LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 29. Pole qualifying is Jan. 28. EDDIE CHEEVER JR. ( ...
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 29. Pole qualifying is Jan. 28.
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Team Cheever-Firestone-Infiniti Riley & Scott/Infiniti/Firestone, 1997, 1999 Indy 200 winner, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, Orlando resident): (About quest for his third win at Walt Disney World Speedway): "The two wins came to us in different ways, so it is hard to say. We were not dominant in the first one (1997) and we ended up profiting from the bad luck of others. In the second (1999), we were very dominant. We won last year because of intense winter preparation. This year, we are very late with our prime component, the car. Combine that with a new engine and new tires, and you could say that we are still learning as we go. The lateness of the equipment has really put us, in my opinion, behind the top three or four teams by at least a month and a half." (About the Infiniti Indy 3.5-liter engine): "Last year, we were very fast but not reliable in the races. Because the 'Indy 350' doesn't pay as much as the Indy 500, we changed our focus after May to building reliability and making it to the end of the race. Infiniti has made a lot of progress with their 3.5 engine, and we believe we have made big strides on reliability to the point where we can refocus on issues of horsepower. As in all things, time will tell." (About Firestone tires): "I put the relationship between the driver and the tires on the top of the list of things that have to work in a seamless and smooth manner. The trick lies in pushing them to the limit and not beyond. We are slowly learning how to make the most of our new Firestone tires. It is a completely different tire, and it will be at least another 1,000 miles of testing in different conditions before we really have a handle on what they like and don't like." (About his younger brother, Ross Cheever, who is assisting the team's testing program): "Not only has our team remained intact, but also we've have also added a very talented test driver to our mix. The reason behind this addition is two-fold. I cannot do all the testing that will be required if we are to have a bulletproof engine by the 84th running of the Indy 500. Ross' credentials were too impressive to pass on. Being an understudy for Formula One in his early career, he comes from a similar background to last year's Indy 500 winner, Kenny Brack. Though transition from road courses to ovals can be difficult, Ross seems to be picking it up quickly. Team Cheever's goal is to run Ross at the 500 this year, and if our plan works he will have at least 2,000 miles under his belt before he gets there. By the time he gets to Indy, our hope is that he will think it a cakewalk compared to all the very vigorous workouts he will have done with us before then."
MARK DISMORE (#28 Bryant Heating and Cooling-On Star Dallara/Aurora/Firestone): "I'm being realistic about the upcoming race. We still need to do a lot of work concerning the new cars. However, I'm very confident that we'll do well in Disney. Our testing thus far has been positive. My main objective is to try and qualify in the top five and just have a clean race. I'd really like to get off to a good start this 2000 season. There are only 10 races this year, so every event is crucial. There' s not a lot of room for error. Everything matters. I'm excited to get the year started, and it's great to have a new primary and associate sponsor on board - On Star and GM BuyPower."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#7 Dick Simon Racing-Mexmil-Tokheim-Viking Air Tools G Force/Aurora/Firestone) (About preseason testing at Walt Disney World Speedway): " My new car was fast straight out of the box. The 2000 G Force not only looks fast, it is a very quick car to drive and the Indy-car sound of the new 3.5 Aurora V8 makes it seem faster, as well. We had such a successful test with Dick Simon and our new engineer, Hayden Burvill, who helped design the 2000 G Force, and our new data engineer, Rick Mayer, that I feel confident about the team's chances for the entire season." (Goals for this season): "I feel very comfortable with the new car and our team for this year, and I think we have a realistic chance for the championship. I also feel good about this season since we have the same sponsors as last year. It makes me feel secure and confident when I meet the same people at the races who sponsored our team last year. Of course, any race is completely different from testing and I realize we have a long way to go to take the checkered flag in Orlando. But I personally feel very confident about our chances, based on our successful lap times and progress in testing."
JOHN HOLLANSWORTH JR. (#42 TeamXtreme-Lycos-G Force G Force/Aurora/Firestone): "TeamXtreme has undergone significant changes in the offseason. These changes include the decision to run a second team/driver, with Airton Dare, changing to the G Force chassis, hiring of crew chief John King and several other changes that we believe will raise the level of our game for the 2000 season. Preseason testing has shown the G Force-Brayton Aurora engine combination to be fast, and we look forward to continue to develop the package. General manager John Lopes and the ownership of TeamXtreme have worked tirelessly in the offseason to apply what we learned last year in formulating a strategy that will give us the most probability for success in the 2000 season. We are very pleased to continue our relationship with Lycos this year, and we look forward to working with Lycos both on and off track to show everyone why they are one of the most visited web sites on the Internet. 'LYCOSHOP' is a recent addition to the Lycos experience that makes online shopping a breeze." (About injured Indy Racing driver Sam Schmidt): "Our prayers are certainly with Sam Schmidt at this time. We all are in hopes that his doctors are able to make additional progress with respect to his medical condition."
FRANK HONSOWETZ (Manager, Infiniti Motorsports) (About new Infiniti Indy 35A engine under development, expected to debut by the Indianapolis 500 in May): "The design of this engine is an international project that includes input from the United States design team and Nissan's motorsports group in Japan. Most notably, the Infiniti Indy 35A engine is derived from the 5.0-liter engine Nissan entered in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Infiniti Indy 35A will weigh significantly less, be more compact and have a lower center of gravity. The features that are successful and work best in our current engine have been applied to the 35A. The parts of the current engine that make it difficult are some of the things we have eliminated. While I think we are on par with the competition in terms of producing horsepower, this new package will perform better in the race car in terms of weight and the placement of that weight. We have faith that this all-new design will lead us to winning races."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#18 Hornish Bros. Trucking-Advantage Powder Coating G Force/Aurora/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate, youngest driver in race at age 20) (Goals for first Indy Racing League start): "My goals for the first race are to qualify in the top 15 and to not only finish the race but to finish in the top 10. Staying out of trouble is my biggest priority. I have to be able to show that I am capable of not only being fast, but smart as well." (Goals for the season): "I hope to steadily improve, move up in the ranks and become rookie of the year. It's going to be a lot of work with some of the new talent this year." (Why did you leave Toyota Atlantic, a CART feeder series, for the Indy Racing League?): "My biggest reason for coming to the IRL is that it showcases my talents and is a top-level series that is affordable and is looking for young American talent. Plus it has this race called the Indy 500." (About Walt Disney World Speedway): "Well, Disney is a memorable track for me because it was the track that I raced my first Formula Ford 2000 race on a professional level at the tender age of 16. So I get to be a beginner all over again at a familiar track." (About the importance of this race in his career): "The Disney race is important because it will be my first chance to show what I am capable of in an IRL car, and it's my first chance to make people look at me on this large of a form of motor racing. It's time to turn the wheel, a few heads and make a name for myself."
ED PINK (Design team, Infiniti Indy engine; engine builder, Team Cheever) (About challenges posed by the Indy Racing League's new 3.5-liter engine): "The biggest difference is about 60 horsepower less. The challenge is keeping the 3.5-liter engine together at the increased rev-limit, which is 700 rpm more than the end of last year. This is done by testing and finding those weak links as quickly as we can."
GREG RAY (#1 Conseco-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, 1999 Indy Racing League champion) (About being target of all other drivers as defending series champion): "I don't think that way. I won the championship, I did it in a very rewarding way considering the circumstances caused by the start of the season. That was last year. Last year doesn't count. What the IRL has done is make the grids tighter and tighter. I've always had a lot of belief in accomplishing my goals because of my work ethic and desire. Confidence comes because of what you did. It's just a calm that comes with confidence... because you did it before you can do it again. But you've got to remain cool. What happened last year doesn't matter. Chaos can happen on the next corner. I'm just not thinking about the big picture. I think about doing the best job I can every time I get into the race car. I enjoy testing qualifying and racing. I try to do the best I can to be happy. I really try to enjoy myself. If I drive hard and make all the right decisions and finish third or fourth, I still can be happy because the competition is so deep. You can't expect to be on top everyday." (About not starting racing career until age 25): "The thing I'm most proud of is that starting late people said I was stupid, I was too old, I can't do it. I stepped back and said I wanted to do it. At first, I made so many mistakes it wasn't funny. I take pride in that I learned from those mistakes. There are fewer guys driving Indy cars than there are backup quarterbacks in the NFL. If I had said when I was 25 that I was going to work out, go throw 200 balls a day and be an NFL quarterback, it would have been easier than becoming an open-wheel race driver."
JERET SCHROEDER (#6 Armour Swift Ekrich-Tristarmall.com Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate): "I think our chances are as good as anybody's. We tested here the week after the Open Test, and it went really well. We primarily tested the '99 car, but we also shook down the 2000 car. We ran competitive laps in both. I'm not sure which car we'll actually run in the race yet." (About team for 2000): "We're extremely excited to have Armour Swift Ekrich on board as our primary sponsor. We want to do a great job for them this year. The car is red and black, and it's number 6. This will be my first race with Larry Curry, Tony Stewart, Andy Card, Rick Ehrgott and the rest of the Tri Star Motorsports team. They're a great bunch of guys; we're clicking. The experience and knowledge that they bring is incredible. It's a real honor to be associated with Tony Stewart, who was the IRL champion in the 1996-1997 season as well as being the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. He won this particular race in 1998, too." (Goals for this event): "I know everybody says this, but it really is true that to finish first, first you must finish. I'm a rookie in the IRL, and that's always my primary goal. I need to stay out of trouble and be there at the end. If I would be lucky enough to win, I'd dedicate the victory to (injured) Sam Schmidt. He and I ran two-liter cars together, and he's a good friend. I hope he knows that everybody is thinking of him and keeping him in their prayers." (About goals for 2000): "My goal for the season is to win the IRL Rookie of the Year Award. There are six rookies entered in this race out of the 25 drivers on the preliminary entry list, which means that almost a quarter of the field are rookies. With racing luck and the way sponsorship goes, I really hope I' m one of the ones who are still in contention at Texas in October. The IRL is one of the most competitive series in motorsports. Oval-track racing is really close, and situations can change faster than the blink of an eye. You have to concentrate and be ready for anything." (About new 3.5-liter engines): "I really like the new 3.5-liter engines; I love that traditional Indy-car sound. I think a lot of people will be turned on to the IRL by that sound this season." (About Walt Disney World Speedway): "I have only ever run one race here before at Disney, but I like the track a lot. It's a perfect track for Disney World, because it has some dips that make it seem like an amusement park ride. They're not really obvious from the stands, but you really notice them when you drive the track. I feel a special connection to this track because I was part of the track dedication ceremonies in 1995. I had just won the U.S. Formula 2000 national championship, and I got to drive my two-liter car up to the podium on cue during the dedication ceremonies, and I also got to make some laps on the track. It was cool to be there at the start of such an exciting facility. I passed my IRL rookie test here in 1997." (About Florida connections): "I live in New Jersey, but my parents live in Florida, so I'm in Florida a lot and that makes me feel at home here, too. A lot of friends and business associates are coming to offer support and just enjoy the race. There are going to be over 25 of them sitting in rows MM and NN and a couple of other places in Grandstand B, between the start/finish line and turn one. They made sure I knew where they were sitting, and they told me to qualify high enough so that they would have a good view of my pit stops during the race. See, the pressure is already on!" (About prerace plans): "I'm coming into town on Monday, and on Tuesday I'm going to go bow hunting on Merritt Island for wild boar. I love to hunt, but I've never gone for wild boar before. I don't know what I'll do if I get one; I guess I'll just let the friend I'm going with handle that. Or maybe we'll have a pig roast in the infield before the race, I don't know!"
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems-MCI WorldCom Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, pole winner at 1999 Indy 200): "We're really looking forward to going down to Disney and participating in the Delphi Indy 200. Testing has gone fairly well this winter, and I believe we should do well. The key will be to qualify up front and to drive cleanly throughout the race. I'd like to get the season off to a great start. I feel that this year the IRL will be so competitive - probably the most it has ever been. With every team on the same tires, and the cars being very similar, the competition will be tremendous. It will make for some exciting racing throughout the year."
AL UNSER JR. (#3 Galles ECR Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone) (About expectations for Indy Racing League debut): "Going into Disney, our main goal is to finish the race, and if we can finish well, that will just be the icing on the cake. There are a lot of new factors that are going to go into play on race weekend. Reliability is a key one, and our testing has been focused on those factors. We have been working out our brand new G Force chassis and ironing out all of the little glitches that come with any new chassis. We have also been working closely with Franz Weiss, our new engine builder, on reliability. Working to ensure that this car and everything on it will last the entire weekend is what this team does best, and that is what we have been focused on." (About the track): "As far as the track itself, it is a new track to me, and I am trying to get used to its unique configuration. I am not as concerned as being the fastest in practice and qualifying as I am of feeling comfortable in the car, as well as comfortable with the car's reliability. Once you have that, I feel that you can say you have a competitive car. Our testing has put us in that position, so I feel good going into race weekend." (About working with his new Galles-ECR Racing crew): "This team has been running in the IRL now for three years, and they definitely know the system. I think that is to my benefit, and I feel very comfortable with the overall organization of our program. (Team owner) Rick Galles has the guys doing pit-stop practice every afternoon, which is always a key factor in any race. One of the things that has definitely stayed the same with Galles ECR Racing is the crew's fantastic performance in the pits. I have beat many people out of the pits over the years with the Galles crew, and that confidence is an added bonus going into race weekend. The team is extremely professional and mechanically, the team is very clean. It means a lot to start out with a crew that I trust." (About his move to the Indy Racing League): "I am very excited to be competing in the Indy Racing League. This series has grown a tremendous amount over the past three years, and I feel that the reliability of the equipment is very strong right now. The facilities that we are racing at are some of the best I have seen, and I am eager to compete at each venue. Getting a chance to run in the Indianapolis 500 is what I want more than anything, and competing full time in the IRL will help get me there. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a tough place, and you have to know your equipment and your competitors if you want a chance to compete there."
JEFF WARD (#14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone): "This is a new Harrah's team, and we're excited about racing together for the first time. Our testing sessions have gone well, and we're looking forward to taking it to the next level. I've run second and third at Orlando the last two years, so it's been a good track for me. And with A.J.'s expertise, we're definitely looking strong heading into 2000."