testing, but I feel good about going into it this year."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "The Delphi team is really excited about going back to Kentucky Speedway. It's going to take the type of setup that we seem to be pretty switched on with at the mile-and-a-half tracks. It's a track that should be pretty similar to Kansas, and we certainly ran well there. We feel pretty confident going into a track like that. (Engineer) Jeff (Britton) ran well when he was there with Treadway Racing last year. We also had a pretty good test there last year but got knocked out the first race lap, so we really didn't get to race there. Of the races left this season, three of the four are mile-and-a-halves that we think we're going to run real well at, and Kentucky's the first of those." (About the championship chase): "Sam (Hornish) obviously has a huge lead. He's a couple of races from being able to score us out of the championship. From that standpoint, we can't worry about that. We just have to keep hammering at it. I'm just happy that Kentucky's a mile-and-a-half and not a mile. Maybe we can go there and do real well and elongate the process. Obviously, we've had a little bit more bad luck in a couple of races than Sam (Hornish) has, so I think that's what kept us behind. You just have to keep trying and see where the points fall once it's all over."
JEFF WARD (No. 35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "This team is due for a great race. Last year, I led 11 laps at Kentucky, so this is a track where I have a lot of confidence. It's a fun track. There's forgiveness in the 1.5-mile ovals, so you can afford to be a little off on handling. This will be an aggressive, intense weekend, which is my favorite kind of racing. We need a great engine, good tire management and a break from our bad luck, and we will produce a solid performance. This team has a great chance to win this race." (About recent testing): "We'll be stronger going into the final stretch of the season because of the testing time we've recently gotten in. The team missed out on some great testing opportunities earlier in the season, and it hurt us. We had been showing up at tracks on race weekend having to guess on a good setup, while the teams that had tested were making updates and perfecting their cars for qualifying and race day. We were going into these last few races two steps behind most of the other teams. You can tell a difference in our confidence and our results from the beginning of our season when we had tested to midseason when we had not. The more days you spend on the track, the better you are. I'm looking forward to this season's finale because we have great data and a great car we're working with. We won't have to waste anymore laps guessing."