Race No. 17

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

Sunday Quotes from Fontana:
Index of Quotes available


Andretti PictKmart/Texaco/Havoline
Swift Ford Cosworth XD
"The car started to overheat, and they were worried about it blowing up if we stayed out there. I didn't want to end up in the wall if it did break. There's no question we were capable of winning. I was playing it very conservative, backing off in the two corners and just trying to bring it home. Oh well.. The track was unbelievably good. The conditions were fantastic. The track was as good as it's been all weekend."

Pruett PictBrahma Sports Team
Reynard Ford
"The handling of the car was not the greatest, and we really dropped back early because of it. The whole race was a project for taking a few steps forward and sliding a few steps back. In the end we had a respectable finish, but we were confident that we could have achieved more.."

C. Fittipaldi PictKmart/Budweiser
Swift Ford
Newman/Haas Racing
"At the end the car started to overheat, and so I dropped back a few spots which is disappointing after a long hot day. But I think we learned some more about the chassis and what it can do on an oval and that will help next year. I didn't feel too bad today. Once you get in a car and start going, it really doesn't matter what the temperature is. You have other things on your mind."

Jourdain PictHerdez Competition
Lola Ford Cosworth
"We made some changes for the race, and they worked very well. We were able to pass quite a bit, especially on the restarts, and the team deserves a lot of credit. But on the first set of tires, we were very, very loose. But I think I was running as high as third at some point, so the car was very good. The tires were blistering all day. Three sets were destroyed, and finally I had a problem with no brakes. I'm guessing it was a leak or something, but we couldn't continue. You could say that we are a young team, but I think we've grown quite a bit this year, and certainly during the second half of the season. Today we started fifth, which is great, but next year I expect to be scoring points as well."

Herta PictShell
Reynard Ford
Team Rahal
"This is definitely a bad way to end the season. There was something electrical that was acting up. It wasn't getting worse, it was still running, but it was keeping me from running at full speed. We tried to change some of the electronics stuff, but that didn't help. There was nothing else we could do. With that many laps remaining we thought that rather than being slow and just getting in everyone else's way, and this place is tough enough as it is, to park it. I didn't want to cause a problem for everybody or blow it up. The heat wasn't too bad out there really. I felt fine and wished I could have gone the distance."

Rahal PictMiller Lite
Reynard Ford
Team Rahal
"We could never get the car to be 100 percent balanced. So I dialed in understeer because early on it felt kind of loose. We were able to get the understeer out of it, or we were able to dial enough in to make it drivable. It looked to me like we could go as fast as anyone perhaps. We ran very lean all day, and it worked to a point. We had to have a splash and go near the end, which cost us a couple of spots, but we got a lap down early which is what really hurt us. We could just never get that back. The car ran beautifully for a 500-mile race. Next year we'll move to Firestones, although today we were the top Ford and top Goodyear finisher. I've been very pleased with the Ford program all year. It's been fantastic. The Cosworth and Ford people, and the Ford technical people have done a wonderful job for us. That relationship continues to grow and produce fruits of that labor on both sides of the equation."

Boesel PictBrahma Sports Team
Ford Cosworth
"My car was pretty good, especially for the first and second stints. We tried to keep or rhythm for the long race, but then we started having a misfire. It was something electrical. We changed some of the electronics, but it didn't seem to help. Also in the beginning I think we had too much downforce. But as we keep running we took a little wing out and it got better. As far as next year is concerned, I'm not sure what will happen. I'll take a look at my options and hopefully everything will work out for the best."

Meier PictHasseroder
Project Indy
Lola Ford Cosworth
"I had a bit of oversteer. I knew not to go down over the white line, but I couldn't hold the car, and I ended up going right up the track and into Arie Luyendyk. I was driving to stay out of people's way, but the car was just not set right for me. I'm glad Arie will be o.k. That was an unfortunate race incident."

Vasser PictTarget
Chip Ganassi Racing
Reynard Honda
Photo: Scott Hughes
"Greg blew his engine big time. He went high on the track into the marbles and it looked like he was going to go into the wall. There was no doubt in my mind there was going to be a yellow. I don't know how they knew there was no fluid coming out of Greg's car . Mark got around, and from that point on all I could do was try to catch him.

"The conditions were typical for a 500-mile event. I was a little dizzy when I got out of the car because I was holding my breath and driving as hard as I could the last 10 laps trying to catch Mark. I always do that a little bit at a new circuit. Overall, though, it was just like other 500-mile races. I didn't get fatigued at all during the race."

Moore PictForsythe
Reynard Mercedes-Benz
"I knew we had a good shot at it today. I got kind of nervous whenwe blistered the right rear (tire) there, but I think it upset me more thanthe car. After that it was just a matter of slowing down a little bit andrunning clean. I'm disappointed for the crew, the Player's team has beenworking really hard. We really had it in hand there at the end."

Tracy PictMarlboro
Penske Mercedes
"We were struggling because the car was really loose, which was aproblem we hadn't had before. We changed the setup a lot this morning, andI guess we went a little too far for the hot conditions. It's afrustrating way to end the year."

Unser PictMarlboro
Penske Mercedes
"I was a little bit on the loose-side, and we were coming in tomake a change and drop the front wings a little bit, and then the firehappened. We gonna go back to Reading (Pa.) and do our homework. I thinknext year's gonna be a lot different."

Blundell PictPacWest Motorola
Reynard Mercedes
"A fantastic day. We had a few problems with the tires, and westruggled with them a bit in the middle of the race, but we kept gettingbetter and better. Even with the tire problems, the car was veryconsistent. The engine was just great, and my team kept me informed all dayabout where we were in the field. When Greg (Moore) had his problem, he wasout of the groove, and I was able to sweep past Jimmy (Vasser), and then wewere able to lead the rest of the way. This feels so great to win the firstrace here (at California Speedway), and it also means our team won races onall of the different circuits, from superspeedways to road courses tostreet courses. This one is just fantastic."

Papis PictMCI
Arciero Wells
Reynard Toyota
"I think we had a very strong race. I felt muchmore comfortable. Setup wise we had a strong car all race long. Theonly problem is that we were slow on the straight, but that is notwhat is really important. The important thing is that we finishedour second 500-mile race of the season. My crew did a tremendous joband it is a good ending to the season. We are looking forward tonext year. Now the team and I will test as much as we can so we canbe 'P1' next year"

Fernandez PictTecate Beer/Quaker State
Lola Honda
Tasman Motorsports Group
"Coming into the race, it was the same old story [with the Lola chassis]. The guys from Lola came with new pieces, as they have all year, and nothing seemed to work until today. The main thing for me was that the car was very good in traffic. The way we set the car up was just perfect. It was a great car for my team. We had great pit stops. The heat underneath my feet was so hot I had to put my feet away from the floor. You needed to fully concentrate 100 percent in order not to make mistakes."

Johnstone PictTeam Kool Green
Reynard Honda
"It's too bad we were so slow on our first set of tires. I mean, wegot lapped later, too, but the first run before pit stops was tough. Tony (Cicale, Team KOOL Green's chief engineer)cured the blistering problem. Our right rear tire was blistering pretty badly, just like a lot of the other guysout there. But Tony had it figured out a lot quicker than most. I won't tell you how he did it, but he did it.

"At the end, we had a really consistent car. It wasn't a fast car,but it was consistent. I was battling some pretty major understeer that kept us busy in the pit stops, but by theend, the car was feeling pretty good. Between the understeer and the tires, the car was pretty tough to read."

Gugelmin PictHollywood
Reynard Mercedes
"It feels like such a loss, but we can smile for Mark and the team In the middle of the race, we seemed to have the problem (with blisteringtires) solved, and we had the race in our control at the end. We had enoughfuel, and we were running away from everyone, they couldn't catch us. Then— boom — the right rear tire just went away. I had a big moment in turnone to save the car, and the tire had such major blisters. We evenblistered the last set we put on for the final short part of the race. Itis so disappointing."

PJ PictCastrol/Jockey
AAR Racing
Reynard Toyota
"We had a great race car today. We made only one mistake all day and that's when I stalled the car in the pits. My crew did a great job in the pits and I'm happy we finally got some points. I had a scare on my third stop when I ran out of fuel coming down the back straightaway, but other than that we had a pretty flawless race."

Gordon PictHogan Racing
Reynard Mercedes
"I'm happy with our finish today, but I used up all of my muscles— I'm junk! I said all along the key is to have a team that can make thechanges to make the car better (as the race goes on). We definitely didn'thave a very good car to start the race, but — all credit to the crew —after 50 laps of the race, I felt we had a car to win the race. Thanks toCarl Hogan for giving me the chance."

Green PictTeam Kool Green
Team manager
"I think 500-miler is the only way we should finish the season, andespecially at this circuit, which is just fantastic. What we all need to do is build this into a big event, and thenreally make it our season finale.

"I would have liked to have finished the season on a stronger note(with the team). We ran all day and we finished in the points, but we never got our combination right this year.The new season starts tomorrow, and our plan is to get back up to the front."