BROOKLYN, Mich., Tuesday, July 22, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Firestone Indy 400 on Sunday, July 27 at Michigan International Speedway. Practice starts July 25, with practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying on...
BROOKLYN, Mich., Tuesday, July 22, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Firestone Indy 400 on Sunday, July 27 at Michigan International Speedway. Practice starts July 25, with practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying on July 26 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 1998 IndyCara Series champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"That Michigan International Speedway track is fast and fun, but it hasn't been very nice to me. In 2000, I had a good car there, and Christian Fittipaldi ran into me. Then, Max (Papis) and I got together as we were racing for the lead late in the 500-mile race. I like racing at MIS, and I hope I can get the Pioneer/Miller Lite car on the top of the podium this time. I think that place owes a little something after all of the laps I have led there. We obviously have struggled a little bit with some of the tracks we've been new to this year, so we have been trying to learn about this car. But, I think MIS will be more familiar to our team. I expect our Team Rahal guys to produce a strong car for Michigan. That is a race I would love to win. Maybe the third time is the charm. What's positive in this season for us is that we are still in fifth position in the championship, but it's no secret we have been struggling to find speed. This 'full throttle, no difficulty racing,' as many have referred to IndyCar (Series) racing, has proven to be quite the opposite for us. It is exactly the opposite, extremely difficult and so far proven to be one of the most difficult things we've ever done. The difference between 'hero and zero' is, for the most part, a few hundredths of a second away since it is so many cars that are competitive. A few hundredths of a second is nothing in the real world we are all living in, but step inside the racetrack and I guarantee you, it takes on a whole different meaning."
ALEX BARRON (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"I'm really looking forward to going to Michigan this weekend with the Hollywood/Mo Nunn team. We had a great time last weekend at Nashville and managed to get a pretty decent result with a very short time to get everything done. This weekend, we'll have a more traditional two days of practice and qualifying to fine-tune our Toyota (Panoz) G Force package, and I think we'll be even more comfortable come race day. I love the big tracks like Michigan and Fontana. Michigan is a very historic place. I've raced there twice before when it was on the CART schedule, but this should be my best chance to go out and compete for a race win there. This race is longer than the typical IRL race, so it will be important to not only be fast and to stay up front, but you have to take very good car of the equipment and stay out of trouble. That's what we did at Nashville, and we were right there at the end of the race. It should be a lot of fun, once again."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"As a Detroit native, Michigan International Speedway is the closest thing I have to a home track. I'm always eager to get back here again, even given the horsepower issue we face this year. It may make for a little tougher weekend here, but we're still working hard on the elements that are in our control to make sure we're around at the end. Points are more important that ever, and the Purex/Aventis team is committed to making every opportunity count."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"I'm really looking forward to this weekend's race in Michigan. Superspeedways are always fun and make for lots of exciting action. We're coming off of the Nashville race, where there was only one groove, so passing was very difficult. Now we're headed to a track that will have three lines, so there should be a lot of passing and close wheel-to-wheel racing. Michigan International Speedway has a lot of tradition. It's a great American racetrack where open-wheel cars have been competing for a long time, so we always have a good time out there. Marlboro Team Penske has built up a lot of momentum in the past few races, and we need to carry that into this weekend's event and hopefully finish strong again."
GIL de FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"I've been racing at Michigan International Speedway since 1995 and have always enjoyed myself there. It's just a great track for racing. There are lots of grooves, so you can go two or three wide. It's a different type of track from where we've been competing lately. We'll be drafting all day, and it will be difficult to break away. There will be plenty of close racing, and it should be a great event for the fans, with the winner being decided in the final laps. Marlboro Team Penske's performance has been improving on the superspeedways, and hopefully we'll have another competitive weekend."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"We tested up in Michigan last week, and things went very well. It's going to be an exciting race, that's for sure. There's going to be a lot of side-by-side racing, and it's probably going to come down to the last lap. I'm looking forward to it. With our second-place finish in Nashville, we've closed the points gap on Tony (Kanaan). If we can become a little more consistent, I think that we'll have a great shot at the championship. Team Target has been giving me great cars this year, and the Toyota engines have been very strong."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 GMAC/AOL/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"We had a tough go of it at Nashville last weekend, not only with areas out of our control, but as well as those that should have been in our control. We look forward to Michigan though, to have some variables worked out, and as well to see the new Chevrolet engine perform under driver Sam Hornish. Still, our second-biggest race in the schedule at a 2-mile oval track will be a challenge in light of our history with horsepower, but we'll change gears to focus on drafting and see where we can go with it. From there, we have our sights set on our turn with the new engine in an upcoming race, and we expect great things to happen."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"I'm looking forward to running at Michigan this coming weekend. Michigan is very similar to California Speedway where I had a good test with the Conseco car at the beginning of the season. Going into Michigan. I feel a lot more confident, so I think we'll do pretty good. Plus, we won the Infiniti Pro Series race there last year, so I have some good memories."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It is nice to go to a track where I have raced before. The Archipelago/Motorola team also tested here last week, and we ran bunch of laps and learned some things. We left the test with more ideas than we started with, so it was a very productive test. We had a really good car at Nashville, but we also had some bad luck bite us. If we continue to have good cars, the finishes will come."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series champion):
"I really consider Michigan International Speedway to be my home track, as it's only about one hour from my home. A lot of fans come to the race to cheer for the Pennzoil Panther team, and it's great to look up in the stands and see all the yellow and black. We haven't had the best of years, but we were really competitive last weekend at Nashville with the old Chevrolet motor, and this weekend we'll have the new Gen IV engine, so maybe we can race for the win."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series points leader):
"I have good memories from Michigan, so we're going to go up there and try to do as well as we've done in the past. But it will be hard. The championship is really tight, so we've got to do our best again. But, I'm looking forward to going back there. I love racing there. It will be good racing for everybody. I just hope we can be as competitive as we've been everywhere else. It will feel good to go back to a place as a former winner, but it was a long time ago. What I need to do is do it again this year, so I can go back next year as the 'defending winner.'"
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 IndyCar Series champion):
"The Michigan race is a special event. It is the home track for my team owner Ron Hemelgarn, so we always want to do well here. The racetrack is not necessarily conducive to the package that we are running, but we always try to do the very best with what we have. Michigan is always a fun racetrack and well-kept facility, one of the best in the world. As a driver, I always look forward to returning the 2-mile oval."
BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"Last year at Michigan was my first chance driving for Red Bull Cheever Racing. I knew I had to get out there and make a statement to try to secure a ride for the 2003 season. Luckily, I had a great race and pulled off a second-place finish for the team. Our performance was so impressive that it's unfortunate that we probably won't be able to match it this year. We're going to try our best to finish in the top 10 and give the fans a great race to watch. The Firestone Indy 400 is a good race for fans because the cars will be running two to three wide with plenty of chances for passing and always an exciting finish."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone, 2002 Michigan winner):
"Michigan is a very special place for me. Last year, I won the pole and won the first race of my career. It's a track that I really feel comfortable at. We tested in Michigan last week and learned a lot about this year's car and engine combination. Hopefully, we'll overcome some of the bad luck this season and get a win this weekend. I know that we'll have a car that's capable of winning. We just need to avoid some of those little gremlins that have been popping up. It's going to be a great race for both us drivers and the fans. I'm going to give everything I have and try to get this Target car up front at the end."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion):
"I'm extremely excited to go to Michigan International Speedway. For starters, it is basically Delphi's home track, and there will be a high number of Delphi executives and employees at the race. Michigan is also a great track for the IRL IndyCar Series cars. We put on a very exciting race to the finish last year, with 14 or 15 cars in one big group, drafting and jockeying for the finish, sometimes three or four abreast. When you think of IndyCar Series cars and the middle of the summer, I think of Michigan. It is rich in IndyCar Series heritage. I grew up watching many of the Michigan Indy-car races and can't wait to get back there to race this week."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"I am eager to go to Michigan this weekend. Michigan is one of my favorite places to race. I like the big, fast tracks the best. There is no secret about that. I enjoyed the whole month of May at Indy. The last time I was at Michigan was for the last CART race there in 2001, and we (Walker Racing) qualified third. It was my best starting position in two years in CART. This year, with the Mo Nunn team, we have been qualifying great almost every weekend. At Nashville, we had a good race setup, too. It will be our 10th race together, and I think everything is coming together well. The Toyota Panoz G Force combination is going to be a good one at Michigan. Qualifying won't be quite as important here, but we definitely want to qualify as good as possible. We will have to make the Pioneer car reliable for 400 miles, and I think we have the right package for that. I hope we can get our first win."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"I'm really looking forward to coming back to Michigan International Speedway. This will be the first time that I have raced at MIS in the IndyCar Series car, and I think it's going to be great. The Corteco/Bryant special and the Corteco crew are both at the top of their games, and we have great power and reliability with Toyota engine, so I'm looking for a great result at MIS. There probably won't be a big difference driving the IndyCar Series car versus the Champ Car that I had driven at MIS in the past, because at Michigan, drafting plays an important role. I'm looking forward to the Firestone Indy 400, it should be a great race."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"I'm really looking forward to racing at Michigan. We've tested there this month, and we learned a lot. When you combine that with the good finish this past weekend at Nashville, the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team is confident, we have good power with our Honda engine, and we're continuing to learn something new every race."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"Michigan will be our first superspeedway race since Indy. We tested at Michigan a few weeks ago, and we have a pretty good baseline car to start off the weekend. With the buildup from the past couple of races, I am feeling more confident going into the race. We just need to keep focusing on finishing better than what we have, previously. Hopefully, we can finish in the top five this weekend, which would be great. I think the car should be strong, and Honda will have a good engine there. I am looking forward to the race. We had a fuel pressure-related problem at Nashville last weekend, and, up until that point, the car was great. It was really disappointing, but the race itself was a confidence builder for me. I did a lot of good racing. I learned how to manage traffic and to race people. I think it was a very important race for me even though we finished 15th."