PARTS AMERICA 150 FF2000 Press Conference Thursday, August 21 ANDY LALLY ( ...
PARTS AMERICA 150 FF2000 Press Conference Thursday, August 21
ANDY LALLY (#75 Aspen Knolls/TotalTel 1997 Van Diemen Ford Quicksilver) -- We're happy with how consistent we've been. We want a little bit better finishes, but it's not too bad, and we're happy with where we are right now. We're within striking distance of the championship still, a few points off Zak (Morioka, FF2000 points leader), and if we can come out of here with two podiums, we can finish in the top three for the season. Right off the bat here, when we had the rain practice, I took to it real quick and got going pretty fast. We knew the setup right off the bat - we ran here in the rain just three months ago in the Professional SportsCar race (the Speedvision Cup on May 31st), and I ran here in the rain in this series last year. Actually, I'll be happier if it's dry. I like this track, short course and long course. It's a fun track. I'd like to move up. Atlantic or Indy Lights would be the next step, but next year we may have to stay here again. We're still looking for funding. Wherever that comes from and wherever they want us to go, that's where we'll be. The FF2000 series runs three double-race weekends this season. The first was at Phoenix, the second at Charlotte, and this weekend's event at the Glen is the season finale. I like it a lot. I wish every race would be a double. Is it tough to turn the car around for the second race? It depends on your driving. If you ball it up in one race, it's not going to be fun for the crew to put back together, but I like the back-to-back racing. I like getting two races in at each track. The more races the better, for me. The more we can stay consistent and be up there in the points, instead of a weekend where we'll get maybe a total of two hours track time and sixteen laps of green flag racing. I like the back-to-back racing a lot, and I wish we'd do it all the time. You want to learn from your first race, so when you go in for your second race you remember all the little things that happened, and you can keep up on it. For instance, starts, where they're going to throw the green, the basic line, where everybody was blocking going into turn one or whatnot. You can go for it, there's enough parts here to put the cars back together if you have the budget to do it. You look at it as just another race, the doubles we don't treat any different. We try to make as much of the testing as we can, because the more you get out of the testing, you can put that toward two races instead of just one, so that's important, not messing up testing.
MATT SIELSKY (#16 Team Kool Green/Sea Doo 1997 Van Diemen Ford Elite) -- Although third in points, Sielsky [sill' skee] has yet to score his first win this season. It almost came a couple of weekends ago. We were at Mid-Ohio, and led every lap, but Zak got by me on the very last lap. It was a little mistake on my part which won't happen again (grins at Zak Morioka). Last year was a great weekend here. It rained for one of the races, but we started both races on the front row, and we're back here for two races, third in points, and a good shot at the championship if there are some mistakes made up ahead of me (another grin at Morioka), so I'm definitely looking forward to a big weekend. Basically, there has to be a mistake or some failure on Zak's part to finish one of the races. He can have two mediocre races and still win the championship, and I'm just a couple of points out of second place. So I just take the basic approach and go at it as hard as I can, but in order to win we're going to have to have luck go our way, which it hasn't done much this year. I think we have a good base setup from where we were at last year, and the weather I'll take either way. It was raining last year, and we were doing great, and it was dry for the first race and we finished third. Dry or wet, it doesn't matter to me.
DAVID RUTLEDGE (#78 Fleming Financial Corp. 1997 Van Diemen Ford Elite) -- Rutledge won the Formula Continental race here during the SCCA nationals July 12-13. We were running a slightly different track configuration (the long course, as opposed to the short course that they will use this weekend), but most of the corners are similar, just with different exit and entry speeds. The track conditions were similar to what they are this weekend, and it was a good learning experience, especially through corner one, the esses, and the Inner Loop. The exits are a little different, you can carry more speed into the first left-hander, and I think we picked up quite a bit of time coming onto the front straightaway. So it was most beneficial. The cars are pretty identical in power, but right now there are a lot of teams working on air intake, and aerodynamics with the different wing setups. That's what we're concentrating on right now, but the power is fairly similar, and that's what makes for a great series, because it really brings out the drivers' talents.
ZAK MORIOKA (#27 KFC of Brazil 1997 Van Diemen Ford Quicksilver) -- For me, it's really comfortable because I already have the oval championship, and I want to make both with the overall championship. I have a twenty point lead, which is a very comfortable position. Like Matt (Sielsky) said, I have to have a problem so people can get over me. Right now, in this test, we're being quite fast, so I don't think we're going to have a problem. I expect a lot of tight competition for this weekend, because it's going to be a kind of do-or-die, because it's the last race. I hope it doesn't rain, and I hope we can get a good qualifying spot. Along the I81 in Pine Grove, PA, Morioka suffered a setback that, while leaving him in fine shape for the race, made for an adventurous trip. It's been like that the whole year, we've been having trouble with the transportation, the truck and the trailer. This time, the trailer caught on fire. We had a short-circuit, the electric circuit, and it just burned everything except my car that I'm going to run, and the tools and my racing suit and my helmet. Actually, that's what we're going to need this weekend. My backup car is in pretty bad shape, the whole trailer is pretty much burned and it smells like barbecue. That's it. I need just a car, and a new set of tires for the race, and a lot of good luck on the track. I don't care about the road as long as we can get the crew here safely. The truck was coming from Maryland, and my crew guy saw some smoke coming off of the trailer, so he had to stop the truck and come back and open the door. Everything was hot, so they had to find gloves, and everything was just, chairs like this, it was just plastic melt. At first they didn't know what it was, and it was a chair.
BUDDY RICE (#19 Lynx Racing 1997 Van Diemen Ford Ivey) -- Actually, my chances are pretty good, but Zak's been running strong late in the season so he's still going to be difficult to beat. We're going to try pretty hard this weekend to catch him. Peggy Haase and Jackie Doty own Lynx Racing, which also runs an Atlantic team. Last year we all sat down and discussed the fact that they wanted to start a two litre program and start bringing up young drivers through other ranks. They started supporting me, and then we hooked up with DSTP Motorsports Team for the two litre series, and we all worked together and made a plan for this year. Patrick (Carpentier, of the Bettenhausen CART team, formerly of the Lynx Racing Atlantic team) did go into IndyCars, but we're a little bit smaller, and this is our first year, so we have some pretty big shoes to fill, but it's a good solid team.
GREG LEMOND (#83 Miller Milling Co. 1996 Van Diemen Ford Elite) -- I think the competitive side (of auto racing) is very similar. Cycling's a very dynamic sport, and there are a lot of tactics, and it's a lot higher speed than most people realize. I've been in situations in a bike race when I've been quite scared. Racing's racing to me. The visuals that you need, and the thinking and the concentration...you need that in cycling just like you need it in car racing. This is my first year, and I've had my share of learning experiences early in the year. I didn't have many crashes. I had two crashes in races where it really wasn't my fault. Somebody took about six of us out in St. Petersburg, and then in Phoenix I was running in about thirteenth or fourteenth place after starting dead last, and the guy in front of me spun out, so I clipped his nose. I hit the wall at about 80 miles per hour. I've had fairly good success, and I'm fairly careful and aggressive in a race, and I've been keeping it on track in a race, but in practice...it's kind of the way it goes, you're trying to figure out how to go fast, and you're bound to kind of mess up once in a while, but I'm learning. I went through the Jim Russell school in California last year, did two schools there, did three race weekends, but I really didn't even know what the different classes were until last year. I had looked at Barber Dodge, and I really thought I was just going to stay with the Jim Russell school series, but I got offered - by John Miller , who's a local businessman and friend from Minneapolis and the second largest miller of pasta flour in the country - he offered me a ride. I'm learning a lot, and I feel that next year I can be more frontrunning. I hope to be a top ten finisher more often next year. Bike racing is similar, because it combines the physical aspects, and, you have to figure out tactically...you go down a mountain in France at 60 miles per hour, you've got to hit those lines right. And usually you're going down a mountain without any knowledge of what's around that turn, so you have to go as fast as you can without taking yourself out. Auto racing is definitely an athletic sport. It's not as physical as cycling, but, especially as you move up in the ranks into CART or Formula 1, or NASCAR when they're doing three hour races, you want to be in shape. Having crashed both bikes and cars, which do you prefer? The crazy thing is, I get less hurt in cars. I think it's more catastrophic. In bike racing, I've got more scar tissue than anybody here. I've got road rash here, road rash here, broken collarbone, two broken wrists...you crash a lot in the beginning of your career, just like in car racing. You're trying to get coordinated, trying to figure out balance and this and that. I've had some good crashes this year, and the car's been holding up. After being diagnosed with a rare disease which does not affect his daily life, but which ended his cycling career, LeMond added two wheels and an engine and continued racing. I discovered car racing, and it's a great sport because it's psychologically challenging, and it's very technical, so it's like learning a whole new sport. Cycling is that way too, and I have to say that when I see these young guys here, I'm like, man, when I was 18 or 19 or 20 years old, racing bikes - I started at 15 - I read every single exercise book from running to cross country skiing, every cycling book...I just had a major passion for it. And that's how these guys are, so that's what I'm competing against. I do have that passion, but I've got my wife, three kids, and a hundred other things I'm doing in my life, so it's hard to be 100%. Next year I'm trying to work on getting good sponsorship, and next year is going to be a major push, with a lot of testing and a lot of learning.