IRL: Buddy Rice press conference on 2003 plans, Part II

Indy Racing League November 26, 2002 Buddy Rice Part 2 of 2 Q: You have a multiyear contract; now what does that mean, multiyear? Does it mean several years, three, four, five? Q: Yes. Basically, I have a two-year contract with...

Indy Racing League
November 26, 2002

Buddy Rice

Part 2 of 2

Q: You have a multiyear contract; now what does that mean, multiyear? Does it mean several years, three, four, five?

Q: Yes. Basically, I have a two-year contract with an option for my third.

B. Rice: Sometimes you only get one-year deals so.

Q: Buddy, this year, Tomas Sheckter had a lot of problems racing against his team owner as a teammate. Do you have any problems competing against Eddie this year or next year?

B. Rice: No, Eddie and I didn't have any problems at all through the five rounds that I ran at. In two of the rounds we ran quite close together. It was Chicago and St. Louis, we ran around each other quite a bit, and we had no problems. It depends on how you handle the situation and where your mindset is. I don't see it being a problem. Once we do get on the track though, I don't look at Eddie as my team owner; he's my teammate so it takes a different perspective than when we're off the track dealing with other problems or other situations. But no, I've never had a problem with it, and I don't see it being a problem in the future.

Q: Buddy, as a follow up about the competition being so close out on the track, and everything else, that makes track position really important, and one of the main ways you get that is pit stops; tell me, how are you working on pit stops, in and outs, and the rest of that; and how is that different from series you've run in before?

B. Rice: The other series, until I ran, basically, all the way up through 2000, before I drove in any endurance races over in the Grand Am Series, we didn't have pit stops. We just had Sprint races. So now driving in the IRL this is more or less the first time I've had full-blown true pit stops happening in an open-wheel car for me. And we were practicing actually at Indy, practicing our pit stops. Pit stops can be very crucial both for all the races that we're going to have, but also for Indy, because there are going to be so many stops at the 500, you're going to need to make sure you're spot-on on all those. You've seen races won and lost from pit stops so we're working very hard, both the team and myself, we're working very hard to make sure we have our pit stops down and that we have solid pit stops. That's a big factor, especially with it as close as the racing is. To try to make up a spot or two is going to be huge.

Q: Is there any kind of special training that you might try and do to get used to those out-laps when you're still on cold tires?

B. Rice: No, I did that before, and we practice it all the time and when we go testing. Sometimes when we go to practice pit stops in and out, you just practice running out hard and running in hard, and especially on the race weekends, that's the whole key, is you constantly are trying to figure that out. So I don't think we'll try anything different. We're just going to keep practicing, and just try to get it down to as smooth of a system, and as fast of a system as we can make it, and I think that will be the key. It's no different than anything else, and it's just basically practice, and seat time for both me and for the team on the pit stops, and I think we'll be fine. I don't see it being a big problem. I would like to think that we're going to be right there, and won't have any issues.

Q: Buddy, talk to us a bit more about working with Eddie. How is it to have a seasoned driver as your mentor with you on a team? Is that an extreme added benefit?

B. Rice: Depending on the situation, it's an extreme advantage, because there are some places you're going to go that they've been there, and they know what the track is going to do or how the car is going to react as the race progresses, and you need that. Without having that kind of experience, you wouldn't know that, so that might change the way you look at a setup. Whether you drive the same or not, you need to have someone that's seasoned; it's a big help to help someone like myself. There are a lot of things that Eddie and I talked about on some of those races that I would never have, I don't want to say I wouldn't have thought of, but I wouldn't have thought about it until after the race, and I would have had to wait, and he already put that thought in my mind going into my race set up. The qualifying thing is, just trim the thing out as best you can, and put it on the edge, and have everything worked out before the races. You really need somebody that's been there and been through that so you can really make sure you have a solid, race package, because once you get out there you don't have a whole lot of chances to make too many adjustments so you need to have a good car.

Q: Aside from Eddie, were there any other drivers or principals or officials or owners that really took you in last year and maybe helped you or became a mentor or even just a friend that gave you advice in your first season in the IRL?

B. Rice: I wouldn't say there was really any driver or anything. Some of the people in the IRL front office were very encouraging, and had some good things to say. I think everything has been like a big family. Everybody has been open-arms and helping me out, and in any way I could, my deal came together pretty fast, and it was after Kentucky, and before Kentucky, I only had two days notice to get to Kentucky for the test. So they've been very flexible on trying to make sure I could get into the series and have everything work out for me. Both Tony George and Brian Barnhart have helped me out tremendously, because they did make sure that I could get in and made sure that I got all my credentialing done and everything happening so I could run at Michigan; so it was very fortunate for the way they handled everything.

Q: Buddy, congratulations on the new contract. You've been up and down over the years. I believe you had a testing contract or something with Bobby Rahal? How does this year feel knowing that you've got a full, locked-down schedule?

B. Rice: Excellent. My next two years, basically, are with the Red Bull Cheever Team, and that's exactly where I want to be. It's everything I've been waiting for. What happens is if you go back and look at any, I can't say it so much for about some of the Europeans, but if you look at any of the Americans that have tried to make it up through the ladder system, and make it into the top ranks, you see there's a massive roller-coaster ride happening all the time; and it's just finally that for me being an American, and not having deep pockets or having a massive sponsor to bring everything onboard all the time, it's a great accomplishment for myself to finally get here. And part of that thing is my growing relationship with also the Red Bull Energy Drink, and I've been with them since '98 so, obviously, that's been somewhat of a help and they'll be with me for years to come, and working on other things. It's just finally very gratifying finally to be able to make it and not have to wonder what I'm going to be doing for the next few months or next week.

Q: Have you guys received your 2003 chassis or engine?

B. Rice: The 2003 chassis has not been received yet. We are expecting it in the beginning part of December, and the next week or two to come we'll be making an engine announcement, and also explaining some of our technical aspects that we're going to be working on that we're changing. So we have those announcements coming in the next couple of weeks.

Q: Buddy, Phil made an interesting point about this off-season; your deal is set. So away from the track, how does that differ for you during the off-season? Do you actually have a chance to relax, be a 26-year old, go on a vacation or something as opposed to pounding, knocking on the doors looking for sponsorship?

B. Rice: No, not really. It doesn't change for me. If anything, it's probably going to make me do less of that, because I'm going to make sure that I'm set up for next year and ready to get into it, and ready to rock. Basically, I've taken a year-and-a-half vacation, which I didn't want to take. So I'm not going to take this off-season very light at all. So I'll make sure that when I step into the first race at Homestead that I'm ready and I'm prepared. I won't be doing too many vacations. Eddie and I have some things planned for both some sponsorship things, and some other things that we're going to be working on so I'm looking forward to that. So those will be like mini-vacations, but I don't plan on taking a whole lot. I've got a lot of stuff happening here still at home, and the only thing is I can sleep a lot easier right now over this winter knowing that my stuff is set for the next two years. So in that aspect I'll be a bit more relaxed, and I'll just be able to focus on training more instead of focusing on trying to get a ride. So that will allow me to be in a lot better shape and a lot better position for the start of the season.

K. Miller: Thank you for joining us today, and have a happy Thanksgiving, and we wish you the best of luck at the season opener in Miami on March 2.

B. Rice: Thank you. Happy Holidays to everyone also.

Part I

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Series INDYCAR