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Latest IRL News and Commentary

Indy 500 Wednesday Practice Quotes

May 15, 2002

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 39 Motorola/Archipelago Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The car feels really good right now. Today we mainly focused on our race setup, and I think I’ve got a really decent race car. We did two long runs this afternoon and tried a few things. I liked the car after the first run, but I liked it even better after our second run because we made some changes that really improved the car. We’ve definitely got a solid race car. Now we need to wait and see how the final day of qualifying shakes out, but if we need to, we are ready to go with the 39T car."

SHIGEAKI HATTORI (No. 12 EPSON Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “We made big gains today with the EPSON car, enough to make the whole EPSON team sleep better tonight. Last week we didn’t get a lot of track time because of the rain and some car problems. The new Infiniti motor is really strong, and I’m now able to use all that power. Now that we have a good baseline setup, I feel we’re in a good position to qualify Sunday for the race.”

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “It was great to be able to begin working on our race setups so early in the week. Last year I didn’t have much practice time out there, so it was good to start tuning on the race car. The Target car was very solid out there all day. I was able to be flat out around the track, but we still have a lot of work to do before the race. We experimented with a lot of different changes on the car. We ran with full tanks and old tires for most of the day to simulate Race Day conditions. The weather was almost perfect today, and the track had a lot of grip.”

KENNY BRACK (No. 22 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We lost an engine early in the day, and it really put us behind the eight ball. We had to go back and do an engine change, so we lost valuable track time. Luckily, the Team Target crew was able to quickly change the engine and get us back out on the track this afternoon. Then shortly before 6 pm, I had a fuel pressure problem on the car, and we weren’t able to get back out on the track. We’ll get these gremlins fixed and get back at it tomorrow. Hopefully, the weather forecasters are wrong, and we don’t get rain for the next few days. But then again, we’re in Indiana, and you never know what the weather will do.”

JEFF WARD (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We had our fastest lap of the day on Lap 5, so the car was pretty good right out of the box. Like most of the other guys, we ran full tanks and old tires to get a feel for where we need to be for the race. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re at a good starting spot. Last year I started 15th and I moved up to eighth by the first pit stop. If we have a solid race car on Sunday, I feel that we have as good a chance as anybody to win the race.”

SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/ Infiniti/Firestone): "Today was the busiest day of the month so far. We worked on getting back to race trim after being focused on qualifying the last couple of days that we were on track. The track surface was different today due to the torrential downpours this weekend, and that, as well as the different wind directions and temperatures, helped us with our game plan of being prepared for every possible scenario that could happen on Race Day, so we can have a car that will do well on May 26th."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “We ran a whole bunch of miles today here at Red Bull Cheever Racing. The car got better and better as we ran. We have a very good handle on tire wear and on how the car should work in traffic. I wish we were racing tomorrow. This is the part of the month that I enjoy the most. I enjoy trying to figure out how to make the car last for an entire full-tank session by spreading out the goodness of the tires. Firestone has really come up with a good set of tires. We are going through a detailed process of making small adjustments every three or four laps to get the most out of the car. The pace is a lot faster than I thought it was going to be on full tanks.”

ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We did a lot of running today working on race setup as well as our qualifying setup. It was pretty windy around mid-day. We tried a lot of things with the setup of the chassis. We have a lot of data and debriefing to analyze going into tomorrow."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We had a good day today. We all enjoyed the sunshine like everybody else. We’re just working on our race setup. We learned a few things. We’re just trying to make the car work a little better in traffic without giving up any speed.”

LAURENT REDON (No. 34 Mi-Jack Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “It’s not really important where we finish in practice. What's important now is to have a good feel for the race setup. We've got a good race setup now, but the track can change next week. We tried different things today, like driving in traffic and some other things, and we're pretty happy with our progress. Hopefully, we'll have a good car for the race. What's important is that we're competitive. Our fastest lap was at the end of our run, and our tires had more than 50 miles on them. We did pretty good lap times. I still don't know why we weren't faster in qualifying. We have a really good car, and we were quick last week. For some reason, we don't know, we weren't that fast in qualifying, but qualifying is over. Today we had the opportunity to take out our backup car, and it was good. We had some clutch problems. The clutch was really stiff in our primary car, so now we’re going to fix that for the race.

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): “We had a good run. We’ve been sneaking up to full fuel. We’re of two minds. We’re stuck in an interesting position in that we slowed down in qualifying. We didn’t go as fast as we’d like to go. We feel like we’re fairly comfortable, but we’re not feeling 100 percent. If it’s a lightning-fast day on Bump Day, we need to be prepared with our backup car ready to go. We need to use this time also to work on full-tank runs, so today was a good day working on race package. But at the same time, we’re going to be continuing to pay attention to our backup car.”

BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Today was really a day for us to not only see if we can find a little more speed, but also work on our race at full-tank setup. We're keeping a close eye on the competition and at the same time trying to find what the car is going to want for the race. We feel we're close, although of course we're always looking for more. The car feels good right now. We'd like to be a little bit faster, but we're at a competitive speed, and the guys that could possibly challenge us on Sunday have yet to show enough speed. Obviously things can change fast here, but now we feel pretty good."

ANTHONY LAZZARO (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/ Chevrolet/ Firestone): “We changed the setup again. I think we’re on number five or six or seven. I can’t even keep count anymore, but we tried something new again today, and it was too much understeer, too much push. Finally I told Sam, ‘Look, Richie’s (Hearn) been driving your car for a couple days, just put him in it and see what he thinks about it.’ Actually, they changed the setup a little bit when he got in it to take care of some of the push, and he went out and did a (2)24.1 (mph) on his first run on new tires, so he was only about a half-mile an hour quicker, but that was also two-and-a-half hours later. We’re not comparing apples and apples. I was hoping he would go out and do a 226 (mph) or 227 (mph), and I could learn something from that. We’ll have to look at the data. I’m sure there’s something I could learn, but he just didn’t go as quick as I hoped. He said the car’s just slow. It drives pretty decent, it’s just slow.”

GEORGE MACK (No. 30 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): (About Jeff Ward shaking down the No. 30 car): “It was a wonderful experience, and I’m happy to be part of it. We were chasing our tails with our setup. It would only go so fast. There is something missing. It reaches this point and then just won’t go any faster. We’ve changed motors and tried everything on the chassis. In a straight line it is OK, but when I turn … Maybe it will be something simple.”

DONNIE BEECHLER (No. 14T Harrah’s/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “I’m trying to sneak up on it. It’s my first day back in the car. The track is different, and I’m just trying to feel it out. I need to get the balance the way I like it. We have a practice motor in it right now, so when it gets closer to qualifying, I’m sure we’ll find the speed.”

RICHIE HEARN (No. 20 Grill 2 Go Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Car Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone): (About shaking down the No. 99 car): “Anthony (Lazzaro) has been struggling to get the car up to speed. He just wanted a second opinion on what the car is doing, and sometimes it really helps when someone can do that. We were running real well and basically put my setup on there. I think the car is OK. It needs a little bit of work, but I think I can help him out with his line a little bit, too. He should be able to get up to speed for Sunday.”

ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “It’s great to be back in the car, but we have a lot of work to do. It took me a little bit to get back in the saddle, but I feel very comfortable. We’re not where we want to be, but everyone on the Cahill Racing team works very hard, and now at least we have something to work from. Hopefully, the rain won’t affect that work. We’re just pretty far off from where we wanted to be. This wasn’t how we wanted our month of May to go. We need to find more speed. But I also know that you can’t rush things at Indy. You have to make your changes methodically. We ran a lot of downforce today, and the car had a pretty big push. We need to dial that push out tomorrow and find more speed.” (On his physical condition): “I drove much of last year with a broken leg, and I had my best finishes last year in my first two races back after that crash, so unfortunately, driving with a broken leg is nothing new for me.

PAUL TRACY (No. 26 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's been a pretty frustrating day. We made some changes to the car, but we couldn't get the results we wanted. The Team Green 7-Eleven crew worked really hard to get the car back together, and it was good that we got back on the track today. Right now we don't know where the problem lies. We've been shooting darts at the board, but we haven't hit the bull’s eye yet. Hopefully, the weather will hold out so we can get some more running in before Bump Day. I keep getting asked how this is frustrating, and right now it is because I feel like I'm in the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ I wake up at the same time every morning, the same song is on, and the whole day goes the same, so hopefully tomorrow will be a better day."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We need to find some more consistency. One problem we are facing is that we go quick in the morning, and then we start chasing the car as the track warms up, so that is frustrating. It looks like Michael (Andretti) found a good direction today, so I think that's positive for the team. These cars are different than our Champ Cars, and we are sort of learning as we go. These cars seem to be a little more sensitive to the weather and a lot of different factors. I felt we had the speed to get in the race last Saturday, but it was just bad luck with the engine problem that kept us out. We'll just keep working at it to find the speed to put the Team Green 7-Eleven car in the race on Sunday."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We've switched gears completely from working on qualifying setup to working on race setup. We're trying to simulate race conditions as much as possible by running heavy fuel loads and doing lots of long runs in the Marlboro Team Penske car. We need another day or two to really nail it down, but so far we're happy with our progress.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “It was nice to have a few days off. I was able to go home and relax a bit, but now it's back to business as we begin to prepare for the race. We're saving our primary car, which is why we're working with our T-car. It's important to find the right setup so that the Marlboro Team Penske car will work well in traffic. We're trying to simulate race conditions as much as possible so we're ready come Race Day.”

JOHNNY HERBERT (No. 32 WESTERN UNION/Duesenberg Brothers Racing Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone): “We’re just not getting any speed out of it whatsoever. We’ve changed it more than I’ve ever done in an IRL car, and it’s just made absolutely no difference whatsoever. We’re still hellishly slow in the corners. We’re still not quick down the straight either, and basically I’m just surprised what we’ve done has not made a difference, even if it was worse. The speed pickup is still not very good, but we’re not going in very quick either. I’m flat the whole way around, I’m changing cassettes and CDs, you know, but it really doesn’t seem to make a difference. I was flat the other day, when we here with the other setup, and I’m still flat today doing similar, if not slightly slower speeds. It’s just very disappointing because I expected it to change from where we were the other day. I’m driving the car, I’m flat around the circuit; we’re changing the setup and as a driver you can’t do much more.”

JIMMY VASSER (No. 19 Miller Lite/Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “Today was a good day for us. We ran at Mid-Ohio yesterday and came back here for a race test. We concentrated on full-tank runs, and the car still feels solid, just like last week. I thought we had a good race car from the start and so far that is still the case. We ran more laps today than we have run in any day this month. Now we are going to experiment with some other settings with the car. We have to be able to run close to cars so we can make a run at them off the corner. We’ll continue to scrub in tires, too. The weather is still questionable for the next few days, so we need to get in a lot of running right now. But we have learned quite bit so far, and we’ll continue to prepare for next week. It was good for the whole Miller Lite team to get into the Pit Stop Challenge for next week. That is something that shows off the crew, and they are our hidden heroes.

AIRTON DARE (No. 14 Harrah’s/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “After the Pole Day, we were kind of a little bit disappointed because we just have a great team, great mechanics, and I have confidence in myself, so we couldn’t be that slow on the Pole Day. So A.J. went over the car and found some stuff that was not the way that he liked, and we fixed it. We went out there, and everything was good again.” (Can you pinpoint what slowed you down on Saturday?): “We had kind of a different kind of problem. He had some shock problems. What I had was something more with the aerodynamics of the car and gears. We put our good motor in on the morning of Pole Day. We had no time to go out and practice because we didn’t want to go in the first session because it was too cold. We wanted to run in a little bit similar conditions that we were going to get during qualifying. So we went in the second session, but because of all the yellow flags, we couldn’t run.

GREG RAY (No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing/Harrah’s Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “Racing is one of those self-defining things that you kind of deal with the cards as they’re dealt to you. We had four sort of spotty days. Then we had a good day on Friday and actually had a pretty solid car. We ran 227.7 (mph), 227.8 (mph), very, very comfortable with the car. We made a motor change thinking we put in Jack the Bear for Saturday. But what we didn’t know on that last run Friday night, the car didn’t feel right, but we were still pretty quick, we had a shock failure. All day Saturday it was just one of those things where we were chasing our tails. Everything we did with the car didn’t help the car. We put in bigger gears because we knew we’d go quicker, but the car didn’t handle well enough to stay in the throttle to pull that bigger gear. Today, same thing, back to a practice motor, really nothing special. We’ve gone all over the gamut as far as setups, and the car was very comfortable. When we did our 227 (mph), I prett guys on the team are fantastic, great work ethic. I feel very comfortable among all the guys and certainly A.J. He’s just a very unique individual. Some people might be a little bit intimidated by him, as maybe they should be. He’s definitely taken me under his wing, and I feel very comfortable working with him.” (Do you feel pressure about what has to be done on Sunday?): “Well, I don’t feel pressure, but make no mistake about it, there can be nothing go wrong on Sunday. We don’t have the luxury of that second qualifying day because it got rained out. So we can’t have a motor problem. We can’t have a gearbox problem. We can’t have a shock failure. We can’t have anything go wrong that’s going to prevent us from turning the speeds that we as a team are capable of turning. You don’t feel pressure, but you just know that there can’t be any mistakes because you may not have time to recover from it. It’s not fun being a last-day qualifier.

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