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Latest IRL News and Commentary

Indy Day 2 - Practice Quotes

May 7, 2001

ROGER PENSKE: "It's wet. Everything is rolling along fine." 

RON HEMELGARN: "Both cars ran well. We got the second car out before the rain. We are 
trying different setups. We played with cars, ran in the wind. We're trying to get a baseline for all 
conditions." 

ELISEO SALAZAR: "I'm delighted today. We have a brand-new car. We ran one car the first three races, and we got this one out and went 218 pretty easy, and then pushed it some. I was a bit apprehensive because it was a new car. But we're doing well, and A.J. likes to peak late. A.J. and I get along 95 percent of the time. He is so competitive, but we have been running well. The only thing that could have been better is to have won a race. But we have been on the front row twice here, and people discount us."

DIDIER ANDRE: "Every time I get into the car we gain a bit more, and my goal is to be my fastest on Saturday, which is what we are gearing towards. Yesterday was a very ceremonial day and today was more of a day of getting back to work. All I am thinking about is my car and qualifying weekend."

CASEY MEARS: "We are still searching for rear grip and once we get that sorted out then we should be able to gain some speed. We have a lot of data every evening coming from all of the cars, so I feel good we will find what we need." 

AL UNSER JR.: "We are testing some things we didn't get a chance to test during the winter and we are learning a lot about the car." 

JIMMY VASSER: "We did a few laps just to get used to it. We will certainly find the speed we need in the few days forthcoming. The car was setup pretty conservative. It is great to be back at the Speedway. We would like to win that trophy. It's kind of weird wearing the red suit. I was starting to like my plain black one."

TONY STEWART: "We just knocked the cobwebs off. We didn't set the world on fire, and we didn't get too many laps in. It's a great group of guys. We're really excited. This is a really good opportunity. It was just a great feeling riding out on the golf cart, and people were screaming and cheering for me. It's nice to be home. But it will be a long month. There are lots of people who want to see me and talk to me and sign autographs. But I have to talk to my engineers. This is a whole new team for me, and we have to get to know each other." (About his golf game): "My golf game is actually improving, in part because of my temperament. I'm actually calming down. And I have a driving coach that's helping me." (About the No. 33 Ganassi racing car): "We have to get the car flat. By that, I mean we need to get it where I can flatfoot it all around here. Right now I'm lifting a lot, so I'm not as quick as Jimmy."

GREG RAY: "We've only been in two cars trying two different setups. I was pleasantly surprised with the 22 car. I had a feeling that I wouldn't like the setup, but it was coming off the corner strong. I was very pleased with how it handled." (About Sunday's run of 224.301) "We're here for the biggest race in the world. The conditions were good. We had a light fuel load and new tires. It wasn't throwing down the gauntlet. I don't think that is the gauntlet, I think the gauntlet will be 225 or 226." (About the limit of 25 sets of tires for the month) "You have to look at the whole month. You have to look at Friday or Saturday. You have to scrub some in for the race, and if you find the super special set, you put them in a corner for when you need them. I think we've only used three sets of tires." (About the season so far): "We've been a front runner all year. We've had some problems and some of them have left us really scratching our heads. We needed Atlanta. We've got guys that put their heart, blood and sweat into these cars." (About the car being put in tech yesterday after the quick run. The car passed inspection): "Anybody that ever accuses you of bending the gray area of the rules at the end of the day, that the ultimate compliment. If they are accusing you, then they aren't working hard enough. You can push the boundaries of a motor, but if you push it too far, you'll blow it up." (About qualifying well at Indy but not finishing well): "Anything I've done, weather it be business or personal, my feeling has always been that I've learned something. Is my ideology any different? No, I think I'm more experienced." (Does it help starting on the pole?) "My personal opinion is starting on the pole is always good. It's good for the sponsors, and it's good for the team. Being up front is good. You get clean air and set the pace. Even if a guy is a half mph faster than you, he still may not be able to pass you." (Do you think you could have run in CART had the IRL not been created in 1996?) "Yeah, I think I cut my teeth in Formula 2000 and '96, '97, and '98 was my window and there were some opportunities. It was a difficult decision not to pursue that. I dreamed of the Indy 500 and its ironic that some of the guys that I would have been competing against are here now. I don't regret the decision. I think that the IRL has tremendous potential. It's a huge snowball going downhill. With all the TV contracts with ABC and ESPN and the new tracks with the France family and Bruton Smith, there is a great future."

GIL DE FERRAN: "We had a good day today. We worked on the Marlboro car focusing primarily on race setup. Due to the rain we weren't able to do our qualifying simulation, but we're taking it one at a time and getting our rhythm going."

HELIO CASTRONEVES: "We were a bit surprised that we weren't able to run as fast today as we did at our test last month. The wind was holding us back a bit, but then it was the same for everybody. We had some changes to make to the Marlboro car but then the rain came and ended our day. We're going to try some new aero packages tomorrow and see what happens."

SARAH FISHER: "The difference between running last year and this year is having a year of experience in the league. I'm more comfortable running the car as far as feeling out what's wrong with it. However, we didn't get any testing done here at Indianapolis and it's a completely different racetrack compared to anywhere else we go. It's basically like starting from scratch again when you come back and start off the first two days. We're just looking to get a good balance in the race car. With the weather the way it is, it's getting kind of tough to do that. We'll keep plugging away at it and keep inching our way to a good balance."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "I think the goals were just to get settled in a little bit. We had something to go by with what Sam (Hornish Jr.) had done yesterday. I think we had some of the same trouble that he had yesterday." (About the race): "It's going to be real tough competition. I don't think I was doubting that when I was thinking about returning. You've got the IRL regulars that know these cars well, and you've got the best CART has to offer." (About the rain shortening today's track activity): "It messes you up a little bit. I hope it doesn't do this too much this week. Loosing these couple of hours doesn't help us any." (Is it difficult to switch engineers?): "It's a little difficult, but I think we're doing well. I think we have a great bunch on the CART side and great guys like Andy Brown (Panther Racing's engineer) here. They're all really good engineers, and they're racers. It doesn't take too long (to adjust), but it is different." (Did you test an Indy Racing car prior to today's testing?): "Yeah, I ran at Homestead, and I ran here at Indianapolis a few weeks ago in heavy wind." (Will your experience here help you for the race?): "I'm hoping that experience is going to help. I'm hoping that the experience on our race team going to help. I hope it makes the difference." (Was it hard not to compete at Indianapolis last year?): "Yeah. It was a little tough. I was thinking, 'This isn't right. If they can be there, why can't we.'" (About the difference in speed and cars today than the cars that he raced here years ago): "I think the formula they have now is much better for this racetrack." (About testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Panther Racing and Sam Hornish Jr. in Feb.): "I told the guys, 'I wish I was racing here this weekend because this car is going to win here this weekend.'" (About young drivers in Indy Racing): "I think it just shows you where this sports is going. It's just like all the other sports - basketball, hockey - they are taking them right out of high school. That's just where sports are going. You don't have to have as much experience to drive these cars. It's almost like you can race them with the way you qualified. That has to do more with the way the cars are now." (Are you looking forward to competing against Tony Stewart, even though you didn't compete against him here, and now he's gone on to bigger things in Winston Cup?): "Let's not call it bigger things, just different things. Fine, he's another guy we've got to beat. He's fortunate to be teamed up with a great team." (About qualifying): "I don't think anybody's going to beat Ray for the pole. I just want to qualify in the top 10. I've never qualified real well anyway." (About younger drivers in CART not knowing what Indy means): "If you don't know what you're missing, it's no big deal. For those of us who have been here, we know exactly what we were missing."

ARIE LUYENDYK: "So far things have gone well. I'm having fun and I'm making laps that make sense. We're making full fuel runs. I stayed in shape by racing shifter karts, and I tested at Vegas and here. But yesterday I still hurt in some new places. Today was much better." (About the competition): "All the IRL teams are getting stronger and stronger, and then we've added some of the CART teams. But because of the equipment and the rules of the IRL, there are no unfair advantages." (About his success on ovals, given his road-racing background): "I always seemed to excel on high speed corners. I like them, and I think that helped me on the ovals." (About the progress of his son, Arie Jr., in F2000 racing, and when he sees his son moving up to Indy-style cars): "He's doing well in F2000, but I guess I would like to see him have a bit more success there first. But he likes fast places like IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park)." (Are you extra critical of him on the track?): "I try to believe what he says. When he comes in and says how the car is behaving, I take him at his word. Because engineers and crew chiefs are always discounting what you say, and I couldn't stand that, and I'm not going to do that to him. I suspect I would like him to run Toyota Atlantics or Indy Lights, something like that." (Would you want him to take an Indy-style ride if the opportunity presented itself?): "If someone offers funding for an Indy car team, what are you going to do? Look, Scott Dixon won yesterday (at Nazareth), and he's 20 years old. You look at Sarah (Fisher) and you look at Sam (Hornish Jr.), and you ask yourself, 'should they have waited until they were 22 or 24?' Well, why?"

ROBBY GORDON: "I'm pretty happy. I haven't driven an Indy car in a year so to come out and finish in the top 10 [seventh] on the first day, that's pretty good. We haven't even tried to go fast yet. I just want to get used to working with the team and driving the Indy car. I'm happy for the opportunity to be back with A.J. again, and I'm looking forward to working with Conseco. It's going be a fun, tough and competitive month. It's great to be back in Indianapolis." (About the difference between racing here and in NASCAR): "I've made a name for myself in Indy car racing, but not in NASCAR. I haven't done anything in NASCAR to make a name for myself." (Will you ever go back to NASCAR?): "I don't know what direction my career will take at this point." (About previous performances here at Indianapolis): "If you look back, I could have won nearly every race that I have been in. I was behind Goodyear on that pace car deal (in 1995), but I pitted a lap before, thinking I had a flat tire, which I didn't. I passed Arie, then caught on fire (in 1997), and of course I ran out of fuel while leading (in 1999). I have had a good run here, and my career could use a win right now."

BILLY BOAT: "I think the biggest thing you want on the second day on the track is to be sure you can repeat what you did the day before. Sometimes a setup will be good with certain track conditions, but then when you come back the next day you can't find the handle. What's good about where we're at right now is that we came right back out and went the same speed or just a little bit faster than yesterday with minimal laps. So that tells me we have a setup that's solid, and now we can start trimming the car a little bit and start edging up and finding a little more speed. The main thing is to get the car comfortable and get it balanced all the way around the racetrack. That's the key. Once you do that you can start trimming the car and pick up speed while maintaining that important balance."

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