RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 20, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the SunTrust Indy Challenge on Saturday, June 28 at Richmond International Raceway. The event starts with practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying on June 27...
RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 20, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the SunTrust Indy Challenge on Saturday, June 28 at Richmond International Raceway. The event starts with practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying on June 27 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 1998 IndyCar Series champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"The Richmond oval is a very busy track. At least we tested at Richmond earlier this year to get an idea of what the track will be like. But we run the race at night, and that will make the track conditions different from the daytime testing. The Richmond track is so much different than even the 1-mile ovals I have run over the last few years. We are in position to race with the leaders for a chance at a championship. We have finished every race this year, and that is good for the points. I'd really like to win a race soon to bounce us back towards the top of the points. But at Richmond a driver has to be careful, too. You want to be aggressive, but you can get in trouble if you are too aggressive. There is a fine line to watch for on that little track. At Pikes Peak, we just didn't have a very good car. It was a pretty long day, but we were able to collect some points. Now we have to be ready for the Richmond race."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"We're always excited to go to Richmond because the track's short, bumpy, wide, and we're shifting all the time. It's the closest thing to road racing that we come to in the IndyCar Series. It's a fun, busy night behind the wheel, and just as exciting for the drivers as it is for the fans."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"Richmond is a tough, unforgiving track. We're working with a new engine and chassis this year, so we've thrown away our notes from last season. We tested here at the end of May, and overall I think we've got a good baseline setup for the Marlboro Team Penske car. It will be a handling race, so we'll need to fine-tune the setup once we arrive for race weekend. Everything happens very fast here because it is such a small track. When you're turning 16-second laps, it's difficult to find even an extra one-tenth of a second anywhere. The track is also fairly bumpy, which makes it challenging not only for the drivers but for the engineers, as well. I think it'll be an exciting race, and I'm really looking forward to coming back to Virginia. We're heading to Richmond tied for third in the championship point standings, so we need to stay focused and add to our point total."
GIL de FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"Richmond is a real driver's track where handling is important and horsepower plays less of a role, which is why I like racing there. The track is a challenge for both the drivers and the engineers because it is almost like a high-speed road course. It is a tough track to get around. The bumps and g-forces pulling us in the turns make it physically demanding. If your car is handling well, you'll probably be running up front. Marlboro Team Penske tested at Richmond at the end of May, so hopefully we'll have a good baseline setup for race weekend."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"We've really got a lot of momentum after last week's win in Pikes Peak. The team has given me great cars all year, and it's a good feeling knowing week in and week out that you've got a great chance to win. We had a great test down in Richmond a few weeks ago, and it's a cool track. I've never raced on an oval that small before, but it's going to be exciting, that's for sure. We had a great car at the test, and hopefully we'll hit on the setup again and be in the battle for another win. When I first pulled up to the track, I thought it was a go-kart track or something. But when you take your first laps, you quickly realize that it's a tough and demanding track. It's going to be a lot of fun."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 GMAC/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"I've always loved the short tracks, and Richmond is one of my favorite drives in the IndyCar Series. My team would really prefer I not try to take the car sideways through the turns, but my sprint-car adrenaline churns pretty strongly on a track like this. It's the kind of racing that I grew up with, and it should be the most competitive track yet for our Chevy engines. It's also exciting because it's the one-year anniversary of the existing #23 team. It all got started at Richmond last year, with Mark Weida and Dan Miller. It's great because the team has been consistent, and we can continue to build upon our experiences. Sooner or later, it is going to pay off. We just don't know when."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone, 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year):
"Richmond is a place where I've always enjoyed driving. I call it a road-course type of oval because you're always turning, and you're always in traffic. It's really fun for me. The car just goes, and it's up to you to stay out of trouble. You can get sideways, but it's no big deal because the speeds are a lot slower than all of the other tracks we go to. We're in a sequence of three races where things haven't gone too well for us on the Hollywood side, so we're really looking to turn things around. Usually, I've had the bad streak at the end of the last couple of seasons with streaks like we've been having lately. Maybe this means we'll get the bad stuff out of the way for the year now, and we'll finish strong from this point and be right in the middle of the championship by the end of the season."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series champion, 2002 Richmond winner):
"Richmond is a nice, little, tight track. You have to have a lot of traction and be able to put the power down. The Pennzoil Panther team won at Richmond last year, so we have previous success to lean on. Hopefully, we'll have as good of a handling car there as we did at Pikes Peak."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series points leader):
"I think it's going to be a tough racetrack. It's very demanding, very physical. I would say that Richmond will be the most difficult race of the year. Hopefully, we'll have a good car over there. I know our car will look good since we'll be running the 'Hulk' car there. If we can get it to run as good as it looks, I think we'll have a great night. I'm expecting the best over there. Consistency will be the key, but it will, for sure, be the toughest racetrack that we'll race on. A win at Richmond would mean a lot, definitely. When you win the most difficult race of the year, it's always a pleasure. Looking at it as one race, it would mean a lot to me. But, it would also mean a lot toward the championship. It's hard to describe, but the pride that goes into winning the toughest race of the year, it's a big thing."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 IndyCar Series champion, 2001 Richmond winner):
"Richmond is a special racetrack. I've enjoyed a lot of success there, winning the inaugural event. I think as a driver and team, we've had a good grasp of the track and performed well both years we've run at Richmond. We feel like a rabbit back in the briar patch, and short-track racing comes very natural to our team. Of course, we're looking forward to this year's race. Short-oval racing at night is a great race for the fans to come out and watch. The IndyCar Series cars maintain such a blistering pace for such a short track. The speed of the cars, combined with the tight and short track of Richmond at night, is truly a unique event for the competitors and fans alike. As a team, we've been steadily building momentum, improving our finishes and points-standing position. We look forward to a strong finish at Richmond."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"I've never been to the Richmond track before. The only information that I know about the track is what I have learned from watching previous tapes of races there. Our plan is to try to run as much as possible during the first practice session to get a feel for the track. We're also going to work hard to change our thinking strategy from Pikes Peak and try to develop a better race strategy for Richmond."
GREG RAY (No. 13 TrimSpa Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, 1999 IndyCar Series champion):
"I'm looking forward to the TrimSpa Access Motorsports team running at Richmond. We didn't get a lot of laps testing there due to the rain, but we did get a good feel for the track. We were pretty conservative with our test setups there, but we were pretty quick, and I was very comfortable. I led a lot of laps there last year and felt that we could have won that race had we not had a motor blow up, and we were quick there the year before. The shorter ovals are definitely fun. They're fast, and they're exciting. It is definitely a bullring and will make the fight in the race pretty brutal. It will take the perfect setup, and the team will have to have really good strategy, because you can go down a lap there in a hurry running 15- to 16-second laps. But it's a lot of fun, and I'm very much looking forward to it."
BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"Next weekend will be my first time racing at Richmond. I'm excited to get the chance to race on this track because we tested there before, and the car handled really well. We're planning on taking the knowledge we learned from our testing and hopefully finishing solid in the top 10."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone):
"If we can shake this string of bad luck, we're going to start winning races soon. We've had dominant cars over the last few races, and for one reason or another, we just haven't had the finishes we need. It is encouraging to know that Team Target is going to have a car that will run at the front each week, and we've proven that by leading the most laps. We just need to lead the important one, the last one. The guys have done such an amazing job week in and week out, and our luck will turn around. Like Scott (Dixon), we had a great car at the test down in Richmond. I think that we were third fastest in the test session, and that gives us a lot of confidence going into the race. We're due for some breaks to go our way."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion):
"Richmond is one of the most exciting tracks that the IndyCar Series races on because it is a true bullring. It's amazing to think that in a 3/4-mile track, we are barely off the throttle so we are covering a lot of ground in very little time. Sixteen-second laps go by very quickly in an IndyCar Series car. For the Delphi team, it's really important in the championship hunt to come out of these two short-track races with four wheels on the car and as many points as possible. We did run a short time at the Richmond Open Test in May before the rain came, and I think we were competitive at that point, so I think we should be OK when we get back there. I'm just looking forward to having a really good weekend at Richmond."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"As for Richmond, I was able to run there for two days after the Indy 500, so I do not need to waste my time and tires just getting used to the track, which is good news. I was low on the timing-and-scoring sheet at the test, but this was because of a brand-new tire run that was ruined by Helio (Castroneves) and Tony (Kanaan's) accident at the end of testing. Our Pioneer team succeeded in finding a fairly good balance there, so I am hoping I will have a competitive car. However, Chip Ganassi's guys and the Penske guys and Tony (Kanaan) were quick all day, so it will be tough to fight against those guys. Because of the penalty I got at Texas, I am now only 11th in the championship and need to fight back. It will not be easy, but I need to hang in there, and I am sure I can do it together with my Pioneer team."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"Richmond is very unique and such a great oval track. It's the smallest oval that the IndyCar Series races on, and that makes it really exciting for the drivers and the fans. You are busy all the time at Richmond because there are virtually no straightaways. When the IndyCar Series gets to Richmond, it's like NASCAR going to Darlington, except instead of 'Darlington stripes' we get 'Richmond stripes.' I like racing in Richmond and have finished third there before. With it being a Saturday-night event, it's like the 'Saturday Night Fight,' and that's exciting."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"I'm looking forward to the race in Richmond, and I'm really hoping for a change in luck. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam car has been competitive, but we haven't put a full weekend together. From what I understand about night racing, the only thing we have to be careful about is how the temperature change affects the car. I have a feeling the car will get loose, and after driving an extremely loose race car in Pikes Peak, I don't want to repeat that experience."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"We have a good short-oval setup, which we showed at Pikes Peak, and it should be good for Richmond, as well. We should have a good car there. We were able to test, so I know the track already, and that will be a big help for the race weekend. It is the shortest track that we race on, and it will be very busy during the race, similar to Pikes Peak. You need to have a good, balanced car to run fast and stay at the front. Traffic will be a big factor in the race. Setting up the car for long stints and tire management are important. These (short-oval) races suit my driving style. I am looking forward to the race and to finishing where we left off at Pikes Peak and proving that we can finish up front."