FOUNTAIN, Colo., Monday, June 9, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarÃ” Series drivers about the Honda Indy 225 on Sunday, June 15 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. The event starts with practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying on June 14 (quotes...
FOUNTAIN, Colo., Monday, June 9, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarÔ Series drivers about the Honda Indy 225 on Sunday, June 15 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. The event starts with practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying on June 14 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 1998 IndyCara Series champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1998 Pikes Peak winner): "That (1998) Pikes Peak race win was pretty special. I ran out of fuel in Turn 3 and coasted around Turn 4 and the front straight to take the checkered flag. That was cutting it a little too close. But they still gave me the trophy. I'd like to come back to Pikes Peak with another strong chance to win this time. With the level of competition in the IndyCar Series now, I expect the racing to be very good. I know I want to be racing for the lead at the end. I think we have the team and machinery to win at Pikes Peak again. The series is a little different now. Back then we had seven or eight cars who could win. Now, it's 15 or 16 cars that can win a race. We have a great group of people at Team Rahal, and it is great to get back working with them again. We know each other, and now we are all learning about the new IndyCar Series cars and engines. That has been a bit of a struggle for us, but we have made gains. We ran pretty well at Texas. Now we have to get back in the points race with a good showing at Colorado. I think we have the setups to run well at that place."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Colorado is always a fun place to go. With the altitude, we're not sure exactly how it will affect the performance of this motor. Handling is a premium at Pikes Peak for the race, but from a qualifying standpoint it will still be the power issue that everyone knows about. We'll be focused on the race and making sure that we're as competitive as we can be."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I'm looking forward to going back to Colorado. It's a beautiful place, and the race is a lot of fun. Marlboro Team Penske did very well there last year (Castroneves finished second, and teammate Gil de Ferran won), so we just need to maintain that momentum. We've got a new chassis and engine this year so it is important to stay ahead on that learning curve. We just tested at Pikes Peak International Raceway, and the car seems to be handling well, so I think we'll be in good shape come race weekend."
GIL de FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2002 Pikes Peak winner): "Pikes Peak is one of my favorite tracks on the Indy Racing League schedule. It is a challenging short oval, but at the same time gives you the freedom to try different lines. It's also the site of my first IRL win. Marlboro Team Penske tested there last week, which was particularly important since Pikes Peak is a two-day event so we don't have a lot of time to work on qualifying and race setups. I'm looking forward to running there again and hope we do as well as we did last year."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It's going to be cool to get back out to Colorado. The last time that I was there, I finished second at the Denver street race. It will be my first time on the track there in Pikes Peak. It's really going to be challenging, with the altitude and all, but our guys will be prepared for it. It feels good to get back into a rhythm of racing each week. You get more into a racing state of mind and become more focused. We had a fast car when we tested at Richmond two weeks ago, and the track is similar in some regards. With any luck, we should be pretty good this weekend, as well."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 GMAC/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Pikes Peak is going to offer us another chance to shine on a short track. We had a really great run in Phoenix and hopefully some of what we learned there can be used to our advantage in Colorado. I missed Colorado last year and haven't even seen the track since 2001, so it will take me a lap or two to get back in the groove. But just like riding a bike, once you learn, you never forget."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone, 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year): "I think Pikes Peak is going to be a big change of pace that we probably need right now so we can sort of hit the reset button and start getting some good results again. The month of May at Indy is such a big thing and then we go to Texas for a night race, where there's always a lot of electricity in the air and the race is always exciting. Pikes Peak is a nice breath of fresh air after all that. Unfortunately, we didn't come out of Indy and Texas with very good results so we need a good result at Pikes Peak so we can move back up in the championship. There are still a lot of races to go, and Pikes Peak would be a great place to start turning things around. The good thing is, the Hollywood team has given me an excellent car all year long, good enough to possibly even win the last two races. But things just didn't work for us in the end. Let's change that this weekend."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series Champion): "I really like racing at Pikes Peak because it's a fun track. It's a handling track where you have to get the car right, but when you do, it's awesome. It's the fastest 1-mile track that we compete on, and with the thin air, it changes how the cars feel. We've had some really weird changeable weather there as well, hot and cool and hail, some extremes, so it's very tricky to get the car set up. Just when you think you've got it, the weather changes again, so it's a bit of a treasure hunt for the teams. As far as racing, Pikes Peak is a real driver's track with close racing, and you can run side-by-side all the way around, like Helio and I did last year. It's great. Let's go."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series points leader): "Pikes Peak is another place I've never been before. But the guys tested there, so I'm relying on Bryan (Herta) and Dan (Wheldon). They did a great job for us (in pre-race testing) at Texas, so hopefully Pikes Peak will be the same story. We're going to go there with the same hat on that we had at Texas. If we have a car to win, we're going to win. If we don't, we're going to try to finish as high as we can because we are looking at the big picture. I don't know what to expect. I've never seen the racetrack. I don't know the layout. I'm going to watch last year's race this week on TV and go from there."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Victory Brand/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 IndyCar Series champion, 2001 Pikes Peak winner, resident of Vail, Colo.): "I'm very excited about returning to Colorado. If you're a professional race car driver, it is not often that you get to compete in a professional race series in your home state. Racing in the state of Colorado is always special. It is where I began my racing career, running around all these great tracks in Colorado. There is nothing like racing at home. I think that Pikes Peak sort of kicks off the summer. I know that Brian (Barnhart) always talks about the dog days of summer, and that's really how I see Pikes Peak. Not only is the weather starting to get hot, but also the season is really just starting to heat up. The race is always challenging, and it always has an importance in the point standings and the championship outcome. The track itself is a beautiful facility and is one of the faster 1-mile ovals. It doesn't have a lot of banking but has just enough for the IndyCar Series cars to put on a good race. The track is very wide, and we're able to run three abreast down the straightaways and two wide in the corners. We're building momentum at Hemelgarn Racing this year, and we're looking forward to a strong finish. There was nothing like winning at my home track in 2001, and I'd like to do it again."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The first time I will see the track (Pikes Peak) will be Saturday. I have watched the tapes from last year. It is going to be a much better track for the Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet than Texas. I am looking forward to visiting Colorado. I am going in early to train with some Olympic triathlon athletes. That is another passion of mine, so I am really looking forward to seeing how these athletes train. I will also be visiting the employees at Johns Manville in Denver. I am looking forward to thanking them for their support in person. It will be a busy but fun week."
BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I have been to Pikes Peak in 1997 with the 2-liter cars. We'll have to see what it is like in an IRL IndyCar Series car. It's a handling track, and with the way the air is up there, it will be a little bit different as far as the setup. Every little bit of power helps. We'll have to see when we get there."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "Pikes Peak is a difficult track. It's kind of like a bigger Richmond or a smaller Michigan. It's a shame what happened to us in Texas because we were just dominating that race. Our luck will turn around, I'm sure of that. We've had fast cars all year, and I'm confident that we'll fast this weekend, too. The altitude does affect both you and the car. You have less downforce on the car in that thin air. Hopefully, my fitness will give me an advantage out there." (What will you do between now and Pikes Peak?) "I'll go home for a day and a half, wash my clothes, feed the dogs and then head out to Colorado on Tuesday. I'm going to the United States Olympic Training center on Wednesday, and that should be a lot of fun. I have some friends that train out there, so I'm looking forward to it."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion): "Pikes Peak is the ultimate fast 1-mile oval. It can be a very difficult track, and altitude definitely plays a role. You are wide open in qualifying, which can be a real challenge, but the drivers love this track. The goal at PPIR is to have a great car. Gil (de Ferran) had a great car last year in traffic, and his car was good for a full fuel stint, which is key. At this track, the car sometimes goes away about lap 35 of a 70-lap stint, but if you have a great car you can run the full stint with no problems. Everything has to be perfect there to win the race. There are so many guys who are so close that you have to have a great day to come out on top."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We are getting better and better every week. We had our best result of the season so far at Texas. Maybe we can make it even better at Pikes Peak. It's a small, flat oval where the car setup will be very important if you will be successful in the race. My engineers and my team have been giving me a good car for the races lately. That is exactly what a driver wants, so you can get in the car and drive to the best of your ability. It will be a challenge to get a good setup for the track at Pikes Peak, but as our results show, we are very capable of finding it. I have never been there before, so I am looking forward to it."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I'm really looking forward to going to Pikes Peak. It's going to be a great show. You could have put a blanket over the top three cars last year, and with the new Honda-Toyota war that's going on, it's going to be even tighter. It's going to be a fabulous show, and I'm looking forward to the race."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It has been disappointing the last couple of races. I'm looking forward to having a strong weekend where we can qualify well, run up front and not get involved in all the trouble that goes on when you qualify in the middle of the field. Our test went well at Pikes Peak, and the Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew will stand me in good stead for a good result."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I haven't been to Pikes Peak before, so there is going to be a lot we have to do when we get there. Everywhere we have gone so far, we have had a good baseline, so I think everything should go smoothly. We are back to short-oval racing at Pikes Peak, and that should be exciting. We have a good car for the short ovals. We are pretty much going to be racing almost every week now, and that is good for me because it will get me in the rhythm of being in the car and going to different tracks. It will help my learning curve even more after spending the whole month of May at Indy."