HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 21, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers about the Miami 100 Infiniti Pro Series event Sunday, March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (quotes listed in alphabetical order): ED CARPENTER (No. 14...
HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 21, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers about the Miami 100 Infiniti Pro Series event Sunday, March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
ED CARPENTER (No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Both of our tests so far have gone really well, and I'm really enjoying working with the guys. It's been really great working with A.J., and I learn something every time we're out there. (Crew chief) Jack Starnes is also a really smart guy. After our tests, I've got a lot of confidence right now, and I'm just looking forward to getting the season started. Hopefully, we'll get off to a strong start." (About the competition in the Infiniti Pro Series): "I think it's going to be tough. A lot of guys are back and are going to be tough, and now you've got Panther (Racing), who obviously knows how to build a team. You've got Genoa Racing, and they were a tough competitor in Indy Lights. I just think the series has grown a lot over the winter. The car count hasn't necessarily grown a whole lot, but the quality of teams and drivers has gone up a lot, and not just with the experienced guys from last year. There are some new teams that bring a lot of experience even though we haven't raced together. I think it's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of racing all season with Foyt."
PAUL DANA (No. 24 Ethanol/Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About Homestead-Miami Speedway): "It's just really fast, and there's no banking to lean on at all. It's a weird deal. It's a mile-and-a-half, which is fast enough that you've got quite a bit of speed at both ends of the track, but the banking is miniscule. It's like a superspeedway flat track. You really have to work with the car, so it becomes a driver track and a handling track. You kind of have to reset your expectations about what the car is capable of relative to all the grip that it had at Phoenix and start over to get it to work. It's awesome. It makes us work out there. I love it." (About goals for the season): "My focus as a rookie is most laps completed. I just want to finish every race and get a lot of experience in this first year. I just want to go out and do the best we can. If we are running in the top five in most of the early events, we will be in a position to podium and win races, and then the points will follow from that. If midway through we are looking good in points, then we can start thinking about a real good result in the championship. But my goal as a rookie is consistency. I just want to be there at the end of every race." (About successful preseason testing): "Without sounding too confident, we're definitely looking for results to come a lot earlier in the season than we had thought. I've always had confidence in my ability so I'm not surprised at my ability to adapt. But I don't want to get too confident. We haven't raced yet. It all goes out the window when you have 16 cars out there fighting for the same piece of racetrack. It's great. The team is pumped, my sponsors are pumped, the Ethanol folks are pumped, but it's only the beginning. If I'm still running this competitively at the end of the year, then I'll be stoked. "
BRANDON ERWIN (No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/ Infiniti/Firestone): "I raced here in the IndyCar Series race in 2001, finished 17th, stayed out of trouble. I've got good experience running on this racetrack. I know we'll get the setup right for our car, and we'll be up there with the best of them. If it's windy for the race, it will play a factor. The wind here can really determine how the car handles a lot, and you've got to pay a lot of attention. If it gets windy during the race, there's nothing the crew can do for us. There are no pit stops in the Infiniti Pro Series, so all we can do is use the weight jackers to control the weight bias in the car."
AARON FIKE (No. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About Homestead-Miami Speedway): "It's probably one of the more difficult tracks that we run on. It has really sweeping corners. We only had a little more than half a day of testing there, but I got pretty comfortable and got up to speed really good. We were one of the fastest cars down there. We learned quite a bit from the test. Every time that you go to a track, it's different. We just have to be able to adapt quicker than everybody else. Homestead is one of the more demanding tracks that we run on. You have to pay really close attention and concentrate in both turns. It takes a lot of concentration to run there." (What are your goals for the season): "To finish every race in the top five. Everything has got to come together. I think we have the right stuff. It's just whether it's all going to fall in place."
RONNIE JOHNCOX (No. 8 REV 1 Racing Special Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (Have you been to Homestead-Miami Speedway before?): "No. I'm hoping to go out and run a Pace Car with one of the experienced IndyCar Series drivers on Thursday and get a few laps just to get generally familiar with the racetrack. Other than that, I have a pretty good familiarity with the race car. We have a new engineer this year, so we are going to have to get up to speed with each other. I really don't foresee any major problems." (About the 2003 Infiniti Pro Series season): "I think the whole series will improve across the board. We are focusing on winning the championship since have a nice clean slate. We had some circumstances beyond our control last year, as you always do have with racing. We want to control the controllables, and hopefully at the end of the season we are at the top of the chart. The biggest thing that has changed for us is we have had six months to prepare our car and prepare our team. In the heat of the battle last year, we never had an opportunity to get properly organized as a team. Although we did OK, we knew there were a lot of areas for improvement. We have really been able to address these in the offseason."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Homestead is definitely a unique track just because you have to run a low-downforce setup. It's a very fast track, yet it's very difficult because the banking is so low. It's definitely challenging. I think if you have a great car there it's going to be a blast, but if you have a bad car then it's not going to be the greatest track to drive around. Hopefully, we can get the car worked out to where we can run wherever we want, on the high side or low side, and then we'll be competitive for the race. I'm definitely ready for the season to begin. We've been testing a lot. I've been anxious this whole winter. This offseason has been far too long for me. I'm excited to get back into a race situation."
THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About being a rookie in the Infiniti Pro Series): "I have four years experience in Formula 3, and the Infiniti Pro Series car is not very different. The balance is similar, and that's helped me a lot. It's very good for me. I have many things to learn this season, but I think I can fight for this championship. I believe in myself and (team manager) Thomas (Knapp) and the team, and I think we can do a good job this season. It will be a very tough season, but I think we can win the title or at least some races." (About recent testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway): "It was my first time in the car this year. (Before that), I was just driving karts while I was on vacation. It's a very nice track, very fast. I like it. Thomas (Knapp) is a very good guy. We've worked together and found a very good setup, and we're both very happy."
MARTY ROTH (No. 3 Roth/Stewart Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About recent testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway): "Our test was hampered by weather during the morning, and we had a water pipe come loose on the car in the afternoon and had our day shortened as a result. We didn't get to complete a lot of laps, and we've got a lot of work to do for the weekend, but I'm confident it will all come together. (Team owner) Brian Stewart has years of experience. He has a tremendous amount of knowledge and has put together a great group of guys. The team learned a lot at the various tracks last season, and that should make for a very strong team this year."
MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About recent testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway): "We were there for a day and a half. The main thing was to get used to it. It is a different oval to anything else I've been on before. The banking is a lot less steep. The wind affects it a lot. It is important to get the car working well around there because it is a fairly fast oval for the amount of grip you have got. You have to be careful of matching up the aero and the mechanical grip. It took me a while to get used to driving that kind of oval. I got into it, and I'm fairly happy with the way the first day went. (The second day), we were able to do a race run with very consistent lap times. I'm happy with the way the car finished up. We were able to do quite a lot of work on it to make it feel good for the upcoming race." (About the competition in the Infiniti Pro Series): "I think there are going to be a lot of drivers coming into the first race who are ready to win it. It is going to be very competitive. I can see five or six drivers able to walk away with it at the moment. It is so close. If anyone gets their car exactly right for that day, then they could find a mile an hour or even two quicker than other people just by getting the car absolutely perfect. I don't think anyone is completely happy with their car, but I think everyone is satisfied with what they've got at the moment. There is a long way to go in the season as far as I'm concerned. The main thing is to finish the race, and hopefully to finish it well. If the chance comes to win it, then I'll take it. But it is all about experience at the moment, and I'm lacking in experience compared to other drivers who I will be racing against. The whole point is to hopefully get me used to racing close to other people and being able to overtake them with a good car, as well."
CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Our plan for the season is to go out and win the championship. With Ron Hemelgarn winning the 1996 Indy 500 and 2000 IndyCar Series championship, he definitely knows how to put the effort in. And with the team being co-owned by Roger Johnson, the two of them know how to go out and put an excellent team together. This year we made some changes from last year. I'm working with my own engineer this year, and (teammate) Aaron (Fike) has his own. We are utilizing the two different resources to come out with a strong powerhouse team for this year." (Goals for the Miami 100): "I'm definitely looking to win the race. I've had good experiences at Homestead. I raced there a few years ago, and it's going to be a tough race. The track has less banking than any other race track we race on." (About the growth of the Infiniti Pro Series): "It is going to be more competitive this year. There are definitely more drivers, more from South America and Europe. From the Test in the West and just hearing other things, they seem to be up to speed right away. It is going to be a tough battle for the championship, but it's good for me because I love the challenge."
TOM WOOD (No. 9 Super 8 Motels/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We had a really good test at Homestead. We were one of the quickest cars there, so I'm looking forward to the race. I think we are on schedule for what we want to do this year. We are going to chase the championship; that's what we are after. There is going to be some really good competition in there, so I don't thing anyone is going to run away with the championship. It is going to be a lot tighter than last year. There's some really good talent there. From just watching the testing, there are a lot of really good drivers, and it should be good."