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Latest IRL News and Commentary

Opening day quotes from Indy

May 5, 2002

MAX PAPIS (No. 53 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “This is actually my first time ever in an IRL car and my first time driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s quite a lot to learn. It’s quite impressive. This is definitely something different than I have ever done before. I am working on getting used to the car and the speeds. The speeds here definitely require a lot of respect. The goal is to get the right feeling on the car, log it in my brain and work on it for tomorrow. The fans here are great. They have shown a lot of support, and they are very knowledgeable. Being out there in the same place where so many great names in the history of auto racing have driven is something that can’t be bought with any amount of money.” (About Eddie Cheever Jr.): “Besides being the boss, Eddie is also a great race car driver. Not very many people have done more miles on this track than him.”

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “All you ever really do on the first day is make sure that everything is running properly. Everybody wants to go fast, but that is not really what our goal is today. We are trying to have a good balance. Once you have the balance, the speed comes by itself. We still have a few problems with the car that we are trying to work out.” (About Tomas Scheckter): “Tomas has handicapped himself, all of his own doing. I hope it will be another lesson that he can put in his mental notebook. He will be fine when he gets back on the racetrack. I have no doubt about that.” (About Max Papis): “Max is just trying to get used to the feeling of driving a different type of car. The car he is used to racing handles a bit different. These cars have a different weight distribution. It will take him a little bit of time.” (About the Red Bull Cheever Racing team): “All three drivers are at a different point in their career.

BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Overall, I think we have to be pretty happy after our first day of practice. We feel like we're in the hunt. We know what we have left in the race car. The whole team has done a great job. Today, our main focus was just to get me comfortable. We had four or five things that we hoped to try aerodynamically. We probably won't get through all of those, but we wanted to get and were successful in getting a direction of which way we need to go. It's the first day of a long week. We're going to be patient, we're going to take our time, we're going to work up to speed, and we're going to try and peak on Saturday."

JIMMY VASSER (No. 19 Miller Lite/Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone): “What a perfect day to start the month of May. It was an absolutely beautiful day in Indianapolis, and it was great to see the fans turn out and support us. It was pretty much a standard first day of practice. We took the Miller Lite cars – both the backup and the primary – out and put them through a couple of runs just to get the feel of the car and the track. Emotions run high on the first day at the Speedway, and it is good to get a few laps under your belt. It has been several weeks since we last tested here. Based on our experience at Fontana and from testing here previously, I think tomorrow we can begin building on what we have learned so far.”

ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Overall, it was a very good day for the Rayovac Blair Team. We have a very good direction with the chassis. We picked up a lot of time on the straightaways. All of the hard work that has been done over the last month by the team; they have spent many hours finding a way to make speed for Indy. McLaren has moved forward. Today, Opening Day, had better track conditions than the two test days we did in April.”

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “This was a great day for Team Target. I wasn’t expecting to be so fast so early on in the week. This gives us a lot of confidence that we should do a good job for the rest of the month of May. We still need to improve a lot. The rest of the field is going to get better, and we need to do the same. We have a good baseline setup right now, and that is a good sign.”

KENNY BRACK (No. 22 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We had a clutch problem early on in the day, and it really limited our track time today. At least it happened on the first day, and we have time to recover. We were here for two days earlier, and we learned a lot from that test. Obviously it’s good if you have a problem earlier in the week. The Team Target guys will get it fixed and get the car back out there tomorrow. It’s a great feeling to be back here in Indianapolis. I really missed being here the last few years.”

JEFF WARD (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We had a pretty good day today. We started off slow today. We changed the whole setup from when we were here for the test. We changed the ride heights, pretty much everything from when we were here earlier. By the time we got everything where it needed to be, the tires were worn out. We put a new set of tires on, and I think the car is right where it needs to be. Flat out for four laps, that’s the key here.”

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/ Infiniti/Firestone): “This car wants to run. We were holding it back today since we haven’t tested here due to the crash at Fontana. This is a new car, and we just wanted to shake it down a little. She’s got more speed. We’ll call it a very good day.”

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “Today was pretty good. We tested here several weeks ago, so today we just tried to shake down the car. Today went a lot better than we probably expected. We should be good. Having a teammate (Tony Kanaan), we have double the chance to find out things and to go in the right direction. We tried to combine our info at the end of the day. For sure, it’s going to help a lot.”


Andretti sports new Budweiser sponsorship
Photo: Motorola/Getty Images

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 39 Motorola/Archipelago Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We had a problem with our spare car earlier today, so I jumped in the primary car. We had an oil leak so it’s been a slow start to our month of May. It’s just teething problems since today is our first time out in the Dallara for the season. I’m sure tomorrow will be better. The grinding of the track has really made a difference. It’s very, very smooth which is great but it feels a bit strange at first. It might take a day or two to get used to the new grooves but that’s not a problem. This year should be a little easier on Team Motorola since we don’t have to make the trip to Japan in the middle of the month. That was really tough last year, so being able to stay focused on our Indy effort has made everyone feel more comfortable and relaxed about what we need to get accomplished.”

PAUL TRACY (No. 26 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It feels tremendous to be back at Indy after not being here for six years. The new track surface is good. It's smooth, but the temperature is really hot compared to when we tested here in April, so our setup isn't really working yet. We're moving up on it slowly and just feeling out the car in the heat. We have a lot to learn about the car. We need to understand it more in order to improve. I'm not where I want to be, and the competition is really tough this year. The No. 26 Team Green 7-Eleven crew is doing a great job getting me back up to speed at the Brickyard. I'm ready to rock and roll for the month of May."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The temperatures are different than when we tested here, and when the temperatures are different, the track is different. We really started very conservatively – in fact, I think too conservatively. We are just getting up to speed. We are out here learning, and we are going to make changes that count rather than just come out here and run around. One of the things that happened is we went out on my first run, and I was completely flat running 207 mph because my throttle was only at 50 percent. The throttle stop had shifted. That was kind of interesting. We really have a lot of understeer in the car, and we need to get rid of that. When we do, the speed will obviously increase. Right now we don't even have a race balance, so we are going to go out and get a race balance and then see what happens. We really have just started. We're shaking the car down. It's still very early, and there's a lot of running left to do."

RICK TREADWAY (No. 55 Airlink Enterprises/Spade Motorsports G Force/ Chevrolet/Firestone): “It was just unbelievable. I have done really good keeping my adrenaline and attention on the things that are important today. Once I got going, everything was fine and we were able to go flat out. It is a privilege and an honor to be racing here at Indianapolis.”

MARK DISMORE (No. 20 Grill 2 Go Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Car Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone): “Just trying to get the rust off me and know all of my new guys. We are trying to learn how to communicate with each other. We need two more good days to be ready for Saturday. Currently, we are looking for a good baseline setup. A change here at Indy can make a huge difference.”

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was perfect weather for Opening Day, and it is nice to be back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today we shook down both the primary and back-up Marlboro cars. We struggled with understeer in the car -- thankfully today was not qualifying. It's important to keep to a schedule of things we want to accomplish and to understand the timeline required. There is plenty of time to practice and to test things, but weather can put us behind schedule so we need to be flexible and continue to make progress everyday."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "When I first arrived at the track today, I must admit I had a few butterflies in my stomach because it's so awesome to be back, but once you get in the car, you forget all of these feelings and focus on the work ahead of you. Last year was last year, and now its time to concentrate on preparing for this year's race. We have the whole month to work on the Marlboro car, so its important to be patient and take things step by step. Our goal today was to get a good basic setup on both the primary and the back-up cars. We were able to do a fast lap right away, and I was really thrilled. It was great to see the looks on the crew’s faces when I pulled in the pits. You have to enjoy these moments because they are special and you need to appreciate every one. Overall, I was very happy with today's progress and actually a little surprised at how good the car felt. The team is doing a great job, and they've been working really hard. This race is always unpredictable, so we must be prepared for anything."

ARIE LUYENDYK (No. 5 Meijer G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We had some trouble with the fuel pickup and the clutch, so finally at the end we were able to run a little bit. It feels good. Not as good as at the test, but I got a couple of good runs. I ran in a lot of traffic as well, so I decided to put it back in the garage and the 225 (mph) I ran was pretty good for today.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 17 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's good to get that first day behind us. I'm really happy to be here, but I won't say that I'm happy to be in 19th. But as everyone's been telling me, it's all about patience here, and we have a long way to go until qualifying. This was only my second day ever driving on this track. It's an absolutely wonderful place, and I just can't wait until race day. But whenever I say that, Morris (Nunn) is very quick to remind me that we have to take this one day at a time. I think 224 (mph) is a good baseline, and we have some of the most experienced engineering minds at the Speedway thinking about how to make us go faster. It's another day tomorrow, and hopefully it will bring us a few more miles per hour."

JOHN DE VRIES (No. 37 Pit Bull Energy Drink/Rhino Cleaning Products Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone): “The anticipation of Opening Day has been tremendous for me. I didn’t get out on the track until late in the afternoon, and then we had some minor electrical problems. The crew did a good job in getting me back on the track, but time just ran out on us. It’s great to be out at Indy, and the fans are a huge support. We look forward to an exciting month of racing. It felt good to be in the car, and we’ll just take it one day at a time.”

ANTHONY LAZZARO (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/ Chevrolet/ Firestone): “We had a good start to the day. We’re just trying to get some miles. We were affected by the wind at the end of the day and didn’t go quite as quick as we’d hoped. I think we’ll make some changes and look for some speed tomorrow. We’re getting to know one another. I’m new to PDM, and they’re new to me. They’ve put a lot of people in the show, so we’re going to work together to do the best job possible.”

PJ JONES (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “My first day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – it couldn’t be better. At first, I thought if we could get up to 220 mph, it would be a successful day, and right out of the box, we were up to 222 mph. These guys at Team Menard do such a great job. The car was so good. Really, they make my job easy. Having that kind of a car out there and with this team behind me gave me so much confidence. We went out for the last part of Happy Hour there, ran a few laps and had it up in the high 224s (mph). That says a lot about this team and what they know about this place.”
 

--IMS--

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