Race No. 17

The California 500
Presented by Toyota
The California Speedway — Fontana, California
September 26-28, 1997

Saturday Quotes from Fontana:
Index of Quotes available


Papis PictMCI
Arciero Wells
Reynard Toyota
"This morning we went out with our primary car and anew development of the engine. It was a little better and we werestarting to pick up speed on the straight. We had to come in andchange the ratios for the speed that the engine was carrying, so wetook the back-up car out and found a very good race setup with thatcar. We went out for qualifying, again with the primary car with thenewest engine, and we had a pop-off valve problem on the first lap. Something was not really correct. Then unfortunately the engine letgo on the back straight."

Vasser PictTarget
Chip Ganassi Racing
Reynard Honda
Photo: Scott Hughes
"There was a little bit of baloney going on [after Vasser's qualifying run] with my crew. They were happy I had done so well, but it was a little premature to be celebrating when Mauricio was still out doing his warm-up laps. Mauricio has been quick all weekend, and I knew he was going to be a contender."

Herta PictShell
Reynard Ford
Team Rahal
"Things have just been going well [in qualifying] lately. We've had good fast cars, although we haven't been as consistent in races as we needed to be. Goodyear has given us a good tire, and it's going to be an interesting race."

Unser PictMarlboro
Penske Mercedes
"I was pretty happy with the car, but it wasn't exactly what wewanted to do. Right now we're fighting a high-drag car, and we have apretty big push. I also don't think the tires are up to what Firestone hasthis weekend. This is the combination we have, and we're getting the mostout of it we can. I think we can make the car better for the race. I feelgood about the race. If we finish, we'll be up front; the key here is tofinish. Five hundred miles is a long way."

Tracy PictMarlboro
Penske Mercedes
"We just can't seem to get our car to handle. I actually ran mybest lap on the 'out' lap (the first lap out of the pits). It seems that oncold tires, the rear end of the car rotates better. We are disappointedbecause we couldn't get the car to handle. It's tough to start so far back,but we came from the back at Michigan, and that's what we'll have to dotomorrow. We'll try to keep it running all day."

Moore PictForsythe
Reynard Mercedes-Benz
[After morning practice] "This place is awfully fast, but the speeds are a little deceiving. The track's not actually two miles long. It's like 1.98 (miles) or 1.99. It's not more tiring than Michigan (Speedway), but it is bumpier. Passingwill be a bit more difficult (than at Michigan) because the second linehasn't opened up in turns three and four. I think you'll see peoplesetting up for the passes through three and four and making them in one andtwo."

[After qualifying] "Not bad... The heat and the lack of a tow from other traffic iswhy you see speeds dropping from the practice times, but we were able torun within one mile-per-hour of our best test times. My team has beenworking hard to give me the most stable and consistent car because that isthe key on race day. We worked on our set-up to run best in traffic, so weare very encouraged by that."

Blundell PictPacWest Motorola
Reynard Mercedes
[After morning practice]"We're happy. These speeds are bloody scary, but we were able toscrub tires and run in traffic, so we think we're in good shape for therace. We tried to simulate a qualifying lap, but it's impossible to dothat with the traffic out there. What will it take for the pole? Beforeyesterday, I would have said 236 (mph), but the way these speeds are now,it will take a 238 or 239. Someone may even rip off a faster one if theyget a gust of wind at the right time. The race speeds will come down alot. The circuit still hasn't got a good second groove yet, plus thetemperatures are so hot. It'll be a tough race."

[After qualifying] "We're happy, because we did not have a 'qualifying' car — we justwanted to work on getting this car set-up for the race tomorrow. We couldhave won a point for pole position, but there are 20 points on the line towin tomorrow, so that is where we want to focus. The car has been greatevery session. Very consistent and very solid in traffic, and that is whatit takes to win the race. I hope the track develops a second groove duringthe race."

Gugelmin PictHollywood
Reynard Mercedes
[After morning practice] "What can I say? It's amazing. I felt pretty comfortable in thecar at those speeds, but I passed a few cars so fast that it was like theywere going 50 miles-per-hour. The speed is so linear. You almost don'tslow down in the corners; it feels like one long straightaway. 242 (mph)?It's nice, I suppose, but it's just a number — well, a very fast number."

[After qualifying] "This is just great. The car has been well-balanced all weekend,and we've been very quick, so we were hopeful we would get the pole. Thishas been a great season — I can't say anything bad about my team, PacWest,Mercedes-Benz and Firestone — the combination works great.

"I tend to think of 240 mph as just a number, but that's a damn bignumber! I knew I had run 240 on my warm-up lap, so I tried to remain calmand just do the same on my next two laps. Running at those speeds, you canget a little hyper. I knew it was two good laps, and we also should do verywell in the race. We always run so well at superspeedways, and this teamgets stronger by the day.

"The car was not perfect, I had a bit of a push, mainly because ofthe heat. But, in qualifying, you have to concentrate mostly on steeringthe car. You know that the team has prepared the car well, and you justkeep your right foot clear to the floor, so your job is to just steercorrectly. But, it is almost too much to say that I steer the car on thistrack. At those speeds, you feel like you are on a different planet. Thecorners look so tight and small, very narrow. To run the perfect line atthat speed, you try not to upset the car, so you almost lean into thecorner (with your body), you don't want to steer the car and scrub offspeed. You reduce every movement by (a factor of) 100 -- you have to be sominute and so precise. Yes, it is a nice feeling when the car is that good,but it is too fast. I have a good feel for the car on the ovals, but wedon't need to go that fast."

Gordon PictHogan Racing
Reynard Mercedes
[After morning practice] "I think we're even better than we've shown so far. We didn'tsimulate a qualifying run; we just ran with heavy fuel loads, so dependingon when we go out to qualify, we could have an opportunity to run for thepole. We may look at adding a slight amount of front wing. I think theheat is making the track slicker, so we'll try to guess right for thequalifying lap."

[After qualifying] "We were virtually flat out on our first lap, but I scrubbed-offtoo much speed to make it a great lap. Then, on the second lap, I justdidn't have the perfect line, even though our speed was much higher. We aregoing to take our time in the race. I'm still getting used to the car,although I did feel more comfortable today than I did yesterday. We decidedto run on full fuel loads throughout each practice, so we hope to handlewell in the race."

Johnstone PictTeam Kool Green
Reynard Honda
"The car felt good this morning. I'm surprised we didn't go faster.The car picked up a big push down the straights, which surprised me. There's too much drag. We had allthe wind trimmed out of it, but I guess it's just one of those things. I don't thing being solo had much to dowith it."

Green PictTeam Kool Green
Team manager
"We didn't come here looking to qualify on the front row, but beingnear the front is important for going into the race feeling comfortable and confident. In our shoes, youhave to say that we could still win this thing, that's the way 500-mile races are, but we'll have to workreally hard to do it."