IPS: Phoenix: Pre-race quotes

AVONDALE, Ariz., Friday, March 14, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers about the Phoenix 100 Infiniti Pro Series event Saturday, March 22 at Phoenix International Raceway (quotes listed in alphabetical order): MATT ...

AVONDALE, Ariz., Friday, March 14, 2003 -- Quotes from selected IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers about the Phoenix 100 Infiniti Pro Series event Saturday, March 22 at Phoenix International Raceway (quotes listed in alphabetical order):

MATT BEARDSLEY (No. 12 Alpine Bank/Old Republic Land Title): "I think the race in Phoenix will be a lot better that Homestead in a lot of ways. For one, I have a lot of time on the track compared to all the other tracks that the Infiniti Pro Series has run on thus far. Second, we are testing there, which I have never done in a Pro Series car. The only time I have driven the car has been on race weekends. I have been living in Phoenix for a year going to school, so it is a home race. I am looking forward to the Phoenix race very much."

ED CARPENTER (No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I really like racing at Phoenix. I think it will be easier there than at Homestead. We'll have high-downforce wings on our Futaba/Delphi Dallara and the track is shorter, so I think it'll be a lot of fun, close racing. Because the track changes so much throughout the day, the biggest challenge is getting the car to handle throughout the day and ultimately throughout the race. I've been racing there four years in the USAC Midget and Silver Crown cars, so I've got a lot of laps there. You have to have a good-handling race car to run a full race there and be fast. We're just going to focus on getting a good car that's going to last 100 miles. Phoenix is a place I always look forward to going to." (About doing double duty on race weekend): "I'll be racing in the (USAC) Silver Crown race out there, too, so it's going to be a big weekend. It should be a lot of fun. It's harder time-wise because the practice sessions are one after the other, so I have to rush from one car to the other. After that, I think it's an advantage for me. I'm on the track more than the guys I'm going to be racing with, so I'm always on an adrenaline high and always ready to go, and you stay more focused. It's not too hard to jump back and both between the two types of cars because they are so different."

PAUL DANA (No. 24 Ethanol/Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "As a team, we're getting more organized each day that we work together, so that will only get better as the season progresses. As for Phoenix, the first time I had driven there was at the Test in the West, so I've got one day of experience there. But we were quick at the test, so hopefully we can come back and build on that. It's a cool track. Turn 1-2 is very tight, but it has a lot of banking, so there's more grip there than you think initially. Turn 3-4 is a lot wider and faster, but it's flatter. Both ends are tough in their own way, but that makes it fun for us because you are always working. There's always going to be a compromise on setup. The car won't be perfect. Homestead was a tough weekend because of our qualifying crash. For Phoenix, I just want to avoid any more big mistakes and build on the pace we've shown in testing and in practice."

BRANDON ERWIN (No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/ Infiniti/Firestone): "I ran the full IndyCar Series race there (in 2002), but I've had zero practice coming in with this (Infiniti Pro Series) car. My car actually did practice there with another driver in the Test in the West. I'm ready to go out there after running in Homestead. I feel really comfortable in the car. I feel that we can run out front for the rest of the year, and I want to win a race as soon as possible. I know my guys do, too. Phoenix is definitely a driver's racetrack; that's what I like about it. It is not going to be just a horsepower racetrack. It is going to be difficult to get a handle on the racetrack, but I guess whoever gets a better handle on the racetrack is going to be out front."

AARON FIKE (No. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It will be a busy weekend for me. I'm not only running the Infiniti Pro Series event but also both Midget and Silver Crown races at Phoenix. I'd like to think I have a slight advantage just because I'll have more opportunities to run under race conditions. The biggest thing is we've got to hit the setup on the nose to be fast and competitive. We straightened a few things out after Miami, so we'll be better prepared for Phoenix. The guys are hard at work making changes to my car. With these changes and our testing here last month, we should be strong, especially running in the draft."

RONNIE JOHNCOX (No. 8 REV 1 Racing Special Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "PIR is a great track, and the Copper World Classic is one of the best open-wheel shows in the country. I am very happy that they are including the Infiniti Pro Series as part of the show. I have raced in the Copper World several times, and I ran an IndyCar Series car at Phoenix in 2000. I have always been fast at Phoenix. I am looking forward to this race."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, resident of Scottsdale, Ariz.): "The first race, I was a little disappointed with the outcome. We ran second most of the day, but our car was very loose on the restarts. I'm hoping we can improve some things on the car and really have a good run at Phoenix. I'd like to get my first win there because I live there, and I'll have a lot of friends and family in the stands. It would be great to improve on the first race and gain some points because now we've got to play some catch-up. Phoenix is obviously a very technical track. I'm looking forward to it. It will really separate the field, talent-wise. We were quickest in the morning at the Test in the West at Phoenix and third fastest on the day, so I think we will be fine with our car. Hopefully, we can make it good for the long run."

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "In Phoenix, I had my first contact with an Infiniti Pro Series car and an oval track. It was last year when I did one-and-a-half days of testing. I enjoyed it a lot. I think I had a very fast adaptation. After the test, I was convinced about racing in the Infiniti Pro Series, and I believe I did the right decision. About Phoenix, it is a very different track if you compare it to Homestead. The feeling of high speed is bigger, and the track is narrow, but I liked it very much. In Phoenix, you have to be more aggressive and really drive the car. I think I will enjoy the race there as much as a road course. I think it will be nice. I have a very good car, and I would be happy with a top-three finish." (About season-opening Western Union 100): "I learned a lot. It was my first oval race, after all. I'm sure I will be learning a lot during my first season here. Everything is very different. Everything is new. The racing tracks, the car, the lifestyle, the language. During my first race, I was concentrating on learning the car's behavior in traffic, with race setup, with a heavy fuel load, how to deal with the draft and overtaking also. But I had a lot of fun. It's an incredible feeling to be side by side with other cars in such a speed. It was a great experience for me -- completely different from the road courses."

GARY PETERSON (No. 27 AFS Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to Phoenix. I feel this is my home track. I obtained my IRL license at this track during the inaugural Test In The West (in 1996). I've spent many days over the past years testing and racing with SCCA, and I've participated in at least 10 Toyota Atlantic races on this track. Prior to the start of the 2003 season, we tested the type C (Infiniti Pro Series) motors for TWR Engines and the IRL. We completed approximately 500 miles in two days. They ran great. My primary sponsor, Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., has an office in Tempe, which is outside of Phoenix. Many friends and business associates will be attending."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 20 Western Union Speed Team/Duesenberg Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): "Obviously, the whole team is disappointed with the result at the Western Union 100, but at the same time there are a lot of positives to take from the weekend. The Western Union Speed Team was ultra-competitive with very limited testing, and we were actually just about the only car that was making things happen in the race. The first race on an oval after two years absence from driving brought back a lot and the lessons learned, dealing with different situations and certain drivers, up to the point of the accident in Turn 2, will help me throughout the rest of the year. The enthusiasm of everyone at Western Union was incredible in Homestead despite the result, and with their support, we know that we have a tremendous opportunity for success each race weekend."

MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, series points leader): "Phoenix will be another tough weekend like Miami. The car setup will be very important, and with the race on Saturday, we will have less time on track. However, after the Test in the West and the race result in Miami, I am very confident we can get a good result. Hopefully, the conditions will stay consistent through the day. Qualifying will be important. I think there will be a number of drivers who will be able to win, and the first test session on Friday will be vital to get comfortable with the car. With the higher banking, Phoenix gives more comfort to the driver than at Miami, and the wind will not affect the cars as much. There will be many other factors, though, that will make it a very exciting race. The leaders will catch up anybody who is struggling with the car very quickly, and that might decide the winner."

JONATHAN URLIN (No. 33 Budget Rent A Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to getting back on the track at Phoenix. I had started to get a little rhythm when we were at Homestead, and it seems like it's been awhile since I was last in the car. I tested at Phoenix during the Test in the West, and that gave us a good head start in that we know where we're at when we unload the car. The guys at the shop have the car ready to go. I'm looking forward to the first practice, seeing where we're at and pushing ahead. I want to finish every single lap. That's my goal for the entire season. If I can avoid having any mechanical or driver errors, we've reached our goal. I'm going to take this season one race at a time. You can't look at this season as one race or one lap. You have to look at the whole season because that is what it is about. Really, for me, I'm going to take it like every other race and do what we do -- be consistent and just try and stay up near the front and keep progressing all through the year, not just one race."

CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I like Phoenix and am looking forward to the race. I tested at Phoenix during the Test in the West and felt quite comfortable in the car. It is a fun track and definitely tricky. Turn 1 is tight with lots of banking, while Turns 3 and 4 are wider turns with not as much banking. It is a more technical track as far as getting the right setup. After our test, I feel that my team and I left with a good baseline. We should be able to pick right up where we left off. Both my and Aaron's (Fike) crews are working together and making a few changes so that we can have a strong race and make up a few points. It would be nice to have both of us on the podium."

TOM WOOD (No. 9 Super 8 Motels/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Phoenix will be another handling track that will require a good setup. We had a fast car at Homestead. We were one of the quickest cars in every practice session, but unfortunately I pushed a little too hard in qualifying and crashed it. That set us back for the race, and we had to settle for sixth. I know Sam Schmidt Motorsports has the team to give me a fast car again at Phoenix. We learned a lot at Homestead, and I am confident we will have a very competitive car again. I have raced at Phoenix several times. It is a great track. With all the talent in the Infiniti Pro Series, it is going to be a tough race."

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , A.J. Foyt