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Latest IRL News and Commentary

Indy 500 winner interview
Kenny Brack, Helio Castroneves, Eddie Cheever Jr., Buddy Lazier, Al Unser
February, 3, 2003

MODERATOR: We'll get started with our next press briefing. We're very fortunate and excited this season to have five former Indianapolis 500 winners in our League this year. Four of them are on stage right now. We have an APB out for Buddy Lazier.

With us today are Al Unser Jr., two-time Indy 500 champion, winning in 1992 and 1994; Eddie Cheever, Jr. was the 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion; Helio Castroneves, defending champion back-to-back in 2001 and 2002; in 1999, Kenny Brack won the Indianapolis 500; and in 1996, Buddy Lazier put his name on the trophy.

I'm going to go through the line, ask each driver a short question; then we'll open it up to a Q&A from the media.

We’ll start with Al Unser, Jr. If you could briefly talk about the continuity that you have returning to Kelley Racing for a third season.

AL UNSER JR.: Actually, it's my second season with Kelley Racing. The continuity is great. At this time a year ago, I didn't have a ride at all, so I was in the grandstands watching these guys run, just hoping we could put a deal together.

I'm very excited with the new Toyota engine. Everybody has new equipment with the new rules for the 2003 season from the IRL.

I really feel that 2003, the IRL has raised the bar again of competitiveness. Really, the races that were the most exciting in the world last year are going to get more exciting, they're going to happen more often, and with the competition that's entered into the year, it's going to be an exciting, exciting year, and I'm looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: Now we'll move on to Eddie Cheever Jr.

EDDIE CHEEVER JR.: What was the question you asked him (laughter)?

MODERATOR: You've talked about running a limited schedule this year. How do you focus your energy as you prepare for the season ahead?

CHEEVER: I'll only be doing Indy this year and will divide the testing in the team in two different sectors. I'll be doing most of the Indy stuff. That's a short answer to a quick question (laughter).

MODERATOR: Kenny Brack, you have the distinction of having previously competed in the IndyCar Series. You took some time off and have returned to the IndyCar Series now. What challenges do you foresee coming up this year?

KENNY BRACK: Most are sitting right up here, I think. I think it's going to be a tough season. It's certainly changed a lot since I used to drive in the IRL. I think you can say that every driver and every package out there is going to have a possibility to win at any given time. It's extremely competitive.

We're going to see how we stack up. It's a new situation for Team Rahal. We started testing, it's going pretty well. We'll see how we stack up in the beginning.

MODERATOR: Helio, since the topic is Indy 500 champions, the obvious question is your thoughts looking at a possible historic third straight win at Indianapolis.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: First of all, it's great to be here, especially with these great champions, Indianapolis 500 winners. Again, it's coming back to another season. Just to add to it, it's also going to be a competitive season to all of us. I'm looking forward to starting it.

Coming to Indianapolis, when I went there first year, that was incredible, special – last year, as well. We're going to have to work three times as hard this year to make sure we can accomplish our goal.

MODERATOR: Finally, Buddy, your plans have not been finalized yet for this season. How do you focus your energies and your visions towards the 2003 campaign?

BUDDY LAZIER: Yeah, there's a lot up in the air. Obviously, I feel honored to be in this company. We've had a lot of success together as a team, Hemelgarn Racing and myself. I know we're working hard to be ready for the first race. It's definitely a difficult time. We're off to a late start.

MODERATOR: We'd now like to open the floor to questions from our media.

Q. Helio, I was just talking to Gil de Ferran. He says he likes to get into the technical side of the cars. Do you also do the same, work equally alike, or do you have a different technique for figuring out what your car needs?

CASTRONEVES: They give me the car; I step on the gas (Laughter). But you do have to understand a little bit. I guess working with Gil (de Ferran), he's a little bit too much on the technical side. I guess working together, you know, sharing information the way we do, just helps both of us. It not only helps one car but helps both. In the end of the day, you can see both cars at the top. So far that's what we've been doing.

Q. Eddie, this is a league where everybody has gotten along very much the last two years, not much controversy on your team.

BRACK: It's going to get a lot better now since Eddie quit.

CHEEVER: You go to CART for two years, come back very boring. Didn't take you long to warm up, though, did it (Laughter)? Now, what was the question?

Q. If one manufacturer gets an advantage here pretty quickly or one is left behind, do you expect the kind of clammering in NASCAR terms or do you expect there to be an unsettling of the apple cart around here?

CHEEVER: It's been very competitive, but there really wasn't that much competition between the engine manufacturers, just two engine manufacturers that started from the beginning. I know that the two Japanese companies that are competing to win the Indy 500 will do everything they possibly can to be successful. I can see there being a lot of difficult decisions made by the IRL throughout the year to make sure the competition remains competitive.

But I don't think our series is structured like NASCAR, that there will be that much public debate on who gets what. I believe a lot of that is done in a different manner than it is done in NASCAR.

I think the competition is great. There's a lot of animosity among drivers, as there should be, and among teams. Every driver wants to be successful. I think it will continue through.

I think the competition is going to be severe this year on many levels – not just on engines, drivers or chassis, but across the field.

See how much better my answers are than Brack's (Laughter)? Also did you notice that I'm the only driver here with an American engine that's racing next year? Nobody noticed, did you? You're all journalists (Laughter)?

MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.    

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