MADISON, Ill., Friday, Aug. 17, 2001 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team officials about the Gateway Indy 250 on Aug. 26 at Gateway International Raceway (drivers listed in alphabetical order):
DONNIE BEECHLER (No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, native of Springfield, Ill.): "I ran the dirt car there in '97 when I was leading the points in the USAC (Coors Light Silver Bullet) series. The track is very fast, we reached straightaway speeds of 180 mph in the dirt car, but the key will be a good chassis setup. Turns 1 and 2 are very tight and pretty tricky, while Turns 3 and 4 are sweeping. We had a good chassis setup in Kentucky, so I think we'll be pretty good at Gateway, too."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "As we go into these final few races of the season, the theme remains the same for the CURB Records/Beck Motorsports team: consistency. If we just continue to do what we've been doing and be thorough in our practice and race preparation, we should be able to run up front and battle for a win. Like we saw in Nashville, we expect that having the luxury of testing at Gateway is going to give that little bit extra that will allow us to run up front with the lead pack. As long as we can do that, we'll be able to put ourselves in a position to finish high or even win one of these (races). We ran up front in Kentucky, we were in contention all day, and that's really what the key is for this team. We just need to stay up front, and when it's our turn, we'll be able to get a win."
BUZZ CALKINS (No. 12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "The track is actually pretty similar to Phoenix where you try to take out as much understeer as possible in Turns 1 and 2 without making it too loose in Turns 3 and 4. The straights are longer than Phoenix, and with the tight corners, it almost feels like you are driving around a big paper clip. I like this track because it is different than any other place we go to. It is important to get the car set up properly, and you really have to drive it through the corners. I think it is going to be a fun challenge for the Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat team." (About passing): "There will be passing on both straights going into Turn 1 and into Turn 3. It will be difficult to run side by side in the corners, but since the corners are so tight and the straightaways are long enough, there should be plenty of passing." (About gear shifting at Gateway): "I don't think we are going to shift for qualifying when we are out there on our own, but we will probably shift more during the race than at any other place we go to."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner) (About Gateway International Raceway): "It's going to be a difficult track for us. We only had a one-day test there, and it wasn't hugely successful. The way that we've designed the engine, it works particularly well between 10,300 and 10,700 rpm, and during a lap at Gateway there is a speed variation of 35 mph. It's going to be a great place to race, though. The track is a very unique shape. The corners are totally different from each other. Turns 3 and 4 are very fast, whereas Turns 1 and 2 are very slow. It has long straightaways, and there will be a lot of ducking under people turning into corners. Whoever designed the circuit was in a bad mood that day because it's not very driver-friendly." (About racing in St. Louis): "It's obvious now that the IRL is leading the growth of open-wheel, oval racing in the United States. The IRL's Midwest plan has been very successful, and I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of people from Indiana, Illinois and Kansas coming to St. Louis. St. Louis is very close to Indianapolis, and we had a lot of people in Kentucky from Indy. There is a whole caravan of people following our races around the Midwest."
MARK DISMORE (No. 28 Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We had a great test in St. Louis. I like the track. It's nice to go to a place where you have to let off the throttle and drive the car. I'm looking forward to it. The two corners are totally different. Turn 1 is probably the slowest corner that we run in the whole series as far as a tight corner. Some guys are downshifting, some are using their brakes, and some guys are just doing a bigger lift and not using the brakes. There's just a mixture of different ways you can get through that corner, and it makes it challenging. The track has long straightaways, and you're not in Turn 1 and 2 very long. Turns 3 and 4 are a sweeping, high-speed corner. I think you'll see a lot of passing off of 3 and 4 and possibly 1 and 2, as well, because if you don't get through the corners very well, it kills your straightaway speed. You should be able to pass fairly easily if you get your car hooked up. Having other support series running with us and putting their rubber down will change the track quite a bit. But our car was so good when we tested there, I'm sure we can just make small adjustments and get right back on it. I think we have a good shot at winning the last three races."
SARAH FISHER (No. 15 Walker Racing Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "St. Louis will be similar to Richmond in that it requires more of a technical approach rather than the typical no-drag, horsepower-hungry, draft-to-the-finish type of racetrack. It brings me closer to my roots - the short tracks of America. We need a good finish, and St. Louis will be a good place to start."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner) (You've won four of the last five races. What's the secret of your success?): "I've been joking that it's voodoo and black magic. But the truth is, just doing what we do. Not changing anything. I'm truly blessed with a great race team. A great bunch of guys. No. 1, there's a lot of professional mutual respect. But then No. 2, there's a really good friendship between everyone. We just work so well together. Good things can happen in an environment like that." (About testing in July at Gateway): "It was a productive test. We were happy with the results. We learned a lot. The last time I raced at Gateway, it was a road course. We were pretty successful in that road course." (About interesting experience in a past race on Gateway road course): "I think I was in a Can-Am car, I was going down the back straightaway, and there were two bumblebees together. I saw them follow the aerodynamic contours of my car, and I felt them hit my chest and bounce right up inside my closed-face helmet. Just at the thought of having these bees in my helmet, I gasped, and one of them went down (my throat). God's honest truth. The other one continued to fly around. These were not your average bumblebees. These were those big, hairy ones. I managed to evict the other one. I think I was leading the race at the time, so it wasn't like I could just pull over. I'll always remember that racetrack, for sure." (About the unique Gateway oval): "I think it's a racetrack that fits perfectly in the Indy Racing League. You have to be good at all different kinds of racetracks. And this is different. The radius in Turns 1 and 2 is quite a bit different than Turns 3 and 4. The balance in the turns is quite a bit different than on any other track. The track strikes me as one of compromise. It's going to be a challenging facility for the drivers and the engineers to find that optimum package. It's a great place for us to race." (About points battle with Sam Hornish Jr.): "The only thing I can say is that I have a lot of respect for that race team and that race driver. Sam is a very talented driver and has done a super job this year. The Pennzoil Panther team, what can you say about them? They are just an excellent organization. We battled them for the championship last year, and here we are battling them again this year. We know they're having a great season. They're doing all the things they need to do to win a championship. We're doing all the things we need to do. Fortunately, we have picked up a lot of momentum."
ROBBY McGEHEE (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, St. Louis native and resident): "It's very important to be able to race in front of my home crowd." (Many ticket requests?): "Big-time, yeah. But the IRL is helping me out with that. We're going to have a Robby McGehee cheering section, which will be fun." (About team's recent strong performance): "I think the team has really come together. (Team owner) Larry Cahill has made some great strategy calls, great fuel strategy calls. We need to finally tie everything together - the performance, reliability. We could be up front." (About winning at home track): "That's kind of a fairy-tale-type idea. Unfortunately, we haven't tested here, and this is one of those tracks where you really need to test. If we haven't tested here, we're behind the 8-ball already. We're going to get a lot of attention here, and I hope we can live up to people's expectations and perform well."
ELISEO SALAZAR (No. 14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Once again, we are going to a new track that is a different length from the others we have run this year. This 1.25-mile track is not flat out all the way around, so it will require driving skills and a good chassis setup, which means the driver will have some input with his right foot. I like that."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "I'm excited about this race. Heading into the last three races, I feel like the whole Kelley Racing team has a chance to do really well at each race. We went to Kentucky and had a great weekend. It would have been nice to win, but we did just about everything else we could and finished second. That really pumped everybody up. Both Mark and myself had a great test in St. Louis and worked pretty hard on our short-oval program. We feel like we should be able to go in there and have another strong weekend. That's a tough track. It's real physical, and you have to drive the car really hard through the corners. And for the level of downforce that our cars carry, we're basically flat out in (Turns) 3 and 4 and have just a light lift in 1 and 2. You really have to push the car hard through the corners in order to cut a good time. We're looking forward to that race."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 3 Galles Racing Starz SuperPak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1992, 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I am very excited to race in St. Louis again. It is a great facility, and with it being so close to Indianapolis, the racing ties are very strong. As far as our testing went a few weeks ago, I think we really got a good, strong feel for the track. We were able to take care of many of the little details with our setup that would have taken time out of our practice sessions during race weekend. The Indy Racing Northern Light Series is very competitive right now, and I think that the points race is going to get even more exciting this weekend. Galles Racing is coming off of a strong fourth-place finish in Kentucky, and my entire crew is really pumped to get to St. Louis."
JEFF WARD (No. 35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "St. Louis is a challenging track, but we're ready to get started. We were lucky to get some testing laps in, and I feel good about the track and the car this team is capable of putting together. We collected great data about possible setups for the car during our test, which will pay huge dividends in St. Louis. Getting the car set-up right for that track is critical, because it's so tight in the corners. This team is looking forward to the challenge. Our momentum is good from all the testing we've been able to get in recently, and we get better each day we're on the track. I'm looking forward to getting right up to speed in St. Louis. I think we'll have a car capable of qualifying in the first two rows."