FORT WORTH, Texas, Monday, Sept. 8, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the season-ending Chevy 500 on Sunday, Sept. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway. The event starts Sept. 13 with practice, followed by MBNA Pole Qualifying on...
FORT WORTH, Texas, Monday, Sept. 8, 2002 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the season-ending Chevy 500 on Sunday, Sept. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway. The event starts Sept. 13 with practice, followed by MBNA Pole Qualifying on Sept. 14 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year): "We feel we will have a fast car going back to Texas. We learned a lot at Chicago. We want to finish fifth or better in the points." (About debut season in IRL): "This has been an amazing season for our team. Larry Blair worked hard on putting this team together in January. For a first year team in the highly competitive IRL, Blair Racing has done a great job. The whole crew, Chevrolet and Rayovac has put us in the top 10 10 times. We led at Indy and won at Nashville. This has been a good year for all of us."
RAUL BOESEL (No. 12 Bradley Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "After the Chicagoland race and being part of the lead pack at the end, I'm real excited about going to Texas. Since I've been with the Bradley team, the only tracks I've ever had experience at were Gateway and Michigan. Since I've already raced once in Texas this year, returning will be a big plus. We need to end the season with a strong result to build on over the winter. The Bradley team and I are working hard to find sponsors and build on what we've developed the second half of this year."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "I think all of us look forward to Texas because it's always such a great race. For our Purex/Aventis team, we'd really like an opportunity to redeem ourselves this season, and Texas is a great place to prove it. It's a great track to drive, and the fans are always excited to see us. There's no better promoter for the league than Bruton (Smith), and no bigger place than Texas for us to close out the season."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner): "It's great we're going into Texas still battling for the IRL championship. We raced there earlier this year, and we finished fourth, so hopefully we'll be able to bring the title home - since I've never won a national championship, this would be a great goal to accomplish. Marlboro Team Penske has been doing a fantastic job all year, so now we just have to stay focused for one more race and execute this weekend. It should be an exciting event for the fans and a great conclusion to the 2002 IRL season."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The Red Bull team is continuing a streak of putting cars back in the transporter in one piece and accumulating points. Ninety percent of the race at Chicagoland was the best I've seen. So many drivers had the possibility of winning. In the front pack of five cars, in the final laps, there was the current IRL champion, two two-time Indy 500 winners and two one-time Indy 500 winners. It was great to be a part of that group racing each other in an area of about 20 yards. I had a lot of fun. Going into Texas, I sincerely hope the IRL takes a very firm stance on all of the drivers that were blocking in Joliet. Every driver going to Texas, regardless of what team they drive for, has to understand clearly that the rules apply to everybody. I couldn't think of a better place than Texas Motor Speedway to finish out the championship. After every Texas race, I get out of the car completely drained, both physically and mentally. If you look at the spectators after the race, they look almost as tired as us drivers from standing up in their seats for the entire race. This is another race I really want to win."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Team Smart Blade/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "Texas Motor Speedway is a total-horsepower, no-drag track so the more widgets you take off will make you go quicker, in theory. I would consider Texas a kind of "home track" for me since it was the first IRL race I ran, in 1999. It's a great facility with great people, and most importantly after doing well at Michigan and Kentucky, I'm really looking forward to drafting at TMS. Although this is the last race of the season, it feels like I just got started, and I'm not ready for it to be over yet - at least it gives me more initiative to work really hard to get things in place for 2003. I really want to keep my engineer and team together since I've never had a core group of people together at the beginning of the season, so that's what we will be working really hard for."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "Unfortunately, we're not in position to fight for the championship anymore so we go to Texas with really nothing to lose. I can't lose any positions in the points standings, so we're going all out to get the race win this weekend. It would be really great to finish the season with a win, which would be our second of the year, and that's a pretty good record for a first-year team. And if there's one race that's really great to win, it's the last one of the season because then you have three or four months to celebrate. That would be great momentum for next year. Overall, I'm very pleased with what we've done this year. It all came together pretty quickly for the Mo Nunn team. Of course, you always want more because in this business you're never satisfied with your result ... otherwise, it's time to retire. But, realistically, we've done well as a team. It's going to be tough this weekend because we don't have the package to run with the fastest cars out there, but we're a good bet to be there at the end. With nothing to lose, who knows what we might be able to do? It's not time to be conservative anymore. It's time to go out and have some fun."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League champion, Indy Racing League points leader): (Who will win the title, you or Helio Castroneves?): "I can't tell you that right now. I really don't know. I don't feel any pressure. I know all I've got to do is go out there, drive the car, and if I do the right thing on the day, then that's good. If I don't, then I've got to think about it until next March. I know the guys are putting 100 percent in, and they don't ask anything more out of me than what I can do, and I do the same thing and I don't ask any more out of them than what they are capable of, and that's what's worked out well for us. We had up and downs this year, more than we'd like to have. We'll just continue to keep fighting and doing the best we can because there's nothing more that we can do. We'd like to say, yeah, we are going to go in there and win the race, and we're going to lead from start to finish, but it's not likely that that's going to happen. We are going to have people in there, and it's just going to be staying out of trouble and strategy. So we just have to look at our numbers, and the guys will try to analyze what could have went wrong today (Sept. 8 at Chicagoland) and try to prevent it from happening at Texas. That's what makes us good: We all know we're not perfect, but we keep trying to be a little bit better." (Does your previous success at Texas give you an edge?): "We had a really good car there in the June race and had a problem - started thinking about points and got involved in something we shouldn't have been involved in, because I basically got off and let somebody go by me so that I could follow them, and that's probably the last time I've done that. Everything should work out fairly well at Texas. Pennzoil Panther Racing has won last two races there, the last two fall races. We think we have a very good setup. We thought we had a really good setup at St. Louis and didn't win that, either. You just have to take it day by day." (Do you squeeze every bit out of yourself for this season finale?): "I put my best out on the line at Indianapolis and finished 25th, put my best out on the line in Kansas and finished second, third at a couple other places. I know that the team puts 100 percent into it, and they always put their best out on the racetrack, and it wouldn't be fair to them if I didn't. So every race I go out there - sometimes it gets me in trouble and sometimes it works out good for us - whether or not we hit it at the right point in time."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): (Asked which driver will win the IRL championship): "Put me on the spot. That's tough because each -- both one of those teams, both one of those drivers and engineers have so many strengths, but certainly, in terms of most experience at Texas, you've got to lean toward the Panther team, but that's not taking anything away from the other team. They have got a lot of resources and a lot of experience to draw from, too. But it doesn't hurt. The more experience you have on these high banks, the more experience you have running wide open in packs, drafting the way that we do, IRL-intensive experience. I think that will weigh a little heavier. It could go either way, though."
GEORGE MACK (No. 31 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We're anxious for the Chevy 500. The 310 Racing crew is ready to put its first season in the books, and hopefully we'll do it with a lot of finesse and success. I'm still in contention for the Rookie of the Year Award, and while it won't be easy, I will fight for that title until the bitter end. On that same note, I'm especially looking forward to heading back to Texas Motor Speedway because for once this year, I can now head to an IRL track and know the ins and outs of the kind of racing it allows. I'll have data from our work at TMS in June, and I know that will be a big plus for us."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Pittsburgh Paints Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Certainly, this last race at Chicago will help me at Texas. That was a crazy race, and I know Texas is like that for the duration of the event with cars racing together, side by side. We will have a good car and be quick; I know that. What I want more than anything is to give this team a win that they deserve. Texas will be similar to this race (Chicagoland) in how crazy it will be, but I am ready now. Every time I go out, I learn something that helps me in the next race."
GREG RAY (No. 20 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1999 Indy Racing League champion, resident of Plano, Texas): (About first race with Sam Schmidt Motorsports on Sept. 8 at Chicagoland Speedway): "I really enjoyed working with Sam Schmidt. Everybody had a great attitude. A bunch of good guys. I think, over the course of the weekend, we changed the car, improved it. We now know, in hindsight, what we could have done to make the car better." (About racing at home track at Texas): "All we can do is roll the dice and take more drag out of the car. Even though it's a horsepower track, the car has to handle. Most of the 10 to 12 top cars definitely have a horsepower advantage on us. If they run nose to tail, single file, for a long time, there's no way we can break away from them. But we have a fighting chance. I'm realistic about it. You never say never. Our goal is to go out there to win." (About title race between Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves): "Sam has a lot of testing miles. Andy Brown is a great engineer. Very solid core group of guys. Sam has a lot of confidence in his guys. They don't change their car a lot. He knows what he has underneath him. Sam is pretty quiet, but he gets the job on the track. Helio knows Roger Penske has a world-class organization. I would say right now the odds are clearly in the Panther camp because of their success on 1.5-mile tracks. It's Sam Hornish's race to win or lose now. Anything can happen. If they both have good weekends, Hornish is going to win. Outside of that, anything can happen." (About tough season this year): "This year has been very trying in more than one way. In hindsight, you can't, considering the circumstances, you probably couldn't expect a lot. You can't just show up and do something. You have to have all the legwork, all the preparation, in place before you starting racing. That didn't happen this year. The main thing I'm working on (for 2003) is that I put myself in a team situation with corporate support where you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'I got the job done or I didn't get the job done.' Live by the sword, die by the sword. If you don't have corporate support, you don't have testing, it's really hard to expect to go out there and beat the guys who do. The desire for me to race, the desire for me to win, has never been greater. I've seen victory lane before, and I plan on seeing it again. For me, I probably carry way too much pride on my shirtsleeve. It's an honor to be in the series. But I don't enjoy being just a competitor. I want to win, to dominate. I want to win races, win the series. But it doesn't come by accident. It comes by hard work. The series is getting every more competitive by the day, by the week."
TONY RENNA (No. 78 Kruse Special Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This will be my first IRL race at Texas, but it is obvious with the finishes both Scott and Al have had at Texas, Kelley Racing understands the formula for fast at that track. I am confident we will have little trouble getting up to speed. I am looking forward to a good weekend with a solid run to finish the season. If I just follow my teammates, I will no doubt learn the fast way around the track. With good pit stops, I think we can bring the Kruse Special/HomeMed car home to a good finish."
BUDDY RICE (No. 53 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I look forward to going to Texas. I hope we can get another strong finish for Red Bull Cheever Racing to set us up well for next year. Texas is known for its exciting racing, which is another reason why I can't wait to get there and drive it for the first time."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion): "There is no doubt Texas is my favorite track. The No. 8 Delphi team has always been in sync with the track, and we have run well and had great finishes. We were having another good run, leading, actually, in June when we had the rear wheel bearing problem that put us down several laps, which was disappointing for us. But we were right where we wanted to be before the problem. Texas is just a great track for the IRL. Everyone there has always treated us very well, and they have done a tremendous amount to support the IRL, our teams and our sponsors. I am looking forward to the race weekend and giving the race fans another great event to talk about all winter long."
RICK TREADWAY (No. 67 Samsung/Radio Shack Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It is extremely difficult to put into perspective and explain how excited and honored to be driving the Samsung/Zip Zap car powered by Radio Shack at Texas. Not to mention the awesome fans at the Texas Motor Speedway. Last year, we nearly won, this past June we got shoved into the wall, and now I think we should have some serious horsepower running the Bradley Dallara/Infiniti. There shouldn't be any reason why we don't Zip Zap into the winner's circle."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): (About finishing second this season in the two closest finishes in IRL history): "I don't think finishes get any closer than either the Texas or the Chicago race. They rank as two of the most exciting races I have had in my entire career. But, boy would it be nice to have come out the winner of at least one of them. I qualified third for both races, so maybe there is something to that, I need to be on the front row to move up a spot at the finish. Seriously, that is what open-wheel racing is about - close, clean, lap-after-lap racing that keeps the fans on their feet until the checkered flag falls." (About Texas Motor Speedway): "Texas is a perfect track for our series. It is wide and fast for good racing and passing. I have no doubt the Corteco/Bryant crew is as hungry as I am for a win, so we will be completely focused on our goal the minute we unload the car. The perfect scenario would be a Kelley Racing sweep to end the season."