IRL: Phoenix: Pre-race quotes

AVONDALE, Ariz., Thursday, March 13, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Purex Dial Indy 200 on Sunday, March 23 at Phoenix International Raceway. The event starts March 21 with practice, followed by MBNA Pole ...

AVONDALE, Ariz., Thursday, March 13, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Purex Dial Indy 200 on Sunday, March 23 at Phoenix International Raceway. The event starts March 21 with practice, followed by MBNA Pole Qualifying on March 22 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Phoenix has always been a great race, and I'm looking forward to going back there. It's one of my favorite cities. The challenge with Phoenix International Raceway is that Turns 1 and 2 are very different from Turns 3 and 4, and that makes it a real compromise when setting up the car. When trying to perfect for two corners, it counterbalances the two others, which makes it makes it pretty interesting. This is Team 7-Eleven's next test. We've shown we can be competitive in qualifying. Now we need to put all of our efforts into finding a good race setup. We scored some points at Homestead, but we need to win races if we want to have a good shot at winning the championship. Everyone was motivated by our qualifying performance in Homestead, and I know that they want to win this next race as badly as I do. I'd like to post a win or two before I get to Indianapolis. I've won here once before (1986), and I'd like to think that this will be my year to do so again."

KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 1998 IndyCar Series champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Phoenix is a special place for me since it was the track I where had my first IRL race in 1997. It was my first oval race and my first race with Galles Racing. Everything was new to me, but I was able to learn pretty quickly, and I was racing with Tony Stewart for the lead at the end of the race. I was leading Tony, and I made a rookie mistake in Turn 3. I went too wide and got into the marbles and slid into the wall. Actually, I like the Phoenix track, but I have hit the wall in each of the four corners over my years at Phoenix. I have to stop doing that. Phoenix is a really big handling track because Turns 1 and 2 are so different from Turns 3 and 4. Turn 1 is one of the toughest we race on all year. It was good to get back to Phoenix last week to test after the Homestead race. I know our team was disappointed with the Homestead race (finishing 11th). The Honda engine has been very good for us. It was strong at Homestead and again in the test at Phoenix. The conditions were pretty hot in testing, nearly 80 degrees. We ran all day and learned quite a bit more about the car. I think the conditions in the test will be closer to race day than when we were there a month ago for Test in the West. I think everyone saw how competitive the IndyCar Series is this year at the Homestead race. And it will be like that at Phoenix, too. Once again, handling will be the key, just like it was at Homestead."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2002 Phoenix winner): "Marlboro Team Penske had a very good test last week at Phoenix International Raceway, so I think we'll be in good shape going into race weekend. Phoenix is a challenging track. It's a tight oval where passing is difficult. It will be important that we have a good setup and can remain consistent throughout the race because at a track like this speed doesn't always win. I'm really looking forward to next weekend. It's always good to come back to a track as the defending winner."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Phoenix is a very challenging circuit, which is why I like it. The track is very demanding physically, and it is difficult to get the car set up well. Since Marlboro Team Penske had a strong result in the first race of the season and good preseason testing at this track, we should be competitive in the upcoming race. I think we are as prepared as we can be, so we'll have to see how things play out on race weekend."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It (winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway) was a great way for us to start the season. In fact, it couldn't have been any better. Now we have to keep the momentum rolling when we get out to Phoenix next week. The win has given everyone here at Team Target lot of confidence. We set some goals at the beginning of the season, and one of them was to win the championship. We have a long way to go, but we started off in the right direction. At the Test in the West a few weeks ago in Phoenix we ended up second overall, so I think that we'll be competitive there."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The first time I ever tested at Phoenix was in a Silver Crown car because we were testing for last year's Copper World Classic. Donnie Beechler and Eliseo Salazar were testing the IndyCar Series cars there, and I got to drive Salazar's car after they finished. I didn't go real fast, but I got very comfortable in the car and realized for the first time that I could do this. I think Phoenix is the type of track that if you start out doing well, you'll continue to do well. If you start out struggling, you'll always struggle. As it turned out, I was too young to compete in the Copper World because USAC passed a rule that you had to be 18, and I was just 17 then. I was very disappointed. Phoenix is one of the toughest tracks in the series, but I was pretty comfortable with it after testing there a couple times. We've had some good tests there in the Conseco Panoz G-Force chassis, but we'll be going back with a Dallara, which should have more downforce. My goals are to definitely be more competitive than I was in Homestead. I think I will be because we weren't that far off in testing. If I run all day, I think we can finish in the top 10."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm really excited to be racing in Phoenix for the first time. Driving the IndyCar Series cars with the big downforce package on the short oval will be fun. We're going to work hard to put the Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola car closer to the front next weekend. Weather conditions will probably be different from the test, which adds to the challenge."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year): "It will be good to get back into the Hollywood car again at Phoenix. I'm feeling pretty confident that we won't have such a hard time at Phoenix like we did at Homestead. We never tested that well at Homestead, and we struggled there a little bit last year, too. So we're definitely glad to get that weekend behind us. We did pretty well in the race after all we went through trying to get the car to be comfortable during practice and qualifying. Phoenix should be a whole different story. We tested there right after Homestead, and I think we got the car right where we want it to be. It ran well in the heat of the day, and I have a feeling it's going to be pretty hot on race weekend."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001-2002 IndyCar Series champion, 2001 Phoenix winner): "I'm really excited about going to Phoenix to race. I love the track. It's where I won my first IndyCar Series race, so it's kind of a magical place for me. Phoenix is always an exciting place to run because it's wide enough to run side by side, and there's room to pass. But at the same time, it's a 'handling track' where you really have to have the car set up well. The Panther team and I have had a lot of success at handling tracks because Andy Brown (chief engineer) and my guys are good at figuring out what the car likes. They give me a well-mannered, predictable car that I can drive hard anywhere on the track."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I enjoyed being at Phoenix during Test in the West, and it will be great to finally get a chance to race there. I think that we are off to a pretty good start, and I'm hoping that we can start up front and stay up front all race long. I'm enjoying working with everyone at Team 7-Eleven. The chemistry is so good, and I'm sure we'll be able to work together like we did at Homestead."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2000 Phoenix winner): "Over the weekend, we tested more than 120 miles at Phoenix, and a lot of those miles were spent just getting comfortable in the new race car. The miles we ran were successful, and we've learned a lot, so testing went very well. Nevertheless, with our late start we have some catching up to do. We're definitely looking forward to racing at Phoenix again. My race team and I have won at Phoenix before, and we certainly can do it again."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I have always loved Phoenix International Raceway. I used to run there when I raced SCCA. In fact, I made my first IRL appearance at Phoenix back in 1999 with a team put together with my father. It's a bullring, a real drivers track. It's an extremely difficult and very demanding track. Phoenix has always been a place I love to drive. In our last test at Phoenix, we made huge gains from the first race of the season at Homestead. I feel like we are heading into the Purex Dial Indy 200 with a competitive package."

BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, Phoenix resident making first PIR appearance since 1997): "The best part about racing in my hometown is that I have been home since the Homestead race. I've had time to train and also have a little fun racing mini-bikes and go-karts with my buddies. I am really excited to be racing an open-wheel car at the top level in front of my family and friends. I was out at PIR last week with the MCT engineers observing Jaques (Lazier) testing in the Team Menard car. We are quite pleased with what we came up with and what our speeds were. We are hoping that the Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy/Firestone will be a lot more competitive than we were at Homestead."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion, 1998 Phoenix winner): "Phoenix International Raceway is a very historic and legendary short track. At Phoenix, we always have such passionate and avid race fans, and the racing is always action-packed. Phoenix is a fast 1-mile track, but it races like a three-quarter-mile track. I think most people look at it as a one-groove track, but with our IndyCar Series cars, sometimes we go three-wide. The Delphi team tested well at Phoenix during Test in the West, and we're anxious to get back there and have a good race weekend. What will be interesting is that at Phoenix your car has to be really 'hooked-up' to get in the top seven in qualifying, so I think it will quickly be apparent how the deep the field is if your car isn't handling well."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Before the race in Homestead, I was just hoping to come out of there with some points and have a good finish. We pretty much accomplished that when we finished eighth. Phoenix is a very challenging track for a driver, and it's a lot of fun to race on. We had a pretty good test down there a few weeks ago, so I think it's going to be good. The team has been working hard to get the cars ready. As always, qualifying is going to be important. I think that both Scott (Dixon) and I will have a good chance at the win."

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Phoenix is a very fun track, and I am very interested to see how the race will go for us. We had a good test there right after Homestead. We learned a lot about what the car likes and doesn't like, and we should be in good shape when we start practice on Friday. At Homestead, I think we learned mostly what the car doesn't like, but we came out of the race in pretty good shape. Now we are ready for the small oval. I have never raced at Phoenix, but I like the track a lot after testing there two times. It is a very interesting track and a very nice place to visit."

AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to a good weekend in Phoenix. The Corteco team hasn't been the fastest in testing, but I feel that we have a good race car. I hope that we do well there because Phoenix is a track that I've never had a win at, and I definitely would like to get a win at what I consider my hometown track. I'm hoping that we're more competitive at Phoenix than we were in Homestead and that we're able to bring home a podium finish for the Corteco team. This is a big weekend for me and for our partners on the Corteco team because not only is it my hometown event, but I'm also hosting my annual golf tournament for the Al Unser Jr. Children's Charitable Foundation on Thursday, March 20. I'm hoping this year that we surpass the $100,000 mark in funds raised from the tournament and auction. Kelley Racing and our partners have been really involved, and it's just awesome. I owe a big thank you to Corteco, who is not only my primary partner on the race car but are also the primary partner for the golf tournament, as well. Everyone's involvement means a great deal to me, and I hope that we have a great day on Thursday and raise a lot of money for charity. Then I hope the Corteco team goes out and has a great weekend at PIR."

ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "My goal for Phoenix is to finish in the top 10. That was my goal for the first race, and we didn't accomplish it. It is the next realistic step. I think the biggest difference from Homestead to Phoenix is that I now know what to expect and, since I have a better picture, I am more prepared going into this second race. Certainly having a good car will be the biggest factor to finishing up front, and we have been working really hard on fine-tuning the car. I think Phoenix will be similar to Homestead where you need a very good car to finish up front."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing