Bombardier 500, June 7, Texas Motor Speedway FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, May 30, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Bombardier 500 on Saturday, June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway. The event starts June 5 with practice...
Bombardier 500, June 7, Texas Motor Speedway
FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, May 30, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers about the Bombardier 500 on Saturday, June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway. The event starts June 5 with practice and MBNA Pole Qualifying and final practice June 6 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 1998 IndyCar Series champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I have had some good races at Texas, but I have had some tough luck there, too. I was leading the final race in 1999 and was close to winning my second IRL championship when we lost a wheel bearing on A.J.'s (Foyt) car. Greg Ray won the title, and I was second. That was frustrating. I have run competitively at Texas but never won there. It is a fast place, and the racing is always exciting. With the level of competition in the IndyCar Series now, I expect the racing to be spectacular. I know I want to be racing for the lead at the end. I think we have the team and machinery to win at Texas. Our band will play there, too, playing right before the truck race. I think the fans will have fun with the band. I know we will, too."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Texas is always such an exciting place for the IRL to run and really lay it all on the line. Eddie (Gossage) and Bruton (Smith) really know how to put on a good show and get people in the stands, and the racing product there has been as good as any track on earth in the last couple of events for us. If you're a genuine race fan, you just have to love the on-track performance and competition at Texas. Split-second finishes mean nail-biters to the end, and none of us are out there doing parade laps. We race, it's fast, and you'd better be paying attention."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner): "It is a big change going from Indianapolis which is a 2.5-mile track, to Texas which is a 1.5-mile, high-banked oval, but Marlboro Team Penske should be in good shape. We've got good momentum coming off of our one-two finish at the Indianapolis 500, and we ran pretty well at Texas last year. For me, it is a 'return to the scene of the battle' as I was racing wheel-to-wheel with Sam Hornish Jr. for the championship at last year's season finale."
GIL de FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Texas Motor Speedway is very different than any of the tracks we've raced on this season. It is a high-banked, mile-and-a-half oval where the cars can run three-wide, so it makes for an exciting race. It was great for Marlboro Team Penske to finish one-two in the Indianapolis 500, but we need to maintain our focus and take things one step at time."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Indy was a disappointment, obviously, but I've got to put that behind me and get on with the season. We've qualified pretty well over the last three races; we just haven't had the finishes to go along with that. Our team has been competitive in all of the races. We've led laps in every race so far, and I think that we're second in laps led for the year. Texas is going to be a fun track to race on. I haven't raced there before, but I've been on the track for practice two years ago. It's going to be a great show for the fans, and I'm looking forward to it."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 GMAC/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm excited about getting back into the regular race weekend rhythm. After missing Texas and Colorado last year, it will be great to get both of the Texas races back under my belt again since we have support from AOL and GMAC to get us through the 2003 season. This will be my second full season in the IRL, though I've been racing here for four years, and this will be the first season that I've had the same engineer for the duration. Texas Motor Speedway is a first-class facility, both on and off the track, and we look forward to the close racing that our series will provide there."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, resident of Hockley, Texas): "I am really looking forward to racing at Texas. I think we'll have a good weekend in the Conseco car. This will be the first time that I am racing on a track where I have some experience because I ran there in the Pro Series car, and I took my test for my IRL IndyCar Series license there last October."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone, 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year): "I think it's going to be a very close race. It's a big track. Power is a big thing there, and I feel we are very confident because we know we have good power. It's going to be a big factor there. I think this year we're going to do well, but on the other hand, a lot of people are running Toyotas so it's going to be close racing. I hope the Panoz G Force is the ticket because if we run strong at Texas, we'll be good for at least another five or six tracks later in the year. For me, it hurt to not score any points at Indy. If you look at what happened to us, it happened in the worst possible race because it's the Indy 500. That is the worst one because when you finish last you only get one point. I'm just pretending it never happened, that I never left Orlando. It was a shame because I knew the car would be good for the race after a tough week for qualifying. But I never got to prove it. Texas is a track where everybody really has to watch everybody and take good care of each other. Once you're racing, it's a lot of fun, but you just have to be very careful because it's very close racing. It's great for the fans, that's for sure."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm very excited to be getting back into an open-wheel car. This is going to be my first open-wheel race in about a year-and-a-half, but I feel very prepared. I've been working with the Archipelago/Motorola team since the beginning of May, and we've been able to log a lot of miles. This is a race of firsts for me -- my first IndyCar Series race and my first night race. I've seen some of the Texas races on TV, and there is a lot of close competition and exciting racing."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series Champion, two-time Texas winner): "While we've never had a huge amount of success at the June Texas races, I'm hopeful we can change that this time out. It's one of my favorite places to race. The track is so good and it's such competitive racing that we always look forward to running there. Plus, it's really fun to race at night. The whole Panther team really worked hard at Indy, and we were disappointed. We invoked the "Harbaugh Rule:" 'You have 48 hours to either celebrate or feel sorry for yourself, then you put it away and tackle the next challenge.' We're going to Texas to win."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series Points leader): "This will be my first time racing there, but I'm really looking forward to it. You have to be very precise there. The banking makes things a little easier and is a little bit more forgiving. I've watched the races at Texas in the past, and you are a lot of times just inches apart, so you have to pay very close attention to what you are doing and what the people around you are doing. (About added pressure as the points leader?) "It is where you want to be, so I'm happy we're there. It won't be easy to stay in that position all the way the rest of the year, but that will be our goal every race. I would like to stay among the top four (in the points) and if I can do that, then we will have a good shot at the championship, and that is what we want. It doesn't really change the way you race. You just have to go out and get the best finish you can every race. We have to look at it like, 'If you have a third-place car, then don't try to make it a first-place car or you'll be the last-place finisher.' That's the way we have to look at it."
GREG RAY (No. 13 TrimSpa Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, 1999 IndyCar Series champion, resident of Plano, Texas): "Whether it is open-wheel racing or NASCAR racing, I think people always say that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the world's capital of motor sports. And from a historic standpoint, that is absolutely true. But the Texas Motor Speedway is a mile-and-a-half racetrack that holds 200,000 people. It is the finest state-of-the-art facility anywhere in the country because it is a high-banked oval and because the way the grandstands are shaped, in a very much surrounding-theater style, every seat in the house can see the whole racetrack. I have to put it this way, everybody wants to win the Indy 500 because of what it means historically. But from a fun perspective and from a fan fun perspective and a driver fun perspective, everybody wants to go to the Texas Motor Speedway. It is just a great facility to race at. It is a great facility to spectate from. And again, with the warm Texas hospitality, it has just meant a great deal to Indy-style racing and racing in general in the entire Texas area."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "We were so close to winning last week, but you can't dwell on that because we have a lot of races left to go. I just love the track in Texas. It's fast and allows for a lot of close racing. Last year at Texas, I led a lot of laps and had an opportunity to win both races. This year, I'm even more confident that we'll be in the hunt. Texas is an awesome racetrack for both the fans and for drivers. We had a strong finish in Indy last week, and that shows the strength of this team. We led the most laps and put ourselves in a position to win, and that's all you can ask for."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion, two-time Texas winner): "I have always enjoyed going back to Texas after Indy. It has been a great track for us. It is an exciting race. It is a race that with the banking in Texas there is a very large window for handling. It is not so precise. If the team doesn't hit the setup right on at Texas, the banking makes up for it. It promotes so many cars being very close speeds. I'm excited. Based on our past and my liking of the track, it couldn't come at a better time for us."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "It is taking quite some time to get back to the 'real world' after the Indy 500. The Richmond Open Test (May 29-30) is a big help to get me back to reality. After a good finish at Indy, and probably my most pressure-filled race of the year at Motegi, it will be like a fresh start to go racing at Texas and trying to fight my way into the points race. I will need to try very hard to climb up in the championship. Thanks to the fifth-place at Indy, now I am in a tie for 10th in the points with Michael (Andretti), and he is not running anymore. If we race every race like we did at Indy, I am sure we can move up in the points. The Pioneer/Mo Nunn team did a very good job all month at Indy. Now we go to a very interesting track. They tell me the races at Texas are always exciting. Me and my crew will be ready to go."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner): "As a CART driver, I used to watch the IndyCar Series races at Texas Motor Speedway, and TMS was a track that I always wanted to race on because it looked like the drivers were having so much fun. I am always surprised when racing at Texas at how many drivers are going for the lead. I'm sure the fans absolutely love the action. Texas is a track that is fun and exhilarating, but at the same time it can be a little bit scary because you are running so close together at such high rates of speed. I think the Corteco team will be in good shape at Texas. We didn't quite have the finish at Indy that we had hoped for, but the crew worked really well together, and everyone worked so hard. I am certain we have some podium results coming soon."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to the race in Texas. It is going to be special for me because it is my first race with Michael's (Andretti) old crew. It is important for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car to do well. I've raced at Texas before (October 2002), and we tested there last week, so we have some good data to build on. There are still things we need to improve but I'm sure Eddie (Jones, race engineer) and the rest of the engineering staff are already ahead of me on that. We had a really good month in Indianapolis, and it gave me a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the season. I'm excited to be racing the rest of the season, and I know I have some great teammates who will help out along the way."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This will be my first time at Texas and my first IRL night race. Having said that, I did do a night race in go-karts before, and while I am sure this will be a lot different, I think it will give me a little bit of an idea of what to expect. This is also my first time on a high-banked track, and I'm sure John (Dick, race engineer) and Tom (Anderson, managing director) are going to help me out a lot there. I'm looking forward to it. Finishing the Indy 500 is a big help. I learned a lot about race tactics, and I certainly think that the bond between the team is stronger after the month of May. It has really helped my confidence. We were able to test a lot of things, good and bad, and you couldn't really take that risk during a typical race weekend. It gave me a lot more knowledge about the car and also how to set up the car, which will be good for the rest of the season. I definitely think we will go to Texas stronger, and hopefully we will have another good finish."