LAS VEGAS, Wednesday, April 12, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the Vegas Indy 300 on April 22 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: ANDY BROWN (Chief engineer, Panther...
LAS VEGAS, Wednesday, April 12, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the Vegas Indy 300 on April 22 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
ANDY BROWN (Chief engineer, Panther Racing, #4 Scott Goodyear): "For the LVMS track, it is key we use a setup for the car that allows the #4 Pennzoil (Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone) to run well and fast in traffic. We need to keep in mind the higher altitude and the impact it could have on the car's downforce."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Riley & Scott/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner) "The Las Vegas event last year was probably our best race with the Infiniti engine. We showed that we could run at the front and challenge for the win. Nissan and Infiniti have done a lot of work since then, and we've been very competitive in the first two races. We'd like to not only continue that trend but also finish off what we started at Vegas last year." (About LVMS): "The Las Vegas circuit is a great facility which always produces some gut-wrenching, exciting racing. This will be the first 1.5-mile oval that we race on with the 3.5-liter engines. With the new engines, it's very important to keep your momentum up when you are passing someone. If you take your foot off the throttle, it's very hard to reaccelerate, so developing a rhythm is essential. A driver must judge his passes very carefully. Las Vegas will definitely be a challenging race." (About the Indy Racing Northern Light Series): "I enjoyed hearing Tony George and Bob Reif's thoughts on the future of the series during this week's media tour (in Indianapolis). Like them, I look forward to having more races and really growing the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. We now need to focus on bringing more events to the level of Texas, Orlando and Indianapolis."
TYCE CARLSON (#20 Flamingo-Las Vegas/Hubbard-Immke Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Our goals for the Vegas Indy 300 are the same as for every other race: To have a consistent race car, to sit in the top-five in qualifying and definitely win the race. If we come up short of winning, we at least expect to finish in the top five." (About LVMS): "The special challenges that LVMS presents is that it's a flatter race track than most 1.5-mile tri-ovals that we run. It's more difficult to get the car set up just right because you don't have the banking to help handicap the car, plus the track tends to change quite a bit during the race like Indy does. We feel really well prepared for the race this year, however, since our private test went so well in comparison to some of the teams that always seem to run up front." (About testing): "Even though we've just wrapped up what we consider a very successful test for us here at Indy, running in the 218's today (Tuesday) by ourselves in the cold, there isn't much information from IMS that can be utilized going back to Vegas. The setup from Phoenix tends to be more useful at LVMS, so considering we set the fastest race lap during the Phoenix event maybe that gives us something to build on. What the Indy test does do is keep us motivated and keep the cobwebs off the drivers, and it enables you to get up to speed quicker because you're used to the feel of the car at similar speeds."
MARK DISMORE (#28 On Star-GM BuyPower Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Points and more points is what we are shooting for. The testing this season has gone very well out there (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) with our #28 OnStar team. We need to have a little luck and finish the race strong. We need to pick-up the momentum for Indy."
SCOTT HARRINGTON (#17 Nienhouse Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "You can't know how glad I am to be back! I'm thrilled to be on the Nienhouse Motorsports team and driving the American Hotel Register Company Dallara. Larry Nash and I go way back; he's the team manager for that team, and he and I have worked together on and off for 15 years. We won Formula Atlantic races together, and he was my crew chief when we won the Shelby Can-Am pro series title. So although this is a new team for me, in many ways it's like coming home because Larry and I already respect each other and we work well together. Being an owner/driver is rewarding, but it's also a huge challenge. We thought we were set with sponsorship for the 2000 season, but that fell apart at the beginning of December. We had great results last year and we won the Rookie of the Year title, but without a sponsor we just can't compete. It was terrible to be on the sidelines and miss the first two races, and it's terrific to be back. I' m looking forward to going to Vegas, and I'd like to get a top-five finish. That would bring our team into the top 20 in points, which would bring us bonus money going into Indy. Las Vegas is one of my favorite tracks that the Indy Racing Northern Light Series visits. We were fast there last year. We were a legitimate contender to win last year, but we brushed the wall early when everybody stacked up on a yellow and we broke an A-arm. We lost several laps in the garage area replacing it, but we came back to set the third-fastest lap of the race. If we hadn't had that problem we would have been right there. We're going to be running a 2000 Dallara. The field is going to be extremely tight, but we really hope to bring a good finish home for the American Hotel Register Company. This race is extremely important to all of us because it's the final prep for the Indy 500. The Indy Racing Northern Light Series is the premier open-wheel series in the world, and it' s where I want to be."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#18 Hornish Bros. Trucking-Advantage Powder Coating G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate): "Since we will be in the '99 car, I am not expecting a lot in Las Vegas. We are looking to finish anywhere from 10th to 15th. We already know that the '99 car is aerodynamically slower than the 2000's on tracks over 1 mile in length. We need to go out there, run the race, finish and go to Indy in the top 20 in points. A higher finishing position at Las Vegas would be nice, but I don't think I will push to win, knowing what needs to be done to head into Indy with good chances for high achievement there." (About LVMS): "Las Vegas is going to prepare me for Indy because it is a 300-miler, and it is longer than the previous races (Orlando and Phoenix). It will be a closer simulation to what Indy will be both physically and mentally. It tests the mind more, you have to concentrate on lines and drafting, and it is required that I do it over a longer period of time. I have been working out and running practice races on my computer to keep both my physical and mental stamina up. I can't wait to get to Las Vegas, to keep getting more track time in preparation for Indy. Indy is the biggest race of the season; the whole year is built around it. I'm sure we will have a good showing there, then we can move on to the second half of the year." (About new team developments): "We have had a lot of new and exciting things happen at PDM in the last week or so. We received a 2000 Dallara chassis. We are really excited about that because we have one more piece of the puzzle put together. We have so many possible sponsors right now that we are talking to, but how everything feels right now, we aren't too far away. We are pretty much on a shoestring budget right now, and when we land a couple of these sponsors we'll be on track for some great finishes this year. I have to thank the IRL for being here. If it wasn't for this series, myself and a lot of young American drivers would be watching from a TV at home and not from the cockpit. I know we are close with some of our sponsors, and if we come up with our full budget we just might be a threat to some of the veteran drivers who won the first two races."
RONNIE JOHNCOX (#30 WorldBestBuy.com G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Personally, my goal is to be a little bit more competitive than I was in Phoenix and to get a solid, top-10 finish. My goal for the team is to mainta in a good, solid points standing and to develop a strong competitive platform heading into the Indy 500. Las Vegas is a challenging track, and one of the keys to doing well there is keeping a good, balanced racecar underneath you for the entire race. The track is so big, wide and smooth that it's almost too fast for the amount of banking that it has. In the race, you can't get so caught up in going as fast as possible right off the bat because you will trip yourself up and lose the car 20 laps into the run. The main thing to focus on is to develop a race car that will do well in the wind and the traffic and be able to run that way for 300 miles. Las Vegas is a really good track to prepare ourselves for Indy. For most, it's an opportunity to run their speedway package before Indy, so it becomes a valuable test for the big show. For us, it's a different situation because we'll be running our Riley & Scott (chassis) for the first time after the race in Vegas, so the benefits that the other guys will get from this race aren't necessarily there for us. So, for us, the biggest thing that this race provides for us going in to the month of May is another opportunity to get out and get more experience working together as a team. For me, it's another opportunity to develop myself by getting out and racing wheel to wheel with everyone." (Team and personal developments): "As far as developments with the team, we're switching to the Riley & Scott chassis. There has been a major development in the Johncox team, because my wife gave birth to my son, Winfield Lee Johncox, on March 29th. Even though he won't be able to see his dad race for a long time, just knowing he is in the world gives me the feeling of a very supportive family behind everything I do. Knowing that you have a family there to support you makes the bad times easier to take and the good times even better. I'm enjoying life right now more than I ever have before."
JIMMY KITE (#27 Founders Bank-Blueprint Racing Special G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Do you want to know about the race or the showgirls? Either way, Vegas is a great place to have a Northern Light Indy race. I'm looking forward to going back there. The last time I ran Vegas (1998), I had my highest Indy-car finish (sixth), and I think we can better that. We should be in very good shape. The Indy test taught us a lot about the 2000 G Force and Sonny (Meyer, Blueprint Racing engine and transmission manager) and Ed (Rachanski, Blueprint Racing co-owner) have promised me some great engines. We all feel really pumped coming out of Indy with the second-fastest time on the only day we ran and the first day the 2000 car ever turned a wheel! The Founders Bank/ZMAX team is really working well together and, so far, we have exceeded what we had hoped for with the team and the new car. Vegas is one of my favorite places. Ed has a house in Henderson, so we really want to run well out there for him in front of his friends and neighbors. Selfishly, I personally can't wait to race this new car! It should be an awful lot of fun. I think this Blueprint team is really proving it has what it takes, and we are all eager to show that at Vegas." (About building momentum for Indianapolis at Las Vegas): "This sport is so much about momentum. I really feel like we have it going for us right now. We had a disappointment at Phoenix, but we had such a strong weekend before that. The test at Indy, with the 2000 car under those windy and cold conditions, just shows me that the momentum carried from the '99 Founders Bank/ZMAX entry to the 2000 chassis. With the new car, we feel like we can run with any of these guys. A solid run at Vegas will prime us for a great month of May, and Indy is what got us all into this sport anyway! If we can qualify strong and run up front all day at Las Vegas and really have a shot to win there, we can roll into the Speedway knowing we can do it for the '500,' too."
ELISEO SALAZAR (#11 Rio A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The Vegas Indy 300 is a very big race for us for several reasons, including the fact that our sponsor The Rio Casino & Hotel is located in Vegas. Because I have won there in the past, there will be more Chileans going to that race than usual. And I would also like to be in the top three in points going into Indy." (Why do you like the track?): "I really like the track, and not just because I won there. I think it is the most demanding 1½-mile track that we race on because it is fairly flat compared to the others (of that length), which have a lot more banking. Because it doesn't have much banking, Vegas demands more skill to run flat out, which you try to do in qualifying. So I'm looking forward to running there."
JERET SCHROEDER (#6 Armour Swift-Eckrich/Tristarmall.com Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate): "I tested at Vegas earlier this year, but I've never driven in a race there before. You have to be really particular about your line there. The track is pretty easy to get around; there is a lot of extra road. You have to concern yourself with your steering-wheel input and how much road you're using. You have to figure out the shortest way around the track without scrubbing off too much speed. I think the recognition that we got for running in the top five at Phoenix was great for Armour Swift-Eckrich, Tri Star Motorsports and myself, but in terms of how I'm going to do at Vegas it doesn't apply. Every race is a clean slate. You have to concentrate on finding a setup that is comfortable and have a car that will go the distance, and then you also have to have good racing luck. I'm fortunate enough to have a good sponsor this year so that I can do more Indy car races this year than I've ever been able to do before. There is no substitute for testing. It gives both myself and the team the opportunity to work on changes to the car and to arrive at a good setup. It gives the team a chance to make changes to see what I like and what the car likes, and to extrapolate more speed out of it. It all boils down to seat time."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems-MCI WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I'm looking to do very well at Las Vegas. We 've tested on the 1.5-mile oval a couple of times this season, and we have come away with very positive results. I'm very confident with the race car we have. The Las Vegas track is a tough one. We're always searching for grip, and the surface out there is very slippery due to all the sand. We're aiming to have a good race. Of course, we want to win, but it will be extremely important to grab points. A top-five finish will be fine for us. We need to do well in order to go into Indy on a high note."