Day 3 -- Sunday, April 13, 2003 IRL IndyCar Series post-race quotes. TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a good car all day long. When the yellow came, I heard that there was oil in Turn 3...
Day 3 -- Sunday, April 13, 2003 IRL IndyCar Series post-race quotes.
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a good car all day long. When the yellow came, I heard that there was oil in Turn 3 or 4, and it just became a bad situation. I'm sorry for Team Target and Toyota that we didn't win. I look forward to Indy."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "We had a problem right at the beginning with a faulty shut-off valve that killed the motor, and I just had to coast in without any power. It cost us three laps under green, but actually the race car was good early on. It got a little too pointy mid race, but we made it to the end. I'm frustrated overall with the balance of the car because we just haven't found the consistency we'd like, but we'll just have to keep working with everything."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I had just pitted, and we didn't make any changes because the Conseco car was working good. I went out on cold tires and full tanks, and it just pushed real bad in Turn 3. I almost had it saved, but then it hooked right at the end, and I spun and hit the wall."
SHIGEAKI HATTORI (No. 5 EPSON/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "I went into Turn 3 and I didn't know Sarah Fisher was there because my spotter didn't say anything. Afterward, he said she dove down in there, but honestly, I don't know. We made contact. We brought it back to the garage and tried to fix it, but after a few laps it developed a vibration so we brought it in. It's a shame because I really wanted to have a good race in the EPSON car in my home country."
ALEX BARRON (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The team did an incredible job changing the front wing early in the race, keeping me on the lead lap. I was in contention for a top-three finish when I entered Turn 4, and the car would not turn. Marlboro Team Penske did an incredible job all weekend. The car got better and better throughout the race."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The Team 7-Eleven car had too much downforce today, which hurt us when we were trying to pass other cars. Then I stalled in the pits and I lost a lap, which hurt us. The way the things turned out, losing that lap hurt us a lot. I think if we hadn't lost that lap, it would have been interesting." (About contact between Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan): "It is really disappointing. Tony was doing a great job today, and now we are just waiting to get an update on his condition."
DAN WHELDON (No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "Today was a great experience for me. I think for my first race, it didn't go too bad. I certainly need to relay to the engineers how to get a better race car, because I was not expecting the track to change the way it did. I definitely learned a lot and enjoyed it. The Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola crew did a great job today. Now I have to concentrate on getting ready for the Indianapolis 500."
GREG RAY (No. 13 Trim Spa Special Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "We are very pleased with our team, with only 50 miles of testing prior to our first race here at Motegi. We are happy to be running a G-Force/Honda combination, but unfortunately, it seems we had some sort of setback with every testing session and never got our rhythm. We had our fair share of gremlins. With our new car, we had a throttle cable stretch and only had 80 percent. All in all, our pit stops went well, and to be a new, small team to finish in the top 10, it's a good step toward Indy."
BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Today, we survived a demolition derby. The Red Bull Cheever guys did an excellent job changing the gearbox and getting me back out there so we could score some points. I didn't think it would be this much of a crashfest. We put some more miles on the Chevy engine and made it to the end. It wasn't exactly what we were looking for. Our car was strong early on, but then we had the gearbox problem, which set us back. We'll just keep trying to look forward and see what happens. Today, I was just happy the Red Bull Cheever Racing car is going home in one piece."
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "The race was going well. We had a good run going there, and then we got hung out in Turns 3 and 4 early on in the race. We got some marbles on the tires, and it took us a few laps to get everything cleaned up. We had a pretty strong run there with the Johns Manville/Team Menard Chevy. We were running with little Al (Unser Jr.) the whole time. At the end on the restart, (Shinji) Nakano spun in front of me, and I had nowhere to go. I am disappointed because we were running ninth at the time. We had a real good run going. I feel pretty good. I have a little bit of a headache, but I think that is to be expected. We will be ready for the Indy 500 and testing. Without a doubt, the Japanese fans were great. It started yesterday with the autograph session. It was raining, but it didn't seem to bother the fans at all. I felt bad because we had to leave, and there were still people waiting for autographs. The stands today were incredibly full, almost all around the track. The fans have welcomed us to their home. It is a beautiful home and a beautiful facility. It's something we look forward to coming back to many more times."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The first thing I want to do is congratulate my teammate Scott Sharp on a great job. The whole Kelley Racing team is very proud of the job Scott did today. The Delphi team had great stops, and they did a great job. There were quite a lot of wrecks out there. Everybody was taking their chances, but I'm glad that on our side, the Corteco car ran brilliantly today, and we made it through the carnage." (About Twin Ring Motegi): "I like Motegi. I think it's got great challenges. It's very unique in its configuration and its setup. It presents different challenges than any of the ovals that we have in America. It's been a fun time, and I'm really looking forward to the Indy 500 coming up."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "We learned a lot this weekend. With our late start to the season, we've had a lot of catching up to do. I think today on race day we would've been very good. Our car was working very well through Turns 1 and 2. In fact, I think we were one of the quickest in those corners. We had a little difficulty in Turns 3 and 4. If we could get our shift without lift working, which I believe is in the works, it would have really helped us in (Turns) 3 and 4. But all in all, we had the car working quite well, and it is coming together. I think a top 10 or possibly top five was definitely in the cards today. Our engine expired, but we're trying to get the most of our equipment. Sometimes those things happen when you're trying to develop a new engine. We've made real good progress, and we just need to keep working."
SCOTT ROEMBKE (Chief Operating Officer, Team Rahal): "Obviously, this event was an important race for all of our sponsors like Honda, Pioneer and Miller. We led early in the race, and the car was fast. But we picked up some debris early in the race, and we cut a tire. That was very unfortunate for us. But Kenny (Brack) and the team fought back very well, and we are gaining a lot of momentum for Team Rahal. I think you saw that we had an extremely fast car today. However, we fell back to 15th position at one point and came back to second. I think Kenny had the car to win if we could have had a few more green laps. Overall, this was a good event leading into Indianapolis. We will continue our progress and look to score a victory for Honda at the next race."
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Second is better than third, at least. We really had a fast car today, but we had a puncture early on our second set of tires. That put us out of the pit sequence for the rest of the race. We had to conserve a lot of fuel. We just ran out of laps at the end of the race. I really couldn't charge like we wanted during the long runs. That had to be the first puncture in my Indy-car career. I picked up some debris for the first time in a long time. It's typical for us to have a problem, since we wanted to win for Honda at their home track. I'm pretty confident I could have caught Scott (Sharp) at the end with a few more green laps. I was able to run up front early, and the puncture caused us to come way back in the pack. I think that some of the moves that guys made out there were not good. I wasn't happy with some of the drivers out there today. It takes a lot of attention at 200 miles per hour, and there wasn't a lot with some guys. It was a huge undertaking for Team Rahal to switch over to the IndyCara Series, and we have learned a lot. I think we are there with the rest of the contenders now. Our Team Rahal guys have worked very hard after the first two races. I feel very confident going to Indy."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "That was a tougher day than I was expecting, but I am happy to finish with an eighth-place result. My car seemed to be very strong at the start, and then we had the problem on our first stop that really set us back. We got a penalty because of that, and it was going to be very difficult after that. But we continued to fight hard and see how many positions we could pick up by the end of the race, and I think eighth place is very good, all things considered. I feel really bad for all the people who came out to see me today. But hopefully I can give them a bigger and better result at the Indy 500 next month. I'm really looking forward to it."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We have to leave here happy with third place, because I'm not sure we had a third-place car by the end of the day today. But that just goes to show that if you keep pushing hard to be there at the end, good things happen to you even when you don't have a perfect day. This was a good result for the team. It was our second third-place finish in a row, and it moved us up to third in the points, so we are in a very good position going into the month of May. The guys gave me really good pit stops, and we were lucky to overcome the problems that we had at the end. I developed gearbox problems during the last 50 laps or so. I lost fifth gear, so I could use only sixth, and that was not a good thing for me during the restarts because the gear was just a little bit too long. There are a lot of other people who probably wish they were in my position after this race, so I'm not going to hang my head. Let's go to Indy."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "This was a wild race. I thought coming into Motegi that it would be a great track for me. I ran real well at Homestead, and Motegi has some similarities to Homestead. When I first got on the track, I really loved it. I love this track. I thought it would be a great race, and it was. This track has great variety to it. It creates a lot of close-quarters racing, so I think we all expected to be racing tight all day. It's a shame but not surprising that there were a lot of crashes. We had a good race, and the Delphi guys gave me great pit stops. Tom (Kelley, team owner) called real good strategy. We had a fast car. It took us a little time to get as fast as we wanted to be. We got there toward the end of each run. Once we finally got rolling, we could run with anybody. Tom (Kelley) calls my race strategy, and a lot of what we also did was we ran real lean trying to make fuel mileage and stretch our pit stops as long as we can. When we do that, obviously we're going to lose a little, but we can gain it back by grabbing a yellow. We had a quick car there at the end. When we got going on the restart where the two leaders crashed together at the end, I had several cars between me and them. They were really quick cars, and by the time I got through traffic, unless they had somebody holding them up, it would be hard for me to catch them. But we'd give it our best. I knew I had the speed to maintain third if not actually run them down. I fought really strong all day. I was pretty pleased with our performance."
TOM KELLEY (Owner, Kelley Racing): "In our race strategy meeting, we determined that it would be tough to make it on only three pit stops. If you're going to run 50 to 55 laps per stint, then everything has to work out perfect without yellows to get there. We took the approach that we would get a little better mileage and pick up a few laps each pit stop and maybe get us a yellow at the end. We caught a yellow on our second pit stop, and in the end maybe it paid off. I just want to say from Kelley Racing's standpoint that Scott and I have been here for eight days and have had a phenomenal time in Japan. The people are wonderful. We really appreciated the hospitality and we look forward to coming back next year."