Indy Racing League
November 26, 2002
Part 1 of 2
Kimberly Miller: Thank you very much. My name is Kimberly Miller, I'm the Manager of Media Relations for the Indy Racing League, and I'd like to thank everyone for taking time to join us today on this holiday week. We have with us Buddy Rice who just announced yesterday that he will be driving for Red Bull Cheever Racing next year, full time in the Indy Racing League. He signed a multiyear contract with Eddie Cheever. So Buddy, thanks for joining us today.
Buddy Rice: Yes. Thanks for having me on.
K. Miller: We'd like to start by talking about this new contract that you signed. You started with the Indy Racing League last year, starting your first event at Michigan and competing in five races, and then it was a question mark for all of us on the outside looking in wondering what was Cheever going to do for this year; and so the news came out yesterday. Tell us how the deal went through during the off-season.
B. Rice: Obviously, when I showed up in Michigan and going into Kentucky, I had my first couple of races there, I was on a race-to-race basis. I just had to wait and see what's going to happen. If I had given a decent performance and everything worked out; and also we were depending on whether we had funding at the time. But the funding came through, basically, starting more or less in Kentucky, we ended up right after that having enough funding done for the whole rest of the season, and then the logical step was just to start slowly working with Eddie on a contract. I was in contact with two or three other teams, and there were some teams I went pretty far down the road with them on to make sure I had myself a ride in the IRL this year, but I still felt that out of respect, and out of him giving me the chance, that Eddie deserved first shot at it, in working everything out; and also it goes back to my ties with Red Bull North America. So we just slowly kept working things out and we're discussing stuff, and I wouldn't say before the season was up I had a solid idea that I was going to be there, but we were slowly working on it. We needed to put everything in place to make sure it happened, and there is a lot of conversation on both what I wanted to do what Eddie wanted to do and we had a lot of things to workout between the two of us, and it just slowly has been working out, and here I am at the Red Bull Cheever Team.
K. Miller: The statistics speak for themselves. Looking at the numbers, you competed in five events last year, and everyone remembers the Michigan event where you came out in your first time in the Indy Racing League, and you qualified second and finished second, but the performance didn't stop there. You finished the season with two top fives, and four top 10s, so in every one of your races you were competitive. You led some laps throughout the season; obviously, that had to play a role when Eddie was thinking about hiring you. How much did you really jell with the team? With statistics like that it must show that you guys really got along last year, and that you really fit in with the people that you were working with.
B. Rice: Yes, we jelled quite quickly. I knew some of the mechanics, maybe I didn't know them on a first-name basis or personally, but I knew them from the CART Series. I also knew a couple of the other mechanics from when I did the test with Eddie at the end of last year, in November, trying to get the ride for the 2002 season so I knew some of the guys from there, and when I got there I just hopped right in. It wasn't much of a problem. It was a little chaotic at the first race because it was the first time the team had been running a 3-car team, and they're were trying to sort everything out, but it wasn't that bad. The cars were prepared quite well. Everything was ready to go. It was just more or less a problem of me just making sure I was up to speed and feeling comfortable and with the way the car was set up; it was really good, and we all jelled really well. And also it helped that we finished the races through the latter part of the season with Eddie, and that probably helped him out a whole bunch on selecting who he wanted to have drive in working everything out.
K. Miller: You tested last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You didn't get a lot of test time in because of the weather, and you said you only got a couple of hours in, but that was your first time on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so tell us your initial thoughts of actually driving on the track.
B. Rice: The first time driving in Indy was exciting. It's probably one of the most challenging oval tracks I've ever been on, because it's so flat and so fast, and it's also the only track on the schedule that we can actually run our own wing setting and stuff, because for the most part, with the way the rules are built around, is to keep everybody quite close; so this one, now you get to trim it out and run how you want. It was really cool. We just happened to get a break in the afternoon to where the sun came out, and it got the track temperature finally up over 50 degrees to where we could finally run, because Firestone Tire Engineers would not allow us to run until it was above 50. So once that happened it finally allowed us to get about 70-some-laps in and go check out the facility, which was good for me to get that first initial edge from going to Indy, off, because now when I show back up there I've already run some laps. I know where I want to be and it will let me think through the whole winter on it, and get prepared for probably in January or February to finally show up there again and run.
Q: Buddy, do you have a comprehensive testing or things you're going to try to do this winter for yourself to stay in condition, and maybe to prepare for the next years to come? Do you have anything special?
B. Rice: I have a standard training procedure that I've been going through, and with me living in Phoenix, Ariz. I'll be able to go-kart quite a bit to keep my skills up. But I am going to change my workout program somewhat. I am going to do a couple of other things and make sure I'm quite prepared for the season to come, and obviously for the following seasons. But yes, I'll change my training schedule a little bit this winter to try to work on a few other areas that I want to work on, and go from there. That will just help me be that much more prepared.
Q: Will you race any in any other series or will you just try to stay with the IRL?
B. Rice: That remains to be seen. My main focus and everything I want to work on right now is to go win races, and win championships, and win the 500 with the Red Bull Cheever Team, but that's not to say that I might not try to do better driving in another series like one or two off-races or maybe a handful of one-off races in some other series. That's definitely still an open door for me, and with my talks with Eddie about that, as long as I'm in competitive equipment I'm all right, and it doesn't conflict on to my IRL program, there is a possibility I could run some other stuff.
K. Miller: Buddy, while we wait for some more journalists to queue in, you were involved in three of the most competitive races in open-wheel history last year with the event at Michigan, with Chicago, and at the second Texas race. What are your thoughts on the competition in the world of oval racing in the Indy Racing League?
B. Rice: I think its good. Sometimes you can get on some of the other stuff you can get spread out; I think it's good that they keep it in big tight packs, and everyone's trying to run together. I think it makes it more exciting for both the fans, and for everybody, even all the competitors. No one wants to sit and go out and run by themselves, they want to run with people and constantly be challenging for position. So I think with the way the rules are structured it's a very good rules package.
K. Miller: Is there any one event or one track that sticks out in your mind as being one that you really enjoy racing on?
B. Rice: With only running five, and now finally testing at Indy, I haven't run all the facilities, but I definitely like running on the mile-and-a half ovals, because it's so fast, and there is so much happening, and there is so much lead changing happening. I really like the mile-and-a-half ovals to 2-mile ovals; but I'm really excited to actually try to go run with people and go drive at Indy. I'm really looking forward to that.
Q: Buddy, this year it seems like maybe there are going to be more cars in each race. How does that affect you on the shorter tracks? Do you think they'll limit the number of cars or do you think they'll keep it open to as many people as they can?
B. Rice: That's basically going to be up to Brian Barnhart and his group on how many people they feel that they need, about how many they feel that they want on the track at one time, and to work that out. But with the tighter ovals, qualifying should become more of an issue than say some of the other tracks like the mile-and-a-half tracks, and things like that, because at the mile-and-a-half tracks you can try to get a bit more aggressive, and it's not a problem; you can draft right back up there. So on the shorter tracks, I found out at St. Louis, we got a little aggressive on our setup, and didn't qualify where we thought we should have been, and we had to work really hard to get back up there, and basically it took all the race for us to get back up into the top five, and so I think you are going to need to put a bit more thought process into making sure you have a real solid qualifying package for the tight ovals.
Q: I see. Does that create more problems for you at a race, the more cars that you have to race against, traffic situations?
B. Rice: Yes, but that can play either way, it just depends on how it all unfolds. Sometimes when you're leading and you get bottled up, then the extra traffic becomes a problem, but if you're the guy catching up to the leader, and he gets bottled up, it's helping you out then it can go either way. It just depends on how you work through traffic, and how your car is set up and how everything just works out. It's a total gamble; it's a crapshoot the whole time when you're trying to run on those tight ovals.