IRL: Rice builds on team momentum

IRL: Rice builds on team momentum

This may have been the most difficult month of Buddy Rice's racing career, sitting on the sidelines with pulled neck ligaments and watching Kenny Brack qualify and race his ...

This may have been the most difficult month of Buddy Rice's racing career, sitting on the sidelines with pulled neck ligaments and watching Kenny Brack qualify and race his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone Indy car.

Buddy Rice.
Photo by Michael Voorhees - IRL.
Cleared to drive in the Bombardier Learjet 500 at Texas Motor Speedway just a couple of days after Indy, Rice is champing at the bit to get back on the track. Because of his lack of stature in the 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series point chase, Rice is relegated to the first practice group today; he drew slot #9 in single car qualifying qualifying this evening.

"I don't think anybody likes sitting out [a race], particularly not the Indianapolis 500 (where Rice was defending victor). Coming into the Texas night race, I'm expecting us to have a good chance. It's all about the way the cars work here and it's always a great race," Rice contended.

"We've always had good cars here but we've not relaxed our preparation. On big tracks like Texas we should do extremely well. We've had some bad luck with the #15 car; it's been strong everywhere but we haven't gotten to the end," Rice explained.

His teammates have shined, delineating the Rahal Letterman Racing strengths even as Rice has experienced troubles. Danica Patrick owns twin fourth- place finishes in the most recent races at Twin Ring Motegi and Indianapolis while Vitor Meira owns three top-five results, including second in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

"Vitor's accomplishments are regularly overshadowed," he acknowledged. "I can't say enough about him. Vitor has worked to boost our system and package but Danica is so new, breaking records that he's still overshadowed," Rice explained. "He's a real quiet guy so maybe he likes it that way," he asked? "But it's hard to miss Vitor's bright yellow car, isn't it?"

Patrick's historical value is a boost for the Indy Racing League, Rice contended. "When she does interviews there's 100 people there to listen and she has a full chance to take on everyone else out on the track," he said. "Across the board women are getting more attention and she pretty much overshadowed Dan Wheldon's win," Rice noted.

"It's not easy to come up from the Toyota Atlantic Championship and quickly make a splash the way Danica has. I think she's handled it very well," her teammate defended. Rice, too, came up from Atlantic but had to wait for an injury to Kenny Brack for his ultimate ascension to become an Indy 500 winner.

When Brack returned the favor and took over Rice's ride when he was injured May 11th at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway it wasn't a problem for the Arizonan. "With Kenny it wasn't so bad as with someone else in my seat. He's had to stand on the sidelines and watch me in [what was] his car.

"I think with his overall success at Indy this year he's closed the chapter. I could be wrong but I think he may be done with open wheel racing. He proved to himself he can still do it (by earning the fastest qualifying speed of 227.598mph in third day Indy time trials). He was the most deserving and appropriate guy" to take over for Rice.

Rice owns the Texas Motor Speedway race speed record at 222.5mph, which he set in September of 2002 while driving for Red Bull Cheever Racing. He feels confident he's got the tools to succeed here on Texas' 24-degree banks once again. "Our Honda and Panoz package suits this track and we attain the setups we strive for all year long.

"We're coming off a strong May, except for me of course," Rice stated. "We're just going to build on it this weekend."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira