IRL: Buddy Rice press conference, part 2

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript June 8, 2004 Buddy Rice Part 2 of 2 Q: Bobby Rahal has won championships. Have you had a chance to sit down with him and look him in the eye and let him tell you how you get back on track...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
June 8, 2004

Buddy Rice

Part 2 of 2

Q: Bobby Rahal has won championships. Have you had a chance to sit down with him and look him in the eye and let him tell you how you get back on track now and go the bigger prize, the IndyCar Series championship?

BUDDY RICE: You know, Bob and I talked a little bit over the weekend, because I was so busy with the media stuff. But, you know, basically the only thing he's really said is he just said, 'Don't forget, you know, what we're here to do. We still have to finish the year off.' That's been the big thing. But, no, other than that, that's really been it. I mean, Bob's been a huge supporter of mine, he's helped me out in the past. But, no, we haven't had a big long discussion.

Q: I wanted to see what it meant to Bobby, you know what he went through after he made the change to come over to the IRL, to see what this meant to him and to David Letterman, being a native Hoosier, what kind of thoughts came to mind.

BUDDY RICE: Well, I mean, I think it's a huge accomplishment for everybody. I mean, this is what we came to do. And like you said, I mean, you can always sit there and dream about it and do whatever. But until you can actually take part in it and do it and win it, you know, you never really know. It was just great to see how -- I mean, Bob's been there, he knows what it's like. But he hadn't done it as an owner. It had been a long time. With Dave, you know, he obviously had never been there, so he was super-excited. You know, with my family and all the people that have helped me from, you know, the lower formulas with DSTP and Lynx, to all the other people that have helped me, it was a very satisfying and an unbelievable deal just to see how many people were that excited. That's what makes Indy what it is.

Q: When you first met David Letterman, was it kind of intimidating, the celebrity of this guy? What was that like?

BUDDY RICE: No. Dave's a cool dude. It was really easy to talk to him. I'd talked to him a whole bunch on the phone prior to meeting him at the Speedway for the first time. So, no, it wasn't hard at all really.

Q: Has your status been clarified now for the remaining 12 races of the IRL season?

BUDDY RICE: We're going to have to wait and see. Kenny did his test. They'll send out what they think -- what's going to happen, what the driver lineup and sponsorship is going to be. That needs to be left up to the Rahal Letterman Group to make that announcement and what they're going to do.

Q: It seems to me like it sounds like you may be having a hard time getting your arms around what a big deal this is to everybody else. To you, you're a race car driver, you won a race. Although you know it's the Indy 500, does it strike you that maybe you haven't quite gotten your arms around what a big deal really this is yet?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, I know what a big deal the race is, what it is to win. It's just, like I said, everybody handles it differently. There's just a lot going on right now. It's a lot to take in. There's a lot to absorb. I mean, there's nothing that prepares you for this.

Q: Talk about Texas. That track has meant a lot to the Indy Racing League, helping it, in addition to Indianapolis, sort of endure all the years that have gone by. What is it about Texas that makes it such a great facility and venue for your style of racing?

BUDDY RICE: You know, I think there's a lot to it. I think the track length, the banking, layout and stuff, it's an awesome facility. I mean, Eddie Gossage and those guys have done a phenomenal job out there. I think a big part of it, too, is the night racing. I think the night races bring a different aspect to racing, and I wish they had more of those. It would be nice to see more of those. It's a combination of a bunch of little things that make the facility so nice. A lot of the mile-and-a-half tracks we have, we have really good racing on.

Q: Going back to 2000, the Toyota Atlantic Series, battling with Dan (Wheldon), have you kind of thought about that a little bit now looking at where you are in the points, with him leading it, thinking that this could be a repeat of 2000?

BUDDY RICE: I mean, yeah. I don't know what you mean by 'a repeat of 2000.'

Q: Just battling him.

BUDDY RICE: The thing is, we're definitely a lot more mature now. We're obviously doing different things in a different series. There's a different aspect to the way we have to race right now with being only on ovals. I think there's a little bit of a difference there. But it will be exciting. I mean, we had a lot of good battles in 2000. Some of the other guys in the series right now have a good battle in other forms of racing. I think it's going to be really exciting. With the respect that everybody has for each other right now, the way everything is going, I think you'll see a lot of real good, close, wheel-to-wheel racing with hopefully not too many incidents.

Q: Do you see the two of you kind of alike in terms of your temperament or approach to racing, maybe really going out there and being aggressive from the start?

BUDDY RICE: There is that. I'm not sure really how much we are alike or how much we are different. I mean, we obviously have two completely different backgrounds in the way we were brought up and stuff, because of different countries, things like that. But I know he's an aggressive driver, and he's always on the attack, so you always have to be prepared. But he really works hard at his craft, as do a lot of the other guys there. You know, that's what makes those guys so good and that's what makes the Andretti Green Group so strong.

Q: You talked about wanting to stay in the IRL. A guy like yourself and Sam Hornish, Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, all of you have an allegiance to open-wheel that's pretty refreshing to people who love the sport. What is it about driving an open-wheel car that you find so exciting, notwithstanding the economic factors that tilt people toward driving the stock cars?

BUDDY RICE: Well, I think, you know, from growing up from go-karts and all the open-wheel stuff I've driven, I just really enjoy driving the open-wheel cars. That's what I like to race. I don't know how to really put it. With being able to bump and bang, you have to be so precise, I think it gives it a little bit different spin than maybe what some of the other people, some of the other series have. Risk factor is definitely up for us a little bit.

Q: You talked about the pass before on the front straight, the message board diving out of the way. That's the type of thing that's going to take a life of its own on. Forever frozen in time, isn't it, like ABC Sports with the ski-jumper?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. I guess so. We'll have to see how people perceive it or if that's how they want to use it. At the time it's obviously something I felt I needed to do at that point to get by those guys. If they use it for the future because of that, that's cool. Whatever. I mean, just have to wait and see.

Q: Have you heard at all from Dede Rogers?

BUDDY RICE: I know she's called my parents. I have not heard from her personally. My phone's been out of hand. I mean, I know she's been calling. I have yet to get in touch with her.

Q: Working with Vitor Meira again, are you looking forward to it? He could have been a tight competitor had he not gone over that air hose.

BUDDY RICE: Vitor has done a really good job since he came in at Japan and stuff. You know, the month went really well. He had a good race. Little mistake there towards the end. I think if that would have happened earlier on, obviously it wouldn't nearly have been as big of an issue. You know, it was just an unfortunate situation. But definitely, I mean, he's run well at Texas. With their sponsor, with the Centrix car there, I think it's good. I'm definitely looking forward to doing that again.

Q: What part of the race did you in your own mind say, 'I've actually got this race in hand'?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. I mean, the last set of pit stops that were all green flag, I was asking where I was at, and no one would tell me where I was at in position. So I didn't really know until more or less about a lap or so before I think the yellow came out. That's about the time I knew I was leading because I could look up at the pillar and I found where I was at. That's the only reason I knew where I was at. Then the yellow came out for the rain. At that point that's about the time I started thinking, 'If this ends this way, then we've won this.'

Q: With the way the IRL continually seems to grow each year, new venues, do you look forward to doing some road racing?

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I think it will add a new and little different spice. I think it will be good to add those, I think, because we have obviously the small ovals, we have Indy, we have the big ovals, we have everything in between. We don't need a lot of those, probably just a little bit. It would be good. I think that's what they're looking at doing.

Q: Before signing with Rahal, there was anticipation of doing something outside of the realm of open-wheel. Now with your success, has that been put on the shelf and maybe some of that anticipation has been satiated with some of the success you're having this season?

BUDDY RICE: My door's always open to anything. The ever-changing world of racing, you never know what's going to happen. I think you always need to keep your door open. But, I mean, I wanted to be here. Like, I mean, I had the possibility to go run full-time in some other stuff. This was going to be at the beginning was definitely just a part-time deal. We'd have to see where it went from there. So we'll have to wait and see. But this is where I wanted to be at. I think that's the only reason why anything else got pushed to the backside, because this is where I wanted to go. I also thought this was my best opportunity for me, as well.

Q: Would you like to maybe have come along at a different time when drivers drove and you could be in any kind of car on any different weekend?

BUDDY RICE: It definitely would have been a lot different. I mean, this day and age, you can't do that because of the fact that everybody works so hard at their craft that you have to specialize in whatever you're doing for the most part or give it the full attention. You can't bounce around anymore. Also I think the way technology is, people having to understand each other, all of telemetry to all the computers and everything, that's also what makes it where you have to just run in whatever you're going to do.

Q: You've gone from the Indy, flat rectangular shape course, to Texas with the banking, high speeds. You're going to be going to some super short tracks. Do you look forward to that? They're talking about lap times in the 15 seconds or less range. It's going to be insane, the speed.

BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I definitely look forward to going to that. I think it's going to be really good. I think what the IRL has done with the rules package and stuff is good. I think it will be really exciting. I know that Richmond is going to be fast. I believe we go to Milwaukee after that, things like that. I mean, we tested during the month of May, we went and did a Firestone tire test down in Nashville. We were very pleased with the way things went down there. I mean, our car has been quite strong on all the tracks. We got the short track stuff sorted out already. We're definitely looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: Buddy, thank you very much. We'll go ahead and let you go. Thanks for joining us today. We'll see you in Dallas.

BUDDY RICE: Thanks for everyone on.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , A.J. Allmendinger , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornis , Vitor Meira