Despite some of the fiercest racing seen so far in 2004, nobody was particularly peeved at anyone else at the conclusion of Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 with more than a couple of drivers concerned about the mechanics they bowled over in no less than three multi-car pit road incidents.
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer Argent Panoz G
Force/Honda/ Firestone) – Finished 1st:
"I don't think I could have hit the gas any harder. It was on the floor all the way. I had enough for (Tony Kanaan). I got around him and that's all that mattered. We saved enough fuel, and it all seemed to work out.
“The awesome pit stops we had made this happen. The Honda/(Panoz) G-Force combination is the combination to have. All the work the Rahal Letterman guys do on the team is what makes this happen. The fuel strategy our team was able to make is what made it all play out the way it did today.
“We knew Tony would be strong. He's been strong all weekend. I could tell he was trying to save fuel. You can tell, pretty obviously, when somebody is running low on fuel. I was definitely looking for it. I have no idea if they were telling him (Kanaan) to move over. I knew fuel wasn't going to be an issue for us."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone) – Finished 3rd:
"There are a lot of people getting aggressive out there, I think more than there should be. Buddy's (Rice) been real strong lately. Andretti Green Racing has got to keep him from winning. Full credit to that team. Buddy and Vitor (Meira) have been doing a good job. We have to raise our game."
About conserving fuel
"I just did my own thing and did what I was told today."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G
Force/Honda/Firestone) – Finished 5th:
"We had a flat tire, we had a bent front wing and we had an accident in the pits. Everyone changed the tire and the wing real quick, and that's what I call teamwork. That's the Centrix philosophy, that's the Rahal Letterman philosophy. Everybody wants to win. (Teammate) Buddy (Rice) wants to win, and I wanted to win, but my day's going to come. I was pushing as hard as I could. When the wing was bent, the car was really loose, and we were just hanging on. I was really pushing, but everybody was pretty crazy there in the last 10 laps, which is normal."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/
Firestone) – Finished 7th:
"It was a bit more of a struggle at the start, but I had a very decent car on the last stint, and the Toyota/Panoz G Force ran strong at the front. We really thought that we were going to finish it strong with both (teammate) Darren (Manning) and I right up there, but (Tomas) Scheckter, who was laps down, got in the mix. We were really trying to get by him, but I didn't have any room and got pinched in Turn 4 with Darren on the outside. That hurt momentum, and it was too late by then. It's too bad but there are a lot of positives we can take from this weekend and build on that for the coming weeks."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone) – Finished 4th
"We gave it all we had today, and at least we were able to bring it home in fourth. I've got to thank my Marlboro Team Penske crew for doing a great job. They executed perfect pit stops all day. I've also got to thank Firestone for giving us a very competitive tire. We had a good handling car and were able to run in the top five most of the day. We wanted to make sure we stayed in the draft and kept ourselves in a position for a run at the end. We just didn't have quite enough to catch the leaders. It was a battlefield out there, and we worked our butts off all day. I cringed for about three-quarters of the laps.
“As far as the championship goes, it's tough because we were able to beat one of the guys ahead of us but finished behind the other three guys that are leading in the points. We'll keep at it and see what happens in Kentucky."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone) – Finished 10th: