IPS: Indy road course test notes, quotes 2005-03-24

Notes and Quotes from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on March 24. Day of Firsts: The first car on track was No. 26 Marco Andretti, the son of IRL IndyCar® Series team owner Michael Andretti and ...

Notes and Quotes from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on March 24.

Day of Firsts: The first car on track was No. 26 Marco Andretti, the son of IRL IndyCar® Series team owner Michael Andretti and grandson of 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti. Almost an hour later, Al Unser, the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., and grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Sr., recorded his first lap on the Speedway's 2.6-mile road course.


More family ties: Among the observers of Marco Andretti's first test in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series car are his father, IRL IndyCar® Series team owner Michael Andretti, his grandfather, 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti and his great uncle Aldo Andretti.

MARIO ANDRETTI (1969 Indianapolis 500 winner): (About watching his grandson driving on Indianapolis Motor Speedway 40 years after Mario first raced at IMS): "This is the evolution of life. It's tough to predict what is going to happen. And when it does happen, wow, it's amazing. Watching Marco do his thing, it just really replenishes my spirit. It's a great feeling just watching him enjoy what he's doing and doing it so well."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: (Are you as nervous today as Mario was watching you 20 years ago?): "It's probably a little different because I grew up watching Dad, and that helped me a lot. Having said that, I still get a little nervous. It's part of the game." (What are Marco's goals?) "I think ultimately he'd like to do Formula One, if it came up. Right now, we have to look at the realistic, and hopefully that is likely the '07 (Indianapolis) 500 is the goal, and hopefully we can get there."


Credential please: G.J. Mennen, driver of the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, had his first experience with the IMS Safety Patrol before getting into his car for the first time. Mennen, who was wearing a jacket, did not have a credential to enter the pit lane, but was granted access after showing the patrol member his driver's uniform.


Where's my number?: After Wade Cunningham had been with the Brian Stewart Racing team for a month, he asked why his car number wasn't on the team transporter. Brian Stewart, team owner of the Sutton, Ontario, Canada-based team, responded. "The last 30 days, the warmest it's been is minus-21 degrees, and we're not thinking about painting a number on a transporter."


Running the wrong way: Mishael Abbott's dream is to drive in the Indianapolis 500. However, her first time driving on the track was on the road course driving in the opposite direction. She laughed and said, "I went around the track this morning with (three-time Indianapolis 500 winner) Johnny Rutherford (in the opposite direction) and he said, 'Boy, this is weird.'


JON HERB (No. 6 AERCON Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I got a chance to turn right and left and work on the brakes and feel the car out around here. Knowing the way around is a big bonus for when we come back. We really didn't get out in the morning until before lunch, and didn't do much because of cautions kept us from really getting going. After lunch we got our act together and really started running when I had a moment in the cockpit. I missed the braking zone and drove it in the grass. It was fine as can be, but when you get off in the grass and you are carrying speed, it doesn't turn too well. There happens to be wall there. If the tire barrier hadn't been there, we'd have been fine. That's racing."

NICK BUSSELL: (No. 21 JL West Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It's pretty exciting. I like getting to be out on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time. It was a lot of fun getting used to the Infiniti Pro Series car and how it will turn left and right. Overall it was a good time. I think if I had a few laps more before we ran out of fuel, we could have gone even quicker. (What are the Menards Infiniti Pro Series cars like on the road course?): "I was quite surprised with the way the cars handle. I'm just trying to get used to things and build up the speed. It will be really exciting (when we get to St. Pete). I'm really looking forward to getting to race with this package."

JEFF SIMMONS: (No. 24 Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We started off pretty cold, and it just took some time to get some heat into the tires. We've had a long, busy day with our testing program because this is our last test before St. Pete. Some of the other teams will go to Sebring and get more time, but we're not, so we had to run a lot of laps today to stay ahead of them. We learned a lot and got through our testing program. We certainly learned some things for when we come back here, which was important as well. We definitely made headway on St. Pete and when we come back here. (About running clockwise around Indianapolis): "Going through the last corner and going down the front straightaway just didn't look quite right, but you get used to it. Right now, I just see it as a road course. I can't think about running the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the wrong way."

CHRIS FESTA (No. 19 SpacePak/CareCentric/SSM Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We decided to wait until after lunch to run. We shook the car down right before lunch and did seven laps, but we only did a system's check of gears and things like that. After lunch, we ran about 100 miles on our first set of tires. We did our quickest lap on our second-to-last lap on those. We came in to put on a new set of tires and we did one lap, and they called the day on us. The car felt like it was going to be better on those new tires, but that's the way we timed it, and things like that are going to happen. (About what the team learned heading into the St. Petersburg race): "I feel good about St. Pete. That race will be different because it is a street course. Jeff Simmons will be very quick there since he's been there before. It will be good since it's a little wider and you can race on it, as opposed to other street courses, where you play follow the leader. We have high expectations going in for sure. We're very confident going in and feel like we can come away with a win, or a pole, or both.

AL UNSER (No. 3 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Overall, I think it's a good day for the series. We're working on our road-course package. We lost a large chunk of the day (due to a broken driveshaft in the morning). I got out here for the last 20 minutes of the day. Overall, I'm loving these cars on a road course. I got out there and just drove it, and it started to pick up a push on me, so instead of letting it push out on me, I was trying to snap it loose to get it to point and direct for me. I'm glad Marco (Andretti) got out here. It's great that he gets out here. I'm definitely excited about the race in St. Pete, and hopefully I can pick up some sponsorship dollars and keep going."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Visit New Zealand Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "This morning didn't run to smooth. We had a problem with the rear end, so I sat out a lot of the morning. We got that fixed, and after lunch, we got a fair amount of running in. We got to bolt on a second set of tires and tried a few things. We still ran out of time, but I'm reasonably happy with the way things went."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Vonage Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I guess it started out a little rough. We lost some valuable time with a broken driveshaft, but we were able to make some changes. Our biggest problem of the day would be trying to get out the understeer, we couldn't get it out all day. It was a fun day. The first time in the car I felt pretty good, and we weren't slow, we were pretty quick, so it was a good day." (About his first impressions of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series cars) "They're a lot of fun on the road course. I love this track because you get the feel for an oval, except you're turning right. You're hauling the mail into (Turn) 1 here, and basically it's all about mechanical grip for the infield and trying to trim out as much as you can for the banking." (About his first lap at Indianapolis) "It was pretty special coming down the first lap because of all of the history here." (About the race in St. Petersburg) "It's going to be a big deal. Hopefully we can get the car dialed in next Monday in Sebring (Fla.), because I think those tracks are alike in track surfaces. If we get the car handling well, I think we'll be alright." (About the new surface at Indianapolis) "At first it was scary, because first off I went out there flat and right when it got on the new surface, I totally lost the front end, it was gone. Right now, it's a one groove racetrack. It's going to be slick for those IndyCar Series guys the first time they're out, but once we get some rubber down, it'll be fine."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): "It was a great experience. I was just antsy the whole morning to get out, and then finally at 2:30 we got the car out. It's just an amazing experience coming through (Turn) 1 the opposite way. For us, the car was pushing a lot, and we have a long way to go to make the car good. For me, I had a blast out there even if the car was pushing a lot. It was just a great experience to do some late breaking and some right-hand corners. The car was pushing a lot for me everywhere except for turning into Turn 1, which is the new surface. It's a little bit more slippery than the other asphalt that we drive on on the infield, so on the oval we don't have a problem because we have so much downforce on the car, but definitely breaking for Turn 1 and turning into Turn 1 is difficult. The more cars that run on it, the better it will get, and obviously, it's very cold here today, so once the temperature gets a little hotter in June, I think we'll be fine." (About the Menards Infiniti Pro Series cars adapting to road courses) "The cars adapted really well. I was impressed. This is the first time for me on the road course, and I think the car did a really great job. The gearbox is great. We now have shift-without-lift, which is a new technology for the Pro Series this year, and that's really awesome as well. I think it's going to be a competitive series. It's going to be way-close racing even though you've got a lot of guys out there with different experience levels. The car is really fun to drive." (About an Unser, Andretti and a Luyendyk together on the track) "We just took some pictures. It's neat, especially for our fathers to see us all grow up and race. I think we're going to be pretty competitive against each other. We'll see how it turns out with the F1 weekend."


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