Rice, Gurney - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR GRAND-AM/Rolex Sports Car Teleconference Transcript With Alex Gurney and Buddy Rice May 26, 2010 An interview with: BUDDY RICE ALEX GURNEY J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this special edition NASCAR Grand-Am ...

NASCAR GRAND-AM/Rolex Sports Car Teleconference Transcript With Alex Gurney and Buddy Rice
May 26, 2010

An interview with:
BUDDY RICE
ALEX GURNEY

J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this special edition NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference. Joining us today are Alex Gurney and Buddy Rice, will race in the Memorial Day Classic, the debut of the Daytona Prototypes at historic Lime Rock Park.

Buddy is the winner of another May Classic, the 2004 Indianapolis 500, and won the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona. He joins Antonio Garcia in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote.

Buddy, you've been running the lone Coyote in the field. Will the fact this is the first Daytona Prototype race at Lime Rock work to your advantage?

BUDDY RICE: I have no idea. I think the main thing we want to do this year is work on the car, keep progressing every round so we can try to compete with the top five cars that are consistently up there.

I think we've been doing a good job with that. We're getting much closer and getting a lot more consistent. I think this weekend leading into it, we're going to need to make sure we don't have any mistakes. With the shortened schedule, myself and Antonio never being at the track, it will be a steep learning curve. With the things we've done with the Spirit of Daytona team, I think we should be able to be fairly competitive.

J.J. O'MALLEY: Alex is the reigning and two-time Daytona Prototype champion, joining Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley. The following Saturday four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson will join them for the Sahlen's Six Hours of Watkins Glen.

Alex will coming to a new circuit for the Daytona Prototypes followed by an old favorite at Watkins Glen give the GAINSCO team the opportunity to bounce back after a slow start?

ALEX GURNEY: I sure hope so. We've had a rough go of it these first four races. We're definitely looking to turn it around. We've had a good break trying to regroup and figure out what we need to do to get back to trying to win races again.

We had a good test in Lime Rock just after the last race. Pretty short day, but we definitely learned a lot. So we feel good about our chances. We're going to give it our best shot.

J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you.

We'll turn it back to the operator for questions from the media.

Q: Alex, Daytona Prototype engine failures are a rarity, yet you have had more than your fair share this year in the couple of first rounds. Can you tell me if and what progress has been made on the engine development side not just to get you the power but the reliability you need?

ALEX GURNEY: Well, yeah, it has been a struggle. You're right, it's been pretty rare where we've had any reliability issues on that front. We've had several good years without any problem really. So it's taken us a little bit by surprise.

I think some of that stems from just trying to get the most out of this motor. We as a team feel that maybe the series still needs to make a further adjustment. We have a two-valve motor, where the rest of the field is a four-valve. We feel like it's not quite aligned yet as far as getting everything equal.

So we've really been pushing the limit. I know our engine builder has. I think there's maybe an announcement on that front I'll leave to Bob Stallings. That's coming soon. But we have made a change on the engine builder. We will be running a different motor. We're still with Chevrolet, but a different engine builder at the next race.

Q: Buddy, your team has made an amazing amount of progress this year with the Coyote chassis. Recently I had an interview that Zach Brown who said he's hoping to enter the Daytona Prototype series in the future using a Coyote. How much help would it be to you and your development and progress to have more than one team out there running full-time to help move the Coyote program forward?

BUDDY RICE: Well, I think that's one of the big things, with everybody running Riley, sharing information to some degree, they've been running them for so long, there's a lot of information out there. For us to have a second Coyote out there to be gaining knowledge and just constantly trying to speed up the progress really of the car would be huge for us.

It's probably really no different what the situation Alex is in running the sole Chevrolet. Anytime you can add more information and more parties to the development of anything, I think it's a positive. So if we can get a second or third Coyote out there running, I think you'd see the development of the car would definitely speed up exponentially.

We just have to keep working to show that the Coyote is a competitive car, getting people to buy those. Or Zach is going to run one himself. We need to get more out there to be quicker and be more competitive that way.

Q: With this being a short track in road course vernacular, how many liberties can you genuinely take to root some of these GT guys out of the way? How fragile is your car? How much can you afford to bully your way past a slower car on a shorter track?

ALEX GURNEY: Well, I mean, over the years, I think we've seen that the cars are pretty stout. There's been plenty of barging, bumping and banging over the years and the cars seem to hang in there okay. I'm not too worried about that.

You're right, it is a very tight track. It was even tighter than I had imagined when we tested the car there just recently. It's going to be difficult to pass. There are a few spots, and the GTs will actually help us pass each other, as well.

You know, I would imagine there probably will be a little more bodywork lying around the track at the end of this one (laughter). But, you know, you just got to be smart and try and make good decisions throughout the race. Hopefully that won't be a big factor.

Q: Buddy, looking ahead a week to Watkins Glen, for the benefit of our listeners, comparing the car preparation for the six hours versus the shorter Sprint race when the circuit goes back in August, how significantly different will car prep be? Is it strictly the brakes? Is it more than that?

BUDDY RICE: No, I think that, you know, everybody and all the teams do such a good job at prep, you don't make it to where it just runs three hours. These will be able to go a lot longer.

I think the prep work leading into the six-hour race is going to be different because of what Alex just touched on. We as a team Spirit of Daytona did not show up for that test. With as short as the track is, as hard as it is going to be pass, Alex said there's going to be a lot of bodywork laying around. We'll show up with enough suspension and gearboxes, we'll switch over and put all brand-new stuff on the car, treat it no different than a long race just because of that situation and the loads that are going to be presented to the car at Watkins Glen. There's a lot of elevation change. There's a lot of high-speed bank turns and stuff there. You do some running on the curbs there.

Everything needs to be prepped up like you're going to run a 24-hour race and make sure everything is bulletproof. It's going to take a perfect car. You don't want to have any failures at that track because of the speed and everybody being in the points chase.

Q: Alex, you were talking earlier about the troubles you've had this year. You mentioned the engine. Does a lot of this have to do with your loss of factory backing that you had from Chevrolet, from that division, normal sponsorship woes you've had this year?

ALEX GURNEY: It's certainly possible. It's hard to say. The failures have been kind of different things that we've had. You know, that may have contributed to it, if I'm honest.

But I think mostly just a symptom of pushing the envelope, trying to keep up with these other guys that seem to have stepped it up another level in the engine department. So probably more a function of that, I would say.

Q: You said you were changing engine builders for Lime Rock, and then the Glen also?

ALEX GURNEY: Yeah, for the rest of the year.

Q: Is that change a different engine builder than you used last year?

ALEX GURNEY: Yes, a different engine builder than we've had, different engine builder than has been in the series, I think. I don't even know if I'm allowed to say it, but I'm sure that announcement is coming any day here.

Q: On the engine thing?

ALEX GURNEY: Yeah.

Q: As far as who it is and so forth?

ALEX GURNEY: Yeah, yeah.

Q: A question about the Glen being, what, three or four days away from Lime Rock. Does that put a big strain on the crew? Is that something everybody is up for?

ALEX GURNEY: Yeah, I think so. I think everyone is used to that type of thing.

Q: Three or four days?

ALEX GURNEY: I guess you're right. The Glen isn't too far of a drive. So that's not too bad.

But, you know, if you manage to stay out of trouble and not have a wrecked car, I think that will be the biggest difference. The guys are pretty used to prepping these cars with quick turnaround. As long as the car has no big damage, I think it will be fine.

Q: And your team's record and your record at the Glen has been pretty good. What are your thoughts going into it? Is that a track you think you can break through? Or do you think you might be at a disadvantage because the other teams have stepped things up?

ALEX GURNEY: A little bit of both. We've had really good luck there. We've had really good cars every time from the moment we entered the series in 2005. I think that was our best finish right away. So, you know, for whatever reason, certain tracks tend to click with a certain team. Whether it's the short track or the long track there, we've just had really good cars.

I expect that, you know, to keep going. Hopefully the new engine will push us forward even more.

Q: You're aware the Glen has made some changes, SAFER barriers, so far, in the inner loop, but also the exit of the last turn. I'm going to be interested in getting your angle. They moved the SAFER barrier at turn 11 right to the edge of the track, you usually use all the track on the exit of that corner?

ALEX GURNEY: You definitely use quite a bit of that curb. That will be interesting. I think I found a YouTube video of the latest changes. It didn't look that out of the ordinary.

You're right, you do use a lot of the curb at the exit. You're going pretty quick. Maybe you have to be a little more careful there. That will be interesting to watch.

Q: Buddy, even though it's been a couple years since you won Indy, do you get a feeling this time of year you belong there working on that? Do you consider that chapter of your racing career closed or do you hope to get back in IndyCars?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, I think I might run the Speedway again in the next year or two possibly. We'll just have to wait and see. But I'm happy with where I'm at. I like racing the Grand-Am Series. I like road racing full-time. I like the new challenges of having to share a car. I like competing against the drivers and teams that are in this series. There's a lot of really good drivers and teams here.

Also with the schedule the way it is, this type of racing obviously allows me to do other things I haven't been able to do in the past eight years. So it's kind of something that's kind of nice. It's a little bit different.

There is some stuff I probably could have ran the Speedway if I wanted to this year, but I'm not going running unless I can run with one of the top teams or at least have a shot of getting to Victory Lane again. There's no sense of going around and pounding out laps at that place. It demands more respect than just showing up.

Continued in part 2

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Antonio Garcia , Jon Fogarty , Jimmie Johnson , Buddy Rice , Bob Stallings