MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda/Reynard), on finding the proper setup for Texas Motor Speedway: “Dario [Franchitti] tested here in March and was able to provide a good baseline for the setup. I think we will be able to unload the car on Friday and be competitive. That is the great thing about our technical partnership; we’re able to share the knowledge from Dario’s test and hopefully start off the
race weekend a step ahead of the competition. This is a long race. This is a 600K, which is a lot of
miles. Fuel mileage and pit strategy will be very important and the bottom line is you need to be there at the end of the race which is going to take patience and a lot of luck!”
CRISTIANO da MATTA (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota/Lola), anticipating close competition in Texas: “I think the race will be won on the last lap. It’s going to be a shootout in Texas and I hope I am part of it. The track is absolutely unbelievable. Just driving up to the track impresses you. I haven’t driven on it yet in anything faster than a van during a press day in January but the banking is pretty impressive. I’m sure it will be even more impressive in my Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Champ Car. I have never raced on a track with banking this steep. We didn’t test at the track because the team has a good set-up for ovals so they decided to concentrate on more road course testing which definitely paid off [with a win] in Mexico and [second place in] Long Beach. I think the speeds will be much higher than when Kenny [Brack] tested because he was running alone and you go faster when you are drafting with other cars. With the cars running close and the kind of racing the banking of the turns is going to produce, I think we are going to put on a good show. My first oval race with Newman/Haas will be interesting. They have a different approach to many things and I’m sure oval racing will be the same way. We have done well on the road and street courses so far this season and the team has traditionally done very well on oval tracks, so I am looking forward to many new experiences at Texas Motor Speedway--both with the new track in general as well as in my new home at Newman/Haas.”
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda/Reynard), on his “homecoming” this weekend: “Going to Texas takes me back to my beginnings in the U.S. and is rather sentimental for me. A Texan, Jim Hall, gave me my first opportunity to race in CART [de Ferran drove for Hall Racing in 1995, his rookie season, and in 1996] so racing in Texas is a bit of a homecoming for me. I even had the opportunity to attend a Dallas Cowboys game in ’95, which I really enjoyed. I haven’t run at Texas Motor Speedway yet, but I did get a chance to visit the track and it is a first-class facility. Marlboro Team Penske has given its all to prepare for this inaugural event, so we hope to see good results come race day.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda/Reynard), on continuing his winning ways at Texas Motor Speedway: “I’m really looking forward to CART’s first race at Texas Motor Speedway. Marlboro Team Penske has proven that they can run well on ovals, and I tested at the track earlier this year, so we are optimistic heading into the weekend. The track is very fast, much like a superspeedway, so it should be a fun weekend and a great show for the fans. The team is coming off of a one-three finish in Long Beach [Castroneves won the race and teammate Gil de Ferran was third] so we’re bringing a lot of momentum into Texas.”
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda/Reynard), on the points possibilities available at Texas Motor Speedway: “I look at the race in Fort Worth and see a bunch of points just waiting to be picked up. I like fast tracks [Tracy owns the track qualifying record at Michigan International Speedway at 234.949 mph] and side-by-side racing, and I think we’ll see a lot of that during the race. Dario [Franchitti, teammate} learned a little about this place when he was here testing, so I’m confident that between the two of us, along with the Team KOOL Green engineers, we’ll get the setup we need. Fortunately, it’s a long race so we can make adjustments if we need to. But I’d sure like to hit it on the head early in the weekend.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda/Reynard), on proper preparation for Texas Motor Speedway: “This race is going to be a real challenge for the teams, and it’s these situations where having excellent engineers really pays off. It’s a new track for the series and there wasn’t much testing done here during the off-season. I was fortunate to get one day of testing in, so at least we won’t be starting from ground zero at Team KOOL Green. But there’s no doubt we’ve all got our work cut out for us. It’s a big, fast track and you really want to car to be as close to perfect as possible.”
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Reynard), on his first impressions of Texas Motor Speedway: “I went to Texas Motor Speedway for a Media Day a couple of weeks ago. The facility is very impressive, and I am looking forward to racing there. It will be completely different from any other track that we compete on because of the banking, and I think we will put on a good show. Our series needs to be racing here. It’s an important market for us, and it’s a great opportunity to give our fans in the area the chance to visit and see us in person. As people get more familiar with our series, our following there will grow.”
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Toyota/Lola), “The race here is going to be something completely different than any other race we will have this season because the track is one-of-a kind. The overall facility is definitely first class. In my opinion, it’s going to be a wide-open race and will be a lot like the races we have on superspeedways which have been some of our closest over the past few years. The fans are definitely going to see some good racing. At superspeedways we generally run about 225 to 230 miles per hour, but at TMS we will average about 215 to 220 mph and put on a great show. The 15 mile-per-hour difference isn’t going to be something the fans are going to be able to see, especially since this is probably the fastest any cars have gone around the track. The track is shorter than the superspeedways we race on but the banking of the track will be totally new to us since it is a configuration we never run on, so we don’t know what to expect. The 24-degree banking will add an extra challenge to our teams in terms of getting the car working at the maximum level. We are going to put on a great show here that will be exciting for the fans and will also get the most out of the drivers because of the close drafting. There have been many people working to slow our cars down as well as make the racing close at Texas Motor Speedway. The way our cars were before the reduction of boost, we would have been driving too fast as well as less close which would not have made as good of a race for the fans or the drivers. Being the reigning CART winner on an oval means that I know Newman/Haas has a good set-up on this type of track. There are so many things that need to go right to win a race but starting the event knowing that we have a good baseline set-up is good. We were able to run all 500 miles in Fontana and come out in front and I hope we can have just as good of a race in Fort Worth.”
KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola), on his memories of Texas Motor Speedway: “The last Texas race was tough to take [Oct. 17, 1999 in the Indy Racing League finale]. We were leading the race and, if I had won, I would have won the championship again. So we were in position to win the race and then the bearing problem came up. That was very disappointing. It’s very similar to last year at Fontana [when Brack led the most laps before a turbo let go]. I’d like to avenge that last Texas race with a win this time. It’s time to win for our Shell Team Rahal crew. Last year we were close at Rio and Chicago and this year we’ve been on the front row on the road courses. But we haven’t won and that is my goal. We thought the Lola would be fast on the ovals after Juan [Montoya] and Michael’s [Andretti] 2000 oval performances and we were right. The car was good in testing. The cars felt very good for both Max and myself. We’re ready for Texas. I still enjoy the ovals. It’s the fastest wheel-to-wheel racing in the world and the littlest change can make your car a winner. It takes a good relationship with your engineer for the right chassis setup on an oval. With Don Halliday [the Shell team engineer], I think we have one of the best engineers in CART. I think Don knows what I’m looking for in the car and we hope we can put it together at Texas Motor Speedway. I think the race at Texas will be good. You’ll see packs of three, four or five cars, but not the 12-car packs like the IRL had there. Our aero packages are different. But the overtaking will be good and similar to Michigan and Fontana. I think we’ll run about 225 [miles per.hour].”
JIMMY VASSER (Patrick Racing Toyota/Reynard), on the advantage of having tested at Texas Motor Speedway: “We had a good test at Texas Motor Speedway back in February so we have a very good baseline and know what direction we want to go. I think we are a little ahead of the game because of the test. The banking at Texas Motor Speedway is high so it is fairly easy to go flat out, but there are some bumps and that can cause some problems. Overall, Patrick Racing has had a good start to the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season. We have finished in the top six in both races and are fifth in the points. But, the Patrick Racing team is not satisfied. We are here to win races and I know we can do it.”
ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Toyota/Reynard), on making his first appearance at Texas Motor Speedway: “I have never even seen Texas Motor Speedway so it is one of those places where everything will be new for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. Jimmy [teammate Jimmy Vasser] tested there earlier this year and got a lot of good data. Hopefully, that will help me some with the setup. This will be the longest race we have run so far this year and the first oval race, so it will be good test for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. Strategy, as on most ovals, will be very important, so I am fortunate to have Mr. [Pat] Patrick and Jim McGee calling my race. Pit stops will also be very important. Based on our preseason testing the Toyota Reynard package should be very reliable and that is a big plus. It is not a 500-mile race, but it is a longer race then most of the one’s we run. It will give us a good idea of where we are as far as the oval races. “
MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth/Lola), on his growing affinity for oval track racing: “I never saw an oval track until I came to the United States. I raced the sports car tour in America with road racing and then I was in CART. Four different types of tracks–superspeedways, short ovals, permanent road courses and street circuits–with the high horsepower open-wheel cars. It was totally different for me. But that was back in 1996. Now, I really enjoy the ovals. It’s a unique style of racing and driving. Racing wheel-to-wheel at over 200 miles per hour. It’s exciting. For a European driver to win on an oval track like I did last year at Miami, it’s quite a feat. We think we can return to our winning ways. We had a good test on the ovals in the winter and I think those setups will transfer to the Texas track. I didn’t test there but Kenny [Brack, Papis’ teammate] did and he knows the Texas track pretty well. I think we can have a car to run for the lead. I feel good about Texas because of the Ford engine. I have been impressed with the Ford Cosworth since the beginning of testing this winter. Despite losing three inches of [turbocharger] boost this year, the motor seems to be stronger than ever. I know the Cosworth people have been working very hard to find more horsepower. I’ve been to their shop in England and they have shown me their 2001 plan. It’s impressive and I think Kenny and I will have some strong engines at Texas. It’s a horsepower track. I’m anxious for Texas. After the first two races, our luck has to get better at Texas.”
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard), on the healing process after sustaining a slight fracture of the lift wrist during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: “My wrist is coming along fine, and I fully expect to be racing in Texas. I can feel the improvement every day, especially after the sessions in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which has helped to speed up the healing process. I do not want to miss a race because Team Player’s has a very competitive car and I believe we will do well in Texas. The fact that it’s an oval track means that it will be easier on my wrist because there are not as many demands on the wrists as there would be on a road course. It’s always fun to be going to new venues and show the quality of the CART series to racing fans. I’ve been looking forward to the race in Texas from the moment I learned it was on this year’s schedule. With the steep banking and the 1.5-mile oval, it should be an incredible show for the fans as the cars race side by side traveling in excess of 230 miles an hour. It’s our first oval race of the season and Texas is a great place to start.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard), on the “unknowns” of Texas Motor Speedway: “I’m sure that racing on the Texas oval will be quite an experience for Team Player’s. Since most of us will be getting our first look at this track, I imagine that all of the teams will spending quite a bit of the weekend testing things out and making adjustments to be as prepared as possible for the race. The heat might be a factor and that can have an impact on everything from tires to driver stamina. All the physical training I do should pay off if we’re racing under extremely warm conditions. I really enjoy the challenge of racing on a new track. As a CART rookie last year, quite a few of the tracks were new to me, although I was familiar with some of them from running in the Atlantic series. But many of the ovals, such as Motegi in Japan, the super ovals in Michigan and Fontana, were a first look for me.
“As I look back on those three races, I was in contention for a spot on the podium in all three of them. That gives me a lot of confidence for Texas, where we’ll have to handle another new situation.”
SCOTT DIXON (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), on the value of his test at Texas Motor Speedway in February: “We tested very well at TMS back in February. I actually benefited from an extra day of testing because I did a tire test for Dayton/Firestone the day before I tested in a Champ Car. Even though I drove an Indy Lights car during the Firestone test, I took advantage of the additional day by learning the intricacies of the track. I think the extra day paid off for me because I was able to put up a pretty good time of 23.9 seconds. My car felt very good and the Toyota package has been strong, so we’re confident we’ll do well at such a demanding track. We had a disappointing finish at Long Beach, but I’ve been preparing myself physically and mentally and my crew has been making improvements on the car. The track is going to produce a very exciting race with a lot of wheel-to-wheel action - it should be fun for the fans to watch.”
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota), on the importance of Texas Motor Speedway as a FedEx Championship Series venue: “We tested at TMS in February and the facility is very impressive. We have never raced on such high banks before, so we took some time to get used to that. We walked away from our session with some pretty decent times and a lot of very useful information, which we will put to the test once we arrive. The place is huge and it would be great if we could fill most of the seats. CART is taking our sport to the people and that’s what needs to happen. We are already in the Texas market with the Houston race, which has been a great success the last couple of years. Dallas-Fort Worth is a major sporting area and I am sure its population will embrace our formula of racing when they are given a taste of how fast, competitive and exciting it is. I expect a lot of wheel-to-wheel racing at some very fast speeds, so it should be an excellent event. While I am looking forward to the race, I am also looking forward to some of that famous Texas barbecue.”
TONY KANAAN (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda/Reynard), on returning to FedEx Championship Series competition after a lengthy hiatus: “It’ll be great to get back out on the track again. I’m rested and relaxed and ready to go after another two weekends off. But that’ll be the last time we get to say that until November! We’ll be working hard and fast from now on. I went to the shop in Indy last week to get together with Morris [Nunn, team owner] and my guys to take care of some business that we’ll need to stay on top of if we want to fight for the championship. It’s looking pretty good, so far. Looking back on last year, I had 19 points the whole season, and this year I already have 12. That’s definitely a step in the right direction. Everything has been very positive, but I know we have a lot more in the car and we’re capable of doing much better than seventh [place]. We all know that, and we all know exactly what we have to do to improve. I’m interested to see how things will go on the track at Texas. It’ll be a whole new experience for us with the high banking and all that. It looks great on TV. I just hope we can put on a good show for the fans down there. I hear they’re pretty enthusiastic about their racing. It should be a lot of fun, and hopefully we’ll be able to learn the track quickly. That two hours of practice on Friday is going to be critical. I hope we get a lot of green time in.”
ALEX ZANARDI (Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda/Reynard), on his optimism heading into the remainder of the FedEx Championship Series season: “Well, here we are in our third race as a new [second Mo Nunn Racing] team, and I think I think everybody feels like we have some really good days ahead of us even though we have yet to put up the big result. We are all talented people. We saw a lot of things happening over the course of the first two race weekends that the team cannot be blamed for. There’s no hiding the fact that we have gotten off to a rough start. If we are going to turn things around, it’ll take an even greater effort to do it. I’m sure once we do turn it around, it will look like we are lucky. I’ve been through ups and downs in my career and I’ve seen times where you put together a great effort and you end up achieving an even greater result because you get lucky. Luck, for sure, is not something we had in the first two races. It will be a good change of pace to hit the oval tracks for four races in a row. All I have to say to everybody is, ’Stay tuned.’ For sure, as a driver, it’s much more difficult to overcome a margin of a tenth of a second on an oval than it is on a road course. It’s much more risky to try harder on an oval, and it’s much more difficult to make gains, as well. You have to have the equipment to do well. We’ll see. All these races coming up are so different. Texas is a different game from Nazareth. And Motegi [Japan], again, is a fast oval, quite a different setup. Then Milwaukee, it is more like Nazareth.
“I’m always thinking about the next race. I know it’s a long season. We’re working hard, and we’re not getting discouraged from these first couple of results, which are non-results for me. The only thing we can do is work to the best of our ability, and the results will take care of themselves."
BRYAN HERTA (Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard), on returning to oval competition: “I haven’t raced on an oval since Rio of last year, and even that isn’t necessarily a true oval, so I am really looking forward to racing on an oval again. But to be honest, I am not really sure what to expect at Texas.
I know the speedway is a state-of-the-art facility, and obviously it is a high-banked fast oval, but I have never been on the track before, so I can’t wait to check it out for myself in that first session Friday morning.
I hope a lot of people come out to watch, we should be able to create some new CART fans in the Dallas area this weekend.”
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola), on his enjoyment of new FedEx Championship Series events: “For sure, this is an important race for us and for our sponsors being in Texas. From my point, I am looking forward to it because I really enjoy going to new events and I think it will be exciting to see the Champ Cars for the first time on the high-banked oval. Our performance last year on the superspeedways was very good even though we had a very under-powered power plant. Now, with the Ford-Cosworth engine, the great oval setup from my engineer Tom Brown, and the preparation the team has done, I have no doubt that we’ll be fast. But it is a long race so I have to be patient and make sure that I have a good car at the end of the race so we can be fighting for the win."
ORIOL SERVIA (Sigma Autosport Ford-Cosworth/Lola), on the unique challenges of Texas Motor Speedway: “I think this race is going to be a pretty interesting event for me and the other [CART FedEx Championship Series] guys. The banking is a lot steeper than either Michigan or California Speedway and except for Kenny [Brack], no one has really raced here. I believe it’s going to be exciting not only for the fans but for us and for me. I already have a top-ten finish on a superspeedway [eighth at Michigan last year], and it would be great not only for me but, for Tom [Wierenga] and the team to do that at Texas. To get a top-ten finish in only our third race would be an incredible achievement, and I know it’s something we are capable of doing."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (Target Toyota/Lola), on the value of off-season testing on ovals: “We have done a lot of off-season testing on oval tracks. Our test at Las Vegas gave our engineers a lot of good information that will translate over to this track. I feel very comfortable on the ovals so far, but I’ve never
raced on an oval with other cars. I’m going to have to learn how the car will be with other cars on the track. The practice sessions will be the place for me to find out about that. It’s going to be a long race and it will be important to stay out of trouble during the first half of the race. If we can do that, I think that we will have a good chance to win on Sunday.”
NICOLAS MINASSIAN (Target Toyota/Lola), on the mental challenges of racing at Texas Motor Speedway: “This is going to be a very exciting race for the fans. But I’m not so sure how exciting it will be for the drivers. With 28 cars racing side-by-side at over 220 miles per hour, it will be a little nerve-wracking for me. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ve never raced on a track like this before, but I’m confident our team will give me all of the information I need to succeed there. I’ve seen pictures of the Texas Motor Speedway and looks like a beautiful place. It will be even more beautiful if I can win the race.”
SHINJI NAKANO (Avex/Alpine Honda/Reynard), on building some fond oval memories: “I finished eighth in my first oval race at Homestead last year, but after that I don’t have too many good memories from the ovals. The next four races are on ovals, and I don’t think I will have any problems. The team is very good, and I have [Fernandez Racing co-owners] Adrian [Fernandez] and Tom [Anderson]. This track looks very interesting with the banking. I am looking forward to this weekend.”