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IRL: Las Vegas Pre Race Quotes

IRL: Las Vegas Pre Race Quotes
Sep 20, 1999, 5:47 AM

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 20, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the 500 on Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. PPG Pole qualifying is Sept. 25. BILLY BOAT ( ...

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 20, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the 500 on Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. PPG Pole qualifying is Sept. 25.

BILLY BOAT (#11 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "Now that Harrah's is our title sponsor, we're excited to come race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We'll have the support of all their local employees, and hopefully a little luck will come our way, as well. This is the first time we've raced in Las Vegas since Harrah's came on board as our sponsor, and if the showgirls are there, we'll be sure to have the most popular garage in the pit area."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 The Children's Beverage Group-Team Cheever-Infiniti Dallara/Infiniti/Goodyear, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): (About the championship chase -- Cheever is tied for seventh, 69 points out of first): "As far as we are concerned, we are absolutely in the hunt. The whole bunch of us are so close, it's almost ridiculous. We are completely focused on winning races, if not for the championship, then, for a top-three finish for the season. Mathematically, and with a little bit of luck and a lot of team work, our goals are attainable." (About the Infiniti engine): "We made the decision to partner with Infiniti earlier this year for many long-term as well as short-term reasons. In the short term, we want to win races for ourselves as well as our new engine partner. In the long term, we plan to be well ahead of others when the 3.5-liter era hits next year. We are currently testing pieces on the engine that should put us ahead of next year's learning curve by some of the other teams." (About the track): "This is a very tough track. When you come to a place like Las Vegas, that has less banking and a slick surface, it switches everyone's focus to issues of handling. Unlike other tracks we run on, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with the sun and the sand, quickly degenerates into the kind of conditions I thrive on ... slippery and difficult." (About the race): "It should be a great race. Our fields are tighter than ever; the hunt for the championship and the top-three slots is unbearably close, and our tire war is about to crescendo at one of the toughest tire tracks we race on. Tires are extremely important here, and you can go through them quickly. Since there is less banking, the demand on the tires is much greater. It's really more of an issue of "tire fatigue" than "tire wear." Because of this, we've done a lot of testing here with Goodyear. Our focus this weekend will be maximizing whatever grip is available in our tires, and getting our race and pit strategies to the point of flawlessness."

MARK DISMORE (#28 MCI WorldCom Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "Coming off a podium win at Colorado Springs, I feel very confident about our chances at Las Vegas. The MCI WorldCom team has been working so hard for me. They've been giving me a great car to drive. We've really started to mesh as a team. Finally, all the strong effort seems to be paying off. We're going to focus on doing the best we can, and hopefully, we'll be able to get another podium win. The championship is still close at this point. We definitely have a chance to be in the top five at the end of the season. We need to continue with what we are doing as a team, and with a little lady luck, things will turn out very positive."

SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear): "All I have to say going into this race is that we, the Panther Pack, still have an ace up our sleeve."

SCOTT HARRINGTON (#66 The CertainTeed Building Products Special, Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year points leader): "I think without a doubt we're as legitimate a contender as anybody out there. We've run third or better in our last four races, and we were fastest in practice at Pikes Peak. We're going to have to have a little bit of luck, and then we'll be there. I've never raced on the oval at Vegas before, but I drove in a sports-car race on the road course a couple of years ago. It's a little more unique than the other ovals because it's not as banked. I wish we could have tested there, but we just don't have a testing budget. We hope to have the setup on the CertainTeed car close when it comes out of the transporter, and then we'll just have to work harder than everybody else when practice starts." (About possible changes in strategy as season comes to close): "Not really, you don't have as much strategy when you don't have much of a budget. We just have one car and one engine, so we certainly have to play it very conservatively. We'd like that Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year Award. We really need to have a solid finish at Vegas. If that means being a little more conservative, then that's what we have to do." (About running in sports-car race at LVMS): "I drove an Oldsmobile GTS endurance car with Dick Greer in a race on the road course there at night, and that race was very memorable. The speedway was supposed to be all lit up, so we didn't run any headlights on our car. However, as it turned out the infield wasn't lit up, so it was pretty hairy getting around there in the dark with no headlights!" (About other activities in Vegas during race week): "I'm looking forward to spending some time at the Las Vegas Hilton, which is going to be an associate sponsor of our team for the 500. It has a golf course which I'd really like to play on. As far as the casinos go, I know how to pull the arm on a slot machine, but the only game I know how to play is blackjack, and I'm not a very skilled player. If I was going to play any other table game, I might as well light the money on fire. I'd also like to catch a show in Vegas if there is time. I would like to see the impersonator Danny Gans. He's supposed to be really good."

JOHN HOLLLANSWORTH JR. (#42 CompuCom-Lycos-TeamXtreme Dallara/Aurora/Firestone): "We have not been pleased with our finishes in the past two races. We have qualified in the top ten for the last four races, but our race finishes have not been there due to getting collected in other driver's on-track problems (Dover) or our own mechanical difficulty (PPIR). We plan to turn this situation around at Las Vegas."

BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "The 500 - this is where the teams and drivers of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League make or break their championship aspirations. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one outstanding racing facility. It is a fast, wide, relatively flat and smooth racing surface. The surface at Las Vegas is very slippery, very hard to get a hold of. This surface and level of grip actually change with temperature and sunlight. Changing conditions of this nature present a particularly difficult challenge for the drivers and teams. When I think of the city of Las Vegas, I think entertainment, excitement, bright colors and competition. This is very similar to the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, making this a great city for fans and competitors to take in the Indy Racing experience. The Pep Boys Indy Racing League has constantly proven its level of competition this year. It is not uncommon for the entire field to qualify within hundreds of a second. With competition this closely matched, track position in the race is critical for success. One of the major factors in good track position is speed and efficiency in a team and driver's pit stops. The Pep Boys Indy Racing League competitors have so much talent and skill. The rules create such parity of competition that to win or finish on podium, a driver and his team cannot afford even the smallest mistake. I am fortunate to have a very talented and quick team capable of gaining track position through amazing pit stops. As we near the end of our season, with the championship on the line there will be a lot of exciting side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel racing. The Delta Faucet-Coors Light-number 91-Hemelgarn Racing team and driver look forward to a good race."

ROBBY McGEHEE (#55 Energizer Advanced Formula Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, 1999 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year): "I love going to Las Vegas. It's like going to another planet, not just another city. There's so much to see and do. I'm not a gambler at all. I learned that lesson when I was 16! I just love the nightlife and the excitement. In fact, I'm staying over a few days after the race so I can really enjoy the place. This is my first time racing there in an Indy car. We had some bad luck there in 1996 in an F2000 race. Brake problems put me out of the race. Not a very memorable weekend. I'm really looking forward to racing there this weekend. It's great that we can say that. We had a good run at Pikes Peak after making all the '99 updates to our Energizer Advanced Formula car. I could see the crew, my family, everybody having fun at the racetrack once again. It makes all the difference in the world when you come to the racetrack, and you feel you will run in the top five or 10 in qualifying and in the race. I'm really happy with our package. This is fun." (About the track): "Las Vegas isn't your typical Bruton Smith track in that it is, supposedly, flatter than Charlotte and Texas. I like that. You have to set up the car differently. It's more a driver's type of racetrack ... a great equalizer. You have a chance to use all of your downforce, not just run flat out all the way around. It's more like Indy. Actually, they say it's a big Pikes Peak. (About being in the hunt for the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year Award): "Sure, it's one of our goals. But I'm not thinking about it like, 'Let's win it or else.' We'll go with the same rules we've set for ourselves earlier in the season. Let's go out there and finish races, first. The rookie of the year thing is not going to change our philosophy of running 'til the end, and hopefully we'll keep finishing well and the rookie of the year will take care of itself."

JOE NEGRI (Group Manager, GM Raceshop Engineering IRL/Road Racing): "The Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 can reach another milestone at the 500 when it completes its 100,000th racing lap in Indy Racing League competition. Coming into this event, Oldsmobile drivers have already completed nearly 99,000 laps in the 27 races since the league introduced its 4.0-liter, naturally aspirated engine formula. With 25 of the 26 entries for the 500 using Oldsmobile engines, we anticipate reaching this milestone before the 50th lap. When you recall that General Motors showed the IRL Aurora V8 for the first time in Las Vegas in September 1996, it is a remarkable accomplishment for Oldsmobile teams and engine builders to have achieved this record in such a relatively short time. While we are proud of the IRL Aurora V8's past accomplishments, we are now totally focused on the 3.5-liter development program for 2000. Several Indy Racing League teams have scheduled track tests with prototype engines, and the GM Raceshop is testing engines on the dyno. We are very close to releasing our initial recommendations on 3.5-liter engine specifications so teams can begin to order parts for next season."

GREG RAY (#2 Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, Pep Boys Indy Racing League points leader): "The championship is a big thing for yourself, the team, your family. Mathematically, we've got a shot at it, but so do a lot of other teams. I just try to stay focused. Be light-spirited about it. When race weekend comes, I just need to stay out of pocket, out of trouble and work well with the team. It took us what, 18 races before we won. It may be 18 before we win again." (How do you like the 1.5-mile tracks, a lot of your success has come on 1-mile ovals?): "I enjoy the mile-and-a-half tracks. Especially the high-banked tracks. Las Vegas is as close as it gets to mixing a track like Texas (Motor Speedway) with Indianapolis (Motor Speedway). Las Vegas is much flatter than Texas and Atlanta. It's the only big track we run on, besides Indianapolis, that doesn't have the high banks. It's a great facility." (You're aware of the mathematical odds of claiming the championship after Las Vegas, right?): "If I finish 12 points ahead of Scott (Goodyear) or any other driver, we mathematically win. But you shouldn't count points. You need to just concentrate and stay focused on the race. If you look at the last couple of years, mathematically a couple of drivers could have won the championship but they didn't have very good luck at the end (of the season). So you never know what may happen. At the end of the day, I've done a really good job about not thinking about it. I'm working in the garage, on the house. Basically I'm trying to forget about that stuff as much as I can and avoid questions like this."

ELISEO SALAZAR (#6 Nienhouse Motorsports Racing Special G Force/Aurora/Firestone, winner of this event in 1997. Salazar is celebrating his 25th anniversary in racing at this event): "I'm really looking forward to the competition. I really like Las Vegas. I believe it is the most challenging of the big tracks, taking a solid effort in handling and driving. We recently tested there and have posted times as quick as the other front-runners, which makes for a good combination of good feelings."

SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "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 came away with very positive results. I truly feel if we do well the next two races, we can end the 1999 year in the top three. The championship points race is so close right now. It's fantastic. This league is so competitive, and I think it will be very tight up until when the last checkered flag waves. I believe very strongly in my Delphi team, and we need to go out there and finish as close to the front as possible. Las Vegas is one of my favorite cities on the Pep Boys Indy Racing League tour. I love the city, and the atmosphere is just awesome. I think it's a great opportunity for people in the local area to watch some great open-wheel racing."

JEFF WARD (#21 Yahoo-Merchant Online Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "We ran some aero testing on the Yahoo! car at Texas, which will help us at Las Vegas. Vegas is more of a downforce track during the race. We ran some stuff at Texas that we'll be running in Vegas. At Las Vegas, you're flat out in qualifying. You can be flat out in the race for 10 to 12 laps, but you've got to lift for lapped cars. It's not like the high-banked tracks where you can still keep it flat-footed even with the lapped cars. Plus it depends on how slick the track gets. We'll be running there with the Craftsman Truck series and the Winston West series. If the track gets slick, it changes everything. Las Vegas has more to do with the setup and how well your car handles for the full run. It's more of a setup track than Texas. You've got to do the same thing at every race you go to. You have to try to get the car handling well in practice, try to do your best in qualifying and run well in the race." (About finishing 23rd last month at Pikes Peak): "I forget about the last race. I don't dwell on it. Even if you won the last race, it's still the last race. You get to be either happy or bummed out about it for a few days and then you move on to concentrate on the next one. We had a bad race at Colorado, and certainly we want to have a good race here, but that doesn't change why you want to have a good race, we want to have a good race every weekend." (About past races at Vegas): "I've run well at Las Vegas. I've run up front every time we've been there. Hopefully things will go our way there this weekend. I want to win a race. I just want to finish off the year strong. I know the championship is pretty much out of my grasp. I had lunch with Greg Ray last week, and I was just joking around, but I told him I was going to tie him up and lock him in a closet to beat him for the championship. To win the championship, I'd have to catch the guys in front of us, and one of them would have to have a problem. My goals for the season are to finish off strong, running up front, hopefully with a win. Second in the championship is not out of the question. We're only 25 points out of second place. That's obtainable, easy if we win a race."

Source: IRL/IMS

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Dick Greer