Indianapolis: Friday practice quotes

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet): (About rapid rise of young drivers in NASCAR): "When they get in these cars that have the track records. When Jimmie came in last year, he had a lot of stuff to fall back on with Jeff's notes. Man, when...

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet): (About rapid rise of young drivers in NASCAR): "When they get in these cars that have the track records. When Jimmie came in last year, he had a lot of stuff to fall back on with Jeff's notes. Man, when I got in the 41 car, we had no notes. We were passing people and doing all sorts of crazy things to get up there. It's a lot easier when you have those notes. Just like running Kyle Busch in our Busch car. He's going to run good in all of these races, and I've run good in a lot of these races. We have a lot of notes and information to draw from, and Kyle Busch can drive a race car, so he's going to run good. So I think that's the biggest difference with these young guys coming in is they're getting in top-notch rides. Back in the 70s, with all the old-timers, you had to get in a piece of junk to try to prove yourself and get better rides. Those days are gone. The top drivers are getting in the top cars." (Where do you think the pole will be?): "Well, I'm lucky, I'm going out early. I drew the first position. The track is fastest when it's coolest, but if it rains in the morning and we qualify in the afternoon, then I'm in trouble. You never know how it goes. But we learned in testing that first thing in the morning is when the track is fastest. As the track heats up, it starts going down bit by bit. Hopefully for myself, the conditions will be down and cloudy. I think the pole will be in the 48s."

LARRY FOYT (No. 14 Harrah's Dodge): (How was practice?) "It wasn't really what we wanted. The car is pretty wicked right now. We're trying different things and just hitting the racetrack a lot. I don't know. It's going to be a gamble. We'll go for it tomorrow and hope we can get in the top 36." (Do you feel comfortable here?): "I really like the racetrack. It's just we haven't had a car comfortable yet. We built a new car to come here with, and it's just hard because we didn't get to the wind tunnel to see what we got. We're kind of stabbing in the dark, but I don't know where we ended up in practice, probably around 36."

DAVE BLANEY (No. 77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford): "Practice went great. The Jasper car was really fast right from the first run, and I think we kept improving it bit by bit every run. We were faster each run so I'm comfortable driving it, and we're pretty fast, and I look forward to tomorrow."

BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge): (How was practice?): "It was pretty bad. Tomorrow is another day, we'll see."

ROBBY GORDON (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet): "It was pretty good. I think we ended up seventh or eighth quick. We're under the track record. I drew a bad number, but who knows what bad is going to be tomorrow. It's a different day, and we may have a shot at the pole. But if we don't get the pole, I know we're going to have a good race car. We tested really well here. We didn't work on qualifying setup, and the stuff right out of the box ran good. I'm pleased about that. We'll just have to see if we can suck a little more out of it tomorrow."

MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet): "It went good. We've got a good draw tomorrow. We go out sixth. Unfortunately here at Indy, qualifying is more about where you draw than any other factor. Unfortunately for somebody who drew last, I drew first. We're a top-10 speed all day long and have a good draw, so we're very optimistic we can get a good starting spot."

JIMMIE JOHNSON (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet): "So far, so good. We're sitting second when all was said and done. The guys put tires on it at the end, and we picked it up a bunch and had a good day. Looking forward to getting a chance at the pole tomorrow." (Since the track hasn't changed, is the biggest difference aero?): "I think it's the combination of two things. We're making the cars more slicker and they have more downforce, and every time I climb into my race car, my motor guy tells me I've got 10 more (horsepower). It happens every weekend. I've started to joke with him and asking if we have 1,000 horsepower. I think we're learning a lot about the cars, and the team's getting better and better every day." (What do you think the pole time will be?): "I think we can ran a 10 or an 0. It will be in the 48-second area."

JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 81 Kraft 100th Anniversary Chevrolet): "We had a good test here, and that played a big part in it. The weather was pretty similar to the test. It was actually hotter, maybe not hotter, but sunnier. Tomorrow we believe it's going to be more overcast, and really we didn't have a lot of experience of where we need to be. I'll try to go out and stomp it in the ground out there and try to get in the race, and hopefully we can do that." (The fast lap was the first lap?): "Stickers by far quicker, so we made three more runs. We sat and waited and watched what the other guys were doing on their second runs. We went and made another run and were kind of in the thick of things at the front. Obviously, not as fast as we run the first time, but nobody was. Then the next run, they tried a couple things with old tires, and then we made a sticker run, and I guess I tried a little too hard and we brushed the wall off of (Turn) 2. (Dale) Earnhardt Jr. asked me what I was doing. He asked me: 'What are you doing, you only ran four laps. How can you hit the wall?' And I said, 'I already hit it once.' We're really only taking decals off the car. I think we knocked Oscar Mayer off and something else, so we need decals. And Junior wanted me to remind everyone that he is a car owner. Him and Teresa." (Have you ever been the fastest driver of the day at Indy?): "I don't know. Maybe not. I don't know. Probably not." (Does it mean anything to be fastest?): "Right now it does mean something because we're going into qualifying, so everybody is throwing most of what they have at it. Overall it makes you feel like you had a good, fast car. Even when I brushed the wall, I was going to be 15th, so I know I have a fast car and we should have a good qualifying lap. It's good to be fast any day. It's good to be fast on the first practice, on Saturday, for the race. But qualifying practice sets the stage for where you're at. I don't think we're a lock for the pole, because Winston Cup is tough, but at least we have a shot at it (How important is this weekend to you?): "It's because it's the Brickyard 400, and all that not because of any other circumstances. I have a great opportunity with the race team I'm driving for, and I had a really good opportunity the last couple of weeks. I'm not going to lay any pressure on me that will make it any more difficult. One race doesn't tell you where I stand, but if we keep coming out and running fast, it's only going to help us (On landing on his feet after his release): "Professionally what we do is so much in the open and in the public eye, you feel like you've been hit pretty hard by a baseball bat, and you didn't see it coming. You're a little bit tail between your legs because you're disappointed where you at. Jeff Burton told me I better go to Michigan and not go into hiding, because that's not what I needed to do. I went there, and I was thinking that everyone would think I had SARS, but it was everything but that. They've came to me with open arms, and people have been talking to me ever since then. When you get released in June, there's not a lot going on because people are contracted to drivers. That's the one thing I like about the 81 car, is I didn't take someone's job, because I know how that feels

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (No. 43 Boxtops for Educations/Cheerios Dodge): "Not very well. We definitely need to find some speed in the car or otherwise tomorrow isn't going to be a very good day for us."

MATT KENSETH (No. 17 Smirnoff Ice Triple Black/DeWalt Ford): (Comparing the Brickyard 400 to the Daytona 500): "Well, it is different. To have a Daytona 500 trophy or to have a Brickyard trophy would be really, really awesome, but that does not necessarily mean from a driver's standpoint that it is the toughest race to win or the most important race for you to win. There are 15 other races I would rather win as a driver to feel like I accomplished more than to win the Daytona 500."

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet): "We practice during the hottest point in the day, then have to qualify in the morning. I do not understand that logic. We were not as good as the other cars and not even as good as some of our teammates. Hopefully, we make the right calls and adjustments. It can rain in the morning, but I do not want it to rain in the afternoon. I would like to test every weekend at every track, but you do not have that luxury. It does not matter where you start in this race. It matters where you finish. I have been in this thing long enough to know that you have good days and bad days, but you work through the tough days and enjoy the good ones. We have a long weekend ahead of this before this thing is all over, and a lot of fighting. This is a very difficult place to pass, so I would say strategy here could definitely pay off. Track position is going to be really critical here. If you can stretch on fuel mileage or get out there in clean air, it is going to be a big advantage. You always want to have a good race car that you can drive up through there and pass. That is one of the funnest things about racing, is working on that car to make it better than the competition, then driving it and maneuvering through traffic and making passes. The stuff where you just get out front and hope for clean air to pull away from the field. You want to win any way you can, but it definitely takes a little of the fun out of it, but that is not necessarily anybody's fault. It is kind of the way technology has come into our sport. This track has never been the best as far as putting on a good race for us, because it is a flat, fast racetrack. That is not a good combination for us. It never really has been. It is a dramatic race. It is a spectacular race, and there is more hype than there really is great racing. It is not an Atlanta or Charlotte, but it is still the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we are all proud to be here and proud to win." (About the chance to become a four-time winner at Indianapolis, matching A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser): "You know, I keep saying, do not compare me to those guys. Don't compare the Brickyard 400 to the Indy 500, either. I just do not think they are in the same category. Yeah, we are at the same racetrack, but we are talking about totally different history and totally different types of racecars. You know, I do not care what I ever do here, I do not think I will ever be able to compare myself to those guys."

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge): "I guess we're the fastest Dodge. We wound up 10th. I had a good test up here, we were really good in race run, so we'll see how it shakes out." (Are you ready for qualifications?): "We better be ready."

CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge): "Right now we're not really that good. I don't think we're real far off, to be honest. We were really tight and made a lot of changes on older tires, and the track started getting tighter and tighter, so we really freed up the car and then when we put sticker tires on and made our banzai run. We were just really, really loose. We didn't put in a good time, but I think if we just tighten it up a little bit, we'll be pretty good for qualifying."

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet): "Fuel mileage has been the big player here lately, and it's not the most fun thing to have, especially if you're not on the winning edge of it. It's just the way it's been. It's been like that for a while. I just think it's been a bigger topic strategy-wise. At New Hampshire, we got zero tires and gas the last 120 laps probably, and we pulled away from Jeff Gordon and some other guys, too, and passed more cars than anybody else the last 50 laps but just six cars. It doesn't seem like that's quite right to me, but if you're on the winning end of it, you're not going to complain a whole lot about it."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Rick Mears , A.J. Foyt , Kyle Busch , Al Unser