INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 13, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers about the Freedom 100 Infiniti Pro Series event Saturday, May 17 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (quotes listed in alphabetical order): MATT BEARDSLEY (No.
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 13, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers about the Freedom 100 Infiniti Pro Series event Saturday, May 17 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
MATT BEARDSLEY (No. 12 Alpine Bank/Old Republic Land Title Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): "It's a pretty surreal feeling knowing that in a couple of days, I'm going to be running at Indy. I've definitely thought about it. I wondered what it would be like to win, but I'm just first glad to be there. I think it is a huge testament to just how big a series this really is and how much the Infiniti Pro Series means to Tony George and everybody in the IRL. I think it opens everyone's eyes who thought the Pro Series wasn't as big of a deal as it really is."
ED CARPENTER (No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About the Freedom 100): "I'm looking forward to it. There will be a lot of people there, and it's a big race for all of us who want to get into the IndyCara Series because all the (IndyCar Series) owners are here watching. This is the opportunity for us to show them what we can do. I've been out at the track every day this month hanging out and watching the IndyCar Series cars, so I'm chomping at the bit to get back out on the track. Our cars are different, and the track conditions will be different, but I've been out there trying to soak up as much as I can. When we tested (at IMS), we left with a really good car, and we just want to make sure that everything's in good shape. I feel good. The car was good, so I think we'll be in good shape coming back." (About graduating from Butler University May 10): "I feel like I've gotten rid of a whole lot of stress. I've always had school looming in the back of my head for the past four years. Now, when I come to the racetrack, I don't have any reason to leave. I don't have homework to go and do. I can stay as long as the team stays and get here as early as I want without having to leave to go to a class. It's nice that some pressure is gone. It allows me to focus completely on my racing now. It's what I've been wanting to do forever, and now I can finally do it."
MARCO CIOCI (No. 6 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About the Freedom 100): "Indianapolis is a great track, and what a very extraordinary day to be driving at this legendary track. I think it is very good to be driving here in Indianapolis. Here I am with drivers like Max Papis, Tomas Scheckter and Jimmy Vasser, and everybody can give me secrets. I think it is a good experience this month for the possibility of being in the Indianapolis 500 next year. Last week when we did the autograph session, there were a lot of people. I know that Indianapolis is the most important race in the world. Just to think that I'm here, this week, with all of these people screaming my name. Not only mine, but the all of the guys of the Infiniti Pro Series. I am so proud to be here. It is a very good emotion." (About preparation for the Freedom 100): "Our practice sessions during the Indy test went quite well, and I hope we continue our speeds during practice this coming week. This place is very intimidating, but I hope we do well during qualifying. We want to start in front for the qualifying, but that is not our number-one goal. The goal is to win the race, not win the pole position. I think that everything is ready, and I can't wait for this race, but everything is new, also. For me, everything needs to be discovered. With Sam Schmidt, I think I have a special relationship. He is my team owner, but he is a race-car driver, too. Sometimes I think he is my teammate, not my team owner. When I have a feeling about my car I can speak with him, and I know he understands what I think."
PAUL DANA (No. 24 Ethanol/Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About the Freedom 100): "Obviously, it's just huge. It's huge for our program, and it's huge for Ethanol, our sponsor. It's been neat for me being in Indy and seeing all the buildup for the event. Being involved in the buildup has been really cool, and we haven't even been on the track yet. There's a big buzz about it, and I know my energy level is up. This will be the biggest race to date for my career. About the actual race, I don't know what it will be like. I'm sure we'll get a feel for that on Thursday morning. I think it will be real similar to what the IRL (IndyCar Series) guys went through in qualifying, which is great because that's what this series is designed for. I think whoever is the most free on the straights and can hold on in the corners will be fast, just like in the big cars. The buildup to the event is a great experience, but in terms of the on-track experience, that is very valuable because my goal is to move up to the big cars eventually."
BRANDON ERWIN (No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/ Infiniti/Firestone): "I am very excited about being at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and driving the No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. I am looking forward to being a part of this inaugural Infiniti Pro Series Freedom 100 race. We have a great team, and we think we have a very good shot at winning. Being here and possibly winning this historic event would be beyond my wildest dreams. Since I was very little, I have always dreamed about being in Indy, and May 17 will be an awesome event. We are confident we will qualify up front and run a great race. We have a great support system with Sam Schmidt, my team, and our sponsor Natural Golf. They have all made this possible. It will be a dream come true to walk out on the track and start in this historic event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."
AARON FIKE (N0. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "The Freedom 100 will be the best and biggest thing going on for me this year. It is truly an honor for me as a driver. I've been watching the (Indianapolis) 500 since I was little. I never dreamed I would be running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway." (How would you feel if you won the inaugural Freedom 100): "I would probably be speechless. I imagine it would feel awesome. I don't think words could possibly explain the emotions."
RONNIE JOHNCOX (No. 8 REV 1 Racing Special Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About the Freedom 100): "It is just another race, but it happens to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that in and of itself makes it special. It would be a very big win. I would be probably the biggest of my career, and I'm sure whoever does win this race, it will be the biggest win of his career. The test helped us gather a tremendous amount of data that will help us make us a determination on what changes to make to go faster. I expect the field to be fairly equal, but everyone to be faster than they were at the test. I'm just focused on the race."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm extremely excited to race at the Speedway. I'm especially pleased that Smith and Wesson and Grill 2 Go have come on board to help me out with this race. It's really exciting to bring Smith and Wesson, with their 150-year heritage, to the Speedway, which itself is built on tradition. I think it's a great partnership, and hopefully, we'll be able to make some history ourselves by winning the inaugural Freedom 100. I'm excited to drive at a place where my dad has had so much success. Hopefully it can prepare me for a possible Indy run next year. I think it's great."
THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About the Freedom 100): "It is not the same here because there is such history of the track. Indianapolis is the capital of speedways and race cars. I think it is a very good experience for us because it may be that we could run next year in the IRL (IndyCar Series). I know how to balance the pressure of this event and still will be working hard. We just have to be patient and wait for the right time to push. We are working hard. I'm very happy that my first time in Indy will be a very interesting race for everyone. I think it will be safe for everybody, and everybody will have fun. All of the Brazilian drivers have tried to help me because we are all very close off the track. They have all tried to teach me some tricks."
GARY PETERSON (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "As a kid, our family watched the Indy 500. Although I've been racing for many years now, I've always dreamed of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I didn't have the money or time to pursue that dream in the past, so the Indy Racing League has provided me with an opportunity to realize my greatest racing aspiration. I'll be leaving racing as a driver eventually to pursue building a racing team as an owner, similar to Michael Andretti. I'm going into this next phase with mixed emotions, but what a great opportunity for me, as an owner, to participate in this inaugural event. Winning the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis would be the greatest experience of my racing career. Just to be a part of the inaugural race is a privilege. I want to put on a good show for all of the Indy Racing League fans and for Tony George and his family for making this race happen. Racing at the world's greatest racetrack in May establishes the Infiniti Pro Series as the number-one support series in racing. We will provide a great show for the fans."
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 20 Western Union Speed Team/Duesenberg Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): "It's definitely an important thing to help the series grow. A race like this is something that people will definitely take notice of. It's important for the drivers and the series itself. It's something that I never thought I'd be able to do until I made it to the top of the sport, and to get this opportunity early is certainly a welcome surprise. It will be great experience to be on the track, to prepare me for the next level. I think we'll put on a really good show for the fans. It instantly became the biggest race on our schedule, so to win that one, and to win the inaugural one, would be incredibly exciting. Our season has been OK so far. We expect a lot better performances in the future. I think our team is coming together now, and hopefully, it's at just the right time." (Are you particularly excited to be carrying the Duesenberg name at Indy?): Yes, definitely. There's so much history there, and they've accomplished so much at the Speedway. I would love to add another accomplishment to the long list they already have."
MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "This race is a huge event for everybody involved. To be able to race during the month of May is a dream come true. Although it is not the '500,' it gives me a chance to experience the feeling of Indy during May and how the track changes each time you go out on track, and hopefully giving everybody in the Infiniti Pro Series a chance to move up to the '500' next year with the experience they have gained. Everybody in the series will be hoping to win this race. It is the biggest race of the year for us, and from the testing times, it looks like it will be very close. The winner will be able to say that he has won a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, and that is a very select group, indeed." (About pre-race excitement): "Indianapolis really wakens up in May. There are many great events that I have been able to be involved in, like the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation fundraiser, which is a great cause and one that I am very happy to help out in any way possible. Our race will hopefully add to the attractions in May and make it an even bigger and better show than it already is."
JONATHAN URLIN (No. 3 Budget Rent A Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm really just trying to make it one race out of the championship. I think if you make it any different, you might get caught up in the wrong kind of attitude. We are just trying to keep the same attitude as all the rest of the races, and that is to go and do the very best we can and to run up there near the front. Hopefully, we can press (Mark) Taylor for one of those wins. We are still looking at this as one whole season, and there are 12 of these things, not just one. I know it is Indianapolis, but the main thing is to treat it just like one of the 12. As of now, I am 100 percent focused on this race, but that is not to say that that is anything different from the rest."
CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "For me as an (Infiniti) Pro Series driver, I'm one of the few drivers to experience the Indy 500. For the other drivers, it gives them a better outlook to see what the whole month of May is all about and what to expect. My first year at Indy, I didn't know exactly what to expect, but this will give Pro Series drivers a taste of what to expect and gain experience. Not to mention, it makes the Pro Series a more marketable series and more attractive to new drivers and sponsors. It would awesome to win the Freedom 100. With the history of Indianapolis, it would be an incredible feeling just to say I won a race there. We have an excellent team, and with Ron (Hemelgarn) having experienced a '500' victory, I think we have a pretty good shot. The goal of the Hemelgarn/Johnson team is to have a one-two finish."
TOM WOOD (No. 9 Super 8 Motels/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "To win the first running of the Infiniti Pro Series at Indianapolis would be historic. To be the first guy ever to win the race there, it would be one of the biggest thrills you could have, next to being in the Indy 500, as far as I'm concerned. It would probably be one of the biggest moments I would have in racing and in our series up until this point. The mystique around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will probably place a lot more pressure on people. It is the biggest event they will run in this series. I try to prepare myself the same way for every race, and I can't see that this one will be any different. Technically, we are focusing on this race probably more than the others. With Sam Schmidt, he absolutely lives for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When you talk to him, you can just see the excitement. When he was telling us how to drive the Speedway, he was saying that he still gets goose bumps. It is that thrilling to him. It is one of the biggest things that has ever happened in his life, and I'm sure it will be the same for us."