Indy Racing League March 11, 2004 Buddy Rice and Tomas Scheckter Part 1 of 2 K. Johnson: Thank you Mary, and we certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, March 11th. Today we will take a look...
Indy Racing League
March 11, 2004
Buddy Rice and Tomas Scheckter
Part 1 of 2
K. Johnson: Thank you Mary, and we certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, March 11th. Today we will take a look toward the next event weekend on the Indy Racing calendar, that being the Phoenix 100 for the Infiniti Pro Series on March 22nd and the Purex Dial Indy 200 IndyCar Series event on March 23rd, both events taking place at Phoenix International Raceway. Joining us today will be Infiniti Pro Series driver Thiago Medeiros, as well as IndyCar Series drivers Buddy Rice and Tomas Scheckter. Our first guest is Thiago Medeiros who made his Infiniti Pro Series debut in the season-opening Western Union 100 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
K. Johnson: We would like to welcome IndyCar Series driver Tomas Scheckter. Welcome Tomas and thanks for joining us today.
T. Scheckter: Well thanks for having me.
K. Johnson: A little brief background. Tomas is now in his second season driving in the IndyCar Series. He earned his first IndyCar Series victory last year at Michigan after starting the race on the MBNA Pole. This year he drives the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G-Force/Toyota/Firestone and in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway he qualified ninth and earned an eighth-place finish. Tomas, for starters, your teammate Scott Dixon wins the season opener, you place in the top 10 at the end but you were fighting among the top five throughout the day. Heading into that event did you envision the team getting off to such a strong start?
T. Scheckter: Well I hope so. Scott did a great job. His engineering side did a great job. We had a great car for the first half race. I mean, I was up to third, and I thought I really had a shot at it, but we sort of did not envision the changes that the track changed to. Our car seemed to not suit the situations for the last half of the race. The team has done an unbelievable job. Scott did a great job, and we needed to carry that momentum across to Phoenix.
K. Johnson: Now looking ahead to our next event at Phoenix, tell us about your testing out there and your outlook for the Purex Dial Indy 200.
T. Scheckter: Yes it is going to be good. Qualifying is going to be important. As always the race car is going to be important. I think we have a good chance at a win, either me or Scott at Phoenix. We both are pretty quick there, both in the top 10. And I know the team is working hard to make sure that cars are more developed than they were last time.
K. Johnson: Very good. At this time we also have been joined by IndyCar Series driver Buddy Rice. Buddy joined Red Bull Cheever Racing midway through the 2002 season with his first race coming at Michigan. At that event he started and finished in second place and went on to post two top-five finishes over his five starts. For 2003 he returns as the driver for the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy/Firestone. Good morning Buddy. Thanks for joining us.
B. Rice: Thanks for having me on.
K. Johnson: Buddy, I guess first and foremost, you were born and raised in Phoenix. You still make your home there. The upcoming Purex Dial Indy 200 is your first open-wheel appearance at PIR since '97. What are your emotions you carry into the event?
B. Rice: I think it is probably the same as any other driver that competes in their hometown. I am really excited to be coming back here and racing an open-wheel car at the top level back in front of all my family and friends in my hometown, so I am really excited for this.
K. Johnson: Now tell us a little bit about your test sessions out there and what you are looking forward to March 23rd.
B. Rice: We had a pretty good solid test out here when we tested. The first day we were out here for the Test In The West. We struggled a bit and then on the second day we started getting the car kind of where we wanted to and then we had a little bit of a mishap, and I packed it in the wall. But just before that we put ourselves going down a pretty good path and then that happened. We think with our last test with the Menard's team at Phoenix, we are quite pleased with what we came up with and what our speeds were. So we are hoping that we will be a lot more competitive than we were at Homestead.
K. Johnson: This next question is for both Tomas and Buddy and I would like to start with Tomas. Given that there were no mechanical dropouts in the season opening event at Homestead; what are your thoughts on the engine and chassis regulations that the IndyCar Series has introduced this year?
T. Scheckter: I think they make decisions, they did not just come up with decisions. They put a lot of thought into it, and obviously it seems it worked out. They just want to keep good racing, and I think all the changes that they have done is to make sure that everybody is playing on the same sort of level and that money cannot buy you better equipment or more speed, and it is really up to the drivers and that is why I think the IRL has such good racing. So obviously they did a very good job on the rules.
K. Johnson: Buddy, can you add to that?
B. Rice: Well I think it just shows what kind of caliber of teams that you have within the series that they come out with all basically new chassis, new motors and not have any mechanical failures just shows you how good the teams are that are running in the IndyCar Series right now and it just shows that you are basically going to have to make sure your car is super fast to win races and obviously be reliable because everybody else has put a lot of emphasis on reliability and especially with everything being new.
K. Johnson: Now let's open the forum for questions from the media, and I need to ask since we have two drivers on that you please indicate which driver your question is for.
Q: This is for Tomas Scheckter. Last year your style of driving was pretty aggressive. This year is your second year in IRL; do you think maybe it is not quite as aggressive or are you still as aggressive as you were?
T. Scheckter: I think I am still as aggressive. It is just that you need to control that aggression, and I think you need to put it into direction where you are finishing races. I did not have the most spectacular first race, but it is points on the board. We finished. The car ended up in one piece and just need to carry on that, make sure the team is working in a good direction and use that aggression in a positive way. I think that is the main thing that I learned from last year.
Q: Both of you were teammates last year, Tomas and Buddy and I am sure you had a relationship being teammates. This year you are on separate teams and everything. Does it make the interaction between the two of you any different now that you are not teammates?
B. Rice: Well I think with me coming in part way through the season and what the situation was, I mean obviously there was not a whole lot of interaction going on because the other internal problems. But with Tomas and I, I mean, I do not think it has changed a whole lot. We know each other and have a lot of respect for each other. It is just now you are driving for different teams and stuff. But it is not like we were together for a whole season or two to where we had like a big huge friendship. But we only raced two races together and that was it and those times were obviously a little rocky, but I think everything is quite well.
T. Scheckter: I think the same. When Buddy came into the team he did a great job. He was very professional, and he seemed like a good guy. But at the moment I was so focused on what I had to do that we did not really strike up a relationship at all. It is very hard to get a friendship anyway with any drivers, because you are so concentrated on what you have to do.
Q: Last year the race at Phoenix was the only race in the whole series that you ran where you did not complete even a 100 laps. Have you got something to prove there do you feel? You had engine trouble, I think, fell out in 24th place.
T. Scheckter: Yes we had engine trouble, but we still had a half decent race. But do I feel like I have something to prove? No not really. I think I have something to prove the whole year this year. And every race I go to I am pumped up to win. There is nothing, anything special that I felt from Homestead to Phoenix, it is just that I have learned a lot more.
Q: What are some of the things you learned in the time you were with Eddie Cheever last year?
T. Scheckter: There are a lot of things I learned. There are just a lot of things I have learned about American racing. I came from Europe, and there is a certain style, and there is a certain level of stuff you have to do in certain parts of the race. It is just so completely different, and I have just learned a lot and starting to understand a lot more. I have a great team behind m, Chip Ganassi and everybody. I have a good teammate. We have a good engine package, so everything is really just coming together, and I am going to use everything that I have learned and make sure that we get some good finishes this year.
Q: Thank you. And a question for Buddy. You know you came in at that first race at Michigan last year and finished Tomas all the way through the pack and finished second. How are your emotions and how do you bring yourself down to realize it is not going to happen that way every race?
B. Rice: There are certain times when you are a race car driver that everything kind of gets just setup and everything is just perfect, which is very rare. That happened to be one of the situations where not only our team but our cars and everything suited that facility sort of well that it made it real easy for me to come in and be competitive, because Eddie, Tomas and the team that already set everything up to be really fast, we had strong motors and the cars were all sorted out. I mean there is going to be some races you are going to show up and the car is just going to work real well for you and you are going to have to finishes and win races. There are others you are going to come in and struggle. With as tight as the competition is this year it is not going to take much to be off just a little bit and make it not a perfect car to making you a mid pack car. So you have to make sure that you have the most perfect car you can come up with and you have to keep driving every weekend because that is what everybody is doing. And we are not racing there at home still trying to find a way to go faster.