FORT WORTH, Texas, Monday, Oct. 9, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers about the Excite 500 on Oct. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway, the final race of the season: BILLY BOAT ( ...
FORT WORTH, Texas, Monday, Oct. 9, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers about the Excite 500 on Oct. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway, the final race of the season:
BILLY BOAT (#81 Team Pelfrey Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone) (You won at Texas in June 1998. Does that give you an advantage for this event?): "The advantage is that I've enjoyed a lot of success at Texas, not only holding the track record, but winning. It's one of my better racetracks. It's also a place that I look forward to running a lot." (About 2000 season): "This year has been a struggle more than anything else. Early in the year before the season started, I tried to form my own team, which didn't work out. I was really lucky to hook up with Team Pelfrey, but they were one-race deals. We have actually done well with the resources we've had. Unfortunately, later in the season we've not had the consistency we've needed with finishing races, which has hurt us in the points chase. No matter what you do, it takes money to compete at a high level in this sport. And without it, you struggle. With the resources we've had, it has not been a great season but a respectable season. (Panther Racing is preparing your car for this race. How did that happen?): "One of the things that we've (Team Pelfrey) faced as a team this year is that we haven't had the time to maintain the car properly. John Barnes (owner and team manager, Panther Racing) has been gracious enough to take the car to his shop and go through it to make sure that it's ready for the race, and we are grateful for that. It will put us a notch above where we are, and now we know that when we show up for the race next week, we'll be ready to go." (About Texas Motor Speedway): "They've actually made big improvements to the areas that they've had problems with in the past. They take a lot of pride in the facility - it's a first-class racing facility. They've had problems, but they've been able to come back and take care of them. They put in patches and improved the problems they've had. I really don't anticipate any problems. As for the race, some people are saying that the level of racing and passing we saw in June was a fluke, but I don't think it was a fluke at all. I think we could have a repeat of that race. The track lends itself to side-by-side racing, and I think that packs of 10 or 12 cars racing side-by-side are possible again."
ROBBIE BUHL (#24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "We are sure the fans are in for a real 'barn burner' at Texas this weekend. Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing proved that we can run pretty well at Texas Motor Speedway, and we have been hard at work analyzing our June race performance to make the requisite improvements. We had some challenges in the pits that we know we want to correct. This team has worked hard all year and has remained focused on winning races. We come to Texas seventh in points and want to move up. To do so, we need a good, balanced race car and quality pit stops. We have the utmost confidence that our Infiniti motor is ready for the task of bringing us to the front." (About the team's first full season in the Northern Light Series): "We have had a ball this year. When Dennis Reinbold, Eric De Bord and I (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing partners) started this season, we established specific goals in on-track and off-track performance. We have met or exceeded some of our goals, and we have failed to meet some of them. Some of our highlights included winning the Disney race, having two cars in the Indy 500 and being competitive each week. However, for our team those highlights are not enough. We are seventh in points right now, not first. We want to win races and championships, and produce the most productive platform possible for our sponsor/partners. It is as simple as that."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR . (#51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, third in Northern Light Cup point standings): "Everyone on the #51 Excite@Home team is focused on winning every race that we participate in. Unfortunately, after we won in Colorado, we went to Atlanta and we had an engine failure. That put us behind the 8-ball again, but I think we've had a great season so far. We are going to do everything we can to win the championship, but it's not really in our hands. A lot of it depends on how well the other teams and drivers do, as do all the races. Beating Buddy (Lazier) is going to be very difficult but not impossible. He broke an engine in Colorado, and we broke an engine in Atlanta, and that's how we exchanged the lead in the championship. Racing being what it is, it can go either way at the Excite500. Plus, we can't forget that Scott Goodyear is in the middle of this, and he has been very consistent all season. It's going to be a very technical race. We've been testing at Texas, and we've been developing a whole bunch of new little bits and pieces to put on the car for the Excite 500. We had a good race in Texas in June, even with a couple of screw-ups in the pits and running out of fuel. Oldsmobile has made a lot of progress with their heads, but Nissan has made a lot of progress, too. We hope to qualify in the top 10 and then just get in the draft." (About 2000 season): "We did not expect to do as well as we've done this year. That doesn't mean that we're satisfied, because the last race in Kentucky was a low point for us. It took us a few months to really get in the swing of things with our Excite@Home partnership, but now we're in a very good position to finish the championship strongly and start off the next season very well." (About returning to Texas): "Everybody has to remember that the last time we raced in Texas, it was one of the most unbelievable races I've ever participated in. We were all running laps at the speed of 215 mph, and it was like watching the Daytona 500 where drafting was so important, but unlike NASCAR where they can bump and rub on each other. We can't do that, and yet you had about 12 cars that were all no farther than half a foot apart."
AIRTON DARE (#88 Uproar.com/TeamXtreme Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, leads Racesearch.com Rookie of the Year point standings. TeamXtreme is based in Rockwall, Texas): "I am so glad to be in Texas, as my team and I are ready for the big shootout in front of our hometown crowd. Hopefully people in Dallas and Fort Worth will see what we are doing for them and come out to cheer us on to win the rookie race and the Excite 500."
MARK DISMORE (#28 OnStar/GM BuyPower/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, defending champion of this event): "After last week's test (at Texas), I'm real excited and confident about my chances to repeat. Texas has always been one of my favorite tracks. I've always run good here. We tested at over 213 mph consistently, and the car was real comfortable throughout the run. With a little luck, the OnStar car will be in the winner's circle."
SARAH FISHER (#15 Walker Racing Cummins Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, fourth in Racesearch.com Rookie of the Year point standings): "Our goal for the Excite 500 is to finish in the top five and to try and obtain Rookie of the Year status. When I think back to last year and my first Indy Racing Northern Light Series race ever, it was at Texas Motor Speedway. Last year, it was almost as if I didn't want to race with the other cars. I didn't know the boundaries of the race car, and there was also a championship battle going on, and I didn't want to affect that outcome, so I really just went out and ran laps. Now, I've learned a lot about the race car, and I know its boundaries. I can run good laps, and I can feel what is going on with the car. 'Driver feel' is something you can only learn by experience. I get in the car now and feel the 'when, where, why and how' of loose (handling), but when I got in the car at Texas (last fall), I only knew it was loose but didn't know the quantities like I do now." (About the track at Texas): "I like the Texas track a lot. There is a lot of banking, and the feeling of running an Indy car is really neat there. The toploads of downforce that the driver feels when running on that track is incredible. I'm used to running high-banked tracks like Eldora and Winchester, and I've done well on tracks like that." (About return to Texas after thrilling Casino Magic 500 there in June): "At the race in June, the car just wouldn't go fast. We found out after the race that one of the spark plugs had a crack in it, and therefore all eight cylinders didn't fire. So the car ran, but it wasn't running at top peak performance." (About this season): "Looking back on my rookie season, it hasn't been exactly what I'd wanted it to be, but I think when you're learning a new series and a brand-new race car, it's never perfect. We had a few incidents, but what is important is that I learned from each and every one. The Kentucky test is really where we really turned our momentum around. Rob Edwards (engineer and team manager) really figured out what makes the car go fast, and we were able to capitalize on that. If we do well at Texas, that would put a good cap on the season. We got into a good rhythm at Kentucky, and a top-five finish at Texas would show we are not a fluke and are for real."
SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, second in Northern Light Cup point standings): "I'm ready to go racing. Each time we' ve been at Texas, we've been competitive. We won the '99 spring Texas race, beating Greg Ray. During the fall Texas race, we were leading Kenny Brack when we crashed in Turn 4. I'm not sure if we ever figured out why this happened, maybe it was the bump, which is now removed. (About strategy for this race in the quest for the Northern Light Cup): "We need maximum points from qualifying and leading the most laps during the race like we found at Kentucky. But we also have to win. Second place won't cut it. Then we'll just have to wait and see what Buddy (Lazier) does."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#7 Team Mexmil/Tokheim/Viking Air Tools/Cigarette G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone) (About testing crash last week at Texas): "Of course, it's unfortunate what happened because I know we had a really fast primary car to test for the race, and we were looking for more speed. But we always have a very competitive car and race setup when we come to Texas. I was 11th here in our first race this year, running just behind the lead pack at the finish. So that tells me that I could have raced with the leaders up front and finished even higher with my car. It would have been nice to continue the test and find some more speed, for sure, but now we will go back to the race setup we used on my other car during the previous race. We will have the opportunity to try to find more speed during practice for the race next week. But I am looking forward to the race, it's better that we crashed during testing rather than race week when the team will be working on our race setup and more speed for our qualifying run. I feel a little sore right now, but I will be fit again and ready to race."
SAM HORNISH JR . (#18 Uniden Bearcat Scanners Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, third in Racesearch.com Rookie of the Year point standings): "My goals for Sunday's race are to go out and give PDM a strong finish for the last race of the year. It was obvious at Kentucky that we had a great car. I think we will have a similar car for Texas and will be able to step up our performance." (About RaceSearch.com Rookie of the Year chase): "After missing the Atlanta race in July, we are put in a very difficult position to come away as rookie of the year. But with a little luck and a strong finish, it is still possible." (About Texas Motor Speedway): "The Texas track provides a great opportunity for some close, wheel-to-wheel racing. With the match of our cars and the Texas track, I think the fall race will be as exciting as the June race."
JIMMY KITE (#27 Blueprint Racing Special G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I' ve got some unfinished business with Texas and with the whole Northern Light Series. We felt like we could have gotten a win in Texas in June up until something jumped up and bit us. The first race there this year was great, and I want to go back and be a bigger part of that. This time, with the 2000 G Force chassis and the momentum of Kentucky, I know we can." (About season finale): "Like I have said, I have some unfinished business. Kentucky was our race. The Aramis car was on rails, and we could do whatever we wanted. We had two wins this year that didn't happen, Kentucky and Las Vegas. I said at the beginning of the year I was going to win my first Northern Light Series race this year, and I just have one chance left. But it is a good chance. We didn't run there too badly in June with the '99 Blueprint car. So with the 2000 G Force, we should be in good shape. We aren't running for points or anything, so the Blueprint Racing team is just going to go for one thing, the win." (About disappointment of dropping out while leading in August at Kentucky): "Now everyone knows what we can do. Everyone has seen first-hand what we have been telling them: This Blueprint team is the real thing. We went from the middle of the pack to the front in just a few laps and then, just to prove we weren't kidding, we made up a lap and raced to the front again. I guess we just weren't meant to win without Brad (McCanless, Blueprint team manager and engineer who was not able to attend Kentucky due to the death of his father). But, we'll have him back at Texas, and all the pieces should be in place. Kentucky hurt, and it took a long time to get over that. But, you remember just what was accomplished there in the Aramis car. You have to be proud of that, and the team is. The Blueprint guys did a heck of a job there without Brad. With that behind us and Brad back with us, I am excited about coming to Texas."
BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, Indy Racing Northern Light Series points leader, must finish 13th or better to clinch Northern Light Cup): "I'm feeling pretty good about things. I wouldn't trade my position for anyone else's. I'm in a good position. I can't complain. But you can't take anything for granted. We just can't have any preconceived notions about how the outcome can be. We're going in as well prepared as we can." (About race strategy): "We have not totally set our strategy yet. Obviously, there are two points of view. One is you ride it out and sit back and try to finish in the top 13. Or do you go for it and do nothing different and keep the rhythm that brought you to victory? Of those two strategies, there is validity in both of them. We haven't determined. It would be foolish to be running in the top five and take a stupid chance to overtake somebody. We have to be mature about it. If our car is real strong, then it's just as good and safe and strong to be running P1 as it is P11. But the championship is the priority. Winning the championship is more important than winning the race." (About season): "First of all, I'm blessed with a very strong race team in Hemelgarn Racing. These guys and I have really jelled this season. It would be great to end the season by winning the championship." (Is the close racing at Texas going to make it even more challenging to finish in the top 13?): "There's no question. That's another reason why I look at Pikes Peak. If we had just run that race and not dropped out (with engine failure on Lap 1), we'd be in a much better position now. It's beyond nerve-wracking. We have never seen in open-wheel racing what we've seen now. The rules and regulations of the Indy Racing League put the cars on such an even platform. When you've got that type of racing going on, the chances for disaster occurring are larger. With this close racing, wheel-to-wheel, lap after lap, it adds a whole new element to the racing." (About the possibility of winning a $1 million bonus for capturing the Northern Light Cup): "We don't have this thing won. I refuse to put inside my mind that we've won the championship. It's very rewarding on career point of view. It's very rewarding to win the Northern Light Cup. If I start thinking about how I'm going to spend this money, I'm not doing my job. My job is to do everything I can to finish in the top 13." (About possibility of winning title after being with the series since its inception): "It's the culmination of a lot of hard years of work. Not to be arrogant, but if I was the champion, I kind of feel it's where I belong. Not be arrogant at all, though. We've worked really hard this year. We've been close before but just had some little things not go our way. We are a championship-caliber team. To use a baseball analogy, I found a hole in my swing, and I found an area I could improve in, and it made a big difference."
ROBBY McGEHEE (#5 Broadband Investment Group G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, runner-up in Casino Magic 500 in June at Texas): "Texas is my favorite track. We had a great race there in June, and I really think my first Indy-car win could be this race."
GREG RAY (#1 Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1999 series champion, resident of Plano, Texas): "Our season has been full of ups and downs. Mathematically, we are out of the championship hunt, so we want to come to Texas and have a good run. But, for the most part, we are already working on things for next year. It is always nice to run at Texas Motor Speedway. It is my hometown, and historically, I have always done well here. The fans are wonderful and very supportive. We might not see the same race that fans saw in June. That race may gone down as one of the best races ever. It is amazing that we raced side by side for 208 laps with no wheel-to-wheel contact. The drivers were aggressive but showed a lot of give and take. I am not sure we will have that type of race this time. The teams that have tested a lot since then will probably work to break down some of the traffic, but I do think fans will see a lot of dicey passing and three-wide racing."
JERET SCHROEDER (#6 Kroger/Tristarmall.com Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, second in Racesearch.com Rookie of the Year point standings): "Our goal for each race all year has been to finish on the lead lap, and we must do at least that in the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway to have any chance of winning the Racesearch.com Rookie of the Year award. Before a race, I always try to focus on the job at hand: working with the team to arrive at a setup so we have a good, solid, comfortable car to drive that will be there at the end. Then I just try to take things as they come during the race and do the best I can. I try not to think about points and awards because I think if you focus on the work, those things will come. But I do have to admit that the Raceseach.com Rookie of the Year award has been our goal all year, and I wish we were leading those point standings like we have been almost all year. We had two DNF's that unfortunately caused us to slip two points behind Airton Dare in the rookie standings, and there are five of us that are still in contention for the award. So it's really up for grabs. That's why Texas is so important to all of us. I'm not really surprised that the rookie point standings are so close. The Indy Racing Northern Light Series is the most competitive series around, so you just sort of expect that things will be close. The Rookie of the Year award has traditionally been close, and I like to think it's the closest it's ever been because as a group of rookies we've all done very well. Some of us have led races, and some of us have been in contention to win, which really says a lot about our programs and the parity that exists in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. But really, I have to just focus on the work. You have to stay concentrated on the job at hand or you can make things harder for yourself than they need to be. You just have to try your best and take whatever comes."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems/WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, won Casino Magic 500 in June at Texas by series-record .059 of a second): "The Delphi team is anticipating a race similar to the June race. The track conditions and weather should be similar to that Sunday in June. It was cool and overcast then. We had a real valuable test here about a month ago, and I think the Delphi team's coming back with a car that will be real competitive all day. We need to end the season with a strong finish to build morale for next season."
AL UNSER JR . (#3 Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz Encore Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner): "We had some misfortune at the beginning of the last race that took us out of the championship run, but we still want to go after a win at Texas. Overall, this has been a good season for the team. We had some DNF's due to things beyond our control, but we also won a race and got some podium finishes. We spent a good part of the year getting to know each other again, and now I feel that we have gotten past that learning curve. We are looking forward to next year, but we still have one race left in Texas, and we have every intention of racing hard there. The last event in Texas in June was an awesome race, and I have no doubt that this event will be just as great. The track felt very smooth when we ran some laps for our Dracula (promotion) debut a few weeks ago, and I think that will lend to even more wheel-to-wheel racing. There is going to be a big championship battle going on at Texas, but we plan to do our own battle for another win to finish off the season."