IRL: Pikes Peak Pre-Race Quotes

FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 23, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the inaugural Colorado Indy 200 presented by Deloitte & Touche on Aug. 29 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. PPG...

FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 23, 1999 - Quotes from selected Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers, team owners and officials about the inaugural Colorado Indy 200 presented by Deloitte & Touche on Aug. 29 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. PPG Pole qualifying is Aug. 28.

BUZZ CALKINS (#12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora/Firestone, Denver resident): "We had a very good test at Pikes Peak last Thursday and Friday. In fact, it was one of the best tests, in terms of productivity, that we have ever experienced. Therefore, I am pretty optimistic about the race. In a sense, it gives us all a chance to redeem ourselves after the eighth-place finish at Dover, which should have been higher. Our aim is to qualify well and run a consistent, fast race all day. The two Colorado races and the Indianapolis 500 are the most important races of the year for Bradley Motorsports because our home is Denver. However, we can't treat them differently in terms of strategy or preparation."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 The Children's Beverage Group-Team Cheever-Infiniti Dallara/Infiniti/Goodyear, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, former resident of Aspen, Colo.): "In June, a fuel pickup problem, combined with a yellow, led to our demise. I thought for sure that we were going to win that race." (Chances for victory): "I've always felt that we have the best package to win. I now believe that more than ever as we've improved both our engine and tire programs. I'm sure everyone has but, in our case, our two primary partners, Goodyear and Infiniti, have really made an extra effort over the past few races. I believe this is the racetrack that suits the Infiniti Indy engine the best to date. Infiniti seems to instinctually understand what is required in high altitudes. Likewise, Goodyear feels it has improved the front-tire problems of the past few races. These two things and no mistakes will be our magical formula." (About the track): "Pikes Peak is very quick, very smooth and very flat. The field should be a little bit faster by one or two tenths of a second. We all have more information, and the weather is cooler than in June. The altitude will still play havoc. You really lose a little bit everywhere in a rarified environment like this ... engine, aerodynamics, driver. That doesn't leave you with much left to win a race if you don't have a strategy to combat it all." (About chances for Pep Boys Million as series champion): "We have no choice but to go for a win at every race. If we can win the next two races our strategy might change by Texas, but winning races has to be where our focus is right now. I truly believe that we have had the chance to win each of the past four races, and we have one of the best shots for victory at Colorado." (About preparation for 2000 season): "The Nissan program is going strong, and we look forward to continued progress this season, and next season with the new engine formula. We know we have the power and reliability to get the Infiniti engine into the winner's circle for the first time. We're evaluating all of our other vendors. Nothing is set yet, but we will field the strongest possible package in 2000." (About reports that his chief mechanic, Owen Snyder III, may leave the team to start an Indy Racing team next year with two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. as driver): "We would never get in anybody's way should he or any other team member want to take their careers in a different direction. Owen is extremely talented. He's one of the absolute best in racing situations. However, in my opinion, at Team Cheever, every crew member has made significant contributions to our successes, and that will continue regardless of any personnel changes during the offseason. If Owen believes it's time to take a shot at the business side of racing, then we'll wish him the best."

MARK DISMORE (#28 MCI WorldCom Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "We had a great car at Pikes Peak back in June. We had a few misfortunes, but I'm confident we have a good car. We'll just stick with our setup we've been using and hope for the best."

SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, Pep Boys Indy Racing League points leader): "Unfortunately we weren't competitive at the last Pikes Peak race. We had a great race car, we were just at the wrong track. It was the only race where we had not been competitive for the win all year. We have since tested at Pikes Peak with positive results, so we plan on being back in the hunt for a win at the upcoming race. (About the championship): "The series championship is down to a three-race season now, with each race being as important as the next. I think we've got to continue to stay focused, complete races and keep doing what we've been doing all year and not try to reinvent racing. If we do those things, I think we're a contender for the championship."

DAVEY HAMILTON (#9 Galles Racing Spinal Conquest Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "My car was really good for the race when we were here back in June. Having a good race setup is so important on these short tracks, because if you can't stay up with the leaders you will start to lose laps. We feel good about the car, and I love running at this track." (About racing at high altitude): "It does not affect me as a driver to run at the higher altitudes just because I have been around it my whole life. Not running in the humidity, as we have been lately, is a definite plus. I have kept to my workout schedule pretty good this summer, so I think in terms of being physically prepared I am doing great." (About championship points battle): "This race is going to determine quite a bit in terms of the championship points battle. It is extremely close, and it is going to be very important to finish this race. We broke a timing chain early on at the last race, and that hurt us quite a bit. The key this weekend will be for all of us to keep our heads while we are racing hard. It ought to be some good racing."

SCOTT HARRINGTON (#66 The CertainTeed Building Products Special, Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year points leader): "I think our chances for victory are very good, especially since we ran so well here in June. Darrell Soppe and the CertainTeed crew gave me a car that was unbelievably hooked up, and we'll take those notes and what we learned in June and go from there. In the spring I didn't even know if I could go the distance in the race at Pikes Peak. I had broken my right leg and cracked some ribs when a wheel broke in practice at Texas two weeks before the Pikes Peak race. Despite all that, we ran as high as second and we almost won the race. I'm a rookie. Since we're making a return trip here, this is the first track other than Indy that I've raced at twice in an Indy Racing car. That past experience definitely makes me feel more comfortable and more confident." (About racing at high altitude): "To tell you the truth, I don't really know how much the altitude affects you at Pikes Peak under normal circumstances, because when I raced here in an Indy Racing car for the first time this spring, it definitely wasn't under normal circumstances. I had three broken ribs from a crash two weeks earlier at Texas, and it was hard for me to breath, period. I'm a lot better now than I was in June, so maybe I can give a better answer to that after this next race." (About leading the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year standings): "We're not really in the hunt for the championship, but we are leading the standings for the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year Award, which is an award we'd really like to have at the end of the year, not only for us but also for CertainTeed."

PAUL LAURITZEN (Indy Racing League Operations Manager, Goodyear): "Goodyear specifically went testing at Pikes Peak to find a tire that is more consistent with improved grip. While that is the objective of every tire test, we are encouraged about the results of the Eagle IRL radials we tested and the feedback our engineers received from the drivers."

BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, Vail, Colo., resident): "The Indy Racing League, with three races to go, has the closest and I believe the most exciting battle for the championship in Indy Racing history with 51 points separating first and 10th. We have had a very strong run this year and have been positioned for an opportunity to win many times but unfortunately have not done so. We feel like we have a lot of momentum with the Coors Light-Delta Faucet-Hemelgarn Racing team, having led and finished on the podium in the last two races. I'm very fortunate to have a great race team. We're very excited about the home-track advantage, racing in front of family and friends and a lot of Colorado race fans. As a driver, I couldn't be more pumped up being 40 points out of the championship." (About strategy down the stretch run): "We're all out. We go for it. If we can finish very strong in the next three races, we're a dark horse for the championship. And we're going to be all out. But at the same time, you can't throw away a second place going for a first place if you expect to win a championship. We need three strong finishes to win the title. As a competitor and a race fan, I've never seen a championship like this in Indy Racing. It's anybody's race, anybody's championship. It just goes to show that the points system that the Indy Racing League has put into place allows for very close competition." (About Pikes Peak International Raceway): "PPIR is a very fast and wide racetrack, allowing for side-by-side, sometimes three-abreast racing. It's the sort of track that perpetuates good races."

ROBBY McGEHEE (#55 Energizer Advanced Formula Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, 1999 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year): "I'm really looking forward to this weekend. The last time there we didn't even get to race. One thing we're really excited about is that we'll be running new (Comptech) motors. That, and the fact we've finally got all the '99 updates to the car, has us feeling maybe this is our weekend. The updates alone should make a big difference. We've qualified poorly, especially on the bigger ovals, so we were able to get all the drag out of the car. Thomas Knapp (of Team Menard), from whom we got this car, says the updates alone should be worth about half a tenth. As tight as the qualifying fields are in this series, that could mean the difference between running mid-pack and running up front. When we were running at Pikes Peak the last time there, it was my first time on a short oval in an Indy Racing car. We were doing OK, sitting in the top 10. I really felt comfortable in the car. But it turned out to be a tough weekend. We missed qualifying because of a blown motor. Then we crashed in the final practice. Our thinking was that if we would have had a good starting spot, we would have gone to the trouble of rebuilding a car for the race. But, being relegated to the back of the pack and being faced with fighting our way up from there, we thought it would be a better idea to pack up and go home and come back next time." (About race at Dover, Del.): "Dover was great. We had a good run there, but we ran out of gas due to a miscalculation. But it was the first time all year that we led a race. We led 17 laps, and I can see that that has injected a lot of life into this Energizer Motorsports team. Everyone seems to have a new attitude." (About racing on 1-mile tracks like Pikes Peak): "Big tracks are easier to drive than the short ovals, but now they're pinning us down with so much downforce on the short ovals, it's easier than it would be otherwise. Pikes Peak is not as physical as Dover, but compared to Texas and Charlotte you feel the car sliding quite a bit more. If you've got a good car, you'll probably like that. We had a good car last time, but we had that accident. It wasn't our weekend." (About return at Pikes Peak of crew chief Steve Fried, injured at Indy): "That's just going to elevate all of our spirits immensely. He came up with us through the ranks, so he's a major part of this team. It's interesting because he's not just some guy from some team. He's a huge presence. I'm just amazed how far he's come in such a short time since that devastating accident in the pits."

JOE NEGRI (Group Manager, GM Raceshop Engineering IRL/Road Racing): "When the Indy Racing League series raced at Pikes Peak International Raceway in June, Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 engines swept the podium and had a perfect reliability record. In view of that performance, we are now concentrating on testing and validating our new 3.5-liter engine package for 2000. We have already successfully completed a dynamometer simulation of the Indi anapolis 500 with our new short-stroke, 90-degree crankshaft, and are in the process of validating a new 180-degree "flat" crankshaft design in the same 500-mile simulation. We intend to track test both configurations before finalizing the specifications that we will release to the independent Oldsmobile engine builders. We have also delivered the initial run of 3.5-liter parts to our OEM builders so they can begin their own development programs. With five months remaining before the first race with 3.5-liter engines, we are much farther along on the development cycle than we were at this time in 1996 before the introduction of the 4.0-liter engines. We anticipate that the new 3.5-liter package will be thoroughly tested and validated before the start of the 2000 racing season. We project that we will need to produce 150 engine kits to meet the initial demand for 3.5-liter Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8s before next January."

GREG RAY (#2 Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, winner of Radisson 200 in June at PPIR): "I'm looking forward to coming back to Pikes Peak. I've had people ask me if I can win two in a row there, and that's probably impossible. The Indy Racing League is so, so competitive that even a top-five finish would make me very happy. If we just keep working hard, we'll be ready to roll the dice." (About emotions of earning first career Indy Racing victory in June at PPIR): "It was pretty special. It was great for my family and great for my team. My first win in 18 tries in the Indy Racing League. We had a good car all weekend long at PPIR, we had good, strong racing decisions, good pit strategy. We didn't take any big chances, and we had lady luck on our side. It was a nice feeling to win there." (About chase for championship): "Anybody in the top 10 or 12 in points can mathematically win the championship. We just have to remain consistent and do what we do best, and that's qualify and race well. We have put ourselves in a position to go for the title. It should be an exciting final three races." (Are you the hottest driver right now in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League?): "I've always been one of those guys that has a lot of belief in myself, a lot of self-confidence and even when people tell you that you shouldn't, I always work real hard toward that. It's a psychological advantage for us, I guess, with all the other guys and other teams because they know we've always been one of the quickest cars out there, day in and day out. So now we're starting to finish very consistently. Not only are we a threat for pole position but a threat for wins, as well. I think that puts a little added pressure on the other guys, so I like the seat I'm sitting in right now. I'm happy about that."

SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "I'm looking forward to a second shot at Pikes Peak. It's one of the smoothest 1-mile ovals we run on in our series. I really enjoy the track. Back in June, we had a pretty good race. We had a few problems, but overall, we managed to pull out a top-10 finish. It's a very challenging track for a driver, and we always seem to give the audience a great show. I'm confident in the Delphi team, and I believe we have a good shot at winning. We look to get back into the winner's circle."

JEFF WARD (#21 Yahoo-Merchant Online Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear): "We need to be a little less conservative. Now that we've tested at PPIR, we know the car a lot better. We were really quick when we were there testing. We seem to have more of a grasp of what we need to do to run up front at Pikes Peak. We turned the quickest time of everyone that's been there so far. I did a 20.3 (lap time), but I was in traffic behind (Kenny) Brack. But that's still a pretty quick lap. We did some qualifying runs, and we ran a 20.4, which was the pole at the last race. We did some long runs, too. The track just keeps getting more and more grip. This is the first time we've tested at any track, except for Indy. This is a big boost for my confidence. This is a big gain because we know that the car will be quick right out of the box. We'll be right up to speed, and we can worry about other things. At the last race at PPIR, we had never been there before. We ran two cars on that weekend, the backup car and the race car. We tried different settings and with a 45-minute practice session, you only get 30 laps. When you're there testing, you get 150 laps a day. So it's a giant difference going back there knowing what the car is going to do compared to the last time we were there. It's a night-and-day difference."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr.