Indy Japan 300, third race in 16-race 2004 season Pre-Race Quotes: ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Motegi is a state of the art facility. Both sides of the track are very different. It's one of the...
Indy Japan 300, third race in 16-race 2004 season
ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Motegi is a state of the art facility. Both sides of the track are very different. It's one of the tracks where horsepower makes a difference because you are flat out from Turn 4 all the way into Turn 3. It's quite different than anywhere else we go. With the new rules and everything, the racing there will be better than last year. I think you'll see a lot better racing because many of the drivers have been in the IndyCar Series for a season and everything seems a bit more organized on the track. The Japanese culture is always a new experience. After the race I'm going to try to go into Tokyo. It's my fifth year there, and I've never been downtown."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We're looking forward to returning to Motegi. The track offers a different layout for the drivers with the tightness of Turns 3 and 4, and it's a challenge to design the setup to perform well in all four turns. The race organizers put together a really good program for the fans, and everyone was extremely enthusiastic about the IRL racing there for the first time last year. We felt very welcomed and hope to put on a good show for the fans again."
ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to whole trip. It will be a new experience for me culturally. It's going to be a challenge because I've never seen the track. The only time I've ever seen it is on TV. It will be a challenge to get up to speed quickly. More than anything, I'm just excited to get back in a car and redeem myself for my accident at Phoenix. I just want to get the momentum started for the month of May."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):
"Unfortunately, we had a little bit of bad luck last year in Japan, so I'm looking forward to going back this season and aiming for a better result. Marlboro Team Penske looks to be fairly strong on 1.5-mile ovals this year, so I think we should be competitive. We didn't do as well as we wanted to in Phoenix and hopefully we can turn it around a bit and bring home a strong finish in Japan. It's always a fun race because the fans are so supportive and enthusiastic and I think we'll deliver a great show for all of them."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "The Twin Ring Motegi oval is a unique mile-and-a-half track and fairly different from Texas or Chicago. I find it interesting and more technical and the facility itself is very impressive. It's a great place to race because the fans are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Last year, I won the pole and both Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars fought for the lead. Darren and I expect to do the same this year and fight for the win for Toyota. I've had four second-place finishes in the last five races dating back to Chicago last season (Chicago, California, Texas, and Phoenix) and I'd like to break that trend with a win in Japan."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "I am very excited to go back to Japan. I have had a little more seat time now and I am looking forward to coming to grips with this car. Obviously, this is a big weekend for Honda and it would be great for a Honda driver to win this race. Even though we are still pretty new and catching up, we are going to do everything possible to do it. Hopefully, we can give everyone a big surprise in Japan and add to the memories we already have from there."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I like Twin Ring Motegi because it is a superspeedway, so it's fast, but it also has its challenges like Turns 3 and 4, where you have to get out of the gas and downshift. My main goal is to win the race and if we can't do that, then we'll finish as good as we can and get as many points as we can. My first impression of Japan was a good one. I liked the country. The fans were real nice and very polite. They did something that no one's done before, at least in my career. They gave me some neat gifts when I gave them an autograph. That was pretty cool. They also had some really cool electronic stuff. It was more high-tech than what we have. The only problem I had was figuring out what kind of food to eat."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Alpine Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Motegi is a great track. In the past, it has always produced very close racing. I think it does that by having two very different ends. I like that style of track. It adds to the challenge of the whole thing. It just seems to take a lot of luck to win there. Tony (Kanaan) was in a position to win last year, and I've been in a position to win there before, but some strange things have happened or broken there. Hopefully, luck will be on our side this time around. I'm just very eager and enthusiastic about getting another shot at a good finish in Japan in the Alpine car. We've been quick in both races this year, but just have gotten he results we wanted. I know we can do that job and will do the job. I'm just ready to get out there and start winning."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The whole team feels good heading into Motegi after Tony's (Kanaan) win (at Phoenix).The XM Satellite Radio crew has worked really hard and we have been competitive this year, and now, we're ready for a result. Obviously Japan is an important race for the team, as well as Honda, but I wouldn't say there is added pressure on us. We want to win every race. We have had four strong cars at both events this year and I don't think it will be any different in Japan."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to going back to Japan. It is a completely different experience from anything else we do and a whole new audience for the Indy Racing League. I like Twin Ring Motegi because it is a handling track that allows for passing. I had a decent run last year even though we were down on horsepower, so I'm excited to go back this year with Marlboro Team Penske and see if we can win it."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I've been close so many times in Japan, so I feel really good about going back there. We have all the tools, equipment and resources to get it done, so hopefully luck will be on our side this time. I would love to get Honda its first win there and would love to get another one for Team 7-Eleven, so we'll see what happens. It will just be a matter of finishing and having a good car."
DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "I've very excited about being able to race in Japan again. I competed in Japan and lived in Gotemba near Mount Fuji when I was in F3 during the later part of 1998 and all of the 1999 season. I've even raced at Twin Ring Motegi but on the road course. I loved the time I spent in Japan. I still have close friends there and continue to have my helmets painted there as well. I expect to see a lot of my friends and racing fans at the Twin Ring track for the race weekend. It almost has the feel of a home track for me. The atmosphere is wonderful and I think the engine manufacturer rivalry adds to the intensity as well. Target Chip Ganassi Racing will certainly do all it can give Toyota bragging rights yet again. I think the season started with two of the tougher tracks and I learned a lot about the car and IndyCar Series racing very quickly. I think the Motegi track is wider and will be a little more forgiving, giving me the chance to use everything I have learned to date and aim for another top-five finish."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "The Motegi race is approaching and I am getting very excited. After the Homestead and Phoenix races, I have gained more confidence in myself, so I am looking forward to racing at Motegi. It has been four years since I last raced in Japan, so this is a very special race for me. There will be a lot of people coming to see me race, and I will try not to put too much pressure on myself and relax. I will just do my best and see how it goes."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal-Letterman Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I have never been to Japan before but I am very excited to see the country and the Twin Ring Motegi track. Team Rahal has been very good there before, including last year's with Kenny (Brack) almost winning. Kenny won there in 2001. The team has said that the track is similar to Homestead in Florida. I know that it is fast.With two other teammates in Buddy (Rice) and Roger (Yasukawa), I am planning to be patient and work my way into the speed and the track. I don't want to do something stupid right off. But I am like every driver and I want to win. I want to put in a strong finish at Motegi. Driving the Honda engine is good for me at Motegi. I'm very anxious to see Japan and Tokyo. We will be making some appearances for Honda and the Indy Racing League. I should be able to see quite a bit before the race. I think we will see many things before the race. Since I have never been there before, I just want to see as many things as possible. It will be a great experience for me."
GREG RAY (No. 13 Renovac Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "Motegi was our first race, so this is our one year anniversary as a team. We were the only team running a Honda-Panoz G Force combination and we did it half a world away. We're very excited to go back. It's a 1.5-mile track and has similarities of big tracks here in the States without the banking. Turns 3 and 4 are a lot sharper than what we have here. It's a very challenging track. Motegi is the home of Honda, and no one from Honda in the IndyCar Series has won there yet. We've been in position many times to have a breakout weekend or win races. I can't think of a better place to have a result that would be a feather in our caps. To have podium or win at Motegi, for Honda it would as big as Indy. We're very focused on having fantastic race weekend there.
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "At Twin Ring Motegi, Turn 3 is the hardest due to the tightness of the corner. In qualifying, we shift down a gear as we enter the corner, and then back up into sixth in Turn 4. Everything else is pretty flat out. It's very fast. I think we can use our Homestead setup at Motegi and we had a good car at Homestead. Obviously we want to win. Winning the Motegi race for Honda would be huge. It would be just fantastic. Kenny (Brack) and Team Rahal almost won last year, and they won the CART race in 2001 there. So I am looking for a strong result. Winning is always our goal. My girlfriend, Michelle, and I had a very good time in our first trip to Japan. And I'm looking forward to seeing more sights in Tokyo this time. It is such a unique country and the food is unique too. Michelle loves sushi and I like some of the Japanese food too. So we are anxious to do a little sightseeing again. It should be fun. We all know we go to race and win at Motegi. But we like to look at new sites. So we'll get around to as many places as well can again this year.
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a great trip to Japan last year. I remember rolling into Motegi and it was the first time I had ever seen the Twin Ring Motegi track and I thought it was a very cool track. The look of the track and the entire facility was pretty awesome. To top it all off, the Delphi team had a great race weekend. We practiced well and we were very competitive all weekend long. We didn't qualify because of the rain, so we started on points but we had a very strong race. Luckily, we were in the right position to be able to capitalize, and go for the win when things shook out like they did during the final laps of the race. I don't know why everyone got together. I didn't find it that tough of a track to pass on. For us it's an interesting facility to race, we are fairly easily wide open through turns one and two and that creates a good drafting atmosphere. Down in Turns 3 and 4 they are much more of a handling nature. So which ever discipline you are going to try and use to pass a guy whether its draft along behind and try to pull out and get him or you're going to try to out-handle him down in turns three and four it provides for a unique race. It was really close racing and sometimes guys got a little too close. I'm looking forward to going back to Motegi and hopefully we can duplicate our success from last year."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm very much looking forward to racing at Twin Ring Motegi. We had a really strong effort going at Phoenix. The Pennzoil car was very good. Fast. Very Stable and very consistent even under tough race conditions. So, we're quite positive going into this race. Panther and I have both run well at Motegi and I love the track. It is one of my favorites. Also, we would love to score a win for Chevrolet there. That would be big. The whole event is like a great adventure for us. We have an opportunity to experience a completely different culture, a wonderful culture. Plus, it's an opportunity to race in front of a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of fans. They love our racing in Japan and so we look forward to racing there for them."
TORA TAGAKI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm obviously very excited for the Motegi event and for opportunity to race in front of my family and friends here in Japan. It is especially meaningful because they are not able to attend many of the other races throughout the course of the season. The Pioneer team looks to improve upon our strong start to the '04 season with another good result at Motegi. After a great qualifying effort last year, we faced some bad luck with a problem (stuck fuel vent hose) on the first pit stop and never were able to catch up. We look to regain that qualifying form from last year and finish strong for our partners Pioneer, Denso, Toyota and all of our other sponsors."
MARK TAYLOR (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to making the trip to Motegi for the race. I've been to Macao and Korea back in my Formula 3 days, and enjoyed the experience greatly. The time difference is a big factor, because it's such a long trip to get out there, and the preparation for the race will be all the more important. The Panther guys are working hard here packing up the car and making sure we'll have a good race car as soon as we get out there. I'm hoping to learn the track right away because it's a short time span before we qualify. The weather there changes a lot, and hopefully it will stay consistent and we'll have a good weekend."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to the race in Motegi. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam car is running well right now and this team has built some momentum in the first two races. It is Honda's home track so if I can get their first win there I'm sure they will give me a lifetime contract which would be a good thing. Last year I went to Japan not expecting to run and then Dario had his accident in Scotland and I was pressed into action. This year I will be a little more relaxed. It isn't my first race with the team so now I'm much more comfortable and I have a year's experience under my belt so I'll be able to give good feedback to Eddie (Jones, race engineer) and Tony (Cotman, team manager)."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 16 Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "It feels good to come to Team Rahal this year. I was a rookie last year, and we had a rookie IRL team at Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. There was a lot of learning in 2003. I feel I know more about the series and the cars now. Team Rahal has been competitive with their car and Buddy driving. In the past, Team Rahal has been very good at Motegi. They nearly won the race last year with Kenny and Kenny won the race for the team in 2001. It would be a great thrill to win in Japan for Honda. The fans would go crazy if a Japanese driver won the Motegi race. I feel that we'll have the car to win. I know the Honda engine will be very good, and we have to get the car to handle properly. Working with people like Don Halliday (engineer) and Dennis Swan (chief mechanic) will be very good for me. They have a lot of racing experience and a lot of experience working with Honda. It will be good to be back with my family in Japan. I don't see them as much now that I race in the U.S. But they support my racing and I'm excited that I'll get to race in front of many family members and friends. We have a lot of activities to do in promoting the Motegi race. I think it will help get the fans to come to the racetrack. I think if people come to the race they will really enjoy it."