IRL: Nazareth: Pre-race quotes

Firestone Indy 225 Pre-Race Quotes. NAZARETH, Pa., Thursday, April 11, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Firestone Indy 225 on Sunday, April 21 at Nazareth Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order): ALEX ...

Firestone Indy 225 Pre-Race Quotes.

NAZARETH, Pa., Thursday, April 11, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Firestone Indy 225 on Sunday, April 21 at Nazareth Speedway (drivers listed in alphabetical order):

ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We want to improve on our eighth-place finish at Miami and the 12th at Fontana. We want to finish on the podium." (About car setup at Nazareth): "The three different corners and elevation changes make having correct setup critical." (About past experience at Nazareth): "Nazareth was my Atlantic race. It was in 1997; we started on the pole and won the race!" (About inaugural Indy Racing event at Nazareth): "The racing will be tight with not a lot of passing. Pit and team strategy will be important. Things happen really fast there with the 19-second lap times. The weather can also play into this because it changes unpredictably."

BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing Team has actually been using the four-week break between races to prepare for Indy. There's such a short gap between Nazareth and Indianapolis that we've really taken this time to be sure we have our equipment for Indy. Not that we're looking past Nazareth, but we know that the Indy 500 is the key to our season, and we want to be sure we have our guns loaded when we roll off the trailer so we don't get behind. Personally, I've used the break to spend time with my family. I was able to take my (8-year-old) son, Chad, to his go-kart races, where he won his fifth race of the year. His record is now five wins in six races, and he's currently the point leader in the Arizona Karting Association's Junior 1 four-cycle division." (About Nazareth Speedway): "I think that one of the keys for the track at Nazareth, for our team, is going to be our experience. I have a lot of experience with short tracks, as does my engineer, Darrell Soppe. We're hoping that the disadvantage of not doing the Open Test at Nazareth will be overcome by the experience of our team. I know that last year we went to Richmond, never having tested, and were one of the fastest cars. We're hoping that we can take some of that knowledge, apply it to Nazareth and be up front right away."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The Nazareth track is similar to Phoenix and just as tough. It's a tight track, and I think there will be a lot of wheel-to-wheel racing. The drivers are really going to have to watch their mirrors. Our setup will probably be close to Phoenix, where our car was really good. The Nazareth Open Test earlier this month went well, and we learned a lot about the equipment. To get a good lap, we need to try to be as close as possible to flat the whole way around." (About previous experience at Nazareth): "I don't think Marlboro Team Penske will have an advantage because we raced at Nazareth in the CART cars, and the IRL cars are so different. The IRL cars are actually more comfortable to drive because of the added downforce; whereas the aerodynamic package in the CART cars created more turbulence. We'll have to see what the conditions are like come race weekend. Hopefully, it will be warmer, and there won't be any snow!"

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Racing at Nazareth is almost like going back in time. The last time I raced at Nazareth (1995), I was leading when I ran out of fuel with a lap and a half to go. It would have been a great victory. I was driving for A.J. Foyt, and at that time he was on a long streak of winless races. Have you ever gone crazy about all the single socks you have stored away in drawer at home? I have a lot of those, and this race is one of them. Winning at Nazareth would be like finding one of those lost socks. It's a great track. It's very busy. In many ways, it reminds me of Richmond. In a flash, you are right back to where you started. It is going to be a hard, hard race. The winner will be the one who doesn't get involved in accidents."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Nazareth is one of the tightest 1-mile ovals, and, more than anywhere that I've raced, you can expect to be in traffic constantly. To do well here, one needs a consistent car that works well in traffic; in addition there's an extra emphasis on good pit work since it's very difficult to pass on the track. I have special memories here because this is where I scored my first win for Marlboro Team Penske - and Roger Penske's 100th win - two years ago. I'm looking forward to an exciting weekend, and hopefully we'll be able to finish near the front."

JOHN DE VRIES (No. 37 Pit Bull Energy Drink/Rhino Cleaning Products Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I am looking forward to participating in the inaugural IRL event at Nazareth next week and anticipate a good finish. We have had several unfortunate mishaps in the first three races, but our team has really given their all to bring us this far. The team has done an excellent job, and Nazareth is as good as any time to reward them with victory. We expect a strong turnout, as many of our East Coast affiliates are going to attend the race and also the possibility of Spree (Latrell Sprewell) joining the team in the pits since his season will finish on the 17th. We plan on running a consistent race yet aggressive enough to move through the traffic, which will be abundant in the 1-mile oval, and head into Indy with a successful Nazareth finish."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Rookie of the Year): "I'm really looking forward to Nazareth. It's like Phoenix in a lot of ways. It is a very historic track, and it's a very interesting little mile oval where we should do pretty well, just like we did at Phoenix. We didn't have a great result at Phoenix. In fact, I crashed out of the race there - my very first time as an IRL driver that I crashed out of a race, so that was pretty awful. Especially since it was only my second race with the Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing team. It was even more frustrating because we really had a good race car that could have been there at the end and challenging for the lead. We'll be in the same shape for Nazareth. We had a decent test there during the Open Test. We were not able to put the speeds down that we were looking for - the 'PR' lap as Morris (Nunn) likes to call it. I think every time we put on a new set of tires, something seemed to happen to not let us take advantage of it and put down a fast lap. We are within a 10th (of a second) or two from the fastest cars out there for qualifying, but we should be all right for the race. It's a shame we never had a chance to try a lot of things we wanted to on the second day of the Open Test. But better that it snowed then, and hopefully we'll have nice weather all weekend long for the race. We did come away with a lot of information from the Open Test. Everybody's been working very hard back at the shop, so hopefully that will pay off big-time."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League champion, 2002 series points leader): (About previous experience at Nazareth Speedway): "The cars are so much different from the Toyota Atlantics I ran here. You're pretty much flat out all away around the track. With these cars, you have to let off a little bit and brake a little bit going into Turn 3 and really set the car. It's quite a bit different, but having a little bit of time on the track doesn't hurt, either." (What's your interpretation of this track with these cars?): "It's almost like a roller-coaster ride when you get behind somebody, when you get two guys in front of you. It's hard to pass, and everything seems like it speeds up quite a bit, so it should be pretty exciting."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): ""The Hemelgarn/Coors Light car is picking up momentum. We're in the top 10 in points, and we hope very much to have a good race in Nazareth in order to continue moving forward in the championship standings. Nazareth is a challenging, narrow, physically and mentally demanding racetrack. It should be an exciting race for the fans of Pennsylvania."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Nazareth is going to be tough, probably the toughest of the first four races. This time of year it's typically cold like it was for our test last week. Hopefully that doesn't mean snow; I'm not sure Firestone is ready to mount studded Firehawks on our race cars, but it probably will be a little chilly up there. That means the real game is going to be getting temperature into your tires. With Nazareth's layout, you're really having to hustle the car around the track, especially when those tires aren't hot. The track has so many different characteristics, which make it special. It looks like a perfect triangle, yet it's got three corners - all drastically different. One is a flat-out kink, the other is an off-camber uphill and the last one a high-speed banked corner. It's about the only oval you'd go to with an off-camber corner. It'll be a good race, and I think it will surprise people, kind of like California did, with exciting racing and a good finish." (About climbing the point standings): "Everything's coming together the way we had hoped it to, each race we've gotten better this season. If you look at our results and if our trend is going to continue, that puts us on top at Nazareth with a win heading into Indy. We said early on we wanted to have a race win under our belt and be in the top five in points before the month of May. Right now, we're in the hunt, and while it's a long season and the racing gods have to be with you to win a championship, we feel like we'll continue to be a threat every race."

GEORGE MACK (No. 31 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I really need to become familiar with the track. I ran some laps on the video game, but really need to spend some time on the actual track. I really like to know where everything is ... my surroundings, the pits, etc. I would like to finish in the top 10. From everything I have heard, this is a driver's track. I should be able to make up some ground. Since we don't have the horsepower to catch some of the bigger teams, a driver's track should be in our benefit." (Any new developments in the team?): "Well, we lost our car in Phoenix, so Fontana was the first race with a different car. I feel comfortable going into this race with the car since it isn't my first time in it. We are still a step or two behind because of the crash in Phoenix. As a team, we are just continuing to work on our car and our communication with each other in order to bridge any gaps that may be there. It will come. We are taking smaller steps and doing everything with a very strategic plan that is in line with a final goal." (About the challenges of Nazareth): "At this point, I haven't been on the track, so I just have to talk to other drivers to try to get the do's and don'ts of the track. I was told in one of the turns you have to do some shifting. That is pretty unique. So if that's what it takes, that is what I will do." (About racing in the inaugural Indy Racing event at Nazareth): "I want to keep the car in one piece so that we are prepared for Indy. It is also very important for me to be in line with the rules and goals of the league. I want to be in this league for a long time, and I intend to compete."

ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year): "At Nazareth, we will definitely have our work cut out for us. Fortunately for us, I don't think that much was learned up at the Open Test due to the temperature, so we are not quite as far behind as we could be. The upside is that this is a driver's/handling track, and we have done better on that type than the horsepower-type tracks, which have been a problem area for us in 2002. We think we have that problem solved, though, for Indy. Finishing this race will be very important for us going into Indy since last year we destroyed the car at Atlanta and barely made it on the track in time at Indy."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I feel very good. I haven't tested there, so I am not sure what to expect. Eddie drove there last week, and they made some good headway. Unfortunately, it snowed the day I was going to drive. I think the Red Bull Cheever Racing crew learned enough that day to give me a good car, and I can focus on learning the track and trying to go quick."

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Roger Penske , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske