IRL: Indy 500: Rahal Letterman Racing Media Tour, part 2

Continued from part 1 JENKINS: Bobby, does (your son) Graham (Rahal) talk about racing at the "500?" If so, do you have a timetable? RAHAL: Well, we've talked about it. I think he's a little young yet. He's only 17, so he's got a ways to go. I...

Continued from part 1

JENKINS: Bobby, does (your son) Graham (Rahal) talk about racing at the "500?" If so, do you have a timetable?

RAHAL: Well, we've talked about it. I think he's a little young yet. He's only 17, so he's got a ways to go. I think, you know, I think particularly Indy, obviously he wasn't alive when I won, but he came along not too much thereafter. He's spent a lot of time here, and I think he understands how great a race this is. So certainly we have to -- we consider it, but I think he's got some years ahead of him yet that he needs to go out and improve his craft so when he does come here, he can be competitive and be in there with a chance to win. I think that he's a couple years younger than Marco (Andretti), so I think we have to give him a few more years, as I say, and then who knows? But I think he knows what this race is all about.

Q</I>: This will be for Danica. A lot of on-track success last year and off-track success in terms of your professionalism and marketing. How satisfying was last year to you from that perspective?

PATRICK: Very much. It was a big year. It really was Danica mania. It was crazy, and I didn't really notice at the time because I was kind of going from race to race and just staying focused on the racing. But when I stepped back and I think more than anything at the end of the year when there was awards for kind of year-end things and I was in for it, I was surprised. I guess I didn't realize what an impact it was. I also didn't see anything that month other than, you know, USA Today and the Indianapolis Star, and that was about it.

But overall, with the success both on and off the track, I'm just grateful. I think that the one thing I always know and I always say is I do believe it can go away like that, and you have to -- you can't look too, too deep into it but you do have to be grateful for the moments and do your best to carry on with everything that's going on. That means for me being fast on the track and then everything, I think -- everything will come after that.

Q</I>: Danica, last May you couldn't go anywhere in the garage area or in the pits without a camera or tape recorder being put in your face. Do you see a difference this year already? And do you expect less attention in that form in May?

PATRICK: Honestly, it's a little worse this year. (Laughter)

It is. Again, I'm grateful, because the fans are what fuels us. They keep us going. They're everything that we work for. The fans that are watching it on TV for the ratings and the people that come to the races, you know, and sit in the stands and buy merchandise and that is what we work and work for. The racing is there; we know it's good. But, yeah. I remember this weekend I wanted to, down in St. Pete, I wanted to watch the air show and so I walked outside the motor home and I stood by the door and I didn't really walk out in between the motor homes too much, but you had to if you wanted to see the air show. And as soon as I walked out there, five steps further, I had to go back inside. I've become much more captive in my motor home when people are waiting outside the doors. It's all right, though. It's tolerable, and it's only on the race weekends.

And I will say my home life is OK. It's still getting me the perks in life and not getting in the way of day-to-day living other than your local grocery store saying -- I was looking through a People magazine or something and they said, "Are you in there?" I said, "I don't know." I think it was like a year-end photo issue. And the guy goes, "You are." (Laughter)

But other than that, it's all right. I think as long as the success is there on the track, but at least I hope it doesn't die down. I think that the sport needs stars and it needs attention and it needs focal points. I just hope that it spreads.

Q</I>: Bobby, it's kind of hard to see you gentlemen, your whole crew up here, without your field chief. Can you give us an update on his health?

RAHAL: On Scotty (Roembke)? Scotty is doing well. He's -- it's a big battle. This is not something, it wasn't like a cold. So he's struggling through some things, but he's progressing and I know he's frustrated because he's not here. He wasn't in Homestead or St. Pete, and I think that's driving him crazy if nothing else. I mean, certainly we're all in touch, e-mails and everything else. In fact, I'm going to go see him tomorrow. But, you know, it's nothing simple and it's going to take some time, but there is a positive end in sight. It's just a matter of really doing what the doctors say and taking care of yourself and doing all the things you have to do. But hopefully we'll try to get him here during the month of May. But he does have -- he's got some time yet to heal up and get going, and we'll just make sure we do everything we can to help him in that regard.

Q</I>: Jeff, if you could talk a little bit about the time line from when we talked to you after the IPS race on Saturday, you said you were waiting to hear back from Bobby and how rapidly everything came together. As a follow-up, how much has it helped to have had the experience being in Mo Nunn's car and being in the Patrick car before getting in Bobby's car?

SIMMONS: With the time line, it all happened really quick, and we had talked before Saturday, obviously. But this was, you know, ethanol and Team Ethanol and everybody involved there was very instrumental in this as well and very important in the decision. So I had to meet with some of them, and Bobby can probably talk about the details a little better than I can on how it all had to be done.

But in terms of the time in the Mo Nunn's car and the Patrick car, I was just remarking about that earlier, saying we know everything is going really quickly for you, and I said this is the only way I know how to do it. Last time I was right into the car and right onto the racetrack, pretty much. With Mo Nunn it was very few laps to go out to qualify and with Patrick it was just a two-day weekend and I didn't know until that week that I was driving the car. You know, I didn't sit in the car until the Thursday. So this is the only way that I know how to do this right now. It's going to be nice to have a little bit more time to try to prepare now. I'm really looking forward to getting in the car tomorrow and getting started.

Q</I>: Danica, congratulations on your marriage, No. 1.

PATRICK: Thank you.

Q</I>: No. 2, as far as the test session tomorrow, what are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish? Is it just like a refamiliarization with the track? Do you guys start with last year's setups and try to build upon it? Is it used as maybe an early practice day for the month of May? What are some of your goals this month?

PATRICK: It's going to serve a couple purposes. Obviously, coming from the road course, we're going to get back on an oval. We're going to, I would imagine, start pretty safe in the morning or depending on what temperature it is. It was freezing this morning, so I think it has to warm up to -- somebody else can probably tell me exactly -- but I think it's like 50 degrees it needs to be to run, or something near that. So we'll just make sure the car feels consistent, feels safe, and from there just progress with some changes and ease into it. I don't think there's any need to do anything drastic or dramatic out there. There is a lot of testing in the month of May. You're able to take your time and make sure that you do it right. So maybe we'll work on some stuff for Motegi. I don't know what can carry over or not. But I do know last year, I heard if you do well at Motegi, Indy sometimes goes well, too. That seemed to be the case.

And it's just a chance to get out onto the track, too. So, you know, we'll see how it goes. But I don't think we're going to do anything too drastic. But, of course, it always comes to trying to be the quickest, so we'll see how that goes.

Q</I>: Danica, since last year was your rookie year, what do you hope to show the guys this year other than a girl can be tough as nails just like they can?

PATRICK: More of the same. You know, I think for me proving things to myself is what I keep striving for and to make my team happy. You know, I have to say last weekend in St. Pete, I was frustrated and I wasn't going as fast as I wanted to go. I finally kind of figured out why it was bothering me so much is there were a lot of fans and they were all cheering and my team was -- they're always loyal, but I felt like -- I felt bad for everybody because everybody was cheering for me, and I wasn't fast. I was like, "How much fun can this be, they're cheering for somebody who qualified 14th?" So you feel that mild responsibility. But you need to block that out, and I made the mistake of letting it get to me a little bit.

You just need to go fast on the day and take it -- again, I really do believe you have to take it day by day and race by race because you never know what it's going to bring, and you never know what challenges might come up whether it's, you know, Panoz up against Dallara or Danica up against that day or something. So I don't really think that I'm trying to prove anything to anybody, I'm just trying to -- sounds cheesy -- to be the best that I can be. If that's not good enough, then that's all right as long as I've gotten the most out of myself. And I don't feel like I've walked away without getting the most out of myself or the race car, then I'll be mad; but otherwise, that's all I can do.

JENKINS: Buddy, what's it like to have Danica as a teammate and have her get all the questions in news conferences? (Laughter)

RICE: Makes it a lot easier for me. I can just sit here. (Laughter)

Q</I>: This is a question for Buddy. Feel free, Bobby to chime in.

RICE: See, you just have to say something.

Q</I>: If Bobby feels compelled to chime in, as well. Champ, if you could, speak a little bit about the team dynamic. Do you feel compelled to mentor to your team? Have you spoken to them about the feeling of having your face on the Borg-Warner and actually experiencing victory circle here at Indy and how that plays out as a team leader, if you will?

RICE: Well, I think everybody takes every situation differently. I still think it's a bit strange to have my face on the Borg-Warner Trophy even though it was almost two years ago. But it still even kind of like Bob talked about, it's such a blur. And on top of it we had the weather that was going on, the race stopped early, tornadoes all over the place. We never actually got to experience the standard Victory Lane because we got shuffled off into a garage and they were trying to keep everybody somewhat on the ground so they didn't blow away because of how nasty the weather was getting. When you get shoved into that garage with all the people, it's absolute mayhem already, and then get put into a small little area like that, there's a lot going on. So it's super blurry through the whole thing. But it was probably one of the most exciting times I could ever imagine. I would love to be able to do that again, and maybe this year it could be possible for myself or one of my teammates to actually be able to do that and make it onto the proper podium here.

But it's just one of the things we've always done, and Bob has been there, too, any time you have any questions or want to ask somebody, everybody is always open to that. That's one of the reasons why I think our team does so well all the time.

Q</I>: This is for Bobby. Bobby, has Kenny Brack expressed any interest in running Indy again this year? If he has or if he does, would you have a car for him?

RAHAL: Actually, I've spoken to Kenny a couple times over the last, I don't know, month or two. In fact, he was in Columbus not too long ago. I think he's pretty hell bent on his rock-and-roll career now. (Laughter)

Forgetting that he's in Belgium, they're living in Belgium, Anita, his wife, has a really good job, and I think she finally said to him, "Listen, I've supported you for the last X number of years, it's your turn." So actually, he's trying to create some opportunities for some Swedish drivers. He and I have been talking about that. So I don't think you'll see Kenny back here. I think last year was very cathartic for Kenny. I thought it was extremely important for him, if we had the opportunity for him to be the fastest. He thanked me for that because I think he needed to come back after everything he had gone through, he needed to come back with an exclamation mark. I'm just disappointed that we had the mechanical issue that we did that kept him from finishing the race.

But that pole -- you know, the qualifying run and everything that he was able to do following Buddy's misfortune, I think that for him was all that he needed. He never came back and said, "Gee, I'd like to do that again." He did it, answered any questions whatever anybody might have and questions for himself, and it was onward and upward. I think he's looked at other things like sports car racing. But like I said, I think he's pretty much looking, if he does race, looking at other types of cars, not IndyCars.

Q</I>: Question for Danica. Last year, I think it was right after the "500" that Katie Couric interviewed you and a lot of people who saw that interview felt that she was pretty condescending and that you handled yourself extremely well during that thing. But did that bother you at all that a professional at that level was taking that sort of approach to you, an almost dismissive sort of approach?

PATRICK: Honestly, I can't even recall exactly the questions she asked. But I mean, I speak to a lot of different people from various backgrounds of either sports or non-sports. Some people know about racing and some people don't. You just have to take each question and, you know, you're just trying to either plug some sponsors or you just show some personality. Unfortunately, I always lean toward the personality one. But, you know, I don't recall being angry with any of the questions at all. Again, I guess I have a lot of tolerance for people's knowledge levels and what they know about. I don't expect anyone to ever know my background or where I came from or what I'm doing. So I'm fine with it. She's great at what she does. If she wasn't, she wouldn't have been on TV for as long as she's been. I think there's rumors of her moving around now, but she's been on morning TV for 15 years, and if she wasn't a pro, she wouldn't be there. So she was, you know -- I think another thing is they also have to ask questions that the public will be able to recognize with, and if they get too technical, the mass audience doesn't understand either. So keep the questions light and broad and they're fine.

JENKINS: Last question.

Q</I>: Danica, the circus that goes along with May, you've been through it now once, and obviously the circus was probably bigger for you than it has been for a lot of people. Having been through it once, what do you expect this year? What things are going to be easier for you to handle the second time around?

PATRICK: It will probably be easier from -- you know, I did everything I could, I really did. You know, that was the most pressure I felt was to do as many interviews and to do as much as I possibly could to capitalize on the moment without doing everything. You can't do everything, but you do as much as you possibly can. And I will say there was enough interviews that I could have gone on and on for a long time. The real advantage is going to come to (team PR rep) Brent Maurer and for him to have the relationships that he does with the people making the phone calls about doing interviews and just our strategy for setting it up and just knowing my personality and what I'm OK with and the time frames I'm OK with, I think that we have a much better grasp as to what's going to make my life easier and make sure that the racing still comes first. And I think that's the biggest perk, is that we're ready for it this year.

JENKINS: Thank you for your answers, and we wish the best to Bobby, Buddy, Danica and Jeff here at Indianapolis and in the IRL 2006 season.

Next up over in the Trackside Press Conference Room will be Andretti Green Racing and that will be at 2. Thank you.

-ims

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Kenny Brack , Mo Nunn