DAY 1 - Friday, Aug. 10, 2001
AL UNSER JR. (#3 Galles Racing Starz SuperPak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The track feels pretty good to me. As far as the bumps and all, it really hasn't changed too much from last year. Right now there is pretty much one racing line, but that should all change on race day and everything will open up. This is a great facility, and it feels good to be here again. Our race here last year ended pretty quickly with an accident, so we are definitely looking forward to a better race this year."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I'm having fun. The track is 200 percent better than it was when we tested here last week. There is a lot of grip, and we'll have some strong side-by-side racing. It's coming in really well after all the hard work the crew here at Kentucky Speedway put in. The second groove is developing, and we may have a third groove by race time, which would be great. The car is really comfortable. Andy Brown, my engineer, and the Pennzoil Panther crew put together a car that I can drive anywhere on the track. It's real stable and quick. We're ready."
DONNIE BEECHLER (#11 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I was actually hoping for more speed with the gear change we made this session. I'm real happy with the car's balance. We had a practice motor in for today so the engine change should help us find the speed we need."
ELISEO SALAZAR (#14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The track is better in this session, and I could run anywhere I wanted to run. We just had the practice motor in today, so it was a little down on power. With the fresh engine in tomorrow, we should pick it up quite a bit."
ROBBIE BUHL (#24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "We just tried to make the car go faster and free it up. We focused on making it a better race car. We made some headway. Everything looks good. We'll just keep after it."
DIDIER ANDRE (#32 Galles Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The track feels OK. We are just trying to get the car working well over the bumps and get rid of some push. But overall, we feel that we have a fairly good baseline setup. I have not driven on this track before, so today was definitely a learning day for me."
JEFF WARD (#35 Heritage Motorsports Firestone Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We ran all day with full tanks, and the car felt good. We've made some adjustments since testing here, and it threw off our speed a little. But, we have a strong race car. We're ready to race."
AIRTON DARE (#88 1-800-BAR-NONE/TeamXtreme G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The car is getting better. The guys put a setup on the primary car that was close to the T-car we had in the morning. Basically we just worked out the bugs on the setup. The big improvements came from tire pressure and gearing adjustments. We don't have any more touch, and we gained a few miles per hour. Now we just have some oversteer on the big bump in Turn 1. Other than that, we are just looking for some more speed."
BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We tried a lot of things so it was very productive. We learned a ton. Obviously the racetrack has changed a lot from last year. The surface has changed. The racetrack has done a great job managing the changes in the racetrack from the winter. Clearly they have worked very hard and have done a great job preparing the track surface for us."
BILLY BOAT (#98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I think the cars from the other series are helping to clear the track off. There doesn't seem to be much difference in the rubber they're laying down compared to ours. So right now I think they're helping to clean the surface off for us. The CURB Records/Beck Motorsports team gained a little bit in this session, but we're still looking for a few more miles-an-hour. This could be a race where it's going to take sheer horsepower to pull this rear wing. Since some of those guys up front have a little more power, we're going to have to work harder to trim the car out and free it up so we can gain some speed and be competitive."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Cheever Indy Racing Infiniti Dallara/Firestone): "We tried a few things at the start of the session that did not work. Once we got those issues sorted out, we were able to run on full tanks for the last part of the practice. The car felt good, and we were able to run a 214. I stick to my guns: I wish we'd go back to 6 degrees of wing. It was really fun last year because you had to really drive the car. Now we have just a little too much downforce. With 12 degrees of wing, whoever is in front is at a disadvantage because he or she is punching a hole in the air big enough to drag 10 cars around, not just three." (About Infiniti engine): "We were lucky enough, when designing this new engine, to sit down and analyze where we were going to be racing. A large majority of our races are at 1.5-mile ovals and of course there's the Indianapolis 500. You can move your power around when designing an engine. We sacrificed a few things down low in the engine to try to move that power as high as we can, and it has worked. Our engine is very good at tracks like this. We had a disappointing Indy, but Robbie Buhl came ever so close to winning, and I think he had the best engine with the Infiniti. I think we have a bit of an advantage right now. What I am very positive about is that we are just at the very beginning of the development of the Infiniti Indy 35A. I think soon, even before the end of the season, you will see some very prominent teams testing and racing this engine. I believe Infiniti has now positioned itself, technically, to be very strong, and it can give General Motors a run for its money." (About the track condition): "I don't think it wintered as well as we all thought it would. I think Brian Barnhart, the director of operations (for the Indy Racing League) -- Brian had a lot of concerns with how the cars had tested. Especially with (Sam) Hornish and (Buzz) Calkins, which were the last cars to test here. He modified the package. It does stabilize our cars a lot. We all came here holding our breath because we didn't really know what to expect, but they've done an incredible job on this track. You always prepare for the worst. I tested here two weeks ago, three weeks ago, and it was bumpy but not impossible to drive on. Brian (Barnhart) has developed some excellent relationships with the tracks and the track promoters." (Cheever's comments about Ray saying he will not be focusing on the pole): "I was very impressed by your presentations, but I don't buy it. I guarantee you, Greg will be running for the pole. It's his nature. You guys can go ahead and buy it, but I'm not."
GREG RAY (#2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I think the staff here has done an incredible job. I think the track is in great condition. In the corners it was smoother this year than it probably was last year. The last couple of races we've struggled a little bit. I think our guys have done a great job, and I think we have a pretty good car. I'm pretty happy with it, but I think we really won't be a contender for pole. But I'm real happy how we have the race setup right now. I think if you looked at our past performances in the last three races, we've been able to have a pretty fast car, but we really struggled in the race. I'm not so sure we're even going to attempt the pole. It's very important for me as a driver. It's very important for Johns Manville, our sponsor, to have a good race weekend. We're really putting all of our eggs in a basket for having a good race. I think we'll be in the first couple rows. It doesn't really matter where we start. I think if you look at the history of this series, it doesn't matter where we start. Our main goal is to kind of regroup and get a good result for John Menard and our sponsor. If you look at Kansas City and at Texas, this race kind of falls somewhere in between. With 12 degrees it tends to be a little more racy. I think you can't duplicate the amount of confidence you have in the car, like at Texas or Atlanta. I think that for the most part all the drivers that have raced each other know each other's personalities. Unfortunately Team Menard is not a championship contender right now. We're focusing on our setups and really working on the team to find our rhythm to jump into next year. We would still like to win some races this year and sort of redeem ourselves. Sam Hornish from Pennzoil Panther Dallara has done a good job all year long. Buddy Lazier is a tenacious, aggressive pit bull, and he doesn't make mistakes very often. He won this race last year. It's going to be pretty exciting for those guys. If Sam Hornish didn't feel any pressure at the beginning of the season I'll bet he's feeling it now."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I'm pleased. With not testing here and hearing about a lot of the issues that other drivers had, we expected worse. But it turns out that we think the track is pretty good. It's a little bumpy here and there, but I think that is a challenge we all welcome. It's the same conditions for everyone. You look for things to make the car better. We'll try to chase Eddie's Infiniti, but we're pretty good. Of course you go to some tracks where there are some bumps that you drive over and you get air underneath you, but they are really not that bad. I think 12 degrees brings the track more to a Texas-style race, and it brings side-by-side racing. You get packs of cars together and that might not happen at 6 degrees."