Laguna Seca 1996 PPG Indy Car World Series

Race No. 16

Toyota Grand Prix of Monterey
Laguna Seca Raceway — Salinas, California
September 6-8, 1996

Sunday Quotes from drivers and managers at Laguna Seca Raceway:
Index of Quotes available

Vasser Pict #12 Target
Chip Ganassi Racing
Reynard Honda


[finished fourth and clinched his first PPG Cup, symbolic of the IndyCar drivers' championship]: "This feels great! Hey, it's the championship! That has a nice ring to it. I was cruising early on, saving the tires, conserving fuel, just trying to take care of the car. I knew Al [Unser] and Mike [Andretti] had trouble. We turned it up a bit during the second stint and built up a pretty good cushion. Then, late in the race, I blistered a left front [tire], but that was my only problem all day."

"I'm very, very happy. This was our goal at the beginning of the season. We were consistent, and that's what it takes to win the season. It's also a tribute to our team. We finished all the races. It's a great feeling to be the PPG Cup champion. This is obviously the best day of my racing career. [about Sunday's race]: "It was basically a Sunday drive for the first half of the race. When we found out Michael [Andretti] and Alex were having some problems, we started stepping it up a bit. I felt I could say with Alex and Bryan, but got a bad blister on my tire and that's why I fell back at the end."

Tracy Pict #3 Marlboro
Penske Mercedes


[finished 29th]: "I was going into Turn 5 when the #49 car [Johnstone] ran into the back of me and ended my day. All I can say is that it's been a frustrating year for us, and everyone at Marlboro Team Penske is refocusing their efforts for the 1997 season."

Magnussen Pict #3 Marlboro
Penske Mercedes


[finished eighth]: "This was a fairly uneventful race for me. All four corners are still attached to the car, and it's here in one piece. I pretty much took it easy in the early going, waiting to see what was happening with the balance of the field, yet trying to stay close to the leaders and on the lead lap. This wasn't a car with which I could fight for the lead today, so I just had to be patient. I'm pleased to give Hogan Penske Racing its best result since June [when Emerson Fittipaldi finished fourth at the Miller 200 at the Milwaukee Mile]."

Andretti Pict #6 Kmart/Texaco/Havoline
Lola Ford Cosworth XD


[finished ninth, and second in the PPG Cup with 132 points, winning a tie with Alex Zanardi based on more victories this season, five to three]: "This whole weekend has been a bonus. We struggled the whole time. I've got to give credit to the team. They worked real hard. It was just a real ill-fitting car, and didn't fit my driving style. It was an eventful day. I had a good start, and then everyone blew by me. Once the fuel tank was at about half, it got better, and I could make a run on some of the guys."

"I thought I was out of it after I spun out. I tried to pass Bobby Rahal, and locked my brakes and then, to keep from hitting [Al Unser] Junior, I spun, and Bobby [Rahal] nailed me. It bent my left steering arm, and was a real load to drive after that. Then, I started getting a little more comfortable with it and was passing some of the guys, so I thought I'd just go for it. It was the hardest ninth-place finish of my career. Christian Fittipaldi did his bit letting me pass when we knew I had to move up to save second. I thank Christian for that, and I'm sure I'll make it up to him sometime."

Unser Pict #2 Marlboro
Penske Mercedes


[finished 16th]: "I just missed on the set-up today. Jan [Magnussen] did a great job, so obviously, the team's car wasn't bad. It was just a miscalculation on my part. Marlboro Team Penske had a tough season. We know we have a lot of hard work to do during the off-season and we're prepared to buckle down and start focusing on 1997. I have to give credit to everyone on this team credit for being so dedicated. Everyone from Penske Racing to Penske Cars over in England did a great job."

Pruett Pict #20 Firestone
Lola Ford
Patrick Racing


[finished third]: "I would like to congratulate Jimmy for winning the PPG Cup Championship. He had a great year." [on passing Vasser in turn 4 of the last lap]: "Jimmy got into the marbles in Turn 1, and once you do that, you pick up a lot of debris. I was able to catch and pass him in Turn 4. It was really uneventful, nothing like what Alex and Bryan went through. We're happy to end the season on a good note. It was a good day for Patrick Racing and Firestone."

Hearn Pict #44 Ralphs/Food 4 Less
Della Penna Racing
Reynard Ford


[finished 17th]: "It was a long day. It was tough being out there [in a 1995 car] without the same equipment as everybody else. It will be good next year to be ready for the beginning of the season. We will have current equipment, and then we'll be able to really see that we can do. I am planning on working our [physically] to get in better shape and be prepared."

C. Fittipaldi Pict #11 Kmart/Budweiser
Lola Ford
Newman/Haas Racing


[finished 10th]: "I'm glad that after all that happened to both of us [Fittipaldi and Andretti] that I was in a position to help Michael. "I hope that Michael does the same for me some day. [On incident at the beginning of the race] Someone hit me from behind and it punctured my rear tire. If I hadn't gone down a lap, I reckon we could have finished in the top-four. It was a very tough race. Tonight, I'm going to go celebrate with my team at the beach. Overall, It was a good first season for me at Newman/Haas. The team is championship caliber. We're going to work hard in the off season and improve on this year."

Papis Pict #25 MCI
Arciero Wells
Reynard Toyota


[finished 22nd]: "We had an engine problem. There was no indication that anything was wrong. It just died. It is very disappointing because I was hoping for a strong race today. But I have to say, I'm very happy to be with MCI, Arciero-Wells, and Toyota for next season."

de Ferran Pict #8 Pennzoil Special
Reynard Honda
Hall Racing


[finished 25th]: "It's a real shame, because the car was running well. It's just a shame, particularly since it's Jim's [Hall's] last race. I wish him all the best."

Herta Pict #28 Shell
Reynard Mercedes-Benz
Team Rahal


[finished second]: "I went a little wide and slid out a little on the last lap. Alex caught me totally by surprise. I didn't even expect to see him and was very surprised when he came up next to me. I didn't even expect him to try. When he did, there wasn't much I could do. This is very difficult to take, and not just for me. The guys on our team have worked hard all year and our sponsor Shell has been great, and they deserved to win a race this year. [When asked if he has ever been passed that way at Laguna Seca]: "Not like that. No one has."

Zanardi Pict #4 Target
Chip Ganassi Racing
Reynard Honda


[finished first]: "I have to give credit to Bryan. Today, he was a tough guy to beat. I was a little bit demoralized on the last laps, but I saw on the last lap that he was driving a little bit carefully, and I thought I might be able to surprise him. It was risky, but it worked."

"This is the most wonderful day of my life. I love you all!"

"This is incredible. I was faster than Bryan [Herta] the last 15 laps but couldn't get around him. On the last lap, there was a lot of dirt on the course and I took the turns really tight to avoid that. Bryan seemed to take it a little more carefully. Then I was able to close a bit and saw an opportunity. He [Herta] didn't expect me to pass because the course is up and down and you can't see there. It was very risky, but well worth the risk. As a result, I'm here smiling and he [Herta] is not smiling as much. 'm so happy [with the win]. I could stay here all night to try and tell you exactly how happy I am, but wouldn't do any good."

Ribeiro Pict #31 LCI International
Lola Honda
Tasman Motorsports Group


[finished 19th]: "It was a tough day for us. We had a good start and until the first pit stop, the car was running very well. Unfortunately, on the second set of tires, the car was very difficult to drive and unstable. It was very hard to be consistent. At the end, when we were back on a good rhythm, something was burning in the car and we had to stop."

Fernandez Pict #32 Tecate Beer/Quaker State
Lola Honda
Tasman Motorsports Group


[finished 11th]: "It was a tough race. We had a problem with the tires at the beginning. The tire pressure didn't come up. I also had a problem with the brake pedal which made it very difficult. It was tough all day but we did finish. In general I have to say it was a good season for us and Tasman did a great job."

Gordon Pict #5 Valvoline/Cummins/Craftsman Special
Reynard Ford


[finished 15th]: "We missed it on handling a little bit and we just wore out the tires. I did the best job I could, and that's all I could do. I kind of blew it on the last restart. We should have finished about 10th. I wanted to leave here with a better result; it just didn't work out that way. [Gordon will drive for owner Felix Sabates in the NASCAR Winston Cup series next year]"

Johansson Pict #16 Bettenhaused Racing
Alumax Aluminium
Reynard Mercedes-Benz


[finished 21st]: "The car spun around so quickly I thought something had seized. It wasn't until I walked back to the pits that I learned from my crew that the rear wing had fallen off. The car spun and I actually had time to think that it was good I was heading for the sand trap. Unfortunately, the car seemed to take off when I hit the sand and then I hit the wall. I'm a little sore, but I'm fine. I'm sorry that we couldn't have had a better result since this was my last race with this team."

Davy Jones Pict #10 Delco Electronics
High Tech Team Galles
Lola Mercedes


[finished 14th]: "I was just telling our team manager, Owen Snyder, that his brother-in-law, Steve Kinser, should have been driving the car the last few laps. There was a great deal of rubber all the way around the track and if you got off-line just a little, the car was a real handful. You could forget about the setup toward the end of the race because the driver played the main role. Actually, it was pretty fun out there. My brake pedal went long during the race, and that was the cause of my spin."

Rahal Pict #18 Miller Racing
Reynard Mercedes-Benz
Team Rahal


[finished seventh]: "We didn't really have the car today. It was pushing in the corners early on, and I couldn't make the proper run on the cars in front of me. I had a pretty good race with Al [Unser, Jr.] and Michael [Andretti], and then Michael tried to pass me in the last corner. He got into me pretty hard. But we had some good dicing. I'm really proud of my team this season, especially the second half of the season. We still finished seventh and eighth. We showed that we'll be a factor in 1997."

Hiro Pict #19 Panasonic/DUSKIN
Lola Ford Cosworth


[finished 23rd]: "After our first stop, it felt as if water or oil had spilled onto the rear tires. I radioed the crew to make another stop, since I thought it was a bad set of tires. After the second stop, the handling was fine for the next three laps. Then suddenly the engine would not rev above 8,000 rpm. At that point I knew it would be a short race for us. Unfortunately this was not how we expected the finish the season."

Goodyear Pict #15 Valvoline DuraBlend Special
Reynard Ford


[finished 18th]: "We finished. I'm not very pleased with our position. The car just didn't suit me. We changed it this morning, which made it a bit better, but unfortunately, it just didn't suit my driving style. With no testing or track time, it's difficult to run strong, when you haven't worked with the guys on the crew much. We ran hard all day. It just goes to show how competitive this series is when you run hard all day and you're still not in the top 10."

PJ Pict #98 Eagle Mk-V Toyota
photo Mike Levitt


[finished 27th]: "We just had some problems with our electronics and we didn't do too well today. We had a consistent miss, and we thought we'd better get it off the race track. Before we had the misfires, I passed three or four cars. We were running pretty good, but it was just one of those days. I had some good runs this year, but it's hard to evaluate yourself in this kind of a season. Every time I go out, I learn something, and that will only help us next year."

Fangio Pict #36 Eagle Mk-V Toyota


[finished 28th]: "Everything was running good, but I saw the warning light and I came in. The guys checked it and they said our race was over. The Eagle Toyota was handling pretty good, so I was happy with the setup and I was hoping for a good race. Usually we catch up for the race, as opposed to qualifying, but I guess this just wasn't our day."

Boesel Pict #1 Brahma Sports Team
Ford Cosworth


[finished 20th]: "It looked like this was going to be the best race of the year for us. The car was running well, and I just needed to take care of the tires. We had great pit stops, even though we didn't get all the fuel in on the second stop. Then we had a problem with the crank trigger. I don't know why. We've been plagued with the same problem all year. I'm just so disappointed, and it's a really tough way to end what has been an extremely difficult season."