IRL: Phoenix: Pre-race quotes

BOMBARDIER ATV COPPER WORLD INDY 200 PRE-RACE QUOTES PHOENIX, Friday, March 8, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 on Sunday, March 17 at Phoenix International Raceway (drivers ...


PHOENIX, Friday, March 8, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 on Sunday, March 17 at Phoenix International Raceway (drivers listed in alphabetical order):

ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone) (Goals for Phoenix race): "A podium finish for Blair Racing. I'd like to see the dedication that Larry (Blair) has shown and the hard work and effort the team has done continue to move forward." (How does finish at Homestead-Miami affect you entering this event?): "After getting through the first race of the year, you have more of an insight on what you have to do as a driver to be competitive. The eighth-place finish opens up different angles and approaches for me." (Does this stretch of consecutive races in consecutive weeks, Phoenix on March 17 at Fontana, Calif., on March 24 have any effect on you or the team?): "It does not pose any problems. However, it is always beneficial to stay in the car and race than having long spans between races or seat time." (About Phoenix International Raceway): "Everything at Phoenix happens very fast because it is a fast track. There's only one straight, and you are constantly turning. Pit stops and track position are critical because Phoenix is a hard place to pass. My first race at Phoenix was in 1996 in a Formula Ford 2000, but there's really nothing noteworthy. I have not raced there since, but we tested there for the Test in the West. It is good to be back in any IRL entry, racing for Larry Blair." (About Phoenix): "I like the winter weather in Phoenix. It's great."

BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, Phoenix resident, team is based in Phoenix): "The race in Phoenix is always a great opportunity for us, being my hometown, my home track. We seem to get more and more of a following every year. This year we have 400 people coming to the race - including our family, friends and our local sponsors Antigua and Verizon. The CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing team is excited for the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200. The Phoenix International Raceway has always been a really good track for me. My worst finish here is sixth place. The weekend is important for us. We're looking to try and recover from a disappointing race at Homestead and really use the home-track advantage to get us back on track and up in the top 10 in the points."

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "Coming off of Homestead, I'm very happy with the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team from the standpoint that we picked up where we left off last year - running up front. The synergy of the team is amazing, and we're proud to have all of our sponsors back - Purex, Aventis, Infiniti and Firestone - so there are no new variables for the team." (About headquarters of Dial, producer of Purex, being in Phoenix): "We're thrilled that a corporation with the national presence of Dial chooses to be involved in IRL racing, and we fully intend to give the local supporters something to cheer about. We hope to see a full range of company participation throughout the events of race weekend." (About season opener at Homestead-Miami): "Last week, Sam (Hornish) clearly had everyone covered. We didn't finish where we'd hoped, but we were competitive the whole race. We're light years ahead of where we were last year, and I'm very excited about what we can do in 2002. You can never assume anything in this sport. We just have to go out and deliver." (About other activities in Phoenix): "For the past 13 years, we've visited Phoenix Children's Hospital through our efforts with Racing For Kids. I'm proud of the continuity of the program and of our long-term involvement. Racing For Kids was started in Detroit, and in one of my first visits to Phoenix, I met a young boy from Detroit. I saw him later back in Detroit, at the Children's Hospital there, and you appreciate the attitude that these kids have in overcoming their challenges."

TYCE CARLSON (No. 18 Immke Auto Group Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The team's finish in Homestead gives us a lot of confidence entering Phoenix. Phoenix is a track that I can perform at. In 1999 and 2000, I ran the fastest race laps at Phoenix. It's one of my favorite tracks. Our goals are to qualify in the top 10 and achieve a podium finish. The setup on this car is as comfortable as the cars in '99 and '00, and I believe that we will have a competitive car in the race. Homestead was a great opportunity for my two biggest supporters to work together for the first time. Jim Immke and Paul Diatlovich have been with me for my entire career. I am also happy to add Larry Arnold to the mix. Homestead was the first time we all worked together. These are professional gentleman and are treating this as a professional business venture. I believe it is paying off for everyone involved. Our 11th-place finish at Homestead gives us a lot of momentum going into Phoenix. The pit stops were great ,and the crew made me feel very comfortable in the car. We had a good-balanced race car, and we know that Phoenix is one of our best tracks, so we're very excited about the possibility of doing well. I believe our only improvement comes from the time we spend together as a team."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner): "We ran fairly well in Phoenix last year. We were able to run in the top 10 and lead some laps (four) before our day ended early with an engine problem. We're a little more prepared this year as we've had additional test time at Phoenix International Raceway. It's a challenging track because you are in traffic almost the whole time during the race. I hope Marlboro Team Penske has a good result like we did in Homestead. We need to continue to do our homework and make sure we're there at the end come race day."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, former Phoenix resident) (About being eliminated from season opener at Homestead-Miami by teammate Tomas Scheckter in early collision): "My first reaction as a race car driver was to jump out of the car and use the Foyt technique of driver development - grab him and pound some sense into him. But that approach never had a long lasting effect on me. Instead, we spent two days after the race, some of which were awkward, going through the differences between road racing and oval racing with Tomas. Tomas is very talented, and we expect nothing less than flawless execution from him every weekend. He needs to understand that the races are won in the last 20 laps, not the first three. I hope that we have successfully drilled this into his head." (About Phoenix race): "We have gone west to Phoenix two times since the end of last season. We have improved with each test. There are two tracks that (Sam) Hornish performed impeccably on last year, Homestead and Phoenix. The No. 4 car is going to be tough to beat. Penske has proved to be well prepared and consistent, but the car and the team to beat now is the one with the Pennzoil colors. If we execute better than we did last weekend, I see both of our cars being a threat for a podium finish."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Marlboro Team Penske got some good points in Homestead with a second- and third-place finish for me and Helio (Castroneves). We didn't have any reliability issues the first race, and hopefully we can continue to run in the top-end of the field. We've had good tests in Phoenix, which bodes well for the upcoming race, but it is one of the most challenging short ovals on the circuit. We need to continue to put points on the board each race, which is key to the championship."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Chevy Rookie of the Year): "I'm really looking forward to getting back in the race car after that opening weekend at Homestead. It was our first time together as a team on a race weekend, and it was a real learning experience. We had some excellent tests during the offseason at Homestead and Phoenix, but no matter how well you do in tests, it seems like race weekends are a whole different story. It's just a matter of experience, and we now have one race weekend under our belts with my new team. For sure, our best days are ahead of us. Not to say that seventh place is bad. It's just that I know we have what it takes to do so much better. We will start that at Phoenix, for sure. I really enjoy that track. You run with a lot of downforce, so there is a lot of grip as you go around the track. And with the elevation changes, it' a really run race to run on as a driver. It was my first-ever IRL race last year, so I showed up and felt a little bit lost. I struggled a bit to get used to running in a new kind of car with a new team. This year, I feel much more confident. I plan to stay on a few extra days with my wife and enjoy the city a little bit. I really love the area, so hopefully we'll be in a great mood with something to celebrate after the race weekend."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League champion, 2001 Phoenix event winner): "Phoenix is a tough little track because it's small. One end is different than the other. We had a good run there last year, and I'm really excited to be able to be going back to Phoenix. It's a fun racetrack. I have a lot of fun on the shorter tracks. I'm going to get to race in Phoenix and then go to Fontana the weekend after that, so we're really getting back into the swing of things, and I'm ready to go. I think the biggest thing about those tracks is that they are really suited to what I like and also to what the guys at Pennzoil Panther Racing like. We like the short tracks, where it's about the car setup, about patience and timing passes. We like the bigger tracks, too, where it's a little bit more about horsepower, but we tend to run real well at the shorter tracks, where you really have to have the car set up good, where it's not a matter of who's the bravest or anything like that. It's who has got the good cars that is going to be the one that is up front at the end of the day."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light Life Fitness Tae-Bo Delta Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): "My team and I are looking forward to the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200, but Phoenix has always been a mixed bag for us since we have experienced very high and low moments. I was severely injured in Turn 2 (in 1996), but we also started dead last and won (in 2000). During the race weekend, Turn 2 still haunts me. I don't want to give in to it while running in that corner, but I don't want to overdrive and try too hard just because of my past accident. I have to focus harder to overcome this challenge as well as the slippery track conditions." (Outlook on championship after Homestead-Miami event): "Overall, my Coors Light team is always in contention. We have points to make up since we were hoping for a stronger start in Miami. With the 15-race schedule, we're confident in our ability to march back into contention for the championship." (Connection to Phoenix area): "Growing up, I spent a great deal of time racing motorcycles in the desert. Now, Phoenix is a stop both Kara (wife) and I look forward to because her mother lives in the area, and it gives us a chance to visit."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "After all we went through in Homestead, I sure hope we learned something. And I believe we have. We'll take our new knowledge to Phoenix and make a better mouse trap. Unfortunately, we tried some things that weekend that didn't work, but that's part of racing. The hope is that we made the package better through that experimentation. I can tell you we have a good idea of where we were short in Miami, and we'll be back in Phoenix to jump back into the points race." (About consecutive races at Phoenix and California Speedway): "Having Phoenix and California back-to-back presents a number of issues. For starters, they are two totally different tracks. I hate to say it, but we're starting to get into the dog days of summer when it comes to racing. The schedule moves on and you have to be ready and prepared to compete every race. It becomes demanding. With these two races, the guys can't go back to the race shop, and that presents its own problems. We'll have one car set up for Phoenix, and the other set basically for Fontana. That's really what you have to do. Fortunately, we tested extensively at both tracks last month, so we know what the cars respond to. But it's difficult to change the cars back and forth if we were faced with having to do that - there's different suspension and different aero packages. The bottom line is we need to have a strong consistent race at Phoenix and not put ourselves in a tough situation heading to California. I like to think we had our mulligan in Miami; the focus is now even more intense on finding good consistent finishes and race wins."

ANTHONY LAZZARO (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I feel like we accomplished just what we needed to at Homestead. The team was restructured over the winter, and considering all the changes, a top 10 was a great finish. I am very much looking forward to going to both Phoenix and Fontana. PIR is a driver's track, and I have done many miles there in Atlantics. I feel like we have a setup and a team that will be very competitive in the race, and my confidence builds every time I get in the car. I have complete confidence in my engineer Tim Neff and the entire crew. I really like the two tracks, Phoenix and Fontana, although they are completely different. The 1-mile Phoenix oval is tight, and you have to be aggressive. It's going to be a great race. I'm ready for the back-to-back weekends. I wished we raced every weekend. The more I can be in the car, the more comfortable I get, and the more I learn about the car. I want to spend as much time in the car as I can before Indy."

ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year): "We are not too happy about our Homestead run, although that has never been one of my favorite tracks. That being said, I am excited about coming to Phoenix, which is a track I know and like. Since we didn't do any winter testing, Homestead was kind of a warm-up for the team and I. We are obviously really happy about having Scottrade on board with us and look to get some good performances for them. Last year at Phoenix, we finished eighth out of the box, so we look to improve on that. Being back with the Cahill team is like being back with family and friends. That chemistry should get us some results in the near future, hopefully Phoenix."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone) (About accident in season-opening race at Homestead-Miami that eliminated his teammate and boss, Eddie Cheever Jr.): "Eddie and I discussed the accident I started on the third lap of the Homestead race at length and reviewed the ABC race footage, as well. I realized that the road-racing techniques I was using definitely do not apply to oval racing. I learned a valuable lesson in Miami that will help me to become a stronger oval racing driver. I will go to Phoenix with a different approach altogether. We tested at Phoenix, and I feel that we have a good car there. The weather will be a bit different than our test so we will have to be prepared. I think we will spend more time on the race setup and less on qualifying in order to have a stronger car for the Phoenix race than we did in Miami. We will look for a good, strong finish for the Red Bull Cheever Racing team. I want to go away from Phoenix higher in the championship than my current sixth place."

SAM SCHMIDT (Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, driver Anthony Lazzaro): "I can't wait to get to the two West Coast races for a couple of reasons. I was able to win at Phoenix in several different divisions and feel as if I can share a great deal of experience with Anthony at this track. I had never raced at Homestead and felt ineffective there. PIR is just one of those special places that I like to race at , and I know Anthony will like it in these cars as well. The team has worked very hard since Homestead to create a stronger effort for these races. Our motto is to 'peak in May,' and I think were off to a good start. Secondly, PIR will host spinal-cord patients from local Good Samaritan Hospital throughout the weekend. This is the first of many such events that the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and its corporate partners will be hosting in race markets throughout the year."

RICK TREADWAY (No. 55 Airlink Enterprises/Spade Motorsports G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to the West Coast swing. It's going to be great for the league, fans and sponsors. We had a good test in Phoenix, and I should have a good car for the race. My goal is to be more patient and be there at the end. Phoenix is tight, tricky and unforgiving. You just can't make any mistakes, especially racing back-to-back weekends. It's going to be fun running with the Copper Classic, as well. I'm used to being there in the midget and Silver Crown cars, and I'm just really grateful that I've got the opportunity to be there in the IRL car with support from Airlink Enterprises, Spade Motorsports and the entire Treadway team."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Eddie Cheever , Anthony Lazzaro , Sam Schmidt , Mo Nunn
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing